When we were still pretty new to the whole parenting thing we felt sort of lost on the weekends. While our dear little boy was sleeping happily in a cot throughout the week at daycare he just wouldn’t do the same with us at home, at least not without plenty of crying and a battle of willpower. We were at our wits’ end and very, very sleep-deprived. Desperate to get him to sleep and to get a spare minute to ourselves. But then we discovered something that was nothing short of a miracle – on trips to the supermarket our baby would readily fall asleep, preferably so when we were on our way back home, on the last meters to our doorstep. The result was that I had to spend another hour with a book in the car watching the sleeping baby. Nothing gained.
But then we thought, why don’t we go on longer trips with the car? If the short trip lulls him so sleep, why not a longer trip that will double as a fun experience for us two?
This is how we came about exploring the places around Sydney in the following years, with a baby, and later toddler, and then a baby and toddler, sleeping happily two, three hours in his child restrain in the back seat while we would enjoy a breather and the beautiful scenery around us.
Sydney has a number of great routes for motorists, be it in the west crossing the mountains or up or down the coast past the most beautiful beaches. Let me give you my top recommendations for the best Sydney road trip destinations. If you are planning a road trip yourself, now is a great time to explore. These sunny autumn days are offering some brilliant colours, and if you want to combine it with some hiking or a nice picnic then you will not suffer the extreme summer heat.
And if you want to do it in style, think about ditching your own family car for the day and hire a luxury car instead! I’d certainly wouldn’t mind driving one of the latest Jaguars, have a look at the latest Jaguar XE range! Aren’t they pretty?
Crossing the Great Diving Range via the Bells Line of Road – Enjoy the bush scenery
This road is the lesser known cousin of the Great Western Highway which also gets you to the mountains. You may not see the most popular and touristy mountain towns of Katoomba and Leura if you take this road, but you are rewarded with some very enchanting views across the valleys of the Great Dividing Range.
The road starts in the north of the city, so if you live in this part of Sydney anyway, try this route instead of the Western Highway to get to the mountains. I daresay, it is the prettier of the two anyway, first crossing the fertile plains of the Kurrajong area, then into the more remote areas around Bilpin and Berambing. Make sure you stop at some of the fruit stalls and roadside shops to stock up on fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, chutneys and much much more!
If you want to reach some destination on your trip, make it to the Blue Mountain Botanic Garden in Mount Tomah – entry is free and there is plenty to see and discover. The restaurant here is great for lunch! Further afield, the little country town of Lithgow will be good for a quick stop to refill empty tummies. The biggest attraction here is the Zig Zac Railway, which will delight in particular the boys, but is definitely a great experience for the whole family, in particular when you cross the amazing sandstone viaducts on your train journey. To return back to Sydney head south towards Katoomba to cross the Blue Mountains again or turn around for a route that will experience less traffic towards the end of the day.
Crossing the Hawkesbury at Wisemans Ferry – Discover the early days of Australian settlement
Using the little cable ferry at Wisemans Ferry is an experience that your kids will love! Again, this route is in the north of Sydney. First, find your way up to the beautiful and very historic town of Windsor (now part of Sydney). Windsor is a wonderful stop for a relaxing brunch, there are a number of historic pubs and beautiful little cafes to choose from.
Windsor is famous for its old buildings from the first days of Australian settlement, all lovingly restored and now boasting beautiful facades. Plus, there is a pedestrianised area which often hosts a market. From Windsor press on to Wisemans Ferry.
This little settlement is the last stop before you “go bush” – so a good place to refill the car and buy some food, for example at the Wiseman’s Inn Hotel. Then queue up to cross the river – the ferry is free to use and is operated 24hrs a day, 7 days a week. If you want to stop here for sightseeing, check out the awe-inspiring Old Great North Road, which is a 2 hour walking return trip with interpretive signs, ruins of building foundations, convict graffitis and so on. Once you have crossed the river head east on the Wisemans Ferry Road towards the coast.
This street follows the river, and you will come past a number a holidays homes, cabins and tiny villages. The views of the Hawkesbury are simply magnificent! This route will eventually take you to the Pacific Motorway near Gosford – your fast-tracked way home back to Sydney.
Through the Southern Highlands to Kiama – Visit the famous blowhole
This is probably one of my most favourite road trips out of Sydney, because it is so versatile. Leave the city behind on the Hume Highway, heading towards Canberra, and leave the motorway at Mittagong. This area is what’s commonly known as the Southern Highlands. Thanks to a milder, frostier climate, you will be amazed to find the most beautiful gardens here. The best time to visit is definitely in spring during the Tulip Time Festival which happens in Bowral, but each of the seasons have their perks. There are a number of gardens which you can visit, some of them private, some public.
Follow the East Bowral Road through a string of towns, consider a stop at a café or restaurant of your liking for an early lunch, or stroll the main streets for some bargain hunting. Then continue on this road for another stop, this time at the beautiful Fitzroy Falls. These waterfalls are easily accessible and are situated in a wonderful rainforest setting. This is the last stop before you descend on a serpentine into Kangaroo Valley, a lush valley with green pastures and pristine bushland.
Your way takes you back up the mountain and into Nowra – from here turn towards the north, through the cute town of Berry and up along the coast to Kiama. Entering the Kiama area is spectacular, with the deep blue ocean opening up in front of you like on a silver platter. The little seaside town of Kiama is a popular tourist spot. Most people will want to see the spectacular blowhole – a gap in the cliffs that from time to time gets flooded by the sea with brutal force, spraying the visitors with salty water. Kiama’s harbour is gorgeous, and well populated by pelicans. There’s also a small fish shop at the far corner where you can buy fresh seafood – either for your barbecue or for your dinner at home. Make sure you pack an esky! From Kiama return to the A1, then the M1 to Sydney.
Sea Cliff Bridge – Driving along the coast like James Bond
The Sea Cliff Bridge is one of the worst kept secrets of the South Coast. Advertising companies seem to like the stunning setting of this curvy cantilever bridge, making it one of the most recognisable backdrops for luxury car ads. And it really is stunning: The bridge is almost half a kilometre long and snuggles up against the cliff walls of the Illawarra Region between the little towns of Coalcliff and Clifton. It is pretty unique too – only seven other bridges in the world are build in a way that they are hugging the coast.
To get there, leave the Southern Freeway right behind the Royal National Park at Helensburgh.Take a break at Bald Hill for spectacular views of the South Pacific and the coast – trust me, you won’t regret it! Continue down the coast and you will automatically end up on the Sea Cliff Bridge. On the other side you will pass through a number of coastal towns, perfect for a coffee or lunch break, or in summer a dip in the ocean.
At Wollongong you can find your way back to the Hume Motorway which will eventually take you back to Sydney.
This post is brought to you by Jaguar XE.