When it comes to road trips from Sydney, traversing the stretch of highway leading down to Eden on the Sapphire Coast is a journey that promises an unforgettable blend of natural beauty, coastal charm and good old Aussie adventure.
As you leave behind the bustling cityscape of the Emerald City, you’ll find yourself immersed in a breathtaking landscape encompassing pristine beaches, lush forests and charming seaside towns. Or you can head inland to see rural New South Wales in all its lovely glory. The choice is yours!
Whichever way you go, the scenic drive celebrates Australia’s diverse landscapes, offering a perfect opportunity to unwind, explore hidden gems and experience the unique culture and hospitality the New South Wales south coast offers.
So, if you are in mind for a driving holiday in NSW, please keep reading until the end, as we reveal some of the best drives from Sydney you can treat yourself to.
What is the Distance Between Sydney and Eden?
The distance from Sydney to Eden depends on which of the NSW road trips you want to complete.
- If you fancy sticking to the coast along the M1 and Princes Highway, the journey covers about 475 km and takes about 6.5 hours of non-stop driving.
- Alternatively, should you prefer to venture inland and cover the Australian Capital Territory as well (home to the country’s capital city, Canberra), your New South Wales road trip will cover a minimum distance of around 550 km and take about 6 hours and 15 minutes of direct driving.
You will be in for a treat, whichever you choose, as the scenery and road conditions are superb.
How Long is a South Coast NSW Road Trip?
While you can efficiently complete your New South Wales road trip along the state’s south coast in half a day, the fun of doing it is to spend some quality time at various destinations along the way.
Ideally, you should devote 2-4 days to the journey as a minimum, stopping at various places to get a feel for what makes the area unique.
Ultimately, though, the more time you can spend exploring the area on your NSW south coast road trip, the better, as there is so much to see and do.
We suggest taking the inland route in one direction and the entirely coastal route the other so you can experience the best that southern-Australia has to offer.
Best Time of Year to Do a South Coast NSW Road Trip
The New South Wales south coast is a region you can explore all year round. However, the best time to do it depends on which route you want to take and what kind of experience you are after.
Generally speaking, the most popular and widely recommended time to partake in drives from Sydney is during the spring and summer months, from September to March. During this period, the region comes alive with vibrant flora, warmer temperatures, and longer daylight hours, ideal for beachside adventures, water activities, and exploring picturesque coastal towns.
By contrast, spring offers blooming wildflowers and lush green landscapes, perfect for exploring the country areas, while the summer months provide excellent beach weather and opportunities for whale watching. Remember that this is also the peak tourist season, so booking accommodations in advance is advisable.
If you prefer fewer crowds and milder weather, consider travelling in the shoulder seasons of autumn (March to May) or early spring (September to October), when the South Coast region retains its natural beauty and tranquillity. Winter (June to August) can be a quieter time for a driving holiday in NSW; just be prepared for cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall.
Best Stops on a NSW South Coast Road Trip
Exploring the South Coast of New South Wales on road trips from Sydney exposes you to a treasure trove of captivating sites and experiences.
From pristine beaches and fantastic restaurants to breathtaking natural wonders and charming country towns, this section will guide you through the must-visit destinations that make the journey along the South Coast NSW an unforgettable adventure.
Coastal Route to Eden
If you intend to drive along the coastal route, here are some of the best places to visit:
|Estimated Drive Time
|Where to Stay
|Sydney to Royal National Park
|36 kms (22 miles)
|Royal National Park
|Royal National Park to Jervis Bay
|169 kms (105 miles)
|2 hours 10 minutes
|Jervis Bay to Batemans Bay
|141 kms (88 miles)
|1 hour 50 minutes
|Batemans Bay to Bermagui
|101 kms (63 miles)
|1 hour 20 minutes
|Bermagui to Eden
|94 kms (58 miles)
|1 hour 25 minutes
The Royal National Park
One of the first places you should stop after leaving Sydney is at Royal National Park. Located about an hour’s drive away, a visit here offers something different to what you’ll see elsewhere on this South Coast NSW road trip.
Start your adventure with a scenic coastal drive along the Grand Pacific Drive, offering breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Then, explore the park’s numerous walking trails, such as the popular Coast Track, which takes you through lush rainforests, past secluded beaches and to stunning lookout points like Wedding Cake Rock and Eagle Rock.
Birdwatching is excellent here, so you should take the chance to spot various avian species in their natural habitat. Alternatively, you can swim, snorkel, or sunbathe at Wattamolla and Garie Beach or enjoy picnicking and barbecues in one designated area.
The park also boasts kayaking, cycling, and even whale-watching opportunities during migration season, while the heritage-listed Audley Dance Hall and nearby Audley Weir offer historical insights.
A visit to Jervis Bay promises to be one of the highlights of your NSW coast road trip.
Nestled within the unspoiled beauty of the Shoalhaven region, Jervis Bay boasts some of Australia’s whitest sands and crystal-clear waters.
Here, you can explore world-renowned beaches like Hyams Beach, where the sands stretch endlessly. You can also swim in the gentle waves, go whale watching, or hike in Booderee National Park to witness the region’s rich indigenous culture and wildlife.
With its stunning coastal vistas and diverse outdoor activities, Jervis Bay is an unmissable destination on a South Coast New South Wales itinerary.
A little further down from Jervis Bay on your NSW coast road trip is the beautiful destination of Batemans Bay. The town is known for its stunning beaches, making it a paradise for fans of water-based recreational activities.
You can spend your day swimming, sunbathing, or trying your hand at surfing or paddleboarding. Additionally, nature lovers can explore the nearby Murramarang National Park, home to diverse wildlife and scenic coastal trails. Don’t miss a visit to the Birdland Animal Park to get up close and personal with native Australian animals.
During your time at Batemans Bay, you can also take a scenic cruise along the Clyde River or visit the Mogo Zoo, where you can see an array of exotic animals. If you love seafood, then you will be in your element at Batemans Bay. It is a culinary haven with plenty of fresh seafood markets and restaurants in which to get your fix.
Tucked away on the far south coast of New South Wales, Bermagui is the perfect place to enjoy some coastal tranquillity.
The town is famous for its beautiful beaches, such as Horseshoe Bay and Camel Rock Beach, where you can swim, sunbathe and explore intriguing rock formations. For fishing enthusiasts, Bermagui is renowned as a game-fishing hotspot, with the chance to reel in marlins and other big game species.
If you’d prefer to stick to dry land, however, you can take in the area’s scenic beauty by walking along the rugged coastal trails of the Bermagui Blue Pool, where you might spot dolphins or whales in season.
The historic Montreal Goldfields are not too far away, offering a glimpse into the town’s gold rush past. At the same time, Bermagui is home to some excellent art and craft galleries showcasing the creative flair of several up-and-coming artists.
Before we jump into all the best experiences in Eden at the very south of NSW, let’s look at some of the key stopping points if you take the more inland route.
Inland Route to Eden
We would suggest breaking this into at least a two-day journey with an overnight stop in Canberra (or longer if time permits!)
|Estimated Drive Time
|Where to Stay
|Sydney to Bowral
|118 kms (73 miles)
|1 hour 40 minutes
|Bowral to Canberra
|170 kms (106 miles)
|1 hour 55 minutes
|Canberra to Cooma
|116 kms (72 miles)
|1 hour 25 minutes
|Cooma to Eden
|152 kms (94 miles)
|1 hour 55 minutes
Whilst driving through the picturesque Southern Highlands during your New South Wales road trip, a visit to Bowral is recommended.
Known for its historic charm and stunning gardens, Bowral is a delightful place to explore. It is particularly appealing if you’re a fan of cricket – the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame resides here, paying tribute to the legendary Sir Donald Bradman and the game in general.
Even if you aren’t a cricket fan, there is plenty to entertain. The beautifully manicured Corbett Gardens and the Cherry Tree Walk during spring’s colourful bloom are sure to impress. At the same time, the Milk Factory Gallery and Bowral Art Gallery will provide you with a nice dose of culture.
Foodies will also relish in the gourmet delights of local wineries and restaurants, while antique lovers can hunt for treasures in the town’s various antique shops.
As the capital city of Australia, Canberra should be on the itinerary of all NSW road trips south of Sydney.
One of the first places you should visit is Parliament House, where you can witness democracy in action and enjoy panoramic views from its rooftop. You should also take the time to immerse yourself in Australia’s heritage at the Australian War Memorial – a moving tribute to the nation’s military history.
Art lovers will appreciate the National Gallery of Australia, home to an impressive Australian and international art collection. Likewise, the National Museum of Australia showcases the nation’s cultural history through its displays and exhibits.
Elsewhere, the Australian National Botanic Gardens is well worth exploring. Discovering the diverse flora while wandering around Lake Burley Griffin and its surrounding parks is a terrific way to immerse yourself in the city’s beauty.
If the kids really need a good stretch of the legs, though, the National Arboretum is a must-stop on an ACT itinerary. Sensational playgrounds, walking trails and play spaces over 250 hectares are home to the world’s largest living collections of rare, endangered and significant trees.
- Grab our more detailed family guide to Canberra if you’d like to explore the capital in more detail.
Cooma, the largest town in the gorgeous Snowy Mountains region of New South Wales, offers an intoxicating blend of outdoor adventure and cultural experiences for visitors to enjoy.
One of your first ports of call should be the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Scheme at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre, where interactive exhibits showcase the region’s engineering marvels. Elsewhere, nature lovers will want to venture into Kosciuszko National Park, where hiking, skiing, and snowboarding in the winter months provide ample excitement.
The scenic drive to nearby Lake Jindabyne is also worthwhile, offering boating, fishing, and stunning views of the Snowy Mountains. Meanwhile, those interested in aviation history should find the Cooma Aviation Museum fascinating.
The final stop on our South Coast NSW road trip is the charming seaside town of Eden. Set on the beautiful Twofold Bay, Eden is blessed with stunning beaches and enveloped by two national parks.
This picturesque town is a haven of natural beauty but also steeped in history. It is one of the country’s premier locations for whale watching in the Spring, with crowds flocking to the Sapphire Coast to witness the annual migration of humpback whales, some even coming into Twofold Bay with their calves.
Outside of whale watching season, you can pay a visit to the Eden Killer Whale Museum. This unique museum is educational and brings to life the area’s whaling history through fascinating exhibits and stories, perfect for sparking the curiosity of young minds.
Nature lovers will soon see how Eden got its rather idyllic name. Beowa National Park (Previously Ben Boyd National Park) offers a variety of walking trails with breathtaking coastal views. The Light to Light Walk is a popular trail taking you from Boyds Tower to Green Cape Lighthouse (though families may want only to tackle sections as it’s 30km long!).
The beaches in Eden are another huge drawcard for families. Long Beach and the Pinnacles in Ben Boyd National Park are a highlight, as is Aslings Beach in the heart of town; the rock pools are a highlight here, as well as strolling the 6 km Lake Curalo Boardwalk.
A new opening to look out for in late 2023 is the Gravity Eden Mountains Bike Park – offering two-wheeled explorers over 48 km of MTB trails through the Nullica State Forest – definitely pack the bikes on this trip if you can!
Simply put, a road trip from Sydney to Eden will highlight some of Australia’s lushest and most dramatic coastline. A treasure trove of family-friendly activities awaits as you head from Australia’s largest city to the Sapphire Coast and all the treasures it beholds.
Essential Tips for a South Coast NSW Road Trip
- Should you choose to go inland on your South Coast NSW road trip, be sure to fill up with petrol at the more prominent towns you come across. Some parts of this route are remote, so if you run out of petrol, the nearest station might be several kilometres away.
- New to Australia? Grab more of our handy tips for road tripping in Australia, helping you plan the best routes, what sort of vehicle you’ll need and where to pick up your road-tripping supplies for an epic adventure Downunder.
© Family Road Trip