Beach | City | Family | Food and Wine | Road Trip 19 May 2020

The Great Aussie Roadtrip: East Coast Adventure

One of the best ways to see Australia is to simply hit the open road. To help you plan your next adventure, we’ve put together our ultimate East Coast Adventure road trip, beginning in Sydney and heading all the way up the coastline to balmy Port Douglas in Tropical North Queensland.

This great Aussie road trip is all about sunny days, sandy feet and stunning coastal views. But the best part is that it can be enjoyed year round – even in winter! Since you’re heading north to the tropics, the weather (and water) will only get warmer as you go.

So, let’s load up the car and head out on our epic East Coast Adventure. 

First stop, Sydney

The starting point for our epic East Coast Adventure needs no introduction, surely. Sydney is home to iconic, bucket list Aussie sights including the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach. Once you’ve ticked the big sights off, get your fix of inner-city cool at the hundreds of hip cafes and bars, restaurants and clubs, before we cruise off to the coast.

The stunning view of Sydney Opera House

Next up, Port Stephens

An easy two-and-a-half hour drive from Sydney, Port Stephens is the perfect place for a coastal getaway. With more than 25 beaches and sheltered bays, plus a range of epic adventure activities, such as sandboarding and 4WD tours through the dunes, you’ll never be short of things to do in this relaxed coastal area. Be sure to walk up Mt. Tomaree for breathtaking views over Port Stephens and surrounding islands.

Port Stephens' golden sand dunes with view of the coastal beach

Onwards to Yamba

Rise early to hit the road – there’s a big drive of around 500km ahead. You could break up the distance with a stop in Port Macquarie, or power on until you find yourself in the charming coastal town of Yamba. It’s easy to see why this place has become a beloved family holiday destination for generations, with its endless beaches, epic surf breaks and carefree culture. Stretch your legs on a stroll up to Yamba lighthouse, then grab some local fish and chips to enjoy on the sand at sunset.

The charming coastal town of Yamba Beach with overlooking sunset view

Glitz and glamour of the Gold Coast

After a few lazy days in seaside Yamba, switch it up with the energetic vibes of the glittering Gold Coast. Take your pick from golden beaches, world-class surf breaks, thriving café and culinary culture and lively entertainment and nightlife options. Swap the beach for the bush and head into charming mountain villages of the lush Gold Coast Hinterland and uncover artisan delights, vineyards, distilleries and fresh local produce.

Gold Coast Currumbin Beach's golden sands and blue waters

Surf’s up on the Sunshine Coast 

Next, it’s time to visit the Sunshine Coast. Like the chilled out cousin of the Gold Coast, the effortlessly cool Sunshine Coast seems to be permanently set in holiday mode. From family-friendly Caloundra and easygoing Alexandra Headland to oh-so-trendy Noosa, the Sunshine Coast is home to a number of sun-kissed coastal towns. Spend a few days here and explore them all.

Alexandra Headland's coastal blue waters with coastal towns

Say hello to Hervey Bay 

Nestled between the hills and World Heritage-listed K'gari (formerly Fraser Island), Hervey Bay is a postcard perfect coastal town where all you need to worry about is where to lay out your beach towel. Simply spend your days sunbaking, swimming and café hopping. If you’re travelling between July and October, you may even get the chance to spot migrating humpback whales as they cruise along the coast and splash about in the bay.

At Hervey Bay Urangan Pier with locals overlooking at the coastal waters

Hit the gas for Gladstone

Located about a three-hour drive north of Hervey Bay, Gladstone sits in the centre of the Southern Great Barrier Reef and offers a great base to explore nearby coral cays and the tropical paradise of Heron Island or Lady Elliot Island.

Fishing aficionados will also love throwing in a line at Gladstone’s highly coveted fishing spots, such as Lake Awoonga, Farmers Point or the remote Pancake Creek.

Gladstone Heron Island's blue waters sitting in the centre of the Southern Great Barrier Reef

Move onto Mackay 

As you venture north from Gladstone, stop in at Yeppoon for an early lunch of fresh local seafood, before hitting the road for Mackay – the sugar capital of Australia. Drive past the endless sugar cane fields then stop in at Sarina Sugar Shed to sample the local sweet treats, such as fairy floss and ice cream. There’s even butterscotch schnapps or spiced rum for the adults. 

A personal encounter with Kangaroo at Mackay Cape Hillsborough

Continue north to Airlie Beach 

Continue your journey north to vibrant Airlie Beach, located almost two hours north of Mackay and an essential stop on every East Coast road trip. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the stunning Whitsunday Islands, where you can enjoy snorkeling, sailing, and the softest, whitest sand you’ve ever seen. Heaven? Located. 

Airlie Whitehaven Beach with clean and white sand and coastal blue waters

Treat yourself in Townsville

Another day’s drive will get you to the historic city of Townsville. Marvel at the grand 19th-century buildings, stroll The Strand, Townsville's picturesque beachside foreshore, or jump on a ferry to Magnetic Island. Located just 20 minutes offshore, Magnetic Island is the picture of paradise: palm-fringed beaches, golden sand, and crystal clear water. Hire some snorkeling gear to explore the colourful world underwater, or put on your hiking boots for the famous Forts Walk – you may even see some of the island’s resident koalas.

The Strand's picturesque beachside foreshore in Townsville with swimmers seen jumping off the short cliff

A family enjoying lunch at The Strand with picturesque view of Townsville's beachside

Make tracks for Mission Beach

As you make the five-hour journey from Townsville up towards Port Douglas, why not make an overnight stop or at least a coastal lunch break halfway at beautiful Mission Beach? Located well off the usual tourist track, Mission Beach is a quiet coastal sanctuary – no crowds, no worries. Hire a bike for the day and choose your own adventure between the rainforest and beach trails.

A quiet coastal sanctuary of Mission Beach

Pull up at Port Douglas

We end our trip in tropical Port Douglas, the perfect blend of laidback luxury. The smaller and slightly less touristy sibling to nearby Cairns offers award-winning dining, boutique shopping and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. While most beaches in the region can be unsafe for swimming during stinger season, Port Douglas’ protected Four Mile Beach offers the added bonus of safe swimming all year round. As you soak up the warm weather and tropical island vibes, you’ll be forgiven for wanting to stay a little longer before making the trip back down south.

Port Douglas' Four Mile Beach with blue coastal waters, white sand beach, and coconut trees

Are you ready to hit the road on your very own Great Aussie Roadtrip? Stay with Oaks Hotels when travelling around Australia this year. Our range of fully self-contained apartments are the ideal home away from home on your journey.