Road Trip Sydney to Brisbane – Exploring Australia’s Stunning Coastal Towns

A family road trip from Sydney to Brisbane can be an incredible adventure with plenty of fun and exciting experiences to enjoy along the way.

Depending on which way you go, the journey between the two cities can expose you to breathtaking coastal scenery, beautiful national parks, lush countryside and vibrant cities, all of which offer a wide range of attractions for all types of families.

Whether you are planning a quick weekend getaway or an extended road trip, there’s something for everyone along this route.

From exploring the iconic beaches of the Gold Coast to discovering the gorgeous scenery of the Barrington Tops National Park, this road trip will create memories you will surely treasure for years to come.

Plan an Australian road trip graphic

How Long Do I Need Driving from Sydney to Brisbane?

You could complete a road trip to Brisbane in one day from the Emerald City if you drove non-stop. However, doing that would be a real shame as there are many things to see between Sydney and Brisbane.

To do this trip justice, you should devote up to a week or more to doing it. However, if you only have a couple of days available, that will at least give you enough time to experience some of its main highlights.

What is the Distance Between Sydney to Brisbane?

Most people take one of three main routes on their Sydney to Brisbane Drive.

The most direct is along the M1, which covers a distance of about 910 km along the coast and takes about 9.5 hours of non-stop driving to complete.

An alternative route is the New England Highway/A15 detour, which will take you inland through rural parts of New South Wales and Queensland. Typically, this will add an extra two hours to your journey, but it will showcase to you the heart of the country, New South Wales and Queensland.

A variation on this route is to cut through on Bucketts Way before joining on the New England Highway/A15. It is a less popular route but will shave about 20 minutes off your drive time. It will also showcase small towns and historic areas most tourists never see.

These routes offer different driving experiences, so think carefully about what you want to see when planning your Sydney-Brisbane road trip.

Coastal Route Sydney to Brisbane

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Sydney to Newcastle163 kms (101 miles)2 hours 5 minutesNewcastle
Newcastle to Port Macquarie246 kms (153 miles)2 hours 45 minutesPort Macquarie
Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads120 kms (75 miles)1 hours 20 minutesNambucca Heads
Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour48 kms (30 miles)35 minutesCoffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay233 kms (145 miles)2 hours 25 minutesByron Bay
Byron Bay to Gold Coast92 kms (57 miles)1 hours 10 minutesGold Coast
Gold Coast to Brisbane79 kms (49 miles)1 hourBrisbane
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Inland/New England Highway Route Sydney to Brisbane

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Sydney to Tamworth407 kms (253 miles)4 hours 45 minutesTamworth
Tamworth to Warwick416 kms (2598 mills)4 hours 50 minutesWarwick
Warwick to Brisbane207 kms (127 miles)2 hours 35 minutesBrisbane
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Best Time of Year to Drive from Sydney to Brisbane

As they are two of Australia’s most popular cities, the drive from Sydney to Brisbane is one that many people undertake every day of the year.

For this reason, there is no best time of the year to travel.

However, the shoulder season of March to May and September to November are usually good times to embark on a trip of this nature. 

During this period, temperatures are mild, accommodation prices are lower, and children are at school. Therefore, you could benefit from less traffic on the roads, not as big queue times at attractions and greater availability of cheaper overnight accommodation.

Best Stops on a Sydney to Brisbane Road Trip – Coastal Route

A family road trip from Sydney to Brisbane is an excellent way to explore the east part of Australia.

Irrespective of the route you take, there are several fantastic destinations and fascinating attractions to visit during the drive. 

This section will highlight some of the best stops along the route to add to your Sydney to Brisbane itinerary.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Sydney to Newcastle163 kms (101 miles)2 hours 5 minutesNewcastle
Newcastle to Port Macquarie246 kms (153 miles)2 hours 45 minutesPort Macquarie
Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads120 kms (75 miles)1 hours 20 minutesNambucca Heads
Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour48 kms (30 miles)35 minutesCoffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay233 kms (145 miles)2 hours 25 minutesByron Bay
Byron Bay to Gold Coast92 kms (57 miles)1 hours 10 minutesGold Coast
Gold Coast to Brisbane79 kms (49 miles)1 hourBrisbane
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Newcastle (1-2 nights)

Newcastle is a vibrant coastal city that offers a range of activities for families with children.

An excellent place to start is the Newcastle Ocean Baths, which is a terrific spot for swimming and enjoying the ocean view. Alternatively, Stockton Beach is a renowned destination for sandboarding – an activity your kids will love!

From there, you can head to the Blackbutt Reserve, a 182-hectare nature reserve home to koalas and wallabies. You can also visit the Hunter Wetlands Centre, which accommodates kangaroos, emus, and reptiles and offers canoeing and walking trails.

If your kids are interested in science, take them to the Newcastle Museum to learn about the region’s history concerning it. The Newcastle Observatory is also a fantastic place to visit for stargazing.

Should you come between June and November, book yourselves on a whale-watching tour. Seeing these magnificent creatures frolicking on the waves is a truly magical site.

Port Macquarie (1 -2 nights)

Crocodiles are synonymous with Australia, so you should take the opportunity to see them during your Brisbane to Sydney road trip on a stop off at Port Macquarie.

One of the best places to do this is the Billabong Koala and Wildlife Park. You will be able to view them up close and personal (safely!) and enjoy interactive experiences with koalas and kangaroos.

AU Road Trip Sydney to Brisbane - Port Macquarie

If you prefer to stretch your legs, the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre has a beautiful boardwalk that will take you through the lush rainforest. During it, you will see a diverse range of flora and fauna and educational activities and programs for children to enjoy.

To get the blood pumping, the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk is a fabulous 9km path showcasing spectacular coastline views. There are also several parks and playgrounds to run around in as well.

Should you be interested in experiencing something more unique, the Timbertown Heritage Theme Park presents a recreation of an Australian village circa 19th-century, featuring fun activities and interactive exhibits for kids to enjoy, including rides on steam trains and horse-drawn rides carriages.

Nambucca Heads (1 night)

The charming coastal town of Nambucca Heads is about an hour’s drive north of Port Macquarie. It is a lovely place to visit with children as it offers plenty of recreational activities for them to enjoy.

The Nambucca Heads Swimming Pool and Waterslide have two water slides and a toddler pool, providing a welcome escape from the sun on a warm day. Additionally, the Nambucca Valley River is another family-friendly spot with good conditions for swimming, fishing and boating (plenty of rentals are available).

For a bit of nature, head to the Yarriabini National Park, where you can enjoy bushwalking and picnicking while taking in the breathtaking views of the surrounding forest and mountains. 

Finally, take advantage of the V-Wall Outdoor Gallery, where you can admire the beautiful art murals that line the breakwater and even create your own by adding your handprints to the wall.

Coffs Harbour (1 night)

If you’re looking for fun things to do on your Sydney to Brisbane road trip, consider a stop at Coffs Harbour.

Home to the famous Big Banana attraction, you will want to spend some time there as it is an awesome place for kids. As well as the iconic structure, it has a water park, mini-golf and ice skating that will provide children with hours of fun.

sunrise over the beach in Coffs Harbour, NSW

There are also excellent beaches to enjoy in the form of Jetty Beach and Park Beach, perfect for swimming, surfing and playing ball sports.

If you have an interest in marine life, take the chance to visit the Dolphin Marine Conservation Park. You can have thrilling interactive animal encounters with dolphins, seals, and turtles there. Similarly, the Coffs Harbour Butterfly House is another good spot for families. There you can observe exotic butterflies and participate in educational programs.

Byron Bay (1-2 nights)

Byron Bay is one of the coolest places in New South Wales to visit, so you should definitely factor in some time here.

The region is known for its stunning beaches, world-class music festivals, and laid-back surfing feel. It also happens to be the home of the famous Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, who has been spotted around town from time to time!

There are plenty of excellent beaches to spend quality time swimming, surfing and relaxing on. Additionally, the Cape Byron Lighthouse is a historic building representing Australia’s most easterly point. The views from it are amazing, especially during sunrise, which is always the first place in the country where it happens.

For something fun and exciting, check out the Circus Arts Byron Bay. Kids can learn essential circus skills like acrobatics, trapezing and juggling there.

Gold Coast (2-4 nights)

The Gold Coast is a wonderful destination to visit with children, so you should definitely stop here on your drive to Brisbane from Sydney.

For a start, there are brilliant beaches like the world-famous Surfer’s Paradise, Broadbeach, Coolangatta and Burleigh, where they can swim, surf and build sandcastles all day long.

AU Road Trip Sydney to Brisbane - Coolangatta

Then, of course, there are the famous theme parks of Dreamworld, Sea World, and Movie World they will no doubt want to visit.

There are also plenty of excellent retail outlets for those who want to shop till they drop, while at the Gold Coast hinterland and national parks, like Lamington National Park, families can go on bushwalks and enjoy the scenic views.

Alternatively, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a terrific place for interactive experiences with kangaroos, koalas and baby crocodiles.

Sydney to Brisbane – The Buckett’s Way Detour

If you decide to take the Buckett’s Way you will turn left on it from Twelve Mile Creek. It runs for 191 km until joining up with the A15 at Uralla. If driving this route, here is a good place to stop at:

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Sydney to Barrington272 kms (169 miles)3 hours 25 minutesBarrington
Barrington to Brisbane705 kms (438 miles)8 hours 15 minutesBrisbane
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Barrington (1 – 2 nights)

The small town of Barrington is considered the gateway to the magnificent Barrington Tops National Park.

A must-visit destination for families who enjoy outdoor adventures together, the park is sure to impress with its stunning natural beauty and diverse wildlife.

There are plenty of things to see and do for those with children. For instance, if you take a scenic drive through the park, you can stop to hike to waterfalls or swim in rivers. Alternatively, you can go on a bush walk to see giant Antarctic beech trees or enjoy a picnic in one of the many scenic spots.

The park is also a noted spot for mountain biking and horseback riding. In addition, it is home to koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and many bird species and has a campground.

From here, you can rejoin the A15 or head back to the coastal route we described above to Port Macquarie.

Sydney to Brisbane Drive – The New England Highway/A15 Detour

Should you want to take the New England Highway/A15 detour, you’ll have to leave the M1 at the Seahampton exit after about 145 km of driving. You will then stay on this road for approximately 825 km.

DriveDistanceEstimated Drive TimeWhere to Stay
Sydney to Tamworth407 kms (253 miles)4 hours 45 minutesTamworth
Tamworth to Warwick416 kms (2598 mills)4 hours 50 minutesWarwick
Warwick to Brisbane207 kms (127 miles)2 hours 35 minutesBrisbane
Estimates only; times will vary based on traffic and road conditions

Here are good places to stop:

Tamworth (1 – 2 nights)

If you take the New England Highway detour, your children will thank you for stopping at Tamworth!

One of New South Wales’s most child-friendly travel destinations, it is known for the Tamworth Regional Playground. An enormous play area offers a range of activities for kids of all ages, including a water play area, a maze, and a flying fox that will amuse them for hours.

AU Road Trip Sydney to Brisbane - Tamworth

Families can also visit the Tamworth Marsupial Park and Adventure Playground, which houses many native Australian animals. There, children can hand-feed Indian peacocks and see wallabies, kangaroos and emus up close. Additionally, there is a fantastic adventure playground for them to enjoy too.

Elsewhere, you’ll want to visit the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame if you are into country music. It celebrates the history of this genre of music in Australia, featuring a range of exhibits, interactive displays, and many famous tunes.

Warwick (1 night)

Are your children fans of Mary Poppins? If they are, they might enjoy visiting the childhood home of P.L. Travers, who wrote the story.

Families can take a guided tour of the beautifully preserved heritage-listed home from those who presently own it. During this time, they will gain a fascinating insight into the life of this beloved writer. 

The house features a small museum filled with artifacts and memorabilia and exhibits that showcase Travers’ contributions to literature and the entertainment industry. Visitors can also stroll around the house’s garden and surrounding countryside.

Elsewhere, the Warwick Art Gallery is a popular attraction showcasing contemporary artworks from local and national artists. The nearby Leslie Dam and Queen Mary Falls National Park are also good spots for hiking, fishing, and generally, allowing the kids to get rid of excess energy!

Brisbane (3-5 nights)

Congratulation, you’ve made it! This lively city of Brisbane offers a perfect blend of urban delights and natural beauty. Explore the South Bank Parklands with its lush gardens, picnic areas, and a man-made beach. Enjoy the interactive exhibits at the Queensland Museum or meet the local wildlife at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Where to Next?

If you’re seeking some further family driving adventures, you may also want to read:

More Tips for Road Tripping Sydney to Brisbane

  • Download the Fuel Map Australia App from the Google Play Store. It will give you a comprehensive overview of the fuel price and the location of every single petrol station along the route you take.
  • Remember, during daylight savings (1st Sunday in October to 1st Sunday in April), New South Wales is an hour ahead of Queensland.
  • For more advice on road tripping Australia from timing your trip around the local school holidays to what sort of vehicle you need, make sure your pop over to our Australian road trip planning guide.
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