Road Tripping in Queensland - Brisbane to Cairns

Leaving Brisbane can be a tough decision to make. While there you cant help but think its gonna take a very special reason to drag you away from this laid back and beautiful city. The friendly people, the riverside setting, the nearby beaches... it all seems too good to be true! But luckily a reason does exist that could get you up and moving, and it lies in the form of the revered Australian rite of passage, the road trip.

Now there are a thousand directions you could take from here of distances long and small, but the route that really seperates the part timers from the dedicated is the lengthy trip up north to the regional capital of Cairns. If youre serious about a road trip, then this 1700 kilometre journey is for you.

Now 1700 kilometres is a long way by anyones standard, so luckily there is a lot to see and do on the way up. Leaving Brisbane the first notable region you come to is the Sunshine Coast, which is about an hour and a half north. This long stretch of small coastal suburbs is famous for its sun, surf and beach culture.

A series of small suburbs spread along the coast, each with their own beaches and distinctive culture, this is the sort of place you come to for a day but end up staying a week. The most famous suburb is Noosa, a glitzy spot located near to a river mouth- there are lots of accommodation options here and all up the Sunshine Coast. To continue north you need to get back onto the highway and head on towards Maryborough.

Many will like to turn off there to Hervey Bay and go across to Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, where they camp on the beach amidst the thick rainforest.

The stretch from Maryborough to Rockhampton is fairly uneventful. You can detour via Gladstone and Bundaberg is you feel like a break from the monotony. Bundaberg is famous for being the home of the Bundaberg Rum distillery, and is really a big country town.

Gladstone is similar in size, and lies nearly 200 kilometres north of Bundy. Its famous for its fishing, the barramundi run thick and fast in the waterways here. Getting back onto the highway from Gladstone, the next city you pass through is Rockhampton, a large regional centre that is the beef production capital of Australia.

Built on the banks of the Fitzroy River, it is also a fishermans paradise. A favourite past time here is bull riding at the rodeo, so be sure to stop over and catch the excitement of one of these if you are in town when one is on.

Continuing on from Rockhampton the next major stop is Mackay. Currently in the middle of an economic boom, this is a vibrant city to stop over in and is home to some beautiful beaches and lush rainforest.

Dont miss having a drink and a meal in the pub at Eimeo- built on the top of a headland, this is known as the pub with million dollar views. From here you can see the amazing strength of the Mackay tides on the beach below.

Nearby to Mackay is the Eungella National Park, so if you want to retreat to nature for a bit then consider a camping excursion there.

2 hours north of Mackay is Proserpine. If you turn right here at the well sign posted turn off you reach Airlie Beach, renowned holiday hotspot and gateway to the Whitsunday Islands.

Backpackers converge on this small town to then sail around the islands or head off to individual attractions in the Whitsundays. The sheer numbers of tourists mean there is always something happening here, and it has a reputation as one heck of a party town. Chances are you will be leaving here with a sore head!

Continuing north you pass through the banana country around Bowen, and then up the coast to Townsville (nearly 300 kms from Airlie). Townsville is a great little tropical city, relaxed and friendly with a refurbished esplanade up the main beach.

The best thing about Townsville is Magnetic Island, which lies just a bit offshore. Rising to a peak in the form of Mt Cook, this island is surrounded by sparkling beaches, blue sea and coral cays. It is reached by a short ferry ride and there are plenty of places to stay on it.

From Townsville the countryside really starts to get tropical. The climate gets muggier and the rainforest gets thicker. Its a 350 kilometre run onto Cairns from here, but many choose to detour to Mission Beach and spend a day or two there.

This eco destination consists of four seperate villages nestled into the vegetation next to some stunning beaches. Tranquil and serene, this spot will leave you feeling very refreshed in readiness for the excitement of Cairns.

Cairns is a tourist heaven. With the Great Barrier Reef on its doorstep a lot of people come here to go diving or snorkelling, but an equal amount are attracted by the vibrancy of this regional capital. With the Atherton Tablelands and Kuranda lying inland, and Port Douglas and Palm Cove to the north, there is no end of nearby attractions you can visit. Where backpackers go adventure sports seem to follow, so the brave out there can try their hands at sky diving or white water rafting.

Whichever way you look at it, Cairns is the cherry on top of the cake, and after your long drive its sweetness is yours to savour.

Gavin Wyatt

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