The state of Queensland on Australia’s east coast offers some of the world’s most breathtaking beauty, including white sand beaches, tropical rainforest, and of course, the Great Barrier Reef. To see it all, you’ll need a plan, a car, and plenty of time. You may have to find the last bit on your own, but we’ll help you with the first two. Start in the South of the state and get a car rental from Gold Coast airport then fly out of Cairns in the North to avoid backtracking.
Start in the Gold Coast – for Sun, Sand, and Surf
Start at Surfer’s Paradise on the Gold Coast – Australia’s laid-back combination of Miami, Maui, and Santa Monica. Explore the beachside markets at night, and for some beauty away from the more populated centers, head to Snapper Rocks or Greenmount. If you need to unwind after all that activity, try a winery tour or three on Tambourine Mountain before heading north.
Fraser Island – Get Adventurous
Break up your drive at Fraser Island, the world’s biggest sand island. 1 or 3-day tours leave every day from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach, or you can rent your own 4WD vehicle and explore for yourself. Try to spot a dingo between your freshwater lake swim and your rainforest boardwalk. Don’t miss the S.S. Maheno shipwreck, a century-old luxury liner washed right up on the shore.
The Whitsundays – Sail through Paradise
Stop off at Airlie Beach, your jumping-off point to the idyllic Whitsunday Islands. Sailing and snorkeling will be your two main attractions here, and with endless providers for backpacker and luxury budgets alike, you can’t go wrong. Don’t miss the iconic Whitehaven, repeatedly voted amongst the world’s top five beaches for its impeccably white sand and sapphire-blue seas.
Townsville – Snorkel Shipwrecks and Cuddle a Koala
Stop off in the oft-overlooked city of Townsville and motor over to Magnetic Island. Here, you can follow visit over 20 shipwrecks on and around the island. Stay in the unique Bungalow Bay village, Australia’s only accommodation with an on-site koala sanctuary. Everything from double bed ensuites to dorms and campsites is available, so you can find something that suits your comfort level and budget. The beautiful beaches don’t stop, nor do the snorkel and scuba opportunities.
Finish in Cairns – Where Rainforest and Reef Collide
Cruise through the tablelands on your way to Cairns, stopping to marvel at Milla Milla and slip down the natural rock slide at Josephine Falls. Once in Cairns, try skydiving or bungee jumping if you’re itching for thrills. Skip the mainland beaches – average at best, after this road trip – and get out to the Reef to snorkel or SCUBA. Consider a live-aboard dive trip, and cap your great Australian road trip with a sunset over the only living creature visible from space.