Over 7 days driving from Sydney to Brisbane, be prepared to experience beautiful beaches, scenic coastlines, and one-of-a-kind Aussie towns. Here’s the best Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary, recommended by a local!
Day 1 – Sydney to Swansea (Lake Macquarie)
Day 2 – Swansea to Newcastle
Day 3 – Newcastle to Diamond Head Campground
Day 4 – Diamond Head to Coffs Harbour (stops in Port Macquarie, Hat Head, and more)
Day 5 – Coffs Harbour to Brooms Head
Day 6 – Brooms Head to Byron Bay
Day 7 – Byron Bay to Brisbane
Road Trip from Sydney to Brisbane Itinerary
Day 1 - Sydney to Lake Macquarie
The first stop on this 7-day Sydney to Brisbane itinerary is a local gem recommended by Marty. Nearly every other Sydney to Brisbane road trip will recommend going straight from Sydney to Newcastle or Sydney to Hunter Valley, a famous wine region in Australia. One unmissable stop on our itinerary though that I highly recommend, was Lake Macquarie including Caves Beach and Swansea.
The best towns to visit when stopping in Lake Macquarie during your Sydney to Brisbane road trip are Catherine Hill Bay, Caves Beach, and Swansea.
Catherine Hill Bay is known for its unique Pink Caves, where rocks have been turned a bright pink and purple color due to the calcified algae on it. Middle Camp Beach, the largest in the area, is popular with surfers and has an abandoned coal loading pier at the southern end of it. Be sure to check out the Catho Pub in Catherine Hill Bay too, a local favorite lunch and dinner spot.
Swansea is the small town where we spend the night, which is bordered by the scenic Lake Macquarie. It’s a great place to spend time on the water, take part in water activities like boat rentals and fishing, or just admiring the coastal wildlife.
Where to stay in Swansea
We stayed at the Swansea Lakeside Holiday (or caravan) Park, which borders Lake Macquarie on one side and offers beautiful sunset views.
Here are some other options for where to stay near Lake Macquarie, categorized by budget:
Day 2 - Swansea to Newcastle
Where to stay in Newcastle
Day 3 - Newcastle to Diamond Head Campground
Day 4 - Diamond Head to Coffs Harbour
...with stops in Port Macquarie, Hat Head, and Nambucca Heads
Day 4 of 7 on our road trip from Sydney to Brisbane was the busiest one yet. Camping at Diamond Head meant we were up at sunrise and ready to start exploring all the local gems. I’ve broken this section of the itinerary down to describe each of these mini-stops on our Sydney to Brisbane itinerary.
Port Macquarie is one of the largest coastal towns north of Sydney that cannot be missed on a 7-day road trip from Sydney to Brisbane. The only reason why we did not spend the night here was because Diamond Head was so close by. Port Macquarie however, is another perfect option for an overnight stay between Sydney to Brisbane. See Port Macquarie accommodation options here like the gorgeous seaside Sandcastle Apartments or the NRMA Breakwall Holiday Park!
Hat Head National Park
Finally... Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour, or just “Coffs”, is like Port Macquarie in that it is a much larger coastal town compared to the other. Coffs is known for the “Big Banana” monument, one of many “big things” that road trippers will find scattered throughout all of Australia (keep reading to find out where to find the “Big Prawn”!).
Coffs Harbour has a nature reserve and a massive marina and jetty that are popular places to visit for both travelers and locals.
Where to stay in Coffs Harbour
Day 5 - Coffs Harbour to Brooms Head
...with a stop in Emerald Beach
Brooms Head Caravan Park
Day 6 - Brooms Head to Byron Bay
... with a stop in Yamba
Byron Bay, New South Wales
Where to stay in Byron Bay
Day 6 (alternative) - Gold Coast
The Gold Coast, the second largest city in Queensland, has its own international airport is an iconic Australian city that draws visitors from around the world. It is known for its skyscrapers that line beachy shores, its vanity, flashiness, and you guessed it… surfing culture. Locals usually have a favorite Gold Coast suburb, from the family-friendly Broad Beach and Currumbin (home to the amazing Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary), to the classic Surfer’s Paradise located in the heart of the city.
To experience the famous Gold Coast skyscrapers up close, check out the Gold Coast Observation Deck. At 80+ stories above the ocean, it puts you right above the gorgeous city-plus-beach views that the Gold Coast is known for. Local southeast Queenslanders flock to the Gold Coast to visit its theme parks like Wet’n’Wild and Movie World.
Where to stay on the Gold Coast
Day 7 - Byron Bay to Brisbane
...with stops in Brunswick Heads, Tweed Heads, and Currumbin
Tweed Heads is another perfect spot for roadtrippers driving Sydney to Brisbane. A large monument here marks where the Queensland and New South Wales state borders meet, which makes for a great photo opp. Tweed Heads is not just a border town though, and it has fun activities like a ferris wheel, its own beautiful beaches, and gorgeous views of the Gold Coast cityscape in the distance.
Currumbin is a popular suburb south of the Gold Coast which has its own beautiful coastline. If you have a spare 3-4 hours, be sure to visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to meet some native Aussie animals. For an incredible lunch spot check out the Currumbin Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) restaurant and bar, which has amazing views of the beach and Gold Coast skyscrapers in the distance.
That’s a wrap for this 7-day road trip from Sydney to Brisbane itinerary. I hope these locals tips, including off-the-beaten-path places to visit, will make your next coastal Australia road trip the best one yet!