11 October, 2023
Last updated on 12 October, 2023
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Posted by Spaceships Crew
It's "only" 1,700 km from Brisbane to Cairns. But why go the straight and boring way when you can follow our updated itinerary and turn your road trip into a true Aussie adventure over 14 unforgettable days? Here we go, roadtrippers and backpackers, let's hit the road!
Road trip inspiration: in 14 days from Brisbane to Cairns
Both Brisbane and Cairns have a Spaceships depot, in case you haven't booked your wheels yet. And as we don't charge one-way fees it's just as cheap to drop off your campervan at the same depot or at another depot. Easy as. Compare all campervans and find the best one for your road trip. Then hop on board, it's time to have some fun on the road. Check out our Brisbane to Cairns itinerary. Oh and if you don't have the time to do the full route you can shorten it by going from Brisbane to Airlie Beach.
Before you start your road trip, make sure you have soaked up everything Brisbane has to offer. Check out local breweries like Newstead Brewing Co., Green Beacon Brewing Co., or the iconic XXXX Brewery. For foodies, Eat Street Northshore is a must, offering a smorgasbord of cuisines in a lively, festive atmosphere.
It's good to know that Brisbane also has a thriving vegan scene. Visit 'The Green Edge' for a variety of vegan groceries and an excellent cafe. 'Charlie's Raw Squeeze' is an all-vegan smoothie bar with multiple locations. 'Loving Hut' serves vegan Asian cuisine.
Day 1: Brisbane to Noosa(1.5 Hours drive)
Kick off from Brisbane and head to Noosa, but not before making a pit stop at the surreal Glasshouse Mountains. While you're there, pay a visit to Australia Zoo, the legacy of Steve Irwin, and immerse yourself in Australia's unique wildlife. Once you reach Noosa, unwind at the stunning beach or embark on a thrilling Everglades kayaking adventure!
Try local seafood at Noosa Boathouse, or visit Noosa Farmers Market for fresh produce and gourmet goodies. You might also want to explore craft beers at Land & Sea Brewery.
Or go for a surf lesson, or a scenic flight or see the area from above when you go skydiving. There is so much to see and heaps to do in Noosa, so check out this list of activities and deals to make the most of your time in Noosa.
Try local seafood in Noosa or visit the Farmers Market for fresh produce and gourmet goodies.
Day 2: Noosa to Rainbow Beach (2 Hours drive)
Start your day early with a peaceful stroll through Noosa National Park – you might get lucky and spot koalas, turtles, and dolphins! Later, make your way to Rainbow Beach in time to check in for your K'Gari (Fraser Island) Tour, the adventure of a lifetime.
Make sure you book your tour in time to get the best deal. K'Gari - formerly known as Fraser Island - is a unique World Heritage-listed island. A visit to K'Gari offers a unique blend of natural beauty, ecological significance, and cultural heritage.
Day 3, 4 & 5: K'Gari (Fraser Island)
No East Coast trip is complete without a visit to K'Gari, the world's largest sand island: 1,840 square kilometres. It's a marvel of sand dunes, rainforests, freshwater lakes, and over 120 kilometres of stunning beaches. Enjoy a refreshing swim at the Champagne Pools, lounge by Lake Mackenzie, and experience a unique camping experience, perhaps even dining with dingos.
By going for 3 days you can get a much better impression of this unique island and that's why you came to Australia, isn't it? You don't want to miss out on iconic 75 Mile Beach or any of the more hidden gems.
Day 6: Rainbow Beach to 1770 (4hrs drive or 4.5 hours through Tin Can Bay)
Take off from Rainbow Beach, making a quick detour to Tin Can Bay for an unforgettable dolphin-feeding experience. Continue to 1770 via Bundaberg, maybe even stopping at the Bundaberg Rum Distillery for a tour and a tasting. Bundaberg is well-known for its rum, but it also has the Bargara Brewing Company. Visit their Brewhouse for craft beers and a tasty menu. Don't forget to try Bundaberg's famous ginger beer as well!
Remember, 1770 is the start of the Great Barrier Reef & your last chance to catch a wave!
Day 7: 1770 to Emu Beach (3.5 Hours Drive)
Start the day with the famous Scooteroo tour in 1770. Then, head for Emu Beach and bask in the warm hospitality of Emu Beach Resort. It's the perfect place to rejuvenate before the lively scene at Airlie Beach. Check out 1770 Distillery which creates liqueurs from local fruits.
Day 8 - Emu Beach to Airlie Beach (5.5 hours)
Set off on a significant drive to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the stunning Whitsunday Islands. Airlie Beach is a vibrant town with plenty to do and see. Airlie Beach is also an excellent destination for foodies, known for its fresh seafood, vibrant café culture, and innovative cuisine. With its beautiful waterfront setting and relaxed atmosphere, the town provides the perfect backdrop for enjoyable dining experiences.
Being a coastal town, Airlie Beach is famous for its fresh seafood. You'll find an array of restaurants serving everything from prawns and oysters to locally caught barramundi and coral trout. For an entirely vegetarian/vegan menu, check out 'Little Vegas Burger & Bar'.
Airlie Beach has a vibrant nightlife scene with many bars and pubs, some of which offer live music. Enjoy a drink while taking in the beach views. Whitsundays Brewing Company offers craft beer fans a selection of artisan beers.
Australians take their coffee seriously, and Airlie Beach is no exception. There are numerous cosy cafes where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast along with your flat white or long black.
Day 9, 10 & 11: Whitsunday Islands sailing
Hop on one of the many boats - make sure to book in advance for the best deal and guaranteed availability - that navigate the 75 tropical islands within the Great Barrier Reef. Explore the breathtaking reef through snorkelling or scuba diving, or relax on Whitehaven Beach, one of the world's most beautiful beaches. As the day concludes, enjoy the tropical sunset with a cocktail on the deck of your boat.
Explore the 75 tropical islands within the Great Barrier Reef
Day 12: Airlie Beach to Magnetic Island (3.25 hours)
From Airlie, head to Townsville and catch the short ferry ride to the picturesque Magnetic Island, a place where pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and abundant wildlife await. Half of the island is covered by national parks, Magnetic Island boasts rocky granite headlands, dense eucalyptus forests, and stunning sandy bays.
If natural beauty, wildlife spotting opportunities, a relaxed atmosphere, and a blend of leisure and adventure activities is what you are looking for, then Magnetic Island is definitely worth adding to your road trip. It is not as popular as other major sights and attractions in Australia, but don't let that stop you from experiencing Magnetic Island.
Day 13: Magnetic Island to Atherton Tableland (4hrs - Mission Beach 3hrs)
Return to the mainland and drive north, either inland to the Atherton Tablelands or along the coast to Mission Beach. The Atherton Tablelands is a feast for the senses with its world heritage rainforests, waterfalls, national parks, and crater lakes. If you choose Mission Beach, prepare for adrenaline-pumping activities such as skydiving or white-water rafting on the Tully River.
Day 14: Atherton Tablelands to Cairns (2 hours)
Make your final drive to Cairns, where you can bid farewell to your Spaceship. But don't rush off yet – Cairns is teeming with things to do and see, so consider extending your adventure! Dive Great Barrier Reef, explore the Daintree Rainforest, or simply soak in the local culture. Your road trip may be over, but your Aussie adventure continues!
Make sure to visit Hemingway's Brewery for its award-winning craft beers and delicious food overlooking the marina. The city's Night Markets are also a must-visit for foodies. Cairns is also quite vegan-friendly. 'Loving Hut' offers a wide range of vegan Asian-fusion dishes, while 'Laneway Green' serves up a mostly vegan menu of breakfast, lunch dishes, and great coffee.
And that's how to travel from Brisbane to Cairns the fun way
Is the Brisbane to Cairns road trip a must-see?
The Brisbane to Cairns route is a fantastic trip to do, especially for first-time travellers to Australia. It's rich with diverse landscapes, unique wildlife, beautiful beaches, and great opportunities for adventure activities. This route allows you to see a broad cross-section of what Australia's East Coast has to offer.
Best time of the year to do a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns
The best time to blast off into the Aussie outer space for a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns is during the Australian winter. And as you might know, the Australian winter spans from June to August. During this period, the weather is generally mild and pleasant, particularly in Queensland. Daytime temperatures typically hover around 20-25°C (68-77°F), making it comfortable for sightseeing and outdoor activities. This period also falls outside of the rainy season, reducing the chances of encountering tropical storms or cyclones, especially in the far north near Cairns.
If you can't travel during winter, the shoulder seasons (autumn: March-May, and spring: September-November) can also be a good time to go, as temperatures are still relatively mild, especially in the south, and the crowds from peak travel periods (summer and winter) are less.
However, bear in mind that the "stinger" season (when dangerous jellyfish are prevalent in the waters) in North Queensland runs roughly from November to May. If you plan to swim, snorkel, or dive in the ocean, particularly in the Great Barrier Reef, this is an important consideration. Stinger suits can be rented to protect against jellyfish stings, but the risk is still there.