From the fast-paced, hustle of Australia’s big smoke – Sydney - to the cruisier, surfer vibes of Brisbane, there’s way more than just gorgeous coastlines to check out on this 10 hour drive. The transition in culture along the way is quite tangible and that quintessential Aussie drawl just gets thicker the further north you get. Get the cork hats, this is one great way to experience true blue Aussie hospitality in all its forms.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure you stop at Bago Vineyards and get lost in this maze on your way up.
Where to start with Sydney CBD? There are simply too many great places to uncover. But if you don’t have much time, Dawe’s Point is a good place to check out. The opera house and harbour bridge are all within walking distance and you’ll have no shortage of gorgeous harbour views out to the north shore and beyond. Spend the morning walking around Hyde Park, checking out the cockatoos and bats in the trees then head to the historic Rocks area. Weave your way through the laneways and street food markets before stopping for a beer at the Lord Nelson or the Fortune of War (or both!). Both of these drinking establishments claim to be the oldest pubs in Sydney.
From the Rocks area, it’s only a few minutes walk to one of Sydney's most celebrated and awarded restaurants Mr Wong. Their dim sum and crispy roast duck are legendary and perhaps the best anecdote to a busy morning of exploring this bustling seaside CBD.
If you’re a fan of Australia’s legendary Home & Away then you’ll recognise this next stop. Fans regularly flock to Palm Beach to see their favourite actors filming and to take a photo outside the “Summer Bay” surf life saving club.
Even if you’re not a fan of the show, it’s a quintessential beachside Sydney suburb complete with a great surf beach and a dazzling array of multi-million dollar homes. Check out some of the town’s many cafes or take a walk to the heritage-listed Barrenjoey Lighthouse at the end of the peninsula.
Testament to both how rich in Aboriginal heritage this whole area is and how much remains unfound, the team at Walkabout Park uncovered new ancient carvings possibly 1000 years old as late as 2006. And they remain constantly on the lookout for sites yet to be rediscovered. The most famous carving they have is a 50 foot Emu carving. They also have caves with stencilled hand paintings and other historic Aboriginal artworks. The park is about 3 km from the Great North Walk near the Calga Interchange of the F3 Freeway, signposted ‘Peats Ridge’.
If it’s venomous, stingy or bitey, (or indeed if it’s not), you’ll find it at the Australian Reptile Park. An amazing array of Crocs, Spiders, Birds, Lizards, Snakes, Turtles, Tasmanian Devils, Wombats, and Koala (though they’re cuddly not bitey). This is an amazing place to get up close and personal – or just “that’s quite close enough, thank you” with the animals. With plenty of stunning exhibits and conservation messages, this is great for animal lovers or the family and you should expect to spend a few hours to see everything. It’s the home of Elvis, Australia’s most badass Crocodile who, believe it or not, lost two teeth eating a lawn mower. He is an aggressive feeder and never fails to wow the crowds.
The beach-hopping continues with a stop at Terrigal Beach. With it’s very calm surfing conditions, this is a great beach to come to if you want to learn to surf. Book a group surfing lesson with Central Coast Surf School ahead of time to guarantee a spot. There’s also a bunch of cafes and boutique shops lining the boardwalk just above the beach.
Then head on over to Terrigal Haven, a five minute walk from Terrigal Beach, for a picnic lunch. From the Haven, you’ll be able to jump on the walking path that leads around the steep rocky bluff known as the Skillion, where you’ll be able to see over North Avoca beach and beyond to the vast Pacific Ocean.
This is exactly why you’re warned about feeding birds at the beach. 3:30pm, 365 days a year no matter what weather, this is the Central Coast’s most popular attraction. And it began by complete accident. After becoming accustomed to scraps from a local Fish and Chip shop, hundreds of local Pelicans now congregate at the exact same time demanding food and the feeding frenzy that ensues is pretty hilarious to watch. The serious side is that it allows the bird’s to be routinely inspected for injury so it’s a win win all round.
With over 140 wineries to choose from, there’s no shortage of places to try no matter whether you prefer a chardonnay or a glass of shiraz. Head to Hunter Valley institution Mount Pleasant to try wine from from some of the oldest vines in Australia. (Make sure you try both their semillon and shiraz. Apart from your designated driver of course.)
Next head to The Tinklers, a vineyard run by the Tinkler family who have been in the Hunter Valley for the over 100 years. Sit amongst the barrels with a glass of their Viognier, or pick up some fresh produce grown on site. Just picked fresh avocados, citrus, and figs - straight from the cellar door.
Before you leave Hunter, head to the Small Winemakers Centre, opposite Brokenwood to sample some wines you’re not going to find anywhere else. Small-batch and up and coming winemakers who are too small to have a cellar door showcase their wines at the centre.
There’s no better way to explore Newcastle’s cultural and natural landmarks as well as its indigenous and convict history than on this 5km coastal walk. Stretching from the lighthouse at Nobbys Headland to the coastal wilderness of Glenrock Reserve, look for the yellow information signs which will tell the stories of this area’s history as you pass by on your way to Bathers Way. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop for a swim and there are lots of great cafes and restaurants where you can rest and refuel.
Highlights along the path include Nobbys breakwall, whose foundations up, against the roaring surf, were quarried and laid by forced convict gangs, and the chance to spot dolphins and whales coasting by. We’d also recommend walking through the Art Deco pavilion at Newcastle Ocean Baths where you’ll be able to stop to soak in a saltwater pool.
The team at Irukandji are truly dedicated to protecting all forms of life in the ocean and their enthusiasm is infectious. Kids absolutely love this place and will learn a lot from the friendly and engaging staff. But let’s not beat around the bush, you want to get in the water with huge rays and up to 190 sharks? Yes, of course you do, what’s the worst that could happen, right? No reason to freak out, the Rays are completely harmless and in fact are practically affectionate, like giant under water, winged puppies. In winter, the quietest times to visit are on weekdays or prior to 12 pm or after 2pm, in summer, prior to 10 am or after 3 pm.
The Sydney Rock Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata) are among the best in Australia and, unsurprisingly, they are plentiful in Oyster Cove, just a short trip from the Pacific Motorway. There’s a host of wholesale oyster suppliers like Oysters Direct, Alldinga or XL Oysters to name a few and the best restaurant to eat these saucy little bi-valves is The Poyers café, were they serve Port Stephens Oysters 6 delicious ways. Haven’t tried one? This is a good time to start.
The beaches and beautiful turquoise waters in and around Forster are enough of an attraction but aboard the newest and probably the most impressive whale boat in Australia Amaroo cruises guarantee a whale sighting during whale season (June to November) or your money back. The crew are friendly and give you a pretty accurate prediction about spotting a Humpy (Local lingo for a Humpback) While a respectful viewing distance is observed it’s been known for curious Humpy’s to breach breathtakingly close.