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.
- 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 10 mins | 107km
An easy 10-minute drive up the Pacific Motorway, you'll find The Bean Van, where owner David Phillip's passion for great coffee and customer service is evident in what he serves up – arguably the best coffee in the Northern Rivers. Order a cup with a warm sausage roll or pie, while the kids explore the playground.