The Coastal Route
A Sydney to Brisbane road trip provides the best way of exploring all the coastal gems located between these two major cities. The daily distances are short and sweet when you break the trip up into a handful of stops, making for an enjoyable and relaxed self-drive experience.
If you are looking for a suggested itinerary for your next journey between New South Wales and Queensland, here is a coastal route with some fantastic stopovers along the way.
For those who want the ultimate in holiday flexibility and freedom, you may wish to organize a Campervan Hire from Sydney, before embarking on your road trip adventure.
Sydney to Nelson Bay – 215km
Our first stop is the lovely little township of Nelson Bay, located on the south coast of Port Stephens, and provides a perfect base to explore the remarkable surrounding region.
Nelson Bay is known for a variety of interesting attractions, many of which revolve around the marine life that is known to be seen off the coastline. Whale-watching is a popular activity during migration season, and there are many cruise tours available for those who want a closer encounter than spotting them from shore.
Dolphins are also numerous around the bay area, nearly all year-round, so take the time to visit the beach in the afternoon, where hopefully you will be lucky enough to spot some. One of the best locations (and easy to get to) is “Fly Point”, which is also a very popular spot for snorkeling and diving.
Port Macquarie – 249km
Situated at the mouth of Hastings River, Port Macquarie is a hub for water activities – whilst the surrounding regions, including Camden Haven, provide spectacular scenery.
Port Macquarie is also steeped in history, due to the penal settlement that operated here in the early 1800s. The town’s Saint Thomas Church, one of Australia’s oldest, was built by the convicts who served time here.
Other activities in the area include wineries and cellar door establishments, which are open to visitors for taste-testing. For nature lovers, the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre will be a delight, with ecological displays to further your insight into native flora and fauna. The long boardwalk that takes you through the National Park will allow you to enjoy the rainforest environment close up.
Coffs Harbour – 159km
Coffs Harbour is known for its beautiful Island beaches and mild weather, both attracting many tourists to the area.
The views from Jetty Beach allow you to view the stunning panorama of nearby Mutton Bird Island, a nature reserve, where you can take a walk via a sealed track to a phenomenal lookout point. Between August and April, the island is an essential habitat for mutton birds, who colonize the island in numerous burrows. More than 10,000 pairs of these special sea birds are accommodated here during this time, earning the island its’ apt name.
For those traveling between May and November, keep a look out for humpback whales, who frequently travel through on their migration to and from their calving grounds.
Another popular attraction is the renowned “Big Banana”, a huge well-known landmark – but also a great place to have some fun! They have rides, laser tag, a water park, ice skating, and more – plus an on-site café and gift shop.
Byron Bay – 233km
A coastal town that barely needs any introduction, Byron Bay is one of Northern NSW’s leading tourist destinations.
It has magnificent beaches for swimming, surfing, snorkeling, or just the perfect place to relax on the sand and enjoy nature. It is not uncommon to see dolphins frolicking offshore, given that Cape Byron is Australia’s most easterly point, and also a protected Marine Park.
The lighthouse at Cape Byron is one of the most popular tourist attractions, providing an epic view of the rugged coastline and a great vantage point for whale watching.
The laid-back bohemian lifestyle strongly influences the vibe of this unique seaside town, and you can’t help but feel more relaxed in the free-spirited atmosphere. Trendy cafés, restaurants, bars, and breweries are plentiful, as are quaint artisan markets and gift shops.
Gold Coast – 92km
The Gold Coast is one of Queensland’s most frequented tourist destinations in the state. Famed for the fabulous town of Surfers Paradise, this seaside resort area boasts high-rise luxury hotels, cool nightclubs, gaming arcades, and a plethora of restaurants and cafés.
Of course, Surfers Paradise is also renowned for its expanse of spectacular beaches and the variety of water sports and activities on offer, such as the GC Aqua Park. For a calmer swimming spot, head to the nearby Tallebudgera Creek or Kirra Beach for a day of sand and sunshine.
The ultimate when it comes to family holiday locations, the Gold Coast is also home to several world-class theme parks, including Warner Bros. Movieworld and Wet’n’Wild Water Park. There is no shortage of shopping facilities either, with the Harbour Town premium outlet center or the massive Pacific Fair shopping complex only a stone’s throw away.
The nearby rainforest region of Tamborine Mountain is another highly praised tourist area, featuring a charming mountain township that is brimming with quaint gift shops, trendy art galleries, local wineries, and outstanding natural splendor.
Also Read: The Best Way to Plan a Road Trip
Brisbane – 80km
Brisbane is Queensland’s capital city and is located on the banks of the beautiful Brisbane River. A sub-tropical paradise, Brisbane enjoys mild winters and humid summers, making it a year-round tourist destination.
The “River City” provides visitors with a wealth of sightseeing opportunities, so make sure to spend at least a few days exploring. There are several heritage-listed buildings throughout Brisbane – the very tall City Hall Clock Tower being one of them, where free tours are available to provide visitors historical insight, and an amazing view of the cityscape below.
Southbank Parklands provide a cultural Mecca for locals and tourists alike; originally created for the World Expo event in 1988, this precinct is now hosting to theatres, restaurants, exhibitions, and a man-made swimming lagoon – complete with a white sandy beach.
The most elevated point in Brisbane is Mount Coot-tha, a must-visit location. It features beautiful botanic gardens, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, and a lookout point that provides the ultimate eagle-eye views of the city. At night you will marvel at the bright city lights below and the endless starry night skies above.
While on your Brisbane holiday, animal lovers won’t want to miss a day trip to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which provides refuge to over 400 animals, including platypus, wombats, dingos, echidnas, kangaroos – and of course, koalas. Animal welfare is their primary focus, which is witnessed throughout your experience here.
For a useful guide to campgrounds and attractions along your route, download the free smartphone app “Discovery Roadtrip”. It is a fantastic way to locate campsites, tourist attractions, eateries, and fuel stops during your road trip.