Cairns to Gold Coast Road Trip

With tens of thousands of miles to travel, you only need a licence, a set of wheels, a sense of adventure and you're set for an unapparelled road trip along the East Coast of Queensland.

girl holding east coast Australia map with her feet hanging out of a car window
Oct29

Cairns to Gold Coast Road Trip

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Stretching from the getaway of the great barrier reef to the bright lights of Brisbane City and the Gold Coast. This famous East Coast roadtrip features spectacular coastal drives, activities and attractions, food and beverage hotspots and ample amounts of #instaworthy opportunities. Throw in the keys to a car or campervan and book your accommodation at several NRMA Parks and Resorts along the East Coast, and you’ve got yourself a road trip just waiting to happen.

LEG ONE: CAIRNS TO BOWEN

Starting point: The Great Barrier Reef

Kick off your East Coast road trip the right way and experience the beauty of The Great Barrier Reef. Catch a boat or take a scenic flight for some awe-inspiring views. Better yet, enjoy a once in a lifetime experience and go snorkelling or scuba diving in the reef on a special guided tour. Discover the amazing array of marine wildlife and exotic coloured coral that make up this incredible deep underwater world.

Stay at NRMA Palm Cove Holiday Park

Featuring caravan and campsites just metres from the beach, Palm Cove is the perfect destination for a relaxing TNQ holiday.

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Stay at NRMA Cairns Holiday Park

As the closest caravan park to the Cairns city centre, the park offers excellent accommodation options, features and facilities.

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Stay at NRMA Atherton Tablelands Holiday Park

Located 1.5 hours from Cairns, our park is a nature lovers paradise boarding reserves and natural attractions.

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Stop 2: Townsville

Cairns to Townsville: 4h 22min

Townsville is a vibrant and busy city perfect for exploring. For some food and drink, head to Rambutan, a stylish rooftop bar and restaurant.  Laze about with a few delicious cocktails and take a dip in the rooftop pool or sit back in one of their luxury poolside cabanas.

For things to do – that’s really up to personal preference. If you’re an adventure seeker, you can’t go past a visit to Magnetic Island. Accessible by ferry, this beautiful island is a tourist hot spot, home to pristine beaches and bays, amazing wildlife, walking tracks and instaworthy sunsets.

If you’re into diving, Townsville is home to one of the best diving experiences in the world. The SS Yongala dive, is an old underwater shipwreck with a tragic history. Take a day tour starting with a 4WD transfer to the beach launch followed by a quick 30-minute boat ride before you dive deep into the waters below. Finish the day with a true Aussie BBQ – yum!

Stop 3: Bowen

Townsville to Bowen: 2h 22min

Did you even visit Bowen without a selfie with the Big Mango? This 10-metre high tourist attraction represents the delicious fruit the town is famous for, the ‘Bowen Mango’.

Spend a day or two relaxing in this gorgeous coastal town located in the Whitsunday Region, with plenty of fishing hot spots and coastal dives to discover. Head into town and enjoy fresh fish and chips at Birds Fish Bar located right on the marine.

Stay at NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park

NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park is the ideal location to explore the Whitsunday coast and soak up the Queensland sun. Located in Bowen, at the top of the Whitsundays, this seaside hamlet overlooks beautiful islands and is well-known for its friendly hospitality and diverse local produce, especially seafood.

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LEG TWO: BOWEN TO YEPPOON

Stop 1: Airlie Beach

Bowen to Airlie: 59min

Airlie Beach is a little slice of paradise. The coastal oasis boasts plenty of things to do from fantastic Saturday markets to amazing sailing spots. But what makes Airlie Beach so great is it’s getaway to the 74 tropical islands that are scattered in the heart of the beautiful Great Barrier Reef – the Whitsunday islands, a definite must-do on your East Coast road trip. It’s an unparalleled playground for boaters, fishers, campers and divers alike.

Experience a guided backpackers tour of the island starting from Airlie Beach. Most tours pass through Whitehaven Beach, located on the largest of the 74 islands. Whitehaven beach is an award-winning beach due to its pristine white sands and unspoiled nature, so definitely pack the camera!

Whitehaven Beach, QLD.

Stop 2: Mackay

Airlie to Mackay: 1h 48min

Mackay is a cool coastal city known for its marina, Harbour Beach and Bluewater Lagoon, a city water park full of waterslides, swimming pools and a great onsite cafe.

Experience diving in Mackay’s crystal clear rivers and pools and meet one of the world’s most elusive animals, the Australian Platypus. This nocturnal mammal can be tough to spot due to its timid nature, so make sure you keep super quiet when on the lookout.

Stop 3: Rockhampton

Mackey to Rockhampton: 3h 52min

Despite being one of the largest cities in QLD, Rockhampton flies under the radar as a tourist hot spot. But it’s actually one of Queensland’s hidden treasures, offering so many things to see and do. From quaint riverside dining at Boathouse Rockhampton, a beautiful botanical garden, live rodeo nights at The Great Western Hotel and a thriving beef industry – Rocky is a true gem that keeps in touch with its roots while still producing a modern city buzz.

Stop 4: Yeppoon

Rockhampton to Yeppoon: 37min

Yeppoon is the doorstep to Island hopping and the Great Barrier Reef. While in town, check out the crocs at the Koorana Crocodile Farm, hike the famous Bluff Point Track to the Turtle Lookout and spot the super cute green turtles as they pop up for air. Spend a day visiting Great Keppel Island, often described as an idyllic tropical paradise. Once you reach the island, relax and sunbathe on the white sandy beach, or tickle that sense of adventure with an action-packed day of snorkelling, jet skis, stand-up paddle boarding, wakeboarding and more.

Stay at NRMA Capricorn Yeppoon Holiday Park

Situated along 16km of breathtaking coastline, the park is nestled between a stunning white sandy beach and beautiful National Park. It’s the perfect location to relax, unwind and experience nature at its best.

Stay in a beach cabin or villa or pitch a tent at one of the many campsites around the park.

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LEG THREE: YEPPOON TO THE FRASER COAST

Stop 1: Gladstone

Yeppoon to Gladstone: 2h

First stop on your leg of the trip is the city of Gladstone. A great destination for fishing, eating and relaxing. Check out Lightbox Espresso and Bar for a delicious coffee and a lazy breakfast. If you’re there on a Sunday, you can enjoy live music in the garden or courtyard. There’s a cool art gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and plenty of bush walks and marine activities to experience. Just take your pick.

Stop 2: Bundaberg

Gladstone to Bundaberg: 2h 21min

Next up is a visit to the city of Bundaberg, home to the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Established in 1888, the Bundaberg Distillery is the most awarded rum distillery in the country. Take a tour and learn to craft your own unique blend direct from the barrel.

Stay at NRMA Woodgate Beach Holiday Park

Set on ultimate beachfront on the stunning Fraser Coast, NRMA Woodgate Beach Holiday Park is the perfect location to relax, unwind and experience nature at its best.

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LEG FOUR: BUNDABERG TO BRISBANE

Stop 1: Fraser Island

Bunderberg to Fraser Island: 4h 15m (includes ferry/barge travel time)

First stop is Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world! Explore the wonders of this beautiful island that stretches over an impressive 120km. There are rainforests to explore, sand dunes to witness, freshwater swimming spots to cool off in, and amazing panoramic views perfect for your next #instapic backdrop.

Fraser Island is accessible only by a 50-minute ferry or barge ride from River Head (20-minutes south of Hervey Bay) . If you’re planning on spending the day, there’s plenty of places to stop and eat on the island. Satiny Bar & Bistro is our top pick. Enjoy lunch or dinner on their large outside deck overlooking the spectacular views.

Stop 2: Hervey Bay

Fraser Island to Hervey Bay: 3h 4min (includes ferry/barge ride time)

Experience some of the best whale-watching in the world at Hervey Bay on the spectacular Fraser Coast. Between July and November is the best time to see the magnificent humpback whales up close. Drop by Reefworld Aquarium and check out the sharks, turtles and reef fish in this natural aquarium just meters from the beach.

Stop 3: Noosa National Park

Hervey Bay to Noosa: 2h 4min

Immerse yourself in the tranquil serenity of Noosa National Park, nestled on the doorstep of the famous tourist town of Noosa. Walk along the spectacular coastline, watch the waves crash on the rugged rocks at Hells Gap and spot the dolphins frolicking through the haze. Wind your way through the various rainforest tracks before enjoying a picnic at the Noosa Headland day-use area.

Noosa National Park, QLD

Stop 4: Brisbane

Noosa to Brisbane: 1h 54 min

On the banks of the Brisbane River, the heritage-listed Cultural Precinct in South Bank offers a host of museums, galleries, and performance venues.

An art-lovers haven, the The Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is a must-do. Admire the beauty of more than 1,700 works of art from Australia and around the world.

Shop to your heart’s content, or pick up any last-minute road trip essentials at Queen Street Mall, a shopping and lifestyle precinct located in the heart of Brisbane City with over 700 stores.

For a spot of good grub, head to Brisbane’s West End and indulge in a fruity blend of coffee at Morning After, a light-filled cafe boasting a tantalising breakfast and lunch selection.

Brisbane City, QLD.
Brisbane City, QLD.

Stay at NRMA Lake Somerset Holiday Park

A fishing and watersports haven just 1.5 hours from Brisbane. Large campsites overlooking the lake make it a perfect weekend getaway.

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LEG FIVE: BRISBANE TO GOLD COAST

Brisbane to Gold Coast: 1hr

There’s really no better place for fun and excitment than the holiday destination of the Gold Coast. Boasting some of Australia’s best beaches, action-packed theme parks and beautiful hinterland, it’s no wonder the Gold Coast is a thriving tourism destination.

NRMA members can also save on entry to Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet‘n’Wild theme parks.

Stay at NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort on the Gold Coast

NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort is located in central Gold Coast, offering everything from cosy cabins to caravan and camp sites and close to everything on the Gold Coast worth exploring.

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Set out on the ultimate East Coast adventure

NRMA Parks and Resorts are located all along the east coast of Australia. Book a road trip adventure today.

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