The Ultimate Sydney To Brisbane Drive Itinerary | 2023 Guide

If you’re craving a coastal drive, a Sydney to Brisbane road trip (or a Brisbane to Sydney road trip) is one of the most popular and sought-after drives in Australia. 

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This East Coast road trip itinerary is a famous journey spanning 1000 kms along the legendary Pacific Coast of Australia.

The scenic East Coast drive from Sydney to Brisbane takes you on an adventure through lush national parks, stunning beachesrolling green hills of the hinterland, and small yet vibrant off-the-beaten-track towns full of charisma and authentic Australian culture. You’ll never have to wonder, “Where should I stop between Brisbane and Sydney?” since there is no shortage of compelling things to do along the way.

Having experienced the legendary Sydney to Brisbane drive ourselves a number of times, we can honestly say that it’s the perfect East Coast road trip for the curious traveller looking to experience Australia past the major sights and attractions.

Whether you only have a few days to explore the Pacific Coast or are lucky enough to have 2-3 weeks, there is a Sydney to Brisbane drive out there for everyone. This is the outline of our suggested stops along the way It can be taken from Sydney to Brisbane by car or vice versa as a drive from Brisbane to Sydney.

Best Port Macquarie beaches in Australia
Oxley Beach, Port Macquarie, NSW
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Sydney – 2 Days To 1 Week

The large, sprawling, cosmopolitan city of Sydney lures in millions to its culture-seeped neighbourhoods, enchanting harbour, pristine beaches, and buzzing food and entertainment scene. Whether it is your starting point on a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane or your finish line on a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney, it will be a welcome stop.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Sydney Harbour, Australia
Sydney Harbour, Australia

Things To Do In Sydney

  • Visit the Sydney Harbour Bridge: Or, even better, cycle to the summit of the Sydney Harbour Bridge for an incredible panoramic view of the city. It’s a unique and enjoyable way to discover the city. Relax on a comfy bike as a guide leads your group to the top of this engineering marvel.
  • Take a Darling Harbour Sunset Dinner CruiseIt’s the highlight of any drive from Gold Coast to Sydney.
  • Tour the Sydney Opera House: It is arguably one of the most famous buildings in the world, with almost enough history as it has rooms. Your tour guide will show you the stories, the history, and the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Sign up for a 2-hour Beginner Surf Lesson at Bondi: It’s one of the best ways to see Bondi Beach like the locals do. You’ll be riding your first wave by the end of the lesson.
  • Jump on a Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour: If you only have a day, consider seeing the highlights with a bus tour. With 2 available routes and over 30 stops included in the price of the ticket, it’s the easiest and fastest way to see the best of Sydney.
  • Hop aboard a Sydney Whale Watching Cruise: The catamaran sails out into the Pacific to see native sea life, from orcas to dolphins to seals. You’ll even listen to whale songs with a microphone. If you time it right, you might even get to see humpback whales numbering in the hundreds during their migration.
  • Visit the Blue Mountains National Park: It’s not just a place for good hikes and viewpoints; it’s also a playground for adventure enthusiasts with activities like rock climbing, bushwalking, abseiling, and canyoning. You don’t want to miss the Jenolan Caves, the biggest caves in Australia.
Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia
Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

Where To Stay In Sydney 

If you’re not sure what neighbourhood to stay in, check out our guide to places to stay and neighbourhoods in Sydney. These are some of our favourite hotels in Sydney.

  • Crystalbrook Albion Located in lively Surry Hills, this luxurious hotel offers well-designed, high-quality rooms blending heritage and contemporary styles. They have respectable sustainability practices like reducing single-use plastic and paper and partnering with waste management organizations for a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Sir Stamford Hotel: This stunning 5-star hotel is located right on Sydney Harbour. It has a rooftop swimming pool with harbour views and is also a TripAdvisor GreenLeader on the Gold Level.
  • Sydney Harbour YHA: It’s no secret that we love YHA Hostels. This award-winning hostel has unbelievable harbour views, clean and inviting common spaces, and follows a huge list of sustainability measures.
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Sydney to Brisbane Itinerary: Bondi Icebergs Club, Bondi Beach, Sydney
Bondi Icebergs Club, Bondi Beach, Sydney

Lake Macquarie – 1 Day

Sydney to Lake Macquarie Drive: 126 kilometres // 1 hour 40 minutes

Lake Macquarie is Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lagoon that covers an area of 110 km. It’s an impressive and beautifully tranquil body of water, peppered with sailboats all around its perimeter, and it’s a perfect Sydney to Gold Coast drive stopover.

Life on the shores of Lake Macquarie is slow-paced and drastically different from the hustle and bustle of Sydney. The residents of the area are some of the nicest and friendliest we have met on our road trip from Sydney to Brisbane!

There are dozens of small towns dotted around the lake, each one offering a unique way to take in the beauty of Lake Macquarie. We chose to stop in Toronto, an obvious choice for us, given that we grew up in Toronto, Canada, but there are 19 other stops worth considering.

No matter which town you end up choosing, Lake Macquarie should not be missed on a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Lake Macquarie, Toronto Marina, NSW. Australia
Lake Macquarie, Toronto Marina, NSW

Things To Do In Lake Macquarie

  • Stroll the Foreshore at Warners Bay: Have a picnic in the park or just relax in the afternoon, drinking tea in a lakeside cafe.
  • Take a Lake Cruise: It includes a buffet lunch and is a great way to spend the afternoon spotting dolphins and other marine life. 
  • Visit Caves Beach: Located on the shores of Lake Macquarie, the caves are a delight to explore on your own, and the beach is a great place to take a dip.
  • Hire a Bike or Kayak: There is no better way to explore the area! This is an excellent activity to split up the Brisbane to Sydney drive time. 
  • Visit Dobell House: It is the former home and studio of Sir William Dobell, who is one of Australia’s most famous artists.
Things to do in Newcastle NSW: The sunset over Lake Macquarie
The sunset over Lake Macquarie

Where To Stay In Lake Macquarie

  • Brighton Apartments: Located in Toronto and just a short walk away from Lake Macquarie, this hotel offers spacious rooms that are comfortable and affordable.
  • The Lake Escape: This well-appointed holiday home is located on the shore of Lake Macquarie. It has awesome lake views and free bikes and kayaks for exploring the area in an eco-friendly way.
  • Esplanade Motel: This family-friendly motel is conveniently close to cafes and restaurants, ideal for exploring local activities and nearby national parks. Plus, they’ve got an EV charger for your electric vehicle.

Hunter Valley – 1-3 Days

Lake Macquarie to Hunter Valley Drive: 132 kilometres // 1 hour 56 minutes

When planning your Sydney to Gold Coast drive stopovers, remember that Hunter Valley is not just a stop for wine lovers! It’s a place to sample local produce, get lost in the beautiful Australian countryside, or relax and unwind.

It will pleasantly surprise you with fantastic dining options that are easy on the wallet and delightful on the palate. In fact, some of the best food we had along our Sydney to Gold Coast drive was in Hunter Valley. You will also find lots of entertainment options and, of course, the best wine in Australia! Well, in our opinion, anyway!

If you love discovering new wineries and want to sample a good selection of wines from the region, give yourself at least 2-3 days to explore Hunter Valley on your drive from Brisbane to Sydney.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Sunset in Hunter Valley, NSW Australia
Sunset in Hunter Valley, NSW
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Outdoor seating at the Goldfish in Tempus Two Complex, Hunter Valley
Outdoor seating at the Goldfish in Tempus Two Complex, Hunter Valley
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Selection of Chardonnay at Tyrrell's, Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
Selection of Chardonnay at Tyrrell’s, Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
  • Take a Full Day Wine Tour: There are lots of restaurants to check out and plenty of wineries to visit. However, they should be explored with a tour so you can learn about the region and its wine from an expert. 
  • Enjoy a Hot Air Balloon FlightSee Hunter Valley from above and check off a bucket list item. Even better, kick it up a notch with champagne!
  • Enjoy a Picnic Among the Vineyards: This tour includes a museum visit, master-class wine tasting and a packed picnic to be enjoyed with your family, friends or beau.
  • Enjoy a Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate Tasting Tour: You’ll get to experience the best of three of Hunter Valley’s wineries, and whether you prefer sweet or savoury wine or spirits, there will be something for you to enjoy. 

Consider Taking a Day Tour from Sydney: If you are short on time, one day is enough to take in the views, enjoy some great food, and appreciate the best this region has to offer.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Sydney to Brisbane Itinerary: Vineyards in Hunter Valley, NSW
Vineyards in Hunter Valley, NSW

Where To Stay In Hunter Valley

  • H Boutique Hotel: Located in the town of Pokolbin in Hunter Valley, this hotel is set in the foothills of the Brokenback mountain range and promises to give you a totally eco-friendly experience.
  • Mercure Resort: This classic hotel has 72 rooms, each with a private balcony. It’s centrally located within a 15-minute walk of 5 local wineries, shops, and Hunter Valley Gardens. Its restaurant and bar offer French-inspired cuisine made from local, seasonal ingredients.
  • Donnybrook Retreat: This retreat offers the ultimate glamping experience and operates on the principles of treading lightly on the earth. This hotel is no longer on booking.com, Tranquil Vale Vineyard looks like a good replacement
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Rolling vineyards in Hunter Valley, NSW
Rolling vineyards in Hunter Valley, NSW

READ NEXT: Why Hunter Valley Is Our Favourite Wine Region In Australia

Newcastle – 2-3 Days

Hunter Valley to Newcastle Drive: 114 kilometres // 1 hour 45 minutes

On our road trip Sydney – Brisbane we only managed to spend 2 days in Newcastle, but this great city really surprised us, so much so that we went as far as to call it Australia’s most underrated city. The locals totally agree and love the fact that Newcastle constantly surprises travellers with all it has to offer.

Newcastle is full of culturehistory, and stunning landscapes while boasting a charismatic, funky atmosphere and a developing artistic side. Oh, and did we mention it’s super laid back and easygoing too? While driving Brisbane to Sydney or vice versa, on a Brisbane to Sydney roadtrip your only regret with Newcastle would be if you bypassed it.

Stay for at least 2 days, but if you can spare it, stay longer; we promise you won’t get bored! 

Newcastle, NSW
Newcastle, NSW

Things To Do In Newcastle

  • Visit the Beaches: Go sunbathing, surfing, or swimming. Nobbys Beach, Bar Beach, and Newcastle Beach were some of our favourites! 
  • Stay for a Sunset: Stroll along the Esplanade to experience one of Newcastle’s iconic sunsets from the clifftop.
  • Take a Harbour and Coast Sight-Seeing Tour: Enjoy over 2 hours on this eco-cruise, seeing Hunter Coast, Caves Beach, and Catherine Hill Bay. You’ll experience 360-degree views of dolphins, seabirds, turtles, whales, and tons of local landmarks.
  • Enjoy a Hidden Gems Pub WalkIf you’re looking for a laid-back time, this walking tour is for you. Get to know some of the history of Newcastle along with the history and science behind beer, as you visit Newcastle’s hidden gems, from pubs to bars to taverns.
  • Enjoy a Newcastle True Crime Tour: As one of Australia’s oldest settlements, Newcastle has quite a gritty history, and you can explore some of the most historic sites as you get the details. This is a really unique tour for the true crime lover inside everyone!
  • Visit Myall Lakes National Park: This park is ideal for kayakers, boaters, anglers, and swimmers due to its extensive coastal lake system and 40 kilometres of unspoiled beaches. You can also explore rainforest trails nearby and observe a rich diversity of native wildlife.
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: View from Memorial Drive in Newcastle, NSW
View from Memorial Drive in Newcastle, NSW. Australia
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Nobby's Beach. View from the top of Fort Scratchley. Newcastle. Australia
Nobby’s Beach. View from the top of Fort Scratchley. Newcastle.

Places To Stay In Newcastle

  • Crown of Darby Newcastle: Located right on Darby Street, this hotel offers serviced apartments that are modern, elegant and surrounded by specialty restaurants, bars, and boutique shopping.
  • Novotel Beach Hotel: Located next to the beach, this hotel is comfortable and modern. It is also part of the Accor Planet 21 program, which supports initiatives to promote environmental protection and the fight against sexual exploitation, amongst other things.
  • Crystalbrook KingsleyThis eco-hotel provides 5-star facilities, including complimentary bikes, private parking, a terrace, and an on-site restaurant. They are committed to a strong sustainability policy to reduce their environmental footprint.

READ NEXT: Things To Do In Newcastle, Australia

Nelson Bay – 1-2 Days

Newcastle to Nelson Bay Drive: 61 kilometres / 55 minutes

When it comes to places to stop between Sydney and Brisbane, you have to remember Nelson Bay. It’s the perfect spot to relax and visit national parks on the long road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.

Nelson Bay NSW
Nelson Bay, NSW

Things To Do In Nelson Bay

  • Join a Wild Dolphin Cruise and Swim with Dolphins in the Wild: If you want to watch dolphins from the deck of a catamaran and take in the sun and the sea spray, then this day trip won’t disappoint you. Or, if you want an experience like nothing else, then you can hop into a wetsuit and get into the water with wild dolphins, watching them from the safety of the net attached to the ship. Always make sure you choose an ethical eco-certified dolphin swim operator, to make sure that your entertainment does not harm the wildlife.
  • Visit One Mile Beach: Spend a few days sunbathing on this beautiful beach
  • Go Sandboarding and 4×4 driving at Stockton Sand Dunes: Visit the largest sand dunes at Stockton Beach in Port Stephens for an exhilarating experience.
  • Walk to the Top of Tomaree Summit: This hike, in Tomaree National Park, is only 1- 1.5 hours return trip but offers up incredible views of Port Stephen and the North Coast.
 
Stockton Dunes
Stockton Dunes

Where To Stay In Nelson Bay

  • Mantra Aqua Resort: Located in Nelson Bay, this resort focuses on minimizing its environmental impact and features 2 and 3-bedroom self-contained apartments. Each is arranged around a lagoon-style solar heated pool and spa.
  • Wanderers Retreat: This award-winning resort offers units for 2-9 people and strives to be as environmentally sustainable as possible. It is set in a lush rainforest setting and with a pool.

Port Macquarie – 1-2 Days

Nelson Bay to Port Macquarie Drive: 249 kilometres // 2 hours 42 minutes

Port Macquarie is another pleasant surprise while driving from Sydney to Brisbane that’s well worth a day or two of your Sydney Brisbane road trip itinerary. It’s a small town of fewer than 50,000 people but one that offers a vast number of activities for all types of travellers.

In our opinion, Port Macquarie is truly a nature lovers paradise. It is home to 17 different beaches, each one unique and striking in its own way. If you’re looking to let your inner beach bum out, then Port Macquarie is a necessary stop on your Sydney to Gold Coast road trip.

So kick back and give yourself a few days to explore and take in everything that this town has to offer, or you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t later on. Port Macquarie is officially one of our favourite towns on this ultimate Sydney to Brisbane road trip itinerary! 

To give you some perspective on how far you have come, the drive from Sydney to Port Macquarie is nearly 400 kilometres – so you’re about a quarter of the way to Brisbane.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Port Macquarie, Australia
Port Macquarie, Australia
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: One of the beautiful beaches in Port Macquarie, NSW
On your way from Sydney to Brisbane make sure you have time for the beautiful beaches in Port Macquarie, NSW

Things To Do In Port Macquarie

  • Go to Tacking Point Lighthouse: If you’re in the mood for a laid-back day but you don’t want to just lounge around your hotel, then this slow and gentle hike will scratch that itch, and you’ll be able to spot dolphins and whales as you walk along. The lighthouse is perched on a rocky headland, providing panoramic views of Australia’s Mid-North Coast.
  • A visit to the Koala Hospital: Learn more about how this hospital rescues, rehabilitates, and is committed to protecting koalas and their natural habitats. You can watch the volunteers in action and learn about the latest patients and their journeys to recovery. You can get up close to the koalas and even adopt one!
  • Give Surfing a Go: There are several great breaks in Port Macquarie for all levels and abilities. If you’re a newbie surfer, hit up one of the surf schools in town for a lesson.
  • Explore the Rock Pools: Spend an afternoon lounging in the rock pools; it is a highlight of a road trip to the Gold Coast from Sydney.
  • Go Kayaking along the Hastings River: This is an activity we highly recommend! There are a few kayak rentals in town.
  • Enjoy a Coastal Walk: The Town Green to Lighthouse Beach walk is 9 kilometres. If you have time for it, you’ll be treated to awesome coastal views.
Best Port Macquarie beaches in Australia
View of Lighthouse Beach form Tacking Point Lighthouse, Port Macquarie, NSW

Places To Stay In Port Macquarie

  • Mantra the Observatory Hotel: Located a stone’s throw away from the Town Beach, in 2015 this hotel was selected as the Winner of United Nations World Environment Day Awards. Thereby making it a great choice for an eco-conscious traveler.
  • Diamond Waters Treehouses: Located just south of Port Macquarie, this hotel is committed to sustainable business practices. They offer accommodation in their unique and comfortable treehouses.

READ NEXT: Best Port Macquarie Beaches

South West Rocks – 1 Day

Port Macquarie to South West Rocks: 87 kilometres // 1 hour

South West Rocks is a great place if you’re into outdoor adventure, but it is equally suitable for those just wanting some tranquillity. This coastal village remains a secret gem to visit near Sydney. With unspoiled beaches, pristine bushland, lots of fishing spots, hiking trails, cafes, and restaurants, South West Rocks offers a perfect blend of nature and leisure. 

South West Rocks
South West Rocks

Things To Do In South West Rocks

  • Explore Trial Bay: The Front Beach is a must-visit when you’re in South West Rocks. It runs from the town’s main part in the north to Arakoon National Park. The water is usually calm, making it perfect for swimming, paddling, or fishing. If you’re into Australian history, head over to Trial Bay Gaol, a former internment camp for German prisoners.
  • Stretch your legs with a walk along Horseshoe Bay: If you enjoy exploring, pack a snack and head to Hat Head National Park and Hungry Hill for great walks and picnics with a view of untouched sand dunes, Smokey Cape Lighthouse, native plants, and birdlife. If you visit on the second Saturday of the month, check out the Beachside Markets at Horseshoe Bay Reserve. 
  • Get a rod and go fishing: Fishing is popular here! With a variety of fish species, it’s a perfect spot for anglers. If the fish aren’t biting and you fancy a seafood barbecue, check out the Macleay River District Fisherman’s Co-op in Jerseyville.

Places To Stay In South West Rocks

  • Big 4 NRMA South West Rocks Holiday Park For a unique experience, we recommend their Luxury Lagoon Retreat at Big4. It’s perfect for those seeking a mix of holiday park ambience and the comforts of self-contained apartments. Their eco-friendly reverse cycle air conditioner and ceiling fans will keep you comfortable year-round.

Coffs Harbour – 1-2 Days

Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour Drive: 152 kilometres // 1 hour 36 minutes

Coffs and us…well, we didn’t really get along. Maybe it was the rain, maybe it was the lack of enthusiasm to go beyond the Big Banana Amusement Park and discover the lesser-known sights in Coffs Harbour, Australia, but this town really fell flat for us on our Gold Coast to Sydney drive. We left without seeing much.

Should you skip it? Probably not. After all, Coffs Harbour is one of the most popular holiday destinations along the Pacific Coast, claiming to have everything from World Heritage National Parks and sandy beaches to beach camel rides and vodka tastings.

If the vibe agrees with you, stay for a few days. Otherwise, spend a day checking out a few activities and move on. There’s still so much to see along the Sydney to Brisbane drive.

Coffs Harbour - Stop on Brisbane to Sydney drive
Coffs Harbour

Things To Do In Coffs Harbour

  • Visit the Big Banana Amusement Park: For family-friendly activities and to snap a picture with the Big Banana itself, head to this iconic Big Banana Fun Park.
  • Visit the Forest Sky Pier: This is a fun and alternative way to experience Coffs Harbour and its beautiful coastline. The Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout offers stunning free views of Coffs Harbour; it is one of the best vantage points in the area! 
  • Explore the Gondwana Rainforest: Take a tour to visit Dorrigo National Park, but don’t leave without a visit to Danger Falls. On the way back to Coffs Harbour, visit local wineries and produce shops.
  • Take a Tour through Ururga Wetlands: Get close to Australian wildlife, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding and stroll the Forest Sky Pier for stunning views.
  • Stroll around the Botanic GardenThis North Coast Regional Botanic Garden spans over 20 hectares with different themed areas. We recommend you check out their tropical rainforest and arid zone glasshouse areas. 
Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Big Banana Amusement Park, Coffs Harbour, NSW
Big Banana Amusement Park, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Places To Stay In Coffs Harbour

  • ibis Budget Coffs Harbour: This hotel is part of the Planet 21 Sustainable Development program and offers comfortable, basic rooms in the heart of Coffs Harbour.
  • BreakFree Aanuka Beach Resort: This award-winning resort is located on Diggers Beach. While it has a long way to go when it comes to sustainability, it offers comfortable modern accommodation on a beautiful property. 

Woolgoolga – 2-3 Days

Coffs Harbour to Woolgoolga Drive: 26 kilometres // 21 minutes

This stop isn’t about Woolgoolga town at all, although we are sure it is lovely in its own way. This is your chance to visit Arrawarra Beach on your Brisbane to Sydney road trip. Also known as Spot X, the location of Australia’s famous Mojo Surf Camp.

It was here back in 2010 that Oksana first surfed her first wave to shore, overwhelmed by the feeling of excitement and sheer disbelief in her own abilities.

It’s a great place to meet other travelers, incredibly social laid back, and is literally everything you ever pictured Australia to be.

You’ll spend your mornings working on your surfing skills, afternoons lazing around in a hammock, and evenings sharing a meal/drinks and travel stories over a campfire with new travel buddies. The days will fly by on your Brisbane to Sydney drive, so budget accordingly.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Chill out spot at Mojo Surf Camp in Spot X
Chill out spot at Mojo Surf Camp in Spot X
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Spot X Board Hire
Spot X Board Hire
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Arrawarra Beach, NSW
Arrawarra Beach, NSW

Yamba – 1 Day

Woolgoola to Yamba Drive: 112 kilometres // 1 hour 20 minutes

Until recently, we had never even heard of Yamba, but boy, were we glad that we discovered it! Yamba is a sleepy fishing town with beautiful beaches, fantastic surf spots, and a laid-back atmosphere. It’s another secret gem on the Pacific Coast that’s well worth a stop on your Sydney to Brisbane drive.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Yamba Main Beach, Yamba, NSW
Yamba Main Beach, Yamba, NSW
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Ocean pools at the Yamba Main Beach, NSW
Ocean pools at the Yamba Main Beach, NSW
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: View of the Pacific Ocean from Wooli Park, Yamba, NSW
View of the Pacific Ocean from Wooli Park, Yamba, NSW

Things To Do In Yamba

  • Visit Yamba Ice Creamery: It was the highlight of our stop and gave us a chance to indulge in the best ice cream in Australia. (As voted by us!)
  • Visit the Yamba Lighthouse: The two self-guided Yamba Historical Walks bypass the Yamba Lighthouse.
  • Explore the Beaches: Yamba, Pippi, and Turners Beach are the most popular beaches in Yamba, and they deserve a visit.
  • Visit Angourie Pools: This is the best way to refresh on a hot summer day or when you’ve been cooped up in the car for too long. Take a dip in the natural swimming pools.
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Main Street in Yamba, NSW
Main Street in Yamba, NSW
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Yamba Ice Creamery
Sweeten your Sydney to Gold Coast drive with an ice-cream stop at Yamba Ice Creamery

Places To Stay In Yamba

  • Clubyamba Luxury Holiday Village: Located just a few blocks away from the beach in Yamba, the hotel is locally owned and well-known for its peaceful garden setting.
  • Yamba YHA: They are committed to operating sustainability and offer centrally located backpacker accommodation.

READ MORE: Guide To Visiting The Charming Town Of Yamba

Byron Bay – 2-3 Days

Yamba to Byron Bay Drive: 125 kilometres // 1 hour 39 minutes

Byron Bay is one of the top destinations in Australia, and we won’t be the only ones to add it to your “must-visit” list. It’s one of the best beach towns in Australia (maybe even the best) with an amazing vibe, great restaurantsboutique shopping, fantastic beaches, and everything in between. It is a must-stop for anyone driving from Gold Coast to Sydney.

We love Byron. We fell in love in Byron, and we got engaged in Byron. Byron will always be a very special place for us.

It’s a town we can go back to again and again without ever getting tired of its charm and appeal. We suggest you plan to spend at least 2-3 days in Byron, but we won’t be surprised if you end up hanging around for a LOT longer.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Beautiful clear waters in Byron Bay, Australia
Beautiful clear waters in Byron Bay, Australia
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Byron Bay Main Beach, NSW
Byron Bay Main Beach, NSW
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Byron Bay Lighthouse
Byron Bay Lighthouse; one of the highlights of a Sydney to Brisbane road trip

Things To Do In Byron Bay

  • Take the Waterfalls and Hidden Gems Day Tour: Don’t miss a dip in Tea Tree Lakes, known for their healing properties from the excreted oil of the surrounding trees, which will leave your skin feeling refreshed and rejuvenated naturally. Then, take a dip in the healing waters of Lake Ainsworth.
  • Byron Sunset Eco River Cruise: Get on board a leisurely cruise along the scenic Brunswick River, as the sun sets behind Mt Chincogan, for a unique chance to spot local birds and wildlife in Byron Bay.
  • Enjoy a Sea Kayak Tour with Dolphins & Turtles: It’s a magical experience kayaking alongside dolphins. If you don’t manage to spot at least spot a dolphin, turtle, or whale, you can paddle out again with the guide for free. 
  • Go Tandem SkydivingYou can appreciate the sights from 15,000 feet up and enjoy a full minute of freefall on a 20-minute tandem dive.
  • Take a Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Flight: Appreciate the truly panoramic view of Byron Bay from a hot air balloon with a professional pilot.
  • Take a Surfing Lesson: If you haven’t stood up on a board yet, Byron Bay is the perfect place to start.
  • Go on a Wildlife Safari: Enjoy a full day of spotting Aussie animals in their natural habitat with a local tour guide. You’re guaranteed to see kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and fly foxes. Or, for something a little more unique, try a guided Platypus Spotting Walk to these elusive creatures.
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Surfers crowd the beach in Byron Bay, New South Wales
Surfers crowd the beach in Byron Bay, New South Wales

Places To Stay In Byron Bay

  • Byron Bay Rainforest Resort: Located just a few kilometres away from Tallow Beach, this resort offers 9 spacious and comfortable self-contained cabins. It is known for its sustainable practices focused on nature and wildlife preservation.
  • Satara Boutique Hotel: Stay here to slow things down; Satara perfectly captures the quieter side of Byron Bay. They are sustainably minded and offer 4 stylish suites in a tranquil rainforest setting, just a minute’s walk from the beach.

Gold Coast – 2-3 Days

Byron Bay to Gold Coast Drive: 94 kilometres // 1 hour 10 minutes

The city of Gold Coast is an urban area of approximately 35kms that stretches along the coastal suburbs from Paradise Point to Tweed Heads. Gold Coast is home to some of the best beaches in Queensland and a few of the best beaches in all of Australia. It’s a popular area with families, backpackers, and surfing enthusiasts.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Burleigh Heads Beach, Gold Coast, QLD
Burleigh Heads Beach, Gold Coast, QLD

Things To Do In Gold Coast

  • Visit the Beaches: There are over 30 different beaches in the Gold Coast, each one more beautiful than the other, but for reasons unknown to me, most tourists flock to Surfers Paradise. Don’t! One of our biggest tips for driving from Brisbane to Sydney is to head to the lesser-known, more local spots like Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads or Broadbeach.
  • Take a Night Tour of Glow Worm Caves: At Tamborine National Park, you can walk through the rainforest at night and see these little star-like bugs do their thing. More than that, you’ll be able to appreciate the way the rainforest comes to life at night in a way that’s completely different from the daytime.
  • Go on a Half-Day Deluxe Whale Watching Cruise: Appreciate humpback whales from the most up-close-and-personal viewing decks you’re going to find on the Gold Coast. The whales are curious and eager to investigate the ship, and tour groups at kept at the optimal size to make sure of the good visibility.
  • Take a Surf Lesson on the Gold Coast: If you’ve always wanted to surf but never had an opportunity, there’s no place better to learn than the Gold Coast. Over two hours with an instructor, you’ll work your way from paddling in the shallows to standing on a board for the first time.
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Families on the beach in Coolangatta, Gold Coast, QLD
Families on the beach in Coolangatta, Gold Coast, QLD

Places To Stay On The Gold Coast

  • The Luxury Eco Rainforest Retreat: Try something different by heading inland; this chalet is situated on 10 acres of tropical rainforest. The property offers organic sheets, toiletries, and an opportunity for eco-friendly living, even if it’s just for a day or two.
  • Talisman ApartmentsIf you’re looking for an apartment with all the 5-star hotel facilities and eco-conscious options near the city centre, check out Talisman in Broadbeach, a beach-view holiday apartment with beautiful gardens. 
  • Voco HotelThis sustainable and stylish option is located in Surfers Paradise. The rooms are modern, well appointed and have great views of the beach.

READ NEXT: Beaches In The Gold Coast Better Than Surfer’s Paradise

Detour: Scenic Rim

Gold Coast to Scenic Rim Drive: 110 kilometres // 1 hour 40 minutes

Love hiking? Then, don’t miss a chance to take a detour on your Brisbane to Gold Coast drive to experience a part of one of the most extensive subtropical rainforests in the world, the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia! Just over an hour from Gold Coast, the 50+ rainforests that comprise the Gondwana Rainforests are a World Heritage Site totalling 366,500 hectares stretching from Newcastle to Brisbane. 

For a quick and easy way to experience a part of this incredible rainforest network, consider taking a detour to hike the Scenic Rim Trail. It’s a great opportunity to park the car and connect with nature, even if it’s just for a few days!

This 2-day hike is an all-inclusive experience with glamping accommodationgourmet locally sourced food and fantastic guides who provide great insight into the fauna and flora of this region. We highly recommend you make time for this experience on your Sydney to Brisbane drive.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Scenic Rim trail. At the top of Mt Mitchell in Main Range National Park, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
Scenic Rim trail. At the top of Mt Mitchell in Main Range National Park, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia
Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Spicers Canopy Lodge, glamping accommodation on the Scenic Rim Trail
Spicers Canopy Lodge, glamping accommodation on the Scenic Rim Trail

READ MORE: Hiking The Scenic Rim Trail In Queensland Australia

Brisbane – 2-3 Days

Gold Coast to Brisbane Drive: 78 kilometres // 58 minutes
DETOUR: Scenic Rim to Brisbane Drive: 98 kilometres // 1 hour 22 minutes

Welcome to the finish line of your Sydney to Brisbane drive. Brisbane may not be as hot and trendy as Sydney or Melbourne, but it has a fair few spots worth checking out.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: Brisbane, Australia
Brisbane, Australia

Things To Do In Brisbane

  • Explore Brisbane’s Vibrant Neighbourhoods: Simply mingle with the locals at the South Bank Parklands or in the hippy neighbourhood of West End.
  • Get Active Around Brisbane: Explore Brisbane River, check out the Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park, and go on a hike around Mt Coot-tha. 
  • Take a Stradbroke Island Day Tour: Take a day trip to the world’s second-largest sand island and its national park, controlled almost entirely by Aboriginal people. Point Lookout is considered the best land-based spot to see whales, and the waters around the island are safe to swim in all year.
  • Go on a Dolphin and Snorkel CruiseIt will be a busy day, packed full of whale and dolphin-watching, a visit to the Moreton Bay Marine Park, and a snorkelling tour of the 14 ships that make up the Tangalooma Wrecks.
  • Take a Guided River Kayak TourConsider joining this kayak tour to learn more about iconic landmarks such as the Story Bridge and South Bank while you paddle your way around. It’s a fun and informative way to experience Brisbane.
  • See the Best of Brisbane with a Segway TourIf you are fed up with touring by 4 wheels, then hop on two wheels with a segway tour.

Have time and want to linger around for longer? Make sure you leave a few days to explore Brisbane like a local before continuing your road trip from Brisbane to Cairns

If you have had enough of driving, instead, jump aboard the Spirit of Queensland train to travel from Brisbane to Cairns in style.

Sydney to Brisbane road trip: South Bank Parklands, the heart and soul of Brisbane. Australia
South Bank Parklands, the heart and soul of Brisbane

Places To Stay In Brisbane

  • Park Regis North Quay Hotel: Located near Roma Street Station, this hotel offers generously sized rooms and apartments. Plus, it has a number of sustainability initiatives, like energy-efficient infrastructure, eco-friendly cleaning materials, and waste management.
  • Riverside Hotel: If you’re looking for a clean, modern, and affordable choice on the South Bank, this hotel delivers. It offers rooms, apartments, and suites, and it’s right next to a number of museums and theatres.

Not sure what neighbourhood to stay in? Check out our guide neighbourhoods in Brisbane.

Brisbane to Sydney road trip
South Bank Garden

READ NEXT: What To Do In Brisbane, Australia

Sydney To Brisbane Drive Time & Distance

Total Brisbane To Sydney Distance (And Vice Versa)

On our Sydney to Brisbane road trip itinerary, we covered a total distance of 1,295 kilometres. However, if you do a straight shoot and don’t head inland, your distance from Brisbane to Sydney will average about 1000 km. 

How Many Days For Your Sydney To Brisbane Drive? 

Driving from Brisbane to Sydney with enough stopovers to give you a good overview of Australian life and culture can take anywhere between 7- 14 days. However, it is possible to speed through Australia’s East Coast highlights in just 3-4 days. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, supermarkets, petrol stations, and tours along the way between Sydney and Brisbane, making your road trip holiday stress-free and enjoyable.

Total Sydney To Brisbane Drive Time

All in all, the time we spent on the road traveling from Sydney to Brisbane was roughly 15 hrs 34 min.

Short On Time?

You can’t do much about the Sydney to Brisbane distance. But you can cut down the time it takes to see it all! You can still experience the Sydney to the Gold Coast drive even if you don’t have the luxury of 2-3 weeks or more. Here are our tips for driving from Brisbane to Sydney and all the places in between:

  • Pick and choose the stops that interest you the most on your Sydney to Brisbane drive. If you only have 1 week, cut the number of stops by 3. Don’t try to squeeze in everything. Just like our USA road trip, it’s not an episode of The Amazing Race.
  • Reduce the number of days you spend in each town.
  • Consider driving in the evenings or early mornings to avoid wasting the day on the road. After all, your Sydney to Brisbane road trip is not about the driving but the stops along the way!

 

Have you ever done the drive from Sydney to Brisbane? What are some of your favourite East Coast highlights along this route?

35 thoughts on “The Ultimate Sydney To Brisbane Drive Itinerary | 2023 Guide”

  1. I absolutely love your photos. Especially the ones of Lake Macquarie & Port Nelson. May I ask what camera and lenses you’re using?

  2. Thanks for very useful information.
    Would you please suggest two places we want to make halt, stay over night? Also, any suggestions on hotel / motel will be appreciated.
    We plan to travel in December, with kids.

    Thanks a ton!

    1. Hi Sunil,
      If you only have 2 nights en route, we would suggest making Byron Bay and Newcastle your 2 over night stopovers. Both locations offer plenty of accommodaiton options and have a good restaurants scene so you find find yourself stranded with no where to go for dinner. Acommodation options vary dramatically based on budget and level of comfort. We typically stay in hostels, which you may find unsuitable for your family, but we have also stayed at the Beachcomber Resort in Byron Bay (http://www.beachcomberbyron.com.au/), which would make a good option for you in Byron.
      Best advice is to look for accommodaiton on Agoda.com or Booking.com. They are our go to websites when we travel!
      Enjoy the trip!

  3. You missed Forster/Tuncurry. Beautiful beaches – some hidden away from the main, such as Burgess Beach. Beautiful in Winter. The lake is fantastic for swimming and fishing.

  4. Travelling from Canada, thinking of landing in brisbane then driving down to sydney,,,how much time is reasonable and what are the highlights of this lag?

  5. Thanks for this awesome post! We head to Brisbane tomorrow, and try to make the best out of it, and take our time. 🙂 Lovely blog!

  6. Having read this I thought it was really enlightening.
    I appreciate you taking the time and effort
    to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments.
    But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  7. My friend and I want to do the same route as you did. But we do find it a bit expensive renting a car while we still have to search for accomodation. Is there another means of transport we could use for mostly the same places ?

    Kind regrds,

    Ellen

  8. I will be traveling to Brisbane in April and would like to spend a couple days in Sydney. Is the drive between the two cities do-able in a day, or is it best to plan on an overnight stay along the way?

    1. It’s a 10-11 hour drive, so I guess you could do it if you were to really push yourself, but we certainly don’t recommend it. Coffs Harbour makes for an easy stop about half way between Brisbane and Sydney.

  9. Hello. Love your website, thank you. We are in Australia for 3 weeks early August 2017. This includes 6 nights by car between Sydney and Brisbane. We are not surfers so although we appreciate lovely beaches they are not massively important to us. We like interesting towns, good food/restaurants and walks. Any recommendations for an it itinerary?

    Hope to hear from you.

    Best wishes
    Dave & Lucy

    1. I would say Byron is a must, some good food, and you can do the walk up to the lighthouse from Watego bay. The other places I would recommend for food and walks would be Hunter valley (for the wine and rolling hills, you can walk between vineyards) and Newcastle (lots of new food joints popping up and some nice scenery along the coast.

  10. love this article! I am planning to drive from sydney to brisbane with the kids around june abt two days. what do u recommend for kids along the way
    cheers!

    1. Coffs Harbour has a neat park (The Big Banana) with lots of activities that makes for an interesting stop for the little fellas. Other than that I would say the beaches. Lots of them along the way so be sure to stop at a few, get out stretch the legs and let them go for a swim (although it will be chillier in June).

      1. David & Lucy Lewis

        Thank you Max, appreciated. We will take note. Byron and Newcastle are on our short list so you have confirmed our thoughts.

        David & Lucy

  11. Sylvana & Alex

    Hi Max and Oksana,

    my husband and I are planning a mini trip in Austalia (9 days). We are flying into Sydney. We want to do a drive along the coast to Brisbane. I am wondering if it is better to do drive from Sydney to Brisbane or Brisbane to Sydney ( Just to be on the good side of the road to see the views at is best). What do you think?
    Also, we are set on visiting Hunter Valley, Newcastle and Port Stephens (which one should we stay the night?) and we want to stop at Byron Bay and Gold Coast. We are missing a nice stop between Port Stephens and Byron. We don’t have kids and amusement park is not our thing…can you suggest a nice place to stop with great views, food….or should we drive straight to Byron?

    We have a short vacation but want to see the best of it. I think I may have too many stops already in mind…maybe you can help us narrow it down to 3 or 4 stops, keeping in mind that we want to see Sydney 2 or 3 days. Leaving us with only 6 days to spare!
    Any help is welcome. We are also from Canada and love nature, food, drinks and great people vibes 🙂
    Thank you very much!
    Sylvana & Alex

    1. The route direction doesn’t really matter, as it’s not a coastal drive. Have a think about what makes more sense in terms of where you are flying into and flying out of. Byron Bay is the best spot to spend a night or two, following by Newcastle. Hunter Valley at night is pretty tame, so you can do it as a day trip and drive down to Newcastle for the night or even head to Sydney. We never stayed overnight in Port Stephens either. There is lots of nightlife in the Gold Coast, so you could stop there for a night as well. Broadbeach was always our favourite. So we would suggest 1 night in Gold Coast, 2 nights in Byron Bay, 1 night in Newcastle. If you want an off the beaten path place with great views, consider a stop in Port Macquarie or Yamba as well. Hope that helps! Safe travels!

      1. Hi,
        Thank you for your reply. Have you stay in Newcastle? It is very near Port Stephens. There is a lot to do and see in Port Stephens so this is why I thought staying there but if you recommend Newcastle, do you recommend something to do there as well? Also, where is the best place to see whales and kangaroo ?? Thank you again for your suggestions.

  12. Thanks for a great post. A friend and I are looking at a Gold Coast to Sydney Trip. We would have 3 days. Leaving early Day 1, ideally arrive in Sydney mid-afternoon on Day 3. So 2 and a bit days really.

    Is there any route you would recommend? We of course won’t be able to go everywhere given the short time, but given we would rather tick something(s) off than nothing.

    Appreciate any help!

  13. Hi Oksana & Max!
    Thanks so much for the great information! My husband and I recently quit our jobs to travel the world, with hopes to be like the two of you! We are headed to Australia in a couple of weeks and your itinerary from Sydney to Brisbane inspired us to rent a car and see the sites along this route. We don’t have quite as much time as suggested, so we aren’t making all the stops, but are excited nonetheless! I am sure we will continue to reference your advice as we travel. Anyway, just wanted to stop by and say thank you!
    Cheers,
    Alli

  14. Hi, My husband along with my 2.5 year old daughter are planning a 7 day return trip from Sydney to Byron Bay. I want to stay in Byron Bay for 2 days and dont want to drive more than 3-3.5 hour with our toddler so could you please suggest where all we can stay on our way from Sydney to Byron Bay and return? I have few options in mind like Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Yamba, Forster but would love suggestions from experienced people like you.

    1. We particularly loved Port Macquarie and Yamba, so if you have to narrow it down to just 1 stop, look into accommodation options in either of these towns. Hope you find one that you love! Enjoy the trip!

  15. Best out of 6 links I opened.
    No need to look for any other link.
    Every nice thing between Sydney and Brisbane is covered here.
    On Stop Shop.
    Thank you.

  16. Catherine Woodroofe

    Hi, for the Sydney to Brisbane drive, what I think people should realise is that the Pacific Highway is not a coastal road. Following it north from Sydney, the first time you see the ocean is more than half way to Brisbane, between Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga. Otherwise, to see the ocean, you have to leave the highway and this may take an hour including the return to the highway. I would add South West Rocks (near Kempsey) and the nearby historic Trial Bay Goal and Smokey Cape lighthouse to the attractions. Near Coffs Harbour, the historic town of Bellingen, and the Waterfall Way from there to Dorrigo, deserves a mention. And for all those who want to be guaranteed to see Kangaroos, Emerald Beach, between Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga, is a safe bet.

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