highway in New South Wales and Queensland
(Redirected from Pacific Highway)
Itineraries > Oceania itineraries > Sydney to Brisbane by car

The Australian cities of 1 Sydney and 2 Brisbane are an hour and a half apart by plane, but many people opt to drive the 800 km or so instead.


Sydney to Brisbane by car: Pacific Highway in blue, New England Highway in green

There are two primary routes between Sydney and Brisbane.

The Pacific Highway (A1) and Pacific Motorway (M1) is a primary highway 800 km long, running between the Australian cities of Sydney and Brisbane, up the north coast of New South Wales. It forms a key segment of Highway 1, which runs around the length of Australia. The Pacific Highway connects many of the state's major cities and towns, and is the obvious choice if speed or access to the coastal beaches are your primary deciding factors.

The primary alternative is the New England Highway (A15), which starts at Newcastle around an hour north of Sydney and detours inland via the Hunter Valley, Tamworth and Armidale. Largely agricultural, this route consists mostly of two-lane rural highways and adds around 200 km and at least 3 hours to the trip.

You can also mix and match the two, with the Waterfall Way (B78) between Coffs Harbour (Pacific Hwy) and Armidale (New England Hwy) considered one of the most scenic drives in the country.



You can start from either end of the road, or from many points along its length. To the south, Sydney is a major gateway, and to the north Brisbane and the Gold Coast both have many transport options. You can hire a car at either end, shop around for a good one way deal if you need one.

When planning a trip up the Pacific Highway, the major consideration is holidays. The Pacific Highway links several large Australian cities and also passes through major beach holiday areas close to Sydney. Thus traffic is absolutely nightmarish at either end of a holiday period; it's not unheard of for trip times to be four times as long. The worst times to be traveling north are the afternoon and evening of Christmas Eve (or of the day before if Christmas Eve is a Sunday), the afternoon and evening of the day before the Good Friday holiday and the night before and morning of the first day of any long weekend. When traveling south, the end of holiday periods are the peak time. Since Australians take summer holidays in January, you will also want to avoid traveling north on the Friday or Saturday of any weekend in January, and likewise avoid traveling south on Sundays in January.

While the New England Highway is much less likely to get crowded, when coming from Sydney you'll still need to drive through the Sydney-Newcastle section of the Pacific Hwy to get there, and around the holidays this can get quite jammed. The only remotely viable bypass, Putty Road from Wilberforce in northwestern Sydney to Singleton in the Hunter Valley, is very narrow and winding and takes at least an hour longer.

As both the Pacific and New England Highways are major roads passing through populated areas, there's no need to take special precautions; this is emphatically not the Outback. It might be a good idea, as with all car trips, to make sure that you have food, water and warm enough clothing so that having to sleep in the car for a night wouldn't be a disaster. However, you will have ample opportunity to purchase all food and drink along the way.

See also: Tips for road trips and Driving in Australia.

Pacific Highway


Speed Limit: 80-110

This section of the drive offers drives through national parks, bushland and small townships and communities. It is easy to stop and take advantage of bushwalking opportunities, coffee shops and views, and beaches.

  • Brooklyn, a pleasant small fishing village with water views, great fish & chips and a notably lack of gritty urban vibes, as it is one of Sydney’s northern most suburbs on the Hawkesbury river.
  • 1 Gosford
  • Wyong
  • Lake Macquarie

Alternate route: exit the Pacific Motorway at Gosford and take the Central Coast Highway (A49) via The Entrance, rejoining the Pacific at Newcastle.

Speed Limit: 70-110

The Pacific Motorway bypasses New South Wales's second-largest city 2 Newcastle, around 15 km east. This is also the turnoff for the New England Highway inland route to Brisbane.

The road is a fully 4-lane motorway with exceptions in Newcastle.

Speed Limit: 110

3 Port Macquarie, a popular seaside resort, marks the halfway point when driving between Sydney and Brisbane.

Detour: Starting from a junction with the Pacific Highway at Raleigh, midway between Urunga and Coffs Harbour, Waterfall Way travels westward to Armidale on the New England Highway. This route has been voted the best tourist drive in NSW and in the top 3 of Australia. The old highway has also been renamed as Macleay Valley Way and Giinagay Way, with the new highway being named the M1 Pacific Motorway.

Speed limit: 110

The highway is four lane motorway.

Speed Limit: 110

The highway is four to six lane motorway.

  • 4 Byron Bay is a very popular seaside town famous for its wellness community, with more hipsters, hippies, spirulina smoothies and yoga classes than you can shake a stick at.

Speed limit: 110

Just across the state border in Queensland, the 5 Gold Coast is Australia's answer to Miami, a brash strip of skyscrapers and endless beach. (In fact, one of its districts is even called "Miami".) The coast runs for 57 km, from Coolangatta in the south to Surfers Paradise in the north.

The M1 highway is an eight-lane motorway all the way to Brisbane.

New England Highway

Main article: Highway 15 (Australia)
  • 1 Hunter Valley, the top wine region in New South Wales, with plenty of green rolling hills, cellar doors and boutique accommodation
  • 2 Tamworth, the home of Australian country music
  • 3 Armidale
  • 4 Glen Innes
  • 5 Warwick

Stay safe


Go next


Go along M1/A1 Bruce Highway

This itinerary to Sydney to Brisbane by car is a usable article. It explains how to get there and touches on all the major points along the way. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.