25 June 2015
The iconic north coast NSW road trip, known as the Legendary Pacific Coast, is one of Australia’s top coastal drives.
Stretching along the Pacific Coast corridor it has something for everyone: stunning beaches and beach side towns, National Parks, historic sites, beautiful hinterland, wildlife watching, wineries and every water sport imaginable.
Below are suggested towns along the way for a short or extended stay.
The beach side city of Newcastle has undergone a transformation and was voted as one of Lonely Planet’s must see destinations in 2011. With great surf beaches, ocean baths, coastal walking tracks, historic Fort Scratchley Site, inner city pubs, arts and culture, and a thriving restaurant scene, Newcastle is a happening place.
The Hunter Wetlands and Blackbutt Reserve make for good family attractions and at nearby Stockton Beach there are the massive sand dunes offering 4WD tours, sand boarding, and quad biking. Just north of Newcastle is Port Stephens, a destination in itself with fantastic fishing, beautiful beaches, opportunities for snorkeling and diving and for whale and dolphin watching.
The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous and popular wine growing regions, and there is also a lot to do for families – the Hunter Valley Gardens offers mini golf, aqua golf, playgrounds and a miniature train.
But most people visit the Hunter for world class wine tasting, fine dining, adventures like hot air ballooning or relaxing spa treatments and rounds of golf. For a family lunch (and beer) consider the popular Harrigan’s Irish Pub.
Back on the wine trail, the Lovedale Wine and Art Trail is quiet and unhurried with many boutique wineries, and a chocolate factory. And the Lovedale Long Lunch is an infamous day of music, food and wine and happens each May.
Seal Rocks is a quiet fishing village off the beaten-path offering clear bays for swimming, snorkelling, boating and fishing. It’s also a great place to go camping, or simply take a nature walk and enjoy the fresh air.
Port Macquarie is a vibrant and popular holiday destination sitting at the estuary of the Hastings River, and families love it here. With calm waterways, boardwalks, bountiful fishing, gorgeous National Parks and surfing beaches so many visitors return to Port time and again.
For the adventurous, the spectacular 9km coastal walk from Town Beach to Lighthouse Beach takes in beaches, headlands, historic sites and the Sea Acres Rainforest. The koala hospital is worth a visit and on the outskirts of Port lie many things waiting for you to explore. Cassegrain Wines, breweries and Ricardoe’s Tomatoes – where you can have a fresh and tasty lunch followed by a strawberry picking expedition in their hydroponic strawberry farms.
Just a 20 minute detour off the main Legendary Pacific Coast Drive is the sleepy town of South West Rocks. Surrounded by National Parks and beaches there’s a whole range of beauty and relaxation. Wild kangaroos are in abundance by the beach in Little Bay, drive out to Smokey Cape Lighthouse and visit the historic Trial Bay Gaol.
There’s a small offering of cafes and restaurants in town and a number of caravan parks and campsites.
Half way along the Legendary Pacific Coast route is Coffs Harbour which is packed full of family things to do. But it’s not just the town with plenty on offer, the Coffs Coast area is big enough in itself to spend a whole week and has something for everyone.
Must dos include:
Heading about 30 minutes north of Coffs Harbour stop in at Red Rocks Beach, one of the prettiest beaches in NSW.
Highlights include the fishing, world class surfing beaches and world-famous prawns. There’s also a fantastic coastal walk you can go on through the National Park to the small secluded Shelley’s beach.
In town, cafes and restaurants line the main street. You can take your kids to a movie at the charming old cinema and there’s the iconic Pacific Hotel that sits on a bluff overlooking the town’s main beach.
For a family friendly lunch or dinner, don’t miss the Yamba Tavern on the river for fish feeding and sunset watching, plus there’s a great kids playground. And Angourie Beach is another favourite local spot for fishing and surfing.
For a pit stop heading north towards Byron Bay, drop in to the Macadamia Castle for what we believe has the world’s best pancakes. And, for a small fee, your kids can go out the back and meet kangaroos, wombats and feed farm animals.
The scenically beautiful coastal drive between Ballina and Byron Bay brings you to the quiet surfing town of Lennox Head, with Lennox Point being noted as one of the top ten surfing breaks in Australia. It’s a laid back and funky place to hang out in with boutiques, cafes, and restaurants. And there’s a nice headland walk over to Boulders Beach at the southern end of town.
Byron Bay is that legendary beach town that has been attracting thousands from around the world for years, but it’s not just for surfers and the alternative, it also makes for a great family destination.
You’ve got the markets, the food, and festivals. If you time it for Easter, don’t miss the Byron Bay Bluesfest. Your kids can learn to surf at one of the many kid friendly beaches, you can kayak and snorkel, go for whale watching, and the coastal walk to Cape Byron Lighthouse is one of the best short walks in Australia.
The relaxed beachside town of Kingscliff is only a 15 minute drive to the Queensland border, yet it’s enough off the beaten-track that it doesn’t lose its appeal.
The beach is family friendly and Cudgen Creek at the southern end of town is a top spot for the kids to enjoy some water activities in clean, calm water – there’s a popular playground there too.
The cafe strip is alive with busy cafes and restaurants, plus there’s the newly renovated Kingscliff Beach Hotel as well as the Surf Club and Bowling Club for affordable meals with a view.
If Byron is too busy for you, Kingscliff makes for a great alternative to explore the rest of the North Coast region. And while in Kingscliff, check out the nearby towns of Cabarita Beach, Fingal Head and Pottsville.
A road trip is the most practical and cost effective way to travel as a family and create those lifelong memories, so grab the kids, pack up the car, and hit the open road. Don’t forget your patience, sense of adventure and to take rest stops every two hours!
To do this drive and take in every town recommended at a comfortable pace, I would allow at least two weeks spending two days in Newcastle/Hunter Valley, one day Seal Rocks, two days Port Macquarie, one day South West Rocks, two days Coffs Harbour, one day Yamba/Lennox Heads, three days Byron Bay, one day Kingscliff.