Australia is a huge, diverse country with plenty to explore. So where does an intrepid traveler begin? And what’s the best way to see as much of this lovely place as possible?

The answer is a road trip, of course! A drive along Australia’s lovely North Coast shores has plenty of eclectic scenery; lovely landscapes; and fun things to see and do to give any visitor to the land down under a trip to remember.

Note: The following is a road trip itinerary from Brisbane to Sydney and is an estimated 12 hours total driving time. The best part of a road trip is being able to customize your adventure, so feel free to mix it up.

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Beach Vibes Galore

Begin the road trip in Brisbane, one of Australia’s oldest cities. There’s plenty to do in this Queensland city, so spend the morning exploring before getting on the road.

Things To Do In Brisbane

  • Take a guided cruise and enjoy the lovely Brisbane River
  • Stop in at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, one of the world’s top-rated zoos and the largest koala sanctuary
  • Stroll through the parklands in South Bank and stop for a bite to eat before hitting the road. Denim Co. is a great place to grab a cup of coffee and a light lunch—be sure to try one of their delish Turkish toasties or a sweet pastry to go
  • Take a walk through the Epicurious Garden and sample the edible plant life
  • Climb the Story Bridge for an amazing panoramic view

Optional Stop: Byron Bay

Byron Bay is an optional detour for those with extra time to explore on the way to the next stop (Ballina). Known for its bustling boho vibes, it’s a popular tourist destination. Be sure to visit the secluded Broken Head Beach; check out The Farm, a busy farm community with shops and eateries; and check out Crystal Castle (a great spot for kids!)

Bound For Ballina

Get on the road by mid-afternoon and arrive in the lovely Ballina. Only 2 1/2 hours from Brisbane, this charming beach town is a relaxing retreat for those who want to avoid more touristy spots. Relax and spend the day on one of the many beaches, and stay over to soak up the vibes before getting back on the road.

Things To Do/Where To Stay In Ballina

  • Check out Seven Mile Beach, known for its surfing, swimming, fishing, walking trails, and even snorkeling
  • Take a tour for some fab views of the coastline—and to scope the wildlife such as dolphins, whales, and turtles
  • Take a dip in Lake Ainsworth, a freshwater lagoon known for its restorative properties
  • Have a bite at Shelter in nearby Lennox Head, and enjoy their sustainable, seasonal menu that’s a top spot for seafood. Be sure to try the oysters!
  • Bunk at the Ballina Palms Boutique Motel for a good night’s sleep. Rates start at $97/night

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On The Road To Yamba

Wake up early and catch the sunrise from the Pat Morton Lookout, then grab an avocado toast and a smoothie at the Belle General before heading back on the road, or spend the day in Ballina. Either way, the next stop is Yamba, a short 1 1/2 hours away.

Things To Do In Yamba

A cool coastal village with a friendly feel, Yamba is definitely worth a stop, if only for a couple of hours.

  • Check out Yamba’s main street and do a bit of shopping
  • Have a picnic lunch with a takeout salad or sandwich from Sandbar Yamba; the Riviera salad is delish
  • Head to Whiting Beach, a perfect spot to dip your toes, or rent a kayak
  • Check out the Clarence River Lighthouse

Optional Stop: Minnie Water

A quiet place to stop on the way to the next destination (Port Macquarie). Stroll on the Rocky Point Walk to stretch out and grab a cup of joe from the Wooli Wooli cafe. Visitors in spring and summer will also love the area’s beautiful wildflowers.

The Next Stop: Port Macquarie

This cool coastal town is the site of a former convict settlement and is definitely worth a stop because of its beautiful beaches, eclectic downtown, and great restaurant scene.

Things To Do/Where To Stay In Port Macquarie

  • Check out the koala sculptures on the Hello Koalas Trail while exploring the town
  • Grab a bottle of wine to enjoy later at Cassegrain Wines
  • Lovely Lighthouse Beach and its white-sand beaches offer a view of Tacking Point Lighthouse; while Shelly Beach is a great spot for nature lovers with its rainforest border
  • Visit Limeburners Creek National Park to see everything from ospreys to dolphins
  • Stay the night at the Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel, a great spot within walking distance of area attractions. Rates start at $180/night

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Optional Stop: Port Stevens

Port Stevens is just 30 minutes from Port Macquarie, so stop in and climb Mount Tomaree for some great views of the area, or check out Tomaree National Park.

A Newcastle Adventure

Get an early start to make the almost 3-hour drive to Newcastle. Visitors love the relaxed vibes in this bustling burg that has quickly become a hip tourist destination.

Things To Do In Newcastle

  • Check out Fort Scratchley for some great panoramic views with a side of history. A great free activity for the entire family
  • Check out the wildlife at Blackbutt Reserve, visitors can even feed the emus!
  • Rent a bike and explore Glenrock State Conservation Area with its miles of biking trails
  • Take a harbor cruise to see all the iconic Newcastle landmarks
  • Have a bite along Darby Street—known for its fab food. The Autumn Rooms is a great spot for a bite—you can even schedule high tea including finger sandwiches, scones, and more. Prices start at $65/person

On To Sydney

Stay the night in Newcastle before heading back on the road to the final stop, Sydney—just 2 1/2 short hours away. This trip takes travelers through other Central Coast towns, so feel free to stop along the way. Recharge in Sydney at Ingenia Sydney Hills, a great place to camp and relax before heading back to the beach.

A great way to explore Australia is by car, and a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney has plenty of stops along the way to soak up the best of the North Coast beaches. From bustling burgs to charming coastal towns with laidback vibes—this fun adventure is the perfect way to see Australia.

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