Hit the Road: The Legendary Pacific Coast
Stretching north nearly 600 miles between Sydney and Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, New South Wales' Legendary Pacific Coast has all the ingredients of a perfect road trip: great highways passing through ever-changing landscapes; vibrant towns offering fantastic dining and entertainment; breathtaking national parks; exciting outdoor adventures and a world-renowned wine region to boot. From culture vultures to adrenaline junkies, there’s a Pacific Coast trail that will tick the boxes on every traveller’s holiday wish list. Buckle up for the drive of your life.
National Parks & State Forests Nature Trail
After making the most of all the action that Sydney has to offer, what could be better than some quality time in the great outdoors? There are 48 national parks throughout the Legendary Pacific Coast region, offering access to some of the country’s most breathtaking, untouched wilderness. Leave the highway and you’ll soon find yourself swimming under a waterfall in the heart of an ancient forest, gazing across vast stretches of sand dunes, or exploring rugged cliffs around a coastal headland. Stay overnight and you’ll sleep under the planet’s starriest skies and have the chance to spot some of Australia’s cutest nocturnal critters.
Food & Wine & Farmers’ Gate Journey
The Legendary Pacific Coast is a magnet for foodies and one of the world’s premier wine regions just a skip from Sydney, with exciting culinary experiences to be had along the route. Scenic drives wind through olive groves, coffee and tea plantations, and farms growing avocados, tropical fruits and macadamias. Savour them all at one of the many cottage restaurants and cafés, or enjoy a long, lazy lunch overlooking the vines of the Hunter Valley. Fancy an oceanfront feast? The coastal towns of Coffs Harbour and Tweed Heads offer relaxed dining in stylish restaurants, where amazing views and great food are always on the menu.
Whale Watching Trail
Nothing beats the thrill of being at sea, watching a breaching whale or dolphins riding the bow of your boat. The Pacific Ocean is full of marine marvels and you’ll encounter many of them off Australia’s east coast, where you can spot them from both land and on the water. Between May and November, humpback whales migrate from south to north, often visible from lookouts on shore such as Cape Byron Lighthouse and Nambucca Heads, while cruises from towns including Port Stephens and Port Macquarie offer a closer encounter with these majestic mammals. For those who prefer to cruise below the waves, the waters off Terrigal, just an hour north of Sydney, will yield caves, reefs, drop-offs and wrecks, including the sunken naval warship, Ex-HMAS Adelaide.
Culture, Arts & Heritage Trail
With the dynamic hubs of Sydney and Brisbane at the start and finishing lines of your Legendary Pacific Coast trip, and the vibrant cities of Newcastle and Port Macquarie in-between, there’s plenty of opportunity to get your cultural fix, with galleries, museums and performance spaces staging world-class exhibitions and shows. Festivals throughout the year offer the chance to get a taste of local life in the region – check out Byron Bay’s annual Bluesfest in March – while outlets like the Australian Woodwork Gallery and Byron Arts & Industry Park display the talents of traditional craftspeople and contemporary artists. Aboriginal stories are kept alive at historic sites along the route, including Tweed Heads, where the Minjungbal Aboriginal Cultural Centre offers an insight into the lives of the indigenous Goori people.
Legendary Kids’ Trail
There’s no chance of hearing those dreaded words ‘I’m bored!’ on a road trip along the Legendary Pacific Coast. With plenty to keep little ones and teens happy, your toughest challenge will be how to fit in all the fun. From the thrills and spills of the Wet‘n’Wild water park, to boat trips to see wild dolphins and whales, and exciting encounters with native wildlife at the Australian Reptile Park and Koala Hospital, this diverse stretch of Australia has enough activities to engage even the most demanding of kids. Plus, there are lots of family-friendly places to eat and sleep along the way, from cosy hinterland farm stays to buzzing beachfront resorts.
Catch a wave
Legendary Surfing Safari
No visit to Australia would be complete without trying your hand at surfing. Kids do it, seniors do it, so how hard can it be, right? Just a couple of hours on a board with a qualified instructor should get you standing – albeit for a few seconds – and think of the bragging rights when you return home a veritable east-coast surf champ. You’ll find some of the country’s best beginners’ breaks off the Pacific Highway, situated on beautiful beaches like those around Byron Bay and Coffs Harbour, while the pros board at protected National Surfing Reserves like Angourie and Lennox Head – so if catching a wave isn’t your thing, you can always lie back, watch the action and enjoy catching some of those warm Australian rays instead.
This article originally appeared in Flight Centre UK's tri-annual magazine, The Experts. Read more here.