Road Tripping the East Coast of Australia

Airlie Beach

Road Trips are an exciting and liberating way to travel and explore, and the east coast of Australia is as good a place to do this an anywhere else in the world. Along the Bruce Highway, the distance from Cairns to Brisbane is 1,700 km or 1,056 miles, dissecting beautiful terrain with a host of varied towns and cities in between. CAIRNS

This city is a great sport centre hosting basketball, soccer, rugby union and Australian Rules Football. Be sure to spend some time at the Barron Gorge National Park where you can ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway over tropical terrain and see such spectacular sights as the Barron Water Falls at Kuranda. Also at Kuranda is Birdworld where you can marvel at exotic species.   

Close by is the Daintree National Park, Cairns Esplanade, with its famous lagoon. There is a host of marvellous architecture here and the Bolands Centre features on the Heritage Register. Of course you will also find no shortage of bars, restaurants, cafes and entertainment venues. MISSION BEACH A two-hour drive will bring you into Mission Beach, a stunning beach resort. It is made up of four beach villages set along 14 kilometres of golden sand and has an array of restaurants, boutique shopping, and art galleries, with a breathtaking backdrop of tropical forest. From South Beach there is a wonderful view of several islands including Hinchbrook Island which is a National Park bristling with natural flora and fauna. The beach itself is ideal for water sports and is relatively unspoilt. Wongaling Beach is the closest to Dunk Island, home of the Family Islands National Park. It is part of the Great Barrier Reef World heritage area.

North Beach is quite sophisticated, but still enjoys a steady pace of life. Here you will find numerous restaurants, galleries, a beauty salon and much more. Bingil Bay always seems to attract an eclectic mix of artists, writers and musicians. Climb Bictor Hill for panoramic views of the coastline and offshore islands, or enjoy one of the free barbecues set up along the beach. AIRLIE BEACH

Set on a peninsular at Shute Harbour this is a great little resort and an ideal base for visits to the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands. From Airlie Beach you can experience the thrill of tandem sky diving or some great diving adventures.  

Close by is the picturesque resort of Jubilee Pocket with good walking and breathtaking scenery, and if you travel a little way down the Prosperine River you will be able to join a crocodile safari. When the sun sets, there is a good selection of lively night clubs and bars. ROCKHAMPTON Known as the beef capital of Australia, Rockhamton sits on the Fitzroy River and is home to numerous heritage-listed buildings, including St Paul's Anglican Cathedral and the Town Hall. It’s a lively city with good shopping, spectacular buildings, the Riverfront Boardwalk and the Dreamtime Cultural Centre. Visit the Glenmore Homestead and enjoy a bush dinner dance for something a bit different. HERVEY BAY

This is a peaceful seaside city with good vantage points for whale watching. It also boasts plenty of galleries, theatres, botanic gardens and a lively night life. Nearby are camel safaris, horse riding and sky diving. BRISBANE The river runs through the city creating green spaces. The view from the Story Bridge is sensational and there are a good many adventures to enjoy including abseiling, and adventure climbs. Culturally there is the Queensland Art gallery and great shopping and dining. Plentiful beaches complete the picture, with surfing, water parks, varied wildlife and the nearby Rainforest of the Scenic Rim.  

If this has whetted your appetite, there are a number of providers offering fly drive Australia packages which can be customised with your own itinerary. So pack your bags and have fun on this trip of a lifetime.

David Fenn is a freelance travel writer who loves to travel overland by train and car.