Taking in roughly 1,000 kilometers of spectacular Pacific coastline, the drive from Sydney to Brisbane is one of Australia’s most legendary journeys. We’re talking charming seaside towns, jaw-dropping beaches, and national parks where native wildlife roams free.
When it comes to driving routes, the options are endless – you can stick to the coast, packed with the best sights and exceptional coastline, or detour a little inland to discover dreamy rural scapes, plunging cascades, and vineyards where Australia’s wine industry got its start.
Whilst the Sydney to Brisbane drive can be completed in a speedy 10 hours, it is best to take about 14-days to truly immerse yourself in the beauty along the way. This amount of time will allow you to take it slowly whilst making a few extra stops en route if you fancy. However, if you are pushed for time, you can easily take the highlights of the below Sydney to Brisbane drive and fit them into an itinerary to suit.
To help you plan your east coast road trip, we’ll share with you our recommendations for the Sydney to Brisbane drive, including where to stay, what to do, and a few extras if you have more time up your sleeve.
And no need to worry, if you are looking to do this journey in reverse, this itinerary can be done as a Brisbane to Sydney drive also.
The Best Time to Road Trip from Sydney to Brisbane
The Sydney to Brisbane drive takes you from the temperate climates of southern New South Wales to the subtropics of Queensland, which makes the trip doable at any time of the year. That being said, the summer temperatures can be uncomfortably hot for some and things will get more humid the closer you get to the Queensland border. The school holidays from late December to early February are also one of the busiest times along the coast when locals escape on their annual vacation.
To avoid the worst of the heat and the crowds, we’d recommend planning your Sydney to Brisbane drive just before or just after the summer when the temperatures are more pleasant. Late spring and early autumn are both great times to visit if you want to be able to enjoy the beaches, with the water temperatures getting chillier as winter approaches.
How Many Days are Ideal for a Sydney to Brisbane Drive?
A Sydney to Brisbane drive can be completed in anywhere from one day to one month, although we think that two weeks hits the sweet spot. It’s enough time to really experience what the region has to offer, without getting complacent about seeing “yet another beautiful beach”.
Recommendation: Australia’s public transport system is less than ideal for a big road trip and so, the best way to explore the East Coast of Australia is by car. If you are considering renting a car for your Sydney to Brisbane drive, be sure to check out rentalcars.com. They search and compare car rental prices Australia-wide, so you can be sure you’re getting the best possible price.
Starting Point: Sydney
Begin your trip in Australia’s largest city, Sydney, for a few days of sightseeing, with big-name landmarks such as the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge to tick off your list. Entertainment for all ages awaits at Darling Harbour while the Royal Botanic Gardens offer a green escape with skyscraper views. You can delve into Australia’s art history at the monumental Art Gallery of New South Wales or get up close to animals from around the globe at the Taronga Zoo. In the evenings, why not discover the eclectic dining and nightlife of Sydney’s diverse neighbourhoods.
Where to Stay In Sydney
As a globally recognised city, it should come as no surprise that Sydney offers an abundance of accommodation choices. There are countless backpackers’ hostels if you’re on a budget and an inspiring choice of Airbnbs in the suburbs, as well as luxury hotels in the heart of all the action.
If you want to stay near The Rocks, we’d recommend the Four Seasons Hotel or the Sir Stamford at Circular Quay while the QT Sydney offers a great boutique stay. The Grace is a popular choice in Darling Harbour and Pier One offers a front-row seat overlooking Sydney Harbour.
Have you considered house-sitting?: If you are planning to stay in Sydney long-term, you should definitely consider housesitting, which will enable you to secure accommodation for free or even better, get paid for staying there!
Alternative Starting Point: The Blue Mountains
1hrs 30 mins l 103 km (from Sydney CBD)
Stay length: 1 night
If you have not already visited the Blue Mountains, consider heading west into the interior of the country before starting your trip north. The UNESCO Heritage site is 90 minutes – 2 hours west of Sydney (depending on how deep into the Blue Mountains you wish to explore).
A truly breathtaking and unmissable natural beauty, The Blue Mountains National is 11,400km2 and is comprised of a number of smaller villages, therefore there is only so much you can cover in a short amount of time.
Fortunately, there are a variety of Blue Mountains day trip itineraries to suit all needs, whether you are looking to fit in a couple of bushwalks or prefer limited walking and maximum photography opportunities. Choosing to stay overnight will give you the opportunity to visit the best Blue Mountains Lookouts and embark on a couple of scenic walks.
Top things to see in one day in The Blue Mountains
Wentworth Falls: Cascading down three tiers of rock ledge, Wentworth Falls is easily the most beautiful waterfall in the Blue Mountains. There is a variety of walks in the area ranging from easy strolls to challenging cliff-ledge hikes, where the falls can be viewed from several lookout spots.
Katoomba: The largest town in the Blue Mountains and an extensive tourist hub, Katoomba makes a great base for a visit to the Blue Mountains. You will find some of the best tourist attractions in the Blue Mountains here such as Scenic World, The Three Sisters, Echo Point and The Giant Stairway. The town itself is full of galleries, boutique shops, antique stores and wonderful cafes and restaurants.
Leura: Only 3km east of Katoomba, Leura is a little gem filled with enticing antique stores, galleries and gift shops. If you have a passion for gardening, a visit to the Everglades Historic House and Garden is a must. If you are looking for free things to do in the Blue Mountains, a stroll along nearby Prince Henery Cliff Walk is beautiful with Leura Cascades becoming a scenic picnic spot.
The Three Sisters: the best-known tourist attraction in the Blue Mountains. These beautiful sandstone pillars tower more than 900 meters above Jamison Valley and create a spectacular photo opportunity. At night, the three sisters are floodlit, creating a beautifully eerie backdrop against the night sky.
Best Place to Stay in the Blue Mountains
Camping in the Blue Mountains is a great experience and there is no shortage of free camping spots to choose from. If camping isn’t your thing, Turon Gates, Hydro Majestic Hotel and the Blue Mountains YHA provide great accommodation options.
Sydney to Brisbane Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Sydney to Newcastle
2 hrs | 161 km I Stay length: 1 night
Get an early start to avoid the peak hour traffic and head north from Sydney to Newcastle along the M1 Pacific Highway. Surrounded by golden beaches, this vibrant harbour city is one of New South Wales’ underrated gems, with great museums, coastal walking trails and the Insta-worthy Bogey Hole ocean pool.
After lunch at the Honeysuckle harbour-side precinct, you can stretch your legs on the Bathers Way, which links Nobbys Beach and Merewether Beach. It also connects to the late 19th-century Fort Scratchley and offers regular sightings of migrating whales between May and November. No visit to Newcastle is complete without a swim at the Art Deco-style Ocean Baths, which have been enticing swimmers since World War I.
Where To Stay In Newcastle
Newcastle offers accommodation for all styles and budgets, from the luxurious suites of Rydges opposite the Newcastle Museum to friendly hostels such as the Newcastle Beach YHA and the laid-back Nags Head Hotel. You can soak up the city’s coastal lifestyle at Noah’s on the Beach or enjoy the quirky contemporary rooms at The Lucky Hotel.
Day 2-4: Newcastle to Hunter Valley
1 hr | 65 km l Stay length: 2 nights
From Newcastle, head inland to the town of Pokolbin – your starting point for two days exploring the magnificent Hunter Valley. It’s Australia’s oldest wine-growing region, with many of the vineyards that were planted in the 19th century still being operated by the descendants of early pioneers. You can delve into Australia’s wine-growing history at Tyrrell’s or experience the sparkling new cellar door and restaurants of Brokenwood Wines. Learn about sustainable wine-making at the Krinklewood Biodynamic Winery (which comes complete with free-ranging peacocks) before soaking up the views across one of the country’s oldest vineyards at Audrey Wilkinson.
The Hunter Valley is not just about exceptional wines but has also garnered a reputation for its paddock to plate dining. You can splurge with a meal at the two-hat Margan Restaurant in Broke Fordwich or discover the homegrown flavours of Restaurant Botanica at the beautiful Spicers Vineyards Estate. French-inspired fare is served with a view at Bistro Molines while Asian-style seafood dishes are a highlight of the menu at Leaves & Fishes.
On one of your mornings in the Hunter Valley, be sure to rise early for a hot air balloon flight to watch the day’s first rays illuminate the vineyards below.
Where To Stay In Hunter Valley
Pokolbin, Broke and Wollombi are three of the most popular towns in the Hunter Valley, with a wide choice of accommodation that includes Airbnbs, boutique hotels and vineyard estates. Nestled in the foothills of the Brokenback Range is the eco-friendly H Boutique Hotel while Spicers Vineyards Estate will see you staying smack back amidst the grapes.
Day 4-6: Hunter Valley to Pacific Palms
2 hrs | 175 km l Stay length: 2 nights
Encompassing some of the most beautiful beaches in New South Wales, this sun-drenched region lies in the heart of the Barrington Coast and is a must-visit on your Sydney to Brisbane drive. It’s a popular getaway destination for Sydney-siders who come to surf, boat and kayak, as well as fish in the waters of Wallis, Smiths and Myall lakes.
Spend two days enjoying the enviable coastal lifestyle on offer at Elizabeth Beach, Boomerang Beach and Blueys Beach, with the ocean views from the Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse in Seal Rocks not to be missed. It’s one of the best spots for seeing whales during their annual migration, as well as being a historic landmark in its own right.
Occupying a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Wallis Lake is Booti Booti National Park, which is traversed by several walking trails that lead to spectacular lookouts. Also nearby is Wallingat National Park, with its lush rainforest just waiting to be explored.
Where to stay in Pacific Palms
From absolute beachfront homes to units nestled in the bush, the Pacific Palms region offers a diverse range of accommodation. You can take advantage of the camping facilities at the Sandbar and Bushland Holiday Park on the shores of Smiths Lake or bunk down in a cabin at the Pacific Palms Caravan Park. Moby’s Beachside Retreat features one, two and three-bedroom residences with access to a lagoon-style pool while Blueys Retreat boasts upscale cottages in a village-style setting.
Day 6-8: Pacific Palms to SOuth West Rocks
2 hrs 30 mins | 200 km l Stay length: 2 nights
It’s an easy drive along the A1 from Pacific Palms to South West Rocks, an idyllic coastal town that’s also big on history. Famed for its picturesque Norfolk pines, it lies at the mouth of the Macleay River and has been a popular bathing resort since the late 19th century.
Over a couple of days, you can easily experience the town’s surfing and swimming beaches or enjoy a leisurely paddle along the calm waters of Back Creek. For divers, the Fish Rock Cave is not to be missed, with this 125-metre-long cave providing a breeding ground for grey nurse sharks.
Away from the water, there is plenty more to discover, including the cliff top ruins of the Trial Bay Gaol. A walking trail leads to a series of historic powder magazines on the headland of Arakoon National Park while another connects to the 1891-built Smoky Cape Lighthouse – one of the oldest lighthouses in Australia. If time allows, make the short trip northwest to Yarriabini National Park to immerse yourself in its creek-traversed rainforest.
Where To Stay in South West Rocks
For a unique overnight experience on your Sydney to Brisbane drive, you can stay in one of the keeper’s cottages of the Smoky Cape Lighthouse or bunk down at the Smoky Cape Campground. Cottages and camping facilities are also available at the Hat Head Holiday In addition to plenty of Airbnbs and beach houses available for rent, you can consider a mid-range stay at the Costa Rica Motel or the Rockpool Motor Inn.
As you make the drive north to Byron Bay, stop for a night in the coastal town of Yamba, which lies where the Clarence River flows into the Pacific Ocean. Even if you’ve seen enough beautiful beaches and ocean pools to last a lifetime, Yamba also delivers with an exceptional dining scene. Be sure to try the local Yamba prawns, which are served at fish and chip shops and restaurants around town. We’ve also heard that the Yamba Ice Creamery offers up delectable sweet treats!
There are so many incredible things to do in Yamba. Surfers should make a beeline for Angourie Point, a National Surfing Reserve that boasts one of the best right-hand breaks in the country. There are incredible beaches to bliss out on (Yamba, Pippi and Turners are among the most popular), as well as freshwater pools to discover. Dominating the town is the whitewashed Yamba Lighthouse, which has been watching over the coastline since 1880.
Where To Stay In Yamba
Much like Yamba itself, the town’s accommodation offerings are laid-back, with modern coastal retreats, comfortable campgrounds and cosy bed and breakfasts. Settle into one of the rainforest-surrounded villas of the Angourie Resort or stay on the banks of the Clarence River at the Fishing Haven Holiday Park. The aptly-named Seascape Oceanfront Apartments are ideal for beach lovers while the Squeakygate Retreat Bed and Breakfast provides a getaway for both couples and families.
Day 9-12 Yamba to Byron Bay
1 hr 30 mins | 129 km l Stay length: 3 nights
It’s just a short hop from Yamba to Byron Bay, one of New South Wales’s most famous towns and an essential stop on any Sydney to Brisbane drive. Surrounded by rainforest, it has garnered a reputation for its legendary surf and wellness lifestyle, as well as boasting designer boutiques and an enticing dining scene that’s centred around sustainable and organic fare. Eating well is something that comes naturally in Byron, with paddock-to-plate restaurants and vegan cafes in spades.
Spend three days revelling in the Byron lifestyle, which means early morning surfs at Clarke’s, coastal walks to Insta-famous Wategos Beach and sundowners at the Beach Hotel. Spectacular coastal views are on offer from the Cape Byron Lighthouse while the Julian Rocks Marine Reserve is a mecca for divers with its sea turtles, manta rays and wobbegong sharks.
Aside from its coastal treasures, Byron Bay is a convenient base for exploring UNESCO World Heritage-listed Nightcap National Park, home to the magnificent Minyon Falls. Further north rises Mount Warning – a former volcano plug that is a must-visit destination for sunrise lovers.
Where To Stay in Byron Bay
Byron Bay has no shortage of accommodation options, whether you want to bunk down with the backpackers at the famous Arts Factory Lodge or splurge at the luxurious Byron at Byron. Campervans and caravans are welcome at the Clarkes Beach Holiday Park, which overlooks one of the town’s best beginner-friendly surf breaks. The hacienda-inspired Raes at Wategos is known for its exclusive, bohemian vibe while the award-winning Imeson Cottage offers a classic beachfront stay.
Day 12 – 14: Byron Bay to Surfers Paradise (via lamington national park)
1 hr 45 mins | 129 km (Byron Bay to Lamington National Park)
1 hr l 45km (Lamington National Park to Surfers Paradise l Stay length: 2 nights
Make an early start from Byron Bay and head north along the M1 before turning inland towards Lamington National Park. Forming part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, this spectacular tract of rainforest is home to ancient trees and the rare Albert’s lyrebird.
From the Binna Burra entrance, you can stretch your legs on the short Rainforest Circuit or the Caves Track, which overlooks the Coomera Valley. Alternatively, embark on a full-day trek along the Border Track for stunning mountain views. One of the most popular hikes in the park leads to Moran Falls, which plunges 80 metres into a creek valley below.
Once you’re all worn out, jump back in the car for the one-hour drive to Surfers Paradise, which is the heart and soul of the Gold Coast. Clustered with high-rise buildings, it’s a destination where sunbathing on the beach and surfing are interspersed with shopping and attraction-hopping. From indoor skydiving to the largest gaming centre in Australia and the theme parks of Warner Bros. Movie World and Dreamworld, there’s no shortage of entertainment here. While there are globally-inspired restaurants and eateries to suit all tastes, Surfers Paradise after dark is all about partying, with countless pubs, bars and nightclubs that stay open until the early hours.
Where To Stay in Surfers Paradise
Surfers Paradise caters to all styles of travellers, from budget backpackers to high-enders looking for the next big thing. You can stay in one of the sustainable and stylish rooms of the Voco Hotel or opt for the quirky QT Gold Coast, which offers complimentary use of their retro cruiser bikes for getting around town. Located smack bang on the Esplanade is Peppers Soul, with its 25-metre-long tiered pool overlooking the beach.
Day 14: Surfers Paradise to Brisbane
1 hr 5 mins | 77 km
Enjoy a leisurely sleep in on your final day in Surfers Paradise before making the final leg of your trip to Brisbane – the sun-soaked capital of Queensland. Packed with outstanding museums, vibrant riverfront districts and exceptional restaurants, it’s worthy of a few days of exploration (at least!)
Hit the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art in the South Bank cultural precinct and stroll through the beautiful Roma Street Parkland or head outside the city to visit the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha. You can experience the snaking Brisbane River while kayaking or abseiling with the team from Riverlife, then climb the iconic Story Bridge for unbeatable views. At night, you can catch a show at the famous Powerhouse, an arts hub where everything from live music to stand up comedy takes place.
Where To Stay in Brisbane
Much like Sydney, Brisbane is brimming with accommodation and caters to all budgets and styles. Fortitude Valley is home to the Insta-famous Calile Hotel and the Constance Hotel – both great choices if you want to be in the heart of Brisbane’s nightlife scene. The Crystalbrook Vincent is renowned for its Story Bridge views while the Emporium offers a taste of French decadence in South Bank. If you’re on a budget, the Nomad’s Brisbane Hostel boasts an enviable setting inside the famous Down Under Bar, directly alongside Central Station. There are also plenty of self-serviced apartments and mid-range options, with the Oaks and Mantra brands both having several properties in Brisbane.
Sydney to Brisbane Drive Itinerary: Distance, Driving Time & Costs
Sydney to Brisbane drive time: 10 hours (direct).
Recommended road trip: 14-days
Sydney to Brisbane drive distance: 909km
The Sydney to Brisbane drive is 909 kilometres if you follow the Pacific Highway along the coast while the inland route along the New England Highway is slightly longer at 937 kilometres. If driven non-stop, the journey would take just over 10 hours and cost roughly $115 in petrol for one way(at current fuel prices). The round trip would cost approximately $230. The roads are in good condition and there are plenty of towns along the way where you can rest and refuel.
Tips for your Sydney To Brisbane Road Trip
Have more time to spare? Consider adding these locations to your Sydney to Brisbane Drive itinerary:
2hrs 38min l 209km from Sydney
Pristine beaches, outstanding snorkelling and the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere.
3hrs 30min l 306km from Sydney
Wedged between Wallis Lake and the Pacific Ocean, this coastal town offers the best of both worlds.
5hrs 30min l 515km from Sydney
Bustling community markets and historic architecture in a tranquil riverside setting.
4hrs 15min l 385km from Sydney
A rich penal history, cultural arts and the highest population of koalas on the east coast of Australia.
4hrs 40min l 431km from Sydney
Legendary surfing breaks and Aboriginal cultural sites on the doorstep of beautiful national parks.
5hrs 35min l 526km from Sydney
Home to the iconic “Big Banana”, a bird-filled island and exceptional dive sites. Packed with water activities and high octane sports opportunities.