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Unfold the map, pack the bags, and set your sights on the endless horizons as the open road calls out to families in search of adventure. The road trip from Sydney to Brisbane stands as an iconic journey, rich with opportunities to explore, relax and discover. This road trip along the East Coast of Australia is not just a drive, but an exploration of the heart of Australia.
Imagine driving along the picturesque coast, windows down, your favourite tunes playing, and the fresh sea breeze wafting through the car. Whether it’s a quick 10-day trip or an extended 2-week excursion, a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane offers a kaleidoscope of family-friendly things to do and see that will create memories to cherish for a lifetime.
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As former Sydneysiders, we’ve taken on the East Coast drive on many occasions, sometimes as a brisk weekend getaway, and at other times as an extended family holiday. One thing about this epic road trip from Sydney to Brisbane never changes: the myriad of things to do and see along the legendary Pacific Coast never loses its charm.
Realistically, you can complete the road trip from Sydney to Brisbane in 7 to 14 days, tailored to fit your itinerary. But hey, what’s the hurry? Many of the bustling cities and towns on the East Coast of Australia like Coffs Harbour, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Byron Bay, and the Gold Coast stand as destinations in their own right. If you’re in Australia for an extended period of time, even consider making a holiday out of these destinations separately.
In this post, we’re sharing our comprehensive itineraries, brimming with the best places to stop stretching from Sydney to Brisbane along the East Coast of Australia. This family guide is a gateway to a flawless holiday filled with discovery, joy, and treasured memories. So buckle up and get ready to unearth the boundless opportunities that lie ahead as you cross the borders from NSW to QLD along the stunning Pacific Coast.
How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Brisbane?
The drive from Sydney to Brisbane spans approximately 920 kilometres along the Pacific Highway. Without taking into account stops and breaks, this journey typically takes around 10 to 12 hours to complete if driven continuously. However, the beauty of this route lies in the journey itself, with numerous attractions, towns, and scenic spots to explore.
If you’re planning a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane, it’s recommended to spread the drive over a minimum of 7 to 14 days, allowing time to truly soak in the sights and experiences along the East Coast.
When is the best time to do the East Coast Australia road trip?
The best time for a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane largely depends on what you’re seeking from your journey. Summer (Dec-Feb) and school holidays are typically peak seasons, whereas Spring and Autumn are shoulder seasons.
Australia’s East Coast is blessed with a relatively mild climate, making the road trip enjoyable year-round, but here’s a breakdown to guide you:
Spring (September to November): Spring offers pleasant temperatures and blooming landscapes, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities and beach visits.
Summer (December to February): Summer brings warmer weather and is a popular time for holidaymakers. If you love the buzz of the festive season and don’t mind the heat, this can be a lively time to travel.
Autumn (March to May): With milder temperatures and fewer crowds, autumn can be the perfect season for a family-friendly road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. Beaches are still beautiful, and the scenery is spectacular.
Winter (June to August): If you prefer cooler weather and want to avoid the tourist rush, winter offers a more peaceful journey. It’s also a good time for whale watching along the coast.
For those looking for the best road trip from Sydney to Brisbane, taking into consideration weather, crowds, and activities, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn often provide the most balanced and enjoyable experience.
Remember, every season has its unique charm, so choose the one that aligns best with your interests, whether you’re planning a budget road trip from Sydney to Brisbane or aiming for a leisurely scenic drive along the coast.
What is the best route to take from Sydney to Brisbane?
The best road trip from Sydney to Brisbane generally follows the Pacific Highway (A1), known for its scenic beauty and accessibility to a wide array of attractions along the East Coast of Australia. This route presents the ideal combination of coastal views, charming towns, and family-friendly activities. Read on for a comprehensive list of the must-stops.
Here’s a general overview of a suggested itinerary that many families find enjoyable:
- Sydney to Newcastle (162 km): Start your journey by heading north to Newcastle, enjoying the coastal scenery along the way.
- Newcastle to Port Stephens (60 km): A short drive will lead you to the stunning bay and beach of Port Stephens.
- Port Stephens to Port Macquarie (244 km): Discover historical sites and vibrant wildlife in Port Macquarie.
- Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour (153 km): Witness the extraordinary Big Banana and explore the beautiful beaches.
- Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay (235 km): Don’t miss the famous lighthouse and the relaxed beach vibe of Byron Bay.
- Byron Bay to Gold Coast (94 km): Experience the thrilling theme parks and golden beaches.
- Gold Coast to Brisbane (78 km): Complete your road trip in the lively city of Brisbane, where urban excitement meets natural beauty.
Remember, this itinerary can be customised to fit a 7-day or 14-day road trip from Sydney to Brisbane, depending on your preferences and the time you’d like to spend in each destination.
For families with young children, we recommend taking your time to soak in the natural beauty of the Pacific Coast and allow ample time for the kids to explore at their own pace.
Let’s break down the top things to do & see on this epic road trip along the East Coast of Australia.
Top Things To Do from Sydney to Port Stephens
Suggested Time Frame: 3-5 Days
Recommended Overnight Stays: Central Coast, Newcastle, and Port Stephens
Palm Beach: Sydney’s Northernmost Retreat
Without lingering in Sydney for too long, let’s start our journey at Palm Beach.
You may have heard of Palm Beach from the famous Australian soap opera Home and Away. Palm Beach is Sydney’s northernmost point, and although a little detour from the highway, it’s one of the most iconic beaches to check out in Sydney.
As Sydney’s northernmost coastal destination, it’s renowned for its golden sands, iconic lighthouse, and laid-back vibe. You can enjoy beachside picnics, and coastal walks, or take a ferry to explore nearby Barrenjoey Head.
Alternatively, hike up to Barrenjoey Lighthouse (yes, it’s doable with kids), and you will be rewarded with the best panoramic view of the headland. If you’re there in winter, keep an eye out for migrating whales far in the distance, as Barrenjoey Lighthouse is one of the best whale-watching vantage points in Sydney.
Hawkesbury River: A Scenic Pause on the Pacific Highway
It’s inevitable to drive past Mooney Mooney if you’re travelling via the Pacific Highway. This picturesque pause along the Pacific Highway provides visitors with spectacular views of the Hawkesbury River.
Mooney Mooney is known for its beautiful bridges and tranquil surroundings. Hawkesbury River is popular for fishing and kayaking, so it’s a perfect place to bask in the scenic beauty of the area, or grab some fish and chips and stretch your legs.
The Northern Beaches
As you continue your journey north, the Central Coast & Northern Beaches invite you to explore some of Australia’s most breathtaking shorelines. This stretch of coast, dotted with golden sands and crystal-clear waters, offers an enticing blend of relaxation and adventure. Whether it’s surfing in Terrigal or strolling along the serene shores of Avoca Beach, each beach reveals a new opportunity to connect with Australia’s coastal beauty.
Australian Reptile Park: A Wildlife Experience
If you haven’t been to one of the Zoos or Wildlife Parks in NSW yet, be sure to stop by Australian Reptile Park and get a photo with the cuddly koalas!
This interactive zoo in Somersby allows you to get up close with kangaroos, wallabies, and various reptiles. It’s an educational and fun experience for all ages, making it a fantastic stop for families.
Somersby Waterfalls: Have a Picnic
Tucked away in the serene Brisbane Water National Park near Gosford, Somersby Waterfalls offers a perfect getaway. A gentle 500m return walk leads you through the lush rainforest to a breathtaking view of the falls.
While the track is easy, it’s wise to be mindful of slippery conditions during rainy seasons.
Nearby, a free barbecue facility and picnic area await, so why not pack a lunch and enjoy a meal amidst nature’s splendour?
Central Coast Personalised Tour
If the Central Coast has sparked your interest, you may want to explore more in-depth. A private or guided tour, such as this Nature and Wildlife Australia in One Day Tour, could be the perfect addition to your family’s road trip.
This exclusive tour covers the gems of this stretch of the road trip in one day, from passing by the Sydney Opera House, and Harbour Bridge, spotting native wildlife like kangaroos and koalas to marvelling at cascading Somersby Waterfalls, all while having your photos taken during the tour.
It takes the stress of travel planning out of your hands, allowing you to immerse yourselves fully in the extraordinary sights and experiences of the Central Coast without having to worry about the details.
Gosford: A Waterfront Retreat
Gosford stands as the vibrant business hub of the Central Coast, surprisingly quiet on a weekday but an excellent stop on your road trip along the East Coast of Australia.
Whether you’ve explored the detours above or are simply seeking a pleasant lunch spot, the waterfront overlooking Brisbane Water offers a tranquil setting.
Enjoy a meal at one of the local eateries or simply bask in the view; Gosford provides a leisurely pause in your journey, effortlessly blending urban charm with natural beauty.
The Entrance: Watch Pelican Feeding
The Entrance is a grand introduction to a coastal town teeming with lively energy and unique attractions. Perhaps the most extraordinary of these is the daily Pelican Feeding show at 3:30 pm, a tradition that has been captivating visitors for over 20 years. These local pelicans are not shy, so don’t get too close during feeding time!
The Entrance exudes a family-friendly charm, with playful water fountains and sweeping views of Yallawa Island. Dining options abound, with elegant waterfront restaurants and tempting seafood takeaway shops offering an array of delicious choices.
If you decide to linger a little longer, overnight stays open up a world of exploration, from hiking trails to stunning beaches that define the natural grace of this coastal gem.
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Norah Head Lighthouse: A Beacon of Coastal Beauty
Standing tall and graceful on a rugged cliff, Norah Head Lighthouse is a gleaming symbol of coastal allure on the road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. This historic lighthouse, built over a century ago, has guided countless vessels safely along the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Visitors to Norah Head can join guided tours to ascend the winding staircase and witness the panoramic ocean views that stretch to the horizon. It’s a place where the sea meets the sky in a dramatic dance, offering stunning photo opportunities and moments of quiet reflection.
The lighthouse grounds are a haven for walkers, with trails leading to pristine beaches and hidden coves. During the migration season, the headland becomes a prime spot for whale-watching, as these majestic creatures journey along the coast.
For those wishing to immerse themselves in the romance of lighthouse living, there are keeper’s cottages available for overnight stays. Imagine waking up to the gentle sound of waves and the soft glow of the lighthouse, a perfect ending to a day of exploration.
Norah Head Lighthouse isn’t just a stop on a journey; it’s a destination in itself, offering a blend of history, natural beauty, and coastal charm. Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking a picturesque escape, Norah Head is a must-see highlight on any road trip itinerary from Sydney to Brisbane.
Lake Macquarie: A Lakeside Oasis
Lake Macquarie is a sanctuary for those seeking a tranquil escape, where natural beauty and timeless serenity harmoniously merge. One of our fondest memories was a stay at this waterfront accommodation in Lake Macquarie, right by the lake’s gentle shores.
The calm water of this peaceful town provided an ideal playground for our children who were eager to splash about with inflatable water toys. Embracing a technology-free holiday, we rolled out our picnic rug and took on a creative project. Using branches and a plastic bag we found by the lake, we crafted our very own kite. Under the brilliant sunshine, we watched our handmade kite soar over the lake, its makeshift tail dancing with the wind.
As night settled in, we gathered by the water’s edge. A family of pelicans gracefully glided across the water, and the reflection of the stars sparkled on the calm surface of the lake. We huddled around a crackling fire, roasting marshmallows and sharing stories.
To us, Lake Macquarie represents a haven of serenity. It was the simple, unpretentious beauty of the lake that lingered in our memories.
Newcastle: A Coastal Gem of Exploration
Newcastle, being the second most populated harbour city in NSW, makes a great destination for a weekend getaway on its own. This lively city blends the energy of urban life with a laid-back coastal feel. Whether you’re exploring natural beauty, enjoying the beach or delving into local history, Newcastle encapsulates a diverse range of experiences that can add that extra sparkle to your Australian East Coast road trip.
Here are some highlights of Newcastle:
- Blackbutt Reserve: For nature lovers, this leafy oasis is perfect for leisurely walks. Equipped with BBQ facilities and playgrounds, it’s a family-friendly attraction where you may have the opportunity to encounter some native wildlife.
- Merewether Beach: A walk along Merewether Beach provides a refreshing encounter with coastal beauty. The gentle sound of waves and the soft sand underfoot create a calming atmosphere, inviting visitors to linger and appreciate the seascape.
- Nobbys Head: Soak in the views of Horseshoe Beach and Nobbys Beach with an enjoyable stroll along Nobbys Road. culminating at the iconic Lighthouse. It’s a pathway lined with panoramic vistas that capture the essence of coastal living.
- Memorial Walk: The Memorial Walk offers a reflective journey through Newcastle’s heritage. As you head back onto the Pacific Highway, this thoughtful commemoration serves as a poignant reminder of the city’s resilience and character.
For families who would like to explore the creative pulse of Newcastle in a unique and engaging way, this guided walk takes you through city streets, uncovering fascinating architecture, vibrant street art, and hidden gems.
For families up for a challenge and seeking a bonding activity, this Newcastle scavenger hunt will have everyone working together to solve clues and complete challenges. It’s a unique game that brings Newcastle’s landmarks to life in a fun and interactive way.
And if you are in need of a restful break from the long East Coast drive, this scenic explorer tour will take your family through the picturesque landscapes of Newcastle, from coastal paths to lush parklands, all from the comfort of a modern vehicle.
Last but not least, if you happen to be road-tripping along the East Coast of Australia during whale season, don’t miss the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures up close!
Hunter Wetlands National Park: A Wildlife Sanctuary
Hunter Wetlands National Park offers an immersive escape into a unique and tranquil environment. Located near Newcastle, it’s a key attraction for those on a road trip along the East Coast of Australia.
Sprawling across a lush landscape, this park is renowned for its rich biodiversity. The wetlands are home to a variety of bird species including pelicans, cormorants, and sea eagles, making it a haven for birdwatchers.
The wetlands also provide shelter to a number of mammals, reptiles, and fish. Wander along the walking trails or opt for a cycling adventure to explore the park’s unique ecosystems.
For those who prefer to be on the water, canoeing and kayaking opportunities abound. Paddle through serene waterways and take in the picturesque surroundings at a leisurely pace.
Families will appreciate the accessible picnic areas, perfect for a relaxing lunch amid nature. Educational displays are scattered throughout the park, providing insights into the importance of wetlands and their role in supporting diverse wildlife.
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Hunter Region Botanic Gardens: A Tranquil Retreat
Slightly inland from Hunter Wetlands National Park, Hunter Region Botanic Gardens offers a delightful pause on the road trip from Sydney to Port Stephens. This serene destination seamlessly blends nature, tranquillity, and exploration, inviting visitors to enjoy a refreshing respite from the busy pace of travel.
Spanning over 140 hectares, these expansive gardens showcase native flora, exotic plants, and themed gardens such as succulent gardens, palm gardens, and a sensational display of orchids. With clearly marked paths and trails, it’s a great place for a leisurely stroll or more extensive exploration.
Families will find joy in the children’s discovery walk, where younger travellers can engage with nature through sensory experiences. Seasonal flower displays ensure a kaleidoscope of colours throughout the year, and bird enthusiasts will appreciate the diverse birdlife that frequents the gardens.
To further enhance your visit, the on-site café offers a selection of refreshments and light meals, allowing you to dine surrounded by the beauty of the gardens. Picnic areas are also available if you prefer to pack your own lunch.
Consider spending an afternoon at Hunter Region Botanic Gardens to soak in the serene environment. It’s a destination that connects visitors with nature’s simple elegance, and it’s a must-see spot on the way to Port Stephens.
Port Stephens: A Charming Coastal Town
Situated on the Pacific Coast, Port Stephen is a destination that has woven itself into our fondest memories. With its unique attractions and coastal allure, we’ve found experiences here that we simply couldn’t find elsewhere. And for those reasons, we highly recommend spending a few nights here.
The golden sand dunes of Stockton Beach stand as an unparalleled draw for visitors far and wide. Imagine gliding down the dunes with the laughter of children ringing in your ears and the ocean breeze in your hair, you must enjoy the thrill in these golden landscapes. Whether you prefer a thrilling 4WD tour or trying out sandboarding for the first time, the dunes offer a unique experience that connects you with the wild beauty of the landscape.
Another unforgettable adventure that families, particularly those with young children, will enjoy is camel riding on the beach. For many children, this may be their very first encounter with these gentle giants, and it’s something they’ll absolutely love. The sensation of riding high atop a camel, feeling its steady gait beneath you as you move along the soft sands with the sound of waves in the background, is nothing short of magical.
But the allure of Port Stephens doesn’t stop at the dunes. The marine life here is equally special. Home to around 140 resident dolphins, Port Stephens offers memorable dolphin-watching experiences. During the migration season (May to November), you can also join whale-watching tours to see these magnificent creatures up close.
Just a short drive from the magnificent dunes, Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary is a welcoming stop for families looking to meet one of Australia’s most cherished animals. Here, you can stroll through the natural habitat of the koalas, observing them as they munch on eucalyptus leaves or take a lazy nap in the sun.
Children will love watching these adorable creatures, and the sanctuary’s staff are happy to share fun facts and information about koalas. Whether it’s a quick visit or a guided tour, a trip to this sanctuary adds a touch of nature’s charm to your journey, offering an enjoyable and educational experience for all.
Not to be overlooked, Port Stephens also boasts over 26 golden beaches, each with its unique charm. From the family-friendly Fingal Bay to the surf-lover’s paradise at One Mile Beach, these sandy havens cater to every beachgoer’s desires. Whether you’re in the mood for building sandcastles with the little ones or catching a wave, you’ll find a stretch of sand that’s just right for you.
Port Stephens perfectly encapsulates the essence of the East Coast, with its blend of natural beauty, outdoor fun, and relaxed atmosphere, we couldn’t cover them all here. Whether you’re on a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane or simply in search of a destination that appeals to all ages, we wholeheartedly recommend a stay in Port Stephens.
Must-Stops from Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour
Suggested Time Frame: 2 Days
Recommended Overnight Stays: Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour
Seal Rocks: An Undiscovered Gem
At first glance, Seal Rocks may not catch your eye, but look a little deeper, and you’ll find yourself mesmerised by the beautiful Myall Lakes National Park. This tranquil area showcases untouched coastal beauty, providing a serene escape from the typical tourist trail.
Seal Rocks is a destination where you may wish to linger. If you ever have the chance to return, consider booking a stay at one of the waterfront accommodations at Seal Rocks, perfectly positioned to soak in the stunning sea views.
Forster: A Family Favourite
Nestled around the sparkling Coolongolook River, Forster is a charming little coastal town that radiates warmth and family-friendly vibes. Known for its relaxed atmosphere, locals and visitors alike enjoy spending quality time on the sandy shores, engaging in beach games and basking in the sun.
Forster’s appeal extends beyond its beautiful beaches. The well-maintained parks are perfect playgrounds for children, while adults can indulge in delectable dining at the town’s waterfront restaurants, all offering views as appealing as their menus.
Before continuing on your road trip from Sydney to Brisbane, be sure to make a stop at Nine Mile Beach. Its expansive sandy stretch offers the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs, breathe in the fresh sea air, and perhaps even dip your toes in the water.
Port Macquarie: A Coastal Gem
Situated along Australia’s picturesque coastline, Port Macquarie is another lively coastal town that captured our hearts. With its family-friendly parks, natural beauty, and an array of adventurous activities, this charming place deserves more than just a fleeting glance.
With 17 pristine beaches, Port Macquarie is a paradise for those who love sunbathing, surfing, or simply playing in the sand. For a relaxing experience, kayaking on Hastings River allows you to soak up the scenic surroundings at a leisurely pace. And don’t forget the guided scenic cruises that uncover the local history and ecology of the coastline and rivers.
The Billabong Zoo, home to kangaroos, wallabies, and crocodiles, offers a chance to learn about Australia’s fascinating wildlife. If you want to dive into the world of Australia’s beloved koalas, a visit to the Koala Hospital offers a heartwarming insight into their care and conservation.
If you missed the opportunity for a camel ride on the beach in Port Stephens, you still have the chance to try this seaside adventure here.
Hat Head: A Gem Worth Stopping For
If you have some extra time, stop by Hat Head, a serene coastal town situated between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour. This hidden gem is an ideal place to escape the crowds and embrace the natural beauty of Australia’s East Coast.
Hat Head embodies the tranquillity and charm that make a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane so appealing. It’s a stopover that captures the essence of coastal Australia.
Nambucca Heads: An Enchanting Coastal Retreat
Nambucca Heads offers a serene coastal escape along the route of a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. With its stunning river views and unique attractions, it presents a delightful stopover for travellers.
There are 2 lookouts for a view of Nambucca River – Pilot Lookout and Rotary Lookout. Both offer mesmerising panoramas of the winding river and surrounding landscapes, with ample opportunities for photography or simply soaking in the view.
It’s one of the mid-point destinations to stay overnight if you’re on a road trip to and from Brisbane. Whether you’re on a budget road trip or seeking more luxury accommodations, Nambucca Heads offers a range of options to suit every traveller.
Perhaps one of the most unique features of Nambucca Heads is the V-Wall Outdoor Gallery, where people paint their heartfelt messages on the rocks along the boardwalk. Some of them are actually very inspiring. Strolling along the gallery provides a fascinating insight into the stories and emotions of previous visitors, each rock painted with love, humour, and sometimes poignant memories.
Coffs Harbour: The Halfway Point
Nestled between Sydney and Brisbane, Coffs Harbour is a vibrant city known for its natural wonders and family-friendly attractions. Whether you’re looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural exploration, Coffs Harbour offers something for everyone.
Halfway Point Between Sydney & Brisbane East Coast of Australia Road Trip
Coffs Harbour is the halfway point between Sydney and Brisbane. Many tourists come to Coffs Harbour just to take a photo with the iconic Big Banana, but there is so much more to do in Coffs Harbour. Here are the top 10 things to do in Coffs Harbour for families doing the East Coast of Australia road trip:
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- The Big Banana Fun Park: No visit to Coffs Harbour is complete without seeing Australia’s original ‘Big Thing’. The park offers amusement rides, a water park, and tours of the banana plantation.
- Dorrigo National Park: Experience the serene beauty of rainforests with walking trails, waterfalls, and a canopy walk.
- Coffs Harbour Marina and Jetty: Enjoy waterfront dining, fishing, or a leisurely walk along the jetty with stunning ocean views.
- Dolphin Marine Conservation Park: Get up close with dolphins, seals, and other marine animals at Dolphin Marine Magic – our family’s favourite activity in Coffs Harbour.
- Muttonbird Island: A picturesque walk leading to an island that serves as a nesting site for wedge-tailed shearwaters.
- Beach Time: Relax or play at one of the many beautiful beaches, like Jetty Beach or Park Beach.
- Whale Watching (Seasonal): Join a tour during the migration season for an unforgettable experience.
- Visit the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden: Explore diverse plant life, including a mangrove boardwalk and sensory garden.
- Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery: Explore contemporary art exhibitions that reflect the dynamic cultural heritage of the region.
- Coffs Harbour Regional Museum: Dive into the local history and heritage, including the banana industry’s impact.
Just browse through the list of activities to do in Coffs Harbour and you’ll see why it’s worth staying a couple of nights here.
And if you do decide to stay overnight, this family-friendly Sunset Kayak Eco Tour is a must-do to wrap up a beautiful evening in Coffs Harbour.
Top Attractions from Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay
Suggested Time Frame: 1-2 Days
Recommended Overnight Stays: Byron Bay
Grafton: A Historic Gem on the Clarence River
If you continue driving up north along the Pacific Coast towards Byron Bay via Pacific Highway, you will come across Clarence River – the largest river on the eastern seaboard. Grafton is famous for its stunning Jacaranda trees that bloom in late spring, painting the town with shades of purple. The Jacaranda Festival in late October to early November is an event not to miss if you’re travelling during this time.
If time permits, take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank, or enjoy a picnic in one of the many lush parks. The Clarence River itself offers opportunities for fishing, kayaking, or simply enjoying the peaceful riverside views.
So if the drive gets too long, you can make a small detour to the historic town of Grafton.
Ballina: Gateway to Adventure
Ballina, with its close proximity to Byron Bay, serves as a convenient entry point for many travellers, thanks to the presence of the nearest airport. This bustling town is a destination steeped in local culture and coastal beauty.
The iconic Big Prawn on River Street is a must-see attraction, symbolising the town’s rich seafood tradition. Not only it’s a giant sculpture great for photos but it’s also a local landmark that adds a quirky flair to the area.
A visit to Ballina is incomplete without spending time at the Byron Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. Situated just a short drive from the town, the sanctuary is an oasis of Australian native wildlife and offers a truly unique experience for all visitors. Home to a variety of indigenous animals, from kangaroos and wallabies to exotic birds and reptiles, the sanctuary allows guests to immerse themselves in a natural environment and learn about local conservation efforts.
Byron Bay: A Charming Boho Destination
Known for its gypsy beach vibes, Byron Bay is a renowned coastal town that exudes relaxation and creativity. With breathtaking encounters with nature, guided tours and adrenaline activities such as skydiving, kayaking, surfing and more, you’ll find yourself spoiled for choice.
Natural Beauty: Whether following the Cape Byron walking track up to the iconic lighthouse for sweeping views, enjoying the sun on Belongil Beach amongst beautiful bikini bodies, or exploring the lush hinterland, Byron Bay offers a unique blend of sea and scenery.
Lifestyle and Culture: Embrace the hippie-chic lifestyle on Johnson Street by checking out the boutique shops, people-watching at a café, and blending in with the laid-back locals. Don’t miss the Sunday Market for a taste of Byron’s vibrant community spirit. With live music venues, art galleries, and festivals, the town’s artistic flair is unmistakable.
Activities and Wellness: From surfing and snorkelling to yoga retreats and spa treatments, Byron Bay caters to both thrill-seekers and those seeking relaxation. Discover unique guided tours that focus on everything from Aboriginal heritage to wildlife, and indulge in local, sustainable cuisine.
Here are our top 6 hand-picked family-friendly activities in Byron Bay
** Whale-watching and kayak tours are not suitable for children under 5.
That said, we always encourage families to inquire directly with the operators, as those fine prints may be generic. We’ve taken our toddlers to both experiences around Australasia, so there’s no harm to ask!
Your Byron Bay Bucket List:
- Follow the Cape Byron walking track up to the Lighthouse for a sweeping view.
- Enjoy the sun on Belongil Beach.
- Blend in with the hippie-chic lifestyle on Johnson St, explore the boutique shops and enjoy an ice cream.
- Take a 4WD into the rainforest to spot a koala or kangaroo with this award-winning Wildlife Safari Eco Tour.
- If your child is over 5, take a guided kayak tour with dolphins.
- Last but not least, don’t miss the Sunday Market for local crafts, food, and entertainment.
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It’s worth mentioning, there’s a little farm-themed restaurant The Farm Byron Bay not too far from Byron Bay. Nestled within an animal farm, children will adore playing here while parents enjoy lunch. With a market, playground, and excellent food, it’s a great stop for families on an extended road trip along the East Coast of Australia.
Byron Bay is one of the top destinations on the East Coast of Australia that’s worth a weekend stay.
A unique holiday home is our family’s recommended type of accommodation in hippy regions with creative flair, such as Byron Bay. Find your perfect accommodation in Byron Bay below.
Top Things To Do from Byron Bay to Brisbane
Tweed Coast Road: A Coastal Alternative
Rather than sticking to the Pacific Highway, a refreshing alternative awaits when you make a turn at Wooyung Road and journey onto Tweed Coast Road. This route offers a leisurely drive next to a seemingly endless stretch of sand that epitomises the coastal charm of the region.
As you travel, you’ll pass through Potts Point and Pottsville, a quaint coastal town that captures the relaxed vibe of the area. It’s worth taking some time to explore Pottsville’s local cafes or take a stroll along the beach to soak in the tranquillity.
Continuing on Tweed Coast Road, make sure to stop by Hastings Point Lookout for a breathtaking panoramic coastal view. The lookout offers a perfect opportunity for photography enthusiasts or simply a moment to pause and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
This detour on your road trip from Sydney to Brisbane provides a chance to connect more intimately with the coastal landscape, away from the hustle of the main highway. Whether you’re on a scenic road trip or a family-friendly adventure, the Tweed Coast Road offers a serene and picturesque journey that’s likely to be a highlight of your travels.
Tropical Fruit World in Tweed Heads: A Taste of the Exotic
Situated in the captivating region of Tweed Heads, Tropical Fruit World offers a unique and delightful experience that’s perfect for families and food enthusiasts. As the name suggests, this farm is a celebration of tropical and exotic fruits, and it promises an exploration of flavours that might be entirely new to you.
Upon arrival, you’ll notice the lush landscapes filled with over 500 varieties of fruit from around the globe. Take part in a guided tractor tour to gain insights into farming practices and get up close with the trees that bear these extraordinary fruits.
One of the highlights is the tasting session, where you can indulge in freshly picked fruits, some of which are unlikely to be found in typical supermarkets. From the sweet miracle fruit to the creamy black sapote, known as the ‘chocolate pudding fruit’, your taste buds are in for a real adventure.
Children will love the adventure park, complete with a mini train ride, animal encounters, and boat tours. Meanwhile, adults can enjoy the special fruit products available in the market, including jams, sauces, and skincare products.
Burleigh Heads: Coastal Vibe Meets Family Adventure
Burleigh Heads, situated just before reaching the bustling Gold Coast, offers a tranquil escape that’s perfect for families seeking a blend of nature and relaxation. This coastal suburb is famed for its beautiful beach, unique headland, and inviting parks, providing an idyllic setting for a memorable stop on your road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.
A favourite among locals and visitors alike is Justins Park, where families can enjoy a leisurely picnic by the sea. With well-maintained barbecue facilities, play areas for children, and shaded spots under the swaying palm trees, it’s the perfect place to unwind and relish the coastal breeze.
But the real gem of Burleigh Heads is the short hike up to Tumgun Lookout. This easily accessible trail leads you through the lush rainforest to a vantage point that offers sweeping views of the coastline. As you reach the lookout, the silhouetted skyline of Gold Coast appears in the far distance, juxtaposed against the turquoise waters and golden sands below. It’s a view that captures the essence of this scenic region, and one that’s sure to linger in your memory.
Whether you’re soaking up the sun at the beach, exploring the rock pools with the little ones, or enjoying the serene beauty from Tumgun Lookout, Burleigh Head National Park offers a delightful detour that complements any family-friendly or scenic road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.
Gold Coast: A Sun-Soaked Paradise
As you approach the final stretch of your road trip from Sydney to Brisbane, a pivotal decision awaits: Will you base yourselves in the cosmopolitan hub of Brisbane or the sun-drenched beaches of the Gold Coast? For our family, the choice has always leaned towards the Gold Coast, where the allure of the ocean melds effortlessly with a vibrant lifestyle.
Gold Coast boasts some of Australia’s best theme parks and beaches, making it the most family-friendly paradise in the country. Sea World, Dream World, Movie World, Wet’n’Wild, and Country Park are just a handful of the excitement-filled destinations waiting to be explored. Whether you’re a fan of roller coasters, water rides, or cinematic experiences, the Gold Coast’s theme parks promise days of fun and adrenaline.
But it’s not all high-octane adventure here. The Gold Coast is equally renowned for its breathtaking beaches, relaxed coastal cafes, fresh local seafood and fantastic shopping. And let’s not forget the serene hinterland, offering opportunities for bushwalking, wildlife spotting, and reconnecting with nature.
Our family, being ardent beach lovers, would personally recommend lingering on the Gold Coast for a few nights or even a week. Whether it’s a seaside sunrise, a beachfront barbecue, or a leisurely coastal stroll, these simple joys add an extra layer of magic to any road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.
Though we’ve touched on the highlights here, the Gold Coast’s offerings are so extensive that we’ll be dedicating a separate blog post to cover it in full detail. In the meantime, you can browse through this comprehensive list of activities and tours on the Gold Coast and you may just fall in love with it here as our family did.
Our Update: After travelling around the world for 250 days, our family has decided to make the Gold Coast our new home and continue living true to our mantra: sun, sand, and simplicity. Now, we enjoy waking up to the golden glow of endless sunshine and the soothing rhythm of waves every day, embracing a lifestyle that couldn’t suit us more.
Stradbroke Island: A Tranquil Escape
Before making a beeline to Brisbane, be sure to stop at the serene Stradbroke Island, affectionately known as “Straddie” to the locals. This island offers a natural respite from the main road, presenting a blend of rugged landscapes, sandy beaches, and abundant wildlife.
Reaching Stradbroke Island is a simple matter of taking a ferry from Cleveland, and once you arrive, the island’s charm quickly unfolds. It’s a destination that promises relaxation and exploration in equal measure, and one that should not be overlooked on a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.
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Brisbane: A Vibrant Conclusion to Our Journey
Finally, our Pacific Coast road trip from Sydney to Brisbane was drawing to a close. Brisbane, the sun-soaked capital of Queensland, was the last major stop on our itinerary, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
We spent 3 wonderful days in Brisbane, taking the time to explore the city’s diverse offerings. From the bustling South Bank, filled with cultural attractions and eateries, to the tranquil Botanic Gardens, Brisbane struck the perfect balance between family-friendly adventures and urban relaxation.
One of the highlights of our family trip was hopping on a river cruise, gaining a new perspective on Brisbane’s unique blend of urban innovation and natural beauty.
For those looking for a more detailed family itinerary in Brisbane, here are Brisbane’s 10 Most Relaxing Things To Do with Family.
Journey’s End to an Epic East Coast Drive
As we made our way back to Sydney, reflecting on the unforgettable experiences and connections made along the way, we were filled with a sense of gratitude for the journey. The road trip from Sydney to Brisbane offered not just scenic landscapes and thrilling activities but also moments of genuine connection with the land, the people, and one another.
Whether you’re planning the best road trip along the East Coast of Australia or seeking a budget-friendly adventure, this Pacific Coastal route offers a rich array of experiences to delight every member of the family. From legendary landscapes to family-friendly stops, each mile of this journey is packed with the potential for joy, exploration, and discovery.
Some might say ‘a beach is a beach,’ and that they’re all the same after a while. But for us, we could never tire of this beautiful blue planet. Perhaps one day, our family of four will fulfil the Australian dream of decorating our very own campervan and go on a one-way adventure to explore Australia’s coastlines.
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We hope you’ve found this comprehensive travel guide for the road trip from Sydney to Brisbane both inspiring and useful. Whether you’re tracing our exact route or crafting an adventure that’s uniquely your own, there’s no end to the wonder and excitement waiting for you along Australia’s Pacific Coast.
As you plan your trip, we wish you joy in every discovery, smooth roads ahead, and memories to treasure forever. May your travel planning be filled with anticipation, and your journey be everything you dream it to be.
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Sunbathe on the Gold Coast
From theme parks to sun-kissed golden beaches, paradise awaits.
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