Road trip from Brisbane to Cairns

Road trip from Brisbane to Cairns

The journey from Brisbane, in the south-east of Queensland, to Cairns, in the north-east of Australia’s second-largest state, is a long but popular one. Those opting to drive will cover over 1,500km of the country’s beautiful Coral Sea coastline. Here’s what you’re likely to encounter along the way:

Fraser Island

Located just north of Rainbow Beach, which is hidden from the highway by the Tuan and Toolara State Forests, Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island. You could spend days exploring everything this heritage-listed expanse has to offer, including creeks, lakes and mangrove forests. The largest settlement on Fraser Island is Eurong, home to the Kingfisher Bay Resort.


Once back on the mainland, head north on the A1 and you’ll soon come across the city of Bundaberg, famous for its sugar cane and for being the gateway to the southern Great Barrier Reef. Fruit picking in Bundaberg is a popular source of employment, with everything from mangoes to vegetables growing in abundance. And then there’s the sugar cane, of course.


Just over three hours’ drive north of Bundaberg, Rockhampton is the self-proclaimed ‘beef capital of Australia’ due to the thriving cattle industry. Backpackers can find work at two large abattoirs in the south-east of the city. There are plenty of natural attractions close to the city, including the Capricorn Caves, one of the largest privately owned cave systems in the country.


Another cane sugar giant, Mackay is also dominated by the mining industry. A prime destination for beach bums, the city has 31 beaches within driving distance, most of which offer access to the Great Barrier Reef. You can also find the Whitsundays just north of here.


The final major stop on the way to Cairns is Townsville, a city of 180,000 people where you should be able to find work in the hospitality sector without too much of a problem. Townsville is home to the Strand, a long and scenic beach promenade and Reef HQ, an aquarium showcasing much of the wildlife of the Great Barrier Reef. Magnetic Island, a popular holiday destination, can be accessed just 8km offshore.

Take a look at this video A local’s guide to Townsville from Tourism Queensland.