From the splendid city of Sydney to the heavenly beaches that lead to Cairns. There are countless breathtaking places to visit to make a unique but classic road trip. These handpicked experiences will take you away from the tourist spots and show Australia in a whole new light.
3200km – 3600km
Sydney to Cairns
Method of transport
Car – 4WD – Caravan
Plane – SailBoat – Ferry
- Weather: It is always important to take into account the weather, since the activities will depend a lot on it, as well as the comforts in case you want to camp. From Sydney to southern Queensland, you will find the 4 seasons well marked. With temperatures around 16°C in winter and 30°C during the summer, packing can be a little difficult. Halfway up the east coast you’ll enjoy a subtropical climate with plenty of sunshine. In this area, from May to October the average daily temperature is around 32°C. Between November and April, it is quite hot and there is often high rainfall and the occasional tropical storm. Either time of year is good for holidaying but in the winter months the temperature will be more consistent.
- Most of the roads within the national parks are now sealed and suitable for motor vehicles without AWD (All Wheel Drive or 4X4).
- But don’t be surprised to find roads where driving caravans, big buses or motorhomes is difficult. It’s important to always check the condition of the roads in advance.
- We recommend booking some of the tours in advance too, so you can check available spaces. Also most of the boat tours only run if weather conditions allow, therefore it’s better to get in touch with the tour agency and plan ahead.
- Stay safe and keep up to date with COVID travel restrictions per the Government website
 https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au/npws-covid-19, https://www.covid19.qld.gov.au/, https://www.health.gov.au
Day 1: Sydney to Little Beach Bouddi National Park
217km – 2h 12min
The first section of the trip surrounds a bay, where you can enjoy the view from the two opposite sides. Starting at the lovely Pearl Beach, where you can do activities like stand up paddle boarding and hikes to Mount Ettalong lookout. On the other side, at Box Head marvel at the panoramic views and spot an abundance of native wildlife.
Once you are at the Bouddi National Park, you can explore many walks through hidden beaches at Tallow and Little Tallow. There are great spots to relax and have a picnic, before dipping the toes into the bush walks. Finish your day in Little Beachinside of the park, kick back and enjoy nature while the sunset works its magic.
Note: If you like to surf, you must stop in Umina Beach, between Pearl and Box Head Beach.
Day 2: Little Beach to Shelly Beach
33.7km – 54min
Continuing the journey, you go further into the famous Central Coast. The first stop will be the incredible Avoca Beach. Not only will the beauty of its beaches catch you, but also its warm energy that runs through its streets. With shops, bars and small cafes along its coast, it is definitely a special paradise!
Later, you will find Terrigal Beach that deserves a wander, but for lunch, stop at Forresters Beach and dine to dramatic views from the clifftops.
After so much beauty the day must end at the same level. Enjoy an afternoon of surfing at Shelly Beach or a great quiet time at Bateau Bay beach without the crowds.
Day 3: Shelly Beach to Watagan Olney State
71km – 1h 33min
Before heading away from the beaches, you can’t miss Soldiers Beach and Norah Head. If you are lucky, you will find yourself swimming alongside different species of whales. Or just appreciate their dance from the Norah Head Lighthouse.
Returning to the route, head towards Watagan National Park and the Olney State Forest where you can spend the night.
Day 4: Watagan to Newcastle
93km – 1h 49min
Take advantage of the morning’s tranquility to explore the magical corners of the national park before continuing to the city of Newcastle.
Head back to the coastal route to visit Swansea, the town at the entrance to Lake Macquarie and close to Wallarah National Park. The coastal walking track through the south, will guide you to Caves Beach; a favorite spot for many photographers, surfers and fishermen. Moreover, heading to the north you’ll find Blacksmiths Beach, a calm place to have lunch and do some biking or walking activities.
Despite having a hectic day, stay awake. You still have to enjoy the night in Newcastle. Visit some of its bars or restaurants before tucking away for a good night’s rest.
Day 5: Newcastle to Nelson Bay
61km – 55min
Wake up with a delicious coffee and breakfast, while you choose which activity you want to do before continuing the trip.
You can make your morning a cultural experience by visiting museums, art galleries or historic sites. Or just enjoy its beaches and recreational activities.
To end the day, head towards Nelson Bay, where you can explore different spots at ease. Some of the recommended ones are Fingal Bay, Zenith Beach and Anna Bay Sand Dunes.
Day 6: Nelson Bay to Coffs Harbour
471km – 5h 37min
Along the way, discover Booti Booti National Park. The name comes from “butibuti,” the local Worimi Aboriginal word meaning “plenty of honey.” It is the perfect option for everyone, since there are plenty of activities that suit all tastes.
Depart Booti Booti to another popular beach. In six kilometers in length, Diamond Beach is a beautiful place to enjoy surfing and even whale and dolphin watching.
Continue to Crowdy Head, where you will find picturesque beaches, a lighthouse, and paths within the national park.
After getting lost in the charms of the village, 210km of winding roads awaits to reach Coffs Harbor. It has impressive beaches, and of course you cannot miss seeing a sunrise or sunset here.
Day 7: Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay
246km – 3h 4min
Take a look around, enjoy Coffs Harbour as there is no rush to get to the next destination. Not far from this city, heading to the north you will discover the Gumgali Track. It is a suite of extraordinary Aboriginal Australian experiences. It will be a wonderful detour to appreciate the culture and history of the region.
Get back on track to end your day in Byron Bay, don’t worry about getting there fast. As you have the whole next day to explore the town.
Day 8: Byron Bay
Surely you have already heard the name of this amazing town. It is famous for its energy, magic and mystique around every corner. It’s also one of the best places to surf.
Aboriginal people explain that the land has been a sacred healing ground for well over 20,000 years. It is traversed by massive veins of obsidian crystal and at the vortex of several major energy lines that run around the planet. It seems to be a place for transformation, where people make the step forward into a new life.
Here we leave you a link with the endless activities that you can do and fascinating places that you have to visit.
Day 9: Byron Bay to Gold Coast
94.5km – 1h 14min
From the magnificent land of Byron Bay to the bustling city of Gold Coast. Making the first stop at Coolangatta. A quiet place, you will find a friendly and peaceful environment. Also, it’s the paradise for surfers, where you can surf the internationally renowned Snapper Rocks wave. Otherwise, if you want to learn, the calm and forgiving waves of Kirra Beach are perfect. Lean back after lunch in Palm Beach or Burleigh Heads Beach.
At night, the city offers several options for dining, going for a few drinks or partying with friends, so enjoy the nightlife!
Day 10: Gold Coast
To enjoy this day you have several options. For those adventure seekers, there is the opportunity to adventure in Purling Brook and Tamborine Rainforest. However, you can also enjoy a walk through the big city, go shopping or even take a ride on a terrifying roller coaster at some of the greatest theme parks in the southern hemisphere.
Day 11: Gold Coast to Brisbane
77.4km – 58min
Brisbane is a city where you can dive into the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art for hours. It has 17,000 works of historical, modern and contemporary art.
During the night, stroll through the streets, there are beautiful corners throughout the city that are illuminated with lights, and if it’s Friday, dance to Latin beats taking over Reddacliff Place.
Day 12: Moreton Island / Stradbroke Island
At this point we recommend you make the decision to visit one or the other. Since there will be two more islands to visit, we believe that if you are short on money or time it is better to go for one.
I’ll leave information on both so that you can select the option that most catches your eye. I chose Moreton Island. 
The best option is to leave the car on the mainland and take the ferry. It runs from 7am to 6pm and costs $34 for 2 people for a round trip. Once on the island, you can rent a scooter for around $44 per day.
Day 13: Brisbane to Noosa
135km – 1h 50min
Along the way you will find yourself on the Sunshine Coast, a beautiful city that deserves a tour of its beaches and streets.
As you continue the journey, prepare yourself for the truly spectacular Noosa. This town has the most picturesque scenery I’ve ever seen. with 15 kilometers of walking tracks and turquoise beaches filled with schools of multicolored fish. Take a dive into the pristine waters and if you are lucky, you may even have the company of dolphins.
Day 14: Noosa to Fraser Island
168km – 2h 47min
After exploring Noosa, 250 km north you will reach Fraser Island. In case you do not have a 4×4 vehicle, we recommend that you rent one for the days that you are going to be touring the place.
Keep in mind that you will be driving in areas with a lot of sand, dirt roads, steeps, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable, there are tours where you will be accompanied by a professional driver.
Day 15: Fraser Island
Its original name was K’gari, which means Paradise in the Batjala language, used by the Australian Aborigines who inhabited it.
It still is the home to the purest breed of dingoes remaining in eastern Australia. Also, one of the best places to see baby humpback whales and their mothers.
During the night, turn off the lights and listen to the deep sounds of nature under the stars.
Day 16: Fraser Island to Airlie Beach
987km – 11h 51min
This will be the longest leg of the journey, with almost half a day of driving. Make sure to grab a coffee and take many rest stops along the way to Airlie Beach.
In case you don’t have a camper, it is important that you reserve a room in advance. As you may arrive at night, tired from the drive, you’ll be ecstatic to jump straight into bed.
Day 17-20: Airlie Beach to Whitsunday Islands
It is best to spend a few more days here, since tours to the island will depend on the availability of the agencies. If you know in advance the exact date you will arrive, you can make a reservation by phone or online.
If you are a person who enjoys the tranquility of the night and nature, I recommend that you do the sailing tour. In case you prefer a more youthful style experience, the catamaran is the best option.
There are usually tours for 2 or 3 nights. You will dive with sea turtles among corals. If it is whale season, you will be able to hear their singing, and see them dance with their young.
Day 21: Airlie Beach to Townsville
272km – 3h 13min
After a few spectacular days at sea, you will arrive in Townsville, 275km to the north. It is a very quiet town, and commonly, crocodile territory. Take extra caution when walking along beaches and look out for signs.
In order to get to Magnetic Island, you must leave from the Townsville ferry terminal. The ferry trip takes about 25-30 min and is a fairly relaxed trip. The price is $33 per person for a round trip.
Day 22-23: Magnetic Island
The small island is famous for its crystalline waters, captivating its visitors with its “magnetic” charm. You can take several walking tours, not only through beaches but also for ruins, since it was an important strategic point in World War II, where its old fortifications can still be visited. One of the best things to do is rent a Barbie car and explore the island and if you are lucky, you can find some koalas and feed rock wallabies.
Day 24-30: Townsville to Cairns
347km – 4h 9min
To end the trip, there are still so many great activities to do. A must in Cairns is of course to dive and witness the world’s largest coral reef system and the diverse ecosystems that live among it. There are many options to check out the Great Barrier Reef, from glass bottom boats to snorkeling, or even get deep with a scuba dive! However, keep in mind, you won’t be able to fly for the next 24 hours after going diving to avoid decompression sickness.
For the rest of your days I leave you a series of places that you cannot miss! Some of them are: Josephine Falls (Wooroonooran), Babinda Boulders, Mamu tropical skywalk and Kuranda.
Hopefully you’ll enjoy this incredible trip! Remember to take your time to really enjoy each place.
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