Lucinda Starr

by Lucinda Starr

posted on November 10, 2023

Ready for the East Coast road trip of a lifetime? The Sydney to Byron Bay road trip is one of Australia’s best, taking you from the bustling harbour city of Sydney to the laid-back coastal oasis of Byron Bay.

With multiple route options, stunning scenery and a recent upgrade to the Pacific Highway, driving from Sydney to Byron Bay has never been easier or more enjoyable.

Whether you head inland or take the scenic coastal route, the 760 km Sydney to Byron Bay road trip is best tackled over multiple days to soak in the beauty of New South Wales’ pristine beaches, lush national parks and quaint country towns.

This Sydney to Byron Bay road trip guide covers:

A view of the Cape Byron Lighthouse from the beach, just after sunrise.

An overview of the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip

While the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip can be done in one day, we recommend turning your road trip into a multi-day adventure and planning multiple overnight stays along the way.

  • Driving time: 8 hours
  • Driving distance: 760 km
  • Route options:
    • Coastal Route (via the Pacific Highway): 8 hours, 760 km
    • Inland Route (via the New England Highway): 10 hours, 870 km

The best time to drive from Sydney to Byron Bay

One of the reasons for the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip’s popularity is this: it can be tackled all year round. The best time to embark on the Sydney to Byron road trip depends on your ideal itinerary and what sights you want to see along the way.

To help you curate your road trip dates, here are a few things to consider:

  • Heading along the coastal Pacific Highway Route? Try to hit the road from February to April or September to November, as temperatures will be pleasant but not at their peak (as summertime can bring temperatures upwards of 30 degrees).
  • Want to experience whale watching? The best time to drive from Sydney to Byron Bay is from June to October annually.
  • Travelling along the New England Highway route? Plan your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip during spring (September to November) to see the state’s wildflowers in bloom.

Tip from the author: Want to beat the crowds? Avoid the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip during summer (December to February) as well as school holiday breaks (January, early April and early October). Not only will traffic be at its peak, but accommodation is likely to be harder to secure and more expensive.

What you need to know before driving from Sydney to Byron Bay

Make the most out of your road trip by planning ahead and learning how to stay safe on the roads between Sydney and Byron Bay.

Sydney to Byron Bay road trip essentials

While the driving roads from Sydney to Byron Bay are sealed, connected to major towns and well-maintained, it doesn’t hurt to come prepared with a few road trip essentials including:

  • First aid kit: Before setting out on any Australian road trip, ensure you have a basic first aid kit in the boot (packed with bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads and medical tape).
  • Sunscreen: Keep your skin protected from Australia’s harsh UV rays by ensuring you have sun protection (such as hats and sunglasses) as well as a bottle of 50+ sunscreen handy.
  • Beach gear: If you’re opting for the coastal route, ensure you’re prepared with beach towels, swimwear and hats. If you’re booking through Turo, why not add a beach umbrella as an extra to your booking?
  • Food and water: Although there are plenty of petrol stations dotted along the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip, stocking up on snacks and drinks is always a smart move to keep your driver and passengers fuelled and hydrated.
  • GPS: While reception should be strong throughout your drive, coming prepared with a GPS navigation device is a smart move in case you lose signal during your drive.

Petrol stations and EV chargers along the way

The Sydney to Byron Bay drive is well-serviced, with plenty of spots to refuel and fill up along the way. If you’re opting for the coastal route, expect to find petrol stations in major towns such as Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

If you’re taking the inland Sydney to Byron route, look out for service stations in major towns such as the Hunter Valley, Tamworth and Armidale.

If you’re driving an electric car, the platform PlugShare offers an interactive map of where to find EV charging stations. Expect plenty of charging stations along the Central Coast as well as in Newcastle, Port Macquarie and major inland towns (like Tamworth and Armidale).

The best cars for tackling the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip

The road trip from Sydney to Byron Bay can be experienced in any vehicle, as long as it’s up to the task of driving for 8+ hours along fast highways and freeways.

If you’re visiting New South Wales from overseas, interstate or want to treat yourself to a new set of wheels, consider hiring a car in Sydney from a local Turo host. Expect to find everything from sleek EVs to commanding 4WDs and compact SUVs, perfect for cruising along the highways between Sydney and Byron Bay.

Tip from the author: With plenty of hours on the road ahead, consider opting for an automatic car that offers cruise control to make your road trip even easier to tackle.

You could drive the whole fam from Sydney to Byron Bay in Tony’s Hyundai Kona!

Staying safe during your road trip

With pleasant driving conditions on the horizon, there’s not too much planning needed for your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip. However, make sure to be aware of animals on the road (which tends to happen in more rural areas at dawn, dusk and after dark).

Particularly if you’re taking the inland route, be sure to use caution, avoid driving at night and don’t swerve to avoid an animal on the road (as this can cause you to lose control of your car).

Expert tips and things to remember before you go

Ready to embark on your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip? Take it from a local and brush up on these expert tips and pointers before you hit the road.

  • Take breaks every two hours: Beat fatigue during your road trip by pulling over and stretching your legs for at least 15 minutes every two hours. This handy map will help you find designated driver rest areas across NSW.
  • Share the drive: Another great way to stay alert behind the wheel is to share the drive with a second driver. This allows you to split the road trip and avoid spending too many hours driving in a row.
  • Book accommodation in advance: If you’re planning to tackle this road trip during peak season (December to February), be sure to plan ahead and lock in accommodation early. Summer is a popular road trip time for locals and tourists alike, which can make it difficult to find last-minute accommodation in small towns.
  • Curate a great playlist: No road trip is complete without the perfect soundtrack. Before you depart, curate at least eight hours of music and make sure to download your playlist in case you lose reception along the drive.

Sydney to Byron Bay road trip itineraries

Whether you’re looking to swim in beautiful beaches or want to explore rolling vineyards, these two itinerary options offer an unmissable Sydney to Byron Bay road trip experience (best spread across a few days).

Route 1: Coastal, Pacific Highway Route

  • Driving time: 8 hours
  • Driving distance: 765 km
  • Recommended road trip length: four days
  • Best for: Beach lovers, avid surfers and anyone looking to soak in New South Wales’ sparkling coastline, stunning beaches and swim spots.

Zip along the coastline and experience the best of the East Coast by opting for the Pacific Highway Route – a direct Sydney to Byron Bay road trip route. Following a recent upgrade to the highway in 2020, this route offers reduced travel times between Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour and Ballina that shave significant driving time off your trip.

Day 1: Sydney to Newcastle (2 hours 15 minutes, 162.9km via the M1)

The first leg of your road trip takes you from Sydney to Newcastle, a major harbour city centre just over two hours from the Sydney CBD. Situated in the Hunter Region, Newcastle boasts stunning beaches, street art and a bustling dining scene to enjoy.

Tip from the author: Got a bit of time to spare? Swing by the Central Coast and lap up sparkling coastal spots like Terrigal or Avoca Beach. Be sure to stop in at Burnt Honey Bakery for top notch pastries or browse minimalist homewares at Oh Bless Home in Copacabana.

  • What to do: Experience the 6 km Bathers Way coastal walk connecting Merewether Ocean Baths with Nobbys Beach, visit the Newcastle Memorial Walk or visit the Newcastle Museum.
  • Where to eat: Visit Humbug pasta bar, grab California-Mexican bites at Antojitos or enjoy a lavish brekkie at Talulah Cafe.
  • Where to stay: Treat yourself to a night at QT Hotel in Newcastle, stay at the waterfront Beach House at Merewether or pitch a tent at Wangi Point Holiday Park.
A view of Nobbys Lighthouse in Newcastle.

Day 2: Newcastle to Port Macquarie (2 hours 50 minutes, 245.5km via the Pacific Highway)

Set off on an easy drive, taking you up to Port Macquarie, a city known for incredible beaches and surfing spots. The leg of your journey will be entirely on the Pacific Highway (A1), hugging the coastline of NSW.

Tip from the author: Stop off at Blueys Beach along your drive, a famous surfing beach in the Pacific Palms region that offers sweeping views over to Seal Rocks.

  • What to do: Visit the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, take a dip at Lighthouse Beach or Town Beach or explore the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre.
  • Where to eat: Sample sustainable seafood at Bills Fishhouse and Bar, enjoy street food at Hello Sailor or grab a meal at the Botanic Wine Garden.
  • Where to stay: Enjoy water views at Sails Port Macquarie or camp at Diamond Head Campground at Crowdy Bay National Park.

Day 3: Port Macquarie to Coffs Harbour (1 hour 45 minutes, 159.7km via the Pacific Highway)

Enjoy another smooth day of driving as you head north to Coffs Harbour. This laid-back coastal spot offers everything from beaches to treetop walks as well as the iconic Coffs Coast Wildlife Sanctuary.

  • What to do: Take a detour inland to venture through Dorrigo National Park (part of the Gondwana rainforest, an Australia World Heritage Area), take a dip at Jetty Beach, visit South West Rocks and don’t miss The Big Banana (a local icon just off the highway).
  • Where to eat: Enjoy fresh pasta at Fiasco Ristorante and Bar, grab a casual feed at the Surf Club Restaurant and Bar and savour seafood at Latitude 30 Yacht Club.
  • Where to stay: Soak in waterfront views at Opal Cove Resort or stay at the luxe Sapphire Seas Beach House.

Day 4: Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay (2 hours 30 minutes, 232.6 km via the Pacific Highway and M1)

The last leg of your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip has arrived! In just a couple of hours, you’ll have reached your final destination and the hippie hotspot that is Byron Bay. Before you get there, stop off for a swim at the stunning beaches of Ballina or Lennox Head.

  • What to do: A trip to Byron isn’t complete with a walk to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, a swim at Wategos Beach or a hike through Arakwal National Park.
  • Where to eat: Enjoy authentic Italian at Trattoria Basiloco, sample fusion Asian bites at Light Years or opt for delicious plant-based dishes at No Bones.
  • Where to stay: Indulge at the Elements of Byron, stay at The Sunseeker (a reimagined ’80s brick motel) or visit the luxe hotel, Raes on Wategos.

Route 2: New England Highway Route

Got a bit more time on your hands? Get ready to explore vineyards, historic towns and the best national parks in NSW along this (also scenic) inland road trip route from Sydney to Byron Bay. While this is a longer itinerary that takes you through inland New South Wales, it’s a fantastic way to turn your road trip into a real adventure.

  • Driving time: 10 hours
  • Driving distance: 870 km
  • Recommended road trip length: five days
  • Best for: Nature lovers looking to head inland and explore inland NSW’s stunning scenery, lush national parks and charming towns.

Day 1: Sydney to Hunter Valley (3 hours 30 minutes, 244km via M1)

Start your road trip by visiting the Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine region. Expect to find over 120 wineries, must-see dining spots as well as stunning luxe hotels.

  • What to do: Book a wine tasting at top-notch vineyards such as Brokenwood Wines (they even have two Tesla charging stations on site), see the Hunter Valley from above with a sunrise hot air balloon ride from Balloon Aloft or visit the sprawling Hunter Valley Gardens.
  • Where to eat: Experience a six-course tasting menu at EXP. Restaurant, sample seasonal dishes at Muse Dining or enjoy the perfect winery dining experience at Esca Bimbadgen.
  • Where to stay: Stay at the Château Élan (Australia’s finest luxury golf spa and resort) or book a cosy cottage at the Hunter Valley Resort + Farm.
The Hunter Valley is a hugely popular stop between Sydney and Byron Bay, as well as a destination in itself, and for good reason.

Day 2: Hunter Valley to Tamworth (4 hours, 270km via Thunderbolts Way)

Head further inland and spend a few hours on the road to reach Tamworth, Australia’s country music capital. Not only does the area play host to the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival, but the region offers stunning scenic drives, bushwalking opportunities and even delicious dining spots.

  • What to do: Visit the 12-metre-high Golden Guitar, explore the Tamworth Marsupial Park and Adventure Playground or visit the Tamworth Regional Playground (perfect for entertaining the kids).
  • Where to eat: Don’t miss the 10-day Taste of Tamworth Festival, held annually in April and offering a showcase of the region’s best food and wine,
  • Where to stay: Experience the Gold Mine Guesthouse, stay at Goonoo Goonoo Station or set up camp at Horton Falls campground.

Day 3: Tamworth to Armidale (1 hour 20 minutes, 110km via New England Highway)

Expect a shorter day of driving as you head north from Tamworth to Armidale, passing through regional towns like Bendemeer and Uralla. Located in the Northern Tablelands and situated 1000 metres above sea level, Armidale offers pristine waterfalls, incredible national parks and cool-climate vineyards.

  • What to do: Visit Wollomombi Falls (one of the highest falls in Australia), hike through New England National Park and soak this historic town by taking part in the Armidale Heritage Tours.
  • Where to eat: Swing by the Armidale Farmer’s Markets (running on the second Sunday of the month), visit Tattersalls Restaurant and Pizza Garden or grab a bite at Petersons Armidale Guesthouse and Winery.
  • Where to stay: Stay at the quaint Balmoral Cottage, visit the Armidale Tourist Park or enjoy farm-stay accommodation at Glenhope Alpacas B&B.

Day 4: Armidale to Grafton (2 hours 40 minutes, 200 km via Waterfall Way and Armidale Road)

Today you’ll be continuing north to Grafton, with just under three hours of driving on the agenda (including some of the Waterfall Way). While the roads between Armidale and Grafton are sealed, flooding and heavy rain over the past couple of years has been affected (with a bridge even getting washed away in 2020 at Armidale Rd and Hortons Creek). While work is underway to fix flood affected roads, you might encounter pot holes during your journey,

  • What to do: As Australia’s Jacaranda capital, expect lush parks, beautifully preserved heritage buildings and over 2,000 jacaranda trees blooming every October and November. During this season, don’t miss the Jacaranda Festival, the oldest floral festival in Australia.
  • Where to eat: Visit the Grafton Twilight Farmers Markets every Thursday afternoon for fresh produce or grab a pub feed at the century-old Ulmarra Hotel (boasting one of the best beer gardens in NSW).
  • Where to stay: Pitch a tent at Station Creek campground or enjoy a farmstay at Wave Hill Station Farmstay at Clarence River Gorge.
Jacaranda’s in See Park, Grafton

Day 5: Grafton to Byron Bay (1 hour 45 minutes, 163.5 km via the M1)

The final stretch of your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip takes you back to the coast of NSW, with just under two hours of driving to reach Byron Bay.

  • What to do: Take a detour by Yamba and visit Angourie Point, offering great swells for experienced surfers along the National Surfing Reserve (ranked as one of the top right-hand point breaks in the country).
  • Where to eat: Pull into Byron Bay and swing by The Byron Bay General Store (don’t miss their truffle mushroom toastie in winter!) or make the trip to Three Blue Ducks at The Farm for epic farm-to-table eats.
  • Where to stay: Thinking about camping in Byron Bay? Try Reflections Byron Bay or Suffolk Beachfront Holiday Park, with everything from camping spots to self-contained cabins on offer.

Best road trip stops between Sydney and Byron Bay

Avoca Beach

Located just a short drive 90 minutes out of Sydney on the Central Coast of NSW, Avoca Beach is a slice of coastal paradise. Learn to surf at the Central Coast Surf Academy, catch the latest flicks at Avoca Beach Theatre (which has been operating since 1948) or visit the Avoca Beachside Markets, held on the fourth Sunday of the month.

Port Stephens

Explore giant sand dunes and picture-perfect beaches at Port Stephens, an easy 2 hour 30 minute drive north from Sydney. Expect to encounter over 26 gorgeous beaches and bustling coastal villages, with everything from beach camel rides to dolphin swimming adventures.

The Stockton Sand Dunes in Port Stephens, photographed after rain.

Crescent Head

Surfers, this spot is for you. Crescent Head is renowned as one of the best places to catch a break in the country, offering a nostalgic beach town with endless surfing opportunities. Situated between Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, it’s a perfect spot to take a break if you’re tackling the coastal road trip route.

Nambucca Heads

Located on the mid north coast of NSW, Nambucca Heads is a seaside town surrounded by natural beauty. From the coastal Nyambaga Walking Trail to the 18-hole Island Golf Club, this charming town is a must-see on your coasal road trip itinerary.


Tipped by many locals as the ‘new Byron Bay’, Yamba is located just 120 km south of Byron. The town is brimming with must-see beaches, including Main Beach (offering plenty of amenities like a cafe and surf club) as well as Pippi Beach, with the southern end open to off-leash dogs.

Tip from the author: Head on a quick eight minute drive to the nearby town of Angourie and visit the blue and green pools. This amazing natural ocean pool is a must-see for its vibrant blue and green colours.

Sydney to Byron Bay drive: frequently asked questions

Can you complete the Sydney to Byron Bay drive in reverse?

You can absolutely complete the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip in reverse! Simply reverse the itineraries provided above and take the reverse road trip from Byron Bay to Sydney.

How long is the Sydney to Byron Bay drive?

The Sydney to Byron Bay drive can be complete in a drive time of eight hours if you follow the coastal Pacific Highway route. However, we recommend breaking up the journey over multiple days to enjoy the beautiful beaches and coastal towns along the way.

How far is Sydney from Byron Bay?

Sydney is located 760 km south of Byron Bay.

What is the most scenic route from Sydney to Byron Bay?

Taking you along the sparking east coast, the Pacific Highway Route is the most scenic route from Sydney to Byron Bay, offering the best coastal vistas and sweeping water views.

What is the quickest route from Sydney to Byron Bay?

Interestingly, the scenic route along the Pacific Highway is also the quickest way to drive from Sydney to Byron Bay (just 750 km, or 8 hours of driving time).

Why not book Tom’s BMW Series 1 on Turo for the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip?

What other modes of transport can you take to travel from Sydney to Byron Bay?

If you’re wondering how to get to Byron Bay from Sydney without driving, you have a couple of options. You can catch a Sydney to Byron Bay flight, which will take roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes and will drop you off at the Ballina/Byron Airport (BNK). Expect to pay upwards of $100 one-way, with domestic airlines such as Jetstar, Virgin and REX operate flights daily.

There is also the option to take a bus from Sydney to Byron Bay, with Greyhound operating services up to four buses each day. The trip takes over 13 hours and will cost you upwards of $68. While this is a cheap option, it won’t give you the freedom or flexibility to explore the best of NSW’s coastal towns along the way.

Is it worth driving from Sydney to Byron Bay?

Absolutely! The journey is part of the fun and the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip offers easy driving routes, scenic views and plenty of towns and beaches to visit along the way.

Looking for more road trips to try from Sydney? Check out our ultimate itinerary for the Sydney to Melbourne Road Trip or plan the perfect Sydney to Batemans Bay Road Trip.

With a view like this at the end of your drive, the Sydney to Byron Bay road trip is worth it.

Final advice for the Sydney to Byron Bay drive of a lifetime

Ultimately, driving from Sydney to Byron Bay (or vice versa) isn’t about getting from A to B as quickly as possible. It’s about soaking in the best historic towns, coastal scenery and sweeping vistas of the East Coast.

Want to secure the perfect ride for your Sydney to Byron Bay road trip? With Turo, you’ll find unique cars you can’t find anywhere else, ready to be delivered to you from a local Turo host. Find your perfect ride in Sydney on Turo (or, why not book a car in Byron Bay?).

Do you want to start your car-sharing business? With Turo, you can sign up online in minutes and start earning income from your spare ride. Find out more and list your car on Turo.

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Lucinda Starr

Lucinda Starr

Lucinda is a Sydney-based content specialist and avid road tripper. Having travelled across Asia, North America and the South Pacific, she's experienced everything from glamping in a Yurt in -30 degrees in The Yukon, snorkelling in the open seas of Vanuatu and hiking the rocky alps of Kamikochi in Japan. She's currently planning her next overseas adventure, a toss-up between a classic #EuroSummer or a multi-day trek through Nepal.

Marco's Toyota - the perfect Sydney to Gold Coast car.
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