Lisa Owen

Road trip! If you’re a true blue Aussie or simply visiting Australia for a few weeks, you’ll know one of the best ways to enjoy some of the Australia’s magical spots is on a road trip. From turquoise white sand beaches, to lush rainforests, to panoramic mountain views and unique wildlife, Australia has it all.

kangaroo

One memorable road trip route is down the east coast from Brisbane to Australia’s capital, Canberra.

You won’t be bored as there’s so many places to stop along the way. Here’s a snapshot of my favorite places for an epic east coast road trip.

Gold Coast Hinterland

Heading south from Brisbane, you can head down the Pacific Motorway, take the Nerang exit (Exit 69) and you’ll soon be walking in the rainforest of the Gold Coast Hinterland.

You can choose between Springbrook National Park or the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park. Both locations are well signed and easily accessible.

The most scenic trails are the Twin Falls Circuit at Springbrook – and the Coomera Circuit at Binna Burra. 

Back on the highway, head down to the beaches of the Gold Coast. Burleigh Heads beach is the best one for some wave action, or head over to the adjacent Tallebudgera Beach – an inlet that runs off the ocean and is perfect for some paddleboarding or a swim in the calm water.

beach

Byron Bay

Another hour down the Pacific Motorway and you’ll come across Byron Bay. It’s a well-loved spot so expect a crowd. But it’s a great place for some beach time, or you can head up to the iconic Byron Bay Lighthouse, located on Australia’s most easterly point, for some great coastal views.

If you’re looking for some hiking action, head over to nearby Mt Warning, just outside of Murwillumbah. Mt Warning is the first place in Australia to see the sun, so it’s perfect for an early wake up call. The hike will take about 4-5 hours return. Be aware the last section is a rock scramble but there’s a chain in place to help you reach the summit.

Yamba

Tagged as Byron Bay 20 years ago, Yamba is another popular seaside town along the east coast. There’s lots of beaches to choose from, or head along to the Angourie Blue Pool.

The popular freshwater swimming hole is easily accessible from the carpark on The Crescent. From the waterhole, you can also head down to the ocean rock pools.

Waterfall Way

From the coast, head back into the rainforest. The 114 mile Waterfall Way starts just outside of Bellingen and runs all the way to the rural township of Armidale. You can do a section of the scenic drive, or go the whole route. 

waterfall way

Along the way, you’ll find a number of waterfalls and gorges. First stop should be Dorrigo National Park. Once you get there, take a walk to Crystal Shower Falls and get a great view from the Skywalk. Other worthy stops along Waterfall Way are Dangar Falls, Egor Falls and Wollomombi Falls.

East Coast Lighthouses

Surrounded by ocean, Australia is a hit with lighthouse lovers. There’s many lighthouses down the east coast, and the Smoky Cape Lighthouse is one of the more easily accessible – but not as busy as Byron Bay.

The lighthouse is located in the Hat Head National Park at South West Rocks on the mid north New South Wales coast. The lighthouse dates back to 1891, and you can even choose to stay in one of the refurbished lighthouse keeper cottages. A lookout near the lighthouse offers a great view of the coastline.

nsw coast

Newcastle

For beaches and some regional city life, head into historical Newcastle. One of my favourite spots in Newcastle was the convict built Bogey Hole ocean bath. Around the Bogey Hole area, you can see military ruins and get great views of Mereweather Beach from the Anzac Memorial Walkway.

Blue Mountains

Grab your hiking boots and camera, and head to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. There are many hiking and viewpoint options in the Blue Mountains – easily accessible from the gateway towns of Wentworth Falls, Katoomba, and Leura.

Wentworth Falls is one of the big ticket items in the Blue Mountains. My favourite trail to reach the falls starts on the Valley of the Waters trail, which then links to the National Pass trail. The National Pass trail will take you up the impressive Grand Stairway, which was carved out of the rock by hand in the early 1900s.

You also have to check out the Three Sisters from the viewpoint at Katoomba, and you can ride the world’s steepest railway on the Katoomba Scenic Railway.

water falls

Sydney

Often mistaken for Australia’s capital, Sydney is the perfect blend of city, surf and food. Stop off here for a few days and enjoy the sights of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House and Bondi Beach.

You can organise to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge or walk across it for a grand view of Sydney Harbour. Don’t miss the scenic Bondi to Coogee walk or taking a dip in one of the ocean baths.

South of Sydney’s CBD is Royal National Park. The Bundeena to Little Marley Beach coastal walk is easily accessible from Bundeena and is a good introduction to the park offering stunning cliffside ocean views. Royal National Park charges a fee per vehicle.

sydney

Canberra

Australia’s capital is more than politics. While in Canberra, you can spend a few hours to check out the obligatory sites such as Parliament House, Old Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin, National Portrait Gallery and the War Memorial. Walk or drive up Mt Ainslie for a panoramic view of the city.

As a nature lover, the big ticket destination for me in Canberra are its hiking trails and waterholes. For a swim, head out to Kambah Pools or Cotter Creek.

canberra

For a hike and to get up close to local wildlife, Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve is a great spot to spend a few hours. There’s many trails in the reserve, but the best one is Gibraltar Peak, a moderate 7.5 mile return hike up to a granite plateau. There’s always lots of kangaroos in the area as well, so it’s great for some wildlife spotting. You can also use Canberra as a stopover to reach Australia’s tallest mountain. The 7,300 ft Mt Kosciusko is located about a three-hour drive from Canberra.

Mt Kosciusko not as hard as you think to hike. In the warmer months, you can drive out to Thredbo via the beautiful Lake Jindabyne and take the chairlift part way up and then enjoy a hike through beautiful alpine landscapes and up the mountain. The hike from the chairlift will take about two hours each way.

mountain in australia

There you have it! Some amazing spots to check out on a road trip along the stunning East Coast of Australia.

 

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 60 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @thelittleadventurer. Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.