If you have the chance, we hope you are able to experience the beauty of tropical north Queensland in Australia at least once in your life.
From spending your days lounging on the sundrenched beaches, escaping to an island paradise, swimming amongst the coral, to spotting the silky waxed platypus in the dense hilltop forest of Eungella, there are so many things to do along the east coast of Queensland, Australia.
Travelling in a van is such a great way to explore all the nooks and crannies of this coastline. It is also a great way to extend your budget to get the most out of an Australian road trip. If you're looking to rent a van and explore these natural wonders, take advantage of free camping, and find some budget-friendly attractions as you travel the east coast of this tropical state, then we have you covered.
We’ve hand-picked our absolute favourite budget-friendly Australian attractions as well as some of the best free camps along this beautiful coastline. Follow this 1681 km journey as it winds its way from Cairns to Brisbane. Spaced out over 6 days, you will have the time to enjoy the natural wonders, diverse coastline, and plenty of free attractions on a trip you will never forget.
Cairns to Brisbane
Best Time of the Year
Great Barrier Reef
Girringun National Park
Wet Tropics Great Walk
Eungella National Park
THL Content Hub
Cairns to Wallaman Falls
Distance 287 km - Driving Time 3 hours 40 minutes
Start by picking up your camper from Mighty Cairns, then jump into the day to explore the amazing attractions in this tropical paradise. Some of the best things to do in Cairns include walking along one of the many beautiful Cairns beaches, driving out to Kurrunda Rainforest to visit the Butterfly Sanctuary, enjoying annual activities like the beach run or reef race, visiting Babinda Boulders for a swim, and visiting Mount Whitfield conservation park to explore the walking tracks.
Visiting the Great Barrier Reef is also another fantastic once-in-a-lifetime experience to have during your Cairns holiday. If seeing the seven natural wonders of the world is on your bucket list, then be sure to tick this one off and book a tour to snorkel amongst this incredible coral ecosystem. These tours can be quite costly, so be sure to scope out deals on sites like Groupon when planning these experiences.
Tourism and Events Queensland
Wallaman Falls to Townsville
Distance 162 km - Driving Time 2 hours 11 minutes
Start the day with a walk to experience the majesty of Wallaman Falls. As Australia’s tallest single-drop waterfall, the walk to the bottom is quite steep and can get slippery. Wear good shoes and allow up to three hours for this experience. At the base, you can choose to navigate the final stretch of slippery rocks to take a dip in the base of the waterfall. Swimming in the icy water with the wind in your hair and the huge spray from this giant waterfall is truly an experience you will never forget.
Once you're back and dry, head down the coast and check out the amazing things to do in Townsville: explore the wet tropics great walks, visit The Strand water park (for free!), or wander the streets of Townsville to check out the street art.
If you still have some energy left, take a walk to the top of Castle Hill and enjoy the view of Townsville from above. If you’re too tired from the morning's adventures, you can choose to drive up instead before driving the final hour and a half to park up for the night at the free camp Wallace’s landing.
Tourism and Events Queensland
Townsville to Mackay
Distance 386 km - Driving Time 4 hours 27 minutes
On the drive south, stop at Airlie Beach for a dip in the pristine waters of the Whitsundays. If you have some extra time, it is definitely worth checking out any local deals for activities or tours to explore the Whitsundays, such as seeing the white sand of Whitehaven Beach and the beautiful formations of Hill Inlet.
Once you have had your fun in the sun, make your way inland and up into the mountain range of Eungella National Park to immerse yourself in the tranquillity of this dense forest. Keep an eye out for the platypuses that are famous in this region. If you spot a small patch of bubbles on the surface of the water - just wait, as there may be a platypus about to emerge!
Then head back towards Mackay to stay at Mirani Caravan Park and take advantage of the powered camping sites to recharge your camera and other travel essentials.
Alexander Ross - Unsplash
Mackay to Rockhampton
Distance 336 km - Driving Time 3 hours 39 minutes
Spend the morning exploring the Artspace Mackay. This award-winning gallery has collections from around the world and is a must-do for art lovers everywhere. If you’re feeling peckish, be sure to check out the equally artistic creations on offer at Foodspace (the onsite cafe). If you have time, you can explore nature’s art at the Mackay Botanic Gardens and learn about the history of the area at the war memorials at Jubilee Park.
Once you have filled your creative cup, drive south to Rockhampton, where you can spend the afternoon visiting the botanic gardens and admiring the views from Mount Archer. Be sure to also take advantage of the free entry to Rockhampton Zoo and spend some time meeting the wildlife. This zoo is home to close to 100 animals spanning 31 species, including Australian wildlife and exotic animals. When you’re finished for the day, head to park up for the night at the free campsites available at Kershaw Gardens.
Rockhampton to Bundaberg
Distance 287 km - Driving Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Get an early start to the day to begin the drive south. If you’re looking for a halfway stop, be sure to take the detour to Agnes Waters to enjoy the short but oh so scenic Paperbark Boardwalk. When you arrive in Bundaberg, you can spend the day exploring Cania Gorge National Park, wandering through the Bundaberg Art Gallery, taking in the views from Amandine Lavender Farm, and sitting back and smelling the flowers at the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens.
If you're looking for more beach adventures, make your way a little further south to relax in the secluded coastal town of Woodgate Beach. Here you can spend the day wakeboarding or just relax by the water before making your way back to stay the night at Mountain View Caravan Park.
Tourism and Events Queensland
Bundaberg to Brisbane
Distance 360 km - Driving Time 4 hours 13 minutes
Get an early start to the day to make your way south towards Brisbane. If you’re looking for a final dose of exploring seaside towns and tropical paradises, be sure to drive along the Sunshine Coast. Stop in at one of the region’s renowned seaside cafes, go for a surf, or just soak up the morning sun with a walk on a beach before heading into Brisbane.
When you arrive in Brisbane, you will quickly realise there is so much to choose from! Explore the produce and artisan goods at Brisbane City Markets, visit Queensland Museum for some family fun, check out the Planetarium to marvel at the 12.5 diameter projection dome or wander the State Library. Don’t forget to take advantage of the city’s shopping palooza to grab any last-minute souvenirs.
After a day's fill of exploring all that is on offer in this lakeside city, drop the camper back to the Mighty Brisbane branch as you gear up to head home after a coastal trip to remember.
Ready for your east coast Aussie adventure?
As you can see, there are so many budget-friendly places to explore along the coast from Cairns to Brisbane. If you’re ready to rent a van to explore this tropical east coast for yourself, be sure to 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, then be sure to check out our blog and download the THL road trip app. This road trip itinerary planner is a one-stop-shop for planning your road trip, showing you everything from caravan parks, free campsites, water fill-ups, attractions, and so much more. It's a great way to make sure you don't miss a beat while exploring the incredible beauty that an Australian road trip has to offer.