The South Coast of New South Wales has been my home the past two autumns. As I explored this stunning stretch of Australia’s coast from Eden to Wollongong in my van, I discovered beautiful beaches, friendly towns, incredible lookouts, and secluded camping spots.
While it’s certainly a popular place to visit, I found that it had a wonderfully laidback vibe after the busy summer months had past. The coastal communities on the South Coast were very welcoming and it had me thinking that it would be a pretty nice place to live.
In this post, I’m rounding up the best places to visit on the South Coast. Whether you’re heading off on a Melbourne to Sydney road trip or looking for a weekend escape from the city, these spots will definitely have you slipping into the slow pace of life on the coast.
Best Time to Visit the South Coast, NSW
The South Coast really is a haven at any time of the year. Of course, like most of the east coast, it get’s incredibly crowded, busy and expensive in summer, especially over the Christmas holidays.
However, for the rest of the year, it’s a beautiful place to hit the beach, go camping, walk in nature, and surf the breaks. I’ve spent the previous two autumns on the South Coast, and I have to say it’s probably my favourite time of the year.
The ocean is still warm enough to swim until May, plus you can get some beautiful sunrises and sunsets with relatively clear weather. Most of the towns are quiet by February, so you can easily explore the beaches and campgrounds without booking too far ahead.
Best Places to Visit on the South Coast
Whether you’re planning a road trip up the South Coast or looking for a getaway from Sydney for the weekend, here’s my pick of the 20 best places to visit on the South Coast. From coastal towns to national parks, don’t miss any of these spots if you want to see the best parts of this stunning coastline.
Royal National Park
As Australia’s first official national park, Royal National Park has been a favourite outdoor escape for generations. Just on the southern outskirts of Sydney, it’s known for some incredible bushwalking, bird watching, whale watching and camping.
Some of the coastal views are pretty spectacular, but if you visit on a weekend expect some very busy trails and campgrounds. Otherwise, during the week, you’ll be able to explore the waterfalls, coastal viewpoints, natural swimming spots, rainforest and camps without the crowds.
Some of the best walks include:
- Figure 8 Pools
- Wattamolla to Eagle Rock
- Karloo Pools
- The Coast Track (multi-day)
Read next: What to Pack for a Day Hike
Wollongong is a sprawling town that has really become a small city. Just south of Sydney, it’s one of the largest towns in New South Wales. While not as attractive as the other coastal towns further south, there are some very popular surf breaks and beautiful viewpoints not far from Wollongong.
As you drive south of Wollongong, the coastal views really open up along the famous stretch of the Grand Pacific Drive backed by the Illawarra Escarpment. Some of the best things to do in Wollongong include:
- Sea Cliff Bridge on Grand Pacific Drive
- Surfing at Wollongong North Beach, Wollongong City Beach, Coledale Beach and Bulli Beach
- Mount Kembla Summit Track
- Wollongong Botanic Garden
Stay | Urban Retreat
Kiama has become one of the most popular weekend coastal getaways from Sydney. The attractive town is built over the rolling cliffs of Illawarra, with rock pools, natural blow holes, and stunning viewpoints surrounding the town.
The main street is filled with cafes and boutique shops, but it’s the surrounding sights that makes Kiama one of my favourite spots on the South Coast. You could easily spend days in Kiama; taking time to explore the town’s attractions like the rock pools and lighthouse and then venturing further afield to nearby Minnamurra, Gerringong and Killalea Reserve. Or, you could take this small group, day trip to Kiama from Sydney seeing all the highlights in a day.
My favourite things to do in Kiama include:
- Kiama rock pool
- Kiama Coast Walk
- Bombo Headland Quarry
- Minnamurra Lookout
- Killalea Surfing Reserve
Stay | Kiama Shores
Read next: 18 Best Things to Do in Kiama
A slight detour off the South Coast, Kangaroo Valley is the perfect place if you want to swap waves for waterfalls. As one of the only closed valleys in the world, Kangaroo Valley is a stunning slice of bush paradise just 45km inland from Kiama.
While a long, steep drive up over the escarpment and hills behind the coast, the quaint town, lush green forest, tumbling waterfalls and variety of walking trails makes it all worthwhile.
Kangaroo Valley town itself is filled with boutique stays and farm to table restaurants, while the surrounding landscapes are best explored on foot or by water with kayaking and canoeing very popular activities.
Some of the best things to do in Kangaroo Valley include:
- Red Rock Trig walking track
- 19th century Hampden Bridge
- Drawing Room Rocks walk
- Kayak down the Kangaroo River
- Kangaroo Valley Farmers Market
Stay | Wildes Hotel Kangaroo Valley
Located on the southern end of Seven Mile Beach, the small community of Shoalhaven Heads is a peaceful spot tucked away from the bustling towns of Kiama and Nowra. You can easily kick back for a few days, indulging in surfing, kite-surfing, horse riding and fishing.
It also makes for a good base for exploring other towns like Berry, Gerroa and Gerringong.
Stay | Lorsens on the River
Down on the Beecroft Peninsula, Currarong is a popular holiday destination. The small town is filled with holiday houses, and it’s not hard to see why. There are some incredible beaches, rock pools and hidden coves to explore around the peninsula, meaning there’s plenty to keep you busy for a weekend or longer.
Close to Currarong, head off on foot in the Abrahams Bosom Reserve to secluded beaches like Wilsons Beach and Lobster Bay and to the famous Gosangs Tunnel, a unique rock tunnel with views of the rugged coastline.
The rest of the peninsula is controlled by the navy, but it opens on weekends and in holidays for exploring more of the coast, including Honeymoon Bay and Point Perpendicular Lighthouse.
Stay | Claras Coastal Cottage
Read more: How to Get to Gosangs Tunnel
Huskisson and Hyams Beach
At the heart of the stunning Jervis Bay region, Huskisson is one of the most popular holiday destinations on the South Coast. While the town itself is small, it heaves with tourists all summer long. But don’t be put off, because you can find some of Australia’s best beaches just a short drive away from town.
Just south of Huskisson, you’ll find Hyams Beach. Home to some of the whitest sand in the country, it’s definitely an ideal place to throw down a towel and take a dip in the clear water in between reading a book.
In Huskisson, you can also hit the surf breaks, go whale watching and hire stand-up paddle boards to explore the surrounding coastline.
Jervis Bay (Booderee National Park)
Arguably one of Australia’s most beautiful national parks, Booderee, or in the local Dhurga language, Walawaani Njindiwan Njin Booderee, covers most of the Jervis Bay Territory. Home to white sand beaches, crystal clear water, high coastal cliffs, and native wildlife, it feels more like a tropical island paradise than a peninsula off the South Coast.
To explore the park in the best way, stay at one of the campgrounds, such as Green Patch or Cave Beach, and spend your days beach hopping from one cove to the next.
It’s worth noting that there’s a separate Parks Pass required for Boodereee National Park, not included in the regular NSW Parks Pass.
Known for its great surf breaks, Mollymook is the more upscale town just north of Ulladulla. With expensive holiday mansions lining the coastal cliffs, and a long sandy beach stretching around the bay, it’s one of the more picturesque towns on the South Coast.
Together with Ulladulla, I found that Mollymook has a great laidback vibe with a friendly community from holiday home owners to vanlifers. I’ve revisited several times, often staying longer than planned.
Collers Beach is a popular local surf break, with a beautiful swimming spot just around towards the golf course. This is also the best place to watch the sunrise in the morning.
Stay | Motel Molly – Boutique Hotel
A pretty port town, Ulladulla is one of my favourite places to visit on the South Coast. While it’s not blessed with its own beach, you can find Mollymook just a couple of kilometres to the north and Burrill Beach to the south.
Still, the town has some great cafes, shops and a very laidback vibe outside of summer (I know, I keep saying that!). Some of my favourite things to do in Ulladulla include:
- Swim laps in the Ulladulla Sea Pool
- Buy organic local produce at Empower Wholefoods
- Visit Warden Head Lighthouse
- Surf at Dolphin Point
Stay | Harbour View Apartments
Murramarang National Park
One of the South Coast’s gems, Murramarang National Park is a natural haven spanning over 40km of coastline from Bawley Point down to Batemans Bay. With the dense forest running right up to the edge of the sandy beaches, you can switch off and feel a world away from the trendy coastal towns.
Walking, fishing, swimming, surfing and camping are just some of the popular activities you can do in the park. Depot Beach Campground and Pebbly Beach Campground are my two favourites but there’s several other spots that you can enjoy some pretty nice camping facilities surrounded by the bush and crashing waves.
The new 3-day Murramarang Coastal Walk is also a new highlight that I’ll have to go back and complete one day.
An old favourite amongst families and holiday makers, Batemans Bay is a major town on the South Coast. While I wouldn’t say the town itself is anything special compared to other smaller towns like Ulladulla or Bermagui, there’s plenty to do around Batemans Bay that makes it a nice base to explore the coast.
The Batemans Bay Snorkelling Trail includes bays around the town with its reefs and native fish, while fishing enthusiasts can head to Clyde River National Park. Otherwise, I quite liked driving the coastal route from Batemans Bay down to Moruya, stopping at Batehaven, Lilli Pilli, Malua Bay, Mossy Point and Broulee.
Stay | The Isla
Narooma (and Dalmeny)
Narooma and surrounds is definitely up there when it comes to the best places to visit on the South Coast. With the Wagonga Inlet, coastal lakes and rugged coastline, the natural beauty of Narooma is what instantly astounded me.
It has some of the bluest and clearest waters on the South Coast, appearing like a tapestry of glistening turquoise. This means you’ll see divers and stand-up paddle boarders out on the inlet exploring the water. The resident seals are a real highlight too, you can see them around the inlet and also near Australia Rock and Seal Rocks.
It’s also becoming a popular foodie destination thanks to the oyster industry, which is booming in town. Whether you stay in Narooma or Dalmeny or somewhere in between, you’ll be able to appreciate the incredibly beautiful town and surrounding coastline.
Don’t miss when visiting Narooma:
- Australia Rock
- Cycling from Dalmeny to Narooma (check out this 2-hour e-bike rental here)
- Swimming area in Wagonga Beach
- Seals at Seal Rocks
- Glasshouse Rocks
Stay | The Beach Shack at Dalmeny
The small coastal community on Mystery Bay just south of Narooma is one of the best kept secrets on the South Coast. Home to one of the last budget campgrounds, you can camp right on the coast with just the sound of birds and crashing waves waking you in the morning.
While there’s not a whole lot of town there, it’s the best place to explore the hidden beaches around the coast to the south. It’s also a popular fishing spot for locals.
Stay | Spotted Gum Retreat
Bermagui is an absolute gem of a town. As one of the best places to visit on the South Coast, you shouldn’t miss the opportunity to spend at least a night there. With some great waterfront cafes (try Boneless Vegetarian Cafe or Gulaga Wholefoods), the main beach right in front for swimming, and some incredible vantage points around town, it’s a pretty spot to go for a weekend.
Home to one of the most beautiful ocean pools, known as Bermagui Blue Pool, you can spot whales, dolphins and seals as you swim in the protected rock pool. Just north of town past Wallaga Lake, I also highly recommend you check out the walk to Camel Rock and Horse Head Rock.
Stay | Bermagui Beach Hotel
The small town of Tathra on the Sapphire Coast is a pretty spot not far from Merimbula and Bega. Surrounded by national parks, it’s a popular summer getaway for families looking to soak up the sun.
Tathra Beach is a long sandy bay perfect for swimming, surfing and relaxing on the sand. At sunset time (or sunrise if you’re keen), head up to Chamberlain Lookout for a beautiful view.
But the small town is also a great base for exploring Mimosa Rocks National Park to the north and Bournda National Park to the south. Both national parks also have great campgrounds if you want to escape into nature for a night.
Stay | Kianinny Bush Cottages
On a coastline known for holiday resort towns, Merimbula has been a long standing favourite. With Merimbula Lake and Merimbula Bay, you’ve got a little bit of everything around town. From popular surf breaks to calm waters for SUP-ing, the water activities are endless.
Plus the town is filled with some of the best food options on the South Coast, from trendy coffee shops open early in the morning to waterfront fine dining. There’s plenty of walking trails, boardwalks and footpaths to explore the town on, which was my favourite thing to do in Merimbula. Otherwise, pick from one of the many beaches to spend the day, Bar Beach, Middle Beach, Short Point Beach, and Merimbula Main Beach.
Stay | Beach Cabins Merimbula
While close to Merimbula, Pambula has more of a chill vibe and smaller yet welcoming community. The small town offers some nice cafes (try Toast Cafe), but head to the coast for Pambula Beach, which is the real highlight, with surf breaks, walking trails and fishing in Pambula River.
A sleepy fishing town, Eden seems to get a bit forgotten compared to the flashier towns further up the coast. But, located on Twofold Bay and surrounded by national parks, you’ll find some of the most pristine coastal landscapes around Eden.
There’s actually plenty to keep you busy around town, especially if you enjoy swimming, whale watching and walking. In winter, it’s one of the best places on the South Coast for catching a glimpse of the migrating whales. Other things to do in Eden, include:
- Aslings Beach Rock Pool
- Eden Killer Whale Museum
- Cocora Beach
- Eden Lookout Point
Stay | Eden Motel
Beowa National Park (formerly Ben Boyd National Park)
Surrounding the small coastal town of Eden, Beowa National Park is a must visit. Separated into two areas, one north of Eden and another south of Eden, it’s filled with surf beaches, fishing spots, walking trails, and unique geological formations.
The most iconic attraction of the park is The Pinnacles. You’ve likely seen an image of the spectacular erosion feature on social media. Consisting of soft white and red clay cliffs, the layers are millions of years old. You can reach it by a short walk from the carpark, but I also recommend heading down to Pinnacles Beach for a secluded, long sandy bay.
More Travel Guides for the South Coast
- 10 Best Campgrounds on the South Coast
- Ultimate 2-Week Itinerary for a Melbourne to Sydney Road Trip
- Best Things to Do in Kiama