Leah McLennan picks her highlights of a classic Australian road trip

If you put your foot down, the drive between Brisbane and Sydney can be done in 12 hours.

The safer option is to take your time and potter your way up or down the Pacific Highway.

Over the 925km trip, there a plenty of options for a leisurely break, such as taking a swim at one of the many fabulous beaches, dining at great country pubs and staying in some unique accommodation.

Here are 10 spots that may tempt you to pull over on your next journey north or south.


1. A "cruiseykayak" tour, Byron Bay

Byron is the most popular seaside town in the Northern River region of NSW, a gorgeous village where the crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean meet lush, green back country.

One way of getting to know the surrounding area is to take a tour on the Brunswick River, 10 minutes' drive north of Byron. Byron Bay Cruises has a "cruiseykayaking" tour where you get to cruise through the rainforest and then kayak through the jungle.

2. Photograph your aura, Mullumbimby

Nestled in Byron's beautiful hinterland, the Crystal Castle is a unique place to "enrich your spirit". On its pretty grounds you can walk through the "ancient labyrinth", have your aura photographed, read and then wander the Buddha walk.

3. Nuts about breakfast, Eltham

Nestled in picturesque Eltham, a historic railway village in a lush valley, the Eltham Valley Pantry is certainly worth a detour. This award-winning cafe dishes up scrumptious toasted pecan and sunflower muesli and Max Brenner cinnamon waffles. There are tables inside the renovated farmhouse and in the garden under the pecan trees. You can also take a guided tour through the pecan farm.

4. Vintage clothes shopping, Lismore


Lismore is the commercial hub of the Northern Rivers and the town centre has everything from chic boutique fashion and designer homewares to organic produce and rare books. There are more than 15 vintage and retro stores in the town - all of which deserve to be explored. Try Black Angel, a haven for clothing, or Room 32, which is set in an old general store. Also worth a visit is the Audio Room with its vintage records and players and Little Polli and the Blackbird, an emporium of all things beautiful.

5. Sleep among the macadamias, Clunes

If you're looking for somewhere to stay near Lismore, Suzanne's Hideaway in Clunes has self-contained accommodation set amid sub-tropical gardens and macadamia orchards.

This child- and pet-friendly resort has a mix of one, two and three-bedroom villas. There's a saltwater pool on site to cool down plus a tennis court and plenty of rainforest to explore.

6. Get lost and found, Alstonville

Alstonville, located just 6km off the Pacific Highway, near Ballina, is a charming town set among green rolling hills. A fun place to visit just a few minutes' drive from town is Amaze 'n' Place. The maze is created from hundreds of fig trees grown in such a special way that they have formed a see-through, open structure. It's ideal for parents who want to keep an eye on their children as they tear round the gravel paths.

7. Fine dining with lofty views, Yamba

With its scenic coastline, local characters and impressive restaurants, it's hard to bypass Yamba - just 15km off the Pacific Highway.

A great way to spend your time in this quaint town is to dip your toes in the crystal clear waters at Main Beach. Afterwards, clamber up the hill for lunch at the 74-year-old Pacific Hotel, perched up high above one of the finest coastlines in NSW.

The menu here is more restaurant chic than pub grub - try the tempura fillet of local Yamba snapper or crispy-skinned Byron Bay pork belly.

8. Sleep in the rainforest, Yamba

One of the most eco and child-friendly places to stay near Yamba is Angourie Rainforest Resort, a four-and-a-half-star property set amid 600ha of rainforest, 1km from town.

This value-for-money resort has well-appointed one- and two-bedroom villas, some with spas and ensuites. The facilities are great for families - there's a pool for adults and one for kids, an adventure playground, a spa and a restaurant that serves delicious dishes.

9. Detour to a country pub, Brushgrove

Brushgrove is just 1km off the Pacific Highway and is a great place for travellers to stop for a country meal or an overnight stay. The Brushgrove Hotel, built in 1868, is a sweet spot to linger. It has a riverside beer garden where you can soak up the sunshine and eat some fresh Yamba prawns - all while being just moments from the hustle and bustle of the highway.

10. Houseboats for hire, Brushgrove

Five minutes' walk from the Brushgrove Hotel you can find Clarence Riverboats - the only houseboat operator in the Clarence Valley. Here you can hire a comfy boat that sleeps six and explore the Clarence, the biggest river on the east coast of Australia.

* Leah McLennan was a guest of Destination NSW.


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