Road Trip Brisbane - Sydney

Brisbane to Sydney: The Ultimate Road Trip Planner

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Australia is a vast country with endless natural beauty to explore. All you need is your own transport, a pair of hiking boots, and a surfboard and you’re guaranteed to have one of the best trips of your life! 

Taking a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney is a great way to see the best of Australia’s East Coast. Almost 1000km of incredible coastline stretches between these two capital cities. There are stunning national parks and tons of cool coastal towns to explore. 

There is so much to see over such a large area in Australia that a little planning goes a long way. We’ve put together this Brisbane to Sydney road trip planner to share the best of our epic road trip with you!

Why take a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney?

Tip: Click in the left top corner of the interactive road map above to view all the stops. Click on one of the stops to start navigation.

As soon as we arrived in Australia, we knew we would find it hard to leave. Our trip to Australia ended up lasting a year and a half. We saw as much of the country as we possibly could, including a road trip around Tasmania in our self-converted campervan. 

We traveled the entire east coast of Australia from Cape Tribulation to Melbourne and the stretch from Brisbane to Sydney was a highlight! We took our time exploring the area around Brisbane City and stayed in Sydney for a few months. Coffs Harbour was one of our favorite stops on this trip, it’s such a laid-back, relaxed place. If you’re thinking of traveling north from Brisbane, also check out our route guide from Brisbane to Cairns.

And if like us, you love to surf, this road trip from Brisbane to Sydney is for you. The closer you get to Sydney the more attractive the beaches become and the less chance there is that you’ll meet a shark or crocodile. There are also many Ocean pools along this coastline – rock pools filled with ocean water – which are fantastic!

To help you to plan your perfect trip from Brisbane to Sydney we’ve put together our ultimate road trip planner, complete with distance, driving time, things to do, and places to stay. Enjoy!

Ultimate road trip planner –  Brisbane to Sydney

In this guide we’ve set out the route from Brisbane to Sydney. But if you are in Sydney now and want to travel to Brisbane, you can obviously use it as well, just by turning it around!

The Gold Coast

  • Distance & driving time: 114kms (71 miles), 1 hour 53 minute drive (with a detour to Tamborine Mountain)
  • Route: Via the M1 out of Brisbane, Highway 92 to Tamborine then Highway 95 to Gold Coast 
  • Time to spend here: 3 to 4 days

The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s largest cities and one of the most desirable places to live in the world! There are endless things to do in the Gold Coast and its surrounding area so you get the best of the city and the natural world in one place.

On your way to the Gold Coast don’t forget to make a little detour to Tamborine Mountain. This is a great place for hiking or zip lining. On a clear day from the top of the mountain you’ll be provided with views that stretch all the way from Moreton Bay to Tweet heads, with Brisbane in between.

What to do at the Gold Coast 

  • Start by visiting Tamborine Mountain on your way from Brisbane, summit the Tamborine plateau, or stay after dark for a Glow Worm tour. 
  • Back in the city, get your bearings with a Jet Boating Tour or a gentle river cruise.
  • Hit the beach for surfing lessons or a jet-skiing session.
  • For a more peaceful experience in the water go on a Dolphin adventure or whale watching tour.
  • On your next day, leave the city and go hiking in Springbrook National Park famous for its lookouts and waterfalls
  • Or visit Lamington National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site where you can explore the rainforest via a treetop suspension bridge.

Where to stay in the Gold Coast

TIP: You may also find places to free camp during your road trip from Brisbane to Cairns. Check out our post on free camping in Australia to find out more. 

Byron Bay

  • 89kms (55 miles), 1 hour 23 minute drive 
  • Via the Gold Coast highway 
  • 2 days

Byron Bay is known as the gem of New South Wales and that for you should definitely make a stop here during your road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. Byron Bay is also Australia’s easternmost mainland town. The best thing about Byron Bay is its endless beaches and rich marine life. A great place to chill out for a few days.

What to do 

  • Head straight to the beach when you arrive and take a sea kayaking tour
  • Return to dry land for a wildlife tour to spot koalas, kangaroos, and more in the Byron Shire area. 
  • Go bar-hopping and enjoy some music in Byron Bay’s live music venues.
  • Explore the bay on a paddleboard or sit back on a sunset river cruise
  • Be sure to take some time to lie on the beach and sunbathe.

Where to stay

  • Budget: Cape Byron YHA Hostel, close to Main beach (from US$66 per night for a double room, also dorms available)
  • Midrange: Glen Villa Resort, close to Main beach (from US$104 per night for a studio cabin, cheaper options available with shared bathroom)

Tip: Book your stays with Hotels.com and get a free night for every 10 nights you book.

Ballina

  • 30kms (18.7 miles), 30 minute drive
  • Via Byron Bay Road and the Coast Road
  • Overnight

Ballina is a great stop-off between Byron Bay and Yamba. You can enjoy a restful night in a quintessential Australian New South Wales beach town. Far from the tourist centers of the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, you can enjoy a seafood dinner and a walk along the beach.

Where to stay

Yamba 

  • 93kms (58 miles), 1 hour and 4 minute drive
  • Pacific Motorway
  • 1 day

Yamba is another great stop-over during your road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. It has some fantastic, secluded beaches like Main Beach, Pippi Beach, and Turner Beach. But its real charm lies in its more unusual attractions, like the river market. And don’t forget to do a refreshing dive in the Yamba Rock Pool.

What to do 

  • Visit Yamba’s River Market
  • Go deep-sea fishing
  • Visit Yamba is Angourie’s Blue Pool. This rock quarry was transformed into a freshwater pool where you can take a refreshing swim after the 10km hike from Yamba Town.

Where to stay

  • Budget/Midrange: Yamba Central, in the city centre (from US$70 for a double room, dorms are also available)
  • Budget/Midrange: Pacific Hotel Yamba (from $69 for a double room, dorms are also available)

It may also be possible to find places to camp for free around Yamba

Minnie Water

  • 108kms (67 miles), 1 hour, 29 minute drive
  • Big River Way
  • 1 day

Minnie Water is another of NSW’s secluded beach towns. Great for an overnight stay to rest and recharge, Minnie Water has a holiday park with cabins and cheap bushland campground available. 

Woolgoolga

  • 78.5kms (49 miles), 54 minute drive
  • Pacific Highway
  • 1 to 3 days

Located on the Coffs Coast, Woolgoolga beach is popular with surfers and kayakers. The area’s rugged headland is a famous whale-watching spot so you can catch glimpses of these sea creatures without getting your feet wet! Woolgoolga is also close to Sherwood Nature Reserve for bushwalking and local wildlife spotting. 

What to do 

  • Take a long coastal walk. Choose the length of walk you prefer by picking destinations from Coffs Jetty, Sawtell Headland, Woolgoolga Headland and Emerald Beach Headland. Don’t forget to look out for whales!
  • If you’re visiting on the second Saturday of the month, check out Woolgoolga beach market. 
  • Drive out to Sherwood Nature Reserve, hike to waterfalls, and spot native birds. 
  • Visit Two Tails Winery for a tasting session. 30 minutes from Woolgoolga. 

Where to stay

  • Budget: Woopi backpackers, in the city centre and close to the beach (from US$50 for a double room, dorms also available)
  • Midrange: Beach motel Woolgoolga, in the city centre and close to the beach (from US$96 for a double room)

There are also a few bush campgrounds located in Yuragir National Park. Try Station Creek, Boorkoom or Pebbly Beach. 

Coffs Harbour

  • 25.3kms (16 miles), 20 minute drive
  • Pacific Highway 
  • 1 to 3 days

Only 20 minutes from Woolgoolga, you’ll find Coffs Harbour when road-tripping from Brisbane to Sydney. This is a small coastal city with lots to see and do. You’ll find some stunning beaches and incredible ocean pools. Visitors love Coffs Harbours fishing tours and seafood dinners but it’s also worth moving inland to explore nearby countryside and rainforest. 

What to do 

  • See the coastline standing up with a paddleboard session
  • Drive to Bellingen and buy local gifts and snacks at the Bellingen Park Market (on the third Saturday of each month).
  • Visit the lush rainforest of Dorrigo National Park
  • Eat out at the Jetty Strip, the locals favorite spot for cafes and restaurants
  • Go whale watching!
  • Visit the Sawtell Memorial Rock Pool

Where to stay

  • Budget/Midrange: Pier Hotel Coffs Harbour, in the center and close to the jetty (from US$ 76 per night for a double room)

Tip: Book your stays with Hotels.com and get a free night for every 10 nights you book.

Nambucca Heads

  • 46.9kms (29 miles), 37 minute drive
  • Pacific Highway and Giinagay Way
  • 1 day

Located at the mouth of the Nambucca River, Nambucca Heads is a perfect jumping-off point to explore Gaagal Wanggaan (South Beach) National Park. When making a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney you definitely want to get out of the car every now and then. Nambucca Heads is a perfect place to stretch your legs and chill out!

What to do 

  • Have a BBQ at Shelley Beach
  • Look for humpback whales at Captain Cook Lookout
  • Kayak in Warrell Creek
  • Read some inspiring texts at the colorful V wall, or leave your own quote behind!
  • Hike in the forests of Gaagal Wanggaan National Park

Where to stay

Port Macquarie

  • 211kms (131 miles), 2 hour, 20 minute drive
  • Pacific Highway
  • 2 days

Port Macquarie is one of Australia’s most popular vacation destinations and it’s easy to see why. This coastal town has 17 beaches, tons of accommodation options and unusual attractions like the Koala Hospital. Worth visiting at any time of year. 

What to do 

  • Splash out on a scenic helicopter flight
  • Visit the Koala Hospital for a Walk and Talk tour
  • Up the pace of your trip by hiring a jet ski
  • Take a drive out to nearby hinterland villages and enjoy a long hike through the Wauchope, Byabarra, Comboyne, Ellenborough, Wingham, or Taree regions
  • Finish up your trip in Port Macquarie’s famous luxury day spa

Where to stay

  • Budget: Ozzie Pozzie Backpackers, close to the center (from US$41 for a twin room with a shared bathroom, also rooms with private bathroom available)
  • Midrange: Flynn Beach Ocean Gateway, close to the Koala hospital and Flynns beach (from US$105 for a double room)

There are also campsites located on the coastline of Limeburners National Park, a short drive from Port Macquarie 

Forster

  • 117 kms (72.7 miles), 1 hour 36 minute drive
  • Ocean Drive and Pacific Highway
  • Overnight stay

Forester is a hidden gem on your Brisbane to Sydney road trip. This town is home to some of the emptiest and most beautiful beaches in Australia! So, make sure to bring your swimsuit and arrive on time in this cozy town to be able to enjoy all the beauty it has to offer. And don’t forget to pass by the Forester Ocean Baths for a dip in the ocean while the waves are crashing over the walls of the pool.

What to do 

  • Take the 25km Wallingat Forest Drive through Wallingat National Park 
  • Visit the Golf and Tennis clubs at Forster-Tuncurry for an afternoon of sporting action
  • Dip in the Forester Ocean Baths to cool off
  • Take an Oyster Farm boat tour then eat the famous local Wallis Lake Oysters for dinner

Where to stay

  • Budget/Midrange: Bali Hi, close to 9 mile beach (from US$55 for a double room)

Port Stephens & Nelson Bay

  • 165 kms (103 miles), 2 hours and 5 minutes
  • The Lakes Way and Pacific Highway
  • 1 to 3 days

Port Stephens is a vast, gorgeous bay known for its incredible biodiversity. The sunny weather lasts all year round here. The beaches here are among the nicest on this list but nearby Tomaree National Park, with its Koala colonies and gorgeous vistas, is the real draw.

What to do 

  • Take an ultimate sandboarding and 4WD dune tour at Port Stephens of Stockton Bight 
  • Hike the Tomaree Headland for the best 360-degree view in the area
  • Head to the Hunter Valley (a 1.5 hour drive), Australia’s premier wine-growing region. As well as visiting wineries, you can take a hot air balloon ride!
  • While you’re out there, spend a peaceful afternoon at Hunter Region Botanic Gardens
  • Visit Shoal Bay, a 2.5km stretch from Nelson Headland to Tomaree Headland, to swim, kayak, and sunbathe.

Where to stay 

  • Budget/Midrange: Peninsula Nelson Bay, close to Nelson Bay lighthouse (from US$81 per night for a double room)

Newcastle

  • 60 kms (37 miles), 56 minutes 
  • Nelson Bay Rd
  • 2 days

A fascinating city located an hour south of Nelson’s Bay and a few hours from Sydney, Newcastle is well worth a few days of your trip. Popular surfing beaches and laid-back coastal life compete with city attractions like museums, microbreweries, and heritage sites. Visitors to Newcastle will find tons to explore. 

What to do 

  • Get your bearings early with a 2.5 hour Newcastle harbor and sightseeing cruise
  • Get your culture fix with an afternoon spent wandering around Newcastle Museum and Newcastle Art Gallery
  • Take a dip in the Bogey Hole, an ocean rock pool hand-cut by convicts in the 1820s
  • GO hiking in Hunter Wetlands National Park, an area of stunning biodiversity
  • Take your adventure travel to the next level with a Newcastle Beach tandem skydive
  • If you haven’t yet had your fill of surfing, visit Mereweather Beach, home of international surfing competition, Surfest.

Where to stay

  • Budget: Newcastle Beach YHA, close to Newcastle Beach and Newcastle Ocean Pools (from US$71 for a twin room, also dorms available)
  • Midrange: Terminus Apartment Hotel, close to foreshore park (from US$124 for a double room)

Sydney

  • 169 kms (105 miles), 3 hour drive
  • Pacific Highway, A49 and Central Coast highway
  • 2-3 days

Sydney! The end of your road trip all the way from Brisbane. You might be happy, you might be sad. But either way I hope you’ve saved some energy to explore one of the most iconic cities in the world. Sydney’s world-class cultural venues host a busy calendar of events and the city’s restaurants pull in tourists from around the world. Lush national parks are only a short drive away and, of course, Sydney’s beaches are spectacular. Dive in! 

What to do 

  • Explore the city on arrival with a group cycle tour, one of our favorite ways to get our bearings. 
  • You can’t visit Sydney without a tour of the Sydney Opera House
  • Walk one of the many Sydney walks to explore the city on foot
  • Skywalk the Sydney Tower Eye
  • Spend a peaceful afternoon at the Royal Botanic Gardens with great views on the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge
  • Escape the crowds at Bondi Beach by visiting Bronte Beach and its outdoor swimming spot, Bronte Baths. 

Where to stay

Tip: Book your stays with Hotels.com and get a free night for every 10 nights you book.

Optional detour on your Brisbane to Sydney road trip: Blue Mountains National Park

  • 80 km (50 miles), 1 hour 45 minute drive
  • Western Motorway

If you’re not quite ready to let your road trip from Brisbane to Sydney come to an end, consider this optional detour to Blue Mountains National Park. A World Heritage area, Blue Mountains National Park is one million hectares in size. Visitors to this area of New South Wales find it hard to leave without exploring the cliffs, canyons, waterfalls and forests that make up this enchanting national park. There are endless hiking trails to explore and camping available, so you can easily spend a couple of days or even weeks here.

Are you ready to discover more about Australia? Check out more of our Australia posts!

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