Seven Pit Stops You Should Make on a Road Trip from Brisbane to Sydney
Hit the road to discover cruisy coastal towns, inland food havens and stunning national parkland.
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It's been a long, long year, but the borders between Queensland and New South Wales are finally open again. If you're as desperate as we are for a holiday, it's time to book a little summertime break for yourself. Instead of hopping on a flight to Sydney, why not hit the road and explore new territory? Boasting over 28 signature road trips covering its diverse landscape — from the beautiful beaches and rainforests to the rugged outback — New South Wales is primed for your great escape down south. Not only will you be able to meet locals and discover some hidden gems along the way, but you'll also be helping the regional areas that have been hit hard by the past year.
Here are seven pit stops you should make on a road trip from Brisbane to Sydney — think aqua waters, stunning headlands, food-filled hippy towns and countryside galore.
Please stay up to date with the latest NSW Government health advice regarding COVID-19.
SEEK OUT THE AQUA WATERS OF TWEED HEADS
For the first stop on your epic road trip, we recommend visiting the less crowded — but equally beautiful — Tweed Heads, located just 40 minutes away. The aqua blue waters of Duranbah and Fingal Head Beaches — and Kingscliff and Casuarina Beaches a little further south — will call you to the coast. The area has also become known as a food lover's destination. Our picks include Next Door Espresso for quality cuppas, Baked at Ancora for Parisian-style baked goods and Farm & Co for farm-to-table fare. Want to stay a little longer? Book into glamping retreat The Hideaway at Cabarita Beach (the best beach in Australia). That way, you'll be able to visit Husk Distillers and Red Earth Brewery without worrying about assigning a designated driver.
FIND MORE THAN JACARANDAS IN GRAFTON
Though it's home to the oldest floral festival in Australia, Grafton shouldn't just be on your hit list during jacaranda season. The inland riverside town offers outdoor activities aplenty, whether that's canoeing through rapids down Clarence River, hiking through the largest old-growth forest in northern New South Wales, or checking out the historic tunnel along the picturesque Old Glen Innes Road. When you get hungry, head for The Clarence Kitchen Collective. Part wholefoods cafe, part bulk food store and part yoga studio, it's a must-visit on any trip to Grafton. Afterward, stop by Sanctus Brewing Co for a tipple.
DISCOVER LUSH FORESTS AND LOCAL PRODUCE IN BELLINGEN
Located just off the Coffs Coast, Bellingen is a little hippy town known for its friendly locals, impressive restaurants and charming main street lined with heritage buildings. You could easily spend a full day visiting the shops and sampling locally made goods, from fresh organic produce at Kombu Wholefoods and craft brews at Bellingen Brewery Co to cold treats at Bellingen Gelato. If you're looking for more than a wander, drive inland for about 30 minutes to Dorrigo National Park, where you can hike around Crystal Shower Falls. Or, drive 20 minutes out to the coast and walk along the Urunga Boardwalk. For dinner, enjoy impeccable Japanese cuisine and sake at Qudo Cafe and Sake, or order a pie from Perfect Pizza. Eat your pizza next door in the old service station space, now People of Coffee cafe. Keen to spend the night? Get cosy in this wooden barn or one of The Tiny Hideaway's options. Or, if you're after true luxury, splurge on a stay at the newly opened Hermes Estate.
TAKE A SELF-GUIDED HERITAGE WALK IN ARMIDALE
Based in the New England High Country of NSW, Armidale is almost halfway between Brisbane and Sydney on the inland route. Go on a self-guided heritage walk of the town, which will take you down tree-lined streets past grand cathedrals and colonial buildings. While you're at it, stop at the local Aboriginal Culture Centre and Keeping Place, or check out the famed art at the New England Regional Art Museum. Once your legs are tired, stop at The Welder's Dog to taste craft brews at their best — including a purple-hued pea blossom hard lemonade. And set aside time for a meal at historic pub The Wicklow Hotel, which boasts its very own boutique lager and a sunny courtyard. Also while you're in the area, explore some of the nearby historic towns. Uralla offers vineyards aplenty, like Merilba Estate Wines, where cool-climate wines reign.
GO FOR A DRIVE THROUGH THE COUNTRY IN TAMWORTH
On this road trip, it isn't all about the coast. Well known for its annual Country Music Festival, Tamworth is a countryside escape that'll show you the green beauty of inland New South Wales. Outdoorsy types will love the nearby Warrabah National Park, where the Namoi River offers a range of activities, including swimming, fishing, canoeing and bird watching. After you're done exploring, enjoy a true country pub experience at The Tamworth, where you can also spend the night in the art deco hotel. Alternatively, you could check in to the heritage-listed Goonoo Goonoo Station or the recently renovated, five-star Powerhouse Hotel.
SIP YOUR WAY THROUGH THE HUNTER VALLEY
On any road trip from Brisbane to Sydney, a stop in Hunter Valley is a must. Offering some of the most awarded drops in the country, this wine region is chock-a-block with vineyards. One of our favourites is Tatler Wines, which offers stunning grounds, wine tasting at its cellar door and a popular onsite restaurant dubbed The Brunch Society. Tatler also hosts sundowner sessions and long lunches all summer long. If you want to ditch your car and walk between a few wineries instead, head to Pokolbin, where Brokenwood, Tempus Two and McGuigan are all just a few minutes apart by foot — and there are a few hotels to crash at, too, including Scandi-style cottage Blackwood at The Woods, Spicers Vineyards Estate and Enzo Cottage.
GO BEACH HOPPING IN THE CENTRAL COAST
For your final stop, take in the laidback beaches of the Central Coast. Start off at Avoca Beach, where you can enjoy a surf, a swim or just a relaxed day on golden sands. When you're ready for a meal, head to Erina's Bar Botanica for lunch and a wander in the gorgeous garden surrounds. After you eat, walk down to the distillery's outdoor tent and indulge in a free gin tasting. And be sure to grab a cone of Mr Goaty Gelato on your way out. Stay overnight in one of these luxe Airbnbs, then the next morning you can either trek the Maitland Bay Track or opt for a relaxing swim at Copacabana Beach. Either way, don't miss brekkie at Copa's Burnt Honey Bakery, which offers some of the tastiest baked goods around. Before you leave the coast, make sure to stop by Tropicana Pizza Pizza in Woy Woy, which is hands down the best pizza shop on the coast.
Start planning your great escape to New South Wales this season by visiting the Visit NSW website.
Top image: Dorrigo Skywalk, Destination NSW
Published on December 17, 2020 by Marissa Ciampi