Road trip to South West Rocks

Road trip to South West Rocks

The blue sky and the pristine beaches is what summarises South West Rocks. Honestly, I heard about this place only due to the scuba diving as it has one of the best dive sites in Australia. But after visiting South West Rocks is when I realised that the town has much more character to it than just diving.

For fun big things to see on the way, read 11 big things to see in NSW.

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Where is South West Rocks?

A small coastal town in the Mid North coast of New South Wales (NSW) is South West Rocks. The town is located at the mouth of Macleay River.

Trivia: It is believed that South West Rocks got its name from the captains of passing ships, who claimed that it was safest to moor vessels near the rocks, south west of Laggers Point (place where Trial Bay Gaol is built).

South West Rocks
Source: Australian Government Free Maps

Sydney to South West Rocks

  • Driving – The distance between Sydney and South West Rocks is about 450 kilometres. The drive takes close to 5 hours and is along the scenic coastal route passing through small coastal towns and cities.
    • The route has toll roads.
Road trip to South West Rocks
  • Public transportation – There is no direct train or bus from Sydney to South West Rocks.
    • One needs to take a North West train to Kempsey train station.
    • A bus from Kempsey train station to Belgrave Street after Stuart street.
    • And then finally a bus from Belgrave street to South West Rocks.
    • Up-to-date information on the public transportation and best route can be found on the Transport for NSW website.

Places along the way

The coastal route goes through many small towns and cities that are very pretty and have a character of their own. On this road trip to South West Rocks, I visited three other towns/ cities along the way.


One of my favourite cities in the north of Sydney is Newcastle. I have been there plenty of times and I have loved it at all times. The city is the second largest city in NSW and provides a great stop over for all the road trips up north. The distance between Sydney and Newcastle is around 170 kilometres (2 hours drive). The city has buzzing cafes and restaurants that caters for all types of food.

There are many things to do and read “Road trip to Newcastle” for a detailed post on things to in Newcastle.

Nobbys beach Newcastle


Forster is a coastal town in the Mid North Coast region. The town was a stop over during my road trip. It has plenty of cafes and restaurants where one can stop for lunch. It also has very pretty beaches and a Big Turtle, which is one of the 11 Big things in NSW.

The Big Turtle
The Big Turtle in Forster


Taree was another stop over town. The town is in the Manning Valley on the north coast of NSW. The town has some beautiful buildings and has a bit of history to it. Some of the things to see in Taree is the Big Oyster and Martin Bridge.

Road trip to South West Rocks

Stay at South West Rocks

I stayed at Costa Rica Motel and I loved the stay there. The rooms were clean and comfortable. The owners of the motel are also extremely friendly and I would definitely suggest staying at this motel. If you book scuba diving at Fish Rock dive centre, then you get a 10% discount code that can be used for booking at this motel on the Costa Rica Motel website.

Things to do in South West Rocks

Scuba diving

The town is famous for its dive site. It has one of the best diving sites where one can dive with plenty of Grey Nurse Sharks. I have read that sometimes the divers have seen close to 50 sharks at once. The site is known as a Shark Gutter. There is also another dive site where the divers can go into the caves. It is a boat dive.

Unfortunately, the scuba diving was canceled for me, as there was a huge swell the morning I was supposed to dive and was very dangerous for the boats to go into the ocean.

There are two dive centres, Fish Rock dive centre and South West Rocks dive centre, that take the divers to the caves and the shark gutter. I had booked my scuba diving with Fish Rock dive centre as the cost for the dive trip was cheaper when compared to the South West Rocks dive centre.

Road trip to South West Rocks
Fish Rock Dive Centre

Trial Bay Gaol

One of the most beautiful gaols I have ever seen is the Trial Bay Gaol. The Trial Bay Gaol is a heritage listed former prison in South West Rocks. Opened in the year 1886, this is a great place to get insight into the history of South West Rocks,

  • The gaol is open everyday between 9 AM and 4:30 PM.
  • There is an entrance fee of AUD 11 per adult.
  • The gaol has kangaroos.
Road trip to South West Rocks
Trial Bay Gaol

Smoky Cape lighthouse

Built in the year 1891, the Smoky Cape lighthouse is a heritage listed active lighthouse. The lighthouse was designed by the Colonial Architect James Barnet.

Road trip to South West Rocks
Smoky Cape lighthouse

Closing Notes

I loved this small town of South West Rocks. One can easily spend 2 to 3 days relaxing by the beach and driving around the town. It makes a perfect long weekend getaway and an awesome road trip in NSW. I will visit South West Rocks again as my scuba diving trip was canceled due to the weather.

Have you visited South West Rocks? What did you think? Drop a comment below or write to me on

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  1. Comment from Uma:
    Just read your article on the road trip to south west rocks. Liked the map ..and all info… You live life to the fullest .Raksha…🙂👏

  2. OMG! This sight is truly breathtaking. I have never been to South West Rocks but I would love to visit if given the chance. I am excited to know that we can go scuba diving in the area. Sorry to hear that your scuba diving was cancelled but I guess there will always be next time. Bookmarking your post for future reference.

  3. Ah! This seems like the perfect place for a group of people where some want to dive and others want to explore. The lighthouse seems so fun to visit, too! I haven’t been to Australia yet, but it’s very high on my list. So beautiful!

  4. What a downer – you go for scuba and it gets cancelled. But I see you made the most of the day anyway. Loved the heritage prison that you have shared. And yes, lighthouses are always fun. I do hope you can get to the place again and complete your scuba. Would love to see your adventures.

  5. Foster looks very appealing to me. The view is so gorgeous and relaxing. I could simply stop by their and grab lunch or snacks. I personally love road trips as it bring so much excitement and freedom on the road. Definitely, I haven’t been to South west rocks but I believe it’s is a destination for anyone who loves adventure!

  6. South West Rocks looks like a great place to spend a few leisurely days in. Too bad your dive got cancelled, but it’s great that they put your safety above all else. It sounds a bit complicated to get there by public transports, but I wouldn’t mind it if I have a lot of time to travel slowly and discover each stop.

  7. Yes it seems just the perfect place to spend a perfect weekend by the beach. And probably the place where I would like to go for scuba diving and experience the thrills for the first time. Visiting the prison and lighthouse would be fun too. South West Rocks certainly rocks.

  8. Oh wow South West rocks looks amazing! We can imagine it as a great road trip to do with a campervan and spend the weekend there. We can just imagine hiking around, taking in views of the coast and enjoying by the beach. This will def be on our bucket list!

  9. Your first photo of blue sky and pristine beaches has won me over for this place. It looks too peaceful and serene. The small town Taree looks wonderful with colorful houses and little historical too. Forster looks great stop over for quick bites or a great lunch during this trip. Thanks for sharing all tips and information about this road trip.

  10. What a fun road trip, with some great places to stop along the way. I haven’t been to Australia before, but this certainly looks enticing. I would love to visit the Trail Bay Gaol, it looks interesting. I’m not a scuba diver, but wouldn’t mind just being by the ocean listening to the rhythmic sound of the waves.

I would love to hear your thoughts, please drop a comment!

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