Brisbane to Sydney road trip: eats and stays


If you love a road trip, I can highly recommend a few days exploring Australia’s Gold Coast. After consulting ChatGPT and some Aussie friends, we decided on our route that would take in four different destinations on our way from Brisbane to Sydney. We could have hired a camper van, but we’d heard from others that went down that path, said they would never do it again, so we booked a combination of motels, hotels and Airbnbs instead.

Byron Bay

Our first stop was a 2 ½ hours drive and a 1 hour time zone away from Brisbane. Byron Bay is famous for its beautiful beaches that are a paradise for surfers. After checking in to the Hibiscus Motel we picked up some fish and chips from Fish heads restaurant and headed to the beach next door to people watch.

Byron Bay
Byron Bay

Sadly, we didn’t spot local resident celebrity Liam Hemworth catching some waves, but happily we didn’t set eyes on the brown snake that was advertised on a warning sign either.

Thai Lucy
Thai Lucy

We ate dinner at Thai Lucy that was nestled in between a row of inviting restaurants on 4 Bay Lane, not too far from the beach. Afterwards we headed to pretend we were young again and watch the sun go down by the bay along with all the twenty something year old backpackers.

Before you leave Byron Bay you may want to take the 10 minutes drive or much longer walk up to the Lighthouse. There is a small carpark there but if you go too late in the day you may have to queue for a space. But it would be worth it if you are there at the right time of the year and get to spot whales or dolphins.

Coffs Harbour

Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour

Next stop on our road trip and another 2 ½ hours drive away was Coffs Harbour, where we checked into a tastefully decorated Airbnb 2-bedroomed apartment.

Coffs Harbour - road trip pit stop

Coffs Harbour is a shortish drive, but worlds away from Byron Bay in terms of its personality. It felt like it catered to the older crowd with pleasant walks along the harbour and an afternoon on the beach on offer. Our activity options were also limited as we arrived on Christmas Eve, so all the shops were closing early. But we did enjoy a mountain of chips and fish from Sea Salt for lunch and a pleasant dinner at Esme Bar and Kitchen. Both can be found in the Jetty Village.

Port Macquarie

ibis Port Macquarie
ibis Styles Port Macquarie

Next up and less than a 2 hours drive away was Port Macquarie where we stayed at the perfectly located ibis Styles Port Macquarie. With views of the sea, a short walk to the beach and play park as well as a selection of beach toys that were available to borrow for free from the hotel – it really was a family friendly option. We made the most of the body boards on offer during an afternoon at the big beach, that was practically empty.

Port Macquarie

However, I must admit I got almost as excited about the fact that you could use the onsite washing machines, again free of charge as I did about the fact that we managed to find a decent restaurant open on Christmas Day. I was convinced we would have no option but to have a Christmas dinner at McDonalds. We heartedly enjoyed our dinner at The Grill in our freshly laundered clothes.

Port Nelson

The final stop before we hit Sydney was spent at a unique Airbnb in Sunset Hilltop that was walking distance to a brewery and overlooked vine yards. It took us just over 2 ½ hours to arrive in the Port Nelson area.

Anna's Bay
Anna’s Bay

We were keen to try either camel riding (yes you read that right) or sand boarding on the beach dunes at Anna’s Bay. Sadly, they were closing up for the day when we arrived late afternoon, so go early to avoid disappointment. There are lots of different huts on the beach where you can book an activity.

If you want a less busy beach head down the road to One Mile beach instead or if you’re in search of restaurants head to the heart of Port Nelson where we enjoyed a meal at Nigronis.

There was a restaurant serving wine and meat and cheese platters with beautiful views really near our secluded B&B. Sadly it was closed for a public holiday during our stay. But it gives us a reason to go back next time we are in that neck of the woods.

Top tips for a successful road trip

We rounded off our memorable trip from Brisbane to our ultimate destination of Sydney, with a few days checking out the home of the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge and staying at the Mercure Sydney.

One piece of advice, if you are thinking about doing a road trip during Christmas time, you may want to start booking now as there wasn’t much choice and we paid a premium when we booked everything six months before in July. You will also find lots of restaurants and tourist attractions closed or with limited opening hours during Christmas week.

Also learn the rules of the road before you go, or you will end up paying more in fines than you did for airfares!

Read Sydney with teens for ideas on what to do while you’re there!

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