12 October, 2019
Last updated on 13 November, 2021
Posted by Spaceships Crew
Planning your road trip in Australia can be overwhelming. The country has so much to offer, where to go first? To help you we've created this awesome itinerary what to do on a Cairns to Brisbane road trip.
Cairns: where it all begins
No need to leave straightaway. Stay a few days and explore Cairns.... And the surrounding area. Have a look at what there is to do and see in Cairns. Enjoy a tasty breakfast and some excellent coffee before exploring Cairns. Head to the Esplanade and go for a swim for free at the Lagoon. Visit the local markets before stopping for another coffee (or something stronger) to plan your Cairns to Brisbane road trip by using these travel tips.
Mission Beach: home of the famous Great Barrier reef
When you take your first break to stretch your legs, why not do it with a pair of flippers on? Mission Beach is a great place to explore, whether or not you slip under the waves to greet the fish and coral of the Great Barrier Reef. In Mission Beach, you can also grab a tasty meal and spend the night in a cosy bed and breakfast. Other options for adventure include exploring the Wet Tropics Rainforest that flanks the town. And when you want to impress your friends and family, you can tell them you visited the home of the velvet worm, which is believed to be a species that is 500 million years old.
Photo opps at the Big Mango
Make sure to stop in Bowen to see the Big Mango. One of the many big items in Australia to visit and to take a few photos.
Make a stop at the Big Mango to take some photos
Airlie Beach: visit the Whitsunday islands
Once you reach Airlie Beach, you’ll definitely want to spend some time exploring the exquisite Whitsunday Islands. One way to wash off the travel grime is a swim in the natural swimming hole at the bottom of Cedar Creek Falls just 30 minutes away in Conway National Park. Or, for a spectacular sunset, drive an hour to Cape Gloucester where the Cape Gloucester Beach Resort merges the white sandy beaches, turquoise waters, and cool drinks for a perfect end of the day moment.
Broken River: watch platypus
Stopping by at Broken River lets you spend a delightful few hours watching platypus play. Normally, shy, the platypus seem to ignore visitors from the viewing decks or Broken River Bridge in Eungella National Park. Other wildlife like turtles often join the fun giving you a whole afternoon of animal entertainment. Eungella also has places to grab a meal or a snack to fuel you for your journey.
Cape Hillsborough: spot kangaroos on the beach
After you wave goodbye to the platypus, your next stop for marsupial meetings is at Cape Hillsborough National Park where kangaroos like to hang out at the beach. These semi-tame creatures usually roam the sand around sunrise, so you have to get up early to get a little kangaroo love. When that visit is over, there are plenty of other sights to take in along the Queensland park’s walking trails. If this is an overnight stay, there are camping options, beach huts, and a beach house in which to catch some zzz's.
Spot kangaroos on the beach and meet these cute locals
Mon Repos: visit baby turtles
Another terrific stop when you are feeling car-weary and shell-shocked is the Mon Repos Turtle Centre in Queensland. Here, the centre works to protect the endangered loggerhead turtle in the place where the greatest number of nesting turtles come in eastern Australia. Spend time learning all about these majestic sea creatures from exhibits and rangers. For an extraordinary experience, make arrangements to be at the centre during the evenings when turtles normally come ashore to lay their eggs.
Mon Repos Turtle Centre is about four and a half hours drive north of Brisbane, 15 minutes east of Bundaberg and 10 minutes from Bargara.
Hervey Bay: see humpback whales
Getting to Hervey Bay will let you spend more time watching undersea creatures, only this time there's breaching involved. Humpback Whales migrate past southern Queensland from July to November, so you can charter a boat to get up close and almost personal. Get your phone out and be ready to get some Instagram-worthy pictures of your afternoon in Hervey Bay.
Hervey Bay Whales in action | photo: Michael Dawes (CC BY NC 2.0)
Fraser Island: play on the largest sand island in the world
Just a few minutes from Hervey Bay is Fraser Island, an amazing sand dune island that boosts complex ecosystems including a rain forest. Listed as a World Heritage Site, Fraser Island can be explored by simply walking its trails or going all in with a formal tour lead by knowledgeable guides. Some of these tours include lodging and meals. Anglers might want to spend some time casting a line from 75-Mile Beach were whiting and bream are just waiting to grab your bait. Along with the wildlife and plants you can experience, the island also offers on the ground lessons in Australian history with offshore shipwrecks and Aboriginal relics.
Rainbow Beach: discover an adventure playground
If you are really sick of car time and need to stretch your legs, Rainbow Beach is a fantastic place for a trail run. Lace-up your favourite shoes and hit the trails that take you past the looming cliffs of Cooloola Coast. You’ll go through shaded forests, past sparkling lakes, and over the unique coloured sands that give the beach its name. If you are really prepared, you can look up the Aborigine story of how those rainbow sands came to be, and then let your feet take you down history’s lane.
Noosa Heads: foodie heaven
Finally, when you are ready to put a bow on your trip, give yourself a bitchin' present and take some surf lessons at Noosa Heads. The Sunshine Coast offers a little gentler surf than the Gold Coast, so you are sure to be hanging ten soon. Afterwards, lift a toast to your adventure at a craft brewery like Heads of Noosa. With carefully crafted beers and a solid menu of pub food, this tour is the best way to tap out.
Foodies will have a great time @ Noosa | photo: Noosa Food Wine (CC BY 2.0)
Mooloolaba: time to relax
When it is time to call time-out on your journey, Mooloolaba is the place to take a break. Pull up a bench at The Wharf Mooloolaba, take a deep breath, and simply watch all the going's on of the beautiful coastline. With plenty of dining options and local entertainment, you are sure to be satisfied, both body and soul. When it’s time to stretch those legs, you can indulge in a little retail therapy and find just the right souvenir to remind you of your coastline adventures.
Brisbane: all good things come to an end
Soon you will be driving across the Brisbane city line, meaning your Cairns to Brisbane road trip has come to an end. But it doesn't have to end here. Brisbane is another great place worth spending a few more days. Climb the historic Story Bridge and take some awesome photos from it. Have a look at our blog post about Brisbane for more info what to so and see there.
Or add some extra days to your road trip to explore the surrounding area. Several natural waterfalls and swimming holes can be found nearby. Maybe even continue from here and finish your road trip in Sydney. Just make sure you have booked your Spaceships campervan road trip correctly, so your one-way road trip ends at the right depot. There are no one-way fees at Spaceships, so you can book your one-way road trip just the way you like it, from Cairns to Brisbane or end at another depot. Never stop exploring.