For those planning to drive while in Sydney, particularly visitors in Australia for a short period of time, or new arrivals, the Sydney Motorway system is an easy, convenient guide for driving into, out of, crossing, or bypassing, the city's central business district, or more specifically what some visitors may call "downtown Sydney."
There are 10 Sydney Motorway allocated with numbers 1 to 10 with several of them in use. Except for the Westlink M7, each Motorway signage comprises the Motorway number enclosed in the outline of a hexagon. The M7 sign includes the identifier "M7" within a rectangle with rounded corners.
Knowing where Motorways end, begin and pass through (if you need to leave one Motorway and join another, or need to exit to find a local address) can simplify driving in Sydney by watching out for, and following, the clearly marked Motorway signage along the way.
North-South Through the City
If you want to travel north to south, or south to north, through the city center, you'd simply follow the M1 sign.
If traveling from, say, Waterfall in the south, M1 would take you through Princes Highway, Acacia Road, President Avenue, the Grand Parade, General Holmes Drive, Southern Cross Drive, Eastern Distributor, Cahill Expressway, Sydney Harbour Tunnel, Warringah Freeway, Gore Hill Freeway, and onto the Pacific Highway at Wahroonga.
You can forget all the different road names and simply follow the M1 sign.
Note that the Eastern Distributor and Sydney Harbour Tunnel are tollways.
North-South Bypassing the City
If you were going north and wish to bypass the busier central Sydney district, you could take the Westlink M7 route from Prestons in southwest Sydney and follow the M7 sign all the way to Wahroonga. This is an orbital road passing through western Sydney.
The Westlink M7 tollway route starts at the M5 intersection at Prestons southwest of Liverpool, then paralleling Walgrove Road to the Great Western Highway, before heading north and east to then connect with the M2.
The Westlink M7 is a freeway-grade cashless tollway bypassing 48 sets of traffic lights, and vehicles using it should have an electronic e-Tag device or an e-Pass.
List of Motorways in Sydney
- M1–Wahroonga in the north to Waterfall in the south through the Sydney Harbour Tunnel (or through Sydney Harbour Bridge)
- M2–Milsons Point at the northern end of Sydney Harbour Bridge, generally running west and northwest through Castle Hill to Windsor
- A3–Blakehurst to Mona Vale through Homebush Bay (Olympic Park), Ryde and Pymble
- M4–Sydney to Lapstone running west
- M5–Sydney Airport to Campbelltown through Bankstown and Liverpool running west and southwest
- A6–Heathcote to Carlingford running roughly north
- M7–Previously Casula to Wahroonga through Liverpool and Castle Hill; as Westlink M7, from the M5 intersection at Prestons to the M2 intersection at Baulkham Hills
- M8–Unallocated, not in use
- A9–Campbelltown to Windsor through Narellan and Penrith
- M10–Unallocated, not in use
Note the M roads are primary traffic routes, and A roads are "other" primary highways.
The M2, M5, and Westlink M7 are tollways. There are sections of M1 (Eastern Distributor, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and Sydney Harbour Tunnel) that have tolls.