Pacific Coast Drive
At around 950kms, the journey from Sydney to Brisbane will take you about five days. There are plenty of options for everyone in the family, from breathtaking ocean views and historical landmarks to some of the best food and wine in Australia. For the adrenaline junkies, there are plenty of stops along the way to keep you occupied, and wildlife enthusiasts are in luck, with a wide variety of animals to spot along the way. Start by picking up your campervan from the Britz depot at 653 Gardeners Road, Mascot – and let your journey begin…
Sydney – Port Stephens
Distance: 160km Driving time: 2 hours 4mins
Ok, so you know the iconic spots in Sydney. It wouldn’t be a trip to Sydney without heading to the Opera House or the Harbour Bridge but what about outside of the city centre? Heading out of Sydney, drive up to the northern beaches including Palm Beach, aka Summer Bay. This 2kms beach is not only the famous setting for ‘Home and Away’ but also a beauty spot you’ll want to capture on camera.
Travel up the motorway for approximately 1.5 hours before you reach Terrigal, known for its stunning coastline and boutique shopping. Even if shopping isn’t on your agenda, it’s a fantastic place to stop off for a coffee and watch the world go by. 15kms up the road on the Central Coast Highway and you’ll come across The Entrance, where you can either try out The Entrance Coast to Lake Walk, or take in the views whilst kids play in the local water playground.
From here, drive for around an hour to get to Newcastle, Australia’s second-oldest city. Thanks to its laid-back seaside culture, rich history and prominent arts scene, Newcastle made it into the Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel 2011’. You’ll probably want to spend a couple of days getting to know the area, where you’ve got eight beaches close by to choose from. This bustling city is complete with historic buildings and quirky cafes perched on a working harbour. Go for a bite on Honeysuckle Wharf, the perfect spot for people-watching and to see freight ships guided into the harbour by tug boats.
Carry on and park up in Port Stephens, where you can whale watch between May and November. Try Tomaree National Park or the headlands for amazing views out to the coast. Stay the night at the One Mile Beach Holiday Park, which is located right on the beach for just $35 per night.
Port Stephens – Port Macquarie
Distance: 190km Driving time: 2.5 hours 4mins
Enjoy breakfast in Port Stephens before heading back out onto the Pacific Highway and drive North, heading towards the seaside town of Port Macquarie. For anyone who’s a fan of those cuddly little koalas, visiting the Koala Hospital is a must.
The Sea Acres Rainforest Centre is also worth spending some time at. Explore one of the biggest coastal rainforest reserves remaining in the state; walk across the elevated 1.3kms rainforest boardwalk (family tickets cost $16); learn about local Aboriginal culture on the Centre’s eco-displays; enjoy lunch at the Rainforest Café; and browse the gift shop and artist gallery for souvenirs to take home.
End the day with dinner at one of the quality restaurants set along the Hastings River that offer relaxing waterfront dining. When it’s time for bed, a prime accommodation option for the night is the Sundowner Breakwall Tourist Park. The waterfront property is just 2 minutes’ walk from the heart of Port Macquarie, and rates start from around $36 per night.
Port Macquarie – Coffs Harbour
2hrs 7mins (160kms)
Have your photo taken holding up the ‘big banana’. A bit hard to miss, the big banana boasts The Banana Slip Water Park (with the largest inflatable water-slide in the world), Laser Tag, Ice Skating, Wild Toboggan Ride, “The World of Bananas” multimedia theatre experience, plantation and packing shed tour, a 36 hole Mini Golf Course and so much more. No trip to Coffs Harbour is complete without a trip to the Big Banana.
With lots of great beaches to visit you could learn to surf, visit mutton-bird island to connect with local wildlife and don’t forget to include a trip to the Forest Sky Pier. Located at Sealy Lookout, The Forest Sky Pier offers an amazing panoramic view from mountains to the Coffs Harbour coastline. The Pier extends 21 metres out from the Lookout and stands 15 metres above the forest floor.
Coffs Harbour – Byron Bay
Distance: 243km Driving time: 3 hours
Keep taking the Pacific Highway north from Coffs Harbour and then stop at one of Australia’s most iconic destinations, Byron Bay. The eastern-most point of the continent, Byron is well-known for its relaxed, beachside culture; great surfing, shops and restaurants; surrounding natural beauty; and mix of outdoor and spiritual activities. The town is surrounded by many stunning National Parks that are worth a visit. These include Mount Warning, Nightcap National Park and Broken Head Nature Reserve.
When in Byron Bay, be sure to complete the Cape Byron walking track. Make your way through the 5.4kms trail through rainforest and across mountain sides with the spectacular Byron coast laid out next to you. At the top of the walk is the famous Byron Lighthouse, a particularly beautiful spot at sunrise.
Byron Bay is also renowned for its spiritual connections and you can experience a range of land, sea, air, art or mind and body activities. Yoga on the beach at sunset is not an uncommon sight and is a great way to unwind after a long day. Once you’ve completely relaxed with that fresh sea air, go for dinner at Buddha Bar & Restaurant, in Byron Bay Premium Brewery, or try Fishmongers Café for a gourmet fish and chip meal made from local catch.
For accommodation, check out the North Coast Holiday Parks Clarkes Beach that is within walking distance of the town centre. Clarkes Beach recently won a prestigious Environment Excellence Awards and provides a quiet oasis amongst the sand dunes. Rates start from around $50 per night.
Byron Bay – Gold Coast
Distance: 88.6km Driving time: 1.1 hours
Wake up early to watch the unmissable sunrise from the Byron Bay lighthouse before you set off on the next leg of your journey to the Gold Coast.
On your way to the Gold Coast, stop in at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Britz customers receive 25% off entry. About 50 minutes north of Byron, Currumbin gives you the opportunity to experience Australia’s amazing native wildlife and learn about Aboriginal culture.
Two days in the Gold Coast may not seem enough with all there is to pack in: the theme park capital of Australia, the Gold Coast is home to Dreamworld, Movieworld, SeaWorld and Wet and Wild. The Gold Coast beaches are always busy with sunbathers and swimmers, exciting nightlife will draw you in, along with amazing shopping and lots to see and do!
Some great day trips from the gold coast also include Tamborine Mountain and the Gold Coast Hinterland, where you can get in touch with nature and wander through a mountain top village.
Gold Coast – Stradbroke Island
Distance: 81.8km Driving time: 1.5 hours
Head over to Stradbroke Island by hopping on the ferry. It’s a good idea to pre-book the ferry over during peak seasons as it can get very busy, however sailings to the island are every hour.
Popular with surfers, boaties and fishing enthusiasts, the island offers snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking, 4WDriving and bushwalking, and is renowned for its native wildlife such as dolphins, turtles, manta rays, kangaroos, koalas, and spectacular shore views of the annual humpback whale migration. You might even get lucky and see ‘Migaloo’ one of the only Albino whales in the world.
Stradbroke Island – Brisbane
Distance: 28.5km Driving time: 31 minutes
Once you’ve arrived in Brisbane, while away the afternoon in either Roma Street Parklands or the Botanic Gardens, shop along Queen Street, or pop over to South Bank and swim at the man-made beach or look through the museum or two art-galleries (all within the same precinct so visiting all three is easy).
Pop into Gramercy coffee in the Wintergarden and enjoy one of the best coffees in Brisbane with a handful of gluttonous delights!
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