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Plan your Brisbane to Sydney road trip stops with these essential stops for your driving adventure! From glorious beaches, Australian East Coast iconic landmarks and attractions and delicious eats. Map out your Brisbane to Sydney (or Sydney to Brisbane) driving itinerary with ease!
Essential Stops Between Brisbane and Sydney or Sydney and Brisbane
Time to get inspired with some of the most beautiful landscape, world-famous scenery and attractions the whole family will love as you drive the East Coast of Australia.
1. Gold Coast
Distance from Brisbane 80 KM | Distance from Sydney 836 KM
As you cross the NSW / QLD border your first stop has got to be the sunny Gold Coast! This is a brilliant stop for any family road trip, with so much to do and see the whole family will have a blast here!
Of course, the Gold Coast is known for its stunning beaches.
There are so many gorgeous beaches here including the famous surf beaches like Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads to areas with calm waters perfect for little ones like Tallebudgera Creek or Currumbin Valley.
As well as beaches though, the Gold Coast is famous for having a stack of family-friendly attractions, number one being its numerous theme parks. There is Dreamworld, SeaWorld, Movie World and Wet n Wild.
Distance from Brisbane 117 KM | Distance from Sydney 806 KM
About 60 to 90 minutes driving time from Brisbane, take the Kingscliff turn-off on the Pacific Highway and head for the quaint seaside village that is Kingscliff.
If you want to relax and unwind before you head further south to Sydney, this is the place to do it.
The Brisbane locals like to keep Kingscliff a secret. They can enjoy a great weekend getaway without having to contend with the hoards of overseas tourists, traffic, and skyscrapers that dominate the Gold Coast just up the road!
There are plenty of holiday apartments and motel units, but the Kingscliff Beach Holiday Park, right in the centre of town has newish beachfront cabins that are located as close to the surf as you can possibly get.
They have spacious decks for an evening drink or watching a stunning sunrise with your morning coffee.
There is a great range of cafes and restaurants in town. If it’s a pleasant evening, head to the surf club and sit outside on the deck for your evening meal.
The bowls club does a great Sunday champagne breakfast, and at the weekend there is usually live music at the newly renovated 1932 Kingscliff Beach Hotel.
If you need to stretch your legs there are plenty of walk options. There is a very pleasant five minute walk out to Fingal Head lighthouse, a 40-minute walk from Kingscliff to Salt Beach and miles of beach to stroll along.
Travel Tip: When you leave Kingscliff, drive south along the scenic coast road through Cabarita Beach, a small beachside village. And Hastings Point to Pottsville or Wooyung before you join back onto the M1.
WHERE TO EAT: The Beach House (casual and suitable for families)
Distance from Brisbane 168 KM | Distance from Sydney 759 KM
Byron Bay is a must do for anyone that loves beautiful, iconic beaches, good food and a unique, friendly vibe.
Somewhere between small, surf town, hippie hangout, chic design hub and backpacker paradise, Byron Bay has a bit of everything for everyone.
It’s all packaged into a walkable, nature-filled destination. You could spend a couple of nights (at one of the stylish Airbnb Byron Bay stays). Or hang out for a week at the backpacker, using it as a hub to explore the surrounding, hinterland region.
For family stays, we loved Discovery Parks Byron Bay, suitable for every budget. There is a water park, putt-putt and a playground for the kids.
A walk around the Cape Byron Lighthouse through the national park is a must. Here you will get to see some of the most amazing beach lookouts, native wildlife and stand on Australia’s most easterly point.
Start out with a swim at the famous Wategos Beach, tucked into a small, forest-clad bay with some of Australia’s most expensive real estate.
Walk around the point to “Little Wategos” to the natural rock pools which are perfect for an isolated swim.
Travel Tip: If you want to surf or learn to surf, there are some great beach options too. “The Pass” is a local favourite and is also home to one of Byron’s surf schools.
WHERE TO EAT: The Farm is a refurbished working shed that is now home to an amazing café and restaurant (Three Blue Ducks). You can walk around the property and see their fresh produce (including sunflowers during season).
WHERE TO STAY: “Paradiso Property” and “Summerset Byron Bay” Airbnb properties. From there, you can walk to shops, the beach and the lighthouse. If you’d prefer to ride, there are bicycle hire shops in town. Or check out Discovery Parks Byron Bay – perfect with kids!
-Vivien & Aaron from The Dharma Trails
Distance from Brisbane 278 KM | Distance from Sydney 657 KM
This tiny coastal town in NSW of just 6,000 people, took us by surprise. What we expected to be a small fishing town, is, in fact, a local’s favourite known for its excellent surf and stunning beaches like Yamba, Pippi, and Turners Beach.
It is not the liveliest beach destination but that works to its advantage. Its laid-back atmosphere is part of Yamba’s charm.
If you are up for a walk, don’t miss the two self-guided Yamba Historical Walks which meander along the coast past the Yamba Lighthouse.
Afterwards, learn more about the history of this small town at the Yamba Museum.
If you visit during the winter months make sure you scan the horizon for the whales which migrate past Yamba from May to October. Humpback whales can sometimes be seen performing their characteristic flips from shore.
WHERE TO EAT: For a sweet treat don’t miss the Yamba Creamery. This locally owned ice cream shop has a wide range of tasty flavours for the whole family.
Distance from Brisbane 537 KM | Distance from Sydney 361 KM
Port Macquarie must surely be an essential stop on your Australian East Coast road trip. It is a town with so much to see and do that you will be spoilt for choice.
Town Beach located near the centre of the town is a favourite spot and has everything you need. Toilet and shower facilities, a car park, a grassed area with shade, picnic spots and a tea and coffee kiosk.
Port Macquarie is perfect for all visitors but especially families with children.
Besides the expansive stretch of beach, you will find the boardwalk lined with colourfully painted rocks. A great place to walk and see the designs that people have painted in all kinds of different themes.
TIP:This is an activity the council promotes, so check out whether you can paint a rock while you are there.
For shopping enthusiasts head to Port Macquarie’s bustling high-street with its mixture of charming independent stores alongside larger chains. When you are all shopped out head to the Pancake Place for a delicious treat.
Of course, Port Macquarie boasts numerous water-based activities from fishing trips, dolphin spotting and kayaking tours, designed for all age groups.
If you are looking for something less strenuous then maybe a relaxing trip around the peninsula in a Chinese junk would suit you better – complete with breakfast, lunch or sundowners, depending on which cruise you choose!
As the evening draws in be prepared for the most amazing sunsets across the harbour. Pinks, blues and reds will change the sky into something quite unbelievable.
Add to that the swarms of bats that return to their roost each evening using Port Macquarie as their flight route. Quite a spectacle to witness.
Port Macquarie is definitely a stop that should be on your itinerary – you will love it!
WHERE TO EAT: The Beach House (casual and suitable for families)
Distance from Brisbane 634 KM | Distance from Sydney 307 KM
If you are looking for a family-friendly stop on the road between Sydney and Brisbane, Forsteris a great choice.
The town sits at the entrance to Wallis Lake where it meets the Pacific. The area is known as the Great Lakes and along with Wallis Lake includes Smiths Lake and Myall Lake a little south of time.
Nature lovers will enjoy checking out one or all three of the areas National Parks, Myall Lakes, Mungo Brush and Booti Booti National Parks.
Booti Booti would be my choice is you have to pick just one, home to Cape Hawke Lookout which offers 360-degree views.
Beach lovers are spoilt for choice with ten beaches to discover making it easy to find a spot to yourself.
Along with Forster beach and One Mile beach in town, there are also the hidden delights of Burgess beach and Lighthouse beach which require a bit of effort on foot or a four-wheel drive to reach.
TIP: Ignore the ‘r’ in Forster – it’s pronounced Foster
WHERE TO EAT: Beach Bums Café sits on the sand overlooking Forster’s main beach is a good breakfast choice. Along with winning views they offer affordable meals and great coffee. We love the Haloumi Breakfast burger; their porridge is also great!
For lunch or dinner, we suggest you try to local seafood at either Graham Barclay Oysters right on the river at Little Street or at the award-winning Beach Street Seafood which was awarded Best Fish and Chip Shop in NSW in 2018
WHERE TO STAY: Smugglers Coveis a top choice for families with excellent managers, and great facilities including putt-putt golf and a well-equipped communal kitchen area.
-Paula from Sydney Expert
9. Port Stephens
Distance from Brisbane 771 KM | Distance from Sydney 208 KM
Recommendation: The hike is best done first thing in the morning as it’s hard to take on the steep pathway in the midday heat. It’s the perfect spot to take in the coastline. The almost 360-degree panoramic views from the top are spectacular.
After your trek, you can see if you can spot the koalas at the volunteer-run Tilligerry Habitat Reserve, which is also home to many native birds, small wildlife and fauna.
Alternatively, head straight to one of the many beautiful beaches in the area. Zenith Beach and the C-shaped Fingal Bay are amongst the most beautiful.
Those interested in coastal walks can also hike between the two. Surfing, swimming and picnics are standard in this area.
For something more unique, head to Stockton Sand Dunes, the longest moving sand dunes in the Southern hemisphere!
You can camp here, go quad biking, on a jeep tour over the dunes, or try sandboarding. They reach up to 30 metres at an angle of 60 degrees.
Finally, Gan Gan Hill Lookout is a great place to see the sunset. Or finish the day chilling out at one of the relaxed beaches in Nelson’s Bay. There are many great eateries in this area to choose from too.
Distance from Brisbane 678 KM | Distance from Sydney 278 KM
Seal Rocks is a great possible last pit-stop before the final run down the Pacific Highway to Sydney. It’s around 4.5 hours up the coast from Sydney, and 2 hours north of Newcastle.
It has quite a different feel to many places along the Brisbane to Sydney route.
You can access it either from Forster to the north or Bulahdelah to the east, via The Lakes Way which runs through the lovely Myall Lakes National Park.
The last few kilometres of Seal Rocks Road, which leads to two of the beaches and the lighthouse, is gravel, and it’s usually passable in a 2WD vehicle, provided you stick to 15-20 km per hour.
When you emerge onto the coast, you’ve arrived in a patch of paradise. The first beach you arrive at is the appropriately named Number One Beach, a beautiful crescent of pristine golden sand.
A little further along, Boat Beach sweeps around to the headland beneath the landmark Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, the second easternmost in Australia. Climb the short hill to the summit for an amazing view down Lighthouse Beach. Further along to the right and south,
Seal Rocks has always been keen to preserve its relative isolation and quiet, laidback feel, so the place hasn’t become over-commercialised.
WHERE TO STAY:Seal Rocks Holiday Park, near Number One Beach, has cabins, powered sites and glamping, and it’s also possible to stay in three cottages up at Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse.
-David from Travel With Little One
Distance from Brisbane 770 KM | Distance from Sydney 163 KM
Whenever we drive from Sydney to Brisbane we love making a stop in Newcastle, which is a great first or last stop being 2.5 hours from Sydney.
Last time we visited we decided to stay for a few nights as there is just so much to see and do, and there are definitely a lot of great things to do in Newcastle with kids too.
Recommendation: We love visiting during the Summer months as Newcastle has some of the best beaches in Australia.
Merewether Beach on the north side of town is rumoured to hold the top spot, as well as some incredible ocean swimming baths. The surf gets big here so bring your board if you’re a keen surfer.
If you’re travelling with young kids, head to Nobbys Beach, where there is also a great lighthouse to visit, or the Merewether or Newcastle pools for safer swimming.
Our favourite indoor activity was the Newcastle Museum. The interactive kid’s area kept our little ones entertained for hours.
We also really enjoyed exploring the historic Fort Scratchley, built-in 1882, with amazing history to see and also magnificent views along the coastline.
There are some excellent playgrounds for the kids, such as Blackbutt Reserve with its adjacent wildlife park, and Speers Point Park, in nearby Lake Macquarie were our favourites.
WHERE TO EAT: Momo Wholefood for breakfast and lunch
Distance from Brisbane 865 KM | Distance from Sydney 95 KM
Just before you reach the Sydney metropolitan area, your last stop on the long drive should beBouddi National Park.
This little known national park is located south of Gosford, on the NSW Central Coast.
This area north of Sydney is fairly dense in population, however, the Bouddi National Park is a haven of peace and has some beautiful beaches and walking trails.
The park has a well-known coastal track, simply named the Bouddi National Park Coastal Walk. The trail progresses along the coast with a mix of fire trail, bush, beaches and coastal track, so it’s very diverse.
From McMasters Beach to Putty Beach, the track is 8,5km and is relatively easy.
Don’t miss a stop at Gerrin Point to take the beautiful views of the NSW Coast, and maybe a swim at Maitland Bay.
Another interesting feature is the tessellated pavement along the cliffs. The perfectly aligned pavers are quite a unique natural phenomenon.
Just off the boardwalk on the cliff, you can see some rock formations with beautiful colours. Perfect for some souvenir photos.
TIP: If you intend on staying a little longer close to Bouddi National Park, I recommend staying at McMasters Beach, a peaceful coastal community.
There are many beaches to discover in the area and it’s worth enjoying the sunshine in the area.
WHERE TO EAT: The Barefoot Café has some quality fare in a relaxed setting, right on the beach.
The kids will love a trip to Scenic World where you can experience family-friendly adventure.
Scenic World includes rainforest walks, the steepest railway in the world, and a cable car with panoramic views of Katoomba Falls, The Three Sisters, Mt Solitary and Jamison Valley.
For those seeking something even more adventurous, there is plenty of hiking, canyoning and abseiling tours to try in the Blue Mountains.
Katoomba is also home to the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre – a great educational activity for kids.
The Jenolan Caves is another popular destination in the Blue Mountains. Take a guided tour to learn about how these incredible caves were formed. Here you can also walk the scenic Jenolan River Track.
The Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens, located 45 minutes from Katoomba are a great way to spend a few relaxing hours. Take a walk around the gardens and spot a variety of wildlife in their natural habitat.
WHERE TO EAT: Echoes Restaurant for a meal with a view!
Of course, once you finish your Sydney road trip, you need some time exploring the New South Wales capital!
Sydney is one of the best places to visit in NSW, but not just because it’s the capital!
It’s a great family-friendly city, with plenty of iconic attractions and fun Sydney activities to keep the whole family entertained. Little ones will love the many wildlife experiences right in the city centre or taking a ride on a ferry.
There are plenty of beaches worth visiting when the weather is warm and accommodation options galore!
Sydney is the perfect place to spend a couple of days on a family trip!
Conclusion: Driving Brisbane To Sydney
You will have no shortage of inspiration for where to stop between Brisbane and Sydney, no matter which direction you are travelling! A road trip from Brisbane to Sydney is a great option for a family trip, with so many fun places to explore along the way!
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