Looking for places to stop on a Sydney to Byron Bay road trip? After driving up and down the coast often, here are some of our favourite places to stop, explore and discover along the East Coast of Australia.
In this Sydney to Byron Bay guide, you’ll soon realise that we’ve written in-depth guides about almost all of the places we mention. Check out our detailed guides for each place so you can learn more about all of the best things to do in each town we talk about.
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How long is the Sydney to Byron Bay drive?
Wondering how long the Sydney to Byron Bay drive actually is? The 8-hour drive might be a little too long to stretch it out into one day, so you might like to stop for a couple of nights along the way.
You could easily spend two weeks making your way up to Byron Bay from Sydney if you’ve got the time.
This guide isn’t a Sydney to Byron Bay itinerary, but instead, we’re going to let you know all of the places worth visiting along the way.
If you have a lot of time on your hands, definitely consider the places mentioned in this guide. If you have minimal time, we’ll share what we personally do and we’ll give you an example of where to stop if you just have a few days.
Don’t have much time?
If you are tight on time, I would personally recommend stopping off for a night at the following places:
Day 1: Blueys Beach in Pacific Palms (Forster)
The area of Blueys Beach in Pacific Palms is stunning! We were lucky to live there for a few months and honestly felt like we had hit the jackpot. It’s beautiful! This is somewhere you can laze around on loads of beaches but there’s not much else going on here if you’re looking for loads to do.
Day 2: Bellingen
Bellingen is our happy place! When we first went there, we didn’t understand the fuss because the town is tiny (blink and you’ll miss driving through town). But there’s much more to it! Expect some fantastic homeware shops, the incredible Dorrigo National Park, swimming holes, a brilliant brewery and the exceptional Waterfall Way. This is a place you could easily spend a couple of days here.
If you’d prefer to stay by the beach, stay at South West Rocks instead.
Day 3: Yamba
Known as the new Byron Bay, Yamba still has the charm of a quiet beach town, with up-and-coming shops, cafes, and beautiful beaches to match. It’s somewhere you need to put on your list!
OK, so with that mini guide done, we’re going to open up this into a much more detailed guide so you can find some proper hidden gems to explore on your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip.
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Places To Stop On The Sydney To Byron Bay Road Trip Map
Here’s our Sydney to Byron Bay map so you can get to know all of the places mentioned in this guide.
Let’s get started with the Central Coast as you drive away from Sydney. There are loads of places to visit in Central Coast which is easily worth a night’s stay if you have time.
1. Riverboat Postman Cruise
Do the Riverboat Postman cruise from Brooklyn in the Hawkesbury River if you have the time. Even if you don’t have time during your road trip, you can do this as an easy day trip from Sydney as the train will take you straight to the ferry pier and only takes 50 minutes from Sydney on a direct train.
Otherwise, take a detour down to The Boathouse in Patonga for lunch. There’s a 20-minute walk from the car park in Bouddi National Park to Maitland Bay if you have time. This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Sydney that I have personally come across. Again, if you don’t have time, you can do this as a day trip from Sydney as it’s only a 1h30m drive to get to.
Drive slightly up the coast, and you’ll come to Avoca Beach, which is a little gem. Home to the Avoca Beach Picture Theatre, it was named as one of the best cinemas in the world by the BBC. It’s an iconic cool little cinema, but the beach town is also lovely.
Around Lake Macquarie is some of the best beaches. Head to Munmorah State Conservation Area to find the beautiful Ghosties Beach, Frazer Park and plenty of sea caves. If you visit any of the sea caves make sure you plan the tides and weather before you even attempt going to them. You’ll also find the beautiful Catherine Hill Bay and the insta famous pink sea caves.
One of the safest caves to visit are the caves at, you guessed it, Caves Beach. These are pretty cool sea caves you can walkthrough. Have lunch at Caves Beach Hotel and stay here if you’ve spent the day exploring.
With Steve’s family based in Newcastle, we’ve even spent about eight months living there at one point. With plenty to see and do, do the Anzac Memorial Walk, swim at Merewether Baths, eat at Parry Street Garage or Ginger Megs and wander down Darby Street to go shopping (I love the vintage shop on this street).
Port Stephens is a family favourite holiday destination for many Sydneysiders. The 2h30m drive from Sydney is do able for most families as the list of Port Stephens activities goes on and on.
Go swimming with wild dolphins in the only place in NSW you can do so, go on a sand dune tour along the largest sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere, where Mad Max was filmed! And enjoy climbing up Mount Tomaree for epic views out to the gorgeous beaches.
So you can either continue up the coast or head inland, especially if you’re into hiking. Here you’ll find some of the best hikes in NSW and a brilliant quirky town you need to visit.
9. Barrington Tops
Home to the Gondwana Rainforest, Barrington Tops is easily recognised as one of the best national parks in NSW! We did the Antarctic Beech Forest walk when we visited which takes between 1-2 hours of walking around a circuit with so many epic ancient trees to admire. There’s a swimming hole to swim in just off the track, but be prepared for icy water! Camp at Barrington Tops and make the most of this spectacular national park.
The adventurous trails, stunning landforms, jaw-dropping views and relatively quiet tracks, are a hikers dream at the stunning Warrumbungle National Parks. Throw in beautiful spring wildflowers, typical Aussie wildlife and incredible stargazing, which is known as Australia’s first International Dark Sky Park! Make sure you check out our guide for the Best Warrumbungles Walks you need to try.
Another hidden gem you need to visit is the spectacular Mount Kaputar National Park. It’s an absolutely stunning part of the northern tablelands of NSW with volcanically carved landscape of brilliant rock formations, sweeping craters and green carpeted mountainside.
Famous for the The Sawn Rocks track, it is an easy trail leading to one of the most jaw-dropping examples of ‘organ-piping’ in Australia! Put it on your list to visit and read our Best Mount Kaputar Walks guide before you go.
As one of Australia’s quirkiest towns, as well as being home to the world’s largest collection of black opals, there are so many things to do in Lightning Ridge! Think underground sculpture park, the famous Lightning Ridge Artesian Bore Baths, a couple of unique castles and so much more!
If you continue up the coast from Port Stephens, you must stop off at Pacific Palms, located about 20 minutes outside of Forster. While Forster really isn’t something to write home about, Pacific Palms on the other hand is stunning. Home to so many stunning beaches, you really have the pick of the crop here. Make sure you visit Elizabeth Beach, Boomerang Beach and Blueys Beach here as all of them are beautiful. Check out our guide for the best things to do in Bluey’s Beach before you go!
Drive 20 minutes down the road to Seal Rocks if you have time. It’s one of my favourite places in Australia as there’s something just magical about it. There’s a brilliant holiday park right next to the beach here if you need to pitch up your tent or stay in a cabin.
After your stay in either Pacific Palms or Seal Rocks, you can detour to Boogie Woogie in Old Bar for breakfast as it’s a cool little spot here. We spent a month here doing a pet sit around the corner from this cafe and it’s really cool. They have live music on the weekends too.
Detour from Old Bar over to Ellenborough Falls, the third largest single drop waterfall in Australia! It’s a cool spot to visit and the walk down to the bottom only takes 20 minutes on a clear path.
Watch our video to Ellenborough Falls below!
17. Port Macquarie
I’m sure most Sydneysiders grew up with family holidays in Port Macquarie. This family favourite packs a punch for things to do and places to visit. Luckily, we have a Port Macqaurie Guide written by a local which has everything you need to know about visiting.
South West Rocks is one of those hidden gems you need to see for yourself. There’s only a few places on the entire East Coast of Australia that compare to the beauty of this place, including Noosa, 1770, The Whitsundays and Jervis Bay.
South West Rocks is a beautiful seaside town with fantastic campgrounds on the beach that you could easily stay here for a good few days.
Although it might be a sleepy town, there’s much more to Nambucca Heads than you might think! Make sure you walk along the V Wall, go up to the Captain Cook lookout and swim at the stunning Shelly Beach!
As I said Bellingen is probably my favourite place in New South Wales. There’s something just so beautiful about this small country town. I love staying at The Belfry Guesthouse in town for the beautiful country views and peacefulness that seems to radiate across the town.
Go for a drive up to the Promised Land where you can swim in the beautiful Never Never Creek swimming holes, swim in Danger Falls and go for the drive along the Waterfall Way.
You also must stop off in Dorrigo National Park, visit the Dorrigo Skywalk Lookout, and go do the Crystal Showers Falls walk – I promise you won’t regret it!
We love Sawtell, a gorgeous little beach town next to Coffs Harbour. The main street is lined with shops, cafes and an awesome pub called the Sawtell Tavern.
While Coffs Harbour town isn’t anything special, there’s some beautiful beaches in the area. We love Diggers Beach opposite the Big Banana which is a bit of a hidden gem. Sapphire Beach is also stunning and you could easily spend a while exploring beach after beach in the area.
Known as the new Byron Bay, Yamba has exploded since Covid. With more hipster shops and cafes popping up, a fantastic YHA in the middle of town and of course the amazing natural ocean pool – Angourie Blue and Green Pools, you might end up never getting to Byron Bay!
It’s a gorgeous spot with plenty of awesome places to eat and drink. We loved The Italian On The Hill – trust me the pannacotta is devine! Make sure you check out our guide for the 25 Best Things To Do In Yamba.