Queensland is the best road trip destination on Australia’s north coast. With pristine beaches, world-renowned reefs, and unique towns throughout this region, Queensland has something for everyone.
Start your journey in the coastal town of Caloundra and head a little further north to Mooloolaba Beach Holiday Park. From here, you can explore Chinchilla and spot bilbies in Charleville before heading to Birdsville and crossing the Simpson Desert.
Brisbane – Noosa
The sunshine state’s pristine beaches and natural wonders make it a favorite road trip destination. Yet it’s also home to various fascinating historic towns where you can discover more about Australia’s past.
A popular route is the Brisbane to Noosa road trip. It’s a beautiful drive that allows you to explore the lush hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, sand driving, and beach swimming in Noosa National Park. It’s easy to enjoy a few stops along the way, such as the quaint town of Redcliffe with its Bee Gees Street and Aussie World, a medium-sized theme park.
Further North is Mooloolaba, a lovely little beachside town great for snorkeling and catching fish and chips. It’s also home to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and is a good base for a day trip to Noosa Island or Lady Elliot Island. You can also go on a whale-watching cruise or visit a local winery. Those seeking extra adventure can head to Mount Ngungun and Mount Beerwah or hike the Glass House Mountains.
Sunshine Coast – Hervey Bay
When the weather is hot and sunny, head up to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, where you can enjoy the pristine sand beaches and refreshing emerald water. Mooloolaba, Kings Beach, and Marcoola are popular choices, while Hervey Bay is the main gateway to the world-famous Fraser Island.
The road trip from Noosa to Hervey Bay is around 174km along the shortest route, and it takes about 2h15m when you take the faster Bruce Highway route via Gympie. On the way, you can visit Cedar Creek to dip your feet in a natural waterfall pool or see some Aboriginal rock art at Carnarvon Gorge.
After a more epic inland experience, head west from Brisbane to Toowoomba and the Central Queensland Highlands, where you can go fossicking for sapphires in Emerald. You can also visit Carnarvon Gorge and the National Park to explore several scenic trails.
One of the best ways to see Queensland is on a road trip. A road trip allows you to explore native wildlife, theme park thrills, and pristine beaches at your own pace. Whether you are driving for a weekend or an entire month, there are plenty of road trips in Queensland.
Drive to Fraser Island, and you will be surrounded by nature at every turn. Queensland is perfect for a nature lover, from the roaring ocean to pristine freshwater lakes. The highlight is visiting the Maheno Shipwreck found on 75 Mile Beach. The shipwreck was washed up from a cyclone in 1935, and it is now a stunning sight.
From Fraser Island, you can drive inland to the pretty town of Hebel and learn about the history of the Kelly Gang. You can also visit museums like Cobb and Co. and the Hebel Hotel, where many gang members used to hang out. Then, it’s off to Carnarvon Gorge, Charters Towers, and Hughenden, where you can learn about dinosaur footprints.
Hervey Bay – 1770 Camping Ground
Queensland is famous for its beaches, rainforests, and reefs, but its inland reaches are just as incredible. Head out on the Great Beach Drive, a 380km off-the-beaten-track road trip from Hervey Bay to Rainbow Beach and the 75 75-mile beach on Fraser Island before finishing up at Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The trip also passes through the shearing town of Cunnamulla, where you can grab a selfie with Slim Dusty’s Cunnamulla Fella statue and take in the sights of the 1.6km Warrego Riverwalk before visiting the historical shearing museum at Ram Park.
From there, you can visit the inland national parks of Lake Nuga Nuga, Carnarvon Gorge, and Charter Towers before heading north to see the big attractions in the gold mining town of Mount Isa, including the Big Apple. Make a pit stop in Roma, where you can tour the largest cattle sales yard in the Southern Hemisphere and meet Australia’s most endangered marsupial at the Charleville Bilby Experience. From there, it’s a short drive to the Hebel Hotel, where you can eat a slice of the famous Big Pie before learning about the region’s indigenous wildlife at Mon Repos.
1770 Camping Ground – Airlie Beach
Queensland is a state of big things, so its iconic road trips should include plenty of ‘big experiences.’ Visit the ‘Big Pineapple’ in border town Stanthorpe, drool over the ‘Big Kangaroo’ at Yatala, and dig for opals in Quilpie. Then, drive inland to the tropical farm at Cape Trib and load up on exotic fruits like black sapote, breadfruit (part of the jackfruit family), and durian.
From here, take in the natural sights of the Great Barrier Reef, cozy coastal towns, and pristine beaches before landing in Townsville, where you can see an anchor and cannon left by Endeavour at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Or, check out the swanky laneways and thriving food scene in the city’s center.
Then, it’s on to Charters Towers, where you can learn about the gold mining history of this town, and Hughenden, where you can rewind 120 million years at Kronosaurus Korner. From here, the road winds west toward Cairns and beyond to Cooktown. The route is rough and rugged, best suited to experienced off-road campers.
Airlie Beach – Townsville
This road trip offers an amazing mix of relaxing on sandy beaches and indulging in high-energy outdoor activities. The drive from Airlie Beach to Townsville takes you through a tropical paradise full of lush green forests and stunning waterfalls, including Carnarvon National Park, where you can walk around Eliot Falls.
Mooloolaba is the next stop on this route, and it has a beautiful beach that stretches right up to the sand, although there’s not much else to do here. From here, you’ll drive to Agnes Water, the perfect spot for a relaxing swim in the crystal clear waters.
You can also taste rural Australia by visiting places like Charleville, Longreach, and the Age of Dinosaurs at the Lark Quarry stampede site. Avoiding the stinger season (October to May) will mean you can safely enjoy this area’s great beaches without risking getting stung!
You can make this road trip at any time of year, but it’s best during the dry season from July to November. The road trip will ensure you see the parks and beaches at their best, plus you’ll be able to take advantage of discounts on accommodation.
Townsville – Mission Beach
This tropical North Queensland road trip may take a day or two to complete, but it’s packed with a mix of rainforest, shipwrecks, national parks, windswept beaches, and historic townships. The best place to start is in Townsville, where you can see koalas in their natural habitat at Magnetic Island and explore the city’s laneways with its collection of Art Deco buildings.
From here, head to Springbrook National Park to stroll along its enchanting ‘Natural Bridge’ waterfall and practice your photography skills. Then, you can follow the sweeping rainforest views of Lamington National Park Road and tour the Glow Worm Caves or enjoy sunset views from Kamarun Lookout.
Continuing north, you’ll come to Mission Beach, one of the tropical North’s best-kept secrets. Its gorgeous beaches offer a variety of cabins, caravan sites, and campsites right next to the water. You can also swim under the waterfalls at Behana Gorge or relax in the natural pools of Josephine Falls. While in Mission Beach, you should also visit the Museum and Library to learn more about the region’s Indigenous history via shell middens and reconstructed campsites.
Mission Beach – Cairns
A road trip from Mission Beach to Cairns is a popular choice for travelers visiting the Coral Reef and quaint coastal towns. Along the way, you’ll also find sugar cane farms and the Babinda Boulders, a beautiful swimming river for those who enjoy a good challenge. The region also hosts rodeos and festivals like Julia Creek’s Dirt n Dust and Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond. These are fun and unique experiences for road trippers looking to get off the beaten path.
Less than an hour south of Mission Beach, Cardwell Spa Pools is a vibrant blue natural spa worth the detour for visitors to the area. And don’t miss out on visiting Paronella Park, the ruins of a Catalan castle that are set in one of the most picturesque grounds in Australia.
After a few days in Cairns, you can join tours to the pristine beaches and rainforests of Magnetic Island or learn about the rainforest and reef at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. Renting a four-wheel drive will give you more freedom to explore this part of the state and is a popular option for this road trip from Brisbane.