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Take the road less travelled with this self-drive NSW road trip itinerary

Itinerary Inspiration: NSW Road Trip From Coast To Country

If you’re looking to head off the beaten path and take the (literal) road less travelled, then read on. This road trip itinerary serves as inspiration for your self-drive adventure through New South Wales. Starting at the sensational city of Sydney (a perfect base for your Australia backpacking or gap year travels), you’ll then set off on a trip that takes you from sparkling coastline to charming countrysides and the remote outback, and back to brilliant beaches again in Byron Bay, in northern-NSW.

While this itinerary covers a lot of Mid- to North-NSW and the Outback, we recommend checking out our Melbourne to Sydney Itinerary for more inspiration on the towns you should visit in the South Coast of NSW. And if you’re wanting to extend your road trip beyond Byron Bay, be inspired by our East Coast Australia Itinerary which takes you all the way up to Cairns in Far North Queensland. For those spending some time in Sydney, make sure you read up on our 5-day Sydney itinerary which includes a surf trip to the South Coast!

Go slow, and enjoy exploring these hidden gems of NSW!

1. SYDNEY

A city that needs no introduction, start your adventure off in the pumping atmosphere of Sydney. Sydney is a favourite backpacking hub for so many travellers, for good reason. It’s surrounded by water and has world-class beaches, there are a tonne of bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs, the museums and galleries are must-visits, festivals are aplenty, and… you get the idea. There is so much to do in Sydney, that you could spend a year here and still have more to do on your bucket list. To help you get inspired, read up on our Sydney blogs, like:

2. BLUE MOUNTAINS

Less than a two-hour drive from Sydney, and you’ll have made it to your next destination: The Blue Mountains. Undoubtedly, you’ll have heard about this part of New South Wales… it is a truly magical part of Australia. Take in the jaw-dropping sites of The Three Sisters, have fun at Scenic World, head off for a hike at one of the area’s many walking trails, and grab a beer and burger at Mountain Culture Beer brewery. 

Instead of heading straight to Mudgee from here, you might like to head even further off-the-beaten track. If you’re keen to drive to some more remote destinations, we’ve given you two options below.

OPTIONAL DETOUR #1: ORANGE

Orange is a romantically rural town, famous for its wine region. This part of country NSW is incredibly charming – particularly in autumn (March to May) when nature turns on a spectacle and colours the town in beautiful oranges, reds and yellows. While you’re in Orange, make sure to indulge in some cellar door wine tastings, at places like Angullong Wines, Nashdale Lane, Printhie, and Swinging Bridge. For breakfasts, coffees and pastries, look to Racine Bakery, Nimrods, Good Eddy and Bills Beans. For the adventurous, the Pinnacle Lookout walk is fantastic and gives you 360º views of the area. And for those wanting an extra challenging hike, you might want to look at the Federal Falls walk.

OPTIONAL DETOUR #2: MUNGO NATIONAL PARK

In terms of remote, off the beaten track, completely unique destinations… you won’t find a more fitting stop than Mungo National Park. There are many incredible national parks in New South Wales, however you won’t find anywhere quite like Mungo National Park in the outback. Feel like you’re stepping on Mars, with its space-like sand dune formations. But even more brilliant, is the ancient Aboriginal culture that you can experience – after all, scientists have discovered Aboriginal artefacts in Mungo dating back over 50,000 years from the last ice age!

Mungo is an eight hour drive from Orange, so it’s definitely only one if time (and car accessibility) permits!

3. MUDGEE

Your next delicious destination is Mudgee, renowned for its wine production. This picturesque town delivers wholesome, country vibes, and has you sorted for stunning cellar doors, cute shops, and scenic walks. Take up a wine tasting at places like Lowe Family Estate (with a very Instagrammable lake, swing, and garden area), Logan Wines, and Gilbert Wines (share a grazing board here with a group of mates!). Mudgee is also a great spot for hiking. Add the Castle Rocks and The Drip walking tracks to your list! If you have time, we recommend taking the one-hour drive to Wellington Caves – a wicked limestone cave formed over millions of years.
To top it all off, grab a classic Aussie pub meal at the Lawson Park Hotel where you can’t go wrong with a Chicken “Schnitty” Schnitzel.

The best affordable hostels in Byron Bay, Sydney and Bondi Beach, Australia.

OPTIONAL DETOUR #3: WARRUMBUNGLE NATIONAL PARK

Welcome to the astronomy capital of Australia! Warrumbungle National Park is a nature and star-lover’s dream. This land is home to the Southern Hemisphere’s first Dark Sky Park, which means you’ll be treated to nights of no light pollution and out-of-this-world stargazing. As if a magnificent Milky Way wasn’t enough, the Warrumbungles also has several adventurous hikes. The Breadknife and Grand High Tops walk is considered one of the best in Australia!

4. HUNTER VALLEY

It’s now time to head back East. But before you get to the coastline, spend a night or two in the Hunter Valley. This is arguably one Australia’s most famous wine regions. As well as winery tours, there are also many chocolate and cheese tastings to be had, hot air balloon rides that you can experience, and bike riding tours that you can do.

5. NEWCASTLE

A city that is often missed by travellers heading up the East Coast, Newcastle is a cool laidback town that oozes with surfy vibes, perfect Aussie coffees, a fun nightlife and bar scene. Make the most of Newy’s beach life at the Merewether Ocean Bath, Bogey Hole, the ANZAC Memorial Walk (which has prime ocean views), and finally soak it all in with a sunset on the beach.

6. PORT STEPHENS

If you love a bit of adventure and keeping active, you’re going to love Port Stephens! Experience the Stockton Sand Dunes, which are the largest moving coastal dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. As well as their Indigenous significance, they’re also an adventure playground with options of sandboarding, quad biking, 4WDing and horseriding along the beach. Mount Tomaree is another must-do activity. The walk up Mount Tomaree will reward you with the most magnificent views of the coast. It is just unreal!

7. DORRIGO NATIONAL PARK AND COFFS HARBOUR

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dorrigo National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests and has been made over millions of years. You’d be right then, to expect some of the most stunning (and secret) waterfalls in NSW. For one of the best experiences, head to the Skywalk lookout. This elevated walkway will take you right into the heart of the rainforest, providing soaring views 21m over the rainforest all the way to the coast.

Spend time exploring Dorrigo National Park, before heading to Coffs Harbour. Tick seeing ‘The Big Banana’ off your list, enjoy the surf, and stay in Coffs Harbour for the night.

8. BYRON BAY

You’ve made it to the final destination on your NSW road trip itinerary: Byron Bay! No trip to New South Wales (or Australia) is complete without spending time in this part of paradise. As Sophie said, “I was meant to stay here 3 nights but I stayed here a month”. You’ve been warned… Byron Bay is so perfect, you may never want to leave!

For ideas of what to do in Byron, where to go and eat on a budget, group activities and more, be sure to check out our blog articles, like:

east coast australia, itinerary, nsw, road trip, self-drive

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