The drive between Sydney and Byron Bay is one of the best road trips you can take in Australia, let alone NSW. But with about 10hours between here and there, you’re going to want to take a few breaks! So here’s my top 10 places to stop along the way…
🇦🇺 ANZAC Heritage Walk, Newcastle
The Newcastle Memorial Walk was created as a commemorative pathway dedicated to the WWI soldiers. It trails along the cliff-sides offering panoramic ocean views and the perfect platform for whale watching – while I was there I spotted several, very active whales. The walk begins at Strzelecki Lookout and trails downhill towards Bar Beach, just a small distance north from the more well-known Merewether Beach.
The Heritage Walk is 450metres long, and features steel silhouettes of soldiers inscribed with thousands of names. These are around 4,000 family names of almost 11,000 known men and women who enlisted from the Hunter Valley region.
🐪 Birubi Beach, Port Stephens
Birubi Beach sits just north of Stockton Sand Dunes, the largest moving sand dunes in the Southern Hemisphere. Spanning over 32km, their peaks can be up to 40-50metres high. Stockton Sand Dunes are a popular place for quad biking, sand boarding, and camel riding – but from Birubi Beach you can simply take in the views while relaxing on the sand.
🥂 Champagne Spas, Port Stephens
When I discovered the Champagne Spas of Port Stephens while scrolling through my Instagram, I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try and find them.
The only directions I could find said to head to the Whale Watching Platform in Boat Harbour, and from there I should see a path down to the left. From what I could see, there was no path. But I held up a picture that I had ready on my phone, and matched the formations and horizons further below me. There wasn’t really any path, it was more of a clamber down the rocks until you reached the ocean pool.
I visited quite early in the day and it was deserted, but as it got later in the day more people started to show up – which made the spot a lot more identifiable from the Whale Watching Platform. While other people enjoyed the pool, I explored the area and found a few other small pools that were a great place to keep out of the wind.
The water was crisp, but it was so picturesque I barely felt it. The rocks form a pool wall, which takes on fresh salt water with the waves. It would depend on the tides, but when I visited there were barely any waves so it was safe and still to swim in.
Note: I would still be cautious while climbing around the walls of the rockpool. Blue-ringed octopuses and similar creatures are known to live in conditions like these.
⛰️ Tomaree Head Summit Walk, Tomaree National Park
- 2.2kms return
- 1.5 – 2 hours
- Free entry & free parking at the entrance
- Open 24hours (subject to poor weather or fire)
- 161m above the Port Stephens Entrance
When I visited in September the entire walk was surrounded by vibrant yellow wattle trees. It made the experience all the more spectacular watching the yellow blossoms flurry in the breeze. It was very windy on the day I chose to do the hike, but this was almost perfect as it somewhat cancelled out the heat.
The Tomaree Mountain Hike very quickly became one of my favourite hikes in NSW. It’s not a very long hike, but it’s mostly all uphill and up stairs and ladders.
Most of the walk is under the cover of trees, but towards the summit it is mostly uncovered from the sun. There are a few places to sit down and a picnic table at the summit so you can easily bring along a picnic lunch to enjoy after the walk.
🏕 Seal Rocks Treachery Camp
This is one of my favourite places for a little escape – no service, no internet, dingos roaming about, and a crackling campfire by the boot of my car. Seal Rocks Treachery Camp is a large camping ground just beside the sand dunes that enter into Treachery Beach. The location is so secluded that the only other people you’re likely to find on the beach are other campers, so by night it’s one of the most incredible places along NSW’s coastline to stargaze. The area is also a popular base for 4WDing.
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💡 Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie
Lighthouse Beach is 7km south of Port Macquarie, and is a 9km stretch of sand. It’s a popular place for surfing, swimming and strolling and whale watching. From the lighthouse you can watch out over the beach and spot dolphins and whales passing by. Lighthouse Beach is most well-known for its picturesque entrance – that being a set of wooden stairs that trails down the cliffside onto the sand below.
💎 Crystal Shower Falls, Dorrigo National Park
Dorrigo National Park is a little ways away from the Sydney to Byron route, but it’s so spectacular that it shouldn’t be missed. Running East West from the Pacific Highway about 20minutes out of Coffs Harbour you’ll find the beginning of Waterfall Way. Waterfall Way is an almost 200km scenic drive passing rainforests, waterfalls, rivers, and bushwalking trails.
Crystal Shower Falls can either be accessed by a 1.5-2hour rainforest walk (4.4kms) from the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre, or by a 20minute (one way) walk from The Glade Picnic Area (1.5kms one way) – both of which offer an incredible journey through the Gondwana Rainforest. Depending on how much time you have I definitely recommend the longer route so you can also take in the incredible views from the Dorrigo Skywalk at the Rainforest Centre.
Once you reach the falls there is a large suspension bridge that leads over to the waterfall – and what’s particularly spectacular is that you can even walk behind the falls as they cascade into the pool below.
🍃 Dangar Falls, Dorrigo National Park
Are you looking for somewhere where you can swim beneath a waterfall? Well, Dangar Falls is the place. A little further along Waterfall Way you’ll find Dangar Falls Picnic Area. From here the walking trail leads you down to the river at the bottom of the waterfall.
🐦 Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve, Coffs Harbour
Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve is one of the most underrated destinations in Coffs Harbour for those looking beyond the Big Banana. The walk begins at the Marina and heads along the break-wall until you reach the foot of the island. The island is usually always open unless subject to bad weather. The walk starts off quite steep, but levels out over the top, and then on the other side there is another steep decline to an ocean viewing point.
Each year the Muttonbirds spend Winter in South-East Asia, and then travel thousands of kilometres back to the protected nature reserve and to their burrows.
Note: though the Muttonbirds are not always present, please stay on the path when visiting the reserve so as not to step on top of the burrows.
🐬 Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay
If you know Byron Bay or not, you probably know the lighthouse. Cape Byron Lighthouse sits atop Australia’s most Easterly point and offers panoramic views over Byron Bay and the surrounding ocean – it’s a very popular spot for whale watching and dolphin spotting. It’s accessible in several ways, many enjoy the hike up to the lighthouse, and some come by road – but most people come for the sunset. As the sun sets over the mountains you can lay down a blanket and watch the surfers take that last wave into shore before dusk.
Access to the lighthouse is free, however the parking is all ticketed.
Note: If you’re driving up for sunset, double-check the parking times as the road up to the lighthouse is closed around this time. You don’t want to have your car stuck up there!
Where would you stop on your way up to Byron Bay? There’s so many more, but I couldn’t fit them all in! Let me know where your favourite stop was in the comments or DM me on Instagram!