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!
Sydney to Myall Lakes
DISTANCE: Approx. 3 h 14 min (267.0 km) via M1 and Pacific Hwy/A1
After spending at least two days in Sydney visiting the Opera House, Bondi Beach, the iconic Blue Mountains and perhaps even Australia’s capital city, Canberra, it is time to seatbelt up and discover what the East Coast has to offer.
More Info: Visit Sydney
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 4×4 then head down to Worimi Conservation Park to discover the largest coastal sand dunes in the southern hemisphere.
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! In an adventurous mood, discover the rainforest along the Treachery Headland Walking Track which ends on a huge beach. 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.
Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour
DISTANCE: Approx. 4 h 2 min (387.0 km) via Pacific Hwy/A1
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. Everything is free but a donation is recommended. One of our favorite experiences on our Brisbane to Sydney drive!
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.
Coffs Harbor to Brisbane
DISTANCE: Approx. 4 h 38 min (389.4 km) via Pacific Hwy/A1 and M1
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 itineray.
More Info: 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. 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.
More Info: 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. For example, Southbank. Southbank is located on the Brisbane River and boasts a stunning man-made beach which faces the beautiful city. You could easily spend a day wandering and lazing around, swimming, eating or even taking a ride in the Wheel of Brisbane.
More Info: Top 10 Things to do in Brisbane
Practical Info Sydney – Brisbane Drive
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Updated on the 01/12/2019. Initially published on the 04/06/2019.