Brisbane >> Cairns

Brisbane to Cairns was without a doubt, our most favourite part of this East Coast Trip. You’ll see every kind of landscape in the Far North, from tropical beaches to rainforests and arid dry fields. The good news is, there are LOADS more free campsites in the northern half of Queensland too, making adventuring even more budget-friendly.

Approx Time Frame:

Distance covered: 2,412km

Time spent continuous driving: 24 hours 40 minutes

*Approx. Time frame doesn’t take in to account choosing to stay longer at places, skipping destinations or traffic/weather issues that may occur or stopping off at additional places.

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Bribie Island

Reason to visit: Coastal walks // nature // wildlife // Sports // Festivals

Time from Brisbane: 1 hour 35 minutes

Time from Cairns: 18 hours 46 minutes

Time spent here: 1 day

Things to do: Visit Bulcock Beach // look for migrating birds // skydive // see the markets // take a ferry cruise and spot dolphins

(1 hours 6 minutes to the next stop)

Australia Zoo

Reason to visit: Educational // animal conservation // Steve Irwin memorial

Time from Brisbane: 1 hour 24 minutes

Time from Cairns: 18 hours

Time spent here: 2 days

Entrance fee: $59 1 day – $87 2 day – $ 99 year pass

– For more info about what we did, see out Australia Zoo post!

Things to do: Buy a2-day pass // explore the park completely // watch the educational shows about conservation

( 10 minutes to the next stop)

Koala Family sleeping at Australia Zoo - just part of the photo diary showcasing why you should visit Australia Zoo on a two day pass

The Glass House Mountains

Reason to visit: Unique mountain ranges // wildlife // walks // scenery // sport

Time from Brisbane: 1 hour 10 minutes

Time from Cairns: 18 hours

Time spent here: 1 day

Things to do: Mount Ngungun summit walking track // Tibrogaran Walking Circuit // get the best views at Wild Horse Mountain Lookout // visit Bankfoot House Heritage Precinct – an 1860’s building // abseil //

(45 minutes to the next stop)

Sunshine Coast

Reason to visit: Beaches // Big roadside attractions // Theme Parks // Museums // Nature // walks // sport // relax // shopping

Time from Brisbane: 1 hour 50 minutes

Time from Cairns: 17 hours 45 minutes

Time spent here: 1 – 3 days

Things to do: Find the Big Pineapple // Visit Point Cartwright Lighthouse // walk Buderim National Park // go to the Fairy Pools // The Ginger Factory + Museum // hit up Hastings street // Walk Mount Coolum National Park / relax at one of the many beaches // spot whales off the coast

(30 minutes to the next stop)

Noosa

Reason to visit: Nature // wildlife // relax // sport // scenery // walks // galleries // museums // shopping // food + drink

Time from Brisbane: 2 hours 10 minutes

Time from Cairns: 17 hours 45 minutes

Time spent here: 1 day

Entrance fee: $7 for the ferry to North Noosa beaches (worth it!)

Things to do: Kayak the everglades // walk Noosa heads // take a trip to North Noosa // go whale watching (for free, off the coast or join a tour) // go to Noosa regional gallery // visit the Majestic Theatre, the worlds only authentic silent film theatre // explore Eumundi Square + Vintage Square // try locally sourced seafood // walk Noosa Spit

(1 hour 45 minutes to the next stop)

Rainbow Beach

Reason to visit: Unique beaches // to get to Fraser Island

Time from Brisbane: 2 hours 45 minutes

Time from Cairns: 17 hours

Time spent here: 1-day max

Camping fees: There’s a free camp about 10 minutes outside of town, or it’s $6.55pp/pn to camp at Inskip Point NP campsite.

Things to do: Walk to the Rainbow Sand Dunes // watch whales in the shallows

Find out who we rented our 4×4 from to do a self-tour of Fraser Island here.

(10 minutes by ferry *4×4 only* to Fraser Island)

Fraser Island

Reason to visit: wildlife // natural wonder // beaches // sports // adventure

Time from Brisbane: 3 hours

Time from Cairns: 17 hours

Time spent here: 3 days

Entrance fee*: $120 return ferry fee from Rainbow Beach (4×4 only)

Camping fee*: $6.55 per person/per night + $51.60 beach permit

*These prices are for self-drive tours only. Guided tours will be different.

Things to do: Visit Indian Head lookout // check out the inland perched lakes // spot whales, sharks and manta ray off the coast // DON’T SWIM IN THE SEA // see the pinnacles // spot dingos // watch the sunrise // swim at Elly Creek // explore SS Maheno // relax in the Champagne Pools // walk to lake Allom // explore the moving sand dunes

For more – see our Fraser Island Itinerary

(1 hour 30 minutes to the next stop – from Rainbow beach)

Hervey Bay

Reason to visit: Nature // wildlife // to get to Fraser Island // shopping // museums

Time from Brisbane: 3 hours 20 minutes

Time from Cairns: 16 hours

Time spent here: 3 hours – 1 day

Things to do: Take a whale watching tour // spot whales for free // catch the ferry to Fraser Island // relax on the beach // walk or cycle the esplanade // walk down Urangan Pier // visit the Botanical Gardens // grab something unique at the markets // go to the waterpark // visit Hervey Bay Historical Village + museum

(1 hour 20 minutes to the next stop)

Bundaberg

Reason to visit: Giant roadside attraction // tours // food + drink // galleries // wildlife // relax // scenery

Time from Brisbane: 4 hours 30 minutes

Time from Cairns: 15 hours

Time spent here: 2 – 3 hours

Free Camping: You’ll find one here with BBQ’s and Toilets

Things to do: find the Big Bundaberg Bottle // relax on Woodgate beach // take a rum distillery tour // do a gin tour // walk to the top of The Hummock – an extinct volcano // visit Bundaberg Art Gallery // walk through riverside parks // watch out for hatching turtles during the season

(1 hour 30 minutes to the next stop)

1770 + Agnes Waters

Reason to visit: Nature // wildlife // walks // scenery // relax // sports

Time from Brisbane: 5 hours 25 minutes

Time from Cairns: 14 hours 10 minutes

Time spent here: 3 days

Things to do: Paperbark Forest Boardwalk – HUGE butterfly colony here // go to Lady Musgrave Island // visit Cooks Monument // walk to Headland’s lookout // learn to surf // watch the sunset // kayak or paddleboard in one of the bays // visit deepwater National Park

(1 hour 30 minutes to the next stop)

Gladstone

Reason to visit: Industrial Architecture // tours // sports

Time from Brisbane: 6 hours

Time from Cairns: 13 hours

Time spent here: 1 hour

Things to do: Visit one of the many Islands – Middle Island, Lady Musgrave Island or Heron Island // take a snorkelling tour // Visit the Aluminium factory lookout and see the industrial structures from above

(1 hour 15 minutes to the next stop)

Rockhampton

Reason to visit: Food + Drink // nature // scenery // galleries //  history // museums //

Time from Brisbane: 7 hours

Time from Cairns: 11 hours 45 minutes

Time spent here: 1 day

Free Camping: You’ll find one here with BBQ’s and toilets

Things to do: Try a burger in Australia’s beef capital // visit the Capricorn Caves // walk Mount Archer national park // explore the botanical gardens // discover the heritage village // walk Mount Etna Caves National Park // visit the Dreamtime Cultural Centre // get lost in the art Gallery // relax in Kershaw gardens // go to Rockhampton Zoo

(5 hours 15 minutes to the next stop)

Airlie Beach

Reason to visit: to get to the Whitsundays // beautiful beaches // sports // relax // tours // shopping // food + drink

Time from Brisbane: 12 hours 25 minutes

Time from Cairns: 7 hours 20 minutes

Time spent here: 2 days (+ 3 days for a Whitsundays tour)

Things to do: go to the Whitsundays // take a boat tour // snorkel //  learn to scuba dive // relax on Airlie Beach // join in the Cane Toad races at Magnums // walk to Cannonvale // grab a bargain at Airlie Beach Markets //

(3 hours 5 minutes to the next stop)

Townsville

Reason to visit: Nature // relax // free travel hub inc. showers // museum // history // to get to Magnetic Island

Time from Brisbane: 14 hours 45 minutes

Time from Cairns: 4 hours 10 minutes

Time spent here: 1 – 2 days (plus 1 – 3 days for Magnetic Island)

Free camping option: BP service station + rest stop

Things to do: Relax at the free infinity pool (with free hot showers) at river ways art centre // visit the Museum of Tropical Queensland // walk up Castle Hill // explore the botanical gardens // walk the river // explore The Strand // walk around the Billabong Sanctuary // go the Jezzine Barracks // climb Mount Stuart // go to Magnetic Island // go to kissing point Fortification // visit the RAAF Museum

(2 hours 20 minutes to the next stop)

The views from the top of Castle Hill

Wallaman Falls

Reason to visit: Australia’s tallest single drop waterfall // walks // wildlife // scenery

Time from Brisbane: 16 hours 40 minutes

Time from Cairns: 3 hours 50 minutes

Time spent here: 2 – 5 hours

Camping fee: $6.55 per person per night (at the Wallaman Falls National Park campgrounds)

Things to do: Do the full 3 hours loop track into the valley // swim in the 20m plunge pool // explore the lookouts

(2 hours 25 minutes to the next stop)

Mission Beach

Reason to visit: Wildlife // beaches // relax // sports // big roadside attractions

Time from Brisbane: 17 hours 30 minutes

Time from Cairns: 2 hours

Time spent here: 1 – 3 hours

Free camping: You’ll find one here with toilets and showers

Things to do: Look for cassowary on the beaches // find the giant roadside cassowary // do the Mamu skywalk // visit Paronella Park // go to the Historical village in Herbert // explore Tully Gorge // Kayak // white water raft at Tully Gorge // snorkel // take a trip to the Great Barrier Reef // do a tropical fruit tour // walk Clump Mountain National Park // do the Kennedy walking track //

(40 minutes to the next stop)

Etty Bay

Reason to visit: Wildlife // food + drink // relax // sport

Time from Brisbane: 17 hours 45 minutes

Time from Cairns: 1 hour 25 minutes

Time spent here: 1 day

Things to do: Spot cassowary on the beach (almost guaranteed sighting) // have fish and chips on the seafront // relax on the beach // explore the coves // go fishing

(30 minutes to the next stop)

Eubenangee Swamp

Reason to visit: wildlife // scenery

Time from Brisbane:  18 hours 5 minutes

Time from Cairns: 1 hour 10 minutes

Time spent here: 1 – 3 hours

Things to do: Spot wild giant saltwater crocodiles // see an abundant of wild water birds // take in the views of Mount Bartle Frere.

(1 hour 25 minutes to the next stop)

Atherton Tablelands

Reason to visit: Nature // wildlife // walking // camping // sports // scenery

Time from Brisbane: 19 hours

Time from Cairns: 1 hour 25 minutes

Time spent here: 1 – 3 days

Free Camping: You’ll find one here with showers, drinking water and toilets

Things to do: Visit as many waterfalls as possible – Nandroya, Mungalli, Millaa Millaa, Elinjaa, Zillie, to name a few // spot wild platypus // visit the cathedral fig tree // find wild tree kangaroo // go to the curtain fig tree // walk around Jumrum creek conservation park // go to Chillago-Mungana caves // do the Peterson creek walking trail (and spot platypus) // visit Lake Eacham crater lake // walk Mount Bartle Frere

(50 minutes to the next stop)

Kuranda

Reason to visit: nature // history // culture // walks // wildlife // museums // galleries // shopping

Time from Brisbane: 19 hours 20 minutes

Time from Cairns: 30 minutes

Time spent here: 1 – 2 days

Things to do: visit Barron Falls // take the sky rail through Barron Gorge National Park // do on elf the short hikes through Barron Gorge National Park // visit the Butterfly sanctuary // go to Kuranda Koala gardens // visit Stoney creek falls // visit the heritage and rainforest markets // go to Yorkeys nob // go to Emu Ridge fossil gallery // visit palm beach

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