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Ultimate North Queensland Road Trip

There are so many things to do in Australia, and one of our favourite ways to see this incredible country is to rent a van to travel in. We wanted to share one of our favourite travel routes to inspire you to explore Australia in a campervan.

So, read on to discover our ultimate North Queensland road trip itinerary, as well as all our must-see and do Australian attractions to enjoy along the way. From when to travel to all the spots to visit, we cover it all. That way, when it comes to booking your Australia road trip up north you can use this insider's guide as a road trip itinerary planner.

What is the best time to visit North Queensland?

So before we get into the juicy stuff like where to go and what to do, we first should mention what time of year is best to visit. North Queensland weather is known to have some of the best weather in Australia. As well as this, it’s consistently warm all year round, making it a true tropical paradise.

North Queensland has two real seasons. The dry season, which is slightly cooler in temperature, starts in May and goes until October. Then the wet season, which has hotter temperatures and high rainfall, runs from November until April.

These seasons are good to think about when creating your road trip itinerary. For example, if you plan on doing a lot of swimming in North Queensland’s crystal clear waters, then it’s best to plan your trip between April and October. This way, you’ll dodge the tropical downpours and reduce your chance of encountering stingers which are usually floating around during the wet season.

Travel

10 days


Route

Cairns to Cardwell

1596km


Best Time of the Year

April - October

Highlights

  • Daintree Rainforest
  • Cape Tribulation
  • Mission Beach
  • Museum of Underwater Art

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

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Day 1
Cairns

The first stop on your North Queensland road trip is Cairns. You can fly into the Cairns Airport which accepts both international and domestic flights, and from here make your way to the Mighty Campers Cairns branch which is less than a 5-minute taxi ride away.

Cairns is full of wonderful attractions that the whole family is sure to enjoy. From exploring the Great Barrier Reef and strolling along the Cairns Esplanade, to finding your own secluded tropical beach and wandering through tropical rainforests. There truly is so much to see and do in this wonderful part of the world.

Those with kids are definitely going to want to visit the Esplanade Lagoon. This 4800 sqm salt water swimming area offers year-round safe swimming and is sure to keep the kids entertained, as well as provide parents with a wonderful spot to cool off. Palm Cove is another wonderful spot to visit and is a tiny beachside village that is centred around an esplanade lined with 500-year-old melaleuca trees. We suggest renting a bike to see the town and hiring a kayak to get out on the water. Then at the end of the day, enjoying a sunset dinner on the beach with some fresh seafood.

For those looking for an activity with a little more adventure, the Cairns ZOOM and Wildlife Dome is a must-do. Here you’ll find a challenging ropes course within a wildlife park! From cuddling koalas to ziplining over saltwater crocodiles, this is an adventure-packed activity that you’re sure to love! Cairns also has some great dining experiences where you can sample local food. Plus, there are some great bars that are the perfect spot to relax after a day exploring the area.

Then, when it’s time to park up for the day, we suggest Babinda Boulders Campground. This picturesque campground doesn’t take bookings and is free to stay at, making it a great option for those on a budget. There are basic campsite facilities on offer, and it is just a short walk to Babinda Boulders.

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Day 2
Cairns to Port Douglas

Distance 67km - Driving Time 1 hour

Arriving in Port Douglas will have you captivated by its beauty and lush natural surroundings. This is where the rainforest meets the reef and is a must-add to your Queensland road trip itinerary. From discovering waterfalls and taking scenic coastal drives to exploring vibrant coral reefs and going on incredible rainforest walks, there is so much to do and see in this beautiful part of the world.

A must-do when visiting Port Douglas is to snorkel or cruise the Great Barrier Reef. This reef is a natural wonder and is full of natural beauty and incredible sea life. Trips to the Great Barrier Reef depart from Port Douglas and cater for all age groups and water abilities. Whether you want to snorkel, dive, or just enjoy the reef from above in a boat, there is sure to be a full or half-day tour to suit you and your travel group.

Another must-do in this part of the world is exploring the incredible Daintree Rainforest. This unique ecosystem invites you to take one of the many trails, discover crystal clear swimming holes to cool off in, and to keep a look out for the array of wildlife that call this rainforest home.

Those who are looking for a walk that the whole family can enjoy are sure to love the Flagstaff Hill Walking Trail. This 1.5km trail offers breathtaking views of the Coral Sea, Low Isles and Four Mile Beach, all the way to Snapper Island and the Daintree Rainforest. With such spectacular views, don’t forget to bring your camera as this is one sight you’ll never want to forget.

Those with kids are going to want to check out Daintree Wildlife Habitat. Here you can get up-close experience with Wallabies, Kangaroos, Southern Cassowaries, Koalas, Crocodiles and much more! Hartley’s Crocodile Tours is another must-do with kids and invites you to cruise in a boat along crocodile waters, watch crocodile feeding and attack shows, as well as other great activities which will leave the whole family in awe.

When the time comes to set up camp for the day, we recommend checking into Tropic Breeze Caravan Park. This caravan park has wonderful campsites and campsite facilities. Plus, it’s only a one-minute walk from Four Mile Beach and five minutes from Port Douglas town centre.

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Day 3
Port Douglas to Cape Tribulation

Distance 85km - Driving Time 1 hour 50 minutes

After a blissful time exploring Port Douglas, it’s then on to Cape Tribulation. This area is full of untouched beauty and will have you feeling as if you’ve stepped back in time to when dinosaurs roamed. From epic off-road adventures to swimming in crystal-clear swimming holes, this is the place to be if you want to get immersed in nature.

There are so many swimming holes to discover within the lush Daintree Rainforest. Two that we think are too incredible to be true are Masons Swimming Hole and Emmagen Creek. Here you can take a cool dip in the clear water, before exploring the surrounding rainforest. Those after a little more adventure will love to hike or mountain bike through the many winding rainforest tracks.

Then there is Myall beach which is one beach we can’t get enough of. With its swaying palm trees and incredible scenery, it is a wonderful spot to take a walk. For those who would rather do it on the back of a horse, there are also tours suited just for you!

After a day of exploring the surrounding natural beauty, it’s probably time to indulge in handmade artisan ice cream from Daintree Ice Cream Company. Here you can choose from exotic fruit flavours, and then enjoy them under the very trees where the fruit was grown!

When you’re ready to relax for the day, we recommend booking into Daintree Rainforest Village. Located in the heart of the Daintree Rainforest, they have powered camping sites and unpowered camping sites to choose from. As well as that, there are also great camping facilities and activities.

Day 4
Cape Tribulation to Cooktown

Distance 102km - Driving Time 2 hours

Cooktown is next on our ultimate North Queensland road trip itinerary, and it’s no surprise why. From its unspoilt beauty to its rich cultural heritage, this is a place to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. Choose from fishing, camping, bushwalking, bird watching, rock art galleries and museums.

The Cooktown Botanic Gardens are sure to amaze the whole family as you wander along the winding pathways. Established in 1878, these botanic gardens are one of Queensland’s oldest regional botanic gardens. You can be sure the immense beauty of the grounds will astound you at every turn.

Those looking for a cultural experience should check out the Cooktown Museum. Here you can learn about the fascinating history of the Traditional Owners of this land and so much more. Then, if you’re after more history and culture, we highly recommend an Indigenous tour with Culture Connect. They have a range of tours that offer a genuine cultural experience, connecting you with Aboriginal people, and with their permission visiting the homelands and ancient rock art.

If you’re looking for a secluded beach to relax at, then two of our favourites in this area are Finch Bay and Cherry Tree Bay. These two beaches are surrounded by neighbouring rainforests and are both swimming beaches. This makes them ideal to visit when you need to cool off from the tropical heat.

One of our favourite places to park our campervan at the end of the day is Cooktown Caravan Park. This family-owned and operated caravan park offers peaceful and shady campsites and is ideally situated at the foothills of Mt Cook.

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Day 5
Cooktown to Innisfail

Distance 400km - Driving Time 4 hours and 45 minutes

Bursting with adventures, arts, great food and friendly locals, Innisfail is the perfect next stop on your North Queensland road trip. From ancient castles within the rainforest and pristine beaches to tropical skywalks and breathtaking lookouts, there is so much on offer in this great town.

One of our favourite activities in Innisfail is the Mamu Tropical Skywalk. This is an exhilarating experience high above the rainforest canopy. You’ll experience elevated walkways and observation towers from which you can take in spectacular panoramic views of World Heritage rainforest landscapes.

Another great spot to take in breathtaking views is from Crawford’s Lookout. This is one of the best vantage points in the area, and getting here is an experience in itself. It is a scenic drive to get to the elevated parking area, from which you can then enjoy an easy walk to the lookout point.

August Moon Caravan Park is a wonderful spot to camp, and they have a great selection of powered camping spots and unpowered camping spots. As well as that, make the most of full camping facilities and a playground for the kids.

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Day 6
Innisfail to Mission Beach

Distance 52km - Driving Time 40 minutes

Driving a little further south of Innisfail and you’ll get to the picturesque seaside town of Mission Beach. With a sprawling golden coastline lined with palm trees, cute villages, tropical rainforests and vibrant reefs, this is a must-stop on your Queensland road trip. With so much to see and do here, we thought we’d offer a few suggestions to make your itinerary planning all the easier.

Hiking to the top of Bicton Hill is a great way to take in panoramic views of the surrounding area. The 3.2-km loop trail is great for all fitness and age levels and takes roughly 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete. Trust us when we say, it’s well worth it for the impressive views! Another great walk to take, which is one of the most scenic trails in the area, is the Kennedy walking track. On this 8 km walk, you can enjoy the diverse scenery of secluded beaches, lush rainforest, rocky coastlines and spectacular views of neighbouring islands.

A trip to Mission Beach wouldn’t be complete without a snorkel in the gorgeous Coral Bay. With crystal clear warm water and vibrant underwater life, this is one experience that is sure to be remembered forever. There are many tours available for all experience levels, so the whole family can enjoy this fantastic underwater experience.

If you’re looking for an activity to get the adrenaline pumping, then you can’t go past white water rafting at Tully River. This full-day action-packed eco-adventure is an incredible on-the-water experience through the rainforest. They have two tour options to choose from. So, if you have a full free day, we highly recommend checking them out!

A stay in Mission Beach is made even better with a campsite right on the beach. Mission Beach Camping and Caravan Park is within walking distance to town and offers absolute beach access to white tropical sandy beaches. You’ll also get incredible views of Dunk Island.

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Day 7
Mission Beach to Townsville

Distance 235km - Driving Time 3 hours

Next on our North Queensland road trip itinerary is the wonderful town of Townsville. Whether you’re in pursuit of adventure, prefer a leisurely pace or an activity to excite the whole family, this incredible part of the world offers it all and so much more.

If you’re looking for a lovely walking track, then we suggest the Goat Track on Castle Hill. While this track may be short at just 1.6km return, it’s pretty steep with 1300 steps to the top where you can enjoy incredible views of the surrounding area.

All those who love art are going to love strolling through Townsville’s city centre. It has been transformed into a street art haven and invites you to wander down streets, alleys and laneways to see vibrant displays at every turn.

An experience that we think the whole family will enjoy and are sure to never forget is the Museum of Underwater Art. This museum sees you snorkel or dive through the spectacular underwater marvel to witness incredible artworks which slowly transform over time into their own ecosystem. Created to inspire and educate visitors about reef conservation, this truly is an awe-inspiring activity.

Those with kids in tow must visit the Museum of Tropical Queensland. This is a great interactive museum where kids can get hands-on with science in the discovery zone. From stimulating their senses to exercising their brain, the kids are going to love this epic science centre!

When it’s time to camp up for the night, we suggest booking into Coral Coast Tourist Park. The tropical, friendly and relaxed atmosphere along with shady peaceful campsites, make this a wonderful spot that the whole family will enjoy. They have fantastic facilities on offer, as well as a saltwater pool to cool off in.

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Day 8
Townsville to Ingham

Distance 112km - Driving Time 1 hour and 30 minutes

Up next on our list is the picturesque town of Ingham. This town offers a unique collection of culture, fresh produce and vast green landscapes and is a wonderful stop to add to your road trip itinerary.

There is so much to see and do in this area, especially for nature lovers. From bird watching at TYTO Wetlands and walking among hundreds of feeding wallabies to immersing yourself in the awe-inspiring Wallaman Falls and wandering through the pristine Hinchinbrook Island.

Bird lovers should definitely visit the TYTO Wetlands and Information Centre. Wandering through the wetlands you can be lucky enough to spot more than 230 different bird species, including the Eastern Grass Owl. Plus, if you’re here in the early morning or late afternoon, you can walk among hundreds of feeding wallabies.

Wallaman Falls is Australia’s highest permanent single-drop waterfall, so it should be no surprise that it’s made it to our list. Nestled within the lush green rainforest, this area is bursting with beauty and is greatly enjoyed from the lookout, or you can venture closer by taking the walking track.

When in the town of Ingham, we recommend checking out the Mercer Lane Mosaic. This mosaic tile artwork tells the story of the Herbert River’s sugar industry and the Cane Cutter’s history along a magnificent 52-meter wall.

When visiting this part of the North Queensland coast, book into Ingham Tourist Park. This centrally located holiday park has all you need for a comfortable and peaceful stay, including a shaded saltwater swimming pool that the kids are sure to love.

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Day 9
Ingham to Charters Towers

Distance 245km - Driving Time 3 hours

Next on our North Queensland road trip itinerary is the wonderful town of Charters Towers. This inland town is steeped in military and mining history and features many grand buildings which give insight into the past wealth of the area. Enjoy great walking trails, epic tours offering amazing stories of the rich heritage and history of the area, as well as some wonderful country pubs and dining options. This is a great stop to make on your road trip.

One tour that we think is a great addition to your road trip itinerary is the Texas Longhorn Tour. This unique experience will have you alongside the world’s longest-horned cattle, the Texas Longhorns, as you sit in a horse-drawn wagon.

Finish the day at the lovely Charters Towers Tourist Park. This gorgeous park has a great selection of powered camping sites and unpowered camping sites, as well as sites with concrete slabs or grass to choose from and great campground amenities.

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Day 10
Charters Towers to Cardwell

Distance 298km - Driving Time 3 hours and 30 minutes

The last stop on our ultimate North Queensland road trip is the lovely town of Cardwell. This quiet town on the Hinchinbrook Channel, is well known for its heritage precinct, foreshore and rainforests.

There are a number of waterfalls in and around this area, but one of our favourites would have to be Murray Falls. This waterfall has a 30-meter drop, smooth rocks and perfect swimming holes.

A walk along the Cardwell foreshore is always a must when in the area. After the foreshore was completely damaged by a cyclone back in 2013, it was lovingly restored with a wonderful collection of memorials, sculptures and sand-blasted images. It features so much information about the town and region, as well as being a wonderful walk along the foreshore.

The Cardwell Pioneers Tour is a great way to learn about all the buildings in the historic precinct and learn about the area’s colourful history. Those with kids or those who just need to cool off are going to love the Cardwell Spa Pools. This is a naturally-fed seasonal creek that is a must-visit when in Cardwell. It features deep blue and green clear waters that are surrounded by lush rainforest and smooth rocks.

A stay at Cardwell Van Park is a great idea when in the area. It is centrally located and offers a quiet and peaceful setting so you can enjoy the blissful tropical atmosphere.

The best way to see and do more is with a Mighty camper

So there you have it, all our must-see and do spots when on a road trip in North Queensland. Of course, the beauty of van travel is that you’ll see many other great places along the way. But, these are just some of our favourite things to do in Queensland Australia.

If you’re ready to start planning your ultimate North Queensland road trip, then book your Mighty Camper today in a branch or online. If you’re after more travel inspiration and tips then head over to our blog to read on!

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