A road trip over the Christmas & New Years is the epitome of an Australian summer; windows down, sun blazing and an open schedule to explore the beautiful coastline. The NSW Eastern coast is a popular route for locals and visitors alike, starting in Sydney and heading north towards Byron Bay and the Queensland border will take you past hidden beaches, laid back coastal towns and plenty of roadside stands for picking up a selection of summer fruits. This guide will take you through some of places to see, things to do and road trip essentials; brought to you from the road itself!
Sydney to Newcastle
Day 1 started in the early evening as we powered our way from Sydney Airport to the university town of Newcastle. Newcastle is NSW’s second biggest city and its reputation is improving everyday. Getting in late, we were worried about finding somewhere open for dinner, but after cruising around the CBD we stumbled upon a place called Foghorn Brewhouse. I loved this place; passionate about their brews, enormous pizzas and all set in an atmospheric warehouse with heaps of space. After consuming our body weight in pizza, craft beers and ciders, it was time to call it a night.
On the way: The Entrance – coastal town to feed some pelicans
Big Things: Ploddy the Dinosaur at the Australian Reptile Park
Time taken: Approx 2 hours drive from Sydney to Newcastle + lost at the airport time
Newcastle to Forster
This morning we woke up and drove to Newcastle Beach for some breakfast and to dip our toes in the water. Newcastle has quite a lot of beaches, so a few days spent in this city would not go astray. But we had to head off – we had a high ropes course to do! We visited Newcastle Treetops, located about 20 mins west of the city, for some challenging rope courses. Our harness system kept us safe as we jumped, wobbled and ziplined our way through the trees. By the time you get the Black course, the challenges have become quite physically demanding and in our case, the mercury had risen to 40 degrees Celsius! But the satisfaction of finally defeating all the challenges after about 3 hours (and consuming about 5L of water) made it all worthwhile!
We took it easy for the rest of the day, stopping to cool off with a swim and some icy poles. The plan was to make it to Port Macquarie, however when it came to booking some accommodation, there was no more room in the inn so to speak. So alternative plans were made and we booked into Gloucester, a small inland town about 30 min from the coast. Not a problem, but it does pay to be organised! Dinner was in Forster, a holiday town where we managed to find a newly opened restaurant with room on the balcony overlooking the water.
On the way: Port Stephens is a popular holiday town + Barrington Tops National Park in the west is great for some bush exploration
Time taken: 2 hours from Newcastle to Forster without stopping
A leisurely drive north for a few more hours and we’d finally made it to our destination; Coffs Harbour! A popular beach town, there’s 101 things to do including excellent snorkelling opportunities; going on a segway tour or lazing about on the many beaches. However, Coffs is best known for a more unusual attraction – The Big Banana. It was unbelievably touristy, but that’s almost what made it so fun! After you get a photo with this beloved Australian icon and buy a choc-coated frozen banana, there are quite a few attractions on site to keep you entertained. Ice-skating, a water slide park, laser tag, candy making workshops and a specialty cheese shop can keep you at the Big Banana for almost a whole day! Outside of the Big Banana, we also spent time wandering down the jetty, visiting the beaches and eating gelato. Beverages were consumed at the Hoey Moey, a backpacker bar in town that has crab racing on Sunday afternoons – an entertaining way to finish up the weekend! But alas, it was now time for us to head back south
Further north: Byron Bay is roughly 3 hours further north, and although we didnt have time, it would be well worth the extra kms
Big things: The Big Banana (Yay!)
Coffs Harbour to Sydney
Feeling a little worse for wear after a long New Years Eve, we packed up and headed south late in the afternoon. We secured accommodation at Port Macquarie Backpackers, a friendly and reasonably well-resourced hostel. The weather had started to turn on us, but it was not deterrent enough for a final swim under the moody grey skies – in fact it seemed all the more enjoyable. Pulling into Sydney, I felt there was so much more we could have done, but just not the time to do it. Until next year I guess!
On the way: Stop at Bellingen for a small, hippy town vibe, particularly when the markets are on.
Big Things: Big Axe in Kew (missing when we visited?!), Big Clam in Wauchope
Time taken: 6 hours driving time from Coffs Harbour to Sydney + holiday traffic time
Road trip must-knows:
- It’s going to be scoooooorching in the car – like too hot to touch the steering wheel. If your air con is out of action (sorry guys!), an esky full of ice and frozen water bottles is a life saver
- This is peak period, so we had to be flexible where we stayed if we wanted to book last minute.
- Pack sunscreen and reapply it for the love of God. You’ll feel like a well-done steak otherwise. Even if you’re just sitting in a car, there’s no tan stupider than a driving tan (except maybe a sock tan)
- Don’t light sparklers in a pub. Just don’t do it. They’ll get mad.