Australia is a country that’s perfect to explore on the road and the spectacular Queensland coast line is a great place to start.
This is perhaps one of the most popular road trips for a reason - experience the stunning, unique coastlines of Queensland and the Great Barrier reef as you venture from Brisbane up to Cairns. We recommend setting aside at least 8 days to complete this trip, so you can take your time to enjoy the beautiful locations along the way. But, when you’re on the road it’s great to take your time and take in all of the beautiful sites, which is why we have put together the ultimate caravanning road-trip Itinerary to take you from Brisbane to Cairns in 10 days.
Day 1: Brisbane to Sunshine Coast
This part of the journey should only take you a maximum of 2 hours , including traffic to make it to the beautiful Sunny Coast! There is plenty to see and do on the Sunshine Coast, so it’s recommended to leave early to beat the traffic and set up as early as possible so you have time to go to the beach or enjoy stand-up paddle boarding on the Noosa River.
There are plenty of beautiful caravan parks to stay in this region, so it really depends on the type of activities and sights you want to do and see.
Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast is a great spot to stop off for a night, particularly if you’re someone who appreciates great food and don’t mind to make your caravan adventure a little more upmarket. There are also plenty of activities to do in the area, so if you are travelling with kids this is a great place to stop and enjoy some family fun. Alternatively, Maroochydore is another great location to park for the night, we recommend the Maroochy River Park, which is a great place to do some fishing!
Day 2: Sunshine Coast to Rainbow Beach
This is one of the shortest legs of the journey, so take your time to enjoy a beautiful morning on the sunshine coast before hitting the road to the iconic Rainbow Beach, famous for its colourful sand, as the name suggests.
The drive from the Sunshine Coast to Rainbow Beach should only take around 1.5 hours, but as you drive through Gympie, consider stopping at one of the iconic pubs in town, like The Australian Hotel, famous for it’s delicious, locally sourced beef from one of the surrounding farms.
As you make your way to Rainbow Beach, there are plenty of caravan parks to choose from, but the most conveniently located is the Rainbow Beach Holiday Park, as it borders the waterfront.
Day 3: Rainbow Beach to Bundaberg
After you have enjoyed the beautiful, sleepy town of Rainbow Beach it’s time to hit the road again and make you way North to the town of Bundaberg, which is famous for it’s rum distillery.
This is a 2.5 Hour drive so if you need to stop halfway, consider pulling into Hervey Bay for a relaxing waterside lunch at The Waterfront Restaurant, which boasts a spectacular outdoor deck that almost appears to be floating on the water when the tide is high.
After lunch, it should only take another 1.5 hours before you reach Bundaberg. When looking for the best places to stay, you have a few options depending on what interests you the most. The AAOK Caravan Park is located overlooking the Burnett River and is only a 5 minute walk across the bridge to the centre of town and 10 minute walk to the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, if you choose to go on one of the tours.
If you prefer the coastal lifestyle, however, consider staying at the Burnett Heads Holiday Park where you can often spot kangaroos around the caravan parks grounds.
Day 4: Bundaberg to Agnes Water
The drive from Bundaberg to Agnes Water is only about 1.5 hours, but we recommend leaving early to give yourself as much time to explore the spectacular coastline at the next location.
Agnes Water is one of the most under appreciated coastal towns on the Queensland Coast, but this means that you won’t find a whole lot of tourists either. If the weather permits, be sure to check out Chinamans Beach, which has some beautiful rock pools, bright blue water and warm yellow sand.
This beach is also one of the last opportunities to appreciate the southern waves, as the water will become much more still as you head further north, but thanks to the smaller waves, the town is a great place to learn how to surf.
The best place to stay in Agnes Water is Agnes Water Beach Holidays, which offers both powered and unpowered sites, this caravan park is one of the best in Queensland with an absolute beachfront location, meaning you can literally roll out of bed and onto the sand.
Day 5: Agnes Water to Tannum Sands
When you are ready to finally leave the striking little town of Agnes Water, you will have a 1.5 hour drive ahead of you to Tannum Sands, which is famous for its various water sports that almost run year round thanks to the temperate climate. This is also a very peaceful town that the kids can enjoy, with lots of BBQ facilities and parks. Tannum sands is also a great place to go fishing, Lake Awoonga, located nearby is a great for fishing and the lake is stocked full of Barra and Saratoga.
The best place to set up camp for the night is the Discovery Holiday Park, which offers both powered and unpowered sites as well as full kitchen and laundry facilities if you need to do some washing.
Day 6: Tannum Sands to Byfield National Park
Today is about a 3.5 hour journey to the Byfield National Park, one of Queensland’s most beautiful forests, as it hugs the rocky coastline. It’s advised you leave Tannum Sands nice and early to have enough time to arrive at Byfield and get comfortable before it gets dark.
About an hour and a half into the journey consider stopping for lunch and even some sightseeing in Rockhampton. One of the most highly rated restaurants in town and also a local’s favourite is Stonegrill Restaurant, at the Ascot Hotel. The menu boasts a premium selection of steaks and seafood, but one of the highlights of the menu is some real “Aussie” food. Stonegrill offers a combination of different meats for you to try, like Kangaroo and Crocodile, without forgetting to include locally caught seafood.
After lunch, jump back in the Caravan and get on the road! If you’re feeling like you need a bit of a rest after a delicious lunch, stop in at the Rockhampton Heritage Village for an educational and leisurely historical overview of the iconic Queensland town.
It’s only another hour to Byfield national park, so enjoy the short, scenic drive up to the striking coastline and national park. There are a handful of camping sites in the area but only a few are suitable for caravans, so it’s advised you stay in the Byfield State Forest at Upper Stony or Water Park Creek, you also have the option of staying at Red Rock, if the other two options are fully booked. Red Rock is a conveniently located campsite, however, it does not boast the same natural beauty as the other two options, which are located next to swimming holes and creeks.
Spend the afternoon paddling around in Upper Stoney Creek, which is known for it’s beautiful blue freshwater or go on one of the 30 minute hikes around the beautiful area.
Day 7: Byfield National Park to Cape Hillsborough
Today is going to be the longest leg of the journey so get up extra early to ensure plenty of time for lunch and the sunset at Cape Hillsborough.
If you are so lucky to have an off-road RV or Camper trailer, consider bringing it along for the journey, if you have the option. One of the best secret beaches in Queensland is accessible via the Byfield National Park. The iconic 5 Rocks beach is a great place for a photo opportunity and is famed for some of the best 4WD terrain around, so if you have the option, aim to leave an hour earlier and even catch the sunrise over the rocks before heading off on the next leg of the journey.
You will be passing through a few towns on the way, however, they are very small with a maximum of only a few thousand residents. We advise you pick up some snacks in Rockhampton on your way back through to eat on the road, or if you can hold one, grab a bite to eat in Sarina, which has a range of coffee shops and pubs.
Cape Hillsborough is located on Mackay’s Northern beaches and is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna. The National Park posts beautiful rainforests, rocky headlands, spralling beaches and volcanic rock formations covered in Hoop Pine trees. The area is also home to kangaroos and wallabies, often found frollicking on the beach. The best time to catch these wallabies and kanga’s is at Sunrise, so get settle in for the night at one of the many appropriate campsites in the national park and set your alarm for an early morning.
Day 8: Cape Hillsborough to Airlie Beach
Thanks to the early morning start spotting adorable roo’s bounding along the beach, you will have the whole day to explore Airlie Beach and some of the most beautiful reefs and beaches in the world. The journey is only around 1.5 hours so if you leave early enough you should arrive in Airlie just in time for brunch.
Airlie Beach is one of the most popular towns on the Queensland coast, thanks mostly to it’s access to the Great Barrier Reef, including locations like Whitehaven Beach and the Heart Reef. If you are feeling adventurers, check out one of the half day or overnight tours, where you can really venture off-road and spend the night on one of the catamarans that cruise the reef daily.
There are over 30 different caravan parks and camping spots to choose from, however, these can often get booked up far in advance thanks to the popularity of Airlie Beach with backpackers. Be sure to book early to lock in a spot at a park that best suits your needs!
Day 9: Airlie Beach to Townsville
Moving on from Airlie Beach, you have a 3 hour drive ahead of you to reach Townsville. If you have activities planned in Airlie Beach for the morning of you feel like a sleep in, take your time to leave the beautiful town before heading to Bowen for Lunch or Morning Tea.
The beautiful little town of Bowen is only 57 minutes north of Airlie Beach, which boasts some of the most beautiful beaches and rock formations on the Queensland coast. We recommend you drive up to the lookout for a photo opportunity and to really get a feel for the area before heading back down to the picturesque Horseshoe Bay.
After you have done some exploring, you can head to one of the many restraunts in town, however, if beautiful views of the water while you eat is something you enjoy, head to the Cove Restaurant which is a favourite of both locals and visitors alike.
After lunch, get ready to embark on about a 2 hour journey up to Townsville. Once you reach townsville, there are a plethora of caravan parks to choose from, but the most picturesque is by far the Rowes Bay Beachfront Holiday Park. This is a BIG4 caravan park, so it comes with all the facilities you are used to when staying at these parks, meaning family friendly, clean and come with laundry and cooking areas.
There is plenty to see and do in Townsville so if you don’t have much time once you arrive, organise some activities for your morning before leaving for the next destination.
Day 10: Townsville to Mission Beach
Spend some time exploring Townsville in the morning, with so many activities to see and do, try to wake up nice and early to make the most of the beautiful town. If you are interested in the diversity of sea life and corals at the Great Barrier Reef, be sure to check out the Reef Headquarters Aquarium.
Today you will be heading up to Mission Beach, which takes around 3 hours. You will be passing through a number of towns on the journey north, so stop in at any of the major townships and you will be guaranteed a satisfying pub lunch.
When you arrive in Mission Beach you really will feel like you are in the middle of a tropical paradise, unlike anything you would ever expect. There are so many activities to do in Mission Beach, so it really depends whether you are looking to explore the Rainforests or the Beaches.
Day 11: Mission Beach to Cairns
Today is the last keg of the journey so spend your morning enjoying some more of the amazing activities in Mission Beach before making the 2 hour trek up to the final destination of Cairns.
Throughout the journey you will have noticed the water becoming clearer and the general terrain becoming more tropical. Cairns is the epitome of the Northern Queensland tropical vibes so be sure to make the most of the opportunities to swim and explore the reef.
As with any larger city on the Queensland coast, there are many caravan parks to choose from depending on availability and your preferences.