stop at bryon bay during my road trip form sydney to brisbane

My 4 day road trip from Sydney to Brisbane

Traveling around Australia can be pretty pricey. I met a woman who dropped a $1,000+ AUD on a trip up the east coast. Planes, trains, buses–all options seems ridiculously expensive. So, I decided to try a rental relocation to save some cash and explore Australia at a more intimate level.

The gist of the situation: rental companies need their fleets relocated based on what’s being booked. In my case, a 12 passenger van that was in Sydney needed to be in Brisbane before July 10th. So for $9 AUD, the price of gas and tolls, I got the van for 3 days to drive from Sydney up the east-coast to Brisbane. Here is how I planned this road trip and the things I found along the way.

See this helpful infographic for traveling to Australia.

rental relocation sites

The sites are really annoying if you are on a strict travel schedule. You need to give the process (and yourself) time to find the right vehicle with the right schedule.

the newcastle beach

The beach at Newcastle

day 1—sydney to newcastle

Because I haven’t driven in six months, am not use to driving on the left side of the road, and have never driven a 12-passenger van before, I made my first day on the road a light one.

I planned to drive an 1hr 30 min to the Entrance and Ocean Pools, but I was too flustered after driving through Sydney that I kept on going.

An hour’s drive after that is Hunter Valley with many vineyards. There are a lot of options when you get to Hunter Valley. There are plenty of trips you can book that will take you around wine tasting. I specifically know of tours from Newcastle.

Definitely stop by the information center off Wine Country Drive if you are venturing around on your own.

The three that were recommended to me on my way through Hunter Valley towards Newcastle were:

  • Capercaillie Wines
  • Allandale Winery
  • Gartelmann Winery

From Hunter Valley, I drove an hour to Newcastle and stayed at Newcastle Beach YHA. This was one of the best hostels in which I’ve stayed.

I arrived in Newcastle right at sunset, so I didn’t get the chance to venture through the coastal town. According to the night manager at my hostel, there are places to see whales and dolphins, plenty of nice beaches and Nobby’s Lighthouse. The narrow streets are full of restaurants and quaint bars that are probably a lot of fun on a weekend-evening and to people not traumatized by their first day driving a 12-passenger van on the opposite side of the road.

There is free street parking along Reserve Road between Newcommen Street and Church Street. I’m told it’s packed during the day, but it was wide open for me and my big-ass van at night.

the big banana outside coffs harbour

The Big Banana outside Coffs Harbour

day 2—newcastle to coffs harbour

Before heading out, I stopped at Cirque Cafe and Restaurant for brekkie. I walked to the Newcastle Beach and mentally prepared for the drive ahead. *deep breath*

2hr 40 min north on the Pacific Highway is Port Macquarie. I had selected Blackfish Cafe, Bean Here Cafe and Social Grounds Cafe as possible stops for a coffee and wifi.

However, I saw the signs for Billabong Zoo, and neglected my Port Macquarie plans. I saw Koalas up close and got some personal time with kangaroos. They have 10 acres of land, filled with koalas, spider monkeys, wombats, crocodiles, dingoes, lions, kangaroos, etc.

Two more hours on the road and I arrived in Coffs Harbour where I was able to refuel and find amble street parking in front of my hostel: Aussitel Backpackers.

At this point, my solo journey was over–I picked up two friends who would be joining me all the way to Brisbane (sigh of relief!). We had a delicious dinner at Lime Mexican Tapas Restaurant.

day 3—coffs harbour to byron bay

Before leaving Coffs Harbous, we stopped by the Jetty and grabbed brekkie at Supply… and then visited the Big Banana Fun Park, where we got banana smoothies and thickshakes for the road.

It’s a three hour drive from Coffs Harbour to Bryon Bay, and we drove straight there. We stayed at Aquarius Backpackers Byron Bay which was fanatic–free dinner, discount bar and a place to park the van!

Nearly everyone I spoke to in Sydney told me to go to Bryon Bay, and Bryon Bay did not disappoint! There were several beaches for swimming, beginning surfers and advance surfers. The town is great as well. We celebrated happy hour at the the Bryon Fresh Cafe. Miss Margaritas was recommended to me as well.

There are kaykaing options (with dolphins), hiking, hand-gliding, whale watching and (duh) surfing to be had in the area. Or, just enjoy life and slow down for a bit.

Farm for some delicious treats

The Farm outside Bryon Bay for some delicious treats

day 4—byron bay to brisbane

On our way out of Byron Bay, we stopped by Farm for some delicious treats!! If we weren’t on a time crunch to get the van to Brisbane, I think we would have spent a few hours collecting the peace and beauty of the Farm’s food and situation.

It is a two hour drive form Byron Bay to Brisbane, easy enough to do without stopping.

in brisbane

I was pleasantly surprised by Brisbane. It’s a city with an intimate feel, friendly people and much to enjoy.

sleeping arrangements

The Brisbane City YHA is amazing! We spend our last day in Brisbane on the rooftop pool/ kitchen area overlooking the river. It’s pricey and they have a lot of additional expenses for things, but I begrudgingly have to say its worth the extra bit of expense.


The TransLink Go Card makes getting around the city by train, bus and ferry extremely easy… I assume. I rested on my public transit morals while in Brisbane and paid as I went, never getting a card. It’s definitely worth it as rides are cheaper when you use the card.

You can also rent a bike from CityCycle. There are bikes parked around the city, some even come with helmets!

Queensland Art Gallery

Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane

tours + attractions

  • Brisbane Greeters will tailor a tour of Brisbane to you and your group’s interest. You have to organize it at least two business days before you want to go on the tour.
  • The river-side park in South Bank along Grey Street.
  • Free tours of Brisbane’s Town Hall
  • Sunrise or sunset @ Mount Coot-Tha.
  • Queensland Art Gallery (Free)

food + drink

working remotely

State Library of Queensland, specifically the fourth floor, has a fantastic view of the river, outlets everywhere and great wifi. It is the perfect place to get it done!

other sources

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