We may be heading in to the depths of the winter months, but in a continent as big as Australia we can holiday by following the sun to shed those winter woollies a day at a time.
Here is a leisurely east coast self-drive holiday itinerary to warm your soul – from Sydney New South Wales to the majestic white sands of the Whitsundays Islands in Queensland.
1 degree warmer | Day 1: Sydney to Seal Rocks, New South Wales
~283 km via M1 and Pacific Highway
Allow 3.5 hours (without stops)
Plan to enjoy lunch and a decent leg stretch in the popular holiday destination of Port Stephens.
If you’re not a Sydney local, make sure to spend a couple of days exploring this incredible city first with its Sydney Harbour jewels, historic The Rocks and iconic city beaches.
The changing landscapes from Sydney to Seal Rocks make for an enjoyable first day on the road. From meandering by winding Hawkesbury River glimpses to teases of the Central Coast, the scenery keeps this part of the journey interesting.
Seal Rocks is an idyllic coastal town with limited overnight accommodation, so you will need to book ahead.
For more information about Seal Rocks
2 degrees warmer | Day 2: Seal Rocks to Woolgoolga, mid north coast NSW
~300 km via Pacific Highway
Allow 3.5 to 4 hours (without stops)
Sawtell has a reputation for its stunning beach setting, and its food and coffee culture. Sawtell is a great spot to grab a bite to eat, and take a rejuvenating walk.
Coffs Harbour is a well known coastal tourist destination with plenty of overnight accommodation. Woolgoolga is just north of Coffs Harbour, making for an easier start in the traffic in the morning. This seaside holiday spot has a great beachside camping ground and holiday parks and other overnight accommodation choices.
For more information about Woolgoolga
3 degrees warmer |Day 3: Woolgoolga to South Stradbroke island, Queensland
~350 km via Pacific Highway / A1 and M1
Allow 4.5 to 5 hours (without stops)
Plan to enjoy a relaxed lunch in beautiful Byron Bay. Make South Stradbroke Island a destination to enjoy a break and explore for a day before you hit the road again.
3 degrees warmer |Day 4: Explore South Stradbroke Island and surrounds
Affectionately known as ‘South Straddie’, this perfect island is a retreat loved by those that are drawn to unspoilt, natural coastal gems. If you’re not planning on camping, you may need to look to at finding overnight accommodation on the Gold Coast. If you plan to stay for more than one night, accommodation websites such as Airbnb and Stayz offer a range of South Stradbroke Island choices.
For more information about South Stradbroke Island
4 degrees warmer | Day 5: South Stradbroke Island to Rainbow Beach
~320 km via M1
Allow 4.5 to 5 hours (without stops)
You simply can’t drive past Noosa without stopping in. Noosa is not a Sunshine Coast destination to snub. Add an extra day or two to your itinerary or at least stop in and enjoy a quality barista brew for a quality drive revive stop. And then there is Noosa National Park, and the Noosa River. Extend your break, perhaps?
4 degrees warmer | Day 6: Explore Rainbow Beach and surrounds
A coastal village enveloped by natural wonders, Rainbow Beach offers plenty of photo opportunities. Perhaps most globally recognised for its impressive cliffs of Coloured Sands, the seaside town is also custodian of access to a World Heritage Area and the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island.
You could easily be persuaded to extend your holiday plans once you experience all that Rainbow Beach and surrounds has to offer.
For more information about Rainbow Beach, Queensland
Visit Our Rainbow Beach
Still 4 degrees warmer than day one| Day 7: Rainbow Beach to Seventeen Seventy
~330 km via Bruce Highway / A1
Allow 4 to 4.5 hours (without stops)
Stop in early in the day to explore the charm of the National Trust classified town of Childers. Plan to arrive at Rainbow Beach with plenty of the afternoon left to explore.
Pristine Agnes Waters and its township of 1770 is located on Central Queensland’s Discovery Coast, north of Fraser Island and south of the Whitsundays. The name 1770 is intriguing and the setting of this beautiful ocean loving town is equally captivating. The Southern Great Barrier Reef around 1770 is free of the stingers and crocodiles found further north – a welcome haven for water people when the heat kicks in.
For more information about seventeen seventy, Queensland
Visit Discover 1770
4.5 degrees warmer | Day 8: Seventeen Seventy to Yeppoon and Great Keppel Island
~280 km via Bruce Highway / A1
Allow 3 to 3.5 hours (without stops)
As tempting as it is to stay, leave Seventeen Seventy early so you can enjoy spending the afternoon exploring Great Keppel Island.
Now you’ve reached a tropical winter! The temperature is likely to be low to mid 25s in the middle of winter. The seaside community of Yeppoon is much more than ferry host to Great Keppel Island. A canvas for the Keppel Islands and stretches and stretches of glimmering white sand and tropical waters, Yeppoon is a breathtaking, resort style destination.
You’ve almost reached your destination!
For more information about Yeppoon, Queensland
5.5 degrees warmer |Day 9: Yeppoon to your holiday destination, Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
~500 km via Bruce Highway / A1
Allow 5.5 to 6 hours (without stops) – a long day, but once you’ve reached the Whitsundays it’s time to stop and soak up some sunshine for a while!
The Queensland coastal City of Mackay is a great spot for a lunch break and to stock up on everything you need for the Whitsundays leg of your holiday. Mackay is also a fantastic tropical holiday destination with rainforest, beaches and islands to discover.
Ah. Airlie Beach. No longer is Airlie Beach the undiscovered, introverted gateway to 74 Whitsundays Islands that is was back in the 1980s, but a buzzing, highly sought after Australian holiday resort destination. While developers have indeed been flaunting Airlie Beach and spoiling tourists for choice of accommodation, hospitality, services and retail therapy, much of the surrounding environment and the Whitsundays Islands are designated National Park lands.
The activities and sightseeing opportunities are endless when you’re Great Barrier Reef bound. Settle in for a week, or more.
Explore. Relax. Breathe. Rejuvenate.
For more information about Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
Visit Tourism Whitsundays
And of course, then there’s the trip back. Mix it up. Explore the outback and inland destinations as you head back home. Enjoy. And drive safely.
On calculating temperature gains on heading north
Estimated temperature gains factored in to working out the itinerary were based on climate history from Australian Bureau of Meteorology > Climate > Outlooks