Jun 10

Sydney to Gold Coast Stopovers

Sydney to Gold Coast distance is around 850 km. The shortest route from Sydney to Gold Coast is Pacific Coast Highway which takes approximately 11 hours of drive time. There are a number of interesting stopover towns if you plan to complete this trip in a couple of days.  The motto on the Australia roads is "Stop, Revive and Survive". Fatigue is the major reason for road accidents on the freeways in Australia. Therefore, planning stopovers along the way are the best way to enjoy your trip and explore some interesting locations as well. 

There are a number of stopovers designed by Road Authority encouraging travellers to stop for short breaks. Free tea and biscuits are offered beside basic amenities and covered sitting area. Information Centers in all major cities along the are great places to obtain regional information, event guides and maps. Coffs Harbour has a nice Information Center located on Pacific Coast Highway. 

Where to stop between Sydney and Gold Coast on a day trip?

If you plan to travel in a day the best is to start early to beat the morning traffic getting out of Sydney. The average speed limit is 110km/hour. However, the speed limit drops to 60km close to cities and smaller towns. Coffs Harbour is a great stop almost half-way between Sydney and Gold Coast. An overnight stay is also a great option as there is a number of serviced apartments, motels and hotels available in this mid-sized city. The coastal area is popular with surfers and beach lovers. Weekends are quite lively in Coffs Harbour with live music at a number of pubs and venues in the city. 

Rest area on the freeway

Roadside Rest Area new Newcastle

Is driving the best way to travel between Sydney and Gold Coast?

You can either catch one hour flight, hop on a train or bus to travel between these two popular destinations in Australia. Driving, however, is the most enjoyable way to explore some of the best locations in NSW and Queensland. Long term car rentals are quite cheap in Sydney. 

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Pacific Coast Highway passes by amazing central coast locations including Hunter Valley, Port Stephens, Forster, Byron Bay and Ballina. Intercity Freeway Signs are marked in green colour in Australia. Scenic Routes or Country Drives are alternative routes that pass through places of interest in the area finally merging back on the freeway. Taking Scenic Routes allows you to explore vineyards, historic towns and places with interesting landmarks. 

What are the best places to stay between Sydney and Gold Coast for 3-4 Day Trip?

Pacific Coast Highway passed through mainland NSW and Queensland. However, if you are planning to travel for 3-4 days there are a number of interesting stopover locations between Sydney and Gold Coast. Here is a list of suggested places to stop on the way. 



Best places to stop between Sydney and Gold Coast

 1. Newcastle & Central Coast

Mooney Mooney Bay and Brisbane are small towns located at the outskirts of Sydney and are quite popular for fishing charters and river and ocean cruise. Follow the signs to Brisbane while keeping an eye on the speed limits as the maximum driving speed is 110km/hour. The first major stop along the way is Newcastle City. You will, however, need to exit from the freeway and drive into the city.

Newcastle is a booming city with a seaport and thriving student community. I personally like Newcastle because of its laid back and relaxed feel. There are plenty of nice cafes at the waterfront and hilly neighbourhoods take you across to interesting neighbourhood of Darby Street popular with trendy bars, cafes and restaurant. Newcastle is definitely worth a day stop if you have more time to yourself.

Past Newcastle, you can explore amazing places like Port Nelson and Port Stephens. These places are popular for the largest sand dunes in Australia and offer a great holiday option if you are travelling with family. The Marina at Port Stephens offers is a great location for Whale Watching, Fishing, Deep Sea Charter or even water sports around the bay.

These places are little out of the way and must be explored in a day. There are plenty of caravan parks and serviced apartments located in Port Stephens as it is a popular hangout for families in summers. We stayed at Mantra Apartments offering great comfort and proximity to the main areas of Port Stephen. 

Take some time out to explore beautiful precinct of Hamilton to experience the multi-cultural culinary heritage of Newcastle. This locality is a hidden gem for food lovers and shoppers alike. Explore some of the interesting venues like:

  • Depot on Beaumont
  • Barcito
  • The Grain Thai restaurant
  • The Blind Monk
  • El Nonno Restaurant  

Nelson Bay has the longest stretch of sand dunes in Australia, offering a great location for Sand Safaris, Camel rides, Sand Surfing and Quadbike. 

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During my stay at Port Nelson, I booked Mantra at Port Stephens. This is a five-star property offering one and two-bedroom apartments with all the amenities of the home. This property is walking distance from the waterfront and has easy access to restaurants and shopping Malls. Port Stephens offers a wide range of accommodation in all price ranges including holiday parks, caravan parks and long term rental. Check the best rates at Agoda.

Entrance, Toukley and Lake Tuggerah

Another interesting holiday spot is Entrance Waterfront which is popular for Pelican Feeding. The waterfront offers a great location for live performances over the weekend, kids trains and family activities. This location is very lively during the long weekend and school holidays period. Serviced Apartments are available along the waterfront with easy access to shopping malls and restaurants. Lakes Main Holiday Park is an amazing location is you want to stay at a holiday park along the water. 

Hawkes Nest Beach

Beautiful Coast Area of Hawkes Nest and Tea Gardens NSW

3. Forster: 305 km from Sydney

Forster is one of my favourites for a family holiday. This is a beautiful holiday town with plenty of nice accommodation and water sports for kids. You can do kayaking, boating, fishing or swimming in shallow water channels. The environment in the city is great and is normally packed in summers. If you have time to yourself spend a day or two to enjoy all the activities in Forster. Must-visit places include One Mile Beach, McBrides Beach, and Seven Mile Beach South from Cape Hawk. Forster is quite popular for deep-sea fishing and rock fishing.  


 A bridge connecting Forster and Tuncurry

Forster waterfront is absolutely breath-taking with the river merging into the ocean. The places around the estuary are popular for fishing. 

Where to stay in Forster?

I stayed at Discovery Park holiday Park with is 4 Star holiday park with amazing amenities and feeling of home away from home. The cabins are furnished with basic amenities and the common shared area has bbq area and common sitting area. This is definitely a great spot for family accommodation. The property is located at the outskirts of the town and commands views great views of the river. You can enjoy the following facilities at the Park

  • Kids pool and splash Are
  • BBQ Spots
  • Kayaking
  • Restaurants
  • Common Sitting Area and Lounge
  • Fully contained cabins with Bunks

Staying At Discovery Holiday Park in Forster


Forster Waterfront on a clear morning in winters


4. Coffs Harbour: 550km from Sydney 

Lake Macquarie is also a great choice for a short trip as you will need to get off from Pacific Coast Highway and drive for 30 minutes to reach Lake Macquarie. The city has a nice waterfront and a great place to visit over the weekend when it attracts people from the surrounding towns. 

Coffs Harbour is a definite stop as it is located almost midway between Sydney and Gold Coast. In my recent visit to the city during Easter Break and Thanks-Giving Holiday, I have fallen in love with the great vibe and crowds in the city. There is a weekend market on the waterfront and you can enjoy a number of nice cafes (Hogs Breath Cafe) and bars at the beach. Coffs Harbour attracts large crowds during public holidays. You must book in advance to get some great deals on accommodation. Agoda offers great prices online.

If you are a nature lover, Darrigo National Park is not far from Coffs Harbour where you can find beautiful waterfalls deep in the wilderness. Armidale is quite close to Coffs Harbour and if you are driving on New England Highway road between Armidale and Coffs Harbour connects to Pacific Highway. This offers an interesting detour if you want to avoid holiday traffic and see a bit of countryside on New England Highway. Coffs Harbour has plenty of world-class cafes and restaurants and nightlife that will keep you entertained over the weekends. 

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5. Byron Bay & Ballina: 770km from Sydney

Byron Bay is another very popular destination offering artistic retreat and beautiful beaches. Make sure you arrange for accommodation beforehand, as this destination is quite popular during public holidays and accommodation, is hard to find. Byron Bay has the number of quality restaurants, cafes, shopping stores.  Look out for event guide if you want to plan your visit ahead of time as a number of music events take place in Byron round the year that attracts large crowds.  

Byron is a popular hangout for artists and musicians, as this city hosts some popular music festivals throughout the year. Nimbin, the heart of the hippie culture of NSW is another popular destination for tourists. 

If you are travelling with family, Ballina and Byron Bay offer amazing stopover options. More information on the activities in the region can be obtained at the information centre in Ballina and Byron Bay area. 

I have stayed at Ballina a couple of times at Discovery Park ideally located along the waterfront. 


6. Surfers Paradise

Surfers Paradise is undoubtedly one of the most visited and vibrant locations for a complete family holiday. Packed with tall high-rises and beautiful beaches the city is a Mekkah for fun seekers and beachgoers. With an active party scene all throughout the year, Surfers Paradise offers more than 20,000 rooms in all price ranges and budgets.  

Book in advance to get great deals on accommodation at 4 and 5-star furnished apartments, hotels and hostels. 

You can enjoy a wide range of water sports including cruises, charter hires, ballooning, deep-sea fishing and sky-diving.  Surprisingly, Surfers Paradise has more canals than Venice in Italy. Most waterfront properties are owned by celebrities and you will explore multi-million dollar mansions along the canals stretching to Broadwaters. 

During my several visits to Surfers Paradise, I have stayed of Towers of Chevron, which is centrally located to shopping areas and beach at Surfers Paradise. Public Holidays and Christmas Season bring street performers, concerts and kids activities over the weekends. 

Surfers Paradise Beach

Crowded Beach at Surfers Paradise

Tower of Chevron

View of Surfers Paradise from Towers of Chevron


Alternative Route from Sydney to Gold Coast

New England Highway

New England Highway offers an alternative route to Gold Coast. Our first stop along the way was at Musselbrook, a mid-sized town 250km north of Sydney. This city is historically famous for horse breeding and coal mining. Lately, it is picked up a reputation for gourmet food and wine tasting. We enjoyed breakfast at a local cafe. Murramundi is a small town along the way where you can get some local information about the region at the Information Center along New England Highway. You some cottages dating back to last century built by early settlers in the region. 

Tamworth is next major down popular for Australian Country Music and car racing. This is a great city to stopover if you have more time to spare. We proceeded to "Big Golden Guitar" to take some memorable pictures. 

Our first stopover for the night was at Armidale, a beautiful town of Armidale. Developed around 1850s Armidale enjoyed the riches of the gold rush, evident in nice historical buildings and architecture of the town. Armidale has a number of heritage buildings including cathedral and post office buildings. 

Powerhouse Armidale Hotel by Rydes is one of the best places to stay in Armidale. There are plenty of nice cafes and restaurants in the city area. In winters, the shops and businesses close early therefore, it is advisable to plan an early dinner. 

The drive to Coffs Harbour from Armidale passes through Dorrigo National Park. This place is ideal for bushwalking, trekking or enjoying a picnic in the grounds of the park. The lookout in the park provides an amazing view of the New England Tablelands. Take a walk along the track to a beautiful Dorrigo Waterfalls. 



General Distance Guide

Sydney to Taree: 308km

Sydney to Port Macquarie: 385

Sydney to Kempsey: 420

Sydney to Coffs Harbour: 533

Sydney to Grafton: 614

Sydney to Ballina: 740 

Sydney to Tweeds Head: 829

Sydney to Brisbane: 931

 Sydney to Gold Coast stopovers

Read 7218 times Last modified on Tuesday, 19 November 2019 08:45

I have been exploring South-East Asia for over twenty years and have visited some of the best destinations in the region. Through my blog, I want to share some interesting travel tips, my experience of driving across Asian destinations and some of the best places to explore in this region. I have taken hundreds of road trips, across Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia and during my trips, I review the hotels, cafes & places of interest. I have, in the past followed in Anthony Bourdain's footsteps and visited most of the restaurants his team explored in their shows. Join in on my adventures and follow my trails on Instagram & Facebook Page. 

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