Mention Australia and Sydney is one of the first few things that usually comes to mind. Home to the most iconic spots in the world, Sydney as a city is vibrant, lively and exciting for many travellers - seasoned or not. But did you know that there are so much more to see and do around New South Wales?
While I am a fan of using public transport to travel through a country, renting a car allows you more freedom to explore more of the countryside at your own pace and to discover more hidden gems. This tried and tested 4D3N self-drive itinerary across New South Wales, travelling into the Blue Mountains, Port Stephens and Central Coast will give you just that!
Day 1 – Arrive in Sydney and off to the Blue Mountains!
Sydney to Blue Mountains time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Accommodation: Alpine Motor Inn
My friend and I took an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney and landed at Sydney International Airport at around 8:50am. Because I have a biometric passport, I could use the SmartGate to pass through immigration, saving me so much time. After collecting our luggages, it was on to customs and to declare any produce, food and drinks. Australia is strict custom laws so check their website to find out what is allowed into the country. Or when in doubt, just declare your item on the customs form handed out in the plane.
Getting out of the immigration and customs took about an hour and it was off to the Blue Mountains, a UNESCO Heritage Site, in our rented car from EuropCar. However, the weather wasn’t on our side and it rained for the rest of the day in the mountains, rendering it too misty to catch a glimpse of the Three Sisters at Echo Point, Katoomba.
Scrumptious meals at Frankly my Dear Coffee & Leura Garage. Credit: Tania Wee
We did however stumble upon two foodie gems. The first was a late lunch stop, Frankly My Dear Coffee, a little café with the yummiest butterscotch latte and liquorice bread (a must try!). For dinner, we dined at Leura Garage, a fairly popular restaurant in Leura amongst the locals. Their beer ragu pasta was simply delicious and their Shrimp Skillet with grilled bread was so fresh and flavourful! Perfect for a chilly night in the mountains.
With our body still adapting to the Australian cold, we retreated to our hotel, Alpine Motor Inn for an early night. The following day was long day ahead of us.
Day 2 – Three Sisters, Scenic World and Port Stephens!
Blue Mountains to Port Stephens: 3 hours 30 minutes
Accommodation: Ingenia Holidays Middle Rock
Due to the nonstop rain the previous night, we were in for a treat the next day. Bright sunny skies and a rare sea of clouds greeted us at the Three Sisters, Echo Point. It was a sight so rare that even the locals came out to see it.
For breakfast we stopped at Black Cockatoo Bakery to grab their pastries and coffee. While extensive in range and the coffee delicious, we found the pastries cold as they didn’t have an oven to warm it up. Maybe the locals often took it to go and warmed it up at home. I enjoyed my pear Danish though. Cold or warm, a sweet pastry always hits the spot.
Breakfast at Black Cockatoo Bakery. Credit: Tania Wee
Unable to get enough of the mountainside view, we headed off to Scenic World next. At only AUD50(approx. RM150) per person, we got all day access to the park with unlimited rounds of their three main rides that takes you across, up and down and into Jamison Valley.
All three rides (Scenic Railway, Scenic Cableway and Scenic Skyway) had stunning views of the Blue Mountains and Jamison Valley. But the one we enjoyed the most and went on multiple times, was the Scenic Railway. Why?
Well, where else in the world do you get to ride the steepest passenger railway ride in the world? We rode at an incline of 52° through a 310-metre route that went through a cliff tunnel and the best part was, the train goes forwards and in reverse! That was two adventures rolled into one ride! Plus, passengers can also choose the angle of their seats, making it more laidback or adrenaline pumping.
A day well spent in Scenic World, Blue Mountains. Credit: Tania Wee
After grabbing a quick bite at Scenic World, we drove off to our next destination of the trip – Port Stephens. Along the way, we stopped at a McDonalds or as the Aussies’ call it, Mecca to takeaway dinner before checking into our beachside cabin at Ingenia Holidays Middle Rock.
The rest of the evening was spent chilling around the cabin site, chatting with the locals and walking around Samurai Nudist Beach to catch a purplish sunset. But alas, no nudists were spotted.
Samurai Nudist Beach, Port Stephens. Credit: Tania Wee
Day 3 – Quad-Biking through Sand Dunes and Alpaca Feeding in Central Coast
Port Stephens to Central Coast: 1 hour 10 minutes
Central Coast to Sydney: 1 hour 15 minutes
Accommodation: Ibis World Square
Quad biking across the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere awaited us in the Worimi Conservation Lands in the morning. After getting fitting with our helmets by Sand Dunes Adventures, we were given a thorough briefing on how to operate our quad bikes before we were off!
What an experience it was, zooming across the sand dunes and rolling down high slopes! While it was nerve-wracking at first, we soon got used to the bike and found ourselves trotting the accelerator more than the brake. A fog had rolled in during our ride, adding a Stephen King feel to the entire experience. We highly recommend this activity if one is ever in Port Stephens.
After quad-biking, we started making our way back to Sydney but not without a stopover in Central Coast to feed some alpacas! Iris Lodge Alpacas farm is run by Sharon and Sean and we were hosted by the lovely Sharon for the alpaca feeding session.
Alpaca feeding at Iris Alpaca Lodge. Credit: Tania Wee
We were introduced to the farm animals including their adorable sheep dog, a horse and of course, the alpaca and llamas. Don’t be surprised if you get brushed up against by an alpaca trying to get to your bag of treats. Not only do you get close and personal with animals but you also get to learn about the important roles farms like this play in protecting the environment, such as planting trees as homes for hundreds of birds.
Back in beautiful charming Sydney. Credit: Tania Wee
After getting our fill of cute playful alpacas, we drove back to the city. As much as I enjoyed driving around New South Wales, it was time to bid farewell to the car once we reached Sydney. I dropped off the luggage at our hotel in Sydney, Ibis World Square and drove to Pullman Sydney Hyde Park to return our ride. From there, it was a quick 10 minutes’ walk back to World Square for dinner and shopping.
Day 4 – Sydney Free and Easy
Sydney is an exciting city to explore whether by foot, train, tram, bus and even by ferry. Here are some ways you can spend a free and easy day in Australia’s most iconic city.
Take a stroll along Circular Quay for epic views of the iconic Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge.
Immerse yourself in nature in the Royal Botanic Garden.
Take the train and bus to Bondi Beach and check out the most instagrammable café in the world, Speedos.
Or take your family to Taronga Zoo via ferry
All you need is an Opal transport card to get around. It’s so easy! Alternatively, if you can’t get enough of the countryside, hop onboard a train out to Hunter Valley to overnight at the winery resort!
Australia Self-Drive Need to Know!
Malaysian Driving Licenses are accepted in Australia, so no need for International Driving Permit.
Drive on the left, same as Malaysia.
Seatbelts are mandatory for the drivers and all passengers.
If you are using your phone for navigation, make sure you have a handphone holder for it. Don't touch your phone while driving, even at traffic lights!
Do not speed as hidden speed cameras are widely used and if caught, the fines are very hefty.
Whether you’re a first-time traveller to New South Wales or have been to Sydney before and now wants to see more of the state, this itinerary, courtesy of Destination New South Wales is just for you!
This entire self-drive itinerary was planned by Sedunia Travel, Malaysia’s Premier Aussie Specialist and one that you can experience too! Follow it to the letter or tweak the activities to suit your interest – just let your Sedunia Travel consultant know. They will even handle the nitty gritty details like flights, car rental and attraction fees for your convenience and all you need to do is show up with your passport.
You can opt to follow their ready-to-go packages or customise your travel plans accordingly. Get in touch with them today at email@example.com or browse through their website for more New South Wales travel packages.