The drive from Sydney through the Central Coast and all the way up to Byron Bay, is one of the most stunning road trips in NSW. Known as the Legendary Pacific Coast Drive, you’ll see spectacular scenery along the way, from rolling green hinterland dotted with macadamia farms and banana plantations, to rugged national parks, great surf beaches and maybe a whale or two. You will wind through the Central Coast, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Byron Bay.
Port Stephens | two hours 40 minutes from Sydney
On your first day, drive north on the M1 about 92km to the Central Coast. There are lovely seaside villages to see, such as Pearl Beach, Ettalong Beach, Patonga, Avoca and Terrigal. Continuing north, don’t miss a detour to Newcastle, Australia’s second-oldest city where there’s a bustling waterside dining precinct, Honeysuckle. TreeTops Central Coast in Ourimbah State Forest is a thrill for adventure-seekers — try the Crazy Rider, the world’s longest rollercoaster zip line. The 1km line winds through the trees and includes four 360-degree loops, one 540-degree loop and two heart-racing drops.
TreeTops Central Coast
TreeTops Central Coast, Red Hill Road, Wyong ...
A memorable place to stay overnight is Port Stephens, about 2.5 hours’ drive from Sydney. It’s a pretty place of immense sand dunes, crystal clear waterways and exquisite seafood.
Port Stephens NSW, Australia
The nearby Stockton Bight Sand Dunes need to be experienced to be believed! At 32 kilometres, they are the longest moving sand dunes in the southern hemisphere and there are numerous ways to explore.
Stockton Beach, New South Wales, Australia
Traverse the rolling hills on an exhilarating quad bike tour with Sand Dune Adventures, available for children ages five and up. Explore the dunes on your own in a 4WD in designated areas, or ride along Anna Bay at sunset on a camel.
Sand Dune Adventures
Sand Dune Adventures, Nelson Bay Road, Willia...
Port Stephens has between 90-120 resident dolphins and you’ll have an excellent chance of seeing them swim by when you are exploring the marine park by boat. The amazing Irukandji Shark and Ray Encounter is not to be missed either. You can wade into the water and interact and feed endangered zebra sharks and manta rays.
Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters
Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, Jessie Road...
Port Macquarie | two hours 42 mins from Port Stephens
Port Macquarie NSW, Australia
The drive from Port Stephens to Port Macquarie takes in sparkling beaches, lakes and lush hinterland. Port Macquarie is the vibrant coastal city at the heart of the Greater Port Macquarie area. In Port Macquarie, don’t miss Koala Hospital, which conducts daily tours at 3pm, then enjoy a seaside lunch.
Koala Hospital, Lord Street, Port Macquarie N...
Explore the largest remaining coastal rainforest at Sea Acres National Park; Tacking Point Lighthouse to spot whales between May and November and head to Billabong Zoo. It’s a multiple award-winning zoo where you can really get up close to native Australian animals. You can hear a talk about the zoo, as well as pat and feed kangaroos, koalas and meerkats.
Sea Acres National Park
Sea Acres National Park, Pacific Drive, Port ...
Tacking Point Lighthouse
Tacking Point Lighthouse, Lighthouse Road, Po...
Billabong Zoo: Koala & Wildlife Park
Billabong Zoo: Koala & Wildlife Park, Billabo...
Coffs Harbour | one hour 40 mins from Port Macquarie
It’s about an hour and forty minute drive from Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour. Set between the mountains and the sea, the Coffs Coast is a palette of breathtaking colour with villages, world- heritage rainforests, waterfalls, marine reserves, and over 100 golden beaches between Nambucca and Red Rock. Coffs Harbour is a fun, adventure playground for families! Once in Coffs, as the locals call it, the kids will adore the amusement rides at the Big Banana Fun Park, like water slides and a tobogganing ride. After all the excitement, head along the Jetty Strip at the bottom of Harbour Drive and eat at one of the many lively restaurants and cafes.
Coffs Harbour NSW, Australia
Dorrigo National Park is a small but exquisite subtropical rainforest with world-heritage credentials. Find Crystal Shower Falls along one of a network of walking trails that wind through mossy cathedrals of towering sassafras, red cedar, coachwood and yellow carabeen trees. For spectacular views of Dorrigo, head to Forest Sky Pier to see over the city of Coffs Harbour and up and down the coastline.
Dorrigo National Park - Never Never picnic area
Dorrigo National Park - Never Never picnic ar...
For wildlife adventures, observe underwater creatures at Solitary Island aquarium, migratory seabirds at Muttonbird Island and native flora and fauna at the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, all at Coffs Harbour.
Byron Bay and Tweed Region | two hours 50 mins from Coffs Harbour
For a fix of sunshine, surf and sophistication, Byron Bay on the North Coast of New South Wales is a popular destination. A scenic 240km drive from Coffs Harbour takes you into the famous Byron Bay area. It’s a bustling beach town of bohemian communities, luxurious boutique stays and hip dining. The true stars are the beaches – there’s magical Wategos overseen by the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse as well as Little Wategos, Australia’s easternmost beach only accessible by foot; The Pass with an epic right-hand point break and the year-round patrolled Main Beach. Add to that boutiques brimming with coastal luxe treasures, delectable paddock-to-plate food, exceptional resorts and live music venues — this is the ultimate beach holiday.
Byron Bay NSW, Australia
Surf the Waves
If you want to try your hand at surfing, Byron is the spot. Grab a lesson with Let’s Go Surfing Byron Bay and paddle out at The Pass. This renowned stretch of water, set between Wategos and Clarkes Beaches, is one of the most popular surf destinations in all of Australia. The long, clear waves are ideal for longboarding and when the swell is up, you can grab a half-kilometre-long ride.
Lets Go Surfing Byron Bay
Lets Go Surfing Byron Bay, Fletcher Street, B...
Tweed | about an hour from Byron Bay
Expect uncrowded beaches and a relaxed vibe in the Tweed region. Explore world-heritage rainforest, spot dolphins at Point Danger lookout, kayak on the sparkling Tweed River or join a crab-catching tour. Tweed Eco Cruises offer unique seafood-catching tours on the river on their iconic wooden river ferry built in 1972. Try the pot-to-plate adventure where you observe crab catching and have a seafood feast on board; or do it yourself on the Crab Catching tour, where you try your hand at catching the famous Tweed yabby and help the team haul them all in.
Point Danger, Tweed Terrace, Coolangatta QLD,...
Tweed Eco Cruises
Tweed Eco Cruises, River Terrace, Tweed Heads...
Foodie Tips: Head inland to Tropical Fruit World to learn about fruits from all over the world, or visit Cabarita Beach and indulge in lunch at Paper Daisy at Halcyon House, which was awarded two hats in the 2019 Good Food Guide.
Insider Tip: On the NSW Coastline there’s Lake Macquarie on the Central Coast and Port Macquarie, further north — don’t get these confused when booking accommodation like many visitors do!
Planning Tip: The total drive is over 800km, an estimated 10 hours of driving, so it’s an ideal journey to break up into four days.