Coffs Harbour, New South Wales

Family-Friendly Road Trip: Australia’s Pacific Coast

23 November 2016

Pack up the car, pack up the kids, check in your dog with PetCloud – it’s time to hit the road for a family-friendly holiday down Australia’s Pacific Coast – nearly 1,000 kilometres from Brisbane to Sydney. Don’t be daunted – there are plenty of spots to stretch the legs, and regain your cool with a dip in the ocean, while the kids will be thrilled with abseiling and quad-biking activities. Let the adventure begin!

The Legendary Pacific Coast: Brisbane to Sydney

Approx. 997 kilometres

Arguably the most complete package of Australia's eastern coastline, The Legendary Pacific Coast route is a lucid dream of sun-licked beaches, quaint towns, adventure experiences and quintessential Aussie dining.

Day 1: Brunswick Heads

A tranquil waterway at Brunswick Heads, New South Wales. Brunswick Heads is known for its tranquil waterways. Picture: Getty Images

Begin your morning in Brisbane with some penniless family activities at the Queensland Museum's Dino Activity Zone and a dip at Streets Beach in South Bank Parklands. Trade in city for ocean as you head towards Queensland's famed Gold Coast, stopping off at one of the big theme parks on the way, or continue into Surfers Paradise for the day.

Crossing over from Queensland to New South Wales, the golden beaches continue in Kingscliff. This hub of outdoor leisure is perfect for surfing, stand-up paddleboarding and snorkelling. Enjoy lunch from one of the beachfront cafes or restaurants, which have quickly given Kingscliff gourmet appeal.

The Pacific Motorway (M1) takes you slightly inland before popping out at Brunswick Heads, which sits at the point of three tranquil waterways and the Coral Sea. There are three North Coast Holiday Parks all with water views and self-contained cabins.

Alternatively, you can stay at the Brunswick River Inn. With beds for the night sorted, enjoy dinner at the iconic Hotel Brunswick's wide-open dining area overlooking the Brunswick River.

Day 2: Coffs Harbour

The jetty and beach at Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. Feel the coastal vibe in Coffs Harbour. Picture: Getty Images

Spend the morning kayaking along the rivers to estuaries and secluded beaches, or explore the local boutiques before getting on the road again and following the Pacific Highway (A1) down to Coffs Harbour. Feel free to stop in at Ballina, where you'll find an animal park, reptile display and mini golf in Macadamia Castle. Summerland House Farm, in nearby Alstonville, offers locally grown food and tractor rides around its working macadamia and avocado farm.

The Big Banana Fun Park at the northern tip of Coffs Harbour isn't just home to the iconic oversized banana. A 600-metre toboggan track, laser tag and four water slides are a few of the attractions that make this a worthy stop before Coffs.

Coffs Harbour is renowned in northern New South Wales for its relaxed, coastal vibe and calendar of regular events, particularly during school holidays. For something a little different, check out the Clog Barn's model Dutch village and working railway.

Coffs Jetty B&B, Beachlander Holiday Apartments and Tradewinds Apartments are all potential suitors for families needing space, multiple rooms and a convenient location.


More Oz east coast inspiration:

Top tipples: 5 Winery Weekend Trips From Sydney That Aren't The Hunter Valley

Inspired by art: Brett Whiteley's Sydney


Day 3: Port Macquarie

A closeup of a cheeky boy on the beach at Port Macquarie, New South Wales. The kids will get a kick out of Port Macquarie. Picture: Getty Images

Continuing south, head inland just after Raleigh to Bellingen, where you'll find the Dorrigo Rainforest, with its breathtaking Skywalk experience that transports you above the trees.

Save most of the day for exploring Port Macquarie, where you can pick fresh strawberries at Ricardoes Tomatoes & Strawberries, see native animals at Billabong Koala & Wildlife Park, and ride camels on Lighthouse Beach. The Zebu Bar & Grill, part of Rydges Port Macquarie, offers a great kids' menu and is situated on the river with a large lawn in front for running around.

Budget-friendly accommodation can be found at Flynns Beach Caravan Park, which has spacious cabins that sleep up to six people.

Day 4: Central Coast

Waves roll in at the Central Coast town of Terrigal, New South Wales. The Central Coast town of Terrigal has beaches and boutiques. Picture: Getty Images

The Central Coast is a charming mix of Melbourne's cosmopolitan living, Brisbane's outdoor lifestyle and Sydney's laidback beaches. Crowne Plaza Terrigal offers affordable rooms right on the beach and close to shops, cafes and the rest of the coastal towns. Satisfy your little adventurers with a visit to TreeTop Adventure Park to ride the flying foxes and complete the low- and high-rope obstacle courses.

Head away from the beach for a moment to Glenworth Valley Outdoor Adventures, where you can ride quad bikes and horses, abseil beside a waterfall and kayak. It's a big day out, but is definitely worth the time.

Day 5: Sydney

A giraffe at Taronga Zoo stands out against the Sydney skyline. Day or night, Sydney's Taronga Zoo is a must. Picture: Getty Images

New South Wales' capital city is a sightseeing mecca full of unexpected surprises, such as an overnight experience at Taronga Zoo, which includes a night safari and behind-the-scenes tour. Don't bother driving around Sydney – that's too much stress for a holiday. Pick up a travel pass to save money on ferries, trains and buses.

Accommodation ranges from hotels in great locales with attractions like the aquarium, IMAX Theatre and Maritime Museum, to holiday parks with self-catered cabins, pools and plenty of space. You can also camp at Cockatoo Island, the world's only inner-city waterfront campsite.

If you've got some active youngsters, take up the challenge of climbing the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge. If you tire of the city, ditch the crowds and catch the ferry across to Manly's beach and open-plan cafes. The list goes on, so feel free to keep adding until your family is content.

* Featured image: Coffs Harbour (Getty)


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Ben Stower

I love the kind of travelling that is one part strategic planning and two parts spontaneous adventure. Whether I'm exploring my local city or a small town in the middle of nowhere, I'm always hoping to find something no one else has discovered.