Sydney - Newcastle (4 hrs travel)
As you start your adventure and leave the outskirts of Sydney you'll soon reach Gosford. Art lovers will want to stop in Gosford to see Gallery 460 And Sculpture Park 88 which is Australia's Largest commercial sculpture park (on 16 acres) as well as the Regional Arts and Gallery Centre with its delightfully serene Japanese Gardens. Recreational opportunities in Gosford include the Brisbane Water National Park, Strickland State Forest, Bouddi National Park and the Central Coast Steam Model Co-op where you can ride the miniature trains. Also of note is the Henry Kendall Cottage and Historical Museum where you can get a sense of the life and inspiration of this great Australian poet.
Onward along the coast you will reach The Entrance where fishing enthusiasts can break out their rods for some blackfish and also catch prawns. If you're not quite into fishing why not sit back and watch the local pelicans at work? A large group of the local pelicans are fed daily at The Entrance. Water sports are also possible at Tuggerah Lake with opportunity for use of catamarans, kayaks and pedal boats or the energetic can learn to surf at the Central Coast Surf School. Art lovers can enjoy the Gorokan - Toukley & Districts Art Society where you can see the work of local artists or you can visit Seacam P/L and view the awesome aerial and ocean photography on display in their store while the natural splendour of native red gums is on display at Wyrrabalong National Park.
Newcastle (2 days stay)
First stop on your North Coast tour is Newcastle. Newcastle has five surf Beaches and two outdoor Ocean Baths (including Merewether which is the largest in southern Hemisphere) so there is little excuse not to get at least your feet wet. For a sense of Newcastle's heritage why not ride Newcastle's Famous Tram which takes you on a three quarter hour tour of the towns history and heritage. An abundance of history is on display for you to see with the Newcastle Regional Museum, The Newcastle Maritime Museum (boats, models, artefacts, housed in historic Fort Scratchley) and the Newcastle Police Station Museum with displays concerning the towns the civil era policing as well for the convict era from when the town was established.
Further evidence of the town's convict laden past can be seen by visiting the Convict Lumbar Yard which was the main work area of the settlement. The convict workforce left a lasting impression on the town with the Bogey Hole that was hard carved out of a cliff face by convicts in the 19th Century (to form a personal bath for the then military commander) and also by the breakwater they were directed to create by halving the height of Nobby's Headland. The now lowered headland which was named by Captain Cook (to whom there is a memorial fountain in the towns Civic Park) now also has a Lighthouse and with its very scenic views is a popular walking place. It's also the starting point of the Bathers Way walk, a five kilometre scenic coastal walk that meanders from Nobby's Light House to Merewether.
Of the many scenic views in Newcastle the view from Queens Wharf Tower is also of note. Captain Cook Memorial Fountain (Civic Park). Overlooking Newcastle you will also find the Obelisk which was used in past as a maritime landmark for the approach to Newcastle, though originally it was only meant to be a flour mill used to grind the convict's wheat rations.
The natural splendour of the Newcastle region can be enjoyed at the Blackbutt Reserve with its many birds, kangaroos, Koalas and Wombats, the Kooragang Wetlands or the Hunter Wetlands Centre where you can explore the extensive pond network in canoe. Art lovers can visit the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery or the John Paynter Gallery while exhibitions of Aboriginal art and craft for sale can be seen at the Outback Art Mayfield and Aboriginal Artists of Australia Galleries.
Consider a ferry trip across the harbour to nearby Stockton with its impressive sweep of sandy beaches and dunes. There is also the Shipwreck Walk along Stockton breakwater where 16 wrecked or scuttled vessels can be seen including the French ship Adolphe which actually has a viewing platform erected to make it even more accessible.
Also possibly worth a visit is the town of Toronto. There you will find the Toronto City Art Gallery (includes the historic Awaba House, a sculpture garden, a mosaic pathway as well as a picnic garden and a cafe), easy access to Lake Macquarie, Dobell House (the studio and residence of renowned painter William Dobell) and the Westlake Retired Mineworkers Museum.
Shopaholics may also enjoy a brief detour to Cooks Hill where the Darby Street precinct will delight with its eclectic boutiques, bookshops and cafes.
Newcastle - Port Macquarie (3.25 hrs Travel)
As you then travel onward to Port Macquarie, the town of Raymond Terrace may delight with the Sketchely Pioneer Cottage Museum where you can indulge in local history, the beautiful Hunter Botanic Gardens or take a break from the drive and enjoy a relaxing picnic at Grahamstown Lake or Riverbank Park.
Slightly off route is Williamtown, but with Fighter World (aircraft, engines and armament showing 100 years of military aviation history), the Monarch Historical Museum, (ancient armour, military uniforms, lady's memorabilia, toys, photographs and more) and the whimsical Tomteland Fun Park (based on traditional Scandinavian folklore, there are children's rides, mini golf, waterpark, laser runner and more) there are great reasons to make a detour.
Back on track you'll next approach Bulahdelah. Here you can enjoy the natural history of Myall Lakes National Park (fishing, sea eagles, koalas, kangaroos and pelicans), visit Nerong State Forest, Bulahdelah Mountain park or Wallingat River Forest Park all of which have wonderful picnic facilities and walking trails. Don't forget to see the Grandis Tree which at 76m is thought to be NSW's tallest tree. Local History is on display at the Bulahdelah Court House and can be enjoyed with the Wootton Historical Railway walk.
Continuing onward along the coast you will soon reach the town of Forster. Great fishing is available here with deep sea, river, lake, rock, beach for you to choose from. Aside from the spectacular views from Cape Hawke there is much to see with the Curtis Collection (a private collection of vintage cars, machinery, horse drawn vehicles etc), the Pebbly Beach Bicentennial Trail, the Tobwabba Art Gallery (contemporary Aboriginal Art) and Dolphin Cruises. You can also enjoy the unspoilt beaches of Booti Booti National Park or visit the Forster Art and Craft Centre for a wide variety of local craft.
Port Macquarie (2 days stay)
Rich in both beautiful coastland and settlement history, Port Macquarie will prove a delightful place to stay. Its history comes alive through such places as St Tomas' Anglican Church (built by Convict labour in 1824), the Mid North Coast Maritime Museum (chock full of memorabilia, models, charts and photographs), the Port Macquarie Historical Society (the building built circa 1836 and with over 20,000 artefacts in their collection such as convict made furniture, early shop windows, historic clothing etc.) and the Port Macquarie Museum (full of convict era artefacts and more) to name just a few. The Kooloonbung Creek Nature Reserve and Historic Cemetery may be worthy of a thoughtful pause as you walk among the graves of the early settlers of the region.
The surrounding areas abundance of wildlife can be seen by visiting the Macquarie Nature Reserve Koala Hospital, especially if you arrive at feeding time, and at the Billabong Koala Breeding Centre where you can see various farm and native animals, beautiful birds including talking cockatoos and you can pat the koalas or just relax near the Koi Carp filled lily ponds.
The other natural wonders of Port Macquarie are on display at the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre (three types of rainforest including one of few remaining coastal pockets and many endangered species of flora and fauna), the Lake Innes Natural reserve, the amazing vistas of the Goal Point Lookout and the Limeburners Creek Nature Reserve (a short ferry trip across the Hastings river) where you can enjoy swimming, bushwalking and abundant wildlife.
Enjoy a Camel Ride on Lighthouse Beach, a game of Hydro Golf or for the more serious visitor a round at the Emerald Downs Golf Course. Finally, the Port Macquarie Observatory has wonderful displays to bring alive the night sky.
Nearby Wauchope is worth a side-trip with Timbertown (a pioneer village recreation of 1880's). You can also travel slightly further to see amazing views from Bago Bluff and the natural beauty of the Boorgana Nature reserve, Werrikembe National Park & Willi Willi National Park (walking trails, rainforest) and the majestic Ellenborough falls at Bulga Plateau.
Also not too distant is Telegraph Point and enjoying the facilities at the Stoney Park Watersports & Recreation complex which include fishing and other water sports and include a wakeboard & water-ski school.
Only slightly further on (only forty five minutes form Port Macquarie) is the town of Kempsey whose rich history can be seen by visiting the Trial Bay Gaol and Monument, the Macleay River Historical Society (for regional history) and the Macleay River Museum and Settlers Cottage. Awesome Limestone Karsts can be seen at the Yessabah Nature Reserve, while the views are phenomenal from the Apex Historical Lookout and the Rudder Park Lookout. Don't forget to browse a number of local galleries as well as the Woodshed where local crafts are on offer.
Port Macquarie - Byron Bay (3.5 hrs travel)
The next destination is Byron Bay, but on your way there consider taking a brief pause at Fredrickton to take in the views at the Collombatti Lookout (360 degrees of Macleay River Valley) and admire the historic buildings such as the hotel, Public School and Headmasters Residence.
Next up is Macksville where you'll find Mary Boulton's Pioneer Cottage (recreation of early settlers buildings), more beautiful surf beaches and some great fishing in the Nambucca River.
At Nambucca Heads more of the North Coast's beautiful unspoilt beaches await you, so why not enjoy them via the Lions Riverfront Walk where you can see the very unusual Vee wall (a concrete breakwater where holidaymakers have recorded their impressions of the town). The history of the town and region can be seen at the Historical Society Museum (historical records, photographs, aboriginal artefacts, pioneer built Bullock Wagon) while nearby Gordon Park rainforest will delight many.
The town of Urunga has the Honey Place where you can see busy bees at work in glass hives, see honey extraction being done and walk amongst the lush fernery on the property. Nearby Kalang river where you can catch bream is a great opportunity for fisherman.
Perhaps stop at Sawtell for a round of golf at the Bonville International Golf Club or relax at either Bongil Bongil National Park or Coffs Coast State Park.
Coffs Harbour is definitely worth a pause in your journey. The Big Banana Theme Park Horticultural World with its Big Banana out front has multi-media presentations on the industry as well as an ice-skating rink and toboggan run. Not to be outdone, the Pet Porpoise Pool Oceanarium has Seal and dolphin shows, seal kisses and dolphin handshakes, as well as sharks, reef fish and turtles to view. The miniature Dutch village called the Clog Barn will also prove a delight, whether it's riding the railway or browsing the Dutch pottery and large selection of collectable spoons.
From a historical aspect, take some time to visit George's Gold Mine (a working re-creation of early gold diggings), the Coffs Harbour District Historical Museum, or ride the Glenreagh Mountain Railway. View art at the Coffs Harbour City Gallery or the Bunker Cartoon Gallery (for something slightly different). The Natural history of the area can be see via the Syndicate Ridge Walking Track, Pine Creek State Forest, Bindarri National Park (which includes many spectacular waterfalls) or arranging to visit the Solitary Islands Marine Park (includes sign-posted areas where fishing, diving and collecting are allowed). If you just want to relax the North Coast Regional Botanic Garden, the beautiful pristine beaches or a round of golf at the Coffs Harbour Golf Club may beckon to you.
Next onward is Woolgoolga where you can see the serene Guru Nanak Sikh Temple (one of the first built in Australia), the natural beauty of Wedding Bells State Forest and Yuraygir National Park, more beautiful Beaches and local art on display at the Woolgoolga Art Gallery.
Grafton has some fine art and crafts to see with the Grafton Regional Art Gallery (which includes photographs from the Lindt collection), the Bentleg Market and Gallery (highlighting local artists and craftspeople) and the Clock Tower Gallery. The areas heritage begins to come alive via the Grafton Heritage Trail as well as the Schaeffer House Museum, the Glenreagh Memorial Museum and the beautifully preserved Saraton Theatre Grafton with its historic, iconic interior reflecting the golden age of cinema and where they are still regularly screening films. For Natural wonder consider a visit to Washpool National Park or in the middle of town Susan Island where one half is rainforest and has the largest fruit bat colony in southern hemisphere with a walking track leading to the other half where there are excellent picnicking facilities.
At Maclean visit the Bicentennial Museum and Stone Cottage (folk museum) and walk the Heritage trail. Also to be enjoyed are the Maclean Lookout and Bundjalung National park.