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Escape Sydney: Roadtrip to Queensland

Home > Sydney > Adventure | Escape the City | Family | Lists | Outdoor
by Telani Kumar (subscribe)
A free-spirit studying psychology at the University of Sydney.
Published December 27th 2017
Places to see on your Great Northern Roadtrip

"Head out on the highway. Looking for adventure..."

Does this sing to you? There's nothing like time away from the big smoke. If you like the sound of Australia's beautiful Eastern Seaboard, one legendary route to getaway from Sydney is northbound on the Pacific Motorway (M1).

sydney to queensland, roadtrip, nsw, australian, eastern seaboard, yuraygir national park, red cliff
Red Cliff, Yuraygir National Park


Take time off, pack your things, and hit the road in your RV, your Rover, your trusty Commodore. Whatever the wheels, you're sure to have a scenic journey towards Queensland. Here are some of the myriad of sites to see on the way, and spots where you can call it a night.

1. Central Coast to Myall Lakes National Park

The famous Pacific Motorway (M1) will be your best friend, taking you out of the big smoke through Sydney's lush northern suburbs and up through the NSW Central and North coasts. If you're roadtripping in spring, check out the Muogamarra wildflowers (via the Old Pacific Highway) and grab a bite at Pie in the Sky, just out of Sydney.

An hour and a half and a Hawkesbury River crossing later, you'll find yourself on the Central Coast. This region full of beaches and waterways will spoil you for choice on where to have a dip or get out on the water - Pearl Beach, Woy Woy, The Entrance, and Toukley, to name a few, accessible via the Central Coast Highway (A49)

A popular place for holiday-goers, the Central Coast is rich in accommodation, for all kinds of travellers - nature-lovers may enjoy the Patonga Beach camp area (with modern amenities and powered sites), while those looking for family-friendly comfort may like the Beachcomber Hotel in Toukley, right on the lake's edge and home to Maximilians bar and grill.

central coast, pearl beach, brisbane waters national park, nsw, roadtrip
Pearl Beach, Central Coast (Brisbane Waters National Park)


A stone's throw from the Central Coast is the port city of Newcastle. Stop to refresh at Nobby's Beach. Half an hour on, find Port Stephens and Nelson Bay. A unique find in this area is the sand dunes that make you feel like you're a lot further than 178km's from Sydney, and rather, in the Sahara desert. Enjoy a tour by 4WD bus and get your sandboarding on.

We found the quaint town of Bulahdelah (237km's from Sydney) a convenient and picturesque spot to set up camp for the night before exploring the Myall Lakes National Park the next day. Nice waking up to the river and backdrop of mountains.

seal rocks, myall lakes national park, beach, sea, nsw, coast, roadtrip
Seal Rocks, Myall Lakes National Park


The Myall Lakes, toward the coast from Bulahdelah, are a system of shallow water lakes, rivers and canals. With lots to explore by canoe or kayak, or simply have a splash, it's a haven for water babies. While here, see the beautiful Seal Rocks - named after rock formations creating the illusion of seals - and Sugarloaf Point for panoramic coastal views.

2. Midnorth Coast - Myall Lakes to Coffs Harbour

Three hours on the road from here will take on you on a tour of the the NSW Midnorth Coast. The sprawling beaches and ocean views continue - Foster-Tuncurry and Scotts Head are recommended. In terms of major towns and good places to stay the night, you'll find Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour which offer hotel luxury and holiday parks alike.

Scotts head, nsw, midnorth coast, beach, morning, roadtrip
Scotts Head, NSW Midnorth Coast


To get to Port Mac, take the Oxley Highway (B56) near Warchope. Framed by the Hastings River, it's a beautiful coastal town with lots of nice spots to enjoy some fish and chips. Check out Timbertown, the local heritage theme park. Find luxury at the Rydges or Sails Resort, or stay at the NRMA Breakwall Holiday Park to enjoy the outdoors and a good barbie before bed.

Coffs Harbour (2 hours up the coast) offers a similar range of accommodation and has must-see attractions like the Big Banana and Dolphine Marine Magic. I adore Mutton Bird Island- the small hike up is worth the serenity, the scenery, and the tiny Mutton Birds in their burrows! Catch the famous breakwall at Nambucca on the way to Coffs. Plenty to do in the area.

mutton bird island, nature reserve, coffs harbour, nsw, eastern seaboard, roadtrip
Mutton Bird Island Nature Reserve, Coffs Harbour


Tip: if you are looking for somewhere free and convenient to stay in your motorhome for the night between Port Mac and Coffs, you may stay at the Clybucca BP roadhouse, which has refreshments and hot food. We'll never forget the night we slept in the car beside all the truckies - it's memories like this that make the trip.

clybucca, bp, roadhouse, nsw, roadtrip
Clybucca BP Roadhouse


3. North Coast - Coffs Harbour to Yuraygir

Two hours on, find Yuraygir National Park, via Brooms Head Rd, which has vast coastal treks (some that are multi-day) and camping where you feel like it's just you and the beach. The park is about 300km's of wilderness surrounding Angourie and the not to miss Red Cliff, where Australia's vibrant red earth meets the ocean. A stunning contrast.

yuraygir, national park, red cliff, nsw, roadtrip, australia, eastern seaboard, red dirt, red earth
Red Cliff, Yuraygir National Park


With a number of sites, Yuraygir is a camper's paradise; easily spend days traversing the long trails offering a challenge and enjoying nights beneath the stars. Sites like the walk-in Shelley Head campground are remote so come well-prepared. Others like the Bookroom and Sandon River campground have amenities and barbecues. Do your research here.

When you're ready to farewell this natural haven, travel onwards and upwards to the Clarence River. Find Iluka, a great spot for fishing and exploring nearby rainforests. It's close to the resort town of Yamba which I can say radiates a friendly, laid-back air. These locations are connected by road and ferry - offering a daily service.

yamba, clarence river, north coast, nsw, ferry, iluka, roadtrip, australia, eastern seaboard
Yamba ferry wharf



4. Far North Coast - Ballina, Byron and beyond

Head north and you'll be closing in on the NSW-QLD border and finding yourself in the Far North Coast area. An hour and a half from Yamba is the town of Broadwater. Notice a stretch of sugarcane? This town is centred around an active sugar mill. I always like to wind down the window to see if the air smells sweet here.

byron bay, lighthouse, nsw, most eastern point, australia, eastern seaboard, roadtrip
Byron Bay lighthouse


You'll soon reach Ballina, home to the Giant Prawn. This is your gateway to an area rich in vibrant towns, beautiful coastline and scenic hinterland roads.

Most notably, is Byron Bay. Much love for this bohemian town by the sea. With a stunning beach where you'll find musicians and artists, lots of nice food (most ingredients sourced from within 100km's), shops and bars, it's the perfect spot for a holiday. We stayed in one of the YHA hostels - conveniently close to everything, and a great place to meet fellow tourists.

killen falls, nsw, far north coast, roadtrip, waterfall
Killen Falls


Nature-lovers would enjoy the series of headlands and beaches in Broken Head Nature Reserve, a stone's throw south of Byron. Feel like a break from the sea? Head inland a little, through the hinterland to find Killen Falls, and the stunning Crystal Palace. Ever seen an amethyst cave or quartz the size of a boulder?

quartz, crystal castle, shambhala gardens, nsw, far north, hinterland, roadtrip
Crystal Castle & Shambhala Gardens


Find a series of small towns, each with their own colourful personality - Bangalow, Mullumbimby, and my favourite little hippie town, Nimbin. This hub of vibrant, alternative culture is hidden away in the hinterland, and will be unlike any other town you've seen before. Check out the esoteric stores, the hemp bar, meet the locals, and more.



An easy drive from this general area will take you up to and over the border. See Kingscliff (right before the Coolangatta border, reached via Tweed Coast Road) if you still have a taste for seaside gems. Stay in luxury, and immerse yourself in kayaking, snorkelling, and lazy beach sessions.

Anyway, congratulations! You've conquered the Sydney to Queensland. Spoil yourself with the beautiful places listed here and more - it doesn't end here. The world is your oyster once you hit the road. Enjoy your time on the Gold Coast and beyond.
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Why? Holiday. Explore. Travel. Relax. Discover. Have fun.
When: Anytime
Where: North of Sydney
Cost: Consider petrol, accommodation (camping can be free), food/supplies, recreational activities
Your Comment
Lake Macquarie is also a picturesque area, located between central coast and Newcastle. A couple of days in this area is highly recommended. For the boaties and fishermen, if you didn't know already, this is the biggest salt water lake in the Southern Hemisphere.
by Nicol (score: 0|8) 322 days ago
There Lakes Way to Foster offers a number of excellent foreshore camping experiences
by linnm (score: 1|10) 308 days ago
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