Driving from Sydney to Byron Bay is one of the most iconic drives in Australia. Here’s how to make the most of the route over four days.
The kind climes, relaxed vibes and picture-perfect surrounds of Byron Bay put it high on the holiday hit list.
The coastal idyll is within easy reach of both Ballina and Gold Coast airports, but taking flight means bypassing some of New South Wales’ greatest treasures.
Sydney to Byron Bay is a 766-kilometre road trip flanked by incredible towns and landscapes. Soak it up with this four-day itinerary.
Day 1: Sydney to Newcastle
2 hours, 17 minutes/163 kilometres (or 3 hours, 18 minutes/215 kilometres via Patonga)
Grab your snacks and jump in the car, we’re headed for the Pacific Highway. Newcastle is our day-one destination, but since it’s only a couple of hours up the road, you might be inclined to swing by the Central Coast for an early injection of beach culture.
Take your pick from the glut of cute villages and golden beaches that make the region so appealing. If you’ve timed your arrival to dine, why not try Patonga where The Boathouse Hotel has recently moved in?
Up the road, Newcastle is home to smart cafes, pubs, and bars, and fantastic boutique shopping, all underpinned by a thriving creative scene. And bonus points for being surround by water: Hunter River to the north; coastal beauty to the south.
If a one-stop-shop is your kind of outing, hit up the Darby Street precinct and enjoy the vibrant village feel. If you didn’t have lunch on the Central Coast, you won’t have any trouble finding it here.
The Newcastle Memorial Walk, a 450-metre clifftop path, is a beautiful way to take in this part of the coast, and even better if you can make it at sunset. For dinner with a seriously social vibe, head to The Edwards.
Where to stay
Rydges Newcastle – A contemporary hotel with sweeping harbour views.
The Lucky Hotel – A boutique hotel close to the action.
Day 2: Newcastle to Coffs Harbour
4 hours/385 kilometres (or 5 hours, 28 minutes/468 kilometres via Bellingen and Dorrigo)
The Newcastle to Coffs Harbour leg is peppered with detour-worthy destinations: Forster, Port Macquarie, Crescent Head, South West Rocks, and then some. But for something a little different, let’s head inland, where ‘lush’ is spectacularly redefined.
Just 10 minutes off the highway at Raleigh, Bellingen is all charm with its heritage streetscape and verdant rainforest. Another 30 kilometres west you’ll find Dorrigo National Park, where breathtaking heritage-listed rainforest awaits.
A long day’s driving calls for Netflix and chill… and pizza. For takeaway in Coffs, try Pizza Vino or Amalfi Pizzeria.
Where to stay
Sapphire Seas Beach House – A luxe holiday house on the beachfront; great for groups.
Opal Cove Resort – Absolute beachfront at a reasonable price.
Day 3: Coffs Harbour to Yamba
1 hour, 40 minutes/138 kilometres
Today’s drive runs along the state’s longest stretch of undeveloped coastline so prepare yourself for rocky headlands, towering cliffs, deserted beaches and hectare upon hectare of forests, wetlands and open country. This is Yuraygir National Park, where hiking opportunities abound.
But first, coffee. A micro-roastery, espresso bar and café, Supply Coffee has your breakfast sorted and, with a focus on wholefoods, it’s a fresh way to farewell Coffs Harbour.
If you’re travelling from mid- to late October, a stop in Grafton will put you under a glorious canopy of in-bloom jacaranda trees. The Grafton Jacaranda Festival runs from late October to early November each year. Otherwise, head straight on to Yamba, a charmingly sleepy town and surfers’ paradise.
An afternoon at Angourie Point, famous for its right-hand point break, would be a treat for surfers and spectators alike.
Can’t find your feet on a surfboard? Try a lesson with Yamba-Angourie Surf School.
Where to stay
The Sands – A variety of accommodation styles complete with resort facilities.
The Black Ace – A fully restored 110-year-old cottage; great for large groups.
Day 4: Yamba to Byron Bay
1 hour, 42 minutes/124 kilometres
In a town like Yamba, the day surely starts in the ocean for a dip or, if talents permit, a surf. When in Rome, so they say. Next, hit up Beachwood Café, a much-loved eatery dishing up finger-licking Turkish flavours.
Before you head out of town, swing by the Island Collective for a peek at their beach-inspired homewares and a coffee for the road.
For an epicurean treat, drop in on Newrybar for lunch at Harvest, the multi-ward-winning restaurant with creativity and sustainability at its heart. Bookings are recommended.
Just 10 more minutes on the road, and with a driver’s tan to boot, Byron Bay is your final playground. After settling in, jump straight into the beachside vibe with dinner and drinks at Loft on the main strip. Kick on at the iconic Beach Hotel. Just follow the noise across the road.
The view from Cape Byron Lighthouse, Australia’s most easterly point.
Where to stay
Elements of Byron – Beautifully sprawling beachfront property surrounded by nature.
The Atlantic – Ultra-trendy boutique hotel that puts Byron bay at your fingertips.