Worldwide icon-chevron-right South Pacific icon-chevron-right Australia icon-chevron-right Sydney icon-chevron-right The five best scenic drives near Sydney

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A scenic drive near Sydney
Photograph: Destination NSW

The five best scenic drives near Sydney

Buckle up, get in gear and prepare to be wowed by these spectacular spins near to the city

By Maxim Boon
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Jumping in the car shouldn't just be a means of getting from A to B. From behind the wheel, you can experience many of the most beautiful areas just beyond the city. We’ve selected some of our favourite drives within an hour or so of central Sydney. If you’re looking to spend a few pleasant hours among some sublime scenery, these are the open roads to hit.

In the mood for a more ambitious adventure? Check out these top road trips exploring the rest of the state.

RECOMMENDED: Seven stunning national parks within 100km of Sydney’s CBD.

The best scenic drives

Bells Line of Road
Bells Line of Road
Photograph: Destination NSW

Bells Line of Road, Blue Mountains

In 1823, Arichbald Bell Jr was shown the route through the dense eucalypt forests of the Blue Mountains by two local Darug men. Today, that same path is one of the most beautiful drives through this UNESCO World Heritage site to the west of Sydney. As you cruise along, with the canopy of sassafras, coachwoods and ferns rushing past, the scenery looks much as it must have almost two centuries ago. That is, except for the carefully landscaped slopes of the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, a 28-hectare reserve and botanical research centre just off Bells Line of Road at Mount Tomah. With its cosy café perched overlooking the gardens below, it’s well worth a stop on your journey.

Garie Beach in the Royal National Park
Garie Beach in the Royal National Park
Photograph: CC/Dimitri Koussa

Royal National Park to Garie Beach

On the doorstep of the city, Sydneysiders are blessed with 150 square kilometres of lush parkland and unspoilt coastline, and although it is not a lengthy drive, it’s still a pleasure to take a ride along its bushland roads. There are several routes you could chart, but we recommend cruising down Sir Bertram Stevens Drive from Audley Road in the park's north-west corner. The journey will take you through the various shifting landscapes of the park, from the pines and shrubs of its suburban edges through the gums and eucalypts in the Hacking River valley and onto the coastal heaths by the sea. If you want to really make the most of your visit, take the road to Garie Beach, where you can park up and enjoy one of the largest and most pristine beachfronts beyond the popular inner-city sands.

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Sea Cliff Bridge at dusk
Sea Cliff Bridge at dusk
Photograph: Destination NSW

The Grand Pacific Drive to Sea Cliff Bridge

Many landmarks claim the title “grand”, but when it comes to this stretch of road hugging the coast south of Sydney, that’s far from false advertising. Dare we say, it might even be underselling it, although “Downright Bloody Breathtaking Pacific Drive” would probably be a bit of a mouthful for the ol’ SatNav. From the southern end of the Royal National Park near Otford, this vital traffic artery connecting the state capital to Jervis Bay somehow manages to artfully snake along the rocky cliff faces and rainforested slopes without detracting a jot from the natural splendor of this dramatic coastal setting. You’ll find arguably the most impressive views just past Coalcliff, where the elevated Sea Cliff Bridge rewards you with uninterrupted, gasp-worthy ocean vistas. 

The Three Sisters
The Three Sisters
Photograph: Destination NSW

Greater Blue Mountains Drive

This whopping 1,200km road trip along the Great Western Highway is a daunting undertaking in one hit, but there are so many must-see sites to catch along its winding path that it’s easy to split into more manageable day trips. Aside from finding jaw-dropping views – vast ranges blanketed by the dense forest canopy; valleys carved through the landscape, occasionally broken by bright sandstone cliffs peering above the leaves – you’ll also pass through the tourist hotspot of Katoomba. Here, if you fancy making a day of it, you’ll be able to access the wildly popular Scenic World cable car soaring above the ancient rainforests of the Jamieson Valley, as well as the Three Sisters rock formation, a place of major significance for the traditional owners of these lands, the Gundungurra peoples. Foodies should also make a point of seeking out some of the sensational local produce you can find at the many small towns dotted along this route.

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West Head Lookout Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
West Head Lookout Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park
Photograph: Andrew Gregory/Destination NSW

Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park to West Head Lookout

One of the most remarkable things about Sydney is that you don’t have to travel very far from the city to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Just 25km north of the CBD, you’ll find yourself on Mona Vale Road and the southern end of the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. Following McCarrs Creek Road will bring you to the first natural wonder on your trip, Upper Gledhill Falls. Taking a left onto West Head Road, you’ll head deeper into the park, through the banksias and red gums until you reach the remote loop at the tip of the peninsula with some gorgeous views of Pittwater and Barrenjoey Head. This national park holds many exceptional sites where millenia-old Indigenous artworks reveal the ancient cultural story of this corner of Greater Sydney. Park up and follow the Red Hands Cave track to find Aboriginal ochre rock paintings created by the Garrigal people of this area over hundreds of years.

Planning a longer trip?

Bubbletent, Capertee Valley
Bubbletent, Capertee Valley
Photograph: Supplied/Destination NSW

The best winter getaways from Sydney

Travel

With the colder months upon us, it's time to venture out of the big smoke in search of glorious winter sunshine, or succumb to the chill and embrace some brisk, mountain air – if only to ski right back down again.

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