The view of Sydney Opera House and bridge viewed from Circular Quay as the sun sets
Dan Breckwoldt/

Road trip from Gold Coast to Sydney

Published by Dianne Titos on December 15 2023

There is nothing quite like a drive from one of the most beautiful city on the South Pacific Coast to another and this road trip from Gold Coast to Sydney will take you through some of the most charming coastal cities of New South Wales and the beloved wine region of Hunter Valley.

The 880 km road trip from Gold Coast to Syndey will take about 10 hours to drive. Highlights are Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Bulahdelah Mountain Aboriginal Place, Newcastle, Goondiwindi, Moree, Narrabri and Towarri National Park.

You'll experience some of the most dramatic, historical, and world-famous places in Australia on this road trip of a lifetime. Read on below to learn more about our recommended routes, top highlights, best places to stay, and the best seasons to travel.

How far is Sydney from the Gold Coast, and how long will the road trip take?

Comparison of road trip routes between Gold Coast and Syndey
RouteDistanceDriving Time
Coastal Route880 km10 hours 10 minutes
Inland Detour1,210 km14 hours

The Coastal Route from Gold Coast to Sydney spans approximately 880 kilometres with around 10 hours and 10 minutes of driving time without accounting for any detours.

The Inland Detour, while more extensive, is an amazing alternative. This route covers a distance of 1,210 kilometres and requiring about 14 hours of driving.

Though it's possible to complete either route within a day or two, each has a rich tapestry of sights and experiences. To make the most out of this amazing journey, we recommend taking 5-6 days for this drive.

Sydney Harbour Bridge and surroundings at sunset
Sydney is a vibrant coastal city and the city is famous for its stunning Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Best road trip route from Gold Coast to Sydney

Both the Coastal Route and the Inland Detour between the Gold Coast and Sydney have their own unique experiences, attractions, and ambiance. Which one you choose will depend on you.

The Coastal Route is a surfer's paradise, featuring water parks and beautiful beaches. This route will take you through coastal cities like Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, and Newcastle, plus endless wildlife, rainforests, and hiking opportunities.

If you love water-based activities such as whale watching, swimming, and diving, this route is for you.

The Inland Detour takes you through rural Australia, marked by small towns and cities rich in history, agriculture, and tradition. This route crosses the plains known for their history and natural springs.

You'll enjoy lakes, lagoons, and nature reserves like Mount Kaputar National Park and Pilliga Nature Reserve, offering a serene escape from the coastal cities. For the wine connoisseur, a detour to the Hunter Valley vineyards is the ultimate addition to this route.

How to drive from Gold Coast to Sydney

The map above shows our suggestions for the best road trip routes between Gold Coast and Sydney. Keep reading for detailed descriptions of both routes, where to stay on either, and the best things to do on the way.

Coastal Route

Begin your coastal adventure from the Gold Coast, taking the M1 south towards the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, a haven for native Australian wildlife. Continue along the M1 to reach Byron Bay, a coastal paradise known for its laid-back vibe.

Here, visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse, perched on Australia's most easterly point, and unwind at Wategos Beach. Don't miss the Byron Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, especially if you love animals.

Proceed south on the M1, transitioning onto the A1 as you head towards Coffs Harbour. Continuing on the A1, your next destination is Port Macquarie, where the Billabong Zoo Koala and Wildlife Park awaits with its diverse range of Australian wildlife.

As you journey towards Newcastle, take a detour to Bulahdelah Mountain Aboriginal Place. Upon reaching Newcastle via the A1, enjoy the scenic beauty of Nobbys Beach and then drive towards Sydney on the M1, passing through the serene Brisbane Water National Park.

Beautiful turquoise waters of the ocean at the beach with big rocks in the foreground
Make sure to bring your surf along on the Coastal Route and hit the waves in beautiful Byron Bay.
Visual Collective/

Inland Detour

You will start your drive from Gold Coast heading north towards Brisbane to make this detour and then you will continue your drive towards Goondiwindi, taking the A2 to the A39. Here, explore the Goondiwindi Botanic Gardens of the Western Woodlands to experience the region's incredible natural beauty.

Head south on A39 to Moree, where the Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre offers a relaxing break with its hot springs. Moving on, your route leads you to Narrabri, where you can visit the Old Gaol & Museum and the spectacular Sawn Rocks formation.

Continue your drive east to Tamworth along B56, where the Oxley Scenic Lookout provides breathtaking views. Venture further south into Towarri National Park for a taste of serene Australian bushland.

Next, head towards Sydney, passing through Muswellbrook, where the Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre is worth a visit. As you drive down the M15 and the M1, make time to explore Watagans National Park and Brisbane Water National Park before you arrive in Sydney.

Sunset over Tamworth from the lookout
Don't miss out on the chance to witness one of the most beautiful Australian sunsets from the Oxley Scenic Lookout.
CJO Photography/

Best places to stop between Gold Coast and Sydney

This amazing road trip from Gold Coast to Sydney is full of incredible destinations along both routes. To take advantage of all the amazing things you'll see and stay rested, we recommend staying in one of the fantastic stops below.

Endless ocean views in Coffs Harbour

About 3 hours and 40 minutes into your coastal journey is Coffs Harbour, a perfect stopover. This stunning coastal town is a haven if you're looking to immerse yourself in Australia's diverse natural beauty and indulge in a variety of outdoor activities, from skydiving to underwater exploring.

Coffs Harbour is not only known for its breathtaking landscapes but also for its unique attractions. The Forest Sky Pier has amazing views of the coastline and hinterland, while the Solitary Islands Aquarium provides an intimate look at local marine life.

The famous statue in Coffs Harbour on a sunny day
Take a photo with the famous Big Banana! Huffington Post included this quirky attraction in their "Top 10 Pieces of Folly Architecture".

A quirky bonus fact about this town is its fame from the 'Big Banana', a giant sculpture that has been a roadside icon since the mid-60s. There is also an amusement park at this site called The Big Banana Fun Park where you can let your inner child out.

For your stay, we recommend the highly-rated Sensom Luxury Boutique Bed and Breakfast. This lovingly restored property is a peaceful haven set in the most beautiful natural surroundings.

You can enjoy a free breakfast served on the deck with a garden view, explore the 6 acres of landscaped tropical gardens, complete with a lily-filled lagoon and waterfalls, or relax in the saltwater pool with a covered BBQ area.

Nearby, you can visit the Coffs Harbour Jetty, a 20-minute drive from the hotel, ideal for a leisurely stroll or fishing. Just a 3-minute drive away is Sapphire Beach, offering a serene beach experience with plenty of picturesque views.

Explore the rich country music heritage of Tamworth

After a 9-hour drive on the Inland Detour is the beautiful town of Tamworth, which is perfectly situated to prepare you for the last leg of your journey, offering a laid-back vibe. Tamworth is renowned for hosting the world's second-biggest country music festival each January.

At Tamworth, explore the Marsupial Park, a natural sanctuary for native wildlife and a magnificent spot for family outings. Music lovers should not miss the Australian Country Music Hall of Fame, showcasing Australia's rich heritage of country music.

Golden guitar statue outside an information center in Australia on a sunny day
Tamworth is known for its country music heritage and the Golden Guitar is an homage to its legacy.

Did you know that Tamworth was the first place in Australia to have electric streetlights in 1888? Way to pave the path for safe road trips!

For your stay, the luxurious Powerhouse Hotel Tamworth by Rydges is an exceptional choice. This recently renovated hotel offers an elegant place to stay in the heart of Tamworth.

You'll enjoy the exquisite interior design, with modern amenities, including charging stations for electric cars. Once you have checked in, relaxation is just a few steps away with the hotel's pool and spa, and plenty of wonderful meals at the two highly-rated onsite restaurants.

Near the Powerhouse Hotel, you can visit the Powerhouse Motorcycle Museum, conveniently located onsite, featuring an impressive collection of vintage and classic motorcycles. A leisurely 20-minute walk will take you to the Tamworth Powerstation Museum.

Where to stay when you reach Sydney

Sydney, a city celebrated for its stunning architectural landmarks like the Opera House and Harbour Bridge, also has an impressive array of 100 beaches. It has a diverse mix of urban and natural attractions.

When you reach this global city, we recommend staying at the luxurious and highly-rated 202 Elizabeth. In the creative hub of Surry Hills, this boutique hotel offers a tranquil retreat with just 38 art deco suites, ensuring peaceful privacy.

The Sydney Opera House is a multi-venue performing arts centre identified as one of the 20th century's most distinctive buildings
The Syndey Opera House is an iconic sight and brings many domestic and international travelers to the city.

You can enjoy the hotel's courtyard garden and rooftop terrace, perfect for relaxing with one of its signature cocktails. Each suite at 202 Elizabeth is soundproofed and individually crafted, promising a serene and unique stay.

The hotel's central location puts you within easy reach of Sydney's local transport links, making it convenient to explore the city. From here, you can easily access Sydney's famous landmarks, markets, and its myriad of stunning beaches.

Things to see on a road trip from Gold Coast to Sydney

To help you plan your ultimate trip, we've included our top highlights below. This way, you'll be able to plan easily and decide what you want to see the most.

Coastal Route

  1. Byron Bay, New South Wales - A renowned coastal town, Byron Bay is celebrated for its stunning beaches, vibrant arts scene, and a laid-back lifestyle, making it a favourite among both locals and tourists.
  2. Cape Byron Lighthouse - Perched on the most easterly point of mainland Australia, this historic lighthouse offers breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean and is a prime spot for whale watching.
  3. Wategos Beach - This picturesque beach, nestled in Byron Bay, is known for its serene environment, perfect for swimming, surfing, and relaxing amidst scenic beauty.
  4. Byron Bay Wildlife Sanctuary - A haven for wildlife lovers, this sanctuary in Byron Bay is dedicated to the conservation of native species, offering visitors a chance to witness the diverse fauna of the region.
  5. Broadwater National Park - Situated near Byron Bay, this park features pristine coastal landscapes, rich biodiversity, and is ideal for birdwatching, bushwalking, and soaking in nature's tranquillity.
  6. Dolphin Marine Conservation Park - Located in Coffs Harbour, this park is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of marine wildlife, offering interactive experiences with dolphins and seals.
  7. Solitary Islands Marine Park - This marine park near Coffs Harbour encompasses a unique mix of tropical and temperate marine life, making it a hotspot for diving, snorkelling, and exploring diverse aquatic habitats.
  8. Coffs Harbour Butterfly House - Experience the enchanting world of butterflies in an indoor rainforest setting, where visitors can learn about butterfly ecology and conservation.
  9. Billabong Zoo Koala and Wildlife Park - Situated in Port Macquarie, this wildlife park allows close encounters with Australian native animals, including the iconic koala, in a conservation-focused environment.
  10. Bulahdelah Mountain Aboriginal Place - A culturally significant site near Newcastle, this location offers insight into the rich Aboriginal heritage of the area, set against the backdrop of a scenic mountain landscape.
  11. Newcastle, New South Wales - This vibrant coastal city boasts a rich history, beautiful beaches, and a lively arts scene, offering a blend of urban and natural attractions.
  12. Nobbys Beach - One of Newcastle's most popular beaches, Nobbys Beach is ideal for swimming, surfing, and relaxing, with a picturesque lighthouse adding to its charm.
  13. Brisbane Water National Park - Located near Sydney, this national park offers lush bushland, ancient Aboriginal engravings, and spectacular walking trails, perfect for nature lovers and hikers.
Nobbys Beach and Nobbys Lighthouse in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
Nobbys Beach is one of our favorite sandy paradise to visit on the Coastal Route.

Inland Detour

  1. Beenleigh Artisan Distillery - One of Australia's oldest distilleries, it offers a unique experience to explore the process of rum-making and taste premium artisan spirits.
  2. Goondiwindi Botanic Gardens of the Western Woodlands - These gardens showcase the native flora of the region, offering a peaceful retreat with beautifully landscaped grounds and walking paths.
  3. Customs House Museum, Goondiwindi - This museum presents the historical significance of Goondiwindi, with exhibits that reflect the region's cultural heritage and the customs service's past.
  4. Moree Artesian Aquatic Centre - Famous for its naturally heated artesian pools, this centre in Moree provides a relaxing and therapeutic bathing experience, surrounded by beautiful parklands.
  5. Narrabri Old Gaol & Museum - This historic site in Narrabri offers a glimpse into the past, showcasing local history and artefacts in the restored gaol buildings.
  6. Sawn Rocks - A remarkable geological formation near Narrabri, these organ-pipe-shaped basalt formations are a striking example of nature's artistic work.
  7. Oxley Scenic Lookout - Located in Tamworth, this lookout offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, making it a perfect spot for photography and sightseeing.
  8. Towarri National Park - This park, located near Scone, is known for its rugged landscapes, diverse flora and fauna, and is ideal for bushwalking and nature exploration.
  9. Muswellbrook Regional Arts Centre - Situated in the Hunter Valley, this centre showcases a diverse range of artworks, including regional and Aboriginal art, in a vibrant cultural setting.
  10. Watagans National Park - Nestled in the Hunter region, this park offers dense rainforest, majestic waterfalls, and a variety of outdoor activities like camping, bushwalking, and birdwatching.
Unique rock formatting on a cliff in Kaputar National Park, New South Wales
The impressive Sawn Rocks formatting in Mount Kaputar National Park near Narrabri is worth making a detour for.
Rich Pixel Photography/

Best time to go on a road trip from Gold Coast and Sydney

Sydney, a year-round destination renowned for its iconic architecture and stunning beaches, offers plenty of experiences all year long.

The city sees comfortable temperatures ranging from 17 to 32 degrees Celsius throughout the year, making it an ideal endpoint for your journey.

If you're taking the Coastal Route in summer, consider that the Gold Coast enjoys abundant sunshine, but January and February bring high humidity, heat, and more frequent rainfall.

If you're taking the Inland Detour in summer, be prepared for high temperatures. However, you can see the Tamworth Country Music Festival in January and the many New Year's celebrations along both routes.

At your destination, don't miss the Sydney Festival in January, where you'll see tons of amazing artistic performances.

If you're taking the Inland Detour, spring and autumn are ideal due to dry weather. If whale watching in Coffs Harbour is on your agenda, plan your trip in the autumn between March and May to catch this magnificent spectacle.

Taking the Inland Route will mean that you can enjoy the Toowoomba Festival of Flowers in September.

Winter is mild, with occasional cold temperatures of around 5 degrees Celsius. The weather is generally much warmer as you start your journey from the north.

Along the Coastal Route, you can time your trip to coincide with the Byron Bay Comedy Festival in June or the Newcastle Jazz Festival in August.

Upon reaching Sydney, you can immerse yourself in the city's cultural activities and events, which run all year. Vivid Sydney, which takes place in May and June, transforms the city into a wonderland of light art installations and projections.