Road trip to South West Rocks

Things To Do in South West Rocks (2024)

Explore the exhilarating side of South West Rocks with myriad activities that promise adventure and excitement. There are many things to do in South West Rocks.

Dive into the crystal-clear waters for a snorkelling or scuba diving experience like no other, discovering vibrant marine life beneath the surface. Unleash your inner thrill-seeker with exciting water sports, from kayaking to paddleboarding, against the stunning backdrop of South West Rocks’ coastal beauty.

For those seeking a more laid-back adventure, explore the scenic trails that wind through the picturesque landscapes. South West Rocks invites you to embrace nature’s wonders and create lasting memories in this coastal haven.

South West Rocks, epitomised by its blue skies and immaculate beaches, goes beyond its reputation as a premier scuba diving destination in Australia. While initially drawn to the town for its acclaimed dive sites, my visit uncovered a rich character beyond the underwater allure.

The pristine beaches and the expansive blue sky create a captivating backdrop for exploration. South West Rocks blends adventure and tranquillity, offering more than a thrilling dive experience. Discovering the multifaceted charm of this coastal gem, I found a community that thrives amidst nature’s beauty, inviting visitors to embrace the vibrant spirit that defines South West Rocks.

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About South West Rocks

Nestled on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales (NSW), South West Rocks emerges as a quaint coastal haven at the mouth of the Macleay River. Intriguingly, the town’s nomenclature is shrouded in maritime history.

According to local lore, South West Rocks acquired its name from astute ship captains navigating the waters. They attested to the safety of mooring vessels near the rocks, specifically southwest of Laggers Point, where Trial Bay Gaol stands today. This trivia tidbit weaves a historical narrative, connecting the town’s nautical past to its distinctive geographic features, underscoring South West Rocks as a destination where tales of the sea echo through time.

South West Rocks
Source: Australian Government Free Maps

How do you get to South West Rocks from Sydney?

By Road

Covering a distance of approximately 450 kilometres, the journey from Sydney to South West Rocks unfolds along a scenic coastal route, offering a picturesque drive that spans nearly 5 hours.

Traversing through charming small coastal towns and cities, the route provides a visually delightful experience, showcasing the region’s coastal beauty. It’s worth noting that this route involves toll roads, adding convenience to the trip. Embark on this road adventure to South West Rocks, immersing yourself in the coastal allure and discovering the captivating landscapes that unfold along the way.

Road trip to South West Rocks

By Public Transport

Regrettably, no direct train or bus service connects Sydney to South West Rocks. To embark on this journey using public transportation, one must first board a North West train bound for Kempsey train station. From Kempsey, a bus route is available, with the destination being Belgrave Street after Stuart Street. Finally, the last leg of the trip involves taking another bus from Belgrave Street to reach South West Rocks.

For the most current and accurate information regarding public transportation options and the optimal route, it is advisable to refer to the Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) website. Stay informed and plan your journey seamlessly with the latest updates provided by TfNSW.

Places to See from Sydney to South West Rocks

Traversing the coastal route unveils charming small towns and cities, each possessing unique and captivating character. Embarking on this road trip to South West Rocks allowed me to explore three additional towns/cities, each contributing its distinct charm to the scenic journey.


Newcastle, located north of Sydney, is one of my preferred destinations. Having frequented the city numerous times, I consistently find it enchanting. As the second-largest city in New South Wales (NSW), Newcastle serves as an excellent stopover during road trips to the north.

Spanning approximately 170 kilometres, the drive from Sydney to Newcastle takes about 2 hours. The city boasts vibrant cafes and restaurants, offering a diverse culinary experience that caters to all tastes. Newcastle’s lively atmosphere and culinary delights make it a perennial favourite on my journeys northward.

Nobbys beach Newcastle


Nestled in the Mid-North Coast region, Forster emerges as a charming coastal town that became a noteworthy stopover during my road trip. Boasting a plethora of cafes and restaurants, Forster offers delightful options for a lunch break. The city has beautiful beaches, adding a scenic backdrop to its allure.

Notably, Forster is home to the “Big Turtle,” a prominent addition to the collection of iconic “Big Things” in New South Wales (NSW). This quaint town seamlessly blends culinary delights, coastal beauty, and quirky attractions, making it a captivating destination for travellers exploring the Mid-North Coast.

The Big Turtle
The Big Turtle in Forster


Taree served as another noteworthy stopover on my journey. Nestled in the scenic Manning Valley on the north coast of New South Wales (NSW), this town is adorned with beautiful buildings and has rich historical charm.

Exploring Taree unveils iconic landmarks, including the renowned Big Oyster and the historic Martin Bridge. The town’s blend of architectural beauty and historical significance adds a unique flavour to the road trip, making Taree a compelling destination for those seeking a glimpse into the past while appreciating distinctive local attractions.

Road trip to South West Rocks

Where to Stay in South West Rocks?

When looking for accommodations in South West Rocks, consider the following options that cater to different preferences and budgets:

  1. Rockpool Motor Inn: Located near the town centre, Rockpool Motor Inn offers comfortable rooms with modern amenities. Its proximity to popular attractions and beaches makes it a convenient choice.
  2. Costa Rica Motel: A recommended choice for a cozy and friendly atmosphere. It’s known for clean, comfortable rooms, and there’s a special discount if you book scuba diving with Fish Rock Dive Centre.
  3. Heritage Guesthouse: If you appreciate historical charm, consider Heritage Guesthouse. This heritage-listed building offers a unique and nostalgic stay in the heart of South West Rocks.

My accommodation at Costa Rica Motel was delightful, and I thoroughly enjoyed my stay. The rooms were impeccably clean and provided a comfortable retreat. The motel owners were amiable, adding a warm and welcoming touch to the overall experience. I highly recommend considering this motel for your stay.

An additional perk worth noting is that if you book scuba diving with Fish Rock Dive Centre, you’ll receive an exclusive 10% discount code. This code can be applied when booking your stay directly on the Costa Rica Motel website. It is a fantastic deal for those looking to combine their underwater adventures with a cozy and hospitable accommodation experience.

Things To Do in South West Rocks

Scuba Diving in South West Rocks

Renowned for its exceptional dive sites, the town is a haven for underwater enthusiasts. One standout location is the Shark Gutter, which is celebrated for providing an extraordinary opportunity to dive with numerous Grey Nurse Sharks. Divers have reported encounters with as many as 50 sharks simultaneously, creating an exhilarating experience. Additionally, there’s a captivating cave dive, accessible by boat, offering a unique underwater exploration.

Regrettably, my scuba diving plans were thwarted due to a substantial swell, posing significant risks for boats venturing into the ocean that morning. Safety concerns led to the cancellation of my dive.

For diving enthusiasts, two prominent dive centres, Fish Rock Dive Centre and South West Rocks Dive Centre, facilitate trips to the caves and Shark Gutter. I found Fish Rock Dive Centre a more economical choice than South West Rocks Dive Centre for my scuba diving adventure.

Road trip to South West Rocks
Fish Rock Dive Centre

Trial Bay Gaol

Among the most stunning prisons I’ve encountered is the Trial Bay Gaol, a heritage-listed former prison in South West Rocks. Established in 1886, this site offers a fascinating glimpse into the history of South West Rocks.

  • Open every day from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, the Trial Bay Gaol welcomes visitors with an entrance fee of AUD 11 per adult.
  • Beyond its historical significance, the gaol’s grounds are inhabited by kangaroos, adding a unique and unexpected touch to the visitor experience.

Explore the rich history and natural surroundings at this captivating site in South West Rocks.

Road trip to South West Rocks
Trial Bay Gaol

Smoky Cape Lighthouse

Constructed in 1891, the Smoky Cape Lighthouse stands proudly as a heritage-listed active beacon. The Colonial Architect James Barnet designed this architectural gem.

Adjacent to the lighthouse are charming cottages known as the Smoky Cape Lighthouse Keepers’ Cottages. These fully furnished accommodations boast complete amenities, including kitchens and bathrooms. Staying in these cottages provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the historical ambience of the lighthouse while enjoying modern comforts. Experience heritage and contemporary convenience at the Smoky Cape Lighthouse and inviting keepers’ cottages.

Road trip to South West Rocks
Smoky Cape lighthouse

Closing Notes

Enamoured by the charm of South West Rocks, I found it an ideal destination for a leisurely escape. With its inviting beaches and scenic drives, spending 2 to 3 days in this quaint town becomes a perfect recipe for a rejuvenating long weekend getaway or an exhilarating road trip in New South Wales (NSW). Despite my scuba diving plans being thwarted by weather conditions, I’m already planning a return to South West Rocks for another attempt.

Have you explored South West Rocks? Share your thoughts and experiences by reaching out to me at I would love to hear about your adventures in this delightful town!

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    PIN for later reference – Things to do in South West Rocks

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