If you take the New South Wales (NSW) South Coast as starting from the Royal National Park all the way down to the NSW-Victoria border, you actually take in such smaller regional sections as the Illawarra Coast, Eurobodalla Coast and Sapphire Coast, all fronting the open seas of the Pacific Ocean.
The nearer South Coast destinations, such as Royal National Park, Wollongong and Jervis Bay, may be suitable for daytrips, while longer stays may be needed the farther south you go.
The main route along the NSW South Coast is the Princes Highway, part of Australia's circumferential Highway 1, which travels along the coast all the way to Melbourne. The Princes Highway, named after the then Prince of Wales who was to become Edward VIII of England, is the more scenic route to the Victorian capital but entails a longer journey than taking the inland Hume Highway. Spend a day at Royal National Park or head to the beaches of Wollongong. For any place farther south, returning to Sydney could mean traveling back at night, or the following day or days.
Bring a picnic hamper if you're spending the day at Royal National Park unless you know where to get food — and this could mean small cafes and kiosks at Audley, Garie Beach or Wattamolla, or head just outside the park to Bundeena or Stanwell Park, or back on the highway at Heathcote. There are a number of walking tracks in Royal National Park and you can hire a boat at Audley if you want to paddle in and along the river. Take the Princes Highway south from Sydney and watch for the turnoff (this is in the suburb of Loftus, but you may not know this unless you're looking at a map) into the park. A park fee per vehicle is charged. The park appended Royal to its name after a visit by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, just two years after becoming queen.
If going on the Grand Pacific Drive, this recently named route actually begins in the Royal National Park. Take Lady Wakehurst Drive south and into Lawrence Hargrave Drive towards Stanwell Park, to start your Grand Pacific Drive journey. The Grand Pacific Drive does take in sections bearing different names, so do follow the signs. The drive goes through picturesque hamlets and coastal beaches. The Sea Cliff bridge, which links the villages of Coalcliff and Clifton along Grand Pacific Drive is a balanced cantilever bridge snaking along the coast away from the mountainside where rockfalls could take place.
The third largest city in New South Wales, Wollongong is but an hour's drive from Sydney's southern outskirts. To get into the city proper, you need to leave Princes Highway which skirts Wollongong on its western side and bypasses the city. With its share of good swimming and surfing beaches, Wollongong draws beachgoers from Sydney into its less crowded seaside areas. You won't find it hard to locate places to eat and there's a fine restaurant in Stuart Park adjacent to North Beach or at the big hotel there. Or you can take your pick of smaller fish and chips shops, or visit the fish market on the harbour.
5. Jervis Bay
Some of the world's finest white sand beaches are to be found in Jervis Bay, from two and a half to three hours' drive from Sydney. It's all the way south on Princes Highway until past the town of Nowra in the Shoalhaven region. Watch for the turnoff sign to Jervis Bay and follow the road to Huskisson which is the largest town in Jervis Bay. In fact it's at Huskisson that you'll find most of what you'll need for a few days' stay in the area. Boat cruises and scuba diving and snorkeling trips are available at Huskisson.
Narooma, a well-known NSW fishing town, is much farther south along the Princes Highway. In the Aboriginal language, Narooma translates into "land of many waters" and Narooma in fact is hemmed in Wagonga Inlet, Forsters Bay and the Pacific Ocean, and there's Little Lake south of town. There are fishing charters to join, boats and fishing equipment to hire — and yes, there's marlin and giant tuna in the ocean — or you can simply go surfcasting along the beach.
You may not remember an American writer named Zane Grey. But in the heyday of western — or cowboy — fiction, Grey was among the most prolific and popular. But he was not only enamoured of the American West, he also was a committed sports fisherman and lived and set up camp in Bermagui and fished off its coast. Many anglers have since followed Grey to Bermagui. There are other water, and land, activities, of course, such as golf and scuba diving.
Eden is the last major town south of Sydney before the NSW-Victoria border. If you're thinking of the town's name as an indication of being a paradise, well, that could be so. Actually, the town was named after George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland, the British Secretary for the Colonies at the time. As an aside, George Eden also gave his name to the New Zealand city of Auckland. The Australian Eden used to be a whaling town involved in the now completely dishonored practice of killing whales for their oil. There are interesting dive sites in the waters of Eden.