A Brisbane to Sydney road trip is on every Australia bucket list. Driving the East Coast of Australia between the two iconic cities is a must-do when you’re down under. Flying from one big city to another when there are myriads of beautiful national parks in between sounds like a waste.
I’ve now driven from Brisbane to Sydney (and back!) three times and built itineraries for family and friends more than that.
My itineraries won’t take you to the cities: I choose to skip them to focus on natural assets. These itineraries will take you to the best national parks and dive sites where you can stop on your Brisbane to Sydney road trip and further down on the south coast of New South Wales. Are you ready for the adventure?
I’ve also shared here a one-week itinerary that I created for my father, with less adventurous activities and more comfortable accommodations!
Are you covered for adventurous activities by your travel insurance? I recommend double-checking to avoid bad surprises if an incident happens. Adventurous activities are often extra. Some travel insurance like WorldNomads* and Covermore* make it easy to include adventurous activities.
20 days between Brisbane and Sydney (and a little bit further)
This Australia road trip itinerary will take you to:
- Hike fantastic sceneries of Australia’s Pacific Coast
- Dive or snorkel with Seals, Grey Nurse Sharks and Dolphins
- Meet iconic Australian wildlife: Little Penguin, Kangaroo, Emu, Platypus, Wombat, Echidna
- Climb Australia’s highest mountain
- Visit vineyards
- View incredible waterfalls and gorges
This Australia road trip was done during our Christmas break. It was done as a circuit from Brisbane, where we are based. But it can easily be adapted as a one-way Brisbane to Sydney road trip or Brisbane to Melbourne road trip – as per the notes below.
Our South East Coast Australia Road trip in a few images
We were always on the move and hardly slept twice at the same place during our South East Coast Australia Road Trip.
This Australia itinerary is made of a lot of driving and a lot of hiking, and diving. We like being active, and it’s not our thing to sit and relax while on holidays.
If you want to relax, you’ll need to allow more than 20 days for this itinerary or skip some destinations. I don’t recommend doing it in less time than we did. You would save time if you do it one way, but you’ll probably have to pay extra fees for leaving your rental car at a different destination than where you picked it up.
You can drive from Brisbane to Sydney overnight, but you could also spend months on this road trip. If you have a limited time, I recommend not to try to squeeze in too much and rush, but rather reduce the number of stops and still enjoy them fully.
Important things to know before taking the road on Australia’s East Coast
We travelled from Brisbane to Sydney and the south of NSW in our own car. We slept in the car or camped. The guide contains information on the camps where to sleep and – if you don’t want to camp – the nearby town with hotels. If you plan to buy a car in Australia to travel with it, you’ll love these tips about how we equipped our station wagon to sleep in it. Before your Australia road trip, make sure you know how to change a tyre on your car. That’s the most common problem you can get when you drive 4,500 km, and it will save you time to figure it out before you have a problem!
Otherwise, driving from Brisbane to Sydney isn’t too hard. You’ll have phone coverage and 4g access most of the time (although it’s recommended to download the maps on your phone if you can as you’ll regularly lose connections). The roads are mostly good; even the gravel roads weren’t too bad (except for one – I put a note in the guide). The important thing to consider is wildlife and I highly recommend not driving at sunset and at night.
And make sure you download the free Fuel Check App created by the NSW Government. It’s super easy to use and will help you find the cheapest petrol stations.
Travelling in Australia during the bushfire season
Some of the regions on this Australia’s southeast coast itinerary have been impacted by the terrible summer 2019-2020 bushfires. I drove from Brisbane to Sydney (and back) during the bushfire season three years in a row, including in 2019-2020. The images of the disaster are heartbreaking. Does that mean you shouldn’t go on the road trip?
Don’t go to the regions when they are at an emergency level. They already struggle to protect houses and inhabitants, they don’t need more potential victims there. But Australia is big. When the fires were hitting hard in the south of NSW, we were fine travelling along the Central Coast and Mid-North Coast of the state. Don’t cancel all your plans too quickly, but stay alert. Follow the news updates, check the NSW Fires Near Me website or app, check the Live Traffic NSW website or app, respect the rules and advice, and talk to locals when you’re unsure. Many regions on this road trip will need visitors once they reopen for business.
DOWNLOAD THE DETAILED ITINERARY of our South East Australia Road Trip
Register for MyFavouriteEscapes newsletter and you’ll receive for free the pdf of the road maps I used during our South East Coast Australia road trip. You’ll find all the information you need: driving distance and time, activities and places to camp and sleep for each day.
This is the outline of our South East Coast Australia Itinerary:
You can click on the names to get more details on the destination, but downloading our road trip guide will give you an idea of what we had time to do in each place we visited.
Brisbane to Sydney Road Trip; Circuit Itinerary
- Day 1: Brisbane; Springbrook National Park;
- Day 2: Byron Bay; Broken Head
- Day 3: Broken Head; Yamba; Yuraygir National Park
- Day 4: Yuraygir National Park (North Solitary Islands); Arrawarra; Urunga; Limeburners Creek National Park
- Day 5: Limeburners Creek National Park; Port Macquarie; Norah Head; Sydney (if you have never been to Sydney, you may want to allow more days to visit the City)
- Day 6: Sydney; Royal National Park
- Day 7: Royal National Park; Jervis Bay
- Day 8: Jervis Bay; Narooma
- Day 9: Montague Island
- Day 10: Bombala, Kosciuszko National Park
- Day 11: Kosciuszko National Park
- Day 12: Kosciuszko National Park; Cowra
- Day 13: Cowra; Blue Mountains National Park
- Day 14: Blue Mountains National Park; Hunter Valley
- Day 15: Hunter Valley; Port Stephens
- Day 16: Port Stephens
- Day 17: Port Stephens; Myall Lakes National Park
- Day 18: Myall Lakes National Park; Crowdy Bay National Park; South West Rocks
- Day 19: South West Rocks; Waterfall Way
- Day 20: Oxley Wild Rivers National Park; Boonoo Boonoo National Park; Brisbane
Changes to do the itinerary one-way (Brisbane to Melbourne or Brisbane to Sydney road trip)
- Day 4: Yuraygir National Park, Urunga, Limeburners Creek National Park
If only going one way from Brisbane to Sydney: stop at South West Rocks for diving and take a detour via the Waterfall Way (see Day 19)
- Day 5: Limeburners Creek National Park, Port Macquarie, Norah Head, Sydney
If only going one way from Brisbane to Sydney: Go through the Myall Lakes NP (see Day 17), stop at Port Stephens for diving (see Days 14 to 17) and go through the Hunter Valley and the Blue Mountains (see Day 14)
Head to Melbourne after Kosciuszko National Park, or finish the south coast loop back to Sydney.
What were the highlights of our Brisbane to Sydney road trip?
We loved spending two weeks exploring the country where we live. I’d even be happy to do it again one day: the drive from Brisbane to Sydney is epic. Every time we stopped, I found new things to do for the next trip down there! I’m often asked which part I preferred – or which stops are the must-sees – when driving from Brisbane to Sydney or on the New South Wales coast. It’s honestly super hard to pick only one place or one experience as this itinerary on the East Coast of Australia brought us to very different places. But I made an effort to select a few highlights:
- The hike in Crowdy Bay National Park and the dive at Broughton Island (Nelson Bay) were my two biggest surprises
- I had been there before, but the Royal National Park is always amazing
- Hiking Mt Kosciusko and spotting a platypus had been on my bucket list for a while so I was super happy to tick these ones out!
- We didn’t stop in many towns but I liked Port Macquarie and it looked like a wonderful place where to live on Australia’s East Coast
Have you done a road trip on the East Coast of Australia? Where was your favourite stop on your Brisbane to Sydney Road Trip? Share your tips in the comments below!
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