South West Rocks had been on my Australia’ bucket list for a long time. It’s one of the best scuba diving sites between Brisbane and Sydney with a cave surrounded by grey nurse sharks. We used a long weekend (three days) to drive down there from Brisbane.
It’s a fantastic weekend destination for scuba diving from Brisbane. But this three-day road trip from Brisbane will give you an opportunity to discover new places to enjoy even if you don’t dive!
A three-day trip was short but worth it. We had a very good time. I am looking forward to going again though, as there is a lot more to see. If you’re planning a longer road trip, click here to download my Brisbane to Sydney free guide.
You’ll find below details about our itinerary and a few things we learnt along the way.
Brisbane –> Byron Bay –> Yamba
We left Brisbane and Queensland on Friday after work and stopped for a long dinner break in Byron Bay. It was very late when we reached Yamba, so we found a quiet spot near the road for the night. It is legal to sleep in your car in New South Wales (at least when I’m writing this article), as long as you are parked legally, but many places have signs indicating “No overnight stay”. Be ready for it, as it was the case in Byron Bay and Yamba. We use the free app CamperMate to find free rest areas with toilets; there are a few near the M1.
You may want to plan to arrive earlier than we did to push a bit further and sleep in a nicer spot in Yuraygir National Park.
There are scenic coastal walks there if you have more time than us – or if you get up early the next day!
Responsible travel tip: Always respect the places you visit. Don’t disturb the neighbours (humans or wildlife) and leave the site how you found it – or better! – by picking up all rubbish!
Yamba is a reputed surfing spot. We had a morning stroll on the beach near Angourie Blue Pool, where we spotted dolphins and enjoyed the beautiful rock formations and dramatic sky. The view from the lighthouse in Yamba is worth the short detour too.
South West Rocks
We decided to go straight to South West Rocks and skip Urunga Boardwalk and Nambucca Heads to have more time to explore Hat Head National Park.
We camped at Smokey Cape, where big kangaroos welcomed us on arrival and in the morning. Not far from the campsite, a short walk to the lighthouse offers fantastic views of the coast on both sides of the cape, including views of the rocks where we were diving the next day.
From the lighthouse carpark, we went down to the beach and scrambled from one secluded bay to another, while watching whales migrating along the coast. They come up along the East Coast of Australia during Winter and go down during Spring.
For our next South West Rocks visit, we may have a look at Little Bay Beach in Arakoon National Park, via Monument Hill walking track (3-kilometre walk).
Diving Fish Rock Cave in South West Rock was the reason why we did this road trip in the first place.
It’s one of the longest underwater cave you can explore with a simple open water certification. Click here to read the article about diving Fish Rock Cave in South West Rock.
The Waterfall Way: Ebor Falls –> Wollomombi Falls (Oxley Wild Rivers NP)
Going back to Brisbane along the Pacific Motorway – the same way we came down – wasn’t very appealing. We still had 1.5 days, so we wanted to make the most of it! So we took an inland scenic route from Coffs Harbour.
We stopped at many waterfalls on the way and hiked amazing gorges. We loved it so much that we decided to go there again on our way back from Sydney. Click here to read the full article about the Waterfall Way in Dorrigo and Oxley Wild Rivers National Parks.
Way back to Brisbane
The Pacific Motorway along the coast is quite boring. Although it’s longer, we found it a lot nicer to take the inland roads as we had all day to go back up. There are great options to break the drive if you don’t mind arriving late in Brisbane.
The Australian Standing Stones are on the way.
To be honest, I didn’t find it interesting, but it’s a better toilet stop than the petrol station. I am from Brittany – where the Celtic culture is very strong. I found it weird to stumble upon fake modern looking stones and a small Excalibur sword. The atmosphere is probably very different when the Celtic festival is on. But like this by itself, it didn’t really make sense to me.
If you haven’t explored it yet, check out the Granite Belt with a walk in Girraween National Park or Bald Rock National Park.
Both will give you a different experience than the parks closer to Brisbane. If it’s raining, you may want to revise that plan as granite gets very slippery. Although it’s not the most recommended stop during a road trip, there are wineries in that region too.
We wanted to explore somewhere new, so we made a detour to Gibraltar National Park. Unfortunately, the Raspberry Lookout was completely in the clouds. The short walks to waterfalls ended up being very similar to the scenery we’re used to in the National Parks around Brisbane. I’m not convinced it’s worth the extra kilometres, although the combo forest and waterfalls felt like a good choice during a rainy day and it was nice to see pretty-faced wallabies that are common in this region.
The second time we drove this road, we stopped at Boonoo Boonoo National Park for a short stroll to the falls and around the rock pools. If you’re patient, you may even wait for the sunset at the Platypus Hole to try to spot a platypus. But platypuses are shy creatures and, although we met a couple who said they spotted one, we weren’t as lucky as them. It’s one of the hardest iconic Australian animals to encounter in the wild.
If you’re travelling at the start of the year, you may want to check out if the sunflowers are blooming in the Darling Downs for a photogenic stop. There are some fields close to Warwick.
Have you explored these areas? Where did you stop? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is this road trip from Brisbane to South West Rocks?
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