No matter which way you spin it, it's a helluva long way between Brisbane and Sydney. But if you think that flying is the only comfortable way to travel between the two east coast cities, then that's where you're wrong. If you've got a bit of time, then jumping in the car is the perfect way to undertake this lengthy journey.
There's no shortage of beautiful places to visit in northern NSW (think Kingscliff, Byron Bay, Lennox Head etc), but my first-stop-of-choice would be the seaside town of Ballina. A comfortable two-hour drive south of Brisbane, Ballina has everything weary travellers could possibly need, including fast-food outlets, cafes, pubs, service stations, supermarkets, and, importantly, plenty of accommodation options. If you want to spend some time here, you'll find pristine golden beaches, a picturesque river (great for taking the kids), a vast network of cycle/walking paths, plus that great road trip institution, the Big Prawn.
Coffs Harbour's famous jetty (photo courtesy Destination NSW).
Two-and-a-half hours south of Ballina sits Coffs Harbour. If you've ever driven this stretch before then you may have some pretty vivid memories of sitting in traffic and battling hundreds of others for the toilet at an overcrowded service centre. But don't let that put you off. Away from the Pacific Highway, the town is blessed with beautiful beaches, its very own waterside 'eat street', plus accommodation options ranging from budget to luxury. If you want to hang around, I'd recommend exploring the nearby inland towns of Bellingen and Dorrigo. Coffs is also home to such tourist gems as the Big Banana and Pet Porpoise Pool.
Once you've prised yourself away from Coffs, the large coastal town of Port Macquarie, two hours and 10 minutes down the highway, is the next obvious stop. Nestled between the Hastings River and beautiful surf beaches, Port Macquarie is literally surrounded by water. Once you've checked into one of the many accommodation options, I'd recommend stretching those weary legs by exploring the town on foot. Whether you want to walk the few metres to the nearest cafe, or tackle the nine-kilometre Port Macquarie Coastal Walk, the choice is yours. For longer stays, why not check out a local winery, or even the zoo.
Port Macquarie's Hastings River (photo courtesy Destination NSW).
Almost three hours down the highway by car sits the proud old industrial town of Newcastle. By far the biggest of our road trip stops, Newie once had a reputation as a smelly town, but since the steelworks shut down in 1999, the city's natural beauty is finally starting to shine. There's plenty of places to stay plus some world-famous beaches to explore. If a long day in the car leaves you feeling ravenous, then I'd definitely head straight to the harbourside Honeysuckle precinct - a relatively new development jam-packed with trendy eateries and lovely water views. If you decide to spend some time here (which I strongly recommend), try to get out to the Hunter Valley winery region, plus Lake Macquarie - a beautiful expanse of water, twice the size of Sydney Harbour.
From Newcastle, a roughly two-hour drive will take you to the very heart of Sydney (depending on the city's sometimes-horrendous traffic, of course). I could list a few great places to visit, but given the size of Sydney, I'd be here all day.
As the Pacific Highway improves (it's slated to be completely dual carriageway by 2020), this particular road trip is only going to get better and better. And with so many places to explore, you may find that once is not enough.
Wonderful way of describing a trip (that I had done before up to Port Macquaire and was a booooring driving experience). Now I really want to do it again following this article. Sounds, looks and sure it is fantastic and relaxing!