Growing up in Victoria, Kelly Landry has always enjoyed driving along the Great Ocean Road. But we lured her to New South Wales, gave her the keys to a smart new Renault, and told her she was about to experience another great drive: the Grand Pacific Drive from Sydney
. She witnessed rainforest, coast, historical sites and some beautiful stops along the way.
The ribbon was cut in 2005 and the Grand Pacific Drive to Wollongong was in business.
It starts 45 minutes south of Sydney in the Royal National Park and 140km later, finishes in Shoalhaven. The winding roads take you through the world's second-oldest national park, and green gives way to the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
Kelly's first pit stop was Bald Hill, one of the Illawarra's most well-known and heavenly lookouts. On the beach below, Lawrence Hargrave experimented with box kites in the early 20th century. There's a memorial cairn dedicated to him. These days, it is a major hang-gliding point.
Bald Hill overlooks the 665m Sea Cliff Bridge, a balanced cantilever construction linking the coastal towns of Coalcliff and Clifton. It has traffic lanes, a cycleway and walkway. Many people park their cars and walk the bridge and back so they can really enjoy the views at their own pace.
Sea Cliff Bridge replaced a section of Lawrence Hargrave Drive, which was closed in 2003 due to regular rock falls. It was terribly inconvenient as it was the road directly linking small towns and the northern suburbs of Wollongong. Not only did the new bridge meet with the enormous approval of locals, it has increased tourism.
In keeping with a sweet tradition at other prominent landmarks around the world, the bridge has a growing number of padlocks attached to its rails. They are engraved with the names of couples declaring eternal love, and once locked, the keys are thrown into the sea.
Austinmer not only has a good beach but Austi Beach Café. With the names of Mina Altamura and Adrian Naccari, it's no wonder the food is wonderful. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, snacks, takeaway and delicious cocktails.
Their gelato and sorbets are out of this world and are made with all fresh ingredients and no artificial colours or flavours.
A little further on the road leads to Thirroul, a northern suburb of greater Wollongong. DH Lawrence wrote Kangaroo there in 1922 and you can see his house, the beautifully named Wyewurk.
Thirroul's name came from the Aboriginal word thurrural, said to mean "Valley of the Cabbage Tree Palms." Once a coal mining settlement and a long-time beach resort, it has become a popular place to live, shop and eat and many of its residents commute to Sydney to work.
As you make your way to Wollongong and its beautiful beaches you're bound to think it just doesn't get any better.
From Sydney to Wollongong along the Grand Pacific Drive.
Virgin Blue has one-way flights to Sydney from:
- Canberra $88
- Melbourne $90
- Brisbane $99
- Hobart $109
- Adelaide $119
- Darwin $229
- Perth $245
There are limited seats, which may not be available at peak times or on all flights. Fares quoted are one-way booked on the internet. An extra $15 will be charged for phone bookings. A credit card surcharge of an additional $2 per person per one-way flight is applicable. Fares are correct at October 21, 2010, and are subject to change.
Prices correct at October 21, 2010.
For further information
Ph: 136 789
Austi Beach Café
104 Lawrence Hargrave Drive
Ph: (02) 4268 5680