Sydney to Gold Coast driving distance is around 850 km. The shortest route from Sydney to Gold Coast is the Pacific Coast Highway which takes approximately 11 hours of driving time.
There are a number of interesting stopover towns if you plan to complete this trip in a couple of days. I have driven from Sydney to Brisbane a number of times and taken many interesting detours along the way. Here is a breakdown of some of the interesting places to stay between Sydney and Brisbane.
Useful tips for driving on Australian roads
Fatigue is the major reason for road accidents on the freeways in Australia. Therefore, planning stopovers along the way is the best way to enjoy your trip and explore some interesting locations as well. The motto on Australian roads is "Stop, Revive and Survive".There are a number of stopovers between Brisbane and Sydney designed by the Road Authority encouraging travellers to stop for short breaks.
Free tea and biscuits are offered beside basic amenities and a covered sitting area. Information Centers in all major cities provide a wealth of useful information on things to do and places to explore in the area. 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 are planning a trip to Gold Coast from Sydney, it is recommended to start early as the traffic picks up on Pacific Coast Highway from the early hours of the day. The average driving speed limit is 110 km/hour on the Pacific Coast Highway. However, the travel time is more than expected due to the ongoing roadworks near the city of Newcastle.
The speed limit close to the cities drops between 50 km/hour to 60 km/hour. Coffs Harbour is ideally located halfway between Brisbane and Sydney. If you start early from Sydney, the distance of 500 km can be covered in under 6 hours.
Coffs Harbour offers a number of quality holiday accommodations including 4-star caravan parks, serviced apartments and motels. Advance Booking Online is a great way to save $$. A 14-Day Advance Purchase can save up to 40% on your hotel booking rates per day.Compare Best Rates Online for Hotels in Coffs Harbour .
The coastal area in Coffs Harbour is popular with surfers and beach lovers. Weekends are quite lively with live bands playing at a number of pubs and venues in the city as well as along the waterfront area which has a number of quality restaurants and bars. Weekend markets are held along the waterfront where you can buy local crafts and a range of gourmet products from the region.
Roadside Rest Area near Newcastle, NSW
Is driving the best way to travel between Sydney to Brisbane?
You can either catch one hour flight or 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. Sydney to Brisbane travel route is probably one of the busiest air routes in Australia.
Sydney to Gold Coast is the most popular route taken by many backpackers and international travellers exploring some of the best destinations across NSW and Queensland. Long Term car rentals are quite affordable and come with full insurance coverage. Self-driving is probably the best way to enjoy this amazing route as there are a number of beautiful detours and country routes that takes you down historical country town and hidden gems.
Pacific Coast Highway is the quickest route to Brisbane from Sydney. Places like Central Coast ( Terrigal, The Entrance, Toukley and Forster) are slightly off the main freeway, Pacific Coast Highway 1. Therefore, these destinations are recommended if you have more time to yourself.
The cities that lie on Pacific Coast Highway 1 include Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Ballina (& Byron Bay) and Surfers Paradise.
Most Country roads or Scenic Drives are marked by brown coloured signs as opposed to green coloured signage for intercity freeways. The scenic routes are detours through historical towns or places of interest and link back to the major freeways.
What are the best places to stay between Sydney and Gold Coast for a 3-4 Day Trip?
Pacific Coast Highway passes 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 the Gold Coast. I have driven through most of the places along the Central Coast and I have short-listed some of my favourite places.
1. Newcastle & Central Coast ( Nelson Bay, Port Stephens)
Mooney Mooney Bay and Brooklyn are small towns located on the outskirts of Sydney and are quite popular for fishing charters and river and ocean cruises. Hawkesbury river exits into the ocean near the Brooklyn area. These water channels are popular for sightseeing and fishing tours.
There are two different routes to Newcastle. If you exit from M1 near Gosford, the coastal road takes you down the beautiful central coast towns of Gosford, Shelly Beach, The Entrance, and Swansea Heads. I highly recommended this detour if you have more time to yourself.
Alternatively, follow the Pacific Coast Highway from Sydney all the way to the city of Newcastle.
Newcastleis a booming city with a seaport and a thriving student community. Newcastle is the second most populated area in NSW with beautiful architecture and landscapes. A new tramline is the latest addition to the city connecting major places of interest.
The latest development along the waterfront has given a facelift to the city by adding a number of high rises, open spaces, and walking tracks.
Aerial View of the City of Newcastle, NSW
I personally like Newcastle because of its laid-back and relaxed feel. There are plenty of nice cafes at the waterfront as well as the hilly neighbourhoods overlooking the coastline.
Darby Street is a must-visit for foodies offering a good mix of trendy bars, coffee shops ( Goldbergs Coffee House) and restaurants. Newcastle is definitely worth a day's stop if you have more time to yourself.
What are the most popular activities in Port Stephens New South Wales?
Around Newcastle, you can explore amazing places like Nelson Bay and Port Stephens. These places are popular for the largest sand dunes in Australia and offer a great holiday option for families as well as solo travellers.
The Marina at Port Stephens offers a great location for Whale Watching, Fishing, Deep Sea Fishing Charter & simply enjoying kayaking in the shallow waters along the bay.
Nelson Bay, Fingal Bay, Soldier's Point, Tea Gardens and Salamander Bay area are very popular tourist destinations with plenty to do over the weekends. I personally like this region because of its proximity to Sydney and lovely holiday accommodation options, quality seafood restaurants, art galleries and localized fashion outlets. There are plenty of kids' activities to keep you occupied during your holidays.
Camel Rides at Nelson Bay Port Stephens
Sand Dunes near Port Stephen offer Camel Safaris, Quad Bike Adventures, Desert Safaris and sandboarding adventures.
During my stay at Nelson Bay, I booked the Mantra Aqua .This is a five-star property offering one and two-bedroom apartments with all the amenities of the home. This property is within walking distance of the waterfront and has easy access to restaurants and shopping Malls. Port Stephens offers a wide range of accommodations in all price ranges including holiday parks, caravan parks and long-term rentals.
Exploring The Entrance, Toukley and Lake Tuggerah in New South Wales
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.
The twin towns of Forster and Toukley are my favourite locations for a weekend getaway from Sydney. You can enjoy kayaking, boating, fishing or swimming in shallow water channels. The environment in the city is very lively and is normally packed with holiday-makers in the summers.
If you have time for yourself, I suggest you spend a day or two enjoying all the activities in Forster and Tuncurry Area. Must-visit places include One Mile Beach, McBrides Beach, and Seven Mile Beach located south of Cape Hawk. Forster is a great spot for deep-sea fishing and rocking fishing.
Forster waterfront is absolutely breathtaking offering two contrasting views. On one side of the bridge, you have an estuary with shallow waters, ideal for kayaking and swimming and on the other hand, you have great ocean views and a windy waterfront. The landscape is quite similar to The Entrance where the 3 massive lakes end up in the Tasman Sea.
Forster & Tuncurry NSW
Where to stay in Forster & Tuncurry NSW?
I stayed at Discovery Park holiday Park with is 4 Star holiday park with impressive facilities giving a sense of home away from home. The cabins are furnished with a small kitchenette with cutlery and cooking pots. The common shared area has a covered BBQ place, a massive lounge and an indoor kitchen with dining tables.
This is definitely a great spot for family accommodation. The property is located on the outskirts of the town and commands views great views of the river. You can enjoy the following facilities at the Park
Coffs Harbour is a definite stop as it is located almost midway between Sydney and Gold Coast. On my recent visit to the city during Easter Break 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.
Beautiful Waterfront of Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour attracts large crowds during public holidays. You must book in advance to get some great deals on accommodation. Agoda offers excellent prices online. Some of the exciting places to visit in Coffs Harbour include
The Big Banana
Park Beach Plaza
National Maritime Science Centre
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Big Banana, a famous landmark at Coffs Harbour
Images: Coffs Harbour NSW
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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.
5. Byron Bay & Ballina: 770 km from Sydney
Byron Bay is another very popular destination offering artistic retreats 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 a number of quality restaurants, cafes, and shopping stores. Look out for an event guide if you want to plan your visit ahead of time as a number of music events take place in Byron around the year that attracts large crowds.
Beautiful Views of Byron Bay from the Lighthouse
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 highly recommend visiting Bangalow near Byron Bay for lunch or drinks. The main street in Bangalow has a number of restaurants and boutique shopping outlets.
A beautiful day for surfing at Byron Bay
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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.
Coolangatta, Tweed Heads and Burleigh Heads
Other popular places near Surfer's Paradise include Broadbeach, Burleigh Beach, Nobby's Head and Coolangatta. There is plenty of accommodation available in Coolangatta which is ideal for a long-term stay. Coolangatta offers dining options, coastal walks and some great spots for swimming and surfing.
Beautiful View of Surfers Paradise
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 at Towers of Chevron , which is centrally located in the shopping areas and beach at Surfers Paradise. Public Holidays and Christmas Season bring street performers, concerts and kids' activities over the weekends.
Alternative Route from Sydney to Gold Coast
New England Highway from Newcastle to Armidale:
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, this region has gained a reputation for gourmet food and wine tasting.
Murrarundi 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 the last century built by early settlers in the region.
Tamworth is the next major down popular for Australian Country Music and car racing. This is a great city to stop over 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 the 1850s Armidale enjoyed the riches of the gold rush, evident in the nice historical buildings and architecture of the town. Armidale has a number of heritage buildings including cathedral and post office buildings.
Rydges Armidale is one of the best places to stay in Armidale. There are plenty of nice cafes and restaurants in the city area. In winter, 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 on 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 the beautiful Dorrigo Waterfalls.
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 undertaken hundreds of road trips, across Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia. Most of the information in this blog comes through my own road trips and adventures in the exotic locations I have visited.
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.