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A road trip up the east coast of Australia is a rite of passage for any traveller heading Down Under. This Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary highlights the best attractions along this beautiful coastal route.

While there are plenty of tours available, a self drive in a car or campervan with a group of friends will allow you to discover the amazing beaches, unspoilt national parks and bohemian country towns in New South Wales and Queensland, dotted between the popular drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast.

The abundance of camping grounds and caravan parks mean this journey is also a cheap option for backpackers. And since this is such a popular route, the roads are well kept, you’re never too isolated, and it’s a safe and easy self drive for first-time travellers.

This Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary includes all the campsites I stayed at, along with costs, driving times and distance between stops to help plan your journey and ensure you don’t miss a thing!

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A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.

Sydney to Brisbane Drive Itinerary Summary

Here’s an overview of my recommended Sydney to Brisbane drive stops!

1. Sydney

2. Newcastle

3. Port Stephens

4. Myall Lakes

5. Port Macquarie

6. South West Rocks

7. Bellingen

8. Coffs Harbour

9. Yamba

10. Byron Bay

11. Brisbane


Sydney to Brisbane Drive Itinerary: Distance, Driving Time & Costs

The Sydney to Brisbane distance by coastal road is 925km, and the driving time is around 10.5 hours. You’ll need to add extra on if you want to detour into all of the towns and national parks that I’ve listed below though. The petrol cost came to $222.

If you’re in a hurry and want a 2-day itinerary, I’d recommend stopping at either Coffs Harbour or Port Macquarie overnight as these are about halfway between Sydney and Brisbane. I’d also stop for lunch at Port Stephens on day 1 and Byron Bay on day 2 as these are two of the main attractions.

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Exploring beautiful Port Stephens

To get from Sydney to Brisbane in 3 days, I’d stop overnight at Port Macquarie and Byron Bay. I would have a lunch stop at Port Stephens on day 1, Coffs Harbour on day 2 and spend most of day 3 in Byron Bay as it’s only two hours away from Brisbane.

If you have the time though, I’d recommend at least a week to fully appreciate this beautiful coastline. I spent two weeks on my Sydney to Brisbane road trip, which was at quite a leisurely pace with two nights at most of the areas listed below.

So, here goes… my ultimate list of places to visit and amazing things to see on your journey from Sydney to Brisbane!



Sydney to Brisbane Drive Stops

Here are the details of my recommended drive stops from Sydney to Brisbane, along with budget accommodation options. 

1. Sydney

Whether you’re starting or ending your road trip in Sydney, make sure you allow at least a few days there, as it’s a beautiful city with plenty to do. For avtivity ideas, browse through my Sydney blog posts, or start off with the following post to get you started:

15 Things to Do in Sydney

Sydney lookout at Bondi Beach
Amazing view at Bondi Icebergs in Sydney

Accommodation:

As the largest city in Australia, Sydney has a huge variety of places to stay. Have a browse through Sydney accommodation on Booking.com which has over 2,000 options, including hotels, hostels and more. 

HOSTELS:

Here are a couple of hostels I stayed at when I first arrived in Sydney.

Casa Central – Chippendale, Sydney

This is a small, family-run hostel near Central Station for those looking for somewhere quieter. Dorms start at $30 per bed.

Rooftop Travellers Lodge – Glebe, Sydney

This is a large, cheaply priced hostel in arty Glebe with fairly new, well-equipped rooms and great rooftop views. Dorm beds start at $26.

AIRBNB:

Airbnb can be a great option in Australia, particularly if two of you are sharing a room. Here’s my link for $55 off your first Airbnb stay, if you haven’t already signed up.


2. Newcastle

Newcastle is a major NSW city that’s worth pencilling in for an overnight stay. It’s often said to be Australia’s most underrated city. While it has an industrial past, there are plenty of beautiful and interesting sights here, from great beaches and a wildlife sanctuary to funky cafes and restaurants.

 10 Things to Do in Newcastle

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Newcastle Foreshore

On the way:

Central Coast: This stunning coastal area halfway between Sydney and Newcastle has some beautiful beaches and a real holiday vibe. It’s easy to reach as a day or weekend trip from Sydney too. Read the following blog posts for more information:

What to See at Umina Beach and the Woy Woy Peninsula

How to Spend a Weekend at The Entrance

Distance:

Sydney to Newcastle: 161km – 2 hrs

Accommodation:

HOSTELS:

Newcastle Beach YHA – this hostel is centrally located and only a two-minute walk to the beach. Plus it has great reviews. Dorm beds start at $42 per night.

CAMPING:

Stockton Beach Holiday Park – a large campsite and caravan park with modern facilities (I stayed here, and was very impressed) right on the beach at Stockton, Newcastle. Tent sites start at $38 per night. You can either drive to the city from here or hop on the ferry!


3. Port Stephens

The Port Stephens region is absolutely stunning, and somewhere I’d love to go back to during the summertime; it’s definitely one of my favourite areas between Sydney and Brisbane.

Nelson Bay town has all you need in terms of shops and cafes, and the beaches and rolling green hills here are gorgeous. Make sure you do the 2.2km return Tomaree Head Summit Walk to see the amazing view in the photo below!

Port Stephens Attractions: Sunsets to Sand Dunes

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Looking down on Zenith Beach from the lookout at Tomaree National Park

On the way:

Worimi National Park/Stockton Sand Dunes: These huge streaky sand dunes between Newcastle and Port Stephens are well worth seeing. Although it was cold and windy when I visited, the dark, rolling clouds made for some very dramatic pictures!

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Moody skies over Woromi Sand Dunes

Distance:

Newcastle to Nelson Bay: 61km – 1 hr

Accommodation:

Shoal Bay Holiday Park – there are three holiday parks in Port Stephens run by the same company. We looked at all three and decided Shoal Bay had the best facilities with the indoor kitchen and lounge/TV room (important when you’re tent camping and it’s raining)! Tent sites start from $34 per night.


4. Myall Lakes National Park

If you’re not on a tight schedule, Myall Lakes is a beautiful place to bush camp. It’s a very quiet area but the scenery is stunning, particularly at sunset. We camped at Mungo Brush, which is on a narrow strip of land with White Tree Bay on one side and the beach and sand dunes on the other.

Mungo Brush Camping: Explore Myall Lakes

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Sunset at Mungo Brush Camping Ground

The beach at Mungo Brush here was so impressive that it made it into this blog post:

Top 25 Beautiful Beaches in NSW

Distance:

Nelson Bay to Mungo Brush: 112km – 1 hr 40 min

Accommodation:

Mungo Brush Campground – a basic bush campground in a beautiful setting starting at $16 per site per night.


5. Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie is a pretty NSW town at the mouth of the Hastings River. It’s a popular holiday destination with a choice of beaches and lush greenery, and worth pencilling into your Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary.

My favourite aspect was the breakwall with all the painted rocks! We also had a great meal at The Beach House, which is right on the waterfront and walking distance from the caravan park.

Things to Do in Port Macquarie

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Painted rocks at Port Macquarie breakwall

On the way:

Booti Booti National Park: Be sure to stop by the Green Cathedral in Tiona.  This open-air cathedral set on the Wallis Lake has logs for pews and a canopy of trees for a roof! Surely any nature lover’s dream wedding location!

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
The Green Cathedral, Tiona

Forster: This is another pretty holiday town in NSW. The beach is beautiful and Belton Park is a lovely spot for a picnic, with pelicans wandering around!

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
View from Belton Park, Forster

Distance:

Mungo Brush to Port Macquarie: 168km – 2 hrs 30 min

Accommodation:

Port Macquarie Breakwall Holiday Park – a waterfront camping and caravan park with tent sites starting at $37 per night.


6. South West Rocks

South West Rocks is a beautiful town that makes a great drive stop on your Sydney to Brisbane road trip, particularly if you’re into diving.

Fish Rock Cave has been voted one of the top ten dives in Australia. The walking tracks at Monument Hill and Trial Bay Gaol are great to explore too. I spotted kangaroos boxing one evening!

South West Rocks Guide

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
The beach at South West Rocks

On the way:

Gladstone: This tiny town in NSW isn’t an obvious stopping point, but it’s a really cute place with a pretty riverside area that’s perfect for a picnic.

The thing that surprised me was the creativity: for an olde-worlde town with a tiny main street it had a couple of gorgeous boutiques and the only alfresco hairdressers I’ve ever seen in my life at Roxy’s Boutique Studio! There’s also the Heritage Hotel of Gladstone if you want to nip to the pub.

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Roxy’s Boutique Studio, Gladstone, NSW

Crescent Head: For a scenic detour head to Crescent Head, a beachside community and surfing paradise.

Distance:

Port Macquarie to South West Rocks: 82km – 1 hr

Accommodation:

Big4 Sunshine South West Rocks Holiday Park – an extremely cool holiday park perfect for families as well as backpackers. There’s a pirate-themed swimming pool, games room, huge kitchen, lots of available activities and generally great facilities. Tent sites start at $38 per night.

Trial Bay Gaol Campground – if you prefer bush camping to caravan parks, you can stay in Arakoon National Park right on the waterfront. I didn’t stay here but it caught my eye when I visited Trial Bay. Tent sites start from $31 per night.


7. Bellingen

Ahh Bellingen. This quaint little town slightly inland of the NSW coastline really made an impression on me. Full of arty cafes, eclectic shops and a wonderfully creative vibe, I’d highly recommend adding this bohemian beauty to your Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary.

Make sure you walk out to The Old Butter Factory, which has been converted into boutiques and art galleries as well as housing a leather maker. The Hammond and Wheatley Emporium, a 19th century department store in town, is pretty cool too.

Guide to Bellingen NSW

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Coffee at Bellingen Gelato

If you do make it out to Bellingen, you should take a detour further inland to Dorrigo National Park and do the rainforest walk to Crystal Showers Falls – absolutely beautiful.

On the way:

Nambucca Heads: Set at the mouth of the Nambucca River, Nambucca Heads is a beautiful green area with great waterside views and white beaches. There’s also a painted break wall like at Port Macquarie. I only passed through for a quick look at sunset, but it seemed like a really relaxing place to stop at.

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Painted break wall at Nambucca Heads

Distance:

South West Rocks to Bellingen: 95km – 1 hr 20 min

Accommodation:

Bellingen Showground – showgrounds are popular places to camp at in Australia, providing there’s not a show on. You’ll need your own stove but there are bathrooms you can use. Prices start at $10 for a single person and $18 for a couple.


8. Coffs Harbour

While Coffs Harbour is well known for its tacky Big Banana sculpture at the fun park, it also has beautiful, serene beaches and so much surrounding greenery. There’s plenty to do in the city too, so it makes a great drive stop if you need to stock up on supplies or have a break from the wilderness.

Make sure you nip up to the Forest Sky Pier at Sealy Lookout for a drive through the banana plantations and to see the amazing views. There are walking tracks up there too.

Things to Do in Coffs Harbour

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
North Wall Beach, Coffs Harbour

Distance:

Bellingen to Coffs Harbour: 35km – 40 min

Accommodation:

Sapphire Beach Holiday Park – this beachside camping and caravan park is a ten-minute drive north of Coffs Harbour city centre, and has a really fancy pool area. Tent sites start at $30 per night.


9. Yamba

A coastal holiday town at the mouth of the Clarence River, Yamba has lovely beaches, plenty of cafes and restaurants and a mild climate all year round. It makes a pleasant drive stop between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. There’s also nearby Angourie to explore, with its famous green and blue pools.

Guide to Yamba & Angourie NSW

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Whiting Beach, Yamba

On the way:

Ulmarra: I randomly stopped at this tiny town for a break, and I was so glad I did! It’s a National Trust village full of 19th century buildings, art and craft stores and an old-fashioned book shop.

The Ulmarra Hotel has a gorgeous café with beautiful gardens facing directly onto the Clarence River – perfect for a coffee. The town is only 150m off the Pacific Highway so easily reached.

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
River views from the Ulmarra Hotel café gardens

Maclean: This little “Scottish” town is worth stopping at, with its tartan-painted power poles and historical town centre.

Distance:

Coffs Harbour to Yamba: 139km – 1 hr 45 min

Accommodation:

Fishing Haven Caravan Park – this riverside holiday park is in a beautiful, quiet location and only five minutes away from Yamba. Tent sites start at $30 per night.


10. Byron Bay

This is the biggie. However long or short your Sydney to Brisbane road trip will be, you absolutely have to stop at Byron Bay. I met so many travellers who’d been living here for months and didn’t want to leave! It’s just one of those very special places.

Byron is a coastal town known for its hippy vibe, but you don’t have to be a hippy to appreciate it. The beaches are absolutely stunning; it’s surrounded by gorgeous hinterland; the shops are unique and artistic, and everyone’s friendly. From backpackers to Aussies taking their annual holidays, Byron Bay is so popular and has a certain magic about it.

You can surf, hike, laze on the beach, listen to buskers on the grass by the ocean, eat and drink at a wide choice of bars and restaurants, or simply join the chilled-out crowd every evening and watch the sun go down to the sound of bongos.

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
A gorgeous Byron Bay sunset

On the way:

Lake Ainsworth: This tea tree-stained dunal lake at Lennox Head is a pretty place to stop if you take the coastal road up to Byron Bay instead of the Highway.

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Lake Ainsworth

Distance:

Yamba to Byron Bay: 125km – 1 hr 40 min

Accommodation:

Arts Factory Lodge – this place is more of a community than a casual place to stay – the kind of place people arrive at and never leave. There’s a choice of accommodation, from tent camping in “the jungle” to hostel dorms, teepees and cabins by the lake. There’s also a swimming pool, live music and workshops such as didgeridoo making. Tent sites start at $15 per night and dorm beds at $25. Oh, and you might recognise it from The Inbetweeners 2 movie!


11. Brisbane

Brissie! My first taste of Australia was living in Brisbane as an exchange student many years ago, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

Be sure to check out South Bank for the man-made beach and lagoon, pretty parkland, art gallery and cool cafes and restaurants; Fortitude Valley for nightlife; Mount Coot-tha for aerial views; and the pretty City Botanic Gardens on the riverside.

15 Fun Things to Do in Brisbane

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
View of Brisbane CBD from South Bank

On the way:

Gold Coast: Australia’s Gold Coast is famous for its amazing beaches, excellent surf and vibrant nightlife – on my student exchange year in Brisbane this was our go-to destination on the weekend.

But there’s plenty more on offer than the sky scrapers and busy shops of Surfers Paradise. For a less tacky time try visiting Burleigh Beach or Coolangatta.

Gold Coast 3-Day Itinerary on a Backpacker Budget

A useful Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary to help plan your road trip along east coast Australia. Discover the most beautiful coastal attractions in NSW and Queensland that lie between the well-known drive stops such as Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Find out the the distance and driving times between them, as well as costs and recommended campsites.
Surfers Paradise

Distance:

Byron Bay to Brisbane: 166km – 1 hr 50 min

Accommodation:

Aussie Way Backpackers – if you’re looking for a quieter place to stay in Brisbane, I loved this cute little hostel in a heritage-listed, colonial home with dorm beds from $26. Try Fortitude Valley if you’re more into the party scene.


However short or long your Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary will be, you’ll have an unforgettable time along this stretch of coastline. If you’re heading south check out my other drive itineraries:

Perth to Adelaide Drive Itinerary

Adelaide to Melbourne Drive Itinerary via the Great Ocean Road

Melbourne to Sydney Drive Itinerary

Let me know in the comments if you’re planning on taking this road trip, or if I’ve missed off any hidden gems!