A classic east coast driving itinerary, the Sydney to Brisbane drive is packed full of fantastic stops and beautiful scenery.
Follow the highway north as you travel from New South Wales to Queensland, making the epic journey between two of Australia’s most iconic cities.
This great road trip takes you along the coast. Departing Sydney, you’ll call in at small towns and legendary beaches – from Coffs Harbor to Byron Bay.
You can surf, hike, and enjoy the drive as you travel over 500 miles to Brisbane.
To inspire your next east coast adventure, here’s our guide to planning a Sydney to Brisbane road trip!
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Australia (Travel Guide)
Sydney to Brisbane Drive: Ultimate Road Trip Guide
How Long is a Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip?
The quickest route from Sydney to Brisbane is just over 500 miles from city to city.
This takes you directly north, mostly sticking to the highway that follows the east coast all the way up through New South Wales and into Queensland.
Our Sydney to Brisbane road trip itinerary takes a few detours inland, to the Blue Mountains, for instance, which adds a few miles to the total.
As you travel north, you will find that while most of the best stops are on the coast, you might want to make a few additional detours!
While you could technically make the drive from Sydney to Brisbane in just ten hours, we’d recommend trying to keep a whole week available for the journey.
That way, you can keep driving time each day down to around two hours or less, with plenty of time to actually enjoy the places you are visiting.
- Sydney to Brisbane: 900 kilometers or 570 miles.
- How long is a Sydney to Brisbane road trip: It takes about 10 and a half hours to drive from Sydney to Brisbane.
- How many days should a road trip from Sydney to Brisbane take? It is best to break it up into 1-2 hour driving blocks over one or two weeks, you’ll see some of the best coastline and towns that New South Wales has to offer.
- What is the halfway point between Brisbane and Sydney? Coffs Harbour is the halfway point between Brisbane and Sydney.
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Best Stops Along the Sydney to Brisbane Drive
There’s a lot to see on a Sydney to Brisbane road trip. We suggest using the itinerary below as an outline because there are so many more stops you can plan into the journey!
Your road trip starts in Sydney, a classic Aussie destination for travelers. There’s a lot to see and do in Sydney, and that’s before you start heading north, so take a few days to explore the city!
Start by visiting the Sydney Opera House and the harbor area, where you can find classic views over the city from the epic Sydney Harbor Bridge climb.
Visit a few museums, have a few drinks at The Rocks or Darling Harbor, and take the ferry downriver to Manly Beach.
You can’t leave without seeing the famous Bondi Beach either, which is perhaps the most legendary beach on the east coast of Australia!
Stay awhile and truly feel the Sydney area:
- Park Hyatt Sydney – Luxury
- The Mercantile Hotel – Midrange
- Sydney Harbour YHA – Budget
Top 5 things to do in Sydney:
- Ultimate Sydney Arrival Package
- The Rocks Walking Tour: the Original Guided Walking Tour of The Rocks
- Sydney by Night | The Original Luxury Private Night Tour | 3 Hours
- Journey Beyond Cruise Sydney Harbour – Lunch Cruise
- Sydney Opera House VIP Tour, Opera Ticket & Dinner Package
The first stop on your Sydney to Brisbane road trip will be the Blue Mountains.
This spectacular area of natural beauty is located just an hour away from the city, so you can always make this a day trip from Sydney before setting off north.
The Blue Mountains National Park is a spectacular place for hiking. Visit Katoomba, where you’ll be greeted by epic clifftop walks and unique rock formations, such as the Three Sisters.
There are small mountain towns, a scenic cable car ride, and plenty more outdoor sights!
Stay awhile and truly feel the Blue Mountains area:
- Lilianfels – Luxury
- Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains – MGallery – Midrange
- Metropole Katoomba Guesthouse – Budget
Top 5 things to do in the Blue Mountains:
- Sunset Blue Mountains Wilderness & Wildlife Tour (Without the Crowds)
- Blue Mountains Unique Small-Group Day Adventure with BBQ Lunch
- Blue Mountains Private Tour of Scenic World and Featherdale
- Canyoning at Stunning Empress Canyon
- Blue Mountains Hanging Rock Self-Guided Mountain Bike Tour
From the Blue Mountains, head to the coast north of Sydney, where you can visit the second-largest city in New South Wales – Newcastle.
This charming city is located right on the beach and is a great place to enjoy the east coastline!
From Newcastle, you can drive inland to visit the beautiful Hunter Valley, one of the most famous wine-producing regions in Australia.
Stay awhile and truly feel the Newcastle area:
- Rydges Newcastle – Luxury
- Holiday Inn Express Newcastle – Midrange
- The Greenroof – Budget
Top 5 things to do in Newcastle, Australia:
- Daily Hot Air Balloon Flight – Hunter Valley
- Humpback Whale Encounter Tour from Newcastle
- Newcastle Afoot East End Walk
- 25-30 Minute Newcastle & Macquarie Helicopter Shared Flight
- Worimi Sand Dunes Quad Bike Tour
Head north from Newcastle, and your next stop will be the popular coastal town of Port Macquarie, one of New South Wales’ premier tourist destinations.
As well as great beaches and lookouts over the Pacific Ocean, Port Macquarie is famous for the local koala hospital, which has been rehabilitating injured koalas for years.
You can join a tour of the koala hospital to see these furry little animals as they are being cared for and learn more about the dangers they face in the wild (many of which are directly related to human activity in Australia).
It’s a fascinating place where you can learn about the fragile yet unique ecosystem of Australia.
Stay awhile and truly feel the Port Macquarie area:
- Rydges Port Macquarie – Luxury
- Macquarie Barracks Motor Inn – Midrange
- Excelsior Motor Inn – Budget
From Port Macquarie, start your drive north to Brisbane, but call in at the laid-back seaside town of Nambucca Heads.
There’s not a whole lot going on here, but that’s part of the reason to visit because it makes for a great place to break up the journey.
Enjoy the fantastic beaches, the magnificent views from Captain Cook lookout, and wander along the local sea wall, which has been taken over by artists and graffiti.
Stay awhile and truly feel the Nambucca Heads area:
- Riverside Rest Nambucca Heads – Luxury
- The Cubana Resort Nambucca Heads – Midrange
- BIG4 Nambucca Beach Holiday Park – Budget
Your next stop on your Sydney to Brisbane road trip is Coffs Harbor, a small coastal community that’s big on conservation.
There are several marine parks off the coast, and the area is known for its large populations of dolphins.
You can hike around Mutton Bird Island Nature Reserve for views over the ocean and a chance to see the area’s birdlife.
There are excellent coastal walks along the beaches, while inland, you can find waterfalls and hiking trails leading to beautiful scenery!
Lastly, you haven’t really been to Coffs Harbour unless you’ve visited The Big Banana! Grab a photo with the giant banana, then head inside and order their signature banana split.
Stay awhile and truly feel the Coffs Harbor area:
- Diggers Beach Cottage – Luxury
- BreakFree Aanuka Beach Resort – Midrange
- Surf Beach Motel – Budget
Top 5 things to do in Coffs Harbor:
- Rainforest & Waterfall Experience
- Coffs Harbour – Jetty by Bike Tour
- Coffs Harbour Ground Rush or Max Freefall Tandem Skydive on the Beach
- Coastal Adventure
- Sunset Experience
One of east coast Australia’s most popular tourist destinations is Byron Bay, and it’s an integral stop on any Sydney to Brisbane road trip.
Byron Bay is known for its excellent beach and rough waves, which are perfect for surfing.
The small community is also known for its alternative culture and arts scene; it’s the sort of place where backpackers arrive and never leave.
Appreciate the laid back lifestyle, the quirky cafes, the great bars, and of course, the great surfing.
Byron Bay is the most easterly point in Australia. You can enjoy some of the best sunrises in the country.
Head to the famous Byron Bay Lighthouse, where you’ll have the best vistas over the ocean (especially if you get here early enough in the morning!).
Stay awhile and truly feel the Byron Bay:
- The Beach Shack Byron Bay – Luxury
- Atlantic Byron Bay – Midrange
- Byron Bay Beach Hostel – Budget
Top 5 things to do in Byron Bay:
- Byron Stand Up Paddle Nature Tour
- Byron Bay Half Day Surf Lesson
- Hot Air Balloon Flight over Byron Bay Including Gourmet Champagne Breakfast
- Hinterland Magic – Glow-worm experience
- Cruise with Dolphins in Byron Bay
From Byron Bay, cross over the state border and into Queensland, but before you reach Brisbane, there’s one more great stop to enjoy – the Gold Coast.
This spectacular city is quintessential east coast Australia. On the Gold Coast, the skyscrapers are built right up to the beaches.
It’s a gorgeous skyline, and there’s a beautiful long boardwalk that runs alongside the beach.
This is one of Australia’s top surfing destinations. You’ll be able to have a go yourself or watch top surfers out on the water!
Stay awhile and truly feel the Gold Coast area:
- Palazzo Versace – Luxury
- QT Gold Coast – Midrange
- Nobby Beach Holiday Village – Budget
Top things to do in the Gold Coast:
- Gold Coast Jet Boat Ride from Main Beach
- Small group Gold Coast Mountain Tour: Springbrook National Park and Mt Tamborine
- Gold Coast Parasailing – Solo, Tandem, Triple
- Gold Coast Brewery Tour Including Balter, Burleigh and Black Hops
- Small Boat Whale Watching Tour with Sea the Gold Coast
After 500 miles (or more!) of driving, you finally make it to the end of your Sydney to Brisbane drive. Now you can enjoy the sights and attractions this great city has to offer!
Take a few days at the end to relax and sightsee. Enjoy the Southbank, a vibrant walking route along the south side of the river. You’ll find bars, cafes, restaurants, and a public, outdoor swimming lagoon.
Visit the Museum of Queensland, see the koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, or take a day trip to Moreton Island, just off the coast.
From Brisbane, you can carry on driving north to Cairns, if you have another few weeks left on your Aussie adventure.
Queensland is enormous, and you’re really only at the beginning of a new journey. Embarking on a Brisbane to Cairns road trip is an epic 1000 mile drive.
Along the way, you can explore the Great Barrier Reef, visit the Atherton Tablelands, explore the ancient Daintree Rainforest and see Cape Tribulation.
Stay awhile and truly feel the Brisbane area:
- Spicers Balfour Hotel – Luxury
- Stamford Plaza Brisbane – Midrange
- Brisbane Backpackers Resort – Budget
Top 5 things to do in Brisbane:
- Full-Day Byron Bay and Crystal Castle Day Tour from Brisbane
- Brisbane River Helicopter Flight
- Cruise To Lunch Package
- Greater Brisbane Hot Air Balloon Flights – City & Country views
- Brisbane Segway Sightseeing Tour
Doing A Brisbane to Sydney Drive Instead
Alternatively, it is possible to reverse this whole route by taking a Brisbane to Sydney road trip instead.
This will depend on if you can find cheap flights to Brisbane or Sydney when you arrive. There really is no right or wrong way to make this drive, so plan it in the direction that suits your plans best.
Road Safety in Australia
The first rule of driving in Australia is stick to the left-hand side of the road! The second rule is watch out for kangaroos!
You might be excited to see kangaroos in the wild if it’s your first time in Australia, but the kangaroos will quickly becoming tiring when you’re trying to dodge them on the roads.
Try to avoid driving at dusk and dawn, when kangaroos are most active. You’re fine in the cities and towns, but avoid rural areas at night if you don’t want a potentially dangerous run-in with wildlife.
For your Sydney to Brisbane road trip, you don’t need a fancy four by four as you’ll be following the coast, not heading into the outback.
You can make this drive any time of the year, but it’s best done in summer when the weather is finest!
Supplies and Accommodation Between Sydney and Brisbane
Unlike other, more remote long-distance drives you can tackle in Australia, you’ll find that on a Sydney to Brisbane road trip, you can easily stay fueled up and stocked with supplies along the way.
Be careful not to underestimate the distances involved, though, and remember to keep your gas tank full when you have the opportunity.
This is a popular tourist route, so there’s lots of accommodation on the way north to Brisbane.
You can take a campervan, stay in campsites, or book accommodation in each destination on your Sydney to Brisbane road trip.
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