Things to see and do driving from Brisbane to Cairns

(Mission Beach)

The Pacific Coast Brisbane to Cairns


Escape to the tropics in Tropical North Queensland on a five-day, 1700km drive from Brisbane to lush and steamy Cairns. Head north to Bundaberg via the Sunshine Coast.

If you’ve got kids, take them to see the crocodile hunter at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo (RIGHT), or introduce them to the wonders of the deep at Mooloolaba’s Under Water World. If you’re not in a rush – and you shouldn’t be on this trip because there are so many terrific things to see and do. 

Spend at least a lazy day paddling the waterways around Noosa; Cooloola is considered one of the best canoeing spots in Australia and the tannin-stained water of the upper Noosa River is famous for its spectacular reflections.

Then it’s north to Bundaberg, home to the famous Bundy rum – you can tour the distillery, visit offshore coral cay islands such as Lady Musgrove or Lady Elliot, Mon Repos turtle rookery or wander around the impressive historic buildings in the centre of town before hitting the road again up to Rockhampton, Beef Capital of Australia.

Stop at Cape Hillsborough, north of Mackay. Surrounded by national park, it’s a nature lover’s paradise – but be warned, you may have to fight the local wallabies for space on the beach. Continue north to Bowen, gateway to the Whitsundays. It’s an undiscovered paradise with dozens of unspoiled bays and beaches and a great place to explore the stunning coral of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

At Townsville, take the car ferry to Magnetic Island and spend a day or two relaxing – or for a change of pace head for Horseshoe Bay on the far side of the island for a little bit of jet ski action or some horse riding along the beach.

Leaving Townsville, the countryside gets greener as you head into sugarcane country. Spend a night in the historic country town of Ingham and take a 40min detour to one of the north’s little known wonders, Wallaman Falls, the biggest single-drop waterfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

If you have the time on the final 233km leg to Cairns, head to Hinchinbrook Island, stop at Mission Beach and check out the Spanish castle ruins and rainforest gardens at Paronella Park.


Length: 1715km


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