Australia is a stunning country that has so much to offer. And with so many different cities and towns to visit, choosing the perfect destination for a trip can be a little overwhelming. That is why a classic Aussie road trip from Brisbane to Sydney is the perfect solution and a great alternative to the typical Great Ocean Road trip. (Of course you could just reverse that and drive from Sydney to Brisbane.)
A road trip in Australia is a great way to explore and discover a variety of out of the way destinations. You can do everything in your own time, you aren’t in a rush to make it to the airport or bus station, and you only have to worry about planning everything either.
So, if that sounds like the ideal vacation for you, sit back and grab a cup of coffee, because we are going down under! By the way, this trip can easily be integrated into a 3 week Australia trip.
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The Best Times To Go on a Brisbane to Sydney Drive
You will want to avoid Australia in the summer (December – February). It gets very busy because of school vacation, and it’s hot too. So, plan your Australia road trip over the shoulder seasons season like spring (September – November) and autumn (March to May). It’s quieter, the Australian weather is still stunning, and sometimes, you may well have a beach to yourself.
Classic Australian Road Trip Movies
Is there a better way to get hyped about your upcoming BNE to SYD adventure than to binge-watch a few of the most popular Australia road trip movies?
One of my favorites is “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert“. Its’s a story of three drag queens that are on a road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs. It’s a classic Guy Pearce movie, and definitely worth a watch.
Or how about the all-time Aussie classic: Mad Max? Mel Gibson spends most of his time driving around Australia, on a mission to stop a notorious motorcycle gang.
If you are in the mood for something more romantic, “Australia” is a drama that includes a more old-fashioned road trip in Australia. Instead of driving cars, the main character are riding cattle in this visually stunning movie with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.
Now that you have the mood all set for your Australia trip, let’s dive into the details. You can do this roadtrip from Brisbane to Sydney, or flip this plan backwards and do it in reverse, from Sydney to Brisbane. Either way works.
After all the Brisbane sightseeing, your Australia trip finally begins. Fill up the tank, load up on snacks and coffee and get on the road. The first stop on your road trip from Brisbane to Sydney is going to be in Gold Coast, which is only about an hour away from Brisbane via the M1 freeway.
This region is famous for its gorgeous sandy beaches, theme parks and epic surfing spots, so you will have plenty of things to do there. You can swim with dolphins at Sea World, go head to head with Batman at Movie World, or just go surfing at none other than Surfers Paradise. Yes, that is its real name.
Should you find yourself craving an adventure on dry land, make your way to Burleigh Heads. This area of Gold Coast has not only an amazing beachside location, but also a national park with plenty of hiking trails and a pretty rich wildlife. And, it’s the home of an awesome camping area – Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park. You could definitely spend the night there if you are looking to save some money on accommodation during the road trip.
Have a bigger budget? Why not stay at the Gold Coast BnB? It’s close to all the theme parks and it has a big pool, if you want to get away from the beach for a little while. But if you are looking for the hottest spot to stay in Gold Coast, I would definitely suggest the Sunbird Beach Resort. The suites in this skyscraper hotel are stunning and come with a mesmerizing view of the ocean.
One thing is for sure – whether you spend your time in here surfing the hours away or hiking with a view of the ocean, you will leave wanting more.
From Gold Coast we are heading to Byron Bay, a city named after John Byron, the grandfather of the famous British poet Lord Byron. The drive is short, about an hour and half at the most, with only 100 kilometers to cover on the M1.
When you arrive, the first thing you’ll want to do is check into a hotel. How about The Lord Byron? Named after the British poet, this hotel is just as fancy as he was. And it’s a very popular place to stay in town. But if you’re looking for something not as extravagantly priced and with plenty of opportunities to meet fellow travellers, check out the Byron Bay YHA, it’s popular with backpackers.
You could also set up camp at the Reflections Holiday Parks Clarkes Beach. It’s just minutes away from the Cape Byron Walking Track, which leads straight to the Cape Byron Lighthouse. And that’s a spot you must visit in this town, but definitely walk there – parking near the lighthouse is just ridiculously expensive and not worth it.
There is another spot in this town that is more than worth checking out – the most Eastern point of Australia mainland. Definitely go for a visit it after you’ve had enough of the beautiful Byron Beach, just remember to wear decent shoes. It’s steep walk up to it, and parking in the area is very limited.
There is going to be a little detour about halfway to Coffs Harbour, in Yamba. It’s a great place to stretch your legs a little and maybe go for a swim to recharge your batteries, before hitting the road again. There is still about 100 kilometers to cover before you make your way to Coffs Harbour, but that is only about an hour at Aussie driving speeds.
A fun fact about this city is that at one point, its economy mainly relied on bananas. And actually, a former name for the Coffs Harbour area was once the “Banana Coast”. So obviously, you just have to check out The Big Banana Fun Park, as cheesy as it may sound. It’s an amusement park with plenty of different activities for everyone, including laser tag and ice skating. So, if you are traveling with kids, it’s ideal.
You also can’t miss the Dolphin Marine Magic – an aquarium, where you can interact (and swim) with dolphins and seals! And there is an affordable hostel close to the aquatic park, the Coffs Harbour YHA Backpackers Resort. Its location is great because it is also very close to the Coffs Harbour International Marina and the Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve – two really important parts of this town.
You also have to go see Diggers Beach. It’s in a completely different part of the town, and it’s very close to the Banana Fun Park. You could also stay in this area of Coffs Harbour, especially if you are up for some higher-end accommodation. Check out the Aanuka Beach Resort – it’s inches away from the beach, and it also has some stunning pools.
But in general, Coffs Harbour accomodation is pretty affordable. There aren’t many expensive hotels, but there aren’t many dirt-cheap ones either. There is a campground (Coffs Harbour Camping & 4WD), but it’s pretty far away from all the other attractions in the town, so unless you are camping, I would stay closer to town.
From Coffs Harbour your next stop along your Australia trip is Port Macquarie, a little piece of heaven full of koalas, whales, forests and beaches. But before you get there, stop by the South West Rocks. You’ll arrive there from Coffs Harbour in about an hour, and the sight of the Trial Bay Gaol Beach will make it totally worth it. You’ll be posting it on Instagram in minutes!
Port Macquarie is famous for its gorgeous beaches and the Koala Hospital. Don’t worry – it’s not a traditional hospital. It offers tours, koala themed souvenirs and even a chance to “adopt” your very own koala! But you won’t really become a koala parent – the proceeds from purchase of adoption certificates are used to help treat injured koalas and release them into their natural habitats.
You could also go for a hike in the Australian rainforest. You might even spot whales if you go there during the whale watching season (May – November). Or go on a boat ride; they are very popular in Port Macquarie and are incredibly fun! Especially the Port Jet, which I managed to go on a few years back during very high swell!
What about places to stay? If you feel like splurging a little, get your Port Macquarie accommodation at the Ana Mandara Luxury BnB, on the Pelican Island. You’ll get a hot tub and a stunning view of the Hastings River and the coast along the North Shore. But if you would rather save some money, check out the Ramada Resort Flynns Beach as an affordable option.
If you are camping, I have a treat for you. Port Macquarie has a campground right in town, with views of the river and sea. Can’t get much better than that!
Our next stop (and the penultimate one) from Brisbane to Sydney is Forster, on the way to Newcastle. There are about 110 kilometers to cover, and you should arrive there in about an hour and a half. It’s lovely little town, famous for the One Mile Beach. It’s a great place for a swim or surf before you get back on the road to Newcastle.
Newcastle itself is famous for not only its stunning beaches, but also for Fort Scratchley, a 19th century fortress. You should also check out the Newcastle Memorial Walk. It’s an oceanside pathway, featuring artwork dedicated to WWII soldiers.
Newcastle and Surrounds
While you are in Newcastle, you can also check out some of the smaller towns in the Central Coast area. Nelson Bay is just outside of Newcastle, and it’s a great spot for a seaside hike. It is also worth it to stop by Lake Macquarie, which is very close to the city of Newcastle. The small town got its name from the nearby lake, a fisherman’s paradise.
You can also go to Nelson Bay, Warners Bay, Caves Beach or any other town that’s close by. Definitely make the most out of your days in Newcastle and try to see as much as you can, before you hit the road and make your way to Sydney.
If you’re a sports fan, you’ll also appreciate Hunter Stadium, home of the Newcastle Jets and Newcastle Knights (yes, Aussies love sport). Right next to it is Ibis Budget Hotel Newcastle, a great choice if you are looking for cheap accommodation. But if you’re in the mood for something with a little more style, get a room at Merewether Motel. It is still pretty affordable, but the rooms are a bit more stylish, and there’s a large outdoor pool.
And for the luxury lovers, there is the Arena Luxury Beachfront Apartment. This place is perfect for couples, but also for larger groups because it offers apartment-style accommodation. And it’s on the beach – what more could you need?
Newcastle To Sydney
The drive from Newcastle to Sydney is about 160 kilometers long, which you should be able to cover in about 2 hours. After driving for hundreds of miles, hanging out with koalas and dolphins and rediscovering the importance of bananas, you’ve finally make it to the home of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House – Sydney!
That concludes our epic Aussie road trip, which I hope was so fun for you that you’ll do it again! Maybe in reverse that time, from Sydney to Brisbane for something a little bit different?
Essential Tips on a East Coast Australia Road Trip
For driving along the Australian coast, you don’t need to hire a 4×4 unless for Australian Off Road Adventures away from the typical coastal routes and inland. A normal rental car will do, such as one from Sixt. Don’t forget the insurance for your car and travel and health insurance for yourself!
While you will be able to access WiFi with your sim card along the entirety of the East Coast Australia road trip and the cities have free WiFi hotspots, you might want to get a portable hotspot. Wifi in Australia isn’t that great and especially if you don’t want to buy a local sim card and figure out which plans are best for you, a WiFi hotspot is a great option.
When exploring the Australia East Coast, no matter if it’s on your Brisbane to Sydney drive or elsewhere, be sure to always bring enough water, sunscreen, UV protected sunglasses and a hat with you. The sun radiation even on cloud days is nothing to joke about and you can feel your skin sizzling. People easily turn a pronounced lobster colour. By the way, the UV radiation even enters through your car window. So wear your sunscreen inside your car as well.
Which stops for a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney would you have picked?
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