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Where the river meets the sea

16 Sep 2019

Watch: Our road trip from Pambula Beach to Wollongong

Journey up the coast along the Pacific Highway from Pambula Beach to Wollongong, where rivers flow through meandering mountains out to crystal clear seas.

Whether you come from Canberra through the picturesque Snowy Mountains, or you’re travelling up the South East Coast of our beautiful sunburnt country, this is a bucket list road trip for any kind of traveler. A modest five-hour journey, the route from Pambula Beach in New South Wales’ pretty South Coast all the way up to Wollongong is the scenic gift that keeps on giving.

Quaint country towns are dotted inland and up the coast, often backed by towering forests and surrounded by vast paddocks and pastures. In the thick of farming country, the stretch of road passes through the Sapphire Coast, Batemans Bay, Eurobodalla and the Shoalhaven regions along the South Coast below Sydney, all part of the Grand Pacific Drive touring route.

There’s beaches aplenty here, too. Surf boards are strapped to car roofs and kayaks poke out back windows on their way to one of the nearby estuaries, river mouths and surf beaches that call this quiet coastal drive home. So pack your four wheeler, grab the kids, the dog and get on the road.

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NSW SOUTH COAST, Grand Pacific Drive

Dotted with some of New South Wales’ most picturesque towns and coastal regions, the stretch of road from Eden just above the Victorian border to Wollongong or Sydney is a popular trek for beach-loving travelers. White sands and crystal-clear waters meet undulating hills and farming fields that look like golden velvet. From grazing sheep and rolling vineyards to whales frolicking in the sea, there’s something to see every which way you look here.

If you’re coming from Canberra, you’ll be treated to a striking drive through the iconic Snowy Mountains. The road runs almost along the border of ACT and New South Wales, with stunning contrasting views from whichever window you look out.

Pick a perfect road trip playlist, hit the road and make sure to swap drivers whenever you can, so everybody can soak up the scenery.

While the drive from Canberra to Eden in the south of New South Wales is a little over three hours, there’s plenty more opportunities to stop and smell the roses (or sniff the sea air, as it were), once you’re along the coast. With towns peppering the coastline, and a collection of Discovery and Top Parks along the way, there’s plenty of options for you to rest your head for the night, explore an area you like and get going to the next destination.

Start your journey in Eden or Pambula, just a short 20-minute drive apart. The closest town to Ben Boyd National Park, Eden, is a natural wonder well worth exploring. If you’re visiting in whale season (around May to November each year they are migrating North to Queensland), Eden is a great spot to spy these glorious ocean dwellers. If you’re not so lucky, don’t fret - you can spot them all the way up the coast.

Nearby, Pambula is home to one of the most picturesque beaches in the region. Stay at Discovery Parks - Pambula Beach and you’ll be greeted in the morning by dozens of kangaroos hopping about the park. Wander a few steps from your cabin and your feet will be in the sand - heaven.

While you’re here, make sure to visit beautiful Merimbula Lake and Pambula Lake, two of the Sapphire Coast’s stunning natural wonders that meander out to sea. Whether you kayak, head out on a boat tour, catch some oysters (check out our story on page 31) or simply walk along the banks of the rivers or the coastal cliff-tops, there’s something for everyone.

Travel further North on Pacific Highway and you’ll eventually be met by the quaint little town of Bega - well known for its history as one of Australia’s biggest cheese production regions. Stop in at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre to sample some tasty cheese and learn more about the history of this dairy region.

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You’ll wave goodbye to the Sapphire Coast tourist region at Bermagui a little further up, but never fear, the Batemans Bay and the Eurobadalla region up next is just as spectacular. Just an hour from Bega, Narooma is also a must-visit, home to more whale watching opportunities and a range of tours which take you out to Montague Island. Arguably one of Australia’s best kept natural secrets, the island is classified as a National Park. Swim, dive or snorkel with the seals here or take it all in from the boat or by foot.

Travel just 40 minutes further North and you’ll find yourself in Moruya, where you can stay the night at Riverbreeze Holiday Park. Set along the banks of Moruya River, another of the stunning waterways that trickle through this region, the park is a great spot to base yourself if you’re looking to explore Narooma or Batemans Bay (25-minute drive).

Just 15 minutes from the park, make sure to stop off at Mossy Point. It might be a smaller icon on your map but this place packs a punch for vistas and activities for the whole family. Kayak up Tomaga River or paddle- board out to sea and soak up the scenery (we show you how it’s done on page 33).

Further up the coast just another hour, Ulladulla is a great spot to base yourself to explore nearby Jervis Bay and the surrounding seaside towns scattered around here. Another whale-watching hotspot, Jervis Bay is worth a visit for a day-trip and a wander. There’s also plenty of bays, beaches, lookouts and waterways here to enjoy, so make sure you get the map out, pin-point a few to tick off your list and get driving!

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You can also explore the Jervis Bay area from Kiama, a little further up (stay the night at Surf Beach Holiday Park). This whole stretch forms part of the Shoalhaven region, known for its picturesque valley views and seaside vistas. The Pacific Highway hugs the mountains, valleys and coastline perfectly, wrapping around some of the most spectacular scenery New South Wales has to offer. Stay at Discovery Parks – Gerroa and catch a wave with the locals at Seven Mile Beach (also a National Park).

Venture into the mountains and you’ll be met with towering trees and rainforest floor, with glimpses of the farmland, sea, and Illawarra Lake in the distance. Budderoo National Park and Kangaroo Valley are some of the top spots to pin on your map, but the options are endless. Stay a while or continue your journey North towards Wollongong or eventually Sydney.

Don’t forget to stop, take your shoes off, sink your toes in the sand, smell the crisp sea air and soak it all up as you go. After all, it’s not about the amount of pins on your map, but the memories you collect along the way.

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