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Kangaroos skipping through shallow waters at sunset. Lake Cootharaba, Noosa, QLD.

A Campervan Road Trip Itinerary from Cairns to Sydney

Australia’s east coast offers one of the world’s most breathtaking road trips: the journey from Cairns to Sydney. Spanning over 2,400 kilometers, this route showcases a diverse range of landscapes, vibrant cities, and unique wildlife. Whether you’re a solo traveler, a couple, or a family, this epic adventure promises unforgettable experiences at every turn. Here’s your ultimate guide to exploring the best of Northern Queensland and beyond on your road trip from Cairns to Sydney.

Day 1-2: Cairns

Cairns, the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, is the perfect starting point. Spend a day or two diving or snorkeling in the world’s largest coral reef system. For land-based activities, explore the lush Daintree Rainforest, the oldest tropical rainforest on earth. Don’t miss the scenic Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, offering panoramic views of the tropical landscape.

Adventure Tip: For the more adventurous travelers, skip the Skyrail and make a stop at the Skypark where you can have a go at bungee jumping, giant swings, tower climbs and more, surrounded by the lush rainforest.

Great Barrier Reef Snorkeling, QLDGreat Barrier Reef Snorkeling, QLD. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 2-3: Discover the Atherton Tablelands

Head southwest from Cairns to the Atherton Tablelands, a region known for its waterfalls, lakes, and lush rainforests. Highlights include the Millaa Millaa Falls, Lake Eacham, and the Curtain Fig Tree. This area is also home to various wildlife, so keep an eye out for tree kangaroos and the elusive platypus.

Person on a boardwalk looking at a Curtain Fig Tree, Atherton Tablelands, QLDCurtain Fig Tree, Atherton Tablelands, QLD. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 3-5: Adventure at Mission Beach

Continuing south, stop at Mission Beach. This coastal town is a haven for adventure seekers and beach lovers. Have a go at skydiving and land right on the beach, go white-water rafting in Tully Gorge National Park or simply relax on the amazing beaches. If you have time, take the passenger ferry to Dunk Island for a day trip.

Secret Tip for wildlife lovers: Stop at Etty Bay for the night and you’re almost guaranteed to see a Cassowary. It’s just off the highway in between Mission Beach & Cairns and it has a cute camping spot to park up your campervan village rental.

Cassowary prehistoric bird, Etty Bay, QLDCassowary prehistoric bird, Etty Bay, QLD. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 5-7: Whitsunday Islands and Airlie Beach

A must-visit on your road trip is Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. These islands are famous for their white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. If your wallet allows it, take a sailing tour or scenic flight to explore Whitehaven Beach and the stunning Heart Reef. Back on the mainland, Airlie Beach offers a lively atmosphere with plenty of dining and nightlife options.

Clear turqoise ocean with picturesque coastline. Whitsunday Islands, QLDWhitsunday Islands, QLD. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 7-9: Explore the Capricorn Coast

Driving further south, you’ll reach the Capricorn Coast, where you can visit Rockhampton, known as the Beef Capital of Australia. At the Capricorn Coast National Park you’ll find a mix of different natural environments like mangroves, dry rainforest, grassland, open eucalypt forests and the coast of Keppel Bay. Explore the Capricorn Caves or relax at Yeppoon’s beaches. For a 360-degree view of the Capricorn Coast and Keppel Bay, head to Wreck Point Scenic Lookout.

Travel tip: See if the Rodeo is on in Rockhampton. It is definitely worth spending the night for it and soaking up some true Ozzie outback culture.

Family hiking. Capricorn Caves, QLDCapricorn Caves, QLD. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 9-11: Rainbow Beach & Noosa Heads

Continue your road trip down South with a short stop at Rainbow Beach, a coastal town known for its stunning natural beauty and laid-back atmosphere. Drive further down to Noosa Heads and stay there for the night. Noosa National Park offers amazing walks, views and beaches. If you’re a surfer you might even be able to catch some great waves! The little town center has lots of restaurants, bars and cute cafes if you ‘re feeling fancy and you’re not keen on another day of camping cooking.

Camping Tip: Stay at the Noosa Habitat campsites and enjoy the 2-for-1 nights Promo they offer Campervan Village rentals. Book here with promo code CVHABITAT24.

Woman kneeling on a beach by a small wallaby. Lake Cootharaba, Noosa, QLDLake Cootharaba, Noosa, QLD. Photo: Noosa Habitat

Day 11-12: Sunshine Coast Hinterland

If you happen to travel down from Noosa on a Wednesday or a Saturday, make sure to stop at the Eumundi markets for breakfast or early lunch. If you’ve missed the markets or are just a die hard foodie, make your way to Kenilworth. The Kenilworth bakery is known for their 1kg donuts and if you’re not a sweet tooth the Kenilworth Cheese Factory has a great selection of cheeses and history. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, it is the perfect stop for a snack.

Make your way down to Maleny and Montville where you will find cute local shops and friendly locals. It is also a gateway to the Kondalilla National Park with amazing waterfalls, hikes and rock pools. The Glass House Mountains are only a short drive South and offer the perfect sunset hike with amazing views from the top of Mount Ngungun, Mt Beerburrum or Wild Horse Mountain.

Pub Tip: After hiking, treat yourself to a nice cold beer and some pub food at the Woodford Hotel.

Clouds high above a mountain range landscape. Glasshouse Mountains, QLDGlasshouse Mountains, QLD. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 12-14: Gold Coast & Byron Bay

A short drive from Brisbane, the Gold Coast offers a mix of stunning beaches, theme parks and nightlife. Visit Surfers Paradise for its iconic beach or head to the hinterland for rainforests and waterfalls in Lamington & Springbrook National Park.

From the Gold Coast, take the Pacific Highway south towards Byron Bay, known for its bohemian vibe and iconic lighthouse. Catch the sunset on the Main Beach and enjoy the view of the sun setting behind the hinterland mountains. The area comes alive at sunset with locals and travelers playing music, going for a last surf or catching up with friends.

Early Riser Tip: Catch the very first sunrise on the Australian mainland at the Byron Bay Lighthouse.

Byron Bay Lighthouse pertched high above the ocean, NSWByron Bay Lighthouse, NSW. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 14-15: Coffs Harbour

On the way down stop in Coffs Harbour and visit the Big Banana. Yes, you read that right, it’s a giant banana! For some stunning views, walk the break wall to Muttonbird Island and notice the different rugged coastline in New South Wales, compared to the tropical coast of Queensland.

Wildlife lovers can make a stop at the Coffs Coast Wildlife Sanctuary and get up close with dolphins, penguins and seals. If you’re more into adventurous activities, head down to Boambee Creek and hire a kayak or SUP board for the afternoon.

Girl paddleboarding Boambee Creek, NSWSUP boarding Boambee Creek, NSW. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 15-17: Nambucca Heads & Port Macquarie

Continue the drive down to Port Macquarie, known for its koala hospital and coastal walks. If you have some time, stop in Nambucca Heads and take a walk along the V wall at sunset. The colorful break wall is painted with messages & drawings from locals and visitors over the years. On top of that the walk offers some amazing views, especially at sunset.

In Port Macquarie make sure to do the coastal walk from the town center to the 19th-century Tacking Point Lighthouse with amazing views. You might even spot some whales and dolphins!

Tacking Point Lighthouse, NSWTacking Point Lighthouse, NSW. Photo: Tourism Australia

Day 17-18: Newcastle & Sydney

On your way down to Newcastle, make a stop at Myall Lakes National Park for a morning walk on the Treachery Headland track, taking you through the coastal rainforest with giant fig trees and stunning views. When you make it to Newcastle, don’t miss out on a dip in the Bogey Hole ocean pool. It’s an Instagrammers dream! On the next day, before driving down to Sydney, make a stop at the Glenrock State Conservation Area. There’s a couple walking tracks offering amazing views of the coastal cliffs, beaches and lagoons.

Your road trip concludes in Sydney, Australia’s largest city. Explore iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, and Bondi Beach. Discover the city’s diverse neighborhoods, enjoy some delicious food from all over the world and take in the vibrant nightlife scene.

Wildlife Tip: If you’re traveling during whale season, between June and November, book a cruise and spot the impressive Humpback Whales.

Whale watching Newcastle, NSWWhale watching Newcastle, NSW. Photo: Tourism Australia.

One of Australia’s most iconic road trips!

From the pristine beaches of Northern Queensland to the rugged coast of New South Wales, each destination offers its own unique charm and unforgettable experiences. So pack your bags, hit the road, and get ready to create memories that will last a lifetime!

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