Brisbane Cairns by car

Brisbane to Cairns 2024: East Coast Hidden Gems Unveiled


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Embarking on a Brisbane to Cairns road trip is an adventure of a lifetime, and I’m here to guide you through it. Having lived in Australia for two years in my self-renovated campervan, I’ve meticulously explored this route and discovered its many wonders.

This journey is a treasure trove of experiences, from sun-kissed beaches to lush rainforests. In this article, I’ll unveil 39 must-visit, awesome spots that will make your journey from Brisbane to Cairns truly unforgettable. I’ll address common challenges, share personal insights, and provide insider tips to maximize your adventure.

Whether you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping activities or serene natural beauty, this guide is crafted to ignite the explorer in you. Get ready for an epic Brisbane to Cairns journey that’s as thrilling as it is scenic.

Prepare your brisbane to cairns road trip

Brisbane Cairns Roadtrip

Roadtripping is another kind of vacation, rather than spending your holiday on the beach with a cocktail in your hand. On such a holiday, the only thing you have to worry about it protecting yourself from the sun and eating enough ice creams to keep your head cool!

A road trip requires a bit more preparation, but it is absolutely worth it! Especially for a road trip between Brisbane and Cairns, as there is so much to see and to do! It would be a pity to spend your days only in one place.

Arrange transportation

For a road trip, you obviously need a vehicle to drive in. Or a bicycle to cycle on, but that is another type of trip. You can either rent a car or buy a car. Which one you choose depends on the number of days you want to spend in Australia.

Tip: For trips up to three months, it is probably better to rent a car. This will save you valuable time and less stress to sell it at the end of your trip. For trips longer than 3 months, it might be worth buying your own car.

Before you rent or buy a car, think about what you want from the car. Do you just want it to bring you from A to B, or do you also want to sleep in it, to save on accommodation costs? No matter what car or van you like to rent, check out RentalCars for the best deals.

Do you want to buy a car or a Van? Check out our blog post 9 things you need to know as a backpacker when you buy a car in Australia.


Accommodation is another thing you have to think about while road tripping. Do you want to plan ahead, or do you like to leave things open and see where you stand at the end of the day?

Most of the stops on your route from Brisbane to Cairns will have plenty of accommodations to book last-minute stays. The only time when you might get in trouble is during high season, which runs from December to February.

Another good thing about this road trip is that there are many free camps on the route between Brisbane and Cairns. So, if you have a car where you can sleep in, make sure you check out our ultimate backpackers guide for free camping in Australia.

Tips for driving in Australia

Camper Australia

In Australia the distances between cities and places are long. The highest percentage of unnatural deaths is car crashes because people fall asleep behind the wheel. Don’t let this scare you, there are many rest areas along the roads. Be smart and use them!

Here are some more tips for driving in Australia:

  • Avoid driving in the dark: There are no road lights and no nearby cities that light up the sky. So dark, really means dark in Australia. And with all the wildlife that wakes up when the sun sets and appears out of nowhere, it’s wiser to end your day early.
  • Fill up your tank on time: You wouldn’t be the first one who thinks: ‘oooh, I still have a quarter of a tank, I’ll make it to the next gas station.’ And then when you are running out of gas, you see a sign that the next gas station is 300km away. So, fill up your tank on time and pack an extra jerry can, just in case.
  • Check your spare tire: It seems obvious, but make sure your spare tire is in good condition. When you air your tires, also air your spare one. Australia is dry and the roads are hot. A blowout can happen at any time.

Tip: Download the FREE app fuel map Australia. This app shows you where you can find gas stations and the price they charge per liter.

Places to stop on your route from Brisbane to Cairns

Have you seen the bustling city center of Brisbane, did you explore all the highlights on a segway, and did you plunge in the lagoon? Then you are ready to step in the car, leave Brisbane and start your road trip to Cairns!

Sunshine Coast

Brisbane – Sunshine Coast: 106km – 1.5 hours driving time

Glass House Mountains

Glass House Mountains Brisbane Walks

As you meander from Brisbane towards the Sunshine Coast, let me suggest a slight detour that’s absolutely worth the extra 10 kilometers and 20 minutes. Picture this: the Glass House Mountains, a stunning array of steep and sharp peaks that rise dramatically from the earth.

These natural skyscrapers, formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, are a sight to behold. From the lookout point, you’re treated to a panoramic view that’s nothing short of breathtaking. The mountains, set against the backdrop of the Sunshine Coast’s lush landscape, create a visual symphony that’s a feast for the eyes.

Australia Zoo

Australia Zoo

Just a bit further along, still riding the high from the mountain views, you’ll stumble upon a gem – the Australia Zoo. Now, I’ve visited my fair share of wildlife sanctuaries during my two years living in a camper van across Australia, but let me tell you, the Australia Zoo is in a league of its own.

It’s not just a zoo; it’s a journey into the heart of wildlife conservation. Here, you’ll get up close with a diverse array of animals, each encounter more thrilling than the last. The zoo’s commitment to conservation and the love for animals is palpable in every corner. It’s an experience that stays with you, long after you’ve left.

Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast

Finally, as you roll into the Sunshine Coast, you’re greeted by a relaxed vibe that’s hard to find anywhere else. The coast is dotted with pristine beaches, perfect for a leisurely day under the sun. During my time in Australia, I found these beaches to be the perfect spots for unwinding after a long drive.

And if you’re feeling social, the city parks are vibrant gathering spots. I remember setting up my portable BBQ in one of the many free facilities, grilling under the stars, and sharing stories with fellow travelers. If you happen to be there on a Sunday, don’t miss the local markets. They’re a treasure trove of local crafts, fresh produce, and a great place to soak in the local culture.

Noosa & Rainbow beach

Sunshine Coast – Noosa Heads – Rainbow Beach: 169km – 2.25 hours driving time


Noosa Australia

From Sunshine Coast to Noosa it is only a 30-minute drive. Leave the busy city life behind and explore the pristine beaches of Noosa heads. The Laguna Lookout will give you a scenic view over the coastline. Are you a fan of culinary food? Noosa is the place to have dinner!

Driving from the Sunshine Coast to Noosa on a 1st or 3rd Monday of the month? Don’t skip the beachfront markets in Peregian. Find some beautifully handcrafted souvenirs and enjoy some local delicacies.

Want to learn surfing? Noosa is the place to be! It is one of the cheapest places in Australia to take surfing lessons. Find some more water activities to do in Noosa below:

If you prefer to stay on the mainland, the coastal track in the Noosa National Park is a beautiful walking or cycling trail. The trail takes you along the coastline and offers several viewpoints to take some pictures for in your photo album or to post on Instagram.

Note: The length of the trail is around 7km one way! It takes about 1.5 hours to complete the trail by foot.

Tea Tree Bay

Tea Tree Bay

On your route from Brisbane to Cairns, you have the chance to see Koalas! Tea Tree Bay in Noosa Heads is a place where koalas live in the wild!

Rainbow Beach

Rainbow beach

To drive from Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach you can either take the scenic route through the mountains or the highway via route 6, M1 and route 15. It will both take you about 100 minutes to get there, but the highway is some more kilometers to drive.

Rainbow beach is a famous place for sea kayaking and wild dolphins are often spotted while out on the ocean. The beaches are beautiful and worth a visit if you want some time to relax.

Hervey bay & Frasers island

Rainbow Beach – Hervey Bay: 123 km – 1.5 hours driving time


Cruising 95 kilometers from Rainbow Beach, you’ll roll into Maryborough, a town seemingly plucked right out of a cowboy movie. Strolling through its city center is like stepping back in time.

The old buildings, with their rustic charm, whisper tales of the wild Australian frontier. It’s a place where you can easily lose yourself in the romance of a bygone era.

Hervey Bay Town

Hervey Bay

Just a short 30-kilometer drive from Maryborough, and you’ll find yourself in Hervey Bay, a hidden gem on the Queensland coast. This place is a haven for those seeking tranquility away from the tourist trails. The beaches here are serene and unspoiled, offering a peaceful escape.

Note: Whale watching tours run from August till October in Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay

Now, here’s a tip for you: From August to October, Hervey Bay transforms into the whale-watching capital of the world. Imagine being on an open boat, watching majestic humpback whales breach the water’s surface, their songs filling the air.

These gentle giants travel an epic 5,000 kilometers each year from the icy waters of Antarctica to the warmer climes of Eastern Australia and Fiji. Witnessing this migration is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you simply can’t miss.

Frasers Island

And then there’s Fraser Island, a jewel nestled off the coast of Queensland, is a tapestry of nature’s finest work. As the world’s largest sand island, it’s a place where adventures are as vast as the horizons.

Picture yourself driving along the beach highway, the 4WD crunching over the sands, with the ocean on one side and ancient rainforests on the other. The island’s heart, Lake McKenzie, is a crystal-clear freshwater lake, so pure and inviting, it feels like stepping into a dream.

Tip: If your schedule and budget allow, I highly recommend a multi-day tour. My own experience with a one-day tour was unforgettable, but it was a whirlwind of sights – Lake McKenzie, the iconic Shipwreck, and the mysterious Mangroves. Each moment on Fraser Island is like stepping into a living postcard, a snapshot of nature’s unbridled beauty.

There’s a variety of tours to Fraser Island, ranging from one to several days. Each offers a unique way to experience this World Heritage-listed paradise.


Hervey Bay – Bundaberg: 113km – 1.25 hours driving time


Childers Australia

Nestled halfway between Hervey Bay and Bundaberg lies Childers, a quaint town seemingly frozen in time. Its streets whisper stories of yesteryears, inviting you to wander and wonder.

For a change of pace, head to Snakes Downunder Reptile Park. It’s not just a zoo; it’s an educational journey where the passionate staff will introduce you to a fascinating world of reptiles. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and you’ll leave with a newfound appreciation for these misunderstood creatures.



Then there’s Bundaberg, a name synonymous with backpacker culture and its working hostels. It’s a hub for those looking to earn while they explore, with abundant opportunities in the lush fields of bananas, strawberries, pineapples, and more.

But Bundaberg’s allure extends beyond its farms. The Bundy distillery, an institution since 1888, offers a glimpse into the art of rum-making. Here, history and flavor blend seamlessly, and a rum tasting is a must for any visitor.

Note: Visit the Mon Repos Turtle Center, which is open all year round, to learn about the special journey from turtles.
UPDATE: Currently, the Centre is closed, but it will reopen before the turtle season takes off.

Come turtle season, from November to March, Bundaberg’s beaches become a cradle of life. Witnessing baby turtles hatch and make their first journey to the sea is a heartwarming spectacle, a testament to nature’s resilience and beauty. It’s an experience that captures the essence of Bundaberg.

Agnes Water & Town of 1770

Bundaberg – Agnes Water – Town of 1770: 131km – 1.75 hours driving time

Agnes water

Agnes Water

As you journey from Bundaberg to Agnes Water, the road unwinds through quaint settlements, each with its own laid-back charm. After covering 122 kilometers, you’ll find yourself in Agnes Water, a spot that’s not just a destination, but a beginning for many.

Here, the beach is a haven for aspiring surfers. It’s Queensland’s northern-most surf beach, and believe me, the surfing lessons here are not only the most affordable in Australia but also incredibly fun and beginner-friendly. I remember catching my first wave here; the thrill was unmatched, and the instructors were top-notch, making it an ideal place for anyone looking to embrace the surfer’s lifestyle.

Town of 1770

Town of 1770

Just a stone’s throw away, a mere 9 kilometers down the road, lies the historic Town of 1770, also known as Seventeen Seventy. Steeped in history, it’s the very spot where James Cook first set foot in Queensland back in 1770.

Walking towards the Wave Lookout, you’ll pass by a statue of James Cook, a silent sentinel to the past. The lookout itself offers a spectacular view of the bay, particularly mesmerizing during low tides when the sandbanks emerge like nature’s artwork.

Both Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 boast beaches that are the epitome of relaxation and beauty. The vibe here is infectious, with surfers and kitesurfers dotting the waves, each riding with a grace that makes it look effortless. The atmosphere is electric yet soothing, a unique blend that makes these places more than just beach towns.


Town of 1770 – Gladstone: 131 km – 1.75 hours driving time

Mount Colosseum National Park

Gliding 60 kilometers past the charming Miriam Vale, my eyes were drawn to the imposing Mount Colosseum National Park. These volcanic mountains, standing tall against the skyline, were a vivid reminder of nature’s untamed spirit.

There were no trails to tread or picnic spots to lounge at, but the sheer grandeur of the landscape was mesmerizing as I drove past, a stark contrast to the usual tourist spots.



Arriving in Gladstone, I was struck by its industrial heartbeat, fueled by coal exports. The Auckland Point Lookout was a revelation, offering a unique view of the bustling wharves and the town’s pivotal role in the global economy.

It was a blend of natural beauty and industrial might, a combination that intrigued me.

Heron Island

But my real quest was for an extraordinary Great Barrier Reef experience, something beyond the usual. This led me to Heron Island, a hidden gem accessible only by boat, water plane, or helicopter.

Craving a deeper connection with this natural wonder, I booked a hotel for two nights on the island. This decision was about to redefine my understanding of a true escape.

Heron Island was an untouched paradise, a world away from the familiar. The absence of day tours meant that an overnight stay was essential, and I was all in for this immersive experience.

Diving into the waters was like entering a different realm. Swimming just 700 meters off the pier, I was in the company of Manta Rays, sharks, and turtles, all thriving around a hauntingly beautiful shipwreck.

My two-night stay on Heron Island was nothing short of transformative. Each morning, I woke up to the gentle symphony of waves. Stepping out onto the white coral beaches, I felt a sense of peace that’s hard to articulate.

Exploring the reef at my own pace, away from the crowds, was an experience that resonated deeply with me.

Rockhampton & Yeppoon

Gladstone – Rockhampton – Yeppoon: 151km – 2 hours driving time

Mount Archer National Park

Mount Archer

Navigating the stretch between Gladstone and Rockhampton, you might find the scenery a bit subdued, but Rockhampton itself holds a special place in my heart. I spent two months there doing farmwork, an experience that allowed me to connect deeply with the land and its people.

Upon reaching Rockhampton, after a 110-kilometer drive, a visit to Mount Archer National Park is a must. This cozy park, with its abundance of picnic areas and walking tracks, is a delightful escape.

I remember parking at Fraser Car Park and embarking on the easy walking tracks, spanning a total of 2km. The views over Rockhampton, the coast, and the mountain peaks are simply stunning.

For the more adventurous, the Zamia walk, a challenging 14-kilometer trek, offers an immersive experience into the park’s heart. It’s a full-day affair, but every step is worth it.


Rockhampton beach

During my time in Rockhampton, I was drawn to the Kershaw Gardens, a natural haven in the heart of the city. These beautifully maintained gardens are a perfect blend of manicured spaces and wild, natural beauty. The waterfall and the serene lagoon there were my go-to spots for relaxation and reflection.

For those intrigued by the allure of gemstones, a journey inland to The Gemfields is a fascinating detour. Covering 900 square kilometers and located about 300 kilometers west of Rockhampton, this area is a haven for gem enthusiasts. You can explore underground mines or even try your hand at digging for gemstones.

The guided tours are informative, but the self-drive tours offer a sense of adventure and independence. And don’t miss the gemstone shops – they’re a wonderland of local crafts and stunning jewelry.



A short 45-kilometer drive from Rockhampton will bring you to Yeppoon, where a dip in the lagoon is a refreshing experience. This hidden gem is not widely known among tourists, so it often feels like a private retreat. The infinity pool overlooking the ocean is a serene spot to unwind.

Keppel islands

Keppel Islands

If island exploration is on your agenda, Keppel Bay, just 10 kilometers from Yeppoon, is your gateway to the Keppel Islands. The islands, with their white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, are a paradise for beach lovers and snorkelers alike.

The beauty of this place is almost overwhelming, with the bright blue ocean contrasting sharply against the soft white sands.

Mackay & Cape Hillsborough

Yeppoon – Mackay – Cape Hillsborough: 408 km – 4.75 hours driving time

Mount Etna Caves National Park

little bent-wing bats Australia

Leaving Yeppoon and merging back onto the main road, Route A1, a 40-kilometer drive leads you to an extraordinary natural wonder: Mount Etna Caves National Park.

This park is a sanctuary for the little bent-wing bats, housing a staggering 80% of their Australian population. It’s also one of the rare habitats for the elusive ghost bats. Walking through the park, especially during summer (Dec-Feb), you can join guided tours to witness these fascinating creatures.

The limestone formations here, remnants of ancient coral reefs, add to the park’s unique allure.

The park also offers day-use areas with free BBQ facilities, making it an ideal spot for a lunch break amidst nature. It’s a place where you can truly appreciate the delicate balance of our ecosystem.

Marlborough & Clairview & Sarina

Clairview australia

As you continue your journey towards Mackay, a 314-kilometer drive, you’ll pass through quaint settlements like Marlborough, Clairview, and Sarina. These small towns are gateways to some hidden beach roads, leading to secluded spots perfect for a peaceful break from the drive.

Before reaching Mackay, a visit to Sarina is a must. The Sarina Sugar Shed offers a glimpse into the world of sugar and rum production. This miniature sugar mill distillery is a unique experience, showcasing the process of making sugar shed rum. And if you’re up for a slight detour, Hay Point, with its 3.8 km long coal loading jetty – the largest in the world – is just 24 kilometers away.


Mackay Lagoon

Upon arriving in Mackay, the Blue Water Lagoon beckons for some relaxation. If you’re still feeling adventurous, Lambert’s Lookout offers stunning views of the ocean and the busy horizon, dotted with ships waiting to be loaded with coal. Keep your eyes peeled – you might even spot a whale!

Cape Hillsborough

Cape Hillsborough

But the real highlight of this route is Cape Hillsborough, just 50 kilometers from Mackay. This place is renowned for its wild kangaroos on the beach, a truly Australian spectacle.

Every day, just before sunrise, kangaroos and wallabies gather on the beach, creating a magical scene. It’s worth waking up early for this unforgettable experience. Remember, these are wild animals in their natural habitat, so it’s important to watch them from a distance without disturbing them.

Witnessing these kangaroos at Cape Hillsborough is not just a photo opportunity

Airlie Beach & Whitsundays

Cape Hillsborough – Airlie Beach: 128 km – 1.5 hours driving time

Airlie Beach

Conway National park

From Airlie Beach, you can visit the Conway National Park. A hilly park covered by the rainforest. There are many walking and mountain bike trails throughout the park that lead you to empty beaches and stunning viewpoints over Whitsunday passage and islands.


Airlie beach is the starting location of every tour to Whitsundays, the most popular attraction of Australia. And with a reason, because Withsundays is absolutely stunning! It is an island group of 74 islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef.

Panoramic views on stunning natural landscapes are what characterizes Whitsundays. You can only visit the islands on a tour, but even if you decide to stay onshore, you’ll love the views on the islands!

Below are some tours that can be booked from Airlie beach, but there is way more to explore!


Airlie Beach – Townsville: 275km – 3.25 hours driving time



On the scenic drive from Airlie Beach to Townsville, you’ll pass through Bowen and Ayr, towns known for their vibrant backpacker communities and job opportunities. These places buzz with the energy of travelers seeking work and adventure, creating a unique, lively atmosphere.

Arriving in Townsville, this bustling city unfolds as a treasure trove of experiences. I spent several days here, soaking in its vibrant urban vibe. Dining at the Pier became a favorite pastime, with the backdrop of the ocean adding a special touch to every meal.

The city’s street art is a visual feast, each piece telling a story. The stories behind each painting, as told by the artists, add layers of meaning to this open-air gallery.

Tip: Get a free flyer from the information centre and walk the street art route. In the flyer you can find the story behind the painting, told by the artist.

Townsville, with its significant military history, houses one of Australia’s largest army facilities. The military history tour here is enlightening, offering insights into the role of the Army in North Queensland and Australia’s position during WW2. It’s a poignant reminder of the region’s past and its impact on the present.

Research Center Great Barrier Reef


If you travel the route from Brisbane to Cairns between April and November, the AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science) research center at Cape Ferguson is a must-visit. Every Friday at 9.30 am they lead people around to inform them about the Great Barrier Reef.

This tour includes presentations on AIMS’ current research and a guided walk around the facilities, including a tour of the ‘world’s smartest aquarium’!

They teach you about coral bleaching, how they investigate the coral, how they protect it, and how they keep it as healthy as they can. You will also find several water animal species and in the end, you will do a little workshop.

Magnetic island

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island is a 20-minute ferry ride away from Townsville. More and more people started living there and over time it became a suburb. There lives over 2.000 permanent inhabitants on the 52 square kilometers mountainous surface.

White sand beaches with palm trees, lots of sunshine, and many snorkeling opportunities characterize Magnetic Island. Hire a top-less barbie car to explore the island, or take a flight and explore the island from above.

Magnetic Island is also a very good place to spot wild Koalas in their natural environment.

Hinchinbrook Island

Townsville – Lucinda (ferry departs from here to Hinchinbrook Island): 139km – 1.75 hours driving time

Hinchinbrook Island is a ferry ride away from Lucinda or Cardwell. But this island can’t be visited by everyone. Only 40 people are allowed to spend their day on Hinchinbrook Island. There is no car-accessibility, no shops, and no accommodation, except designated areas where you can set up your own tent.

That for Hinchinbrook is only a destination for multiple-day hikers. The Thorsborn trail, which will lead you from one to the other side of the island, is internationally voted as one of the 10 best hikes in the world! The trail is 32 kilometers long (start at Lucinda, return at Cardwell). The track is not hardened and in some areas rough and difficult to traverse. You’ll also walk a lot on the beach, which isn’t the easiest!

Tip: If you want to hike the Thorsborn Trail, make sure you book your ferry ride in advance. Camping fees also need to be paid in advance. So, try to plan a bit ahead.

Not such a hiker, but you want to explore the island? Hinchinbrook Island is also voted in the top 10 as one of the best places to see in Australia by kayak! Kayak tours will lead you around the island in 7 – 10 days.

Tully & Mission Beach

Lucinda – Tully – Mission Beach: 133 km – 1.75 hours driving time

Hinchinbrook Lookout Points

Hinchinbrook Lookout

Leaving Lucinda and merging onto Route A1, don’t miss the Hinchinbrook Lookout in Bemerside. I remember standing there, awestruck by the panoramic view of Hinchinbrook Island. It’s a place where the grandeur of mountains, forests, and islands converge in a breathtaking spectacle.

As you approach Cardwell, make a stop at the Hinchinbrook Channel Lookout. Even after the first viewpoint, this spot offers a new, mesmerizing perspective of the island. I found it to be a perfect place for reflection and capturing stunning photos.


Cardwell Spa

After 60 kilometers you’ll arrive in Cardwell. Besides a beautiful beach park, you can visit the Cardwell Spa Pool. You won’t believe your own eyes when you see the crystal blue water, flowing through some picturesque waterways.

It is believed that the color is the result of a chemical reaction between the water and the rocks.

Note: Water levels fluctuate throughout the year. You can visit the Spa Pool all year round, but May-Sep is generally the best time to visit

Murray Falls

Murray Falls

On the way to Tully, take the detour to Murray Falls in Girramay National Park. I still recall the soothing sound of the water cascading down the rocks. The park, with its inviting swimming spots and rustic campsite, is ideal for nature enthusiasts.

The hiking trails here, winding through lush rainforests and tropical lowlands, offer an immersive nature experience.


Tully River

Tully’s reputation for thrilling white water rafting on the Tully River is well-earned. I remember the adrenaline rush as I navigated the rapids, an experience I’d recommend to any adventure seeker. Beyond the river, the walking tracks in Tully Gorge National Park are a journey through stunning landscapes.

The hike to Mount Tyson’s summit is challenging but rewards you with a breathtaking coastal view. The butterfly walk, best from September to February, is a more relaxed way to enjoy the park’s natural beauty.

Mission Beach

Mission beach

Mission Beach, a short drive from(25km) Tully, is where the jungle kisses the ocean. The beaches here are a paradise for solitude seekers. I spent a memorable evening by a campfire on one of these secluded beaches, under a starlit sky. The hike up Bicton Hill(4km/1.5 hours) is a must-do for panoramic views of the area. And if you’re lucky, like I was, you might spot a cassowary wandering near Jackaroo Treehouse.

Cassowary Mission Beach

For island lovers, Dunk Island is just a quick water taxi ride(15 min) from Wongaling Beach. Whether you go for a day trip or choose to camp overnight, the island offers a tranquil escape with stunning natural beauty.


Mission Beach – Babinda Boulders – Cairns: 139km – 1.75 hours driving time
Mission Beach – Milla Milla falls – Cairns: 202km – 3 hours driving time


Nearing the end of my epic road trip from Brisbane to Cairns, I still had some incredible sights to savor. Leaving the serene shores of Mission Beach, a 50-kilometer drive brought me to Innisfail.

This cozy town, with its buildings reminiscent of old cowboy movies, felt like a step back in time. The architecture here had a rustic charm that captivated me.

Just past Innisfail, I was faced with a choice at a junction: continue to Cairns via the scenic Milla Milla Falls and waterfall route, or take the path through Babinda Boulders. I chose the former, drawn by the allure of the falls.

Milla Milla falls

Millaa Millaa waterfalls

About 60 kilometers from Innisfail, the Milla Milla Falls awaited. Surrounded by lush rainforest, these falls are a picture of tranquility. I remember the cool, refreshing swim in the waterhole beneath the falls, a perfect respite from the journey.

The 17km waterfall circuit, leading to Zillie and Elinjaa Falls, was a journey through nature’s artistry.

After exploring the waterfalls, I continued north towards Cairns, a 100-kilometer drive through picturesque country roads. Alternatively, one could return to Innisfail and head to Cairns via the unique Babinda Boulders.

Babinda Boulders

Babinda Boulders

From Innisfail, it is a 36 kilometers drive to Babinda Boulders. A natural swimming pool in a unique atmosphere. The natural smoothed boulders that protrude above the water are very characteristic.

There is a nice walking track around the pool, which allows you to see it from different points of view. You can also plunge into the ice-cold water to cool off. Keep in mind that the current is strong, so make sure you keep your feet on the ground if you are not a good swimmer.

From Babinda Boulders it will take an hour to cover the 65 kilometers that are left to reach Cairns.



Finally, arriving in Cairns marked the end of an unforgettable journey. The city, despite its modest size of 150,000 inhabitants, felt bustling and vibrant after the small towns I had passed. Cairns is a hub for exploring the Great Barrier Reef, with numerous excursions and tours. The weekly stroll through Rusty’s Market and the nightly exploration of the night market, filled with diverse foods and handcrafted items, were highlights of my stay.

Time to relax? Head towards the city lagoon to dive into the scenic swimming pool, situated along the coastline.

Do you have more time to spend in Australia? Get back in the car and head North towards Cape Tribulation. A stunning part of Australia where the rainforest meets the Great Barrier Reef.

FAQ Route Brisbane – Cairns

How far is Cairns from Brisbane?

Cairns is approximately 1,700 kilometers (about 1,056 miles) from Brisbane if you’re traveling by road. The journey typically takes around 19 to 24 hours of driving, depending on the route taken and driving conditions. This distance makes for a substantial road trip, often spread over several days to fully enjoy the diverse landscapes and attractions along the way.

How to get to Great Barrier Reef from Brisbane?

To reach the Great Barrier Reef from Brisbane, you have several options:
By Air: The fastest way is to fly from Brisbane to Cairns, the primary gateway to the Reef. The flight takes about 2 to 2.5 hours. In Cairns, numerous tour operators offer trips to the Reef.
By Road: For a scenic road trip, drive from Brisbane to Cairns, covering approximately 1,700 kilometers. This journey takes about 19 to 24 hours of driving time, so consider stopping at coastal towns along the way.
By Rail: Queensland Rail’s Spirit of Queensland offers a comfortable train journey from Brisbane to Cairns, taking around 24 hours.
By Bus: Budget travelers can opt for long-distance buses like Greyhound, which take around 24 hours from Brisbane to Cairns.

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