Embark on a road trip linking two of Australia’s most famous cities, Sydney to Brisbane itinerary! A 900-kilometre coastal route that stretches from central New South Wales to Southern Queensland. Discover our itinerary below to help plan the ideal Australian East Coast road trip. The itinerary includes the best places to stay, things to do, camping suggestions and car rental recommendations. Plan at least a week to soak up the long wild beaches, explore the enchanting rainforests and relax in the charm of the many seaside towns. Animal lovers will have unforgettable encounters and surfers can test world-famous waves. There is something for everyone! So, what are you waiting for?! Check out our Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary!
How to prepare your Road Trip?
Assess distances correctly
Nearly 1200 kilometres of road await you if you follow the itinerary of our article. Here are some indications on distances and travel times. But beware, there are no stops or detours!
Sydney > Port Stephen: 216 km, 2h40 drive
Port Stephen > Myall Lakes: 130 km, 1h40 drive
Myall Lakes > Port Macquarie: 218 km, 2 hour drive
Port Macquarie > Dorrigo National Park: 177 km, 2h10 drive
Dorrigo National Park > Byron Bay: 296 km, 3h20 drive
Byron Bay > Mullumbimby: 18 km, 20 min drive
Mullumbimby > Gold Coast: 84 km, 1 hour drive
Gold Coast > Brisbane: 80 km, 1h15 drive
For slow life enthusiasts, plan 15 days of travel if you want to take your time. Otherwise, the itinerary is feasible over 7 days.
Choose the right season
The Sydney to Brisbane east coast road trip can be done all year round however, to ensure the most enjoyable and comfortable experience we recommend setting off during the months of October, November, February and March. During October, you will enjoy mild temperatures without the crowds of summer. Although summer is hot, it is a popular time to travel. From February, the Australian school holidays are over but sunny days are still around for you to enjoy.
Pick your vehicle wisely
For a good Road Trip, you first need a good vehicle! So take the time to compare the different models of vans / cars or motorhomes. If you are going during a period when it can be cool (winter) or it can rain a lot (summer), having a van with a hi-top or a motorhome is a real advantage. This will allow you to shelter and be able to cook inside the vehicle.
Download the complete Guide for a Road Trip on the East Coast
Our FREE 52-page guide brings together all the info you need for your East Coast Road Trip in Australia:
- Preparations (seasons, budget)
- All the best spots to visit on the coast
- The best tours & activities
- Spots to park and sleep in a campervan
Sydney to Port Stephens
You will need at least two days in Sydney to visit the Opera House, Bondi Beach, the iconic Blue Mountains. The city is a delight to visit. But it is now time to buck up your seat belt and discover what the East Coast has to offer.
Read also : Visit Sydney
Ku-Ring-Gai National Park
Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park is a protected area north of Sydney. The park has many Aboriginal sites, including ancient red ocher rock paintings and engravings. You can take beautiful walks with viewpoints and take advantage of the picnic areas to have a snack.
Located about 95km north of Sydney, Avoca Beach is very popular with locals looking for tranquility. With its large golden sandy beach and its small restaurants, you can make a very pleasant stop there if you have a little time (30min detour from the Highway).
This coastal town is located on the Central Coast of NSW. It is also famous by locals who come to enjoy the beautiful beaches and fish. The main points of interest are:
- The Entrance Beach (main beach)
- Stroll along the waterfront on the 600 meter promenade and take in views of the canal, Tasman Sea and Tuggerah Beach.
- Nearby Beach
- Norah Head Lighthouse
Port Stephens is a heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. Snorkel in the crystal turquoise waters around town or treat yourself to a 2.5 hour dolphin (all year round) or humpback whale (May – November) cruise departing from Nelson Bay. Then after a morning on (or in) the water, prepare yourself for a 2-hour arduous hike to Tomaree Head summit. Pack a well-deserved picnic for when you reach the summit and enjoy it while marveling at the sublime views of the coastline.
If you want more adventure around Port Stephens and you have a 4WD then head down to Worimi Conservation Park to discover the largest coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere.
Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour
Distance : 390 km
Myall Lakes National Park
This huge national park offers a variety of landscapes. Hire a canoe to explore the swamps and lakes and do not forget your fishing rod! Seals Rock Beach is ideal for swimming and if you are lucky there will be pods of dolphins splashing around. In the same place is a beautiful old lighthouse, Sugarloaf lighthouse, as well as a natural cave where the waves rush. There is bush camping or coastal camping within the National Park so plan several days to stay and explore.
Hiking enthusiasts will also be delighted. Our favorites :
The rainforest along the Treachery Headland Walking Track (2km) which ends on a huge beach.
The Mungo path (21km) with Aboriginal historic sites!
⏰ PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Hours: Open year round (may close depending on weather conditions)
Price: $8 per car
Accessibility: 3 entrances (Bombah Broadwater, Myall River or Sugarloaf Point)
A major “to-do” in Port Macquarie is visiting the Koala Hospital. It can be difficult to see this native Australian animal in the wild so if you REALLY want to see one, this is your ultimate chance. The center rescues koalas in distress throughout New South Wales; those struck by cars, attacked by dogs, babies of dead mothers etc. The majority is treated on the spot and are then reintroduced back in to the wild. However, some are too injured and remain in the center for life. The center is entirely run by volunteers who offer a guided tour every day in the afternoon. You will be told the story of each resident koala which are fed during the tour. This is the perfect opportunity to see them come to life, climb and eat.
⏰ PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Opening hours: Open all year round from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm (except December 25)
Price: Free admission (donation recommended)
Dorrigo National Park
If the city of Coffs Harbour is not adventurous enough for you then take a drive along Waterfall Way and visit Dorrigo National Park. The road speaks for itself, there are waterfalls everywhere!!
We recommended the 1-2-hour return hike to Crystal Shower Falls. Beginning at the information centre you will walk through lush rainforest and over a suspension bridge before reaching the falls. It is one of the best waterfall hikes in the area because you can walk behind and see what life is like on the other side of the waterfall. Another great short walk, also beginning from the information centre, is the Skywalk Lookout. The Skywalk Lookout offers a superb 360-degree view above the rainforest canopy.
⏰ PRACTICAL INFORMATION
Opening hours: Open all year round from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm (may close depending on weather conditions)
Price: Free admission (donation recommended)
Coffs Harbor to Brisbane
Distance : 385 km
« Cheer up, slow down, chill out » Welcome to the most famous hippie city in Australia! Be careful, you may have trouble leaving! The relaxed and friendly atmosphere, its beautiful beaches and bubbly town center attract surfers and baba cool and have so since the 60s. Although the city does not offer free camping, there is low cost accommodation options so do not hesitate to stay for at least two days to enjoy the Saturday night market, surf and street performers.
From May to November, there is the opportunity to book a boat trip to see the magnificent humpback whales during their migration! Lastly, do not leave town without doing the lighthouse walk. It is best to begin the walk from Wategos Beach however, the walk from Byron town center is also very spectacular (just be prepared with enough water!). Did you know that the lighthouse is the first place in Australia to see the sun rise?! This place is definitely on every Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary.
Read also : Byron Bay, coolest town in Australia
It is well worth the 20-minute detour to visit Byron’s little sister, Mullumbimby. The small town boasts vintage shops, craftsman’s market and a very relaxed atmosphere. It’s said that Mullumbimby looks like Byron Bay 30 years ago, before its authenticity was lost to tourism.
Friday is the best day to visit as it is market day. Stroll through the bustling art community and tantalise your taste buds with the delicious vegetarian food.
The more courageous will face the 5-hour hike to the summit of Mt Warning where there are uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountain ranges and coastlines. If the weather is clear, it is possible to see the buildings of Brisbane’s city. This hike is currently closed since February 2022 for safety reasons. Stay informed on: www.alltrails.com/
Another detour / stop over just outside of Byron Bay is Brunswick Heads, which is also simply breathtaking.
The Gold Coast
Located 95 kilometres South of Brisbane, this region is one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations! The Gold Coast embraces skyscrapers, major shopping centres, water sport activities, a plethora of cafes and bars, coastal walks, incredible surrounding national parks and for the thrill seekers, theme parks. No wonder it’s a very popular holiday destination!! We could go on and on about all that the Gold Coast has to offer but, you just need to experience it to believe it. A must-see on your drive from Sydney to Brisbane.
Read also : Visit the Gold Coast in Queensland
As you leave the Gold Coast along the intense freeway you will feel a wave of emotion kick in……the road trip is coming to an end. What better way to end it though then finishing in the sunny state’s capital city, Brisbane? Brisbane has many places to discover.
Our favorites :
- The Southbank district: Dive into a lagoon in the heart of the city. This stunning man-made beach brings an undeniable charm to your visit. Relax on the deckchairs, feet in the sand. Then, take the Grand Arbor under the flowering bougainvillea (from May to November).
- City Botanic Garden: 18 hectares of flowers and greenery guide your stroll along the river, in the heart of the green lung of the city.
- The CityHopper: Take this free ferry to see Brisbane from all angles and pass under the famous Story Bridge.
Read also : Top 10 Things to do in Brisbane
Practical Info Sydney – Brisbane Drive
How to get there?