Ultimate weekend road trip: Brisbane to Byron Bay

Road trips: they smell like summer, feel like the wind in your hair and taste like freedom. Escape to the open road of possibility – there’s plenty to see and we’ve even made a killer playlist for you.

Here at Visit Brisbane we see a lot of people on the internet asking how to go from Brisbane to Byron Bay and what to see along the way. Here it is – consider this your bible.

What’s the route?

We’re sending you on a big loop. Why? Because it’s more interesting to go inland and roadtrips are about the ~journey~ as much as they are about the destination. Oh, and we still get to stop at the famous Yatala Pie Shop. That's essential.

Going direct up and down the highway will take you about one hour and 50 minutes each way, but we’re going to take some detours to take you inland on the way down rather than highway driving both ways.

Find yourself some transport

First things first, you need wheels. A car is critical – go fill your own up tank up or pick up a rental car. The website VroomVroomVroom is great for comparing all car rental agencies.

If driving yourself isn’t an option, stop reading right now and find a tour company or shuttle – this isn’t the article for you. Companies such as Greyhound, Byron Bay Shuttle and Brisbane2Byron will shuttle you down there or Kangaroo Adventure Tours, Brisbane Trike Tours and Australian Day Tours will drive you down, show you around and bring you back. 

Stop 1: Hit the road and head to Cedar Creek Falls | 1 hour drive

Road trip

Take the M1 south from Brisbane heading towards the Gold Coast. Turn off the highway at Yatala and follow Stanmore Rd inland until you reach Beaudesert-Beenleigh Rd (note: Stanmore Rd is currently closed due to flood damage). Follow it to the end and turn left onto Tamborine Mountain Rd. At a sharp bend, turn left onto Cedar Creek Falls Road – if you drive past Thunderbird Park, you’ve missed the turn off. 

Drive right to the end of Cedar Creek Falls Rd. Here the rock pools are a short walk from the car park. Take the chance to go for a fresh water swim or enjoy the cascades, waterfalls and views from a few lookouts. The walk down the canyon is sealed and easy.

BONUS: drop into Thunderbird Park

An adventure playground for all ages, Thunderbird Park has a high ropes course called the TreeTop Challenge, laser skirmish, fossicking, horse riding and bird feeding on offer. 

Stop 2: Refresh at Gallery Walk | 10-minute drive

Fortitude Brewing

At the top of Tamborine Mountain is a busy hub of more than 70 shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants and more that fall along a street fondly known as Gallery Walk. By this point you’ll either be hungry and/or thirsty for coffee or a beer.

For brunch or lunch try Café Ella, Tea & Niceties, Laurel Cottage Garden Café, Gluten Free Revolution, Drift Café or Spice of Life Café & Deli. Anyone after a cup of life-giving liquid, head to Mt Tamborine Coffee Plantation or The Mountain Brew Coffee. Oh, and if it’s Beer O’Clock already, Fortitude Brewing Co has its headquarters just around the corner. If you’re more of a wine lover, there are lots of cellar doors around the area – Witches Falls is a good one.

BONUS: extra walking tracks if you have time

Tamborine Mountain has a lot of short walks you can take. Around the corner from Gallery Walk, Curtis Falls is a short 30-minute return walk from Dapsang Dr car park to a large pool at the base of the falls. 

Stop 3: Stop by Natural Bridge | 1 hour drive


Picture: Tourism & Events Queensland

If you’re hungry for lunch now, drop into the historic St Bernard’s Hotel for a pub lunch with epic views over the mountains. From here the drive heads downhill, past Hinze Dam (which supplies the Gold Coast with water) and through Numinbah Valley. Stop in at Natural Bridge, an iconic waterfall by day and glow worm cave by night. 

The Natural Bridge Circuit walk is only 1km long and explores the natural rock bridge, plunging waterfall and arched cave surrounded by subtropical rainforest. Within the forest, keep an eye and ear out for green catbirds, paradise riflebirds, frogs, the sooty owl and koalas. It is prohibited to swim here.

Stop 4: Murwillumbah for milkshakes | 35-minute drive

Jump back in the car and cross over the border from Queensland into New South Wales. From here you’ll wind your way out of the rainforest and through farmland and cane fields to the country town of Murwillumbah. This large historic town still has an original diner and bakery complete with retro fittings. The Austral Café & Bakery does a mean milkshake – yep, you get a glass and the steel tin with extra milkshake. It’s the way it should be. 

BONUS: Tweed River Art Galley

Just outside of Murwillumbah township, this regional gallery is a gem in the NSW hinterland. Open Wednesday to Sunday, drop in for world-class art, air-conditioned comfort and views of rolling hills. Keep an eye out for the annual Les Peterkin Portrait Prize, generally held in the last three months of each year.

Stop 5: Destination Byron Bay | 50-minute drive

Phew! We’ve made it. You’re in Byron Bay – dive in the ocean as a reward, get fish ‘n’ chips to enjoy at the beach and drive up to the historic lighthouse. The 1888-built lighthouse sits on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. Start swimming and you'll reach New Zealand in no time...

To discover more things to do or find a place to stay in Byron Bay, check out the official tourism and leisure website for the area.

Turn this ship around

Yes, it’s time to head back to Brisbane. 

Stop 6: the famous Yatala Pie Shop | 1 hour 30-minute drive

After a long stretch straight up the Pacific Highway/M1 towards Brisbane, a Yatala pie is the treat you want and need. Keep it basic or go ~fancy~ with the gourmet steak. The famous Yatala Pie has been a landmark on the road between Brisbane and the Gold Coast for more than 130 years.

Stop 7: Taste local at Beenleigh Artisan Distillery | five-minute drive

Australia’s original rum, Beenleigh Artisan Distillery has been crafting a quality drop for more than 130 years. Still making rum the boutique way, stop by the brand-new visitor centre on the banks of the Albert River to view the still-in-use original copper equipment and oak brandy barrels. Distillery tours and tastings are available seven days.

Stop 8: Relax at Chung Tian Temple | 25-minute drive

Monk walks towards Chung Tian Temple

Not far south of Brisbane, the Chung Tian Temple is a surprising hidden treasure. The Buddhist Temple at Underwood features the Chinese palace architectural style of gold and red in the traditional manner of Chinese Emperors. Situated in a beautiful bush setting, attend meditation classes, join in a Chinese Tea Ceremony, wander the grounds and experience the art gallery.

BONUS: Underwood Park | five-minute drive

Just around the corner is another well-kept secret – FUNderwood Hollow. This playground wouldn’t be out of place on a Harry Potter movie set. Nearby skate and BMX facilities will keep the little thrill-seekers content too.

Stop 9: Back to Brisbane City | 25-minute drive

Brisbane

That’s all folks. Jump back in the car and cruise up the motorway home. In 25 minutes you’ll be back in Brisbane CBD and back to reality.

Want more?

Latest Articles