Australia Road Trip: the Brisbane to Sydney Drive Guide

After exploring the area around Brisbane we were ready to begin our next road trip in Australia which would take us from Brisbane to Sydney in 5 days. The sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm and the conditions were ideal for one of our long waited journeys. Happy as we were with our free Wicked Camper campervan we left the depot and headed straight to the gas station (or petrol station as they say in the land down under), purchased a road map of Australia ( I highly recommend the Australia Handy Atlas by Hema Maps), filled the water and petrol tanks and followed the signs to the Pacific Highway or M1.

surfers paradise beach

Our first stop during our east coast road trip in Australia would be Surfers Paradise, knowing it’s not a cheap town at all and that the surf isn’t really that good either. It is though one of those places that you at least have to check out: its superb skyline can be seen in the distance and I have to admit that the city is well planned and easy to drive through, as long as there’s no Indy car race being organized. Despite the traffic jams we eventually found a nice area toward the southern end of the city were there was plenty of parking space right in front of the beach- I recommend you head here directly with your campervan and then walk around because Surfers Paradise is not very big. It was the first time too that we stepped squeeky sand- it is so fine that it actually squeeks because of the friction created when you tread on it.

noseriding in snapper rocks

Noseriding in Snapper Rocks

whale in coolangatta

We did not spend a night in Surfers Paradise but continued further South stopping in Coolangatta with a planned overnight stay. I was looking forward to checking the different surfing spots in the area and hopefully rent a board to surf world famous Snapper Rocks. Unfortunately there was no swell when we were there, but the beaches are spectacular and the town has a great vibe too. Atop a small hill right in front of Snapper Rocks there are several electrical barbecues where you can cook your food for free ( like everywhere in the country) while enjoying great views. This said do not spend the night anywhere close to the ocean If you’re traveling with a campervan because these spots are heavily patrolled by the police and you’ll get a ticket before your bed is ready. Instead just drive a couple of streets inland and park in any of the residential areas.Besides great beaches and occasional whales and dolphins that swim near the shore in Coolangatta you’ll find a few bars, plenty of surf shops and all the grocery stores you’ll need for your trip.

Coolangatta at night

Coolangatta at night

Our next destination when traveling from Brisbane to Sydney was world famous Byron Bay. This small town has been a major backpacking destination for decades and has somehow managed to avoid over development, with not a single high rise building in sight. There are plenty of hostels where to sleep in, a good deal of bars too, restaurants, a Woolworth’s, free internet cafes and, above all, the beach. Again stay away from the parking areas close to the ocean because they are timed and strictly controlled by cops, giving tickets at will (not the 2 for 1 drink coupons if that’s what you’re thinking of) to those who forget to move the van after the allowed parking time has passed. The beach is wide and long, with plenty of space for everyone and occasional surf in the southern rocky peak. Byron Bay is a preferred destination for backpackers from around the world who come here to enjoy the sun, join whale watching tours, relax, surf, party, and hopefully enjoy a photo shoot ofย  Wicked Weasel bikini models- these world famous skimpy bikinis are manufactured here. Don’t know what wicked weasel bikinis are? Then check the Wicked Weasel bikini website!

beach at byron bay

The main beach at Byron Bay

Just a little bit further South Ballina is a lovely small beach town with great views from the cliffs overlooking the ocean. Evans Head is popular among campervan travelers but certainly isn’t the only place where you can pitch a tent. There are many campsites along the way but if you don’t feel like paying for an overnight stay just park in the residential area of any town and you’ll be fine. If you feel like taking a shower most camping site will let you take one for a small fee, sometimes even for free. Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie are relatively large towns that don’t offer anything exciting, but are more manageable than Newcastle. Most of the time you will not be able to see the ocean while driving, and if doing so at night watch out for the speeding trucks which will overtake you in the blink of an eye. We eventually reached Sydney and had no problems crossing it, however finding the Wicked Camper depot proved to be so hard that not even 2 GPS of helpful locals could find it.

road sign australia

wicked camper van

Our camper van- and a few words of wisdom

Five days is enough time to travel the distance from Brisbane to Sydney (1020km) and enjoy some sightseeing, yet we wish we would have had more time to enjoy Byron Bay further and explore the many coastal villages that deserve your time. We cannot complain thouhh because we had no problems with our free Wicked Camper van eventhough at a McDonald’s we learned that the company was under investigation for safety reasons (this reminds me the most McDonald’s in Australia have free wireless internet). If you do run into trouble your travel insurance might cover these expenses (make sure you’re aware of this), as well as those typically related to health or personal safety problems. My conclusion? Brisbane to Sydney is one wicked Australia road trip to enjoy, and I highly recommend you do so with a campervan to truly exploit all the possibilities. Don’t miss Coolangatta ( one of my favourite towns- if not the), Ballina and, above all, the superb vibe you’ll feel all along the way.

Have you traveled across Australia’s East coast?ย  Which town did you like best? Which beach? Share your experiences with us, and this post with others if you liked it!

Leave a Reply 18 comments

Garrett Terry - June 14, 2020 Reply

It was our first time in Byron Bay but definitely not the last. Visiting with my young family and this seaside community really surprised me. Better than I imagined. There is a vast amount of cafes, bars, restaurants, and boutique shopping. The beaches are beautiful and the water was very warm to paddle in or swim. The community is very welcoming to tourists from all over the world.

lyn@Anderson Park Townsville City - July 20, 2011 Reply

Great post. The camper sounds like a great idea for exploring oz between Brisbane and Sydney. Thanks for the useful tips on this type of travel. Always a bit frustrating when you see something as big and as beautiful as a whale and you just can’t get a photo. Never-mind try Harvey Bay or Townsville in North Queensland next time.

    maitravelsite - July 20, 2011 Reply

    It was a blast indeed, and I hope to repeat the trip sometime in the future…if not more than once!

Samantha@teeth grinding - April 6, 2011 Reply

You’re lucky to spot a whale during your trip in Brisbane. I need to be there so I can also enjoy the beauty of nature! Especially now this coming summer.

maitravelsite - January 29, 2011 Reply

Glad to know you like the photography…have you downloaded our latest photo of the week to use as a screensaver? ๐Ÿ™‚

Dan Collins - November 15, 2010 Reply

I’m staying in Australia at the moment, 5 minutes up the road in Southport! If you want to go to the Surfers Paradise beach it’s also a good idea to park up at Main Beach which is North of Surfers and then just walk down. Or stay there… it’s pretty much exactly the same!

I saw one of the campervans the other day, the message made me laugh “Ben Dover – I’m British”

Awesome post by the way!

    maitravelsite - November 15, 2010 Reply

    Hi Dan

    I hope you’re enjoyin OZ! Thanks for the tip, it will be appreciated by other readers too. I’m pleased to know you liked the post- and yeah, those messages are wicked indeed!

    maitravelsite - September 22, 2012 Reply

    Hey Dan, thanks a lot for the tip! ๐Ÿ™‚

Michael Hodson - November 7, 2010 Reply

LOVE those camper vans — best one I saw “Strangers have the best candy.”

Php Web Development India - November 2, 2010 Reply

I am here to have a great time and learning experience within your blog site and looking forward to visit newer post soon.

Erica - November 1, 2010 Reply

AHHH I want to learn how to surf so badly! I love the “This is a whale” arrow on your picture. Made me giggle.

    maitravelsite - November 6, 2010 Reply

    When you travel to South America you will be able to try in heaps of places! In the Pacific coast Peru and Northern chile have good spots (cold water), and in the Atlantic Brazil is the place to learn (warm water!)

    Federico

Margo - November 1, 2010 Reply

Oh my, now that sounds like a road trip I’d like to take! It seems no matter how long I take to get from point A to B, I could easily have doubled it looking back. ๐Ÿ™‚

    maitravelsite - November 6, 2010 Reply

    I know, it always tends to be that way, unfortunately!

DTravelsRound - November 1, 2010 Reply

I want a Wicked Camper Van and to drive from Brisbane to Sydney! Sounds like such a great time. Thanks for the tips!

    maitravelsite - November 3, 2010 Reply

    Any camper van will be a blast, but it is difficult to beat one you get for free! You’re welcome!

Ayngelina - October 31, 2010 Reply

Looks like a blast! I’m not sure all men would appreciate the sign on the back of the truck ๐Ÿ™‚

    maitravelsite - October 31, 2010 Reply

    Perhaps not, but then you can’t please everybody right ๐Ÿ™‚ It sure was a lot of fun though!

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