Extend your drive from Brisbane to Newcastle, immersing yourself in the natural wonders of Australia’s eastern coastline.
If you only stop for fuel and rest breaks, the drive from Brisbane to Newcastle will take you around 10 hours. But sticking to the direct route will see you missing out on some of NSW’s best coastal towns, natural playgrounds and bucket-list sights.
Instead of arriving exhausted after a full day of driving, take the scenic route and spend more time familiarising yourself with world-class surf breaks, wild swimming worthy of fairytale storybooks and coastal cafes with breathtaking views.
Your first stop after Brisbane should be at the Gold Coast, where famous surf breaks have drawn world travellers for decades.
Ride the gnarly waves on Nobby’s Beach. (Image: Destination Gold Coast)
Spend a few days and enjoy both the family-friendly beaches like Burleigh Heads, Broadbeach and Surfers Paradise, as well as the picturesque hinterland with its rainforest walks and wild swimming.
Explore Surfers Paradise’s next-door neighbour Broadbeach. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Must do: Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places in Australia to get up close with kangaroos, koalas and other native animals, and will especially please the kids, who will enjoy live animal shows and activities like zip lines and a splash park.
Get up close with kangaroos at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. (Image: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Accommodation: JW Marriott Resort And Spa
Want a slice of luxury at the start of your Brisbane to Newcastle road trip? Book a night at the JW Marriott Resort And Spa, which is famous for its massive saltwater lagoon pool filled with tropical fish you can swim with. It’s also home to one of the Gold Coast’s best restaurants, Misono.
Embrace the tropical vibes at JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa. (Image: Tourism Events Queensland)
As you cross the Queensland-New South Wales border, one of the first turn-offs you’ll spot is Byron Bay, Australia’s bohemian surf town that’s home to celebrities and hippies alike. Even with all its hype, new visitors continue to fall in love with the region’s rainforest hinterland, crystalline waters and thriving arts scene, so it remains a worthy stop on any road trip along the NSW coast.
Byron Bay is the first stop once you cross the state border. (Image: Destination NSW)
Explore beyond the Bay itself into the rolling hills and find small, creative hubs like Bangalow and Federal for great cafes and boutique shopping. Surfing enthusiasts will love the smaller enclave of Lennox Head, a bit further south.
Swing by for brunch at Federal Doma cafe.
Must do: Wategos Beach
The most famous beach in Byron Bay, Wategos, continues to have a small-town feel, even when hundreds flock during the summer months. With shallow waters that lead out to a surf break, everyone can enjoy a swim in the turquoise waters.
Find Wategos Beach hidden between The Pass and the Cape Byron Lighthouse. (Image: Destination NSW)
Accommodation: Crystalbrook Byron
Want to enjoy Byron Bay, but avoid the crowds? Our pick for the best accommodation is Crystalbrook Byron. A short drive or cycle from the main sights, it sits within remote bushland near Byron Bay’s sister town, Suffolk Park.
Break up the trip with a stay at the luxe, nature-cocooned property. (Image: The Byron at Byron, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort)
The rooms are designed to feel immersive and mimic the colours of the rainforest, so expect to feel at one with nature as you wake to bird calls, and while traversing the property’s winding paths through palms and tropical plant life.
Go for a dip or simply relax under the poolside umbrellas. (Image: The Byron at Byron, a Crystalbrook Collection Resort)
Once a sleepy fishing village and secret surf spot, Yamba has become one of the most popular summer destinations for families and beachgoers. While the town comes alive in high summer, visiting outside of peak season means a more relaxed experience and a chance to enjoy its many beaches and popular walking tracks in solitude.
Spend time getting to know Yamba. (Image: Destination NSW)
Must do: Bike ride to Angourie
Yamba’s sister town of Angourie is either a short 10-minute drive away or an enjoyable 30-minute bike ride. The highway has designated lanes for cyclists and takes you through rainforest and national parkland before arriving at the tiny village, where you’ll find a few gourmet cafes and swimming spots.
Cycle from Yamba to Angourie. (Image: Destination NSW)
Accommodation: The Surf Yamba
One option in Yamba is to book one of the many Airbnb properties in town, but it’s also home to several beach-inspired hotels and motels, such as The Surf Yamba, which features unbeatable ocean views, a rooftop pool and luxury design elements.
Feel the sea breeze come through the curtains as you sleep at The Surf Yamba (Image: Elise Hassey)
Instead of continuing along the coastline after Yamba, head inland toward Dorrigo National Park. The town of Bellingen is our pick for a rest stop, a beautiful historic area on what’s known as ‘Waterfall Way’, with heritage buildings and community spirit.
Stretch your legs in the bohemian town of Bellingen. (Image: DNSW)
If you have time, stay overnight and explore the national park, which features walking tracks, waterfalls and swimming opportunities.
Admire Dangar Falls in Dorrigo National Park. (Image: Destination NSW)
Must do: Never Never Creek, Promised Land
Head toward the town of Glennifer and cross the Never Never Creek. From there, take a right down Promised Creek Road, and you’ll eventually spot the short track leading to the swimming area that’s been popular with locals for generations. The river is cool and refreshing after a drive, and with towering trees and dappled sunlight filtering through the leaves, it really does feel like the promised land.
Accommodation: Lilypad Luxury Cabins
Even though you’re only four kilometres outside of Bellingen’s town centre, the nature of Lilypad Luxury Cabins makes you feel like you’re in another world. The stylish cabins each feature a private deck and bathtubs with views of landscaped gardens and a giant lily pond.
Book a dreamy stay between landscaped gardens at Lilypad Luxury Cabins.
After your inland adventure, drive one hour back to the coastline to Nambucca Heads. This quaint surf town has enough to occupy you for a weekend or works well as a rest stop, with plenty of yummy cafes such as the Nambucca Boatshed and Cafe.
Nambucca Heads is tucked in a relaxed seaside town. (Image: Destination NSW)
Fishing enthusiasts will love the Nambucca River, which is also a prime spot for kayaking, and with 23 kilometres of coastline, there are plenty of beach spots for families to enjoy.
Must do: Valla Beach
Just north of Nambucca Heads is Valla Beach, well known for dolphin spotting and whale watching and also home to one of the prettiest beaches in the region. It’s exceptionally kid-friendly, so unpack the beach tent and spend some time in the shallow waters.
Accommodation: Reflections Holiday Parks Nambucca Heads
The Nambucca Heads region is well known as an RV-friendly area filled with great caravan parks, but even if you’re travelling without a camper, Reflections Holiday Parks Nambucca Heads is a worthwhile choice, perched atop headland to maximise ocean views, and featuring spacious cabins and plenty of space for the kids to roam.
Spend a weekend away at Reflections Holiday Parks Nambucca Heads.
Technically two separate Barrington Coast towns that sit on either side of Wallis Lake, Forster-Tuncurry are often spoken about as a combined township, given their close proximity. Fresh seafood is definitely on the menu here, with plentiful fish-and-chip shops lining the coast and a multitude of Sydney Rock Oyster farms – because this is an area where a lake meets the ocean, oysters are abundant (and delicious).
The twin towns of Foster-Tuncurry on the Barrington Coast are begging to be explored.
The area is also rich with wildlife and is especially known for its marine animal sightings – you’ll definitely spot dolphins, and between the months of June and October, be on the lookout for humpback whales, which migrate through these waters each year.
Keep your eye out for humpback whales. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Must do: Diving And Snorkelling
With all that marine life, you’d be sorely missing out if you didn’t jump in the water to see what lies beneath. Hayden’s Reef is a popular snorkelling spot, as are Pebbly Beach, Burgess Beach and Shelly Beach.
Opt for remote beach camping on Pebbly Beach. (Image: Destination NSW)
Grey nurse sharks are common in these waters, and divers might get a chance to see one at Big Seal Rock, Bennetts Head Bommie Rock, or The Barge. If you’re unfamiliar with the area, it’s best to book a dive tour. Forster Dive Centre and Dive Forster are both reputable and highly rated.
Dive beneath the fish-rich depths. (Image: #thetravellingswedes and #rowandear)
Accommodation: Laurina Estate
While motels in Forster-Tuncurry are everywhere you turn, a more private and luxurious option for accommodation is Laurina Estate.
Bed down at Laurina Estate on your way to Newcastle.
This bed and breakfast is seven minutes from the beach and 10 minutes from town, so you’re away from the hustle and bustle without adding a lengthy drive to your days.
Relax in nature while you soak in your private outdoor tub.
Welcome to Newcastle. The region has so much worth doing and seeing, plus restaurants that will delight even the most high-brow of foodies. Before you hit one of the many popular beaches, settle in and relax after your Brisbane to Newcastle journey.
Stop by Modus Brewing for a drink. (Image: Destination NSW)
Must See: Stockton Sand Dunes
Within the Worimi Conservation Lands you’ll find Stockton Sand Dunes, a popular 32-kilometre stretch with something for adventure-seekers, nature lovers and those happy just to wander the otherworldly land.
The golden dunes stretch 32 kilometres from Stockton to Anna Bay. (Image: Destination NSW)
To experience the Stockton sand dunes, we recommend a tour, such as the Aboriginal Culture Sandboarding and Quad Bike tour, which combines the excitement of traversing the sandy hills with cultural respect for the area.
Pump up the adrenaline on a Quad Bike tour at Stockton Sand Dunes. (Image: Destination NSW)
Accommodation: Crystalbrook Kingsley
As Newcastle’s first five-star hotel, it’s worth splurging for at least one night at Crystalbrook Kingsley, which tops our list of the best Newcastle accommodation.
Bed down at Crystalbrook Kingsley. (Image: Destination NSW/ Crystalbrook Kingsley)
Situated in the heart of the CBD, you’ll be close to Newcastle’s nightlife and dining scene; although the interiors are so beautiful, it might be hard to leave the hotel itself!
Grab a drink at Romberg’s. (Image: Destination NSW/ Crystalbrook Kingsley)