I remember the first time (in fact the only time) my family and I piled into our trusty Ford Laser to hit the road and experience the Pacific Coast from Sydney to Brisbane. We were all excited about what lay ahead of us. At the time, I was on vacation here for 2 months from New Zealand…so naturally I was excited and up for anything.

Fast forward nearly 30 years later, those distant memories are back and now as a Travel Adviser with years and years of experience…I’m here to guide you on the do’s and don’ts of travelling the almost 1000 or so kilometres (approximately 580 miles) from A to B!

Allow yourself enough time…
Whatever you do, please don’t try to do this in 3-4 days and think that is all you need. Well, it is…if you just want to see the inside of your hotel/motel room and not a lot more. Australia has a massive coastline and you really have to allow yourself time to enjoy it, live it, and breathe it! Just think, the approximate distance from San Diego to San Francisco is about 600miles. The same, more or less is what you would travel from Sydney to Brisbane or vice versa.

Select the right car for your needs…
I don’t know about you, but I can’t live without a sat nav and for me, this is an absolute essential item when hiring a car. Yes, you can use your phone as well, but make sure your phone is on roaming as you will need the internet constantly…which could be costly depending on your provider.

I know how Americans love to travel with 2 suitcases each at a minimum, so bear in mind, if you are doing a road trip, you will either need to pack lighter and bring one, or hire a larger vehicle that will fit all your suitcases. I think our vehicles here are much smaller than what you are used too. I never let my clients hire a vehicle that doesn’t include full car insurance. By this I mean, you will have a zero excess, roadside assistance, collision damage waiver etc. No-one wants surprises at the end of the road trip! Just remember we drive on the left side of the road and our steering wheel is on the right side of the vehicle.

Plan your route…
The beauty of the self-drive vacation is that you’ll be able to go where you want, when you want and without having to worry about rushing to catch a plane or a train. However, you also want to maximise your time by seeing the best attractions and of course, including all the must do’s you’ve heard about or spent hours researching! But seriously, who has time to spend hours online when you can enlist an expert….knock knock (click, click in this case)…meet your Travel Advisor…this is where our expertise and knowledge is essential to your perfect vacation! Between Sydney and Brisbane there are so many amazing places to stay overnight in or at least a couple of nights. I would even suggest tacking on extra days in order to start in the Blue Mountains and heading a bit further north of Brisbane to check out Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.

My top destinations are:

When I visit a new destination, I don’t just want to see it. I want to experience the culture and lifestyle of the place. Apart from the usual highlights that Sydney has to offer, these are my top ten favourite things to do in Sydney.

1. Sail on Sydney Harbour. The best way to do this is either by private yacht or private boat. Allow yourself a good half day to really take your time to enjoy this gorgeous harbour. Be sure to include a seafood platter and sample some of our finest oysters and king prawns!

 

2. Enjoying one of Sydney’s many coastal walks, like the Bondi to Coogee walk. You might even like to pack your swimsuit and stop at Gordon’s Bay for a refreshing swim. Afterwards, grab something to eat at one of the many cafés/restaurants in Coogee.

3. Sydney markets are a great place to get fresh produce, have a coffee or just see what’s around on a Saturday morning. Forget Paddy’s market and go for places like Glebe Markets, Paddington Markets, Orange Grove Markets or Carriageworks Farmers Markets. Forget having breakfast at the hotel and enjoy breakfast while you are out, market style. Depending on the day, you might even want to purchase some locally made produce and have a picnic at the Botanical Gardens later that afternoon.

4. Explore the grungy neighbourhoods of Enmore and Newtown – home to the best of Sydney street art. See giant murals by social realist painter, Fintan Magee. Magee’s work is driven by his recognition of the power of murals to communicate political and social viewpoints and thus divide or unite communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Enjoying a craft beer at The Grifter Brewer Co. or a premium gin at Archie Rose distillery. Sydney has many passionate brewmasters, winemakers, and distillers all creating their own perfect drop. Join an intimate tour and learn about their history and techniques in crafting their locally made brews and beverages.

6. Strolling through the 19th century grandeur of the Queen Victoria Building where you can shop elegant boutiques and; antique stores. The Strand Arcade and Pitt Street Mall are also popular places to find just about everything you could possibly need.

7. Operating only on the last Sunday of the month is the “Taste of the House” tour. A deluxe tour perfect for the inner foodie in you. From learning how to craft the perfect Sydney Sling, to experiencing a dine-around of all the Opera House venues from Raw Bar, Opera Kitchen, Portside and Bennelong. Catch a glimpse of past Concert Hall performances and end the day with some funky live jazz music.

8. Join a tour to the Figure 8 pools located in the Royal National Park. These amazing rock formations are found at the bottom of a coastal rock shelf, approx a 3.7mile hike each way. NSW Parks and Wildlife service were improving the track when I last hiked down there. This isn’t for the faint-hearted, and you need to be physically fit to join this type of tour.

9. One of the best ways to enjoy a drink is from the rooftop of one of Sydney’s buzzing rooftop bars. Some have great views, some don’t…but you can be sure there is always a great vibe. The Glenmore has picture-perfect views of the Harbour and Sydney Opera House; see Barangaroo from up high on Crown’s 26th-floor Also check out Zephyr Bar at the Hyatt Regency Sydney for cocktails and views over Darling Harbour. If you prefer something more casual, try Old-Mates Place or Bar Ombré.

10. Head out to the Blue Mountains, and if your budget allows this, do a private tour as you will see more and it is more personalised than the larger group tours. I can never get enough of the Three Sisters and the blue haze of the Blue Mountains. It just is magical!

You might not have time to do all these things during your stay, but just pick and choose which appeal to you the most and I’m sure, you won’t be disappointed!

Byron is a haven for surfers, hippies, and everyone young at heart. I spent a jam-packed 5 days/4 and nights in Byron with my 6yr old and a couple of friends and let’s just say, she didn’t disappoint. We hired a great little i30 and as we were not able to check in till 2 pm, we decided to make the most of the day and stopped off at the Crystal Castle and Shambala Gardens (which is not too far off the highway before arriving in Byron). I have to point out that it was my son who was dead keen on visiting this place. I was a bit…hmm…looks a bit way out there for me. I had to leave my preconceived ideas and notions of this place at the front entrance. It is simply a gorgeous, a well thought out place of serenity, beauty, and calmness and is so inspiring.

We could have easily stayed here more than the 2.5 hours we did. The staff there were just amazing. They catered to all my sons’ inquisitive questions about the different crystals and were the kind of people that really and truly just love their job. The crystals are out of this world…gorgeous gigantic amethysts shipped in from all over the world…amazing feat when you see the size of these things. The gardens are so tranquil and are dotted with large Buddha statues from all different religions. Then there is the truly amazing walk through the bamboo forest. Just wow! Make sure your phone/camera is fully charged before coming here because everywhere you turn, there is definitely an ‘insta’ or ‘kodak’ moment that you just have to capture!

The Farm

We didn’t book ahead to have lunch at the Three Blue Ducks, we thought we would just ‘wing’ it and see if we got a table (a crazy thought with it being the school holidays). Whilst we didn’t get to eat in the restaurant, we were still able to eat on the picnic tables outside and enjoy our food off the same menu as the restaurant. The only disadvantage to this was the wooden forks and knives and enamel plates. A little bit of elbow grease was needed to cut through the lovely porchetta I ordered…but it just meant I ate a bit slower!! The Farm is a beautiful place to have lunch at and is a great place for kids. There is a play area that they can have fun in, while you finish your meal, a nice wee gelato house and of course, you can tour the grounds area on your own and see all the farm animals as well as the amazing amount of produce grown here…which I might add is all used in both the Three Blue Ducks restaurant and the café.

Minyon Falls – Northern Rivers Region

This is about a 45min drive from Byron so not too far to travel to. We did the epic loop from the Minyon Falls lookout right around to the Minyon Falls Picnic area. As you can imagine, doing this with a 6yr old takes a bit longer than normal. All up, we did the 12km walk. My fitbit told me we climbed 104 floors that day, so this kind of walk is not for the faint hearted…but in saying that, my 6yr old did it…albeit with a few complaints. Food took care of that!! The Minyon Falls drop about 100m, and we hiked/walked from the top to the bottom. When you get to the bottom, there are lot of boulders (massive rocks) to climb over, so it is a good idea to wear comfortable trainers. We did see some wearing flip flops and they said they had a bit of difficulty climbing in them. You can swim at the bottom of the falls. We didn’t on this occasion as it was pretty cold at the bottom, even though it looked inviting. The climb back up to Minyon Falls Picnic area is by far the quickest way out. Some people have reported that they don’t believe it is a loop as you have to exit the same way you came in, but this is not true. The sign posts are a bit faded from many  fingerprints over the years touching the parts you need to see for the trail…but we managed to work it out and we asked people if they were locals, and they were able to confirm we were on the right path. The only thing to bear in mind when you get to Minyon Falls Picnic area carpark, is that you still have to walk back to your car at the Minyon Falls lookout. It is about a 5min drive or about another 25min walk back. We were lucky enough to have another family drop me back off at the car so I could return and pick the others up. We spent a total of 4.5hrs here, but the walk can be done in less time as we went off track for about half an hour, and we had lots of little rest stops along the way. I think this definitely worth doing if you love nature and getting out there in the Australian bush!

“Go Sea Kayak”

Day 3 was a super early start! We decided to do the 6am sea kayak tour with “Go Sea Kayak”. The 9.30am tour was booked out, so we thought, a great way to start the day is to do it early!

This tour didn’t disappoint. We saw tons of humpback whales, dolphins, and even a turtle. Whale season in Australia is from April to November. Approximately 30k whales migrate south back to Antarctica to their feeding grounds. There were 4 guides in total going out with us, two of them took our sons (this was brilliant). The lead guide was very informative, educating us all about the whales that come through Byron Bay waters and always made sure we stayed the 100m distance away from the pods of whales. One thing I have to say is that these guys love their jobs, they are trained lifeguards who are respectful and always made sure everyone was comfortable. A couple of people were feeling a little sea-sick and it was no problem at all for one of the guides to take them back to shore. It is important to note that Go Sea Kayak is Eco Certified and the only operator in Byron with this certification.

Cape Byron Walking Track

Cape Byron walking track starting from half-way up Lighthouse Road. This walk is absolutely gorgeous. Again, make sure your phone is fully charged as you will take many photos as you walk past Clarke’s Beach, Wategos Beach and up towards the lighthouse. We stopped at The Pass Café for lunch which was a great little place to eat. Prior to reaching the lighthouse, we stopped many times as we spotted a Wallaby, then pods of Dolphins…it really is an amazing walk and the kids enjoyed it. A quick afternoon swim at Clarke’s beach before returning to our accommodation.

Another great café stop is The General Store, one of the oldest commercial buildings still standing. A great café with amazing coffee and the food is to die for. I had “The Lordy Burger” which was so delicious!

The Farmer’s markets are great for any travellers that are perhaps doing a self-drive tour and want to purchase locally grown produce. Everything is super fresh and of course, in-season as you can see it was picked that morning!

However, all good things must come to an end and our stay in Byron was quite fast paced. There were many places which we didn’t have time to enjoy but we will back again to check out places like Mullumbimby, taking time to have a massage at Gaia Retreat & Spa (formerly owned by Olivia Newton John) and visiting Lennox Head.

Byron and her surrounds are definitely a destination worthy of a week’s stay if you have the time and a great active wellness destination!