Explore the sparkling beaches and lush hinterland of the Central Coast, the wineries of the Hunter Valley and the picturesque inlets of Port Stephens. Work on your swing in a rainforest golf course on the Coffs Coast and your aura on the beach in Byron Bay. Dive with brightly coloured fish in Solitary Islands Marine Park or into the bright lights of the Gold Coast. This scenic drive takes you from Sydney to Brisbane, offering sweeping beaches, sleepy villages, mossy rainforests, adventure and relaxation along the way.
Sydney - Central Coast - Hunter Valley - Port Stephens - Coffs Harbour - Byron Bay - Gold Coast
Sydney to Central Coast
Head out of Sydney’s leafy northern suburbs to the Central Coast, where you can bushwalk in Bouddi National Park, surf in Avoca and fish from the beach in Terrigal. Follow the Coast Walking Track through pretty Bateau Bay and wander the protected beaches and wildlife-rich hinterland of Toowoon Bay. Further north, fish and feed pelicans from the ocean beaches of The Entrance. Go canoeing, waterskiing, sailing, rowing and sailboarding on Tuggerah Lake or ride a bike around its shores. Heading inland, you can take a ferry or chartered yacht to Brisbane Water National Park, where the bushwalks lead you past Aboriginal art and vibrant wildflowers. When you’ve finished exploring, stay overnight in your favourite Central Coast town.
Central Coast to Hunter Valley
Drive through Newcastle and stop to surf at Nobby's Beach, swim at Bar Beach, hang-glide at Dixon Park or scuba dive the many wrecks near Newcastle Harbour. Relax with lunch at a café along the boardwalk or at Queens Wharf, before heading to the vines of the Hunter Valley. Sample the region’s flagship semillion and shiraz at 120 wineries, including established names like McGuigan, Tyrrell, Tulloch and Drayton. Buy straight from cellar doors in the rolling hills of Lovedale and taste handcrafted-wines in Broke, a tranquil village surrounded by olive groves and the Yellow Rock escarpment. If its adventure that beckons, go tandem skydiving at Cessnock, bushwalk in Yengo National Park and take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards from Pokolbin. Spend the night in a boutique guesthouse in Lovedale, accessible Cessnock or the historic town of Wollombi.
Hunter Valley to Port Stephens
Head north past Kurri Kurri for the 26 beaches of the holiday haven Port Stephens. Drive up to the Nelson Head Lighthouse and have coffee with panoramic views over the bay. From Nelson Bay, you can kayak or cruise next to bottle-nosed dolphins and dive or snorkel with other marine life at Fly Point. Then jump on the ferry to Tea Gardens, where you can lunch then head to Hawks Nest, swim in the ocean beaches or fish from Myall Lakes National Park. Back on the other side of the bay, walk to the top of Tomaree Headland in Tomaree National Park and tackle the vast sand dunes of Stockton Beach on a quad bike or four wheel drive. Tuck yourself away for the night in quiet Anna or Fingle Bay or enjoy resort-style relaxation a few minutes from Nelson Bay Marina.
Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour
Travel out of Port Stephens and through historic Raymond Terrace on the Hunter River. Continuing up the coast, you can fish and scuba dive from Seal Rocks and walk the beautiful beaches of Forster. Alternatively, head inland to the World Heritage-listed wilderness of Barrington Tops. Here you can bushwalk or white water raft through subtropical rainforest and past extinct volcanic peaks. Visit Taree and the dramatic Ellenborough Falls and ride a camel along Lighthouse Beach in Port Macquarie. A little further north, you can dive, snorkel or deep sea fish from South West Rocks and chill out on the white, uncrowded beaches of Nambucca Heads. Wrap up your day’s journey in Coffs Harbour, a scenic resort town surrounded by lush forests and national parks.
Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay
Have breakfast on the beach and get a photo of the famous Big Banana, before exploring the larger adventure playground of the Coffs Coast. Kayak through Bongil Bongil National Park or whitewater raft on the Nymboida River. Fish or scuba dive in the Solitary Islands Marine Park, off the coast at Coffs Harbour. Alternatively, turn south west for the leafy hippy village of Bellingen and walk through waterfalls and Gondwanan rainforest in Dorrigo National Park. Further north, stop for a coffee in the charming provincial city of Grafton, cruise next to dolphins in the Clarence River and ride a heritage steam train across the mountains in Glenreagh. Head to Nymboida for whitewater rafting, abseiling and rock-climbing and see the largest platypus colony in the region. Then rejoin the Pacific Highway and head through the bustling riverfront town of Ballina before arriving in Byron Bay for the night.
Byron Bay to Gold Coast
Take a sunrise stroll along the Cape Byron Walking Track and see the first rays of light turn the Byron Bay lighthouse pink. Watch out for whales making their annual migration between May and November and snorkel with humpback whales, sea turtles and dolphins in Cape Byron Marine Park. Indulge in a big breakfast in one of Byron’s many thriving cafes, then swim or kayak with dolphins off Main Beach or hit the popular surf break of The Pass. Hang glide over the lighthouse, horse ride in the Bangalow or join a four wheel drive tour through the rainbow-fractured waterfalls and rainforest of Byron’s hinterland. This bohemian beach paradise is also the place to get a tarot card reading, find inner peace at a rainforest retreat or browse the work of local artists at the Saturday markets. Once your zen has been restored, jump in the car for the scenic 90-minute drive to the Gold Coast. You can make a detour through the scenic national parks around Murwillumbah and climb Mount Warning, an ancient eroded volcano. Stay overnight in a high rise in the sand in Surfer’s Paradise or a hinterland retreat.
Gold Coast to Brisbane
Spend the day soaking up the beaches, shopping and irrepressible energy of the Gold Coast. Ride the world-class waves of Broadbeach, Kirra and Main Beach. Or lie on the golden sand of Surfers Paradise, where afterwards you can trawl the shops, cafes and restaurants of lively Cavill Avenue. Snorkel or dive the wreck of the Scottish Prince off Main Beach or explore the artificial reef just off Narrow Neck. Inland you can explore the waterfalls, rock pools and lush sub-tropical rainforest of Tamborine Mountain National Park, Springbrook National Park and Lamington National Park. For theme park thrills, swim with dolphins and cuddle seals at Sea World, watch movies being made at Movie World and survive the mother of all tidal waves at Dreamworld. Once you’ve dosed up on fun, do the hour drive to the relaxed and sophisticated capital of Brisbane.
More Holiday Ideas
See what else there is near here to inspire your holiday planning.
Port Stephens is 2 hours from Sydney along the Pacific Coast, and near the Hunter Valley wine region.
Just 2 hours south of the Gold Coast or 9 hours from Sydney by car. You can fly to Byron Bay via Coolangatta or Ballina.