Home Discover Australia Sydney to Brisbane Drive – Best Road Trip Itinerary

Sydney to Brisbane Drive – Best Road Trip Itinerary

Sydney to Brisbane Drive – Best Road Trip Itinerary

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 for 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 Stephens: 216 km, 2h40 drive
  • Port Stephens > 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 those who enjoy more of a slow pace, plan for 15 days of travel if you want to take your time. Otherwise, the itinerary is feasible over 7 days.

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.

If you’re planning to go on a road trip as soon as you arrive in Australia, a great option is to go through backpackercars.com. They offer all types of vehicles for sale (cars, vans, and 4WDs) and can customize them according to your needs. The advantage is that all the mechanics are checked, the paperwork is in order, and you can pick up your vehicle as soon as you arrive in Australia.

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Budgeting your trip

For a road trip on the East Coast, it’s difficult to determine a precise budget, as it depends on a number of factors such as the mode of transport, accommodation, activities and food. However, on average, you can plan on a budget of around AUD 100 to 150 per day to cover basic costs such as petrol, accommodation and food. If you plan to do extra activities or eat out, you will need to budget more. It is advisable to make a detailed list of all your planned expenses in order to plan your budget effectively.

The best season to travel the East Coast

The best time to travel between Sydney and Brisbane depends on your climate and weather preferences.

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.

If you prefer cooler conditions and rain, then you might prefer to travel between June and August.

Stage 1: Sydney to Port Stephens

Distance: 210km

Sydney

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.

What to do in Sydney for two days?

If you want to make sure you don’t miss anything while in Sydney, read our dedicated Sydney article!

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.

Avoca Beach

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).

The Entrance

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

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.

Distance : 390 km

Stage 2: Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour

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)

Myall Lakes

Port Macquarie

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)

Dorrigo-National-Park

Stage 3: Coffs Harbor to Brisbane

Distance : 385 km

Byron Bay

« Cheer up, slow down, chill out » Welcome to the most famous hippie city in Australia! Be careful, you may have trouble bringing yourself to leave! 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.

Byron Bay, the coolest city in Australia!

Byron Bay, the relaxed little town on Australia’s east coast with a good vibe that’s not to be missed! Where to stay in Byron Bay? And what to do? Here’s all the info…

Mullumbimby

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 or stop over just outside of Byron Bay is Brunswick Heads, which is also simply breathtaking.

The Gold Coast

You’ve arrived in Queensland. Just 95 km to Brisbane! The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations. Large skyscrapers, shopping centres and a host of water sports activities are all clustered here.

For thrill-seekers, book your tickets for the Dreamworld and Wet’n’Wild Water World theme parks.

If you prefer to take your time on the beach, head to Surfer’s Paradise to admire the prowess of the surfers.

Brisbane

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.

Download our free guide for your road trip on the East Coast

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

Practical Info Sydney – Brisbane Drive

Campervan rentals

You can compare the offers of different campervan rental companies on :  Compare Prices

Car rentals

You can compare the offers of different rental car agencies on :  Compare Prices

Camping

Wilderness campsites can be found in most of New South Wales National Parks for about $10 per person. There are also free camps all along the way. If you have not already downloaded the Wikicamps App, do it NOW! It will become your travel bible in Australia. A great free camp north of Newcastle is Gap Creek Campground. It is at the end of a dirt road in the middle of a rainforest. Arrive early to get a spot then take a walk to the nearby waterfall and sit back and relax while the neighbourhood wallabies keep you entertained.

Surfing

Whether you are a beginner or an advance surfer, the east coast has plenty of waves to test your skills. Some of the best spots: Coolangatta at Gold Coast, The Pass at Byron Bay, Yamba, Woolooga, Crescent Head and finally the Northern Beaches in Sydney.

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