The Grand Pacific Drive
Many people are familiar with the Great Ocean Road along Victoria’s southern coast. It’s a fantastic stretch of road that offers dramatic scenery and has a great history around the construction of the road. One thing not many people or tourists are familiar about is the Grand Pacific Drive along the eastern shores of New South Wales. This stretch of road starts from the Royal National Park just south of Sydney and goes through small villages and towns including Wollongong, Shellharbour, Kiama, and finishes in the inland town of Nowra. The Grand Pacific Drive doesn’t have the rock formations like the Twelve Apostles of the Great Ocean Road, but having a bridge built on the side of a cliff face and passing through some gorgeous beaches is a great sight to behold.
Reason # 1: Catch The Sunrise
Watching the sunrise is one of nature’s best light displays, along with a sunset. However, I’m not an early riser, and I always find it difficult to catch the sunrise, and only do I occasionally wake up to see it. Since moving to Australia 2 years ago, I’ve never seen the sunrise, and I thought it would be awesome to coincide it with a road trip to the southern parts of New South Wales. I managed to convince 2 of my friends to come with me and drive down from Sydney to Wollongong for the day along the Grand Pacific Drive and check out the sights along the way. Catching the sunrise at Stanwell Park and Coalcliff was one of the highlights of the trip, and seriously, one of the most underrated (or unmentioned) activities along this coastline. Catching the sunrise is not a tourist activity along this coastline, and only locals know of this. Before any tour groups start descending along this stretch of magnificent road, go and witness it yourself really soon!
Reason #2: No Tour Groups Around
There are so many organised tours to the Great Ocean Road, and while this is great for those who don’t have cars or only have a short time to get around, having busloads of people fighting for the view can be annoying. The great thing with the Grand Pacific Drive is that it is not as far from Sydney as the Great Ocean Road is from Melbourne, and the drive is not that long. It generally only takes over 2 hours and you will be able to cover the entire distance. If you take some time to enjoy each spot, it might take a little bit longer. However, it is definitely more manageable on a day trip than the Great Ocean Road.
Reason #3: Great Beaches and Views
The view along the Grand Pacific Drive is awesome! It’s either totally underrated, or underpromoted by the general public. It may not offer such dramatic scenery, but the numerous beaches and the sea views from Stanwell Tops are great! The city of Wollongong and the township of Kiama are also great attractions on this stretch of road. Wollongong has a nice beach and harbour, and an old lighthouse that adds to the character of the harbour. In the city itself is the largest buddhist temple in the southern hemisphere, the Nan Tien temple. It’s architecture is distinctly Chinese, and it was built by the members of the Chinese Fo Guang Shan community who have migrated to Australia. Which leads me to the next reason..
Reason #4: Interesting attractions in the area
Sunset at Kiama Lighthouse - Grand Pacific Drive
Before reaching Wollongong, I had the impression that there is totally nothing interesting to see in the town itself apart from the usual shops on the main town centre. I thought it was just another industrial town, with totally nothing to offer. Was I completely wrong! The harbour and beach is an attraction on its own, and the lighthouse adds character to the place as well. If you drive all the way down to the town of Kiama, you can find some blowholes along its coast. It’s a natural phenomenon wherein holes are formed from the erosion of rocks on the coastline. If you do a slight detour from the Grand Pacific Drive, you can check out the Illawarra Fly Tree Top Walk, which is about a 30-minute drive from Kiama. It offers a spectacular view of the Illawarra coastline, and the structure itself is quite a unique in its design. Its edges are suspended from the cantilever, making it bouncy and quite challenging to those afraid of heights.
Reason #5 : Relaxing, Laid Back Atmosphere
The Grand Pacific Drive is only 45 minutes away from the CBD, and yet, the pace of life is totally different from the buzz of the big city. If you are ever tired of being always on the go, squeezing in with other people and the long queues, this place can soothe those angst and worry aside. The towns along the Grand Pacific Drive are quite small, and people are just totally laid-back. The beautiful beaches along the way would have been a highlight of the trip, and something that you can look forward to, if you’re never been down the Grand Pacific Drive.
Enjoy a drive down the Grand Pacific Drive, from sunrise til sunset on a nice clear sunny day, and you won’t regret it!
Have a Fabulous Journey ahead!