26/05/2024

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The Ultimate Sydney To Brisbane Road Trip Itinerary

10 min read
The Ultimate Sydney To Brisbane Road Trip Itinerary

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The iconic east coast road trip from Sydney to Brisbane, known as the Legendary Pacific Coast, is one of Australia’s top road trips.

Stretching 900 kms along the Pacific Highway corridor it has something for everyone: stunning beaches, green rolling hills, beachside towns, riverside towns, wineries, historic sites, the hinterland, wildlife watching, and every water sport imaginable.

waves on the beach
Surf on Coolangatta Beach

It’s a drive we’ve done many times and each time we discover new wonders, new places to stay, and new dining options. Best explored at your own pace in your own vehicle, we recommend taking at least a week, preferably two, to do this drive.

We once spent six weeks camping along the Pacific Coast from our hometown Woy Woy to Byron Bay, and did it again as a family of four on our epic 18-month Australia road trip.

Here are all the stops on the Sydney to Brisbane road trip and some helpful tips to make your trip go smoothly…

About This Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip Itinerary

people standing next to a car
Our Nissan X-Trail

The distance between Sydney and Brisbane is around 981 km and takes 10 hours to drive in one go, hugging the East Coast of Australia shoreline for most of the way.

Of course, you will want to stop along the way, which is why we suggest setting aside at least a week. We will recommend places to stay, further reading guides, and tours and attractions via Get Your Guide.

We like them the best as the booking confirmation is immediate, you can read thousands of reviews and you can cancel anytime up to 24 hours before the activity.

It’s always best to book in advance for security and to save time!

Here is a map that shows the route to take and each stop along the way.

Stops on a Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip

Below you will find the best stops on the Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary. You can spend as much time as you please at each place, but we recommend 1-2 days at each to really get a feel for them.

Stop 1: Sydney

Opera house ad buildings on sydney harbour at sunset

Before you pack up your vehicle and head out on your trip, make sure you spend a few days exploring Sydney first.

This iconic city has so much to see and enjoy, from the famous Sydney Opera House to climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

And if you find cities overwhelming, the Blue Mountains National Park is only a short drive out of the city and is where you can find the famous three sisters rock formations.

The three sisters in  Blue Mountains

If you have time before you start driving up the coast, we highly recommend visiting Katoomba, a small town where you get amazing panoramic views of The Blue Mountains.

Stop 2: The Central Coast

a man carrying a baby on a mountain
Bouddi National Park

Just an hour north of Sydney is our hometown region of the Central Coast.

Most travellers tend to remain on the main freeway and by-pass this beautiful region. But we had to add it in.

Popular destinations include Terrigal which is a trendy and upmarket beach area with tons of cafes, restaurants, fishing, diving, whale watching, and one of the best beer gardens in Australia at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

boats in water
Terrigal Haven

For the nature buffs, don’t miss a walk in Bouddi National Park which has dramatic coastal views as well as secluded beaches and camping opportunities.

Other places to check out:

  • Avoca
  • MacMasters Beach
  • Copacabana Beach
  • The Entrance
  • Toowoon Bay

Stop 2: Newcastle

small lighthouse on nobby's head. Newcastle
Nobby’s Head, Newcastle

We have been exploring more of this region recently. The beachside city of Newcastle was voted as one of Lonely Planet’s must-see destinations for 2011. With great beaches, inner city pubs with live music, and a thriving restaurant scene, such as Derby street, Newcastle is a happening place.

At nearby Stockton Beach there are the massive Stockton sand dunes offering 4WD tours, sand boarding, and quad biking.

woman on dune quad bike
Stockton Beach

And just north of Newcastle is Port Stephens, a destination with fantastic fishing, beautiful beaches, opportunities for snorkelling and diving, and for whale and dolphin watching. Nelsons Bay is the main town in this area.

Stop 3: The Hunter Valley

grass fields

The wine and food trail known as the Hunter Valley is one of our favourite regions in Australia. With over 140 wineries this is the place you want to go to sample some of Australia’s best wines.

There is also an abundance of great restaurants and cafes for the foodies.

And why not incorporate a hot air balloon ride over the valley while you are there?

We sure did, followed by a delicious lunch at the popular Harrigans restaurant.

vineyards in a field

Stop 4: Seal Rocks

a woman hiking on a trail next to a beach with her children
Seal Rocks Beach

Seal Rocks is a quiet fishing village near the Myall Lakes National Park, and offers clear bays for swimming, snorkelling, boating, and fishing.

It’s also a great place to go camping, or simply take a nature walk and enjoy the fresh air.

Or, why not treat yourself to a few nights in a Lighthouse Keepers Cottage with amazing ocean views?

a lighthouse
Seal Rocks Lighthouse
a beach
Lighthouse Beach

Stop 5: The Manning Valley

The riverside towns of Tinonee and Wingham make a nice detour off the coastal road and are within striking distance of the legendary Ellenborough Falls. 

a man sitting at a table outside
view from Artisans on the Hill

Spend a night or drop in for some arts and crafts at Artisans on the Hill B&B followed by a visit to Australia’s award winning cafe Bent on Food.

Stop 6: Port Macquarie

View from North Brother Mountain in Camden Haven, NSW, Australia
View from North Brother Mountain

Port Macquarie is a vibrant and un-spoilt town sitting at the estuary of the Hastings River.

The stunning coastline of the rocky headlands makes it a great place to spend a few quiet days.

Or, if you are the active type, the spectacular 9km coastal walk from Town Beach to Tacking Point Lighthouse takes in beaches, headlands, historic sites, and rare subtropical rainforest.

rocks on Pilots Beach, NSW, Australia

With calm waterways, boardwalks, bountiful fishing, gorgeous National Parks, and surfing beaches so many visitors return to Port Macquarie.

And don’t miss the spectacular sunsets with a beer in hand from the Royal Hotel right in town on the river.

girl walking on the rocks at the The Breakwalll
the breakwall

Another popular attraction in Port Macquarie is the Koala Hospital, where injured koalas are rescued and rehabilitated before heading back to the wild.

Stop in to see these cute native Aussie animals be taken care of and learn about wildlife conservation in Australia.

Stop 7: South West Rocks

South West Rocks
The main town beach and creek

Just a 20 minute detour off the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive is South West Rocks. Surrounded by National Parks and beaches, this small town of 4,000 does not have room to grow which gives it a small town charm and ambiance.

There’s only a small offering of cafes and restaurants, but a whole lot of beauty and relaxation. Wild kangaroos are in abundance by the beach in Little Bay, drive out to Smokey Cape Lighthouse, and visit the historic Trial Bay Gaol.

We stayed in a cabin at a Caravan Park in South West Rocks, at the Hat Head National Park, and would highly recommend it.

a man holding a child next to a zoo exhibit
our friendly kookaburra at the Big4 caravan park

Stop 8: Coffs Harbour

Half way along the  Sydney to Brisbane route is Coffs Harbour, and the drive into Coffs is just gorgeous with its rolling emerald green hills. The Coffs Coast area is big enough in itself to spend a whole week and has something for everyone.

Red Rocks Beach - Coffs Harbour, Australia
Red Rocks Beach

Must dos include:

  • The Jetty and Marina area with a walk to the top of Mutton Bird island to watch the sunset over the marina.
  • A meal and a beer at the sailing club
  • Diggers and Park Beach
  • Take a drive to the riverside town of Bellingen and appreciate the artistic lifestyle and cafes.
  • A nature walk in World Heritage listed Dorrigo National Park
  • The BIG Banana (for the banana split sundae)
  • Grab a coffee in the charming beachside town of Sawtell
  • The Butterfly House (for the kids)
womand children eating at outside table
Bellingen
a woman holding children while standing in front of a sign
The big banana

Stop 9: Yamba

a woman and children standing on a beach lookout
Main beach of Yamba

Yamba lies at the mouth of the Clarence River and has recently won a lot of awards including Best Town in Australia. It has a laid-back, quasi-bohemian charm and a lovely blend of the old and the new.

There are the chilled cafes and restaurants that line the main street in town, the charming old Movie Cinema, and the iconic Pacific Hotel that sits on a bluff overlooking the town’s main beach.

Adding to that is world-class surfing beaches, a river to fish in, abundant wildlife, world-famous prawns, and a perfect climate. 

There’s also a fantastic coastal walk you can go on through the National Park to the small secluded Shelley’s beach.

Scenic coastal views across Pippi Beach, Yamba.
Pippi Beach, Yamba.

We also recommend heading to the Yamba Tavern for fish feeding and sunset watching, Wato’s Fish and Burger Bar on the corner of the main road, taking a short drive to Angourie, and staying at the Yamba YHA which is a great spot for families.

Hot Tip: Shane’s $10 buck tour from the YHA is legendary!

For a pit stop heading towards Byron Bay, we highly recommend the Macadamia Castle which we believe has the world’s best pancakes.

And, for a small fee, you can go out the back and meet kangaroos, wombats and farm animals for your children to get close to and feed.

Stop 10: Lennox Head

a beach
Lennox beach    photo credit: – Michael Dawes

The scenically beautiful coastal drive between Ballina and Byron Bay brings you to the surfing town of Lennox Head. Lennox Point is noted as being one of the top ten surfing breaks in Australia and for that reason is a mecca for surfers.

It is a pretty laid back and funky place to hang out with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants.

Stop 11: Byron Bay

Byron bay, Australia
Main Beach Byron Bay

One of the more popular Australian destinations, Byron Bay is famous for its alternative laid back lifestyle, world-class people watching, learning to surf schools, and stunning sheltered beaches such as Wategoes Beach. 

The Cape Byron lighthouse is the furthest Easterly point of Australia and can be reached by a beautiful coastal cliff walk.

young girl posing in front of Byron Bay Lighthouse, Australia
almost to the top. Cape Byron Lighthouse walk
rocky cliffs next to the ocean
Cape Byron

The very popular Byron Bay Bluesfest takes place every Easter, and whilst in Byron make sure you drive to nearby hippy enclave Nimbin, nestled at the foothills of an extinct volcano.

We also recommend a meal at Asia Joe’s and a cold beer and ocean views at the iconic Beach Hotel.

Stop 12: Kingscliff

Aerial over Cudgen Creek break walls, Kingscliff in the Northern Rivers region of NSW.
Aerial over Cudgen Creek break walls, Credit: Ryan Fowler; Destination Tweed

This gem of a beachside town, Kingscliff is only a 15-minute drive to the Queensland border. There is only one main street in the town and it is alive with busy cafes, and restaurants. 

There is also a creek that when the tide is down sparkles crystal clear for swimming, fishing, and water sports.

Grab a memorable coffee from one of the cafes, have lunch at the surf club, check out the groovy bar “Babalou” on the main road, and stroll along the beach front.

Stop 13: The Gold Coast

a view of the ocean from Burleigh Heads National Park, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
View from Burleigh Heads National Park

As you cross the border from New South Wales into Queensland you hit the famous holiday capital of Australia, the Gold Coast. 

This region sits on a 70km stretch of fine, sandy beach on the Pacific Ocean and has everything you could want.

There is just something about the Gold Coast, including:

View from Mantra Coolangatta Beach - Queensland, Australia
Coolangatta Beach

Our recommended spots include Coolangatta, Kirra Beach, Currumbin, Burleigh Heads, and Broadbeach. There is also the high rise capital of the region, Surfers Paradise, which is undergoing somewhat of a transformation for the better.

And whatever your taste or budget, you’ll find every accommodation type to suit your needs.

A tree
Views all the way to Surfers Paradise

Stop 14: Brisbane

story bridge brisbane
Brisbane city skyline and Brisbane river in Australia

Last but not least, is Brisbane. Our final destination on this Sydney to Brisbane road trip.

Brisbane is a vibrant city with a laid-back culture and an array of great attractions. It has everything from breathtaking beaches to its lush rainforest reserves, and of course, plenty of urban escapes.

If you’re tired of nature after a week along the coast, head to the GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art) for a bit of culture. Or head over to South Bank Parklands or Moreton Bay for some more natural sites.

Whatever you decide to do in Brisbane, you won’t be disappointed, The Legendary Pacific Coast has something for everyone.

Final Thoughts on a Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip

Taking a road trip along the scenic coastline of Sydney to Brisbane is an unforgettable experience.

It passes by breathtaking, sun-soaked beaches, rolling hills, and lush countryside, as well as vineyards, rainforests, and more.

When hunger strikes, there is no better place to fill your stomach than at one of the small town restaurants serving fresh local seafood.

Whether you’re looking for coastal sightseeing or an action-packed exploration – there’s something for everyone along the road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.

Have you done a Sydney to Brisbane road trip? Let us know about your experience in the comments!

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