The Sydney to Byron Bay Drive

This ultimate guide to the Sydney to Byron Bay Drive gives you everything you need to know for the best road trip, including activities, restaurants and accommodation along the route.

Sydney to Byron Bay title image

The drive from Sydney to Byron Bay is very familiar with many families during holiday season, with carloads of people heading north for a couple of weeks of fun in the sun.

If you are looking to make the road trip to Byron Bay from Sydney, we are here to help. This comprehensive guide helps you decide where to stop along the way, what there is to do there, where is best to eat and where you can spend the night. 

Ocean view along the Sydney to Bryon Bay drive

If you want to drive Sydney to Byron Bay in one go, you are looking at a drive time of around 8 hours. For this reason, most families choose to break it up and have at least one night to rest along the way.

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Where to stop on a Sydney to Byron Bay Road Trip

You could of course do the entire Sydney Byron Bay drive in just one go. But with kids in tow, 8 hours straight can be a challenge. Far better to stop off and make the most of some of the fabulous destinations along the way. 

whale watching from the road along the Sydney to Byron Bay drive

Whether you are looking for somewhere for a quick lunch stop on your road trip to Byron Bay from Sydney, or hoping to spend a few days exploring on the way, we share some of the highlights here. 

Popular stop-offs when driving to Byron Bay from Sydney include:

  • Port Stephens/Nelson Bay
  • Blueys Beach
  • Forster
  • Port Macquarie
  • South West Rocks
  • Nambucca Heads
  • Coffs Harbour
  • Yamba

We explore each of these areas below and highlight why you should stop there. We find the best things to do in each place, and give you our pick of the best restaurants and accommodation choices. 

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Port Stephens

Port Stephens and the Nelsons Bay area is a bit of a detour from the main Sydney to Byron Bay route, but for me it is always worth a detour.  There is loads to do in Port Stephens, you have a good choice of accommodation and restaurants and it is just such a beautiful part of the coast. 

Anna Bay Beach in Port Stephens

If you have time to spend here, you could head to the sand dunes for some buggy dune riding or sand surfing, or hop aboard a whale or dolphin watching tour. There are plenty of beautiful beaches to choose from too if you just want to kick back and relax. 

Where to eat in Port Stephens

There is a good choice of restaurants in Port Stephens. Here’s our pick of the best. 

  • The Shoal Bay Country Club is always a hit with families. Take an upstairs alfresco table for beautiful views over the bay. 
  • Little Beach Boathouse is fantastic for beachside seafood – keep an eye on the water and you might spot some dolphins while you dine.
  • Rick Stein at Bannisters has a lovely atmosphere and is where to head to to try the famous chef’s seafood menu.
  • Crest at Birubi Beach is a great spot for breakfast with panoramic beach views before you hit the road again.

Where to stay in Port Stephens

  • Bannisters: for luxury accommodation. They have spacious two bedroom apartments perfect for families, a lovely outdoor swimming pool and a choice of family friendly restaurants, including Rick Stein. 
  • Ramada Resort by Wyndham Shoal Bay: mid-range accommodation. They have spacious apartments with kitchenettes and living areas and is handily located right across the road from beautiful Shoal Bay beach. It has a swimming pool and is attached to the Shoal Bay Country Club. 
  • Airbnbs: There are loads of fantastic Airbnbs in Port Stephens. We particularly love the look of 
    • [email protected] – this 2-bedroom beachfront unit comes with complimentary use of kayaks, perfect for a morning paddle.
    • Shoal Apartments – this 2-beroom apartment is handily located on Shoal Bay beach close to restaurants and amenities.
    • Marine Drive Fingal Bay, this 4-bedroom house with sweeping views across the bay is perfect for a group of friends.
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Blueys Beach

Beautiful Blueys Beach and the Pacific Palms area is a stunning slice of the NSW coastline. It’s all about sun, sea and surf here, with Boomerang Beach and Elizabeth Beach making up a trio of magnificent beaches. 

Blueys Beach

It’s definitely worth a stop off, even if just to stretch your legs or have a quick swim. Stunning Seal Rocks twenty minutes south of Blueys Beach is also worth an explore if you have time. 

Where to eat in Blueys Beach

As you head into Blueys Beach, you will pass the main centre, where you will find a stretch of shops, cafes and restaurants. 

  • Kembali Café is a popular choice for its fresh and healthy food infused with flavours from Indonesia.
  • Hueys at Blueys Pizzeria and Bar is a popular pizza joint for eat-in or takeaway.
  • Drift café – known for its good coffee and burgers. 

Where to stay in Blueys Beach

Most people choose to book private accommodation in Blueys Beach, but there are a few hotel/motel options too. 

  • Blueys Retreat – offers two storey luxury townhouses in a resort setting. Townhouses come in 1-3 bedrooms with full kitchen and barbecue facilities. There is a swimming pool and tennis court within the complex.
  • Blueys Motel – This modern motel has airy rooms, many with two queen beds and also offers a 2-bedroom apartment. Some rooms have private courtyards with barbecues. There is a pool with sunloungers and an onsite laundry.
  • Airbnbs – Some of our favourite looking Airbnbs in Blueys Beach include 
    • Headland House – this 3-bedoom holiday home at Boomerang Beach offers sweeping coastal views from its elevated position and is an easy stroll to the beach and restaurants. 
    • Ningaloo – this beautiful 4-bedroom beach house at Boomerang has a lovey entertaining deck with ocean views. 
    • Juddys – this holiday home sleeps 10 people making it perfect for families holidaying together. A little slice of Bali in Blueys, it offers a lovely outdoor pool with a swim up wet bar, gazebo and lush gardens. There is even table tennis on offer.

Forster

Renowned for its beautiful beaches, Forster is an extremely popular holiday getaway in New South Wales and gets very crowded during the summer and school holidays. 

One Mile Beach Forster

One Mile Beach is a popular hangout, and visitors love to hike the bushwalk to Cape Hawke Lookout. If you are here during whale migration season, be sure to head to Bennets Head Lookout for stunning ocean views and a good chance to spot frolicking whales.

If you have time you could also book on a whale and dolphin watching cruise.

Where to eat in Forster

Take a wander down main street and you will find plenty of cafes and takeaway options. Some more popular options include:

  • Beach Street Seafood – you can’t visit Forster without indulging in some fish and chips and Beach Street is the popular choice in town. 
  • Hamilton’s Oyster Bar – for a more upmarket seafood experience, Hamilton’s enjoys a lovely spot on the water and is renowned for its fresh oysters and other seafood. 
  • Bella Bellisimo is something of an institution. This family run Italian restaurant dishes up pizza and pasta to an adoring crowd. 

Where to stay in Forster

Due to its popularity, if you want to stay in Forster (particularly in the holiday and caravan parks) you will need to book ahead during peak times and school holidays. Personally I would choose to stay in Blueys Beach over Forster, but if you are set on Forster, then check out the following:

  • Dorsal Boutique Hotel – located opposite Forster Main Beach and an easy stroll to shops and restaurants, this boutique hotel has two bedroom apartments perfect for families. 
  • Forster Bliss Houseboat – for something a bit different, you can cruise the lake to look for dolphins before settling down for the night to the sound of lapping waves. 
  • Le Point 702 Airbnb – this three bedroom apartment has stunning views over Pebbly beach and has a swimming pool in the complex. 

Port Macquarie

Port Macquarie is pretty much half way between Sydney and Byron Bay. It is therefore a popular choice for an overnight stop off point. Apart from hitting the beach there are a few other fun things to do in this popular seaside town. 

Koala at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital

Don’ t miss visiting the rescued koalas at the Koala Hospital and both the Billabong Zoo and Bago Maze and winery are worth a visit too. Depending on the season, you could also take in a whale watching tour or indulge in some strawberry picking at Ricardoes

Where to eat in Port Macquarie

  • Whalebone Wharf has an enviable location right on the water and has an abundance of fresh locally sourced seafood on the menu. You can watch the pelicans catch their dinner as you eat. 
  • Burger Rebellion – if you have a burger craving, the gourmet burgers at this popular joint should hit the spot.
  • The Beach House – you can expect good pub grub with a view over the water at this Port Macquarie institution. 

Where to stay in Port Macquarie

  • Sails by Rydges – located on the water at Pelican Bay, a 10 minute drive from the town centre, family rooms are available, some with direct pool access making this a popular family choice. 
  • Rydges Port Macquarie – located on the foreshore with easy access to amenities and beaches, Rydges has family rooms as well as self-contained 2 and 3-bedroom apartments. 
  • Mantra The Observatory – located directly across from the beach, the Mantra offers hotel rooms and 1-3 bedroom apartments.
  • There are plenty of Airbnbs in Port Macquarie to choose from, here are a few top choices:
    • Nomadic Retreat – this 3-bedroom stylish retreat is conveniently located for shops and beaches. 
    • Hollingworth House – with 4 queen bedrooms and two separate living areas, this comfortable house is perfect for two families traveling together.
    • White Beach Cottage – located around a 20-minute drive south of Port Macquarie, this Hamptons inspired cosy 2-bedroom beach cottage is just a minute’s walk from the beach and an easy stroll to restaurants and shops.

Nambucca Heads

This relaxed seaside town has some of the most stunning scenery on the coast. Kick back on uncrowded beaches kayak along the Nambucca River, explore the national parks or take a river cruise. 

Nambucca Heads

Valla Beach just north of Nambucca Heads is a hidden gem and well worth a visit.

Where to eat in Nambucca Heads

  • Wharf Street Café – open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, this cafe has a beautiful location on the river and an excellent reputation for delicious food and friendly staff. 
  • V-Wall Tavern – if classic pub meals on a sun-soaked deck with waterfront views is what you are looking for, the V-Wall is for you.

Where to stay in Nambucca Heads

Unfortunately Nambucca River Houseboats are no longer operating, but you can still find yourselves some good Airbnbs in Nambucca Heads. Here is our pick:

  • A-Frame House – incredible location and world-class views are yours at this classic 1970s 3-bedroom A-Frame house.
  • Ocean Pines – Overlooking the Nambucca River, this 2-bedroom contemporary apartment has a shared swimming pool and is short stroll to beaches and restaurants.
  • Valla’s Beach House – situated on the headland in beautiful Valla Beach, with panoramic views of the ocean, park, nature reserve & bushland, this 3-bedroom house is a short walk to beaches and restaurants. 

Coffs Harbour 

Another hugely popular NSW holiday destination, Coffs Harbour has been loved by generations of families. The halfway point between Sydney and Brisbane, Coffs is known for its beaches, watersports, nature reserves and coastal walks.

Big Banana Coffs Harbour

Most families will have trouble leaving without spending a few hours at the Big Banana theme park, where kids can ride the water slides, play laser tag, ride the luge or go ice skating among other fun activities.

Muttonbird Island and the Solitary Islands Coastal Walk are good spots for whale watching between May and November.

Where to eat in Coffs Harbour

  • Latitude 30 – seafood with an ocean view is on offer at this upmarket restaurant. Lobster Mornay, Seafood paella and generous platters are all on the menu, and there is a kids menu for the little ones. 
  • Element Bar – this popular bar is perfect for a fun, casual night out. The menu includes pizzas, steaks, burgers and tacos and they have a kids menu too.
  • Fisherman’s Cooperative – the Co-op is where to buy your catch of the day and they have a takeaway menu too, for the freshest of fish & chips, seafood platters, calamari and more.

Where to stay in Coffs Harbour

There is a huge number of motels, apartments and cabins on offer in Coffs Harbour so you are really spoilt for choice. Here is our pick of the best.

  • Pacific Bay Resort is a great choice for families with its huge grounds with three swimming pools, golf course and tennis courts. The two and three-bedroom apartments provide plenty of space. 
  • Breakfree Aanuka Beach Resort is another popular option. Accommodation goes all the way up to 4-bedroom villas and amenities include swimming pools, playgrounds, putt putt, tennis, beach volleyball and more.
  • If you prefer a more private experience, here is our pick of some of the best Airbnbs in Coffs Harbour:
    • Seashells on Park Beach – this stylish modern apartment is just 50m from the beach and includes use of the resort style pool and sauna. 
    • Jenny’s Beachfront Apartment – with direct access to Korora Beach, this  2-bedroom apartment is just a 5-minute drive from central Coffs Harbour and has an outdoor entertaining area with BBQ. 
    • Fin’s at Sapphire – wake up and sleep to the sounds of the ocean at this 2-bedroom beachfront apartment with ocean views located just north of Coffs Harbour at Sapphire Beach. 

Yamba

This sleepy coastal town is best known for its Yamba prawns and surfing breaks and is another popular holiday destination. 

You will find the five surrounding beaches here blissfully quiet compared to many of the other popular coastal NSW towns and the laidback vibe will ensure you leave feeling relaxed and recharged. 

Beach in Yamba

Don’t miss a visit to the Blue and Green Pools in Angourie, where kids will love jumping off the rocks in to the freshwater pools. And if you are visiting on a Wednesday morning, check out the Yamba Farmers Market for some fresh local produce. 

Where to eat in Yamba

  • Clarence River Fisherman’s Cooperative – you can’t visit Yamba without trying its prawns, and this is a great choice for stocking up. 
  • Beachwood Café – located just off the main drag in Yamba, this little café serves up simple and delicious food with a Turkish influence. 
  • Pacific Hotel – this iconic oceanfront hotel in Yamba is known for its incredible ocean views and reasonably priced pub food. 

Where to stay in Yamba

  • Angourie Resort – just a few minutes drive from Yamba, this resort is perfect for families with its spacious apartments and villas, lovely swimming pool area with bar, playground and kids activities. 
  • Sands Resort – another popular option in Yamba for family stays, accommodation includes apartments, villas and townhouses, while the leisure centre includes large swimming pool, tennis courts, BBQ facilities and more. 
  • Our pick of the best Airbnbs in Yamba:
    • Craigmore on the Beach – this absolute beachfront 2-bedroom apartment offers 180 degree uninterrupted ocean views and is a short stroll to shops and restaurants.
    • Avalon 4 – located on popular Ocean Street, this 2-bedroom apartment has stunning ocean views and is an easy walk to all the shops and restaurants.
    • Angourie Blue 4 – situated within walking distance from Angourie’s famous surfing beaches, this 3-bedroom townhouse has ample space both indoors and outdoors.

Byron Bay

You made it! It was totally worth the drive! Previously known for its hippy community and laid-back vibe, Byron Bay has transformed over the years into a playground for New South Wales’ rich and famous.

Beautiful Beach in Byron Bay

People flock here from all over Australia for its stunning beaches, stylish restaurants, boutique shopping, laid back vibe… and the chance to catch a glimpse of one of the Hemsworth brothers (preferably Chris).

Where to eat in Byron Bay

You are spoilt for choice when it comes to good restaurants in Byron Bay. Just be sure to book ahead during peak times. Here are some of our family favourites:

  • The Farm – a real winner with families in Byron Bay, the Farm offers paddock to plate dining at the Three Ducks Restaurant. There is plenty of space for kids to run around, farm anmals to visit and onsite gelato shop Baylato is always a hit too. 
  • Miss Margarita – everyone’s favourite Mexican cantina offers a funky vibe and delicious food right in the heart of town. 
  • Loft – this iconic Byron cocktail bar offers the quintessential Byron vibe, with a menu of sharing food and delicious cocktails.
  • Beach – for fine dining with a view, you can’t look past Beach. This stylish restaurant offers Mod Aus cuisine in a stylish breezy beach setting. 

Where to stay in Byron Bay

If you are looking for a resort in Byron Bay, there are two main choices that are popular with families:

  • Elements of Byron – a popular luxury choice in Byron Bay for families, this beachfront resort has gorgeous villas, a beautiful pool, playground, tennis courts and a choice of restaurants. 
  • Byron at Byron – set in the rainforest, this stunning 5-star hotel has stunning 2-bedroom suites and a beautiful swimming pool.
  • Airbnbs in Byron Bay are a popular choice for families. Here are some good options:
    • Aitutaki – this stylish 2-bedroom holiday villa in Byron is a short stroll to both town and the beach and has access to a resort style pool.
    • That Little Suffolk Beach House – located just 20m from Tallow Beach, this gorgeous beach house is a short walk to amenities and has an enclosed yard with swimming pool and kids cubby house. 
    • Seahaven – nestled just below Cape Byron Lighthouse at popular Wategos Beach, this 2-bedroom apartment boasts stunning sea views and has shared BBQ facilities. 
    • Villa at Byron – Perfect for 2 families, this 4-bedroom Balinese inspired holiday home has plenty of space indoors and out, and a large swimming pool.

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