Christmas time is summertime in the Southern Hemisphere, making it the perfect opportunity to embark on a Brisbane to Cairns road trip. Four days to a week is the perfect length of time to explore the Queensland coast, stop in at some charming seaside towns and make the most of the tropical heat. Start planning your road trip today and combine Santa with sunshine!
Road Trip Planner
Travel Time and Distance
With a route that stretches over 1700 kilometres, the total driving time for a Brisbane to Cairns road trip
amounts to 20 hours - but you can divide it how you wish. We recommend that you plan to be on the road for a minimum of four days in order to fully experience this stunning coastline. Stretching it up to a week means you can take your time and stop for ice cream, hike in the national parks and get out on the water to visit the many islands off the Queensland coast.
Your biggest concern on a carefree Brisbane road trip will be where to stop for the night but there are plenty of options.
Not far from Brisbane is the lovely Hervey Bay
- a beautiful seaside community with a strong tourism infrastructure. Alternatively, spend your first night in Bundaberg
, home to the rum by the same name. The city of Rockhampton
also has many possibilities for accommodation.
Further north, Mackay
and its art-deco city centre offer refuge by the Pioneer River, and then you are at the Whitsundays. This island paradise certainly merits a few days if you can spare it. In fact, you can pretty much guarantee you will need more than a day trip. Airlie Beach is well equipped for visitors and has a full range of places to sleep, from motorhome camping to youth hostels and resorts.
is the next city to the north, a decent-sized place where you will easily find a spot to lay your head for the night. Before reaching Cairns you will pass through Ingham, Cardwell and Innisfail, all with options for motels and hotels if you want to break up the trip further to explore the Wet Tropics in the region.
In amongst the major centres are an array of smaller towns, some lying just off the highway and right on the coast. Most of these will have tourist accommodation, especially over the Christmas period, and are great for those travellers who prefer to stay out of the big cities. Alternatively, pack a tent and look into campsites in the many national parks along the way.
Your Brisbane road trip
itinerary is completely up to you! A rental car gives you the freedom to explore and make plans independently of scheduled public transport.
Australian East Coast Highlights
The Queensland coast is bursting with beaches, friendly towns, sunny cities and wonderful landscapes. However, it would take more than a month to fit everything into your Brisbane to Cairns road trip, so you will need to pick the best destinations. Here are a few suggestions:
Of course the Great Barrier Reef is one of Queensland’s, if not the world’s, most amazing natural environments. It can be accessed by boat from many of the coastal towns and cities.
Right behind the Great Barrier Reef is the Daintree Rainforest, a World Heritage listed forest with the world’s biggest range of flora and fauna.
Fraser Island, lying offshore not far north of Brisbane, is also World Heritage listed and beautiful. With pristine freshwater lakes, thick rainforest and incredible sandy beaches, you won’t want to miss it. It lies a short distance north of Cairns.
The Whitsundays are a world apart. A group of islands just off the coast near Airlie Beach, they are simply stunning.