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East Coast Adventure: Brisbane to Cairns

Total Distance: 1700 kms

This road trip involves some pretty lengthy distances, so if you have time on your side feel free to break them up as you wish. It takes you up the Queensland East Coast, past the sunny surfing spots in the south to the Great Barrier Reef country in the north, showing you all the sights on the way.
  • Day 1: Brisbane to Sunshine Coast 150 km
  • Day 2: Sunshine Coast to Hervey Bay/Fraser Island 150 km
  • Day 3 and 4: Hervey Bay/Fraser Island to Rockhampton 394 km
  • Day 5 and 6: Rockhampton to Airlie Beach/Whitsundays 481 km
  • Day 7: Airlie Beach to Townsville 287km
  • Day 8: Townsville to Cairns 349 km
Day 1: Brisbane to Sunshine Coast 150 km
Just a short run up the highway from Brisbane is the Sunshine Coast, a strip of gorgeous beaches that borders a lush, green hinterland. Leave early so as to enjoy as much time as possible in this special part of Australia. Soak up the laid back vibe in pretty coastal suburbs such as Caloundra, Maroochydore and Noosa, and enjoy a surf in the renowned swell of the Sunny Coast. There are plenty of places to park up your campervan and spend the night, but we would suggest staying in Noosa as its on the northern end of the coast and leaves you with less distance to travel next.
Day 2: Sunshine Coast to Fraser Island 150 km
Renowned as being the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island is a popular tourist destination. Accessible by ferry from Hervey Bay, you need to know that only 4WD vehicles can access the island because of the sandy road conditions. There are a number of designated camping regions on the island, but remember to pay your fees to the Rangers. Enjoy touring through the thick and lush forests, and definitely pay a visit to the fresh water lakes in the centre of it. If you don't make it to the island and stay in Hervey Bay, then hire a tinny and enjoy some good fishing. If its whale season then you are in the right place- this is the whale watching capital of Australia!
Day 3 and 4: Fraser Island to Rockhampton 394 km
If you do make it to Fraser Island you will need to spend a couple of days there to fully appreciate it. Once you are back on the mainland then its off north once again to your next stop, Rockhampton. 'Rocky' is the capital of beef farming in Australia, so you are bound to enjoy a good steak here. They often hold rodeos in town, which are good fun to watch. The town sits on the banks of the Fitzroy River, which is very popular amongst fishermen for the large populations of Barramundi that inhabit it.
Day 5 and 6: Rockhampton to Airlie Beach 481 km
This is the longest stretch of your drive, and you will notice the scenery beginning to get more tropical as you proceed. That said there is not much to see on the way although you could pull into Mackay for a break. Airlie Beach is a couple of hours north of Mackay, take the sign posted right turn at Proserpine. Known as the gateway to the Whitsunday islands, Airlie is a popular tourist town especially among the younger generation of travellers. It has a buzzing nightlife and a wide range of activities, and is a good base from which to pursue aquatic activities such as snorkelling, sailing and scuba diving. The Great Barrier Reef is also accessible from here.
Day 7: Airlie Beach to Townsville 287km
Leaving Airlie, retrace your steps to Proserpine and continue north once more to Townsville. This friendly town boasts some beautiful beaches and a newly refurbished esplanade, but undoubtedly the chief attraction is Magnetic Island. Easily reached by a short ferry ride this tropical island boasts numerous beaches, secluded bays and walking trails. There are a number of places to stay and its well worth a look.
Day 8: Townsville to Cairns 349 km
This last stretch towards Cairns takes you through some very tropical landscapes. If you want a diversion then turn off at Tully and visit Mission Beach, a lush tropical hideaway where the jungle encroaches right onto the beachfront. To continue up to Cairns get back onto the A1 and head north past Innisfail where you will see fields of bananas. Cairns is a busy tourist town, a thriving centre where you can organise trips out to the Great Barrier Reef; north to the Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation; inland to Kuranda and the Atherton Tablelands or simply around the Cairns beaches and coastline. Whatever your chosen pursuit, you are likely to find it here!
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