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Things to do and where to stop between Sydney and Brisbane
Pacific Highway Drive Sydney - Brisbane incorporating day trips from Sydney
Day trips from Sydney and places to stop on the coastal road to Coffs Harbour and Brisbane from Sydney
What to do, and where to stop, during your long journey along the Pacific Highway (coastal route) from Sydney to Brisbane, or from Brisbane to Sydney.
Day trips from Sydney
This page can also be used as a source of ideas for day trips out of Sydney. We will hopefully be able to expand on all this further down the road. We have even added a comments box, a first for Sydney100, so if you can add your expertise and experience it would be of great help to everybody planning a day trip or longer, north of Sydney.
Brisbane to / from Sydney in a single day?
Below are few suggestions whether you are trying to do the trip in a day, or are taking your time to enjoy the coast and surrounding countryside. I would recommend that you stop for at least one night. Coffs Harbour or Port Macquarie are roughly half way between the two cities and have plenty of accommodation, places to eat and things to do. In fact, why not make the journey part of your holiday and take several days. Or base yourself in Coffs for a few days on the way, and enjoy the spectacular Mid North Coast.
Stops from Sydney to Coffs Harbour and beyond to Brisbane
If you are heading north out of Sydney there are a number of excellent places to stop and enjoy along the way. Where you should stop, and for how long, that's the tricky bit that we will endeavour to help you with.
Sydney's North Shore
Wahroonga, which is on the North Shore close to the start of the F3 Freeway, has a nice park, and even better cafe opposite it [Coonanbarra Cafe], but you are haven't even made it out of Sydney yet.
You first potential stop past Sydney's leafy North Shore is to stop at Brooklyn near the Hawkesbury River for views and cruises. The drive down to the Mooney Mooney Bridge is spectacular but it is a bit hard on the driver to fully appreciate in three lanes of fast traffic.
Travel Information, Local Map and Lookouts
Below is a link to other places to stop at along with the all important official lookouts. The lookouts, north of the Mooney Mooney Bridge, are certainly vastly superior to the screams of "Lookout!" from passengers in the vehicles of distracted drivers.
The trouble with stopping here is you are barely out of Sydney and there is (potentially) much road ahead. If you don't have much time, and can handle the driving, mark this one down for another day, or another trip or another reason to return. You probably have a few of those already. So maybe just a quick stop at a lookout.
The Central Coast is another excellent place in NSW worthy of your time and you do have the option of taking a diversion off of the freeway to see it. Trouble is, in my opinion, and I maybe unpopular for saying this, it is a bit out of the way. You can certainly do some of it with ease but not the best bits like the Brisbane Waters and Pearl Beach.
You could just use the Central Coast as a short stopping point for a rest. Try to avoid the temptation to stop at the service station about half way between Sydney and Newcastle. I know it's easy, has a Maccas and petrol and all that, but it's a Service Station and you can do better.
Ok, I'll suggest somewhere, which will get me into trouble with some. The best stops are in the southern end of the Central Coast like Terrigal. Trouble is, you may hit traffic. If you stop at Morriset, it won't be as nice but there is a small shopping mall and a park for the kids to play in.
Newcastle or Raymond Terrace
Alternatively, just keep going and stop at Newcastle which is a bit of a detour, particularly if you get lost, or Raymond Terrace just past the Newcastle turn off. If you are going to the Hunter Valley, stop at Brooklyn if you have to stop at all.
The Great Central Coast
As I said, the Central Coast is a great spot and it offers you the whole beachside holiday experience along with the chance to do some bushwalking. Of course, if you don't fancy bushwalking there are other ways of experiencing the green stuff.
Quad Biking on the Central Coast - Day Trip from Sydney
You will get to see lots of bush quickly in a powerful little Quad Bike. Your pulse will race as you bound across the terrain with a big smile on your face. You will be in complete control, your guide will help and train you but you will have control of the bike how fast you go. Be careful, if you haven't ridden one of these things before they are heavy and you can get hurt. Listen to, and follow, your guide's instructions.
Hunter Valley - Day trip from Sydney
Now we are talking. The Hunter Valley is a top thing to do and it is close enough to Sydney to do it in a day. If you intend to sample the local produce, get someone else to drive or go on a tour.
Hunter Valley Scenic Wine Tasting Tour
The scenic reference is about the hills and valleys but the wine can look pretty good to. The tour below has been going for ages which tells you something about how popular it is. These guys don't like freeways so they take you through the bush and have lots to tell you about it all. So it's a nice mix of countryside and wine tasting.
Port Dolphins, sorry, Port Stephens
Port Stephens is a lovely area many people return to year after year. It is a picturesque spot famous for its friendly dolphins and white sandy beaches. Most of the boats operate out of Nelson Bay, Port Stephen's main town. Stockton Beach is famous for its shipwrecks and seemingly endless amounts of sand. Port Stephens even has a winery (albeit owned by a boutique brewery - beer then wine - you'll be fine) in case you can't resist the Hunter Valley. Not that it is that far away.Swim with the Wild Dolphins of Port Stephens
The Manning Valley?
The Middle Brother National Park in the Manning Valley, ably assisted by his other two brothers, makes for a very scenic slice of NSW. Manning Valley is not as developed as some of its neighbours this so particular stretch of paradise could seduce you into staying a while, just so long as you don't need lots of different things to do that is.
Port Macquarie and Diamond Head
Port Macquarie or "Port" is nice. Diamond Head, nearby, is an awesome spot. You need to travel on a bit of dirt road. That's at the time of writing this. I'm sure that will change one day and it is no big deal. Anyway, it's a great spot with some awesome views, a nice camp side, wildlife and beaches, just perfect for families.
The Mid North Coast
Stretching from Port Macquarie to Grafton is an area of NSW commonly referred to as the Mid North Coast. This fairly unimaginable name belies the fact that this is an area of outstanding beauty and crammed packed with fun things to do.
In between Port Macquarie and Grafton is Coffs Harbour, the 'Big Banana'. It is a good place to base yourself for a few days. Coffs is a good six hour drive from Sydney.
South West Rocks
What do you have to look forward to? Great beaches, lovely rural views, attractive farming communities and beautiful landscapes (particularly around South West Rocks). It appears that the Mid North Coast's main purpose for being is just to make us happy.
Hat Head National Park
Hat Head National Park is one of many great spots you should visit and provides a fabulous backdrop to the little coastal resort of Hat Head. Hat Head is also home to the Smoky Cape Lighthouse, the tallest in NSW.
Bellingen and Dorrigo
Inland you should visit Bellingen, for its artiness and craftiness and Dorrigo for its mountain scenery and waterfalls. North West of Bellingen is a special little place that's been making a really big splash.
Whitewater Rafting at Nymboida
Nymboida River - one of the world's classic rivers
It's splashing good fun when you raft through the white water of the rugged Nymboida River. The steep granite gorges generate rapids renowned among white water enthusiasts. The rainforest-lined banks enhance the feeling of being out there in the wild.
Before getting wet you get to enjoy a two-hour scenic drive that climbs 700 meters through the forests of the Eastern Dorrigo. The main event is a four-hour raft that covers nine kilometres of the upper Nymboida river over rapids up to grade 4-5. Are you up to 'Lucifers Leap', 'Devils 1 & 2' and the 'Decapitator 7 Elkhorn Passage'?
Nymboida - Pub and Museum of Interesting Things
There is more to Nymboida than whitewater rafting. The pub at in Nymboida Village has a great view of the river and the intriguing "Museum of Interesting Things". In case you wonder about the Police Station at Nymboida (what's that doing there? etc) it was built a very long time ago but rarely sees a policeman.
On to Brisbane or return to Sydney?
From Coffs you are about 5 hours drive from Brisbane. On route you could stop at Byron Bay, which is heaven on earth to many. The is also the village of Bangalow just west of Byron which is famous for its village style cafes and restaurants. Further north, the Gold Coast beckons and is packed full of things to do and figures highly on Queensland's list of top 100 things to do.
Pacific Highway Upgrade - Coffs Harbour to Grafton
At the time of writing, the Pacific Highway just north of Coffs is being upgraded. There is a back route from Coffs Harbour to Grafton through Nana Glen. This is a country road, so it is debatable whether it is quicker or not, but it is worth considering for the change of scenery.
So that's all fine and dandy but your car may need to come back to Sydney and there are bound to be things on the Sydney top 100 list that you haven't done yet. So maybe you should do some of the stops that you missed on the way up, on the way back. As we said before, Port Macquarie is nice.
Suggestions and Comments
If you can think of anywhere else to add to the above let us know. Maybe we could get a top 100 list of places to stop!
Top things to do in Sydney