Sydney to Brisbane road trip

Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip (7-Day Budget Itinerary!)

A Sydney to Brisbane road trip is one of the best you can do in Australia. This trip takes you to some of the most popular destinations in the country.

It’s a short road trip compared to others in the country but there is plenty to see along the way. You can visit amazing places such as Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast.

The scenery is second to none and one of the reasons why road trips in Australia are worth doing!

This part of the East Coast of Australia is one of the most populated and you will find a lot of things to do such as surfing and hiking as you make your way up to Brisbane.

My itinerary for a Sydney to Brisbane drive will take you to the best places on this drive and help you to save money while you do too!

Let’s get into it!

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Sydney to Brisbane road trip

Quick Sydney to Brisbane Drive itinerary
Distance – 910 km (565.4 miles)
Time – 7 days
Day 1 – Sydney to the Blue Mountains: 102km (63.3 miles)
Day 2 – Blue Mountains to Newcastle: 194 km (120.5 miles)
Day 3 – Newcastle to Port Macquarie: 244 km (151.6 miles)
Day 4 – Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour: 153 km (95 miles)
Day 5 – Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay: 232 km (144 miles)
Day 6 – Byron Bay to Gold Coast: 93.5 km (58 miles)
Day 7 – Gold Coast to Brisbane: 80.6 km (50 miles)

The distance between Sydney and Brisbane is 910 km (565.4 miles). It’s a long journey but compared to some of the other road trips in Australia it’s a lot more manageable!

If you wanted, you could do the drive in one way. It takes just under 10 hours without breaks. While I don’t recommend you do this, it can be done.

One reason why you shouldn’t do it in one go is the safety implications and another is that you will miss out on some of the most beautiful parts of Australia.

It’s a scenic drive and one that lends itself to taking your time rather than a mad dash to the end!

Before setting off

Sydney Opera House Rocks

Before you start any road trip in Australia, you need to ensure you have everything in place. The first thing you need to get is a vehicle. You won’t get very far otherwise! Depending on your numbers and where you plan on sleeping, you have two options.

Depending on how many of you there is, you can either rent a car or a campervan. If you’re planning on staying in hostels, I would go in a car. Otherwise, a campervan would be a good idea, particularly if there are 4 to 6 of you.

Companies such as Jucy and Wicked are great, but you will get a better deal if you look online. You can use a company such as Rentalcars.com to book your car or campervan.

If you’re starting from Sydney, click here to book your rental car. If you’re starting from Brisbane, click here to book your rental car.

Important info

Driving around Australia is not for the faint-hearted because of the distances involved. With journeys that can involve large distances, you are at a real risk of encountering trouble. One of the easiest ways to get into trouble is to run out of fuel in the middle of nowhere.

This unlikely to happen on this road trip, the East Coast is more built-up than the rest of the country,  but it’s still a possibility. If your tank is nearly half-full, you should stop at the next petrol station. You never know how far the next one will be. The last thing you want to do is run out of fuel!

Nowhere is this truer when driving in Australia. The distances between places are so large, you need to make sure you have all the tools and safety equipment you need in case of an emergency.

If you break down in the wrong place, you could be there for a while waiting for assistance!

A little tip from all the road trips I did in Australia was to look out for signs. You’ll notice that there are little green signs every 5km to let you know how far you are from the next town. This is mainly the case when driving in the Outback and underpopulated areas.

Keep an eye out for these signs. They can help you to gauge how far the next town is which lets you know when you can stop to eat and refuel.

If you feel tired while driving, please, take a break. No matter where you drive in Australia, it involves long distances. We all want to get places but this shouldn’t be at the expense of safety.

Aim to stop every 4 hours for a short break. Regardless of this advice, you should be stopping more often anyway due to the abundant scenery across Australia!

Before you do any road trip in Australia, it’s important to make sure you have proper travel insurance! I use World Nomads to keep me safe on the road, it’s designed for backpackers and adventurous travellers.

You never know what can happen on the road. Keep yourself protected against all eventualities! Click here to get a quote!

Essential items to pack for a Sydney to Brisbane Road trip

Before you set off, you need to ensure you have all the necessary gear. You may want to check out my road trip packing list before you leave.

Certain items make a road trip much easier such as a car charger and sunglasses. It can be draining when you have to cover long distances and if you don’t have the right items with you it only makes it more arduous.

This is true in Australia as the distances involved make road trips more challenging. You want to have everything you need with you in case you break down in the middle of nowhere.

Below are a few items I recommend you take on your Brisbane to Sydney self-drive, to make the drive that little bit easier!

Why you should go on a Sydney to Brisbane road trip

Story Bridge view

The simple answer to this is that it’s one of the best road trips you can do in Australia. You’ll get to explore some of the best scenery in the country and one of its most interesting coastlines.

The East Coast is one of the most popular places for people backpacking in Australia and there’s a good reason for that.

The sheer number of places you can visit and their beauty is the reason. Just on this trip alone, you get to see Sydney, Coffs Harbour, the Blue Mountains and the Gold Coast to name a few.

The best and easiest way to see all of these places is to by car. Even though this is a small road trip compared to others in the country, the distances involved are still huge.

Without a car, it would be difficult to travel between all these places. You can all adapt your itinerary to suit your needs. Something you can’t do if you’re using public transport.

The best reason for doing this trip is that you get to see some fantastic places and ones that you may not be aware of. The coast from Sydney to Brisbane has a lot of hidden gems such as Yamba, that a lot of travellers aren’t aware.

Plus, once you finish the trip, you have the option of driving from Brisbane to Cairns should you wish for more adventure along the East Coast!

Where to stay between Sydney and Brisbane

The good thing about this road trip is that there are plenty of places to stay along the way. Unlike a road trip from Perth to Darwin, for example, you won’t need to drive for hours to find accommodation.

All along the coast and even in the Blue Mountains, you will find somewhere to stay. You’ll find a wide range of choice too.

Plenty of hostels line the route and they are a great option if you’re looking to save cash. You’ll also find some hotels if hostels aren’t your thing.

If you’re doing the trip in a campervan, you won’t need to worry about this. Your vehicle is your bed. If you’re doing the trip in a car, then I’ve listed some places below which are ideal to stay at while driving from Sydney to Brisbane.

Places to visit on a Sydney to Brisbane road trip

One of the best things about this road trip is that there are no shortages of places to visit. I’ve not included Sydney and Brisbane below because you will either start or finish in either city.

My advice is to explore both given the chance because they are incredible cities. 3 days in Sydney before starting the trip is a good idea because there is so much to see!

Here are some of my recommendations for places to check out as you drive from Sydney to Brisbane.

Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour is a beautiful city along the New South Wales coast that has some great beaches and scenery. You’ll find so much to do you could easily spend a few days there!

Nature is one of the main attractions in and around Coffs Harbour and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it. You can go for rainforest walks in Dorrigo and snorkel in the Solitary Islands.

If you want somewhere quirky to visit, you can head to the Big Banana Fun Park, which is an amusement park. This is a great idea if you have children or if you want to blow off some steam on the numerous slides and rides!

It’s a beautiful place with numerous ways to enjoy yourself. A simple walk along the coast and relaxing at the beach is a great way to do this!

Gold Coast

View of Gold Coast

The Gold Coast was the first place I visited in Australia and it is a beautiful spot to spend a few days before heading north to Brisbane.

The beaches here represent the quintessential images of Australia. Golden sand with blue skies with plenty of waves rolling onto shore. This is certainly the case at Surfer’s Paradise!

During your trip to the Gold Coast, you can do more than just head to the beach, although there’s nothing wrong with that. You will find plenty of great hikes such as at Burleigh Heads National Park. If you want some adrenaline, you can head over to one of the numerous theme parks in the city.

You’ll find a lot of stuff to do here and there is a lively party scene too should you wish to let your hair down! The Gold Coast is the last stop before Brisbane and it’s one you should make the most of.

Byron Bay

Cape Byron lighthouse

Byron Bay is one of the most well-known places in Australia. This is one of the places you can’t miss out on while driving from Sydney to Brisbane.

One of the most famous places in Byron bay is the lighthouse, which is the easternmost point of Australia! The Cape Byran Lighthouse Walk is beautiful and the views out into the Pacific are spectacular.

As with most locations along the East Coast, there are some fantastic beaches in Byron Bay. While there are plenty of shops and some breweries that you can check out should you want a break from the beach!

Byron Bay is one of the best stops on this drive and although it’s come towards the end of the trip, it’s well worth waiting for!

Newcastle

View of Newcastle Australia

Newcastle is slightly different from of the other places you’ll see during a Sydney to Brisbane drive. That’s because it’s a large city and not a beachside town like most of the stops.

You’ll still find a beach but you’ll also find a lot more things to do too. One such thing is to go on a boat trip around the harbour. It’s a great way to see the coastline and you might see some interesting marine life too!

Newcastle is renowned for being home to some of Australia’s best beaches with miles of golden sand! It’s a great place to learn how to surf or simply relax and admire the scenery.

For culture vultures, you’ll find old colonial forts and prisons that date back hundreds of years to when the British started colonising Australia.

Blue Mountains

Three Sisters

The Blue Mountains are one of the most incredible places in Australia and somewhere you have to visit on this road trip. 

You’ll need to take a detour from Sydney to get there but it’s well worth it. The scenery is truly breathtaking and you will kick for missing out if you neglect to do so.

The Three Sisters is the primary attraction, an outcrop of rocks that sit above the ledge of a cliff. They’re an amazing sight and a sort of mainland version of the Twelve Apostles you can see on an Adelaide to Melbourne road trip.

The best way to explore the Blue Mountains is to walk along the numerous trails and you can even go along the skyway to get an even more scenic view!

Things to do on a Sydney to Brisbane road trip

The good thing about a Sydney to Brisbane drive is that there is a lot you can do along the way. The East Coast has some fantastic beaches and you’ll see plenty of them on the drive.

If you’re a surfer, this will be a godsend. Most of the beaches have excellent surf and you’ll find yourself stopping off at a lot of them!

If surfing’s not your thing you can just relax at the beach and admire your surroundings. Or, you can go for a walk along the numerous coastlines you will see!

Below are a few of my recommendations for things to do on the drive.

Surfing

Surfing on the Gold Coast

Surfing is one of the most popular activities in Australia ad for good reason. The country has some of the best surf in the world and the weather to go with it.

On this road trip, there are so many places you can surf it’s impossible to list them all. Sydney alone has numerous beaches such as Tamarama, Manly and Bronte, where you’ll find excellent surf.

That continues as you head north. Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Yamba are all excellent surf spots. If you can’t surf but you’d like to learn, booking a lesson at one of these places is a good idea.

The lessons are a lot of fun and teach you all the basics you need to know. This is a much better idea than trying to teach yourself and is a lot safer too!

Surfing is a great activity and one that I enjoyed while I was in Australia. If you don’t give it a go while you’re on this road trip you’re missing out!

Relax at the beach

Bondi Beach

This is one of the best reasons to visit Australia. To relax at the beach! If you come from a cold and wet country like me, going to the beach will have been a huge reason you visited Australia.

With so many beaches to choose from on this trip, you’re spoilt for choice! Almost every stop involves a beach and all of them are as good as the next.

You may get sick of visiting beaches by the end of the trip but I doubt it! You can always go for a quick swim and go surfing as I mention above.

Another option is to go on a coastal walk, of which there are many at the places you will stop. You’ll get to see some beautiful sights and take some fantastic photos too!

Example Sydney to Brisbane Road trip itinerary

This is an example itinerary and by no means the only route you should take, It is just a recommendation if you want to skip some places or take a quicker route, then you can!

Day 1 – Sydney to the Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains National Park

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Distance

102 km (63.3 miles)

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Time without stops

1 hour 25 minutes

 

The first leg of the road trip is one of the shortest, just a one and a half-hour drive to the Blue Mountains. It may seem to head inland and not make any progress up the coast, to begin with, but the Blue Mountains are worth the detour.

They represent one of the best natural attractions in Australia and it would be a shame to miss out on them. You can head north if you want but it wouldn’t be a wise decision.

You want to drive to Katoomba and from there, you can access the Blue Mountains National Park. Once you’re in the park, there is a lot to see and many different hikes you can do.

The primary attraction is the Three Sisters, which are three rock formations that tower into the sky above the ledge of a cliff. They’re quite the sight!

After that, you can wander around the various tracks to see similar rock formations, cascading valleys and some waterfalls too! One thing you can do at night is to stargaze.

The Blue Mountains are one of the best places to see the Milky Way in New South Wales. If you have a high-quality travel camera, you’ll be able to get fantastic shots, as the Blue Mountains has little light pollution to obscure your view!

If you’re wondering whether there is accommodation in the Blue Mountains, you’ll be pleased to know there is a hostel you can stay at in Katoomba.

Day 2 – Blue Mountains to Newcastle

Central Coast

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Distance

194 km (120.5 miles)

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Time without stops

2 hours 30 minutes

 

The drive from the Blue Mountains to Newcastle will see you go back on yourself as you make your way up the coast. 

This is one of the nicest parts of the drive as you get out into the wider Sydney area and there are plenty of stops you can make along the way.

If you fancy stopping at another national park, you have the choice of two in the Brisbane Water National Park and Ku-ring-gai National park. Both have spectacular scenery and the Ku-ring-gai park is notable for being the second-oldest national park in Australia!

After the parks, you can stop on the coast at Gosford or Central Coast. This stretch of the coast is home to some fantastic beaches and either of these places would be a good stop for lunch or to go surfing if you want.

The Bouddi coastal walk is something you should do if you top at Central Coast, and if you visit from May to November, you might be lucky enough to see whales that are migrating!

You can take a few more detours as you head up the Pacific Highway but bear in mind you still have to reach Newcastle, which is a place worth exploring too!

Day 3 – Newcastle to Port Macquarie

Lighthouse beach

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Distance

244 km (151.6 miles)

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Time without stops

2 hours 35 minutes

 

The next leg of the drive is another that takes around 2 hours and a half, as you make your way from Newcastle to Port Macquarie.

If you haven’t explored Newcastle before you leave, it may be worth checking it out as there is a lot to see and do there.

One place you can stop along the way is Myall Lakes National Park. You’ll find some great beaches and there are several walking tracks you can ramble on all offering brilliant views and scenery.

After the national park, there aren’t too many places to stop as you head towards Port Macquarie. This is one of the lesser populated parts of the drive.

It may be best to head straight to Port Macquarie so you can make the most of your time there. Again, you’ll find plenty of excellent beaches and even a Koala Hospital which is open every day apart from Christmas Day!

Day 4 – Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour

Muttonbird Island

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Distance

153 km (95 miles)

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Time without stops

1 hour 37 minutes

 

This is a shorter drive than the previous day, coming in at an hour less. Plus, there are a few more places you can stop along the way.

One such place is Nambucca Heads, which is a small town about two-thirds of the way to Coffs Harbour. 

You’ll find plenty of things to do there such as relax at the beach and kayaking if you’re a bit more adventurous! You have a wide choice of beaches to visit and just walking along the coast is a good way to spend your time there.

Once you get to Port Macquarie, you’ll find a pleasant town that has a lot to offer. The customary beautiful beaches and scenery will be there along with a few other things.

You can go to Bago Vineyards and Maze, where there is a 1000 metre hedge maze to find your way out of. Plus, there are numerous coastal walks you can do so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery.

If you want to do something more adventurous, you can go on a jet boat, or you can take a ride on a camel along Lighthouse beach!

Day 5 – Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay

Yamba

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Distance

232 km (144 miles)

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Time without stops

2 hours 46 minutes

 

This is the longest drive of the trip and one which takes you to Byron Bay close to the border of New South Wales and Queensland.

Due to the length of the drive, it’s not advisable to make a lot of stops. You won’t find too many places to stop along the way but one place you should stop at is Yamba.

Yamba is a small town roughly halfway between Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay. It’s a beautiful place and an ideal location to have lunch.

The beach at Yamba is beautiful and ideal to relax at for a bit. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can to Yamba Lighthouse which overlooks the bay the town is set in.

Once you reach Byron Bay, you’ll find the things to do there mirror what you can in Yamba. A trip to the beach is a must. If you’ve got a surfboard now is the time to whip it out because as Byron Bay has some great surf.

The hike to Cape Byron to see the lighthouse is a trip you must do. The views are spectacular at the easternmost point of Australia.

Byron Bay has plenty going on and is a lovely town. Spending the night at a bar or a good restaurant is recommended!

Day 6 – Byron Bay to Gold Coast

Gold Coast in a storm

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Distance

93.5 km (58 miles)

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Time without stops

1 hour 10 minutes

 

Now that we are getting towards the end of the trip, the time in between destinations starts to shrink. The drive from Byron Bay to the Gold Coast takes is a short one.

This leaves you with two options. Spend more time in Byron Bay or leave early to spend more time on the Gold Coast. Which one you do depends on personal preference. 

My advice would be to spend a bit of time in Byron Bay then head off towards the Gold Coast. The drive up is beautiful and there are some great places to stop.

Burleigh Heads is one such place. You will find a nice trail here which offers some fantastic views of the Gold Coast. the beaches are beautiful and are a great place to spend a few hours topping up your tan.

Another place to stop is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. If you haven’t seen a Koala yet, this is a good place to stop. You’ll see lots of koalas, plus plenty of other animals and you might get the chance to hold a koala!

Day 7 – Gold Coast to Brisbane

Brisbane southbank

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Distance

80.6 km (50 miles)

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Time without stops

1 hour 5 minutes

 

The last leg of the trip is the shortest of the lot at just over an hour. With this in mind, I think it’s a good idea to spend as much time as you can on the Gold Coast.

The beaches are beautiful and you can spend time relaxing there, or you can head to the numerous theme parks and have some fun! Another option is to go surfing at Surfer’s Paradise.

If the weather is good I’d make the most of your time at the beach. with a short drive to Brisbane, you can leave late in the afternoon.

It’s also worth noting that there is no beach in Brisbane, apart from a manmade one on the Southbank. That’s one reason to make the most of your time on the Gold Coast.

The short drive doesn’t offer much in the way of places to stop. It’s best to drive straight there given the short time it takes.

Once you’re there, you’ll find plenty of stuff to do. My Brisbane travel guide will let you know about all the best stuff such as the aforementioned Southbank, botanical gardens and lively nightlife!

How much does a Sydney to Brisbane Road trip cost?

This is one of the shorter road trips in Australia, so it won’t cost as much as driving from Adelaide to Perth for example.

However, that’s not to say that it won’t cost anything. Depending on how many of you there are on the trip, it won’t be super cheap.

One way to make it cheaper for everyone is to have a group of you. This is easier if you a campervan, into which you can fit six people. If you’re doing it in a car, you can still get four people in there to help to reduce the costs if you’re on a budget.

One thing to consider is that if you’re doing it in a car and not you’re not camping, you’ll need to pay for accommodation. While, if you’re in a campervan, you won’t need to factor this in.

Here’s a link to a fuel cost calculator from Travellers Autobarn, which should come in handy for your trip. Using the fuel price data from a Google search for “petrol prices Australia”, input the figure into the calculator and you’re set.

I received a quote of $1.21 per litre, driving the distance with a campervan led to a quote of $122.33. If there are four of you in the car, that will come to $30.58, which is a bargain!

Even if there are only two of you that’s still a cheap petrol bill. If you factor in the cost of renting a campervan, which costs roughly $49 a day, food and drink and any tours you might do, the total comes to an approximate price of $150-200 per person.

That’s reasonable given the distance and represents excellent value for money!

Need a rental car?

I use Rentalcars.com whenever I need to rent a car. They offer the most comprehensive listings of rental cars on the web. Plus, their deals are often cheaper than if you went straight to the supplier!

Concluding thoughts

This Sydney to Brisbane road trip is one of the best you can do in Australia and it’s one you should do if you get the chance.

You’ll get to visit some of Australia’s best-known spots and see some stunning scenery! It’s one of my favourite road trips in the country!

Have you done a Sydney to Brisbane drive? Did you do an itinerary similar to mine?

Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Need travel insurance?

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