Road trips are without a doubt one of the greatest adventures in life. The stuff memories are made of. You never know what the road ahead has in store; where you might stop, what you might experience, and who you might meet along the way. It’s the great unknown; so let’s turn up the tunes and hit the road.
In a country blessed by such a diverse landscape, it’s no wonder that road trips have become part of the Australian get-amongst-it way of life.
Australia boasts an envious bucket list of jaunts; one of the most iconic being Sydney to Byron Bay, along the Pacific Coast. The 766km trip pays homage to what makes Australia such a vibrant place, with endless gems to discover off the beaten track. Here’s a few of our favourites.
1.5hrs from Sydney, 96.3km
Named after the Guringai people’s word for oyster, Patonga is just a 90 minute drive out of Sydney, and we think it’s definitely worth the turn off. Set on the north bank of the Hawkesbury, this dreamy little seaside village faces out onto tranquil beaches. You can’t go past the The Boathouse Patonga for a waterfront lunch of fresh Patonga Creek rock oysters, mouthwatering kingfish ceviche or a hearty serving of beer-battered fish & chips.
2.25hrs from Sydney, 163km
At just an hour and 45 minutes from Patonga is NSW's second largest city, and one of Australia’s oldest. Bursting with heritage buildings, some dating back to 1804, Newcastle boasts the oldest working harbour in the country. Once the city of steel, it’s grown into a buzzing cosmopolitan, cultural and artistic hub, with a thriving beachfront cafe scene.
Galleries and laneways showcase works of both local and overseas artists. Bather’s Way and Anzac Memorial Walk hug the coastline for a blissful stroll. Bush trails, kayaking, paddle boarding and up-close animal encounters greet you at both Blackbutt Reserve and Hunter Wetlands National Park. If you have time for some shopping, grab that elusive one-off from the local markets and boutique shopping malls. Feeling a bit peckish? You can’t go past the Darby Street precinct. Drop into Three Monkeys for an epic brunch before you’re back on the road.
4.25hrs from Sydney, 386km
A further 3 hours north, perched on the Hastings River and bordered by no less than 18 beautiful beaches, is Port Macquarie. Country meets coast, as the lush hinterland rolls down to uncrowded long white sandy beaches.
It’s all about playtime here; Take your pick from kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, fishing and snorkelling. Why not take a camel safari, jet cruise amongst dolphins, or visit Billabong Zoo. Don’t forget to check out the local vineyards too.
Why not get a little fancy and dine at the stunning hatted restaurant, The Stunned Mullet. Order the trio of freshly shucked oysters – topped with white miso & shiitake pearls, finger lime ponzu, and nam jim – you won’t be disappointed.
5.5hrs from Sydney, 527km
TAKE A BUSH WALK ALONG THE GUMGALI TRACK, HAND FEED DOLPHINS AND PENGUINS IN THE MARINE SANCTUARY
Another hour on the road and you’re at the home of Australia’s biggest ‘nana, Coffs Harbour. Once you’ve snapped the obligatory banana selfie, there’s much to see and do. For starters, Coffs beaches have some of the best surf in the country.
Take a bush walk along the Gumgali track, hand feed dolphins and penguins in the marine sanctuary, or take in the uninterrupted marina views from the Muttonbird Island viewing platform. Emerald Beach’s Look At Me Now Headland is the place to watch out for Australia's annual whale migrations, and one of the only places in the world where you can swim with humpbacks.
Being a seaside spot, the seafood of course is excellent, so ensure to make time for lunch. You might like the waterfront situated Latitude 30, or if you’re going to stop for the night, try The Pier Hotel.
7hrs from Sydney, 657km
Another 140km north, is Yamba – one of Australia’s surfing meccas, known for its unseasonably warm waters. Brooms Head Main beach is the perfect spot for a dip; be sure to keep an eye out for dolphins and whales while you're at it. It’s also fishing heaven up here; hire a boat or fishing kayak, or take a charter into the Pacific for some deep-sea fishing.
Enjoy a scenic cruise along the Clarence River, indulge in some fish & chips on the sprawling lawns below Yamba Lighthouse, or take an ancient coastal walk through the Yuraygir National Park, following the emu trails. Yamba Farmers Market every Wednesday serves up the freshest local prawns, and if the surf is firing at Angourie, you can always park yourself at The Sands for a few nights.
You’ve made it. Breathe in the goodness of Australia’s most eastern point, Byron Bay. This coastal playground, with its lush countryside and quaint hinterland towns, has a vibrant, spirited community; it’s too easy to get caught up in the Byron way of life.
The beaches here are something else. From Belongil to Clarkes, The Pass to Wategos, Tallows to Broken head and more, learn to surf, ride horseback, take a kayak tour, or go scuba diving in the warmest of waters.
Be the first to see the sunrise in Australia, with a pre-dawn walk to the iconic Cape Byron lighthouse, or get a bird's eye view of countryside and coastal bliss in a hot air balloon ride. Shop local designers, farmers and artisans at Byrons famous local markets.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay, check out AMEX travel for some great accomodation options.
There are hundreds more adventures to be had on the 800km drive back to Sydney… if you ever manage to pull yourself away from the beauty of Byron Bay.