Get ready for an adventure you'll never forget, full of coastal views, cool bars, epic nature and laid-back beach towns.
What to expect
- Check out Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Hunter Valley
- Explore Newcastle, Port Stephens and Coffs Harbour
- Seek out adventure, wellness and nature in Byron Bay and the Gold Coast
- Time: 11 Days
- Transport: Car
- Price: $$
A road trip from Sydney to the Gold Coast offers a bit of everything. In Sydney, you'll find beaches and bustling city suburbs. Byron Bay serves up the relaxed beach life, and the Gold Coast provides countless opportunity for adventure. Here's how to embark on an unforgettable coastal journey.
Day 1: Sydney icons
Have breakfast in Bondi and gear up for the Bronte to Bondi coastal walk. As you make your way between beaches, you'll walk along the cliffs with views of the jagged coast and the crashing waves below. After your walk grab a coffee at Three Blue Ducks in Bronte, or have a swim at the beautiful Bronte Baths. Consider learning the local sport with a surfing lesson at Bondi before departing for Sydney.
In the afternoon, embark on a BridgeClimb Express on Sydney’s iconic Harbour Bridge. After the climb, reward yourself with a drink at the Opera Bar. This place has epic views of Sydney Opera House as well as the bridge you just conquered.
If you still have time, check out Sydney's cool inner suburbs, like Newtown and Surry Hills. Chippendale has a buzzing art and food scene - drop into White Rabbit Gallery, which houses the largest collection of contemporary Chinese art in the world. Spend the night at Sydney Harbour YHA, which is right around the corner.
Day 2: Sydney to the Blue Mountains
Today you’re heading to the Blue Mountains, about two hours from Sydney. To see the dense forest and the blue hue from the sky, take one of Scenic World’s three rides: The Scenic Railway, The Scenic Cableway or The Scenic Skyway, a cablecar ride offering 360-degree view of the ravines, cliff tops and valley below.
If you'd rather explore the mountains from the ground, opt for a walk instead. There are plenty of hikes for every fitness level, but if you'd rather leave the planning to someone else, book a day tour. Make sure you also check out Echo Point to enjoy views of the Three Sisters.
Day 3: Sydney to the Hunter Valley
There are a few ways to get around as you taste your way through the region's Shiraz and Semillon. You can go for the scenic drive (with a designated driver or with a tour group) or, if you're feeling ambitious, you can hire bikes and peddle to the cellar doors.
After you've sipped and nibbled, stay at the Hunter Valley YHA.
Day 4: Hunter Valley to Newcastle
Grab a rustic brunch in the Hunter Valley before continuing your journey to Newcastle, which takes about an hour.
After the short drive, you'll be welcomed with a view of the ocean. In Newcastle, you'll find amazing surf beaches, cool bars, quirky boutiques and a diverse arts scene. The city even hosts Australia's largest surf festival, Surfest, each February.
With so much to discover, spend your day exploring the city and surrounds. Head to Peaberry's for coffee that never disappoints, and later, hit up MoneyPenny for a cosy, laid-back atmosphere and an eclectic menu.
In the afternoon, make like the locals and wander the coast, or soak up the sand and sun at Merewether Beach. Don't forget to take a dip - and a photo - at the stunning Merewether Baths nearby.
Spend the night at Newcastle Beach YHA.
Day 5: Newcastle to Port Stephens
After the tour, depart for Port Stephens for a hearty dose of adventure. Get on a Quad Bike or Sandboard with Sand Dune Adventures at Williamtown on the way. You’ll have an experienced Aboriginal guide, so you’ll also get to learn a bit about Australia’s indigenous history.
Day 6: Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour
There's no better way to start the day than with a bit of wildlife. While you're still in Nelson Bay, book a Dolphin Watch Cruise around the Tomaree and Yacaaba headlands. Dolphins remain in the region all year round, so you have an excellent chance to spot them while you enjoy the sunshine.
In the afternoon, set off for Coffs Harbour, located four hours from Port Stephens. On the way, stretch your legs in Port Macquarie, home to uncrowded beaches, forested walking tracks and even a walk-through maze made of two-metre (6.5-foot) high hedges.
After arriving in Coffs Harbour, check into the Coffs Harbour YHA for accommodation close to the beach.
Day 7: Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay
After your ride, grab lunch at Shearwater Restaurant and Café. Then, you can paddleboard and canoe below the restaurant, or do some shopping in the surrounding shops. If you didn't have a chance to ride a wave in Bondi, you have another chance in Byron. Sign up for a lesson with Let's Go Surfing.
In the afternoon drive three hours north to Byron Bay, known for its laid-back beach vibe and incredible surf. You'll want to spend a few night in Byron, so choose from several local hostels, like Nomads, Byron Bay YHA, and Wake Up! Byron Bay Hostel.
Day 8: Beaches and Byron Bay
Start your day the way the locals do. Grab a coffee and head to one of the area's stunning beaches.
After a refreshing swim, wander the town and discover Byron's thriving food scene. Grab brunch at Bayleaf Cafe before really digging in to what Byron Bay has to offer.
This beach town has something for everyone. Ocean-lovers can learn to surf, snorkel with sea turtles, and go kayaking with local dolphins. If you're in need of a dose of wellness, relax and unwind with Beachside Yoga and Massage.
If you still have energy to spare, spend the night at one of Byron's best party bars, Cheeky Monkey's.
Day 9: Head to the hinterland
Beauty abounds in Byron no matter where you turn. After you've explored the city, head to the hinterland for rippling creeks, cascading waterfalls and dense forest. The five-hour return Mount Warning summit track begins at the Breakfast Creek parking area before winding through the rainforest and ending with 360-degree views of the hinterland and ancient coast.
Within the hinterland you'll also find Crystal Castle a natural sanctuary that's home to the biggest crystals in the world. Here, you can stand between two towering crystals, wander the tranquil Shambhala Gardens and sit in an ancient amethyst cave, leaving you relaxed and rejuvenated.
Day 10: Byron Bay to the Gold Coast
Indulge in one last Byron Bay breakfast before driving just over an hour to the Gold Coast.
The Gold Coast is known for its long stretches of sand, thrill-seeking opportunities, and incredible nightlife. Begin your adventure at Broadbeach, where you can paddle across the water on a stand-up paddleboard.
Next, if you're not ready to leave the water, try your hand at a kitesurfing lesson, where you'll learn to navigate the ocean as a kite propels you. Alternatively, get your adrenaline pumping on a Jet Boating experience, where you'll speed, spin and slide across the water.
For sunset, head to SkyPoint and start your SkyPoint Climb. SkyPoint Climb is Australia's highest external building climb and gives you 360-degree views of the Gold Coast.
Day 11: Say goodbye to the Gold Coast
If you'd rather spend your last day lounging, drive about twenty minutes to Burleigh Beach in the bustling suburb of Burleigh Heads. You can soak up the sunshine on the sand, or check out the classy coffee shops and restaurants nearby.
On your final evening, continue up the coast to Brisbane, or fly back to Sydney and continue your Australian adventure.
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