Macquarie Pass Road : a Journey Through the Illawarra Range

Macquarie Pass Road
Macquarie Pass Road

Discover the scenic and adventurous road through the Macquarie Pass, located in Australia’s New South Wales’ Illawarra Range. Built in the late 1800s, the road joins the valley’s lush plains to the rest of the state. Today, this road remains an essential crossing, providing a truly spectacular drive and breathtaking views all over the journey.

Where is Macquarie Pass located?

Macquarie Pass is a mountain pass in the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, Australia. It connects the Great Western Highway with the Sydney-Newcastle Freeway, via the Macquarie Pass Road. The road climbs from sea level to 622 meters (2,040 feet) through a series of 12 kilometers switchbacks.

Macquarie Pass and the associated Illawarra Highway are significant parts of Sydney’s early transport system. Indeed, it is allowing movement of people and goods between the Illawarra region and Sydney. Initially, the route was opened in 1898 and remains one of the steepest passes in Australia.

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Why is it called Macquarie Pass ?

The road bears the name Lachlan Macquarie, the Governor of New South Wales from 1810 to 1821. Indeed, many of the colony’s early infrastructure projects were overseen by Macquarie, including the construction of the road through the Illawarra Range.

The Macquarie Pass road was a big effort because it required cutting a passage through the steep terrain of the Illawarra Range. The road was built by convicts, who worked under difficult conditions to create a route through the mountains.

When the road was finished, it allowed for settlements and agriculture in the fertile valley below. It also served as an important link between the Illawarra region and the rest of New South Wales, allowing products and people to move freely between the two.

Is Macquarie Pass Road difficult to drive ?

The Macquarie Pass road can be hazardous to drive on despite its beauty. Indeed, the road has sharp turns, steep drop-offs, and is narrow and winding. Additionally, it frequently experiences rockfalls and landslides, which can make navigating it challenging. Drivers should be extra cautious on the road and to be ready for unforeseen dangers.

Furthermore, the climate in the Illawarra region can present risks. The region frequently experiences heavy rain, which can make the road hazardously slick. Additionally, frequent are strong winds, which can make it challenging to keep a car on the road.

How to get Macquarie Pass ?

Visitors typically reach Macquarie Pass from Sydney by following the Princes Highway south towards Wollongong, then taking the Illawarra Highway exit. The Macquarie Pass National Park turnoff, which leads to the Pass, can be found further down the Illawarra Highway.

You can have a preview of the itinerary on the map below :

What to do around Macquarie Pass ?

Macquarie Pass road is a beautiful drive through the Illawarra region with breathtaking views of dense forests, rolling hills, and valleys. Not just for tourists, the road is also a favorite for motorcyclists and car enthusiasts who love its scenic and challenging twists and turns.

One of the main highlights of a drive on Macquarie Pass road is the breathtaking view from the summit. Here, travelers can see the entire Illawarra region laid out before them, with the Pacific Ocean in the distance. It’s a sight that truly takes your breath away.

For those who enjoy hiking, the Clover Hill trail is a 6 km, grade 5 hike located in the Macquarie Pass National Park. This challenging hike should take around 3.5 hours to complete, but the stunning views along the way make it worth the effort.

For those who love swimming, the Jump Rock swimming hole can be found at the bottom of Macquarie Pass on the side of the road as you leave Albion Park. It is a popular spot on hotter days. Although the main car park can become quite busy, especially in high season, there is more parking available on the other side of the road.

Finally, for those who enjoy a more easy walk rather than a full on hike, the Rainbow Falls walk is a 2.5-mile out-and-back trail near Kerikeri, Northland. With an average completion time of 45 minutes, this easy route is perfect for families or those who want to take in the beauty of the area at a more relaxed pace.

Macquarie Pass Cascades
Macquarie Pass Cascades

Is Macquarie Pass road open?

Are you planning a trip to Macquarie Pass in New South Wales ? Before you start out, make sure the road is open and accessible. Here are some resources for finding the most recent information:

  • Visit the road’s official website or social media accounts for updates on closures or restrictions.
  • Contact the New South Wales Roads and Waterways Services, the authorities responsible for maintaining the road.
  • Check online traffic reports or use a navigation app to see if the road is currently accessible.

Always remember that road conditions can change quickly due to weather, accidents, or other factors, so double-check before embarking on your journey.

Preview of the road :

Get ready for an epic road trip to the breathtaking Macquarie Pass road in the Illawarra range. For a preview of the drive and to get an idea of how to plan your itinerary, you can watch this YouTube video:

In conclusion, Macquarie Pass road is a breathtaking journey that will take you through the stunning Illawarra region of Australia’s New South Wales. The road might be full of twists and turns (making it quite challenging), but it’s all worth it for the breathtaking views. Whether you’re a visitor wanting to experience the beauty of the area or a local looking for a scenic drive, make sure to add Macquarie Pass road to your bucket list.

Credits: By Vakrieger – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, / By CallumMeepMoore – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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