Follow the road north, taking in the fabulous Sunshine Coast, the Whitsundays, Fraser Island, Cairns and the awesome Great Barrier Reef. An adventure-packed trip to the sun that will bring you up close to native flora and fauna, sandy beaches and lush rainforests.
Brisbane to Cairns
Best Time of the Year
All year round
- Australia Zoo
- Noosa Heads
- Main Beach
- Great Barrier Reef
- The Whitsundays
Brisbane to Bundaberg
Distance 362km - Driving Time 5hrs 30min
Just north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is a spectacular region stretching from the seaside town of Caloundra to Noosa’s famous Hasting Street. So take your time and do ‘brunch’ with the locals at Café LeMonde, Cato’s or countless other trendy cafes on the beach strip. Have a swim at Noosa’s famous Main Beach. Optional: on the way to Noosa, detour via Landsborough to visit Australia Zoo – home of the ‘Crocodile Hunter’.
A 40 minute diversion from the Bruce Highway at Maryborough will take you to Hervey Bay, where you can catch a ferry to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island and home to Kingfisher Bay Resort & Village. Fraser Island is a World Heritage Listed National Park with lush rainforests and clear blue-water lakes. It is suggested to take an extra 1 or 2 days to visit Fraser Island. Day tours depart from Hervey Bay, or overnight on the island.
Another ‘hour up the road’ is Bundaberg, gateway to the ‘Coral Coast’. From here you can access the Southern Great Barrier Reef's Lady Elliot Island by flight or travel north to the Town of 1770 where you can access Lady Musgrave Island and Fitzroy Reef Lagoon by launch. Bundaberg has a rich agricultural economic base and is the home of Bundaberg Rum. Mon Repos Beach is the largest mainland turtle rookery in Australia and every year humpback whales pass close to the pristine beaches, which stretch from Woodgate to Bargara.
Bundaberg to Rockhampton
Distance 318km - Driving Time 5hrs 30min
Rockhampton is the gateway to the Capricorn region and bears the proud label of ‘Beef Capital of Australia’, with 2 million cattle within a 50km radius of town. Before departing Rockhampton, stop at the ‘Spire’ to record your crossing of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Rockhampton to Whitsundays
Distance 483km - Driving Time 6hrs
It’s a long drive to the Whitsundays, so break your journey with regular rest stops. The coastal town of Sarina is a good place to stop for lunch and a refreshing swim.
The Whitsundays are one of Australia’s premier holiday destinations and home to many of the island resorts that are synonymous with the Great Barrier Reef. The main town is Airlie Beach, a major departure point for reef excursions, home to many of the sailing and diving operators, and a variety of accommodation styles to suit all budgets. To the south-west of Airlie Beach and Mackay, Eungella National Park, Queensland’s largest rainforest park, allows visitors to view platypus in the wild. The drive through the Pioneer Valley to the park provides spectacular views and many walking tracks.
Whitsundays to Townsville
Distance 285km - Driving Time 3hrs 45min
Townsville is one of Queensland’s premier event destinations, with an exciting annual line up of sporting, aquatic, historical and cultural events. Townsville also provides easy access to the islands of Magnetic, Dunk, Bedarra, Orpheus and Hinchinbrook.
Townsville to Cairns
Distance 348km - Driving Time 4hrs 45min
The route from Townsville to Cairns is known as the Great Green Way with sandy beaches, world heritage rainforests and plunging waterfalls. Some 50km to the west, Australia’s highest waterfall, Wallaman Falls, is an enchanting realm of natural beauty that captivates visitors from all around. It’s worth a detour from the highway. Stop on the way for a picnic at picturesque Josephine Falls Wooroonooran National Park, 75kms south of Cairns.
Cairns to Great Barrier Reef
Cairns is the gateway to Tropical North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef and tropical rainforests. Cairns has a wide range of experiences and activities. Dine at one of the many restaurants and cafes, browse at an art gallery or two or shop to your heart’s delight. If relaxation is what you’re after, visit Cairns’ Northern Beaches of Holloways, Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach, and Palm Cove, or Port Douglas.
Here you can enjoy a village atmosphere and some great beachside dining experiences. Further north are the tropical rainforest and World Heritage Listed National Park areas of the Wet Tropics, including the Daintree River and Cape Tribulation areas. Numerous day touring options are available from Cairns on a daily basis.