From surfing at Point Plomer to camping in national parks and learning about lighthouse history, the Pacific Coast is home to some of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations and activities.
The famous drive stretches between Sydney and winds up the coast 930km to Brisbane. The two main routes are the Pacific Highway and the Old Pacific Highway. The former is the most direct route with fewer potholes, bends and hairpin turns. The Old Pacific Highway is slower, but more scenic. And there’s a fantastic pie shop called ‘Pie in the SKy’ along the way. The road you take will depend on how much time you have.
Most road trippers stretch it out over four days but it can be done in about ten hours. But can you really imagine your kids sitting still in the car for ten hours straight? Do yourself (and your whole family) a favour and spend a couple of nights in the coastal towns along the way. Be a beach bum on the Central Coast, visit the vineyards in the Hunter Valley outside Newcastle, stop at the Big Banana in Coffs and kick back at a cafe in Byron. What’s the rush?
A great source of info for planning your exact route is the VisitNSW website. It’s got a day-to-day itinerary and tips on things to see and do in the areas you’re passing through. if you’re looking for things to do with kids specifically, check out our favourite experience to try on your Pacific Coast road trip.
Thanks to its warm weather and excellent beaches, New South Wales is the ideal place to learn to surf as a family. Scotts Head, near Macksville, and The Pass, at Byron Bay, offer gentle waves that have been attracting grommets and longboard riders for decades.
Near Coffs Harbour, halfway into the road trip, families will find plenty of surf schools. Try Sawtell or Woollgoolga to reduce the crowds.
Point Plomer, north of Port Macquarie, is also a top choice as it caters for all experience levels. Toddlers and children can learn to stand in the whitewash near the shore, while those still getting their confidence can play in the waves mid-way into the beach and experienced surfers can take advantage of the point break.
Play Lighthouse Keeper
Australia’s east coast is littered with beautiful lighthouses in stunning locations.
Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse, near Seal Rocks, is a favourite along the Pacific Coast.
Enter the small museum and learn about the history of the lighthouse, completed in 1875. Once you’ve loaded up on history, spread a blanket on the grassy area behind the main building and relax with a picnic.
From here you should be able to spot whales (May-November). Kids will love the adventure of staying in the former keepers’ cottages and climbing the stairs to the lighthouse before dusk.
While you’re here, take some time to explore the walking tracks in Myall Lakes National Park.
Eat lunch at The Farm
One of the most popular places for families to lunch along the Pacific Coast is The Farm at Byron Bay.
The Farm has plenty of outdoor space for little ones. Parents will feel at ease letting their wild ones run around the al fresco cafe, playground and farmland. Kids will get a kick out of saying hello to heritage black pigs, free-range chickens and Scottish Highland cows, while adults will relish the delicious and (mostly) healthy food.
Pitch a tent
If you enjoy being close to a town but want to save on accommodation costs, pitch a tent in Myall Lakes National Park. It’s just north of Newcastle and has loads of walking, kayaking and fishing opportunities. Not so keen on camping? You can opt to stay in one of the heritage listed cabins instead.
Mungo Brush campground is another great choice for families. Close to the Hawks Nest area, the campground is bordered on one side by a lake and is a short stroll away from quiet, secluded beach.
You can go fishing, walking and kayaking, and the sites are suitable for tents, camper trailers and caravans. The campsite has picnic tables, barbecues, a boat ramp and toilets. The nearest town is Hawks Nest, to the south.
Enjoy a pub feed in Catherine Hill Bay
Between the Central Coast and Newcastle, the historic township of Catherine Hill Bay is a local favourite for many reasons. The surf is fantastic, the sunsets are spectacular, and the jetty makes for a great photo opportunity. But it’s the pub that people come for.
Catho Pub is a heritage-listed bar and bistro that has been serving up delicious food and drinks since 1875. Catch live music every weekend and enjoy the old-school atmosphere of this coastal favourite. Expect typical pub fare including burgers, pizzas, steaks and pies. There’s also a kids menu and a decent range of desserts.
Have an animal encounter
All along the Pacific Coast, you’ll find animal sanctuaries, wildlife parks and nature reserves that are teaming with Australian wildlife. And that’s just on the mainland. There are plenty of animal encounters to be had at sea as well.
In Port Macquarie, families can feed a joey, get a selfie with a koala and meet a meerkat at Billabong Zoo. More than a dozen free keeper talks are held throughout the day, plus various opportunities to have a personal animal encoutner snow leopards, red pandas, reptiles and the like.
Further up the coast, the Solitary Islands Marine Park offers spectacular snorkelling during the warmer months and fantastic dolphin spotting locations at Sapphire Beach, Moonee Beach, Arrawarra Beach and Sandon Beach in Coffs Harbour. If it’s whales you’re interested in seeing, you can pretty much spot them from anywhere, permitting you visit during their migration (April to November).
With a passion for adventure, Australian journalist Jennifer Ennion always seeks out the “wild” when travelling. From swimming with belugas in sub-Arctic Canada to hiking in Nepal and camping around Australia, Jennifer loves telling stories that motivate people, especially families, to explore the outdoors.