1 Month Road Trip Brisbane To Cairns

Published Categorized as Travel Blog, Australia Travel, Destinations, Motorhoming, Queensland Travel, Travel Tips
Queensland Road Trip - Packed and ready to go!
Queensland Road Trip - Packed and ready to go!

This blog post provides the basics of why we decided to rent a motorhome whilst in lockdown here in Australia and how we planned our 1 month road trip – Brisbane to Cairns.

If you’re looking for the road trip of a lifetime, pack your bags and head for the east coast of Australia, because the Pacific Coast Way that connects Cairns to Brisbane will fulfil all your travel wishes.

We spent one month driving from Cairns to Brisbane and exploring everything in between; from tropical rainforests to pristine white sand beaches, and from chill surfer towns to big cities.

I hope by sharing our itinerary it makes it somewhat easier for you to plan your own Cairns to Brisbane road trip! It is a must for anyone planning an Australian holiday.

“Never underestimate the therapeutic power of driving and listening to very loud music.”

– Unknown –

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on our affiliates / advertisers links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. AND, many times, you will receive an offer. Win/win! The products and services we write about and mention are the ones we love. We only recommend items that we feel are of good quality and would be helpful to our readers. While we pay for our travels out of our own pockets, these small commissions do assist in keeping us on the road. Thank you!



Stuck In Australia

Freedom is one of the main motivations for living the lifestyle we do i.e. full-time travelers. It means we can be wherever we want and work whenever we want. Being a digital nomad can be very attractive for anyone that wants to travel all over the world while working, but it is definitely not a good match with the situation we are living in right now.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant we are ‘stuck’ here in Australia with little likelihood of international travel before Easter 2021. Home, at the moment, is the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia, and a one hour drive north of the state capital Brisbane. 

The “Sunny Coast” is a truly beautiful place and many people would say we are blessed to be in this wonderful region during the pandemic, and that we should be content with what we have.

Initially, we filled in our days easily editing photos, catching up with family and friends, and cooking.  Lots and lots of cooking which meant lots and lots of eating.  As the scales slowly started to creep upwards, we both realised this was not sustainable so we started a health kick with more exercise and less naughty foods.

Travel In Our Own Backyard

Our new found ‘health kick’ helped fill the time but it was inevitable we would start to miss our travel lifestyle. We planned numerous day trips from the Sunshine Coast and discovered our own backyard.  Beautiful national parks, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, cute country towns, beaches are abundant and easily reached within a 1 hour drive.

We’ve been advised to stay within our own country through the pandemic phase, and in many cases our own state, so the great Queensland outdoors had never looked better.  It was time to explore further afield.

In Jonas’ early backpacking days, he travelled extensively throughout Queensland (this led him to decide to do his university studies here).  I, on the other hand, did what lots of other young Australians do – I headed for Europe. As such, I became a tourist in my own home country with a Swede as a travel guide.

Why A Motorhoming Road Trip

Jonas and I have always dreamed of one day being a ‘Grey Nomad’ and doing the big lap of Australia.  The question was always how to do it?  Motorhome or caravan?  I grew up caravanning on our holidays but Jonas had no experience in either, having spent all his holidays on a sail boat.  This was the perfect time to try out motorhoming to see if we would like it.

We started by googling motorhome rental comparison sights.  The best we found were:

From these websites, we discovered Let’s Go Motorhomes.  From the get go, they were very responsive both by email and phone. They bent over backwards to assist us with any questions we had and quoted us a fantastic price for the monthly rental.  We decided on the Jayco 2 Berth Voyager and the price quoted was $51/day. We made the booking for the middle of August (2 months’ time) and immediately started to plan our road trip from Brisbane to Cairns.

Flagstaff Hill Lookout - Bowen, Queensland
Flagstaff Hill Lookout – Bowen, Queensland

Apps / Websites / Facebook Pages Used For Planning Our Brisbane to Cairns Road Trip

My initial research started on Facebook pages related to motorhome travel in Australia.  The Facebook pages I followed were:

  • Camping in Queensland
  • Low Cost and Free Camping Australia Wide
  • Full Time Travellers Australia
  • WikiCamps Users Group
  • Motorhomes Australia
  • The OZ BIG LAP Crew

From here, I downloaded the WikiCamps Australia app for a cost of $7.99 which is suitable for any smartphone, tablet or Windows 10 PC.  WikiCamps is Australia’s largest database of campgrounds, caravan parks, backpacker hostels, points of interest, dump stations, visitor information centres, water taps, toilets, showers, and more. 

We also read lots of blogs on travelling in Australia, and suggested points of interest on road trips from Brisbane to Cairns. Some of these blogs included:

As we found interesting places / must sees, we added them to the “Trip Planner’ function on the WikiCamps apps.  We loved the fact we could plan our trip and have it available offline.

Apps / Websites / Facebook Pages Used While On Our Road Trip: Brisbane to Cairns

On the road, we found we kept going back to the same apps and websites. The apps we used on a very regular basis were:

  • WikiCamps – Described above.
  • FuelMap – Locations of petrol stations are shown on the map as a branded pin with the last known fuel price displayed above.
  • TripAdvisor – Whether planning or on a trip, we turn to Tripadvisor to check the reviews on popular tours and attractions, as well as to identify and check the reviews of great restaurants.

When seeking places we could stay overnight in the motorhome along the way, we used a mixture of:

  • WikiCamps
  • Facebook groups Low Cost and Free Camping Australia Wide and Country Pub Camping
  • An older version of the Camps Australia Wide book which we had been given.

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1 Month Road Trip: Brisbane to Cairns

Best Time To Plan A Road Trip From Brisbane To Cairns

A road trip from Brisbane to Cairns is best undertaken during the dry season (May through October). Although the southern areas in Queensland, such as Brisbane and the Southern Great Barrier Reef / Bundaberg region, can be visited year round, Far North Queensland is extremely tropical and can experience massive rainfalls and cyclones during the wet season. The weather can close roads and completely flood towns and cities in the north.

Road Trip Brisbane To Cairns

1 Month Itinerary

Road Trip Distance Total = 4912kms

Brisbane To Cairns Road Trip Distance = 2057kms Total

Cairns to Brisbane Inland Road Trip Distance = 2855kms Total

Map Of Our Trip

Map of Our Road Trip From Brisbane to Cairns, and Back to Brisbane
Map of Our Road Trip From Brisbane to Cairns, and Back to Brisbane

Day 1 (Total = 94kms)

Stayed at Home (pack motorhome), Sunshine Coast

Day 2 (Total = 413kms)

Stayed at The Reef Caravan Park, Agnes Waters

Things to Do on the Sunshine Coast

Mooloolaba Beach ● Australia ZooSunshine Coast Hinterland ● Noosa National Park

Things to Do in Bundaberg

Bundaberg Rum Distillery ● Botanical Gardens ● Stroll by the Burnett River ● Walking Tour of Bundaberg Town Centre

Things to Do in Agnes Waters

Agnes Water Museum ● Walk the 5km Stretch of Agnes Beach ● Paperbark Forest Boardwalk at Reedy Creek Reserve


Day 3 (Total = 233kms)

  • Agnes Waters to Gladstone (124kms)
  • Gladstone to Rockhampton (109kms)

Stayed at Southside Holiday Village, Rockhampton

Things to Do in the Town of 1770

1770 Beach ● Cook’s Monument ● Headland Lookout ● Take a LARC Tour

Things to Do in Rockhampton

Wander the Riverside Precinct ● Kershaw Gardens ● Botanical Gardens


Day 4 and 5 (Total = 250kms)

  • Rockhampton to Carmila Beach

Stayed at Carmila Beach Campground

Things to Do at Carmila Beach

Watch the Sunrise ● Beachcombing and Shell Collecting ● Enjoy a Campfire

Carmila Beach Sunrise
Carmila Beach Sunrise

Day 6 and 7 (Total = 177kms)

  • Carmila Beach to Sarina (70kms)
  • Sarina to Hay Point Lookout (22kms)
  • Hay Point Lookout to Mackay (35kms)
  • Mackay to Haliday Bay (50kms)

Stayed at Haliday Bay Resort Golf Club, Haliday Bay

Things to Do in Sarina

Sarina Sugar Shed ● Sarina Beach ● Armstrong Beach ● Hay Point Lookout

Things to Do in Mackay

Mackay Harbour Marina ● Bluewater Lagoon

Things to Do in Haliday Bay

Wildlife Spotting ● 9 Holes of Golf ● Walk and Swim at Haliday Bay

Day 8 and 9 (Total = 129kms)

  • Haliday Bay to Cape Hillsborough National Park (1km)
  • Cape Hillsborough National Park to Airlie Beach (128kms)

Stayed at Island Gateway Holiday Park, Airlie Beach

Things to Do in Cape Hillsborough

Spot Wallabies on the Beach at Sunrise ● Explore the Trails in Cape Hillsborough National Park ● Ball Bay ● Seaforth Beach

Things to Do in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach Lagoon ● The Airlie Beach Market ● Airlie Beach Marina

Day 10 (Total = 261kms)

  • Airlie Beach to Dingo Beach (51kms)
  • Dingo Beach to Hideaway Beach (8kms)
  • Hideaway Beach to Cape Gloucester (4kms)
  • Cape Gloucester to Ayr (198kms)

Stayed at Burdekin Farm Stays, Ayr

Things to Do Between Airlie Beach and Ayr

Dingo Beach ● Hideaway Beach ● Cape Gloucester

Things to Do in Ayr

Sugar Cane Burning

Day 11 (Total = 293kms)

  • Ayr to Townsville (89kms)
  • Townsville to Cardwell (165kms)
  • Cardwell to Tully (39kms)

Stayed at Tully Self Contained RV Park, Tully

Things to Do in Townsville

Views from Castle Hill ● Walk Along the Strand ● Street Art Walking Trail

Things to Do in Cardwell

Five Mile Swimming Hole ● Bush Telegraph Museum

Things to Do in Tully

Tully Gorge ● Sugar Mill Tour

Airlie Beach Marina
Airlie Beach Marina

Day 12 (Total = 75kms)

  • Tully to Mission Beach (28kms)
  • Mission Beach to Paronella Park (47kms)

Stayed at Paronella Park

Things to Do in Mission Beach

Charley’s Chocolate Tour ● Walk the Tropical Ulysses Track ● Spot Cassowary Birds

Things to Do at Paronella Park

Day Tour ● Night Tour



Day 13 (Total = 61kms)

  • Paronella Park to Mena Creek (7kms)
  • Mena Creek to Innisfail (24kms)
  • Innisfail to Babinda (30kms)

Stayed at Babinda Rotary Free Camp, Babinda

Things to Do from Paronella Park to Babinda

Mena Creek Falls ● Innisfail Temple ● Cane Cutters Memorial

Day 14 to 16 (Total = 71kms)

  • Babinda to Babinda Boulders (6kms)
  • Babinda Boulders to Cairns (65kms)

Stayed at NRMA Cairns Holiday Park, Cairns

Things to Do in Babinda

Babinda Boulders ● Devils Pool Lookout ● Boulders Gorge Lookout

Things to Do in Cairns

Cairns Botanical Garden ● Cairns Aquarium ● Cairns Esplanade Lagoon ● Rusty’s Market ● Night Markets ● Munro Martin Parklands ● Doongal Aboriginal Art Gallery

Day 17 (Total = 93kms)

  • Cairns to Palm Cove (26kms)
  • Palm Cove to Kuranda (29kms)
  • Kuranda to Mareeba (38kms)

Stayed at Kerribee Park Camping and Rodeo Grounds, Mareeba

Things to Do in Palm Cove

Palm Cove Esplanade ● Palm Cove Jetty

Things to Do in Kuranda

Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets ● Barron Falls ● Kuranda Railway Station

Things to Do in Mareeba

Mareeba Heritage Museum ● Mareeba Wetlands ● Coffee Works



Day 18 (Total = 102kms)

  • Mareeba to Atherton (34kms)
  • Atherton to Herberton (19kms)
  • Herberton to Curtain Fig Tree (29kms)
  • Curtain Fig Tree to Yungaburra (2kms)
  • Yungaburra to Lake Eacham (10kms)
  • Lake Eacham to Malanda (8kms)

Stayed at Malanda Falls Caravan Park, Malanda

Things to Do in Atherton

Antiques and Australiana ● View of the Seven Sisters (volcanic cones) from Halloran’s Hill

Things to Do in Herberton

Herberton Historic Village ● Herberton Mining Museum ● Spy and Camera Museum

Things to Do in Yungaburra

Peterson Creek Walk Platypus Spotting ● Curtain Fig Tree ● Lake Eacham ● Yungaburra Heritage Walk





Green Pastures - Atherton Tablelands, Queensland
Green Pastures – Atherton Tablelands, Queensland

Day 19 (Total = 449kms)

  • Malanda to Millaa Millaa (22kms)
  • Millaa Millaa to Fletcher Creek (427kms)

Stayed at Fletcher Creek Free Camp, Charters Towers

Things to Do in Malanda

Malanda Falls ● Tulip Oak and Rainforest Walk

Things to Do in Millaa Millaa

Millaa Millaa Falls ● Zillie Falls ● Ellinjaa Falls

Day 20 and 21(Total = 216kms)

  • Charters Towers to Home Hill (216kms)

Stayed at Home Hill Caravan Park, Home Hill

Things to Do in Charters Towers

Towers Hill Lookout ● Stock Exchange Arcade ● Charters Towers Town Heritage Walk

Things to Do in Home Hill

Sugar Can Burn ● Home Hill Pool ● $15/kg Tiger Prawns Fresh from the Trawler

Day 22 (Total = 273kms)

  • Home Hill to Bowen (104kms)
  • Bowen to Haliday Bay (169kms)

Stayed at Haliday Bay Resort Golf Club, Haliday Bay

Things to Do in Bowen

The Big Mango ● Flagstaff Hill Lookout ● Watertank Murals

Things to Do in Haliday Bay

Wildlife Spotting ● 9 Holes of Golf ● Walk and Swim at Haliday Bay

Day 23 (Total 217kms)

  • Haliday Bay to Moranbah (217kms)

Stayed at Friends Home, Moranbah

Things to Do in Moranbah

Coal Mining Tour

Day 24 (Total 278kms)

  • Moranbah to Emerald (224kms)
  • Emerald to Sapphire (54kms)

Stayed at Sapphire Reserve Free Camp, Sapphire

Things to Do in Emerald

Botanic Gardens ● Explore the Town Centre

Dry and Dusty Paddocks - Road Trip Brisbane to Cairns
Dry and Dusty Paddocks – Queensland

Day 25 and 26 (Total 385kms)

  • Sapphire to Rubyvale (7kms)
  • Rubyvale to Kinka Beach (378kms)

Stayed at Kinka Beach Island View Caravan Park, Kinka Beach

Things to Do in Rubyvale

Sapphire Mine Tour

Day 27 and 28 (Total = 197kms)

  • Kinka Beach to Yeppoon (12kms)
  • Yeppoon to Biloela (185kms)

Stayed at Queensland Heritage Museum Campgrounds, Biloela

Things to Do in Kinka Beach

Causeway Lake ● Mulambin Beach ● Kemp Beach ● Wreck Point Lookout

Things to Do in Yeppoon

Yeppoon Lagoon ● Bluff Point Walking Track

Day 29 (Total = 169kms)

  • Biloela to Monto (95kms)
  • Monto to Eidsvold (74kms)

Stayed at Eidsvold Caravan Park, Eidsvold

Things to Do in Biloela

Queensland Heritage Park

Things to Do in Monto

Cania Gorge National Park ● Lister Street Art Walk

Things to Do in Eidsvold

RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre ● Son et Lumiere Light and Sound Show

Day 30 (Total = 234kms)

  • Eidsvold to Munduberra (37kms)
  • Munduberra to Gayndah (46kms)
  • Gayndah to Kilkivan (107kms)
  • Kilkivan to Gympie (44kms)

Stayed at Chatsworth Park Free Camp, Gympie

Things to Do in Munduberra

Munduberra Heritage and Visitor Centre ● Munduberra Regional Art Gallery

Things to Do in Gayndah

The Big Orange ● Archer’s Lookout ● Zonhoven Park

Things to Do in Kilkivan

Kilkivan Historic Town Walk



Day 31 (Total = 77kms)

  • Gympie to Imbil (57kms)
  • Imbil to Kenilworth (20kms)

Stayed at Kenilworth Showgrounds, Kenilworth

Things to Do in Gympie

Historic Mary Street ● Memorial Park ● The Golden Heritage Drive ● Mary Valley Scenic Drive

Things to Do in Imbil

Stroll Along Timberman’s Walk ● Borumba Dam ● Yabba Creek 

Day 32 (Total = 165kms)

  • Kenilworth to Sunshine Coast (71kms)
  • Sunshine Coast to Brisbane (drop-off motorhome) (94kms)
Things to Do in Kenilworth

Kenilworth Dairies ● Kenilworth Bakery ● Obi Obi Creek 

Kenilworth Homestead - Kenilworth, Queensland
Kenilworth Homestead – Kenilworth, Queensland

Things To Know About Driving From Brisbane To Cairns

Driving long distances in Australia can be challenging but it’s certainly doable. After all, thousands of people road trip around Australia every year. Here are few things to keep in mind when driving from Cairns to Brisbane or vice versa.

  1. Avoid Driving at Night

Try to avoid driving at night. Once the sun begins to set, Australia’s wildlife such as kangaroos, emus wombats and koalas, most of which are nocturnal, begin to appear. Also, livestock such as cattle may graze on the side of an unfenced road.

  1. Don’t Underestimate Driving Times

The drive from Brisbane to Cairns and Cairns back to Brisbane is a long journey to make.  It is easy to underestimate the time needed for an enjoyable road trip.

  1. Fill Up with Petrol Often

There will be long distances between some petrol stations, so always make sure you fill your tank up when you have the opportunity.

  1. Road Trains

Road trains or articulated trucks (which can be as long as the length of 10 cars) can take up to 2.5 kilometres to overtake if you’re travelling at 100 kilometres per hour. Allow plenty of room before you try to overtake a road train as they often sway from side to side as you overtake. Be prepared for the wind-rush when passing as it can pull you towards the road train.

  1. Get Roadside Assistance

Ensure that you also have adequate roadside assistance. If you break down in the middle of nowhere, it’s good to know that you can get help.

For more information on road safety in Australia check out this article.

We highly recommend purchasing travel insurance when travelling overseas. Insurance will cover important things like emergency medical hospitalisation / evacuation, baggage delays and trip cancellation. We recommend World Nomads for quality travel insurance you can trust, at affordable rates.

BOOK: Buy Travel Insurance Here

Queensland Country Roads - Road Trip Brisbane to Cairns
Queensland Country Roads

Brisbane To Cairns Road Trip Overview

  1. What is the distance from Brisbane to Cairns? By road, the driving distance is 1702km (1058 miles)
  2. How long does it take to drive from Brisbane to Cairns? 19.5 hours non-stop. This is along the Bruce Highway and uses toll roads. We recommend spending at least 7 days for this drive to ensure enough time to explore, enjoy and take breaks.
  3. Where should I stop on a Brisbane to Cairns road trip? Sunshine Coast, Fraser Coast, Rockhampton, Airlie Beach / the Whitsundays, Townsville, Tropical North and Cairns.
  4. When’s the best time to do the drive? A road trip from Brisbane to Cairns is best undertaken during the dry season (May through October). In summer, ensure you have a good air con as the hot and humid weather can be unpleasant to drive in.
  5. Is the drive safe? Yes, this is a highly popular route featuring well-maintained main roads. You may encounter wildlife, especially at night, so make sure you have good car insurance just in case.

Reflections On Our Trip

Motorhoming Life in General

We were pretty certain we would love the nomadic side of a trip like we did but we were still a little unsure whether we preferred motorhomes to caravans.  They both have their pros and cons but for us, we have decided motorhoming is for us.

We loved the fact we could pull up at our camp for the night and be fully set up and have a drink in our hand within 10 minutes of arrival.  We sat watching caravans pull up and then spend the next 1 hour setting up (and often arguing with each other while doing it).

Road Trip Brisbane to Cairns Itinerary

One month was not nearly enough to see everything we wanted to see, but it gave us a taste of the regions we really enjoyed and would like to revisit. The Atherton Tablelands, in particular, stole our hearts and we would travel back there in a heartbeat.  The little town of Yungaburra was a favourite and we could see ourselves spending a month or two there at some time in the future.  

We also loved fossicking for sapphires in Rubyvale.  There is something about digging sapphires up from the ground yourself that is very exciting.

If we were to travel north again, we would do so in Autumn (March – May) when the weather is starting to cool down but water temperatures are still warm.  We found the water temperature too cool to really enjoy the waterholes, waterfalls, lakes and snorkelling, so our next trip would include far more water based experiences.

Would We Do It Again?

Absolutely! We loved the freedom motorhoming gave us and it was wonderful to see and enjoy what Queensland really has to offer.  Our Brisbane to Cairns road trip was everything we imagined and more. From tropical beaches, the Great Barrier Reef, waterfalls, natural rock pools, gorges, quaint country towns, rolling hills and national parks, Queensland has it all. 

If you would like to see more in depth info about each of the towns / cities we visited, subscribe to our newsletter or leave a comment in the box below. Have you travelled around Queensland? What are your favourite places?

Read More: 11 of the Best Things To Do in Toowoomba


The Exit45 Rating scale runs from a low of 1 to a high of 5 in each of the 9 categories.  As such, the higher the score out of 45, the better the Exit45 Rating.  N.B. These scores are our own personal opinions and are based on our experiences, budget constraints and what we love doing i.e. adventure seeking foodies who love snorkeling and water related activities.

Value for Money3
Friendliness of Locals4
Ease for English Speakers5
Activities / Things To Do5
Ease of Travel4
Would We Go Back5

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1 Month Road Trip: Brisbane to Cairns

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click on our affiliates / advertisers links and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission, but at no extra cost to you. AND, many times, you will receive an offer. Win/win! The products and services we write about and mention are the ones we love. We only recommend items that we feel are of good quality and would be helpful to our readers. While we pay for our travels out of our own pockets, these small commissions do assist in keeping us on the road. Thank you!


Want more info to help you plan your Queensland trip? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel in Queensland below and continue planning your trip.

By Peta Wenzel

We are Peta (Australian) and Jonas (Swedish/Australian), a couple in our mid 40’s / early 50’s who have been travelling the world fulltime since January 2018. We met and lived on the Gold Coast, Australia and spent many evenings researching and watching YouTube vlogs about travel and dreaming of the day we would retire and be able to enjoy a lot more travel ourselves. Over the years, a number of events happened to family and friends and an opportunity arose which made us decide to not wait but to instead take a “Gap Year”. We are now in our 3rd year of travel and still hunger for new adventures and embrace the uncertainty that comes with full-time travel. If you want to know more about who we are, why we choose this lifestyle and how we do it, please follow our adventures and see how you can do it too.


  1. Enjoyed reading this.
    Next time don’t stop at Cairns, keep going to Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures, then on to Port Douglas and beyond to the best rainforest areas.
    Join me in Traveljunkies & list your blog, it’s free.
    Cheers, Cliff
    PS – our daughter lives at Kewarra Beach in Cairns.

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback Cliff. Unfortunately, 1 month was nowhere near enough time for us to see everything Queensland has to offer. We are planning on doing the big lap in the future so will definitely go further north then. I have just been onto your website and signed up (actually, I signed up twice as I added some more info to our business name :). Thanks for the invite – I love your philosophy behind starting this website.

  2. Excellent travel guide. Many hints but not many details from your own trip. Love to hear more about your personal experience.

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