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20 Best QLD Road Trips To Take In 2022

BrisbaneImage source: Tourism and Events Queensland image gallery

With so many jaw-dropping sights waiting to be discovered, Queensland is the perfect destination to explore by campervan. As the second-largest state in Australia, there are plenty of things to do in Queensland. This subtropical region of northeast Australia is overflowing with natural attractions, national parks and marine parks to explore year-round.

With such a large landmass filled with things to see and do, van travel is the perfect way to explore. No more long cramped car rides, expensive roadhouse meals, and the inconvenience of hotel stays. With a camper, you can make the most of your time, make use of the onboard facilities to make a meal or use the bathroom and experience a road trip in style.

To help you plan your ultimate holiday, we’ve listed our top 20 Queensland road trips.

Why visit Queensland?

Queensland is often referred to as the Sunshine State for its idyllic year-round 29℃ weather. Although there is some variability to this rule, it doesn’t mean you can’t follow the sunshine.

In the winter months between June and August, head north to enjoy the tropical paradise home to the world-famous Great Barrier Reef, the Wet Tropics, golden sandy beaches, and native-forested national parks. Winter is also the perfect time to venture inland to explore the hidden gems (both literally and figuratively) in outback Queensland. In the summer (December to February), head south to avoid the wet season and the sticky flies of the outback, instead enjoy a coastal road trip, exploring some of the best surf spots in Australia.

No matter where you choose to adventure, the tropical climate and natural beauty can be found all throughout the state. And, what better way to explore than by taking a road trip where you can soak up with sights with everything you need in tow.

The top 20 Queensland road trips 

1. Great Tropical Drive 

  • Distance: 660km
  • Highlights: Great Barrier Reef, Island Point, Kalkajaka National Park

North Queensland’s Great Tropical Drive winds its way through three beautiful and pivotal stops on a far north Queensland road trip: Cairns, Port Douglas, and Cooktown. On this coastal adventure, experience the best of Cairns city, escape into the monsoonal rainforests of the Wet Tropics, snorkel amongst the tropical fish of the Great Barrier Reef, summit Flagstaff Hill lookout, and explore the history of Cooktown at the James Cook Museum.

2. Gillies Highway

  • Distance: 60km
  • Highlights: Heales Lookout, Goldsborough Valley, Walsh’s Pyramid

Just south of Cairns, the Gillies Range road runs southwest from Gordonvale through the Gillies Range and finishes in the town of Atherton. Choose your own adventure with the many detours just off this highway, including swimming in Lake Eacham, exploring Crater Lakes National Park, as well as exploring Walsh’s Pyramid, the highest free-standing natural pyramid in the world.

3. Brisbane to Noosa 

  • Distance: 148km
  • Highlights: Water activities, Noosa National Park, Noosa Everglades

Brisbane to Noosa is only a 2-hour drive, but it is filled with enough adventure to fill a week if you have the time. Some of the best things to do include taking a day trip to Bribie Island, hiking the sheer cliffs of the Glasshouse Mountains, visiting Australia Zoo, and touring through the spectacular network of water and wilderness of the Noosa Everglades.

4. Brisbane to Rainforest Way 

  • Distance: 187km
  • Highlights: World Heritage rainforests, national parks

Rainforest Way is a series of self-driving routes winding down through southeast Queensland and northern New South Wales. Gain a new appreciation of this region's beauty as you walk amongst Australia's World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforests and the beautiful hinterlands on this route.

5. Nerang to Aratula 

  • Distance: 137km
  • Highlights: The Scenic Rim, Kalbar, Peak Crossing

The Scenic Rim Way traverses west from the Gold Coast and follows numerous trails and loops that will take you through quaint country towns, boutiques, national parks, wineries, breweries and lakes. This is the perfect route to experience the classic country charm of inland Queensland.

6. Brisbane to Sunshine Coast 

  • Distance: 105km
  • Highlights: Noosa Heads, Surfer’s Paradise, Glasshouse Mountains

Sample the best of both worlds, from the city lights of Brisbane to the laid back vibe of the Sunshine Coast, along this beautiful coastal route. Stop by the highrise-lined beach of Surfers Paradise, look out over the Gold Coast from the impressive vantage of the Glasshouse Mountains and taste your way through Eumundi Markets before embracing the perpetual sandy-feet sunny-coast way of life.

7. Brisbane to Gold Coast 

  • Distance: 78 km
  • Highlights: Mount Tamborine, Lamington, Springbrook

Explore the iconic cities of Brisbane and the Gold Coast on this short yet packed tour of the east coast. Take a surf lesson at one of the best surf spots in Australia, cuddle a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, walk through the dense, lush rainforest of Tamborine Mountain and feel the spray of the spectacular waterfalls at Springbrook National Park.

8. Cairns to Port Douglas 

  • Distance: 67 km
  • Highlights: Macalister Range National Park, Great Barrier Reef

Follow the palm-lined asphalt of the Captain Cook Highway north from Cairns to Port Douglas as you take in the incredible coastal views past rainforest-covered mountains. Be sure to take a tour to explore the Great Barrier Reef, wander along the bouldered landscape of Wangetti Beach, and explore Kuranda Rainforest Village; home to Australia’s largest butterfly sanctuary.

9. Cairns to Matilda Way 

  • Distance: 1,452km
  • Highlights: Airlie Beach, Rockhampton, Bundaberg

Wander inland to the red dirt of the Queensland outback along Matilda Way. Running from Cairns across to Normanton and then southbound to Cunnamulla, this itinerary guides you through the dinosaur capital of Australia (Winton), all the way south to soak in the warm natural baths of the Great Artesian Basin at Charlotte’s Plains - the ultimate outback experience.

10. Great Green Way: Townsville to Cairns 

  • Distance: 348km
  • Highlights: Lucinda, Cardwell, Mission Beach

Stretching between Townsville and Cairns, this short and sweet tropical drive is best enjoyed over a few days to settle in with the laid-back vibe. You’ll see spectacular beaches and the distant Hinchinbrook Island and can tick the Golden Gumboot off your ‘big thing’ bucket list.

11. Cairns to Cape Tribulation 

  • Distance: 75km
  • Highlights: Ellis Beach, Palm Cove, Great Barrier Reef

On the drive north toward Cape Tribulation, soak up the beautiful views with lush rainforest on one side and coastal beauty on the other. Passing through shady covered beaches of Palm Cove, capture the classic tropical photo-op at the bent over palms on Ellis Beach. Lose yourself in the ancient untouched beauty of the dense rainforest and golden sandy beaches of Cape Tribulation.

12. Cairns to Whitsundays 

  • Distance: 620km (to Airlie Beach)
  • Highlights: Mission Beach, Girringun National Park, Townsville

What better way to explore the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef than a trip from Cairns to the Whitsundays. Take a tour of the reef, swimming at Babinda Boulders, visit the Big Mango in Bowen and dine at one of the alfresco style restaurants in Airlie Beach. This is also a popular whale-watching destination in spring and winter.

13. Brisbane to Glass House Mountains 

  • Distance: 68km
  • Highlights: Mary Cairncross Reserve, Mt. Tibrogargan

Leave the city lights behind to discover all the natural wonders tucked away in the Glass House Mountains National Park. Visit Maleny Botanic Gardens, brave the steep cliffs of Mt. Tibrogargan or meander along the boardwalk in Coolum on this self-drive coastal adventure.

14. Brisbane to Sapphire Gremfields 

  • Distance: 935km
  • Highlights: Sunshine Coast, fossick for gems at Sapphire Gemfields

Step into the true-blue outback on this inland Queensland drive. Leave the salty coastal roads behind and explore the quaint small towns, the Blackdown Tablelands' scenic waterfalls, and try your luck fossicking for precious stones in the world’s largest sapphire fields at the Sapphire Gemfields.

15. Brisbane to Wooroonooran National Park 

  • Distance: 1,618km
  • Highlights: Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Airlie Beach, Townsville Driving between

Brisbane and Wooroonooran National Park is the ultimate east coast road trip. Along this route, you’ll see the iconic Sunshine Coast coastline, pass through the beef capital of Australia in Rockhampton, have the chance to explore the Great Barrier Reef, and much more.

16. Cairns to Kirrama Range Road

  • Distance: 225km
  • Highlights: Wooroonooran National Park, Mission Beach, Koombooloomba National Park

This inland road trip winds its way past Walsh’s Pyramid, through the iconic waterfall circuit, and finishes with a spectacular drive through the heritage-listed forest surrounding Kirrama Range Road. Don’t forget your camera - this road trip is a photographer’s dream.

17. Brisbane to Cairns 

  • Distance: 1,678km
  • Highlights: Sunshine Coast, Airlie Beach, Mission Beach, Rockhampton, Townsville

Experience the very best of two of Queensland’s most popular destinations with a Brisbane to Cairns road trip. This coastline is jam-packed with some of the best things to do in Australia: swim in the Great Barrier Reef, enjoy spontaneous alfresco eats along the Sunshine Coast, and come up close with crocodiles and cassowaries.

18. Pacific Coast Way: Airlie Beach to Gold Coast 

  • Distance: 1,175km
  • Highlights: Mackay, Tannum Sands, Bundaberg, Noosa

From South East Queensland to the Tropical North, Pacific Coast Way is the perfect road trip to discover stunning coastlines, indulge in hinterland cuisine, and immerse yourself in ancient biodiverse national parks filled with waterfalls, rockpools and rare native wildlife.

19. Brisbane to Byron Bay 

  • Distance: 164 km 
  • Highlights: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Surfers Paradise

The once humble hippy town of Byron Bay has since transformed into a boho-chic luxury retreat for travellers. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the visit! Venture north past Surfers Paradise (cuddle a koala at the Lone Pine Sanctuary on the way) to explore the beautiful beaches and boho charm of this lively coastal town.

20. Cairns to Longreach 

  • Distance: 916km
  • Highlights: Queensland Outback, Stockman’s Hall of Fame

Discover Queensland’s outback history with this rural road trip. Step back in time with a visit to the Qantas Founders Museum, Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame, and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs in Winton - Australia’s dinosaur capital.

Ready for your next Australian adventure? 

If you’re ready to rent a van and road trip through Australia’s sunshine state, check out all our latest deals and book your Mighty camper today.

If you’re looking for other ways to get the most out of your Australian road trip, visit our blog for more travel inspiration and itineraries and download the thl Roadtrip app. This road trip itinerary planner is a one-stop-shop to help plan your campervan trip. On it, you can find everything from free campgrounds, powered camping sites, free things to do, water fill-ups, Australian attractions, and more. It's a great way to ensure you don't miss a beat while you explore Australia.