Possibly the most famous stretch of Australia, the north eastern coast between Brisbane and Cairns is a must-see corner of the Land Down Under. From Brisbane in the South of Queensland right up to Cairns in the tropical North, this mega road trip is a feast for beach lovers, sun worshippers, adrenaline seekers and adventurists. So settle in for the ride of your life as you cast your eyes over this perfect 15 day Brisbane to Cairns drive.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 1: Brisbane
Get yourself acclimatised to the Queensland heat by enjoying a day in the state’s capital. One of the must-do’s here is stroll along South Bank, or you can ride on the Wheel of Brisbane, check out the Gallery of Modern Art and relax on the street beach, as you gaze at the city skyscrapers glistening above you. In the evening, venture out into Fortitude Valley to listen to some live music and sample some delicious, local craft beers.
More info: Top things to do brisbane
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 2: Noosa
Start your big journey north gently today and just travel a few hours north from Brisbane up to the gorgeous town of Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. There’s so much to do in this beautiful coastal resort that you’ll have to pick a few favourites. Stand-up paddle boarding on the river is a great way to enjoy the morning here, followed by a relaxing afternoon sunbaking on Noosa’s popular main beach. In the evening, enjoying a few drinks in the historic beer garden of Halse Lodge is a must.
More info: what-to-do-sunshine-coast
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 3: Noosa
Enjoying another lovely day in Noosa will give you a chance to explore some other parts of this superb town. After a morning coffee at Bean Drop, why not check out the Noosa National Park. Walk the coastal trail round to the enclave of Sunshine Beach and keep your eyes peeled for a koala or echidna. Then enjoy a drink or meal on the terrace at the Sunshine Beach Surf Club, with a view to die for, it’s a hard spot to beat!
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 4: Fraser Island
It’s an early start today as you want to get the most out of your time on Fraser Island. From Noosa, head up Teewah Beach, stopping to enjoy the coloured sands and Carlos sandblow at Rainbow Beach. Then hop onto the ferry to Fraser and, once there, drive to Lake McKenzie and enjoy a cooling dip, before setting up your camp for the night.
More info: fraser-island-complete-guide-tips/
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 5: Fraser Island
Enjoy another jam-packed day on Fraser making sure you check out all the highlights. Including Indian Head, Lake Wabbi, Lake Benaroon, Eli Creek and the Maheno Shipwreck. Spot dingoes on the beach, dolphins in the ocean and, if you’re lucky, perhaps even a whale or 2. At the end of the day, get the ferry from the Kingfisher Resort on Fraser across to Hervey Bay and spend the night there.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 6: Agnes Water
From Hervey Bay, continue your road trip north until you reach the gorgeous haven of Agnes Water. This tiny town at the end of the track, is a low-key, relaxed beach paradise. Its neighbour, the town of 1770, is the first place Captain Cook set foot on Queensland soil. Enjoy the walk at the Joseph Banks Regional Park here and take in the gorgeous coastal views.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 7: Agnes Water
Why not spend another day in Agnes taking your last opportunity to enjoy the famous Queensland waves. North from here, the Great Barrier Reef stops the awesome sets from rolling in, so take advantage by trying your hand at surfing. Agnes Water is actually the cheapest place for you to learn to surf in Queensland. This makes it an even better opportunity you.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 8: Cape Hillsborough
Stopping at Cape Hillsborough National Park for one night is a must, especially if you have a campervan. Just 50km north of the city of Mackay. This national park boasts some amazing beaches, but is most famous for its beach-loving kangaroos. Each morning at dawn, grey kangaroos and wallabies descend on to the sand here to feast on the mangrove seed pods washed up by the tide. Grabbing a snap of them silhouetted against the red dawn sky really is a wonderful treat.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 9: Airlie Beach
From Cape Hillsborough you want to head to the backpacker mecca of Airlie Beach, which is the main gateway to the Whitsundays. Enjoy a relaxed day here at the Lagoon, staring out over the idyllic views of some of Australia’s most picturesque islands.
More info: whitsunday-islands-visitor-information
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 9-10: Whitsunday Sailing Trip
No trip to Australia’s East coast is complete without a Whitsundays Sailing Trip, so jump aboard from Airlie Beach and prepare to have the time of your life. From snorkelling and diving in the tropical waters, to visiting some of the world’s whitest and best beaches, taking a 2 day sailing trip here is bound to be an experience you’ll never forget.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 11: Magnetic Island
From one set of island’s to another, the next hot spot north from the Whitsundays is the lovely Magnetic, or Maggie, Island just off the coast of Townsville. Arrive here after a short 20-minute ferry ride and instantly relax under coconut palms on the quiet beaches.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 12: Magnetic Island
For your second day in Magnetic Island, it’s all about hiring a 4wd to explore the most remote parts of this fab location. Checking out the walk to the Forts and spotting some koalas on the way is a must. After this, take the off-road track down to the gorgeous bays of Florence and Radical. Snorkel with tropical fish and turtles before heading to Horseshoe Bay for some lunch. Later in the afternoon, head over to West Point for one of the most spectacular sunsets you’ll see on the whole East coast.
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 13: Mission Beach
You’re well into the tropics now, so why not make the most of it by enjoying yet another beach! There’s not much to do in Mission Beach except enjoy the stunning coastline, oh and maybe hurtle to earth at terminal velocity, aka skydive, if you’re feeling brave enough!
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 14: Cairns
After 2 weeks, you’ve finally reached your destination. Revel in the glory, relax at the Esplanade pool and enjoy some of the nightlife Cairns has to offer.
More info: top-things-to-do-around-cairns
Brisbane to Cairns Drive – Day 15: Great Barrier Reef
You always want to make sure your last day is a good one, so why not create some amazing memories by visiting the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns. If you don’t have to get on a plane in the next few days, then scuba diving here is highly recommended, otherwise a boat trip and a snorkel will suffice. Either way, it will be a great way to round off your time on the East Coast.
More info: great-barrier-reef
Last updated 17/04/2019. First published 20/06/2016.