As a kid, I used to make frequent trips down the South Coast of NSW with my friend’s family. Two things are etched into my mind: the lame jokes of my friend’s father about cows with two legs shorter than the others (from standing on steep hills) and the horror of car sickness.
The old coast road from the southern suburbs of Sydney to Wollongong was a spectacular roller coaster, never failing to reduce my Maccas happy meal to a not-so-happy pile of goo on the side of the road. But it was all part of the holiday fun, the rising tide of nausea signalling the start of a great weekend away.
A “Grand” new drive
And so it was with this happy memory that I picked up my Britz camper and headed south through the Royal National Park to Stanwell Tops, and the start of the new Grand Pacific Drive. This 140km coastal route has cut out many of the bends and hazards of the old road (no more “beware falling rocks” signs) while retaining the spectacular vistas of the Wollongong escarpment and the shimmering Pacific Ocean, making it one of the most enjoyable and scenic drives in Australia.
Emerging from the Royal National Park – the second oldest national park in the world – you hit Bald Hill, where hang-gliders hover like colourful eagles and the views stretch forever. The road then winds down to the new 665m Sea Cliff Bridge, an engineering wonder that swerves away from the precarious cliffs and hovers over the breakers.
Wollongong – the region’s big smoke
From here, the road meanders through the quaint coastal villages of Austinmer and Thirroul, ideal stops for a quick dip, a scour through the antique galleries or a cup of coffee before hitting the big smoke of Wollongong.
Our destination, however, was further south – Kiama, home of the famous Blowhole. The fabulous views, gorgeous beaches and lovely walks are just as beautiful as I remember, though the town is far more sophisticated these days with a stack of hotels, restaurants and art galleries adding to its appeal as a day trip for Sydneysiders.
Another attraction that has retained its charm is Jamberoo fun park. What started as a regional curiosity has, over the years, become a world-class theme park, with fantastic water slides, wave pools and the new high thrill Taipan ride drawing in the crowds.
Action-packed, adrenaline pumping fun – and all an easy drive from Sydney!
ANGELA DE LEON