By Jade Johnston
East coast NSW is filled with cute little towns, great surf beaches, and excellent wine regions. Many travellers that I have met in Australia fly into Sydney and then make their way up the coast to Cairns before heading back to Sydney, and home again. Many of them though, seem to speed through east coast NSW and miss a out on a lot of it’s treasures. If you have the time, I highly recommend trying to adhere to this itinerary, or even better – spend a few more days on the road and discover some even more off the beaten track places in east coast NSW.
East Coast NSW Road Trip Itinerary
Day 1: Sydney to Newcastle
The drive from Sydney to Newcastle only takes about 2.5 hours, but we found that many of the campervan rental depots are in the outer suburbs of Sydney. By the time we had gotten ourselves organized and used a combination of train and bus to get out to the spaceships campervan depot where we picked up the same spaceship we had dropped off a few days earlier. (Note: According to the Spaceships representative in Brisbane, the Sydney office is currently looking for a new space which is closer to the city centre, so hopefully soon this long commute will be no longer)
We arrived in Newcastle while it was still day time, which was a great opportunity to explore this cute little city. One interesting place to check out in Newcastle is the Lock Up – this is an old police station which has been converted into a cultural centre which now hosts resident artists.
Also, make sure to check out the Bogey hole ocean pool of Newcastle. This ocean pool was hand carved out of the rock by convicts in the 19th century. According to our local source, you can sometimes even go snorkelling there as local marine life regularly get washed into the pool and trapped inside.
For the animal lover in the car, be sure to check out BlackButt reserve. This local wildlife park is located about 10 minutes drive from central Newcastle and is home to emu’s, kangaroos, wallabies, and other native Australian animals. Entry is free, but you will need to pay a small fee to use the car park.
Day 2: Newcastle to Port Macquarie via The Hunter Valley
This is a long day, but worth it. You will want to leave Newcastle early in the morning (after a coffee at one of their fantastic cafe’s of course) so that you can spend as much time a possible in the Hunter Valley.
The Hunter Valley is one of Australia’s most famous wine regions, and is famous for it’s semillon. It’s not just wine on offer in this region however, try not to miss one of the three local micro brewers and of course the Hunter Valley Smelly Cheese Shop. Because you will need some good cheese to go with your wine, and best of all, they are not stingy with their cheese samples!
The Hunter Valley is about a 2 hour drive from Newcastle, and Port Macquarie is another 4.5 hours from there, so plan your day accordingly.
Day 3: Port Macquarie to Byron Bay via Coff’s Harbour
Port Macquarie is a small town with not a whole lot going on, but it does have some great beaches. This is especially great if you are into surfing. Get up early for an early morning swim or surf to get you pumped for another day or driving.
You will have two main stops between Port Macquarie and Byron Bay. The first is your lunch stop at Fredo’s pies. (Well, an early lunch) We discovered Fredo’s pies by accident and boy did it amaze us. I couldn’t even count the number of pie flavours that they had on offer – and they even had a large selection of unusual pie fillings, such as emu and crocodile. I played it relatively safe and had the lasagna pie.
Fredo’s pies is located in Frederickton, which is about an hour away from Port Macquarie.
Your second stop is also food related, and is at Coff’s harbour. Coff’s harbour didn’t really have much to offer tourists until it came up with the ultimate tacky tourist idea – The Big Banana. The Big Banana has now turned into an amusement park of sorts, and if you are travelling with children it’s a good place to stop and let them blow off some steam. Otherwise grab your obligatory picture with the big banana, grab yourself a banana milkshake or smoothie, and be on your way.
Port Macquarie is about 5.5 hour drive from Byron Bay.
Day 4: Byron Bay to Nimbin and Back To Byron Bay
Bryon Bay is a great place to relax and you may want to spend some extra days here. The town is characterized by a large “hippy” and artist population, and at many of the hostels you will have the option of sleeping in a teepee. For beer lovers, don’t miss the Byron Bay Brewing company, where the beer sampling plate is shaped like a surf board.
Byron is well known as a popular surf destination, so start your morning off with a surf. Or for non surfers, hike up the the Byron lighthouse and the most easterly point in Australia.
In the afternoon you may want to take a day trip to Nimbin. Nimbin is located about a 1.5 hour drive from Byron and is the hippiest place in Australia. This is the place to get out your tie dye and chill out. Nimbin is also famous for it’s high amount of weed smokers and the weed cookies that are available for sale from pretty much every other person on the street – but of course, even though everyone seems to be doing it, it is still illegal to use marijuana in Australia.
Day 5: Bryon Bay to Brisbane
Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is only a 2 hour drive from Byron Bay. So take your time, relax, and enjoy the beach before continuing on to your final destination.
Our spaceships campervan rental was provided at a discounted rate, but all opinions remain our own.