How to have a stress-free driving holiday

Beach with palm tree
Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park sits on the waterfront of the beautiful Tallebudgera Estuary

Thinking about a family holiday on the Gold Coast (or any spot across Australia?). You can make it a stress- free driving holiday by skipping the plane and seeing a lot of our expansive brown land along the way (and then relax at a family-friendly hotel at your destination!)

A driving holiday to Queensland can be a low-cost way to travel, while giving you the chance to kick back at country pubs for lunch breaks, stop for a splash at a water park, scoop up some homemade cakes at a local bakery or shop along quaint small town shopping strips.

Advantages of driving

Although it can sometimes test your patience, you can easily break the journey up along the way and see some cool sights while you’re stopped! Try an itinerary like this to ensure you’re making the most of the trip.

  • Sydney to Surfers Paradise (9 hours) for 5 nights
  • Surfers Paradise to Noosa (3 hours) for 7 nights
  • Noosa to Port Macquarie (8 hours) for 2 nights
  • Port Macquarie to Sydney (4 hours)
  1. You’ll save money on flights (particularly good during peak times like school holidays & long weekends)
  2. You’ll save money on car hire (and hiring car seats too!), and you have your own car when you get to your destination!
  3. You can easily take bulky items like bikes, scooters, boards, high chairs, prams etc.
  4. And to be honest, it doesn’t take too much more time than flying (depending on the destination, of course). Even though the flight time may only be an hour, it usually ends up being 5 hours door-to-door by the time you factor in getting to the airport, checking in, waiting around, flying, waiting for luggage, getting hire car or transfers etc. So driving somewhere like Byron Bay only ends up taking a couple more hours than flying would!
  5. You can stop along the way at affordable family-friendly hotels (book in advance, with planned stops to look forward to). You can easily select a hotel along the route using this searchable hotel database- just enter your dates and destination then choose your fave!

Travel Sydney to Surfers Paradise and stop at a family hotel like the Novotel (pictured)

You’ll love a minibreak on the way (pictured is the view at Ibis Styles Port Macquaire)

Tips for driving long distances with kids

To minimise stress in the car, there are a few tips to help you prepare for the big drive. They should hopefully provide a few ideas if you’re considering a driving holiday anytime soon (or even if you’re just heading a couple of hours out of Sydney!).

In order to minimise the ‘Mum, I’m bored’ or ‘Are we there yet?’ questions, keeping the kids entertained is one of the most important things you need to prepare for. A few ideas…

  • Tablets: This is the time when any rules about digital devices and screen time no longer apply! Load iPads with movies and apps, plus games
  • DVDs: An older ‘vintage’ portable DVD player will do the trick (no need for fancy new players!). Attach screens to the back of headrests and pack a DVD holder with a selection of DVDs to watch. Some of the newer cars even have these in-built, so you don’t need to deal with the cords and set up!
  • Audiobooks: Audiobooks are great, particularly if your child is prone to feeling car-sick. Either pop it on the main entertainment system in the car for everyone to hear or download them to digital devices so they can listen on headphones. Our kids (aged 4-9 years) all love the Roald Dahl series
  • Activity Books: A new age-appropriate activity book such as colouring in, puzzles or clip board with blank paper for drawing, plus a little pencil case

Audiobooks are a great entertainment option

Don’t forget:

  • Headphones: A set of headphones for each child, so there’s not a huge sound clash and you don’t need to listen to their entertainment too!
  • Charging devices: You’ll likely run out of battery on the digital devices, so be sure to pack any portable charging devices or USB cords to keep the entertainment rolling.
  • Snacks: It’s amazing how “hungry” kids can get when they are sitting still for hours on end! Pack a big bag full of a variety of food – from chopped up fruit and vegies in big plastic containers, to the standard pre-packaged crackers, biscuits & bars. Don’t forget a bottle of chilled water for everyone too!
  • Wipes: To keep yourself sane (and clean) pack a supply of things like baby wipes, tissues, plastic bags & even disinfectant wipes for spills.
  • Toilet breaks: Make everyone go before you leave. Even if they don’t think they need to go! There’s nothing worse than a “Mummy, I need to go to the toilet” 30 minutes into a big drive. And if you make any loo stops along the way, again make sure everyone goes even if they don’t think they need to. Guaranteed, they will need to go in 15 minutes after you’ve left, and you’ll be cursing yourself for not making them go beforehand
  • Car Safety: Keep your family safe! If you’re going on a big driving holiday, make sure you’re up to date with your car servicing. If you’re due for a service soon, there’s definitely no harm in booking it before you go. Also check things like car tyre pressure and fill up the tank with petrol the day before, so you’re ready to roll!
  • Book accommodation in advance: There’s nothing like arriving to a welcoming room with fresh linen and a hot shower to enjoy after a long drive. Make sure you’re heading somewhere that understands families. We suggest searching here to find the perfect match for your family’s stay.

Pop tissues, wipes and bags in a handy spot like the glove box to keep yourselves tidy en route!

The fun part! Stuff to do and see:

Discover the strange, the shocking, and beautiful Ripleys Believe It Or Not in Surfers Paradise. Enjoy some eye-popping exhibits where you can pose with the tallest man, view a real vampire killing kit, and even see a shrunken head! The array of weird will leave you spellbound. You’ve found your one-stop family fun in Surfers Paradise, Australia!

Discover the strange, the shocking, and beautiful Ripleys Believe It Or Not in Surfers Paradise.

Take a drive up the mountains to O’Reilly’s Gold Coast Hinterland Rainforest Retreat to feed the King Parrots and Rosellas.

Rainforest walk

Journey into the rainforest at O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk. PIC: IG/twodogsphotography1

Book a hotel near Burleigh, where you can chill on the beach or, if you’re feeling a little energetic, you can walk the easy 40-min Burleigh Head National Park  hike. For more natural beauty, bathe in the shallow waters of Tallebudgera or visit Currumbin Creek, Currumbin Rockpools, and take the Treetop Challenge  at the Wildlife Sanctuary.


Beach with palm tree

Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park sits on the waterfront of the beautiful Tallebudgera Estuary

More Gold Coast fun:

  • Top Golf: At Topgolf, you’ll hit micro-chipped golf balls into giant targets on the outfield from your very own bay, scoring points when you hit them
  • Aquaduck: Hop on board the Gold Coast’s iconic ‘Aquaduck’ tour, departing from Cavill Avenue in the heart of Surfers Paradise. Experience the Gold Coast as you never have before on our amphibious ‘Duck’.It’s a spectacular city tour and fun waterways cruise all in one.
  • Air Factory Trampoline Park: Air Factory is a massive factory warehouse converted into an urban adrenaline zone full of wall to wall trampolines and sports training zones.

Got any other tips for driving holidays with kids? We’d love to hear them! Share them below


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