The Big Banana, a must stop on your Pacific Highway Road Trip
The East Coast stretches, well, all along the East Coast of Australia! From Melbourne up to the tip of Cape York Peninsula. The most well-worn section is along the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane. Now you can drive it in one day which can take around 10 hours. But there is so much to see and do along this stretch of road. If you have the time it would be well worth your while to spend a few days or even longer enjoying your road trip of the Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane. Here are my suggestions of what to see and do on your road trip from Sydney to Brisbane.
For the purposes of writing, we are driving Sydney to Brisbane. If you are travelling from Brisbane to Sydney, you will have to read backwards!
The Pacific Highway Facts
The entire East Coast of Australia running from Melbourne to Cairns is 2818kms and this takes about 30 hours if you don’t stop. The most popular section is between Sydney to Brisbane along the Pacific Highway. This section is 915kms long or about 10 hours to drive. Unless you have urgent business in either capital city the Pacific Highway is best enjoyed when you make many stops and take in what it has to offer. Like tourist drives, pristine beaches, rainforests and historic sites.
Road Transport Options to travel the East Coast
The best option for travelling the East Coast of Australia is by car. A car will provide you with the flexibility to stop and to deviate when and wherever you want. If you don’t already have a vehicle then consider renting one. To discover what vehicles are available and their cost check out RentalCars.com.
The best time to drive along the Pacific Highway
I don’t think there is a best time to drive along the East Coast of Australia. The Pacific Highway is always open, well mostly, except for when there are bushfires threatening the road or road works. However, if you are chasing good and warm weather then the warmer months of late Spring, Summer and early Autumn will be your best options.
Places to visit along the Pacific Highway
This road trip of the East Coast of Australia starts in Sydney. If you would like to know what to see and do in Sydney before your road trip here are a couple of suggested reads: One Day Walking Itinerary of Sydney Harbour and What to See and Do in Sydney.
Leaving Sydney, you will travel north along the Pacific Highway. Your first stop could be at Gosford on the Central Coast some 80km north of Sydney. There are some beautiful beaches here; it could be a great weekend escape from Sydney. The Entrance is a popular weekend escape also with its magnificent surrounding water-ways where you can spend your days on pristine surf beaches, hire a boat or go fishing on Tuggerah Lakes. Terrigal is famous for its boutique shopping, upmarket restaurants and its position right on the surf beach. All great places to visit.
Newcastle, some 45 minutes away is the second largest city in New South Wales. It is an industrial town and home to the Newcastle Steel Works. There are some beautiful beaches here with historic ocean baths and numerous coastal walks to enjoy. It is a good stopping off point for a visit to the Hunter Valley, a major wine producing area.
From Newcastle you could head to Nelson Bay and Port Stephenswhere there are more beautiful pristine beaches and waterways to enjoy. Port Stephensis off the main highway but this huge port houses many bays and beaches. A great de-stressing area. If you have your own transport you could travel from Nelson Bay at the south end of the port around to the Great Lakes at the north. There you will find the Myall Lakes National Park where you might see kangaroos and koalas in their natural habitat.
Forster is another place Sydney-siders go for a weekend. Some 312km north of Sydney, this area draws large numbers of visitors to experience dolphin cruises, sailboarding, fishing, scuba diving as well as beautiful beaches.
Port Macquarie is another place to lie on a beach and relax for a while. And from here there are multiple holiday destinations – Crescent Head, Kempsey, South West Rocks, Nambucca Heads and Bellingen. But on to Coffs Harbour, home to the Big Banana which you might want to have your photo taken in front of. Come on, be a tourist.
If you wanted to turn this road trip of the East Coast along the Pacific Highway into a 2 day itinerary then Coffs Harbour is a popular stopping place. As well as the Big Banana there is a harbour and hinterland to explore. There is plenty of accommodation here and if you need a place to stay get rates and availability of options from Booking.com.
Heading on up the coast are the towns of Grafton and Yamba at the mouth of the Clarence River, which has become one of the hippest towns on the coast. Check out the beaches, restaurants, cafe’s and day spas. For the nature lovers don’t miss out on the World Heritage listed coastal rainforest at the Iluka Nature Reserve.
You are about 10 hours north of Sydney now and will encounter Lismore and the surrounding area, a hidden jewel between the rainforest and the sea. The area is also known as the Rainbow Region as it contains nearly one third of New South Wales’s forest reserve where you can explore heritage-listed rainforests and national parks. Many stop at Nimbin, hippy capital of Australia.
Byron Bay Lighthouse – the most Easterly point in Australia
The coast road from Ballina to Byron Bay is spectacular. At Byron, as it’s affectionately called, you will encounter a collection of souls from backpackers, alternative living hippies and wealthy Aussies who call this area home. Byron Bay locals and visitors mostly don’t wear shoes but I suggest you do to undertake the Cape Byron walk which will take you the lighthouse where you could dolphin and whale watch. Also take in the fact that you are visiting the most eastern point of Australia. Another photo opportunity. Or maybe just enjoy relaxing on the beach or sitting in one of the organic food cafes. Maybe learn to surf.
Byron Bay also hosts a couple of music festivals which brings an influx of visitors. There is the Blues Festivalheld in early April each year and Splendour in the Grassin October.
From Byron you may like to stop at Murwillumbah which is slightly inland and is in the Tweed Valley. This town has old buildings and wide roads to enjoy. Mount Warning dominates the skyline behind Murwillumbah and is a world-heritage listed area of some 2210 hectares. It was named by Captain Cook in 1770 as he sailed the coast. Many like to climb to the top of Mount Warning and take in the views. Many like to be there for dawn breaking to experience the first rays of sunlight that touch Australia each day.
The Gold Coast is one of Australia’s holiday hot spots. The region stretches some 42km long South-East Queensland’s sun-drenched coastline and some 100km out to the Gold Coast Hinterland where you will find the Natural Arch and walk through rainforests. The Gold Coast area strip of hotels and high rise buildings has rolling surf beaches, non-stop entertainment for all ages and is home to theme parks – Movie World, Dreamworld and Seaworld which are fun to visit. You might want to try your luck at Jupiter’s Casino or be entertained at the Outback Experience. Or feed the birds at the Currumbin Wildlife Park. As there is so much to see and do on the Gold Coast you might want to turn your time here into a holiday.
It is about an hour’s drive north up the road from the Gold Coast to Brisbane, Australia’s third largest city and the end of this road trip up the East Coast of Australia.
If driving back to Sydney and you don’t want to hug the coast read my post Road Trip – The New England Highway.
So there you go a drive along the Pacific Highway can be as epic as you want it. It could be a quick A-B drive or can easily be turned into a few days or longer holiday. No matter which you choose this well worn track is one of Australia’s great road trips.
Hi. I’m Sharyn and welcome to my blog on living, working and playing in Australia. I’ve been travelling all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an Australian airline. I’ve travelled with my family, as a single person, in a couple, with friends and now with my own family. My travels in Australia have inspired this website and my travel guide Live Work and Play in Australia. Read More.