Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney with detours through the Gold Coast Hinterland

Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney in Australia

The road trip from Brisbane to Sydney along the east coast stretches over approximately 1000 kilometers. The direct route follows the coast on the Highway Nr. 1. Even if the highway is following the coastline, it is still too far away from the coast to enjoy sea view during the drive. But there are several sidetracks to beautiful beaches and nice towns along the coast.

We like changing scenery and therefore we leave the highway several times on our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. On our first two trips to Australia we explored the coast. This time we do follow the route through the hinterland.

Brisbane is the start of our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Leaving Brisbane we are heading towards the Gold Coast to see Surfers Paradise. Well, good that we’ve been there but it’s definitely not what we call paradise. High-rise buildings, busy beaches and theme parks are not what we are looking for. We like it more relaxed and less populated. That’s why we have decided to drive through the Gold Coast Hinterland and explore the beauty of the nature.

We leave Highway No. 1 and change to the Lindesay Highway No. 13. After we leave the coast, the landscape is changing dramatically. The vegetation is lush green and rainforest is dominating the landscape. The roads are getting narrow, steep and curvy. That is because of the Great Dividing Range that stretches along the whole east coast of Australia. Our next stops are Lamington and Springbrook National Park.

Walking the oldest Treetop Walk in the Lamington National Park

Lamington National Park Australia

Lamington National Park is part of the UNESCO World Heritage because of the Gondwana rainforests. It’s not only incredibly old rainforest but also the oldest Treetop Walk of the world. It has been built in 1986.

We start our journey from Mount Tamborine with pleasant weather. In Canungra clouds are coming in and the further we drive on the windy Lamington National Park Road, the worse the weather gets. When arriving at O’Reillys camping area in the Green Mountains section, it’s raining cats and dogs. We wait the weather out and luckily the next day it clears up.

We first explore the rainforest at O’Reillys and then we do the Treetop Walk. Next on our plan are the Phyton Rock Lookout and the Moran Falls. We have to drive a few kilometers to get to the starting point of the walks. Both walks are great and totally worth doing.

Treetop Walk Lamington National Park Australia

More walking options:

Box Forest Circuit (10.9 km, 4h)
West Canungra Creek Circuit (13.9 km, 5.5h)
Toolona Creek Circuit (17.4 km, 6h)
Albert River Circuit (21.8 km, 7h)

All of the above mentioned walks are located in the western part of the Lamington National Park and in the Green Mountains section. Binna Burra, which is the eastern part of the park, has even more walks to offer. You can choose from 15 different walks from 1.2 km up to 21.6 km in all grades of difficulty.

Unfortunately we are running out of time. We skip Binna Burra and head on to Springbrook National Park.

Springbrook National Park with its amazing waterfalls and great walks

The next national park on our list is Springbrook. When we did our travel planning and saw pictures of Springbrook National Park we knew, we can’t miss to visit this park. It is also part of the UNESCO world heritage. We love the lush green of the rainforest and it’s hard to decide where to start. There are so many options of great walks.

Springbrook National Park is separated into three sections. The Springbrook Plateau, the Natural Bridge and Mount Cougal. We only do walks in the first two sections.

For the ones short on time, we recommend to do the Twin Falls Circuit. The 4 km walk is definitely our highlight in the park. We start at the Tallanbana Picnic Area and we are amazed how diverse the walk is. Walking under waterfalls and through Gondwana rainforest is very special. It took us about two hours to do the walk with lots of stops to take photos.

Springbrook National Park Australia

Along the Springbrook Road we also stop at the Goomoolahra Picnic Area. The short walk to the lookout for amazing views should not be missed when visiting. In the far distance we can see Surfers Paradise and the sea.

Another lookout that is worth to visit is the Best of All Lookout. Well, how can one not stop here after reading the name of the lookout.

Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Before we’re heading to the Natural Bridge section, we stop at the Purling Brook Falls. The waterfall looks spectacular from the lookout. We are too curious and want to see the waterfall from the base as well. It takes us about 45 minutes to get to the pool and from the bottom the waterfall looks even higher than from the top. Unfortunately, the Purling Brook Falls Circuit is closed which means we have to walk back the same way.

Next stop is the Natural Bridge which is about 26 km from the Purling Brook Falls. The route to the Natural Bridge is well signposted and easy to find. The 1 km loop walk is spectacular.

Springbrook National Park Natural Bridge

You find more details about the national parks, the walks and camping on the official website of NSW National Parks.

Cappuccino at the Moo Moo Roadhouse

Moo Moo Roadhouse Mooball in Australia

On the way back to Highway No. 1 we stop in the small town Mooball. It’s time for a nice cup of coffee. The Moo Moo Roadhouse is a shop, restaurant, cafe, petrol station, museum and meeting place all in one.

We love these unique places in Australia.

Byron Bay

Shortly after we are back on Highway No. 1 we reach Byron Bay, a relaxed hippie and surfer town. You need to be careful when visiting Byron Bay. Locals say if you stay too long, you may end up staying forever. We can imagine that this could happen. The beaches are beautiful, there are great cafés and restaurants in town and Cape Byron is great for outdoor activities.

Byron Bay Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Byron Bay Lighthouse Australia

Byron Bay Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

We do the 3.7 km Cape Byron Walk all along the coast and up to the lighthouse. We get rewarded with amazing views over the ocean and the coastal landscape. From the viewing area we can even see dolphins jumping and playing in the waves.

Accommodation in Byron Bay – Hotel und Hostel tip

Waves Byron Bay – Adresse: 35 Lawson Street

Great location, just 60 meters to the beach. Spacious rooms, restaurants, bars and cafes closeby. The perfect place to enjoy a few relaxing days at the beach.

Wake Up! Byron Bay – Adresse: 25 Childe St, Belongil Beach

Trendy hostel and ideal for jung travelers. Great location and very close to the beach. Cool atmosphere.

Hippie Nimbin and the market in The Channon

Nimbin Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

It’s worth to do a daytrip from Byron Bay to Nimbin. We were lucky and the market in The Channon was on the same day we visited Nimbin. If you love hippie style markets, don’t miss to check it out on your way to Nimbin. It started as a small market and today there are more than 250 stands who present their products. In 1976 the market started with the motto: Make it, bake it, grow it. There are food stalls with all kinds of dishes available. And you get great coffee too.

The drive to Nimbin is already part of the adventure too. The road is very narrow and windy. Nimbin is famous for its hippie scene and the open handling with hamp. It all started in 1973 when the big Aquarius Hippie Festival took place. Many people came to the festival and they stayed since then. They became communes, tried to live self-sufficient and grow their own produce. Many of them lived without electricity and running water. In the meantime it has become a bit touristy but you can still feel the hippie atmosphere in Nimbin.

Driving along the Old Glen Innes Raod from Grafton to Glen Innes

From Byron Bay our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney continuous south. We shortly stop in Grafton for lunch and do a short walk through the center.

Grafton Cathedral Australia

From Grafton we follow along the Gwydir Highway inland and continue on the old Glen Innes Road. After a few kilometers the bitumen road ends and becomes a gravel road. The drive along different rivers is very scenic and we don’t see many others along the road. We drive through the Guy Fawkes River National Park and the Mann River Reserve.

Old Glen Innes Road Australia

Old Glen Innes Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney Australia

The Old Glen Innes Road has been built in the 1850s during the great but brief gold rush to bring supplies to Dalmorton.

We love the drive along the Old Glen Innes Road through forests, wide plains and along the river.

In Buccarumbi the Boyd and Nymboida rivers join forces. There is a bridge that crosses the river and you can still see the footings of an earlier bridge after it has been destroyed by severe flooding. There is great camping along the riverbank.

Buccarumbi Old Glen Innes Road

Dalmorton is one of the historical sites along the route. There are still some ruins but also a few remaining buildings. It’s hard to imagine that up to 5000 people once lived here.

Old Glen Innes Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

About seven kilometers west of Dalmorton we reach the historical tunnel that has been carved out of the rocks in the mid 1800s by civilian labour. The tunnel is 3.3 meters high.

Old Glen Innes Road Tunnel

Just a few miles before the Old Glen Innes Road meets the Gwydir Highway, we drive through the Mann River Nature Reserve. Right next to the road we can see the camping area which is currently under construction. The location is great and it looks like a great place to camp.

From the Mann River Nature Reserve Camp the road rises constantly uphill and Taku has to work pretty hard. The road is very narrow, windy and steep. We’re curious and check the altitude. Wow, from 400 meters above sea level we drove up to almost 1200 meters. We finally reach the top of the Great Dividing Range and get back on the Gwydir Highway. Next stop is the town of Glen Innes.

Glen Innes Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

From Glen Innes we head south along the New England Highway. In Guyra, a small town between Glen Innes and Armidale, we find a great free camp. That’s why we love Australia. Many towns are RV (Recreational Vehicle) friendly and offer free camps in or close to town with toilets. In Guyra we can even enjoy a great sunset.

Guyra on Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Armidale – A historical town along the road trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Armidale, with its beautiful historical buildings, is the next stop on our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. The town with approximately 25’000 inhabitants is more or less in the middle of our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. It’s the perfect city to stock up on fuel, water and other supplies. There is also a great library with free WiFi in town and there are a few cafés with great coffee.

Armidale St Mary and St Joseph Cathedral

Armidale St Mary and St Joseph Cathedral

Armidale Imperial Hotel Road Trip Brisbane to Sydney Australia

It is also worth to explore Armidale on foot. In the information center you get a walking guide with all interesting places to visit. There are plenty of nice historical buildings and churches.

This time we are heading south from Armidale on the New England Highway. There are other options too. Driving along the coast or the Waterfall Way, which is another great option. There are some very beautiful waterfalls and walks in national parks. One we liked a lot on our last road trip from Sydney to Brisbane was Ebor Falls with the two cascades. But also the town of Dorrigo, the Dangar Falls and Bellingen are worth a stop.

Lower Ebor Falls Waterfall Way

Dangar Falls Waterfall Way in Australia

If you prefer driving along the coast we recommend stopping at Coffs Harbor, Nambucca Heads and Port Macquarie.

We love the coast but this time we choose another route inland. From Armidale we are heading south the Thunderbolts Way and part of the New England Highway. This route was recommended to us by Australians. When we heard about the windy road with very steep sections that goes through beautiful countryside, we knew, that’s the perfect route for us.

Accommodation in Armidale

Petersons Armidale Winery and Guesthouse – Adresse: 345 Dangarsleigh Road

Beautiful guesthouse with classy rooms. The guesthouse is located about 7 km outside of Armidale on the way to the Gostwyck Church.

The Thunderbolts Way is a great alternative on a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney

The Thunderbolts Way is a 290 km long sealed road that connects Inverell and Gloucester. But before we’re driving the Thunderbolts Way, we take a short detour. We visit the small hamlet of Gostwyck, not too far from Uralla. The main attraction is the chapel. It’s probably the most photographed chapel in Australia. The best time to visit is in autumn, when the leaves on the walls turn pink and red.

Gostwyck Chapel in Uralla Australia

Another very impressive building is the Deeagree Woolshed with its huge octagonal metal roof. The building dates back to 1872 and is still used for sheep shearing.

Deeargee Woolshed Gostwyck in Uralla

Now it’s time to hit the Thunderbolts Way. Well, this street sign looks interesting. Our Taku has to work quite hard and our brakes start to get pretty hot after some of the steep sections downhill. Therefore we stop repeatedly to allow the brakes to cool down.

Thunderbolts Way Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Thunderbolts Way Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

We like the landscape along the Thunderbolts Way. The rolling hills, the farmland and forests offer great scenery. We also drive along rivers and cross them over wooden bridges.

Thunderbolts Way Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

We camp at Bretti Reserve on the river about 30 kilometers before the Thunderbolts Way ends. The area is huge and there are big trees, bushes, toilets and even garbage bins. What a beautiful free campsite. Time to relax.

Bretti Reserve Thunderbolts Way in Australia

From the campsite we can also watch the big timber trucks pass by. There is big timber industry in the region.

Thunderbolts Way Timber Transport

After a quiet night at Bretti Reserve we follow along the Thunderbolts way to Gloucester.

Newcastle, another stop on our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Newcastle Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

From Gloucester we’re heading to the coast. Our next stop is Newcastle. Part of this city is surrounded by water like a peninsula. We go for a coffee and visit the historic Newcastle Ocean Bath that was built before the First World War in classic Art Deco style. The round Canoe Pool unfortunately filled up with sand washed into the pool by the tides and waves.

Accommodation in Newcastle

Hamilton on Beaumont – Adresse: 25 Beaumont Street

Large studio with kitchen, bathroom and washing machine. Great location and good value for money.

Our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney ends

Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney

Sydney is the most famous city of Australia and very popular. No wonder, Sydney has so much to offer. It’s not only the outstanding buildings like the Opera House and the Sydney Harbor Bridge that makes Sydney special. We could write a lot more about Sydney, but that would be another blog post.

In the amazing city of Sydney our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney ends.

Accommodation in Sydney – Hotel und Hostel tip

Sydney Harbour YHA – Adresse: 110 Cumberland Street, Sydney CBD

Central location in The Rocks. Great value for money. Rooftop terrace with amazing views overlooking the city and the Sydney Opera.

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney – Adresse: 199 George Street, Sydney CBD

Central location, 300 meters to Circular Quay (train station). Rooms with priceless views.

Accommodation in Brisbane – Hotel tips

Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street – Adresse: 40 Elizabeth Street

Located in Brisbane CBD, perfect location and good value for money.

Meriton Suites Herschel Street – Adresse: 43 Herschel Street

How about sleeping in Brisbane’s tallest building in a central location?

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Our road trip from Brisbane to Sydney in Australia

Have you been to Australia? Did you do the road trip from Brisbane to Sydney or vise versa from Sydney to Brisbane? What do you prefer: The route along the coast or through the hinterland?

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7 thoughts on “Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney with detours through the Gold Coast Hinterland

  1. Oh beloved Nimbin, how I miss you. The people, Grannys Farm and the “other advantages” of this dreamy little town. Someday I will come back for another holiday or two. ;P

  2. Excellent blog You have been to places that other bloggers havent been to This will help tourists discover hidden gems instead of seeing main stream touristy areas eg Cairns to Brisbane They think Bruce highway is boring because you see a lot of sugar cane farms but don’t realise that they could veer inland and see other beautiful vistas like you did travelling from a Brisbane to Sydney

    • Hi Louisa,

      We really liked our alternative route for the road trip from Brisbane to Sydney. You are right. as soon as you leave the main tourist path there s so much more to discover. We hope to inspire other travellers with our posts.

      Cheers, Marcel

  3. Thanks for posting an article about Brisbane. Only a few people know about how beautiful it is, and now you made everyone knows about it!

    • Hi Tami
      It took us about 10 days but we travelled slow and enjoyed camping along the way. You can do it faster but to enjoy the small town and the national parks (incl. some walks) along the way we would recommend about a week or more.
      Have fun and safe travels.
      Cheers, Reni

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