This is the ultimate northern coastal trip!
Sometimes the best medicine is a trip away. So why not do a road trip from Brisbane to Cairns? Lap up the sunshine at various beaches, trundle through some cool caves and spend an evening tippling in a quirky bar strip. Whatever your desires, this captivating coastal road trip will whisk away all those worries. The Brisbane to Cairns road trip usually takes about two days, but we recommend stretching it out depending on your itinerary.
The Sunshine Coast is both a thrill-seeker’s paradise and a sooth-seeker’s haven. Whether you want to take on a mountain hike or stroll along a beach, the Sunshine Coast is perfect for anyone. One of the top hikes is climbing up Mount Coolum – only 197 metres high, but the view is still spectacular. Reach its peak get a picturesque reward: the view of the Coral Sea. There’s also the option to go waterfall chasing or even going to Hell. No, seriously, Hell is great here! It’s a coastal oasis, ripe for hiking and exploring. For those who want to chill out, take a stroll along the Caloundra Coastal Walk. We recommend a stop at Moffat Beach, which the perfect hideaway from the hustle and bustle. Kayaking is also an option as well as and Sunday live music by the beach.
Of course, the most popular thing to do in Bundaberg is visiting the Bundaberg Distillery. But if you’re not a rum-fiend, then fret not! There’s still much more to do. Consider a wander through the Alexandra Park Zoo or the local botanic gardens is just what you need, or, maybe something that is a bit more quirky. Visit the Fairymead House Sugar Museum to gander at the sweet history of this coastal city or fly through the Hinkler Hall of Aviation and see how humans got themselves off the ground. Although the beaches here are nice to lounge on as well, we recommend a boat tour of the nearby Great Barrier Reef with Lady Musgrave Experience. Either take a simple reef tour or get in amongst it all by snorkelling or scuba diving.
This is another trekker’s paradise, but rather than just climbing a mountain (Mount Archer), you can trundle through caves. The tourist hot spot is Capricorn Caves, with a few tours on the agenda, the most popular being the Cathedral Cave Tour, which zigzags through spectacular caves in a wheel-chair accessible track. They also do a Fossil Experience tour, where you can become a palaeontologist for a day and sift through real fossil material, as well as a geology tour. Be sure to rest your head from driving, with the perfect place being Rosslyn Bay Resort, across from Kemp Beach. Their rooms are self-serviced with a kitchenette, wood furnishings and an onsite spa bath. The morning will be made perfect with a wander through Rockhampton Botanical Gardens and zoo.
Mackay has some spectacular activities, from beach-spotting to water parks, and is that delectable tropical destination to cool off. The popular water attraction is Bluewater Lagoon, a free-admission sanctuary featuring slides, various pools and a kids section for anyone with children. Another place to cool off is Slade Point in the north. Take a dip at Lambert’s Beach before heading up to the nearby lookout and taking in the stretching coastline. And if you’re looking for the perfect spot for whale watching during the later winter months, go a little further and find Slade Point Water Tower Lookout. Lastly, if you have a boat license, consider renting a boat for a day and visiting the local reefs just off the shore or the Great Barrier Reef beyond.
We’ve finally reached the tropics, where chilled bars and beach cruises are the local staple. We recommend making this another pit stop, with the top accommodation being Peppers, which has fully furnished rooms and an onsite pool that overlooks Airlie Beach itself. Once you drop your bags off and settle in, spruce yourself up and head out on the town. There’s the ever-popular Anchor Bar, which includes its own pool for you to sip your daiquiri alongside. Another spot is Magnums Bar, with regular live entertainment to accompany a beer or wine. And if you’re feeling a little wild, go to the Mama Africa for cocktails and dancing. While you’re here, make sure to include a free dip in the local lagoon.
No visit to Townsville will be complete without a trip down The Strand. It’s a two-and-a-half kilometre strip along the foreshore of Townsville, which includes various cafes and restaurants, along with onsite BBQs for those who want to do it their way. There are also plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained. When you reach the end, take a dip in the rock pool. Another popular activity to do is climbing Castle Hill, featuring glorious views of the surrounding area, as well as Mount Stuart for the physically capable. But before you go, we recommend a boat trip to Magnetic Island. There’s plenty to do here, like cruising around on a mini convertible, hiking, feeding rock wallabies, sunset viewing and koala spotting.
Ah, Cairns. We’ve made it! If you’re looking for a complete list of where to eat, stay and what to do, check out our weekender guide. The popular attraction is Kuranda National Park, with plenty of tracks to trek over. If you’re not up for breaking a sweat on your holiday, there are two other ways to see the forest: either through the clouds on the Kuranda Skyrail or along the train tracks via the Kuranda Scenic Railway. There are also the beaches to check out and lounge upon and the Daintree Rainforest to stroll through. If you love shopping for cool trinkets, check out the local markets that go off regularly, and we can’t forget the Great Barrier Reef. Take a small cruise out to Arlington Reef for a snorkel or even to Upolo Sand Cay and Michaelmas Cay at low tide.
Feature image: Brisbane to Cairns. Photographed by Martin Valigursky.