Driving from Sydney to Yamba might involve winding along the NSW coast, but if you stick solely to the Pacific Highway you’ll actually miss a lot of the beautiful coastal secrets the regions have to offer.
Yamba is around eight hours north of Sydney, so while you can technically drive there in one day, you’ll be arriving bone-tired and won’t be able to immerse yourself in some pretty spectacular, sleepy beach towns along the way. A much better Sydney to Yamba itinerary is to meander on and off the Pacific Highway, checking in to some of the crystal-clear beaches and throwback coastal towns along the way.
Here are our favourite sights and towns to visit on a Sydney to Yamba road trip.
Say farewell to Sydney and travel north to Avoca Beach. (Image: Destination NSW)
Sydney to Avoca Beach: 1.5 hours
Around one-and-a-half hours north of Sydney you’ll be in Central Coast territory, and while you might find the busy township of Terrigal a bit too populated for your liking (although it’s filled with great cafes and boutiques), your first dip in the ocean should be at Avoca Beach.
Catch some waves at Avoca before you head further north.(Image: Destination NSW)
Its yellow sand and sapphire blue ocean waves are always a welcome reprieve from a stuffy car, plus the area has some delicious brekkie options – try Becker & Co for their great coffee, or Avoca Sands Cafe for fresh, light meals.
Stop in for a seaside walk and brunch. (Image: Destination NSW)
Avoca Beach to Hawks Nest: 2 hours
If you’re taking it easy, you’ll likely get to Hawks Nest around lunchtime. It’s two hours north of Avoca, around fifteen minutes off the Pacific Highway. The white sand that’s made Nelson Bay so famous is also found here, so don’t bother taking your swimmers off after your Avoca Beach swim.
The beaches at Hawkes Nest are a dream to behold. (Image: Destination NSW)
Lunch should absolutely be at the Tea Gardens Hotel. It has a large, breezy, pet-friendly beer garden with plenty of shade and, on weekends, often has live music. The pub grub is delicious and the beers are cold.
Head out for a kayak after lunch. (Image: Destination NSW)
Hawks Nest to Old Bar: 1.2 hours
Spend the afternoon at Old Bar, one of those quintessential New South Wales beaches that still feels like it’s existed in its way since the 1970s. If you’re peckish and can handle it, grab a burger from Blowfish Street Food – they have quite the reputation for their giant servings! Otherwise, Buyi Espresso Bar will keep you pepped for your last leg of the day, and Wallabi Point Coastal Cafe is super kid friendly and feels like a nostalgic throwback to your youth.
Old Bar to Port Macquarie: 1 hour
With a plethora of hotels, motels and other accommodation options, Port Macquarie is our pick for your halfway point. Finding one-night accommodation during high season between Sydney and Yamba can be difficult, so it’s best to stay somewhere busy.
Port Macquarie is a great place to stop for the night and break up the trip to Yamba. (Image: Destination NSW)
Plus, Port Macquarie has a laid-back cafe culture for your morning pick-me-up, some beautiful beaches (try Lighthouse or Flynns Beach) for a 7am dip and a lovely walking track in Sea Acres National Park.
Get your fill of nature at Sea Acres Rainforest Centre while in Port Macquarie. (Image: Destination NSW)
Sails Port Macquarie by Rydges is a great pick for your stay, or Flynn’s Beach Resort if you’ve got the kids in tow.
Port Macquarie to Nambucca Heads: 1.2 hours
An hour and a half north of Port Macquarie you’ll come across Nambucca Heads and its sister town, Valla Beach. Both are beautiful, peaceful NSW beach towns worth meandering through, with great cafes like the Nambucca Boatshed and Cafe, a classic establishment right on the river.
Nambucca Heads is one of a handful of great beach towns worthy of a stop. (Image: Destination NSW)
Valla is our pick for a swim – slightly north of Nambucca, the town is RV friendly if you’ve brought the caravan, and the lagoon area near Valla Beach Holiday Park is serene and great for kids with its low depth and calm waters.
Nambucca Heads to Coffs Harbour: 35 minutes
It is practically mandatory to make a stop at Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana, which you can’t miss along the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Yamba.
It is a rite of passage to make a stop at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. (Image: Destination NSW)
This road trip tourist classic isn’t just a photo op, though – stop into the cafe for a banana split (or a frozen banana to-go) or enjoy everything the Fun Park has to offer, from waterslides to laser tag.
Devour a treat while you’re there. (Image: Destination NSW)
You could easily spend the entire day here, but if you want to explore Coffs Harbour a little further, The Clog Barn is a quirky stop with its tributes to Holland, and nature buffs will love the Forest Sky Pier offers jaw-dropping views over the Coffs Harbour coastline and rainforest walking tracks. For more ideas, take a look at our guide for things to do in Coffs Harbour.
Take the kids (or the young at heart) for a ride at the Fun Park. (Image: Destination NSW)
Coffs Harbour to Maclean: 1.2 hours
You’re almost there! Before turning off to Yamba, explore the beautiful country town of Maclean.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery while you’re there. (Image: Destination NSW)
Grab a coffee at Botero Roastery, or check out the nearby Sanctus Brewing Company if beer is more your thing in the afternoon.
Make your way to Bottero for a cup of Joe.(Image: Destination NSW)
There are plenty of boutiques to satiate the shopping fans, and five kilometres out in Harwood you’ll find Cardiff Alpacas, where you can entertain the kids with a unique farm experience (and maybe pat a baby alpaca, if you’re lucky).
Maclean to Yamba: 20 minutes
Congratulations, you’ve made it! On your way into town, enjoy the beautiful crossing over Oyster Channel, where the road feels like it’s skimming the water.
It’s time to stretch your legs and explore Yamba. (Image: Destination NSW)
Yamba Road runs all the way into town, and along the way, you’ll pass Yamba Fair (where Coles and Kmart are found), the Yamba Prawn Shack and Fisherman’s Co-Op and the turnoff to Angourie. It’s great for getting your bearings before settling into your Yamba accommodation.
Familiarise yourself with the area before settling into your stay. (Image: Destination NSW)