The Legendary Pacific Coast
National parks and forests
Get back to nature in one of the 48 national parks or 12 state forests along this drive. Bouddi National Park on the Central Coast and Booti Booti National Park in the Great Lakes area are just two examples of nature experiences you'll discover along the way. Find out more with this four-day itinerary.
Sydney to Brisbane coastal drive
Heading north from Sydney along the Pacific Ocean coastline to Brisbane, this scenic drive takes you through some of the most striking landscapes in NSW.
An almost continuous line of surf beaches, national parks and a hinterland of rolling green hills and friendly villages make this a great drive. There are plenty of attractions, good accommodation choices, adventures and fun for the whole family. Make sure to explore the Central Coast, Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour, Ballina and Byron Bay along the way.
Sydney to Terrigal: Drive north on the F3 Freeway and on to lovely Terrigal. Sip a coffee at an oceanfront cafe before checking out Terrigal's boutique shopping.
Terrigal to The Entrance: Head north to The Entrance and take in the sea views while the kids play and swim in the water playground. If you happen to be there on time, check out the famous pelican feeding, held at 3:30pm each day.
The Entrance to Newcastle: Drive to Newcastle, Australia's second-oldest city. Stop for something to eat at Honeysuckle Wharf, before checking out some of the area's renowned beaches, including Mereweather and Nobby's.
Newcastle to Nelson Bay: Continue to Port Stephens and the main town of Nelson Bay, known for its great dolphin and whale watching opportunities (seasonal). Walk to the top of the headland for some incredible photos of the bay and Tomaree National Park. Later, you'll find plenty of options for dinner on the marina, along with a wide range of accommodation.
Nelson Bay: Once you've finished breakfast, it's time for an early dolphin watching cruise.
Nelson Bay to Port Macquarie: Travel to Port Macquarie and stop for a seaside lunch break and walk along the breakwater to see the colourful mini murals painted by tourists. Then, visit the Koala Hospital for the daily 3pm tour, or stroll along stunning Town or Lighthouse Beach.
Port Macquarie to South West Rocks: Drive just over an hour to South West Rocks, at entrance of the Macleay River. Stop for dinner, and then head to Smokey Cape Lighthouse in Hat Head National Park to stay the night in historic surroundings.
South West Rocks to Dorrigo: After a breakfast accompanied by sea views, drive to Dorrigo; home of magnificent rainforest in the Dorrigo National Park. Walk the Skywalk, a 70m elevated boardwalk, or stop for a coffee in the Canopy Cafe.
Dorrigo to Coffs Harbour: Drive back to the coast to vibrant Coffs Harbour. Do as the locals do and enjoy fish and chips by the beach, then let the kids choose among the many family attractions, such as the Big Banana, Dolphin Marine Magic or the Butterfly House.
Coffs Harbour to Grafton: Make your way to the gorgeous provincial city of Grafton, situated on the Clarence River and famous for its jacaranda trees. There are loads of things to do in Grafton: visit the Regional Gallery, pack your camera and roam the unspoilt Yuraygir National Park, or take a heritage walk through Grafton's historic streets.
Grafton to Yamba: Continue north to Yamba. Indulge in a pastry treat from the famous Pot Belly Pies, then walk along one of 11 uncrowded beaches to make room for dinner. Check out entertainment on offer at the Yamba Bowling Club before turning in for the night at your choice of accommodation.
Yamba to Ballina: Get an early start and drive to Ballina for breakfast - you'll find plenty of stylish cafes lining the inner city streets. Then, stroll the forest boardwalk of the Victoria Park Nature Reserve or enjoy some water sports on the river or on one of the white sandy beaches.
Ballina to Lismore: Drive inland until you reach Lismore. Creative and cultural, Lismore is home to more artists and buskers per capita than anywhere else in Australia, so make time to admire some local contributions at the Lismore Regional Art Gallery. You'll also find plenty of historic treasures at the Richmond River Historical Society Museum.
Lismore to Kyogle: Drive about half an hour to pretty Kyogle , a place surrounded by rainforest and with two heritage-listed national parks nearby. Explore the Kyogle Botanical Gardens on the banks of Fawcetts Creek, check out the striking views from Captain Cook Memorial Lookout or drive the scenic Lions Road over the McPherson Ranges.
Kyogle to Byron Bay: Drive to Byron Bay where the first order of business has to be a surf or swim in the luminous water. Then, take your pick of restaurants and cafes for lunch and, if you're feeling energetic, try a walk to the Byron Bay Lighthouse - Australia's most easterly point - for amazing views.
Byron Bay to Duranbah: Detour to Duranbah where you'll find Tropical Fruit World, the largest grower of tropical fruits in the world. Here you can taste a wide range of luscious fruits as well as enjoying boat rides, bird feeding and much more.
Duranbah to Kingscliff: Drive northeast to Kingscliff. From here you'll have easy access to scenic delights like Mount Warning and the Tweed River.
Kingscliff to Tweed Heads: From here it's less than 20 minutes to the golden beaches of Tweed Heads. This drive concludes here, but with so many beautiful, fascinating destinations in the region, you've only seen a fraction of them. It's time to start planning your itinerary for next time!
Panorama of Tallow beach from Cape Byron lighthouse, Byron Bay. Image Mike Leonard
Touring through Bellingen, North Coast. Image The Legendary Pacific Coast
Dolphin cruise at Port Stephens, North Coast. Image The Legendary Pacific Coast
View of Mount Warning over the Tweed River, Northern Rivers. Image The Legendary Pacific Coast
Driving through the Hunter Region. Image Nick Rains
Campfire at Stockton Sand Dunes (Worimi Conservation Lands), Hunter. Image The Legendary Pacific Coast
Streetscape of Nimbin with buskers, Northern Rivers. Image The Legendary Pacific Coast
Avoid driving tired and reach your destination.
When driving, always consider how tired you are – fatigue is one of the top three contributors to Australia’s road toll.
Ensure you have had enough sleep before your trip and share the driving wherever possible. When driving on Australian roads take advantage of the many ‘rest areas’ available, regardless of whether it’s a long-distance or short-distance trip.
Easily locate rest areas and plan your rest breaks for your next journey by visiting www.rms.nsw.gov.au