Road trip: Sydney to Gold Coast

Sydney to Gold Coast Sydney to Gold Coast my nrma road trips
Sydney to Gold Coast Sydney to Gold Coast my nrma road trips
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13 hr | 908km
Beach
Kid friendly
Family
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The Gold Coast remains one of Australia’s favourite places to holiday, thanks to its endless sandy beaches and unmatched constellation of theme parks promising days of family fun. But sometimes, the most memorable experiences are found during the journey, as much as the destination, and the legendary Pacific Highway is one route that bears testament to this. 

This scenic coastal drive is designed to ensure you get plenty of beach action along the way, with the opportunity to take the plunge at a range of beautiful beaches from Port Stephens to Byron Bay, and explore the tranquil Brunswick River. It’s not all about the water, though. Other highlights include close up encounters with koalas, rafting through the rainforest, and happening on small yet vibrant off the beaten track towns full of charisma and authentic Australian culture. 

Highlights
  • Explore the largest freshwater lake system in Australia
  • Sandboard down a sand dune
  • Discover a World Heritage listed rainforest 
  • Cruise up the river at Brunswick Heads 

Day 1: Sydney to Myall Lakes

4 hrs | 260km

Stop 1: Swim and lunch at Port Stephens
It's a smooth 2.5 hour drive up the M1 to Port Stephens, a glorious bay that's twice as big as Sydney Harbour. Enjoy your first swim before lunch at one of Port Stephens' 26 beaches. Animal lovers will want to get a glimpse of the town's 150 resident bottlenose dolphins; dolphin cruises depart from Nelson Bay, and include a buffet lunch. If you prefer to eat on land, try Little Nel Cafe or the waterfront Little Beach Boathouse. After lunch, the Worimi Conservation Lands, just 10 minutes from the centre of town, is the place to try sandboarding down a 40m high sand dune.
Stop 2: Kayak and spot the wildlife at Myall Lakes

Once you're back on the road, it's about an hour's drive to the beautiful Myall Lakes – the largest natural freshwater lake system of its kind in Australia. Choose a quiet spot for a swim or go exploring on a kayak; you can hire one or join a guided tour. As you're gliding along, keep your eyes focused on the bush fringed shores, where you may spot kangaroos, wallabies, possums or koalas.

Myall Shores NRMA Holiday Park
Myall Lakes
Stop 3: Spend the night at Myall Lakes National Park 

Set along 1.5km of pristine lakefront, the NRMA Myall Shores Holiday Park is bang in the centre of the Myall Lakes National Park. Camp and caravan sites are set within the gardens and on the shores of the lake, or you can choose one of the unique lakeside safari tents or a stylish villa. 

Day 2: Myall Lakes to Coffs Harbour

4 hrs | 300km

Stop 1: Refuel and a coffee at Forster
This morning you can soak up the increasingly lush scenery as you head north on the 2.5 hour drive to Port Macquarie. If you fancy a break along the way, take a short detour to the coastal town of Forster, where you can take a walk along Main Beach or just savour a seaside coffee.
Stop 2: Visit the Koala Hospital and lunch at Port Macquarie

Otherwise, continue on to Port Macquarie - known to the locals as Port - a buzzing town set amid a string of scenic beaches. Treat yourself to a lunchtime swim or pay a visit to the Koala Hospital, which cares for upwards of 200 sick and injured koalas each year. You can enjoy a double dose of koala fun by following the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail through town and seeing how many of the colourful fibreglass koalas you can find.

Stop in for lunch at one of Port's inviting cafes - try The Milkbar at Town Beach or the hip Social Grounds - before continuing on to Coffs Harbour, famous for its Big Banana, which has now been developed into a family focused amusement park. Coffs is also known for its beautiful beaches. End the afternoon with a horse ride along Boambee Beach, a surf at Park Beach or a swim at Jetty Beach.

Koala
Koala
Stop 3: Keep the kids entertained and stay at Darlington Beach

The NRMA Darlington Beach Holiday Resort occupies 44ha of coastal forest and 6km of ocean frontage just north of Coffs Harbour. Wake up under the gentle waving fronds of subtropical palms in the park’s wide selection of accommodation sites. Ranging from basic to luxe, all are quiet, relaxing, easy to access and well spaced for privacy. Choose from unpowered and powered ensuite camping sites, glamping safari tents or spacious villas that can comfortably sleep up to eight. 

Day 3: Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay

3 hrs | 240km

Stop 1: Explore World Heritage sites at Coffs Harbour
Coffs is about more than the coast -- its lush hinterlands are also worth exploring. Go on a detour into the Dorrigo National Park, a World Heritage listed rainforest that features cascading waterfalls and is home to rare animals including pademelons and bowerbirds. Or head to nearby Bindarri National Park to take a hike along one of the scenic tracks such as the Plateau Circuit Loop Trail, then go on a rafting trip on the Upper Nymboida River.
Dorrigo National Park Sydney to Gold Coast my nrma road trips
Dorrigo National Park
Stop 2: Lunch and hike at Yamba

Make a late lunch stop at the pretty town of Yamba. Yamba Shores Tavern is a good choice. Today's drive ends at Australia's most famous coastal town. Byron Bay first became known for its laid back beach culture, but these days, the town is an attraction in its own right, thanks to its stylish cafes and buzzing bars.

Explore all the action on and around Jonson Street or, if you're feeling energetic, hike the 4km Cape Byron Walking Track. End the day with a drink at the ever lively Beach Hotel.

Yamba
Yamba (Photo credit: Destination NSW)
Stop 3: Stay at Byron Bay

Located in the heart of Byron Bay, Byron Bay Hotel and Apartments is just a 150m hop, skip and jump to Main Beach, and surrounded by cafes, restaurants and fashion boutiques. The stylish property offers a a range of accommodation options, including King hotel-style rooms to spacious one, two, or three bedroom apartments equipped with gourmet kitchen, dishwasher, oven, fridge, flat-screen TV’s and private balcony, and toiletries and linen provided. There’s also a pool, free WIFI and onsite hire bikes to explore town. NRMA Members can save up to 15 percent on the best available room rate*. Simply use the promo code: 'NRMA' when booking. *T&C's apply

Day 4: Byron Bay to Gold Coast

2 hrs | 107km

Stop 1: Breakfast at Byron
Treat yourself to a swim and a signature Byron breakfast - either at Bayleaf or Three Blue Ducks, 10 minutes out of town - before heading on to your next stop.
Byron Bay Sydney to Gold Coast my nrma road trips
Byron Bay
Stop 2: Kayak or cruise the river at Brunswick Heads 
It might be smaller than its more touristy Byron Bay counterpart, but 'Bruns', as the local's affectionately call it, delivers far more in laid back charm. And when surfing beaches and spectacular scenery are par for the course for the coastal villages of Byron Shire, its the river that runs through the centre of the town that makes Brunswick Heads stand out. It's here you'll see a hub of activity, from fishers and kayakers to parents and toddlers paddling in the shallows. Hire a kayak or a tinny with a canopy -- no need for a boat licence, and while away an hour on the water. 
Family canoeing on Brunswick River, Brunswick Heads on the Northern Rivers of NSW.
Kayakers on Brunswick River (Photo credit: Destination NSW)
Stop 3: Culture at Murwillumbah
It will take about an hour to reach the Tweed Regional Gallery at Murwillumbah, where you can visit the colourful, cluttered home and studio of acclaimed artist Margaret Olley, re-created here after her death.
Stop 4: Lunch at Kingscliff
A 30 minute drive takes you to Kingscliff, where the seaside Taverna restaurant is a great option for lunch. From here it's a short drive to the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where visitors can feed huge flocks of lorikeets and get close up views of plenty of other native animals including quokkas, crocodiles, wombats and Tassie devils. Adrenaline lovers will want to tackle the Tree Top Challenge, which includes adventure activities such as zip lines.
Stop 5: Catch a wave at Surfer's Paradise
Another 40 minute drive brings you across the border and into Surfers Paradise, the heart of the Gold Coast. With 57km of beach stretching like a ribbon along the shore, you're going to want to celebrate your arrival with a swim. Over dinner - perhaps woodfired pizza at Justin Lane in Burleigh Heads, or sushi and tempura at Mermaid Beach's lively Etsu Izakaya - you can plan which Gold Coast theme park you'll tackle first tomorrow, choose between Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World or Wet'n'Wild.
Sea World Sydney to Gold Coast my nrma road trips
Sea World, Gold Coast
Stop 6: Stay at the Gold Coast
NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort, located 15 minutes' drive north of Surfers Paradise, offers easy access to the area's beaches and theme parks, and has a range of accommodation from villas and cabins to camp sites.
Wet n Wild Sydney to Gold Coast my nrma road trips
Wet'n'Wild, Gold Coast

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