The Slow Lane: Sunshine Coast to Byron Bay

7 highlights from our summer road trip from the Sunshine Coast to Byron Bay. From mile long waves to secret waterholes, fields of sunflowers and 1kg donuts!


I’m Melissa (Liss) Connell and this is my personal travel blog. The Slow Lane chronicles my Aussie adventures in my 1974 Kombi, with my furry sidekick Sandy. As the co-founder of Exploring Eden Media, I write articles (and post our books) as I travel. Check the postage stamp on your book order and you’ll see where I am right now!

rainbow beach surfing
Three’s a party! Pic by me (Liss Connell)
sunshine coast road trip
Fields of gold. Pic by me.

Top 7 Highlights: Byron Bay to Sunshine Coast summer roadtrip

I purchased a 1974 Kombi last year. Wattle yellow in colour, I named her ‘Happy’. She cruises at 80km per hour top speed, forcing me to slow down and enjoy the passing scenery. With my younger brother, Scotty, visiting from the Kimberley over the summer, a group of us decided to hit the road north to the Sunny Coast for a few weeks of surf and sun. Following are 7 highlights from our road trip from Byron Bay – Sunshine Coast – Byron Bay.

byron bay road trip
double island point surfing
Renae, me, Hanna and Rachel. Pic by Scotty.

1. Rainbow Beach

Pack your 4×4 and longboard. If you score Rainbow during decent swell, you’ll have the surf of your life. After parking up the Kombi in the main street, we bought ice, meat and fresh produce from Rainbow Beach township; found a great dog sitter (thanks to the visitor centre’s recommendation) ; and carpooled into the 4wd’s to head down the beach at low tide. This beach is for serious 4wder’s only. It claims more cars each year than any other Aussie beach! We camped for a week and scored fun surf the whole time.

double island point surf trip
Me in my ‘happy place’. Pic by Rachel Woodward (thanks Rach!)
sunshine coast surfing
Nick. Pic by Renae Saxby.

2. Fig Tree walk

6km from Kenilworth in the Sunny Coast hinterland you’ll find this gorgeous 45 minute walking circuit. We just walked part way in, taking time to stop and soak up the good vibrations of the forest. These Moreton Bay figs are over 150 years old, their buttress roots spreading across the ground of the forest. There’s a gorgeous swimming spot close by, under the bridge, in the Mary River. There’s great tucker in the nearby town of Kenilworth, including the bakery where they sell one kilo $20 donuts (yep, you read that correctly).

byron bay to brisbane road trip
Sandy and I, mesmerised. Pic by Hanna Axleson.
brisbane swimming holes
Swimming under the bridge. Pic by Hanna Axleson.

3. Finding waterholes along the Mary River

One of the real highlights of the Sunny Coast’s hinterland is the Mary River and all of its associated waterholes. We pulled off the main road and followed a little track down to the river, giving our cars a wash (the 4wd’s needed it after spending a week on Rainbow Beach). I took the Kombi in for its first water crossing. We spent a bit of time at this magic little spot, joined only by 1 other car – a local dad and his two boys.

brisbane free camping
Hanna relaxing by the Mary River. Pic by Rachel Woodward.
brisbane to byron bay road trip
Water crossing, pic by Scotty.
sunshine coast free camping
The ultimate set-up. Pic by me.

4. Kondalilla Falls

The walk in to the waterfall was as gorgeous as the waterfall itself! All up, the circuit is 4.7km return with lots of stairs to navigate. Come early as this spot packs a crowd in the summer time. While you’re out this way, be sure to drop in to the arty town of Montville.

brisbane swimming holes
Forest bathing. Both pics by Greg Loughlin.
brisbane swimming holes kondalilla falls
Contemplation … Rach and Hanna.

5. Hell Town Hotrods

Classic car enthusiasts, eat your heart out. This double storey museum and retro diner is unmissable, on the Old Bruce Highway at Kybong just south of Gympie. Listen to live music in the house truck stage out in the beer gardens, or browse the endless memorabilia inside. There’s also a retro motorbike shop next door. If the dinosaur out the front looks familiar, well you may have seen it at its previous home … Dreamworld!

Hell Town hotrods
Sandy paws-es to admire this retro Beetle. Pic by me.
Hell Town Hotrods. Pic by me.

6. The Sunflower Trail

For something different on your drive south, head inland from the Gold Coast to find the Sunflower Route. This trail stretches between the towns of Allora and Warwick, with fields of gold generally in bloom from late December through to March, depending on the rainfall. Give Warwick Visitor Information Centre a buzz before you head out there to make sure they’re in bloom ph 07 4661 3122.

Pic by me.

7. The Lavender Farm

Karoomba Lavender Farm is a worthy lunch stop for delicious food (try the lavender icecream!) with stunning views of the Scenic Rim mountains. It’s also a vineyard and wedding venue. We didn’t call ahead and we arrived to find that none of the lavender was in bloom. Anyhow, I’m glad we stopped in as it was a nice way to break up the journey south and to experience somewhere new.

karoomba lavender farm
Eyes on the prize. Pics by me.
karoomba lavender farm
‘We see you!’
Horsing around on a friend’s farm on the Gold Coast. Pic by Rachel Woodward.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this little journey in ‘the slow lane’. Come back soon, as I will be continuing this blog series as I travel to the Kimberley, Western Australia. And if you have any tips for other spots to see between the Sunny Coast and Byron, leave them in the comments below 🙂

Where to next?
Inside my Kombi. Both pics by me.

Feature image by Renae Saxby (thanks, Ren!).

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