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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.
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
- Stops on a Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip
- Stop 1: Sydney
- Stop 2: The Central Coast
- Stop 2: Newcastle
- Stop 3: The Hunter Valley
- Stop 4: Seal Rocks
- Stop 5: The Manning Valley
- Stop 6: Port Macquarie
- Stop 7: South West Rocks
- Stop 8: Coffs Harbour
- Stop 9: Yamba
- Stop 10: Lennox Head
- Stop 11: Byron Bay
- Stop 12: Kingscliff
- Stop 13: The Gold Coast
- Stop 14: Brisbane
- Final Thoughts on a Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip
About This Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip Itinerary
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
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.
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.
Read More: Here are ideas on what to do in Sydney for 48 hours, free things to do in Sydney, exciting things to do with kids in Sydney, and one of our favorite walks in Australia – the Coogee to Bondi Coastal Walk.
PLAY: Book your Sydney tours and attractions in advance. Top tours for Sydney are: Taronga Zoo Ticket with Return Ferry, Blue Mountains Full-Day Trip with Cruise, and Opera House Guided Tour with Entrance Ticket
Stop 2: The Central Coast
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.
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:
- MacMasters Beach
- Copacabana Beach
- The Entrance
- Toowoon Bay
Stop 2: 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.
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.
PLAY: Top Selling tours for Newcastle are the True Crime Guided Walking Tour, Newcastle Harbor and Coast 2.5-Hour Sightseeing Cruise, and the Sand Dune Quad Bike Adventure.
Stop 3: The Hunter Valley
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.
READ MORE: Don’t miss these things to do in Newcastle
Stop 4: Seal Rocks
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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)
Stop 9: 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.
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
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
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.
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.
- Victoria at Wategos offers accommodation with views over the garden, outdoor pool or Cape Byron Lighthouse. Providing surfing amenities, it is just 350 feet from Wategos Beach in Byron Bay. Read more reviews and book your stay here.
- Elements of Byron Nestled on 50 acres of absolute beachfront, Elements Of Byron Resort & Spa features private villas with exclusive beachfront and a lagoon pool. Read more reviews and book your stay here.
- Beach Hotel Resort Just 150 feet from Byron Bay’s Main Beach and surrounded by lush tropical gardens, this resort offers free WiFi, a luxurious swimming pool and a hot tub Read more reviews and book your stay here.
- We’ve camped at Reflections Holiday Park before. While small, it has an unbeatable location righ ton Clarkes Beach.
Stop 12: Kingscliff
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
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:
- endless amazing beaches
- hundreds of restaurants and cafes
- a happening nightlife scene
- an active outdoor lifestyle
- theme parks such as Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and more!
- the rainforest
- every water sport imagineable
- scenic drives and walks
- learning to surf schools
- spas and retreats
- hinterland areas
- 300 days of sunshine
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.
READ MORE: There are so many things to do on the Gold Coast for families, you could easily spend a full week here at the end of your trip. But if you’re not blessed with time, we recommend staying at least 3 days. Here is our 48-hour itinerary for the Gold Coast and here are some top free things to do on the Gold Coast.
We recommend staying in the southern part of the Gold Coast (or even the hinterland) instead of the Surfers Paradise region.
- Escape To Binna Burra Lodge, The #1 Gold Coast Hinterland Accommodation
- Staying At The O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Lamington National Park [Review]
- 3 Gold Coast Hinterland Accommodation Options
- The Best Family Accommodation on the Gold Coast
- Burleigh Heads Accommodation: The Bujerum Apartments on the Beach
- I Could Live at the Mantra Coolangatta Beach
- Getaway from the Gold Coast on Couran Cove Island Resort
- Kirra Surf Apartments: a place to stay on the Gold Coast
- Hilton Hotel Residences review Surfers Paradise
PLAY: The most popular tours and attractions for the Gold Coast are the Movie World, Sea World, & Wet’n’Wild 3-Day Pass, Surf Lesson on the Gold Coast, and the Wave Break Island Kayaking & Snorkeling tour
Stop 14: Brisbane
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!