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The beauty of an ambling road trip? Uncovering lesser-known spots and finding new ways to experience more popular locales. Renew your wanderlust on one of these five routes exploring NSW’s beautiful beaches, characterful small towns, astonishing natural wonders and delicious food and wine.

Be mesmerised by coastal scenery on the Grand Pacific Drive

Feel refreshed by the sea breeze as you set off on the Grand Pacific Drive from the Royal National Park, less than an hour’s drive south of Sydney. Be wowed by the dramatic Sea Cliff Bridge, which follows the curves of the coast between Coalcliff and Clifton, then continue on to the relaxed coastal city of Wollongong, where you can stop for an energising coffee and a bite to eat by the beach at Diggies. Keep following the coast to witness the power of Kiama’s famous Kiama Blowhole, a natural formation that blasts seawater 30m into the air. Come nightfall, allow the surf to lull you to sleep while staying just steps from the sand at Bangalay Luxury Villas in Shoalhaven Heads, where you can savour fine dining infused with Australian native ingredients at its excellent on-site restaurant, Bangalay Dining.

Continue on to the idyllic blue waters of Jervis Bay, just an hour’s drive south of Shoalhaven Heads. Dive in for a refreshing swim, take an exhilarating dolphin- or whale-watching tour with the likes of Jervis Bay Wild and leave footsteps in some of the whitest sand in the world on the glorious White Sands Walk. Soak up the coastal scenery from a different angle on a luxe glamping stay at Paperbark Camp near bayside Huskisson. Paperbark is also home to memorable restaurant, The Gunyah at Paperbark Camp, built up high off the ground, among the treetops.

Adventure through the outback on a drive from Sydney to Lightning Ridge

Tap into your sense of adventure on a trip along roads less travelled to the historic mining town of Lightning Ridge, just under nine hours’ drive northwest of Sydney in Outback NSW. Discover plenty of interesting stops along the way, such as Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, where you can browse for unique trinkets at its antique stores, take in jaw-dropping Blue Mountains views, and enjoy the old-world charm of local stays at the Metropole Guesthouse or The Carrington Hotel.

Head down the mountains to lap up the food and wine of charming country town, Mudgee, where The Barn at Blue Wren Farm offers a fresh way to savour the scenic region’s renowned produce. After Mudgee, call in on historic town Gilgandra, birthplace of the World War I Coo-ee March, followed by the outback town of Walgett, for a reviving coffee at Stone’s Throw. From here, it’s less than an hour to Lightning Ridge. Experience a warm country welcome upon check-in at the likes of Sonja’s Bed and Breakfast before heading out to explore ‘The Ridge’. Get a taste of the town’s heritage on an opal mine tour, have a blast mastering the art of fossicking, and bliss out in naturally heated artesian bore baths.

Drift peacefully along the Mighty Murray River Drive

Take an immersive journey into Australian history on the Mighty Murray River Drive, an unforgettable four-day exploration of the Riverina region starting on the banks of the Murray River in Albury, a six-hour drive or short flight from Sydney. Before you head off on your journey, revel in the area’s heritage at Circa 1928 Albury, housed in a former bank, or lean into the urban vibe at the Atura Albury. Be surprised and delighted by the fascinating stories of heritage towns including Howlong and Corowa, where Corowa Whisky and Chocolate, set inside a 1920s flour mill, encourages a delicious pit stop.

See the Murray from a fresh perspective on an atmospheric Murray River Paddlesteamers cruise in the twin towns of Echuca Moama, throw in a line at Balranald, where five rivers meet, and connect with Aboriginal culture and the unique natural landscape of Mungo National Park. Get a buzz camping alongside native wildlife in the national park, or tuck into a hearty country meal at Mungo Lodge before enjoying a restorative night’s sleep in a spacious cabin room. Your final stop is Wentworth, where you can admire views of the Murray and Darling rivers, call in to the cellar door and restaurant at Trentham Estate Winery, and treat yourself to a night of glamping, including a romantic dining experience under the stars on an almond farm, hosted by Outback Almonds.

Reset on a quick getaway from Sydney to Newcastle

Discover how refreshing even a short trip can be on the drive from Sydney to the coastal city of Newcastle. Pause in the picturesque Hawkesbury region to slurp fresh oysters at the ‘shellar door’ of Broken Bay Pearl Farm in Mooney Mooney, just an hour from the city centre. Move on at your own pace to Lake Macquarie, the largest coastal saltwater lake in the southern hemisphere, where you can get your blood pumping on a kayaking excursion or an invigorating rainforest walk. Once in Newcastle, stroll down to the beach for a refreshing dip before checking out one of the city’s many great restaurants. Merewether Surfhouse is the perfect spot for a long lunch with dazzling ocean views, or enjoy a delicious meal at contemporary bistro Subo. Once satisfied, turn in for the night at the likes of QT Newcastle or the Little National Hotel Newcastle.

Breathe in the cool mountain air on a drive from Sydney to Jindabyne

Admire the changing landscape as you make your way from Sydney to Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, a five(ish)-hour trip that’s worth extending to include selfie stops at the likes of the Big Merino in the historic town of Goulburn, two-and-a-half hours southwest of Sydney. Another two hours down the road, strap in for a thrilling virtual fly-over of the Snowy Mountains at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre in the town of Cooma. Then get an even bigger thrill with snow activities for the whole family at the ski resorts of Thredbo, Perisher and Charlotte Pass near Jindabyne, or Selwyn near Cooma. If you’re driving through during summer, challenge yourself with a session of rock climbing or mountain biking with K7 Adventures, or linger over an artisan tipple at Wildbrumby Distillery, which bottles a variety of liquors in alpine surrounds. Seize the opportunity to take a walk to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, Australia’s highest point, and be amazed by yet another natural attraction at Yarrangobilly Caves, two hours north of Jindabyne, where you’ll find stalagmites, stalactites and cave corals, and a river walk to a thermal pool. Enjoy the convenience of the central location in Jindabyne with a stay at the Banjo Patterson Inn, home of the Kosciuszko Brewery. Savour the fare at the two restaurants located on the property, or take a stroll around town to Holly Go Lightly, a burger bar that also slings excellent cocktails.

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