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One of the great Aussie road trips is the 1700 Km drive along the Pacific coastline from Brisbane to Cairns in Far North Queensland. The trip, which is probably best broken up into seven comfortable segments, spending two days at each stop, over two weeks will take you from the stunning beaches of the Sunshine Coast, to the Fraser Coast, Capricorn Coast, the Great Barrier Reef through the cane fields to Townsville, the Great Green Way and eventually to Cairns.
This map shows the route along the Bruce Highway on the Queensland coastline:
Distance: 137 Kms
Travel Time: 2 Hours
Head north on the Bruce Highway for approximately 80 Kms where you will glimpse the remarkable Glass House Mountains. You can take the Beerwah exit and drive to the Glass House Mountain Lookout where you will be to absorb the beauty of this group of 14 spectacular mountains.
Get back on the Bruce Highway and take the Noosa Heads exit to one of the most popular holiday resort towns on the Sunshine Coast. I would recommend spending two days in Noosa to take in all there is to do and see in this relaxed beachside town.
Must See: Noosa National Park Walk
Distance: 190 Kms
Travel Time: 2.5 Hours
You can continue up the Bruce Highway through Gympie, or take a more pleasant and scenic journey through the pine forests on the Tin Can Bay/Rainbow Beach Road to the city of Maryborough and then on to Hervey Bay. Hervey Bay is the whale watching capital of Australia so make sure you take a cruise upon the calm water bay to witness these majestic creatures at play. On your second day here take a day trip over to Fraser Island, which is the largest sand island in the world, and features interior rainforests, freshwater lakes and long stretches of pristine sandy beaches.
Must See: Fraser Island
Travel Distance: 120 Kms
Travel Time: 1.5 Hours
Only a short drive from Hervey Bay to this modern sprawling city situated on the Burnett River, affectionately called ‘Bundy’. Bundaberg is famous for sugar and rum, as the surrounding area produces a significant percentage of Queensland’s sugar crop. But also famous because the seas off the coastline of Bundaberg are the beginning of the Southern Great Barrier Reef and the location of the tropical islands of Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliott Islands, perfect for snorkelling and scuba diving.
Must See: Bundaberg Rum Distillery
Travel Distance: 330 Kms
Travel Time: 4 Hours
Driving towards the city of Rockhampton you can choose to detour from the highway to the Town of 1770, which is 130 Kms north east of Bundaberg on the Rosedale Road. The town of 1770, so named after the visit of Lieut James Cook in May 1770. Cook’s second landfall in Australia, the first in Queensland, gives rise to the area’s claim to be the birthplace of Queensland. Also nearby is the town of Agnes Water which is the most northern surf beach on the east coast.
Must See: Explore the national parks and forests via a kayak, SUP or LARC.
Next day continue onto Rockhampton at a distance of 230 Kms and then head east another 40 Kms to Yeppoon. Situated on the Capricorn Coast, Yeppoon is the gateway to the Keppel Islands and the Southern Great Barrier Reef. This seaside town is a great place to stay for a few days to soak up the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.
Must See: A boat trip to Great Keppel Island
Travel Distance: 500 Kms
Travel Time: 5.5 Hours
The longest leg of the trip, will take you through sugar cane country to the city of Mackay, then onto Proserpine and a further 25 Kms to Airlie Beach. This great little town is located on a peninsula overlooking the Whitsunday Islands. It’s a fabulous place to base yourself for exploring the many wonderful islands and the Great Barrier Reef.
Must See: Cruise the Whitsunday Islands
Travel Distance: 270 Kms
Travel Time: 3.5 Hours
You will drive through the delta of the Burdekin River, its two popular townships – Ayr and Home Hill which are linked by the iconic Burdekin Bridge. This region produces the biggest sugar cane crops in the country, together with a diverse selection of vegetables and tropical fruits. Townsville is a vibrant and bustling city beneath the watchful eye of Castle Hill, where you can enjoy alfresco dining, urban street art, coffee along the beachfront, vibrant night life in laneway bars and eateries and boutique shopping.
Must See: Magnetic Island
Travel Distance: 347 Kms
Travel Time: 4.25 Hours
Known as the Great Green Way, the drive to Cairns comprises of over a dozen mainland National Parks and over 25 tropical islands, and Mission Beach is the closest access point to the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Green Way provides the most memorable scenery in Australia with mountains wrapped in rainforest, splendid waterfalls, magnificent fertile farmlands and breathtaking Coral Sea views.
Mission Beach is the natural midway point between Townsville and Cairns, so is a good place to spend a night or otherwise drive all the way to Cairns. The Far North Queensland city of Cairns is world-renowned as being the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.
Must See: Kuranda Railway and Skyrail
The drive along the coastline of Queensland would have to be up there with one of the most spectacular drives in Australia. The scenery unfolds before your eyes with a patchwork of green pastures, cane fields and state forests interspersed with glimpses of the coastline. It is definitely one to put on your bucket list!
Have you visited Far North Queensland?
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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Melissa and Brenden (@allaroundoz)August 19, 2016
We did this trip with our kids in 2004.They were five and three and still talk about it. Our trip to Kuranda was the highlight I think. Can’t wait to do it again!
KathyAugust 21, 2016
It’s a great trip Melissa. I loved Kuranda as well plus our day trip to Cape Tribulation and the Daintree.:)
budgettraveltalkAugust 22, 2016
Great summation. Did you take your Townsville photo from a high rise on the Strand? A very helpful post for someone contemplating the big drive. :)
KathyAugust 22, 2016
Thanks Jan. No that particular photo is not one of mine as I have never been to Townsville. I have been to Cairns twice but never actually done the drive in total, but driven most parts of it. I will be taking my own advice and embarking on this road trip hopefully within the next few years!