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Brisbane to Cairns Roadtrip 8-Day Itinerary

Brisbane to Cairns Roadtrip: 8-Day Itinerary

Did you know that the Brisbane to Cairns road trip offers travelers the chance to explore some of Australia’s most legendary surf breaks? Along the coastline, surf enthusiasts can enjoy big waves at famous spots like Noosa Heads, and Rainbow Beach.

Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner catching your first wave, this road trip provides ample opportunities to experience the thrill of riding the waves against the stunning backdrop of Queensland’s coastline.

Continue reading our guide if you want to know more insights into surfing hotspots and other attractions along the Brisbane to Cairns route.

Brisbane to Cairns Road Trip: An Overview

Brisbane to Cairns Road Trip An Overview

Hop on a journey spanning over 1,118 miles starting in the vibrant city of Brisbane and winding your way up to the tropical paradise of Cairns. Along the way, you’ll be treated to diverse landscapes, each more captivating than the last.

Your first stop on this road trip is The Sunshine Coast, where golden beaches meet lush hinterlands, offering the perfect blend of relaxation and exploration. And as you continue north, the Gold Coast awaits with its world-class surf breaks and busy nightlife.

Drive further and you’ll be greeted by mesmerising depths of the Great Barrier Reef, where colourful coral gardens and exotic marine life await your discovery.

Then, venture into the ancient depths of the Daintree Rainforest, where you’ll be graced with towering trees and hidden waterfalls.

Planning your trip? Keep in mind that this isn’t just a casual drive – expect around 18 to 20 hours of total road time spread over 8 days.

Pack plenty of snacks, create a memorable playlist, and be prepared for spontaneous wildlife sightings along the way!

How long does the Brisbane to Cairns road trip take?

How long does the Brisbane to Cairns road trip take

If you’re planning to start your Brisbane to Cairns road trip, you’ll be covering a distance of over 1,118 miles. Typically, this journey takes around 18 to 20 hours of total road time. 

But, to make the most of your adventure and truly soak in the sights along the way, we recommend spreading the trip over 8 days.

This allows for a more relaxed pace, giving you ample time to explore key destinations such as the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast, the Great Barrier Reef, and the Daintree Rainforest.

Day 1: Brisbane to Sunshine Coast

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On the first day of your Brisbane to Cairns road trip, you’ll start your journey with a scenic drive from Brisbane to the stunning Sunshine Coast, which covers approximately 70 miles.

Leaving behind the busy cityscape of Brisbane, you’ll gradually transition into the relaxed coastal atmosphere of the Sunshine Coast. The drive offers image-worthy views of the coastline, with opportunities to stop at charming seaside towns along the way.

Once you arrive at the Sunshine Coast, you’ll find a plethora of attractions and activities awaiting you. From the golden beaches of Noosa Heads to the lush hinterland of the Glass House Mountains, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Spend your first day soaking up the sun on pristine beaches, indulging in delicious seafood at waterfront restaurants, or getting on outdoor adventures such as hiking, surfing, or kayaking.

Don’t miss the chance to visit popular landmarks like the Noosa National Park or the Eumundi Markets, where you can discover local crafts, artisanal products, and delicious treats.

After a full day of exploration and relaxation, settle into your accommodation on the Sunshine Coast, whether it’s a beachfront resort, a cosy bed and breakfast, or a campsite under the stars.

Take some time to unwind, recharge, and reflect on the exciting journey ahead as you prepare for the next leg of your Brisbane to Cairns road trip.

DAY 1: Brisbane to Sunshine Coast
Distance: 70 milesTravel Time: 2 hours

Address: 270 Ocean Dr, Twin Waters, QLD 4564, Australia

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When you’re cruising from Brisbane to Cairns and fancy a beachfront break on the Sunshine Coast, you may opt to stay in Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort.

It’s tucked along the shoreline, surrounded by lush gardens and killer ocean views, and it’s close to all the Sunshine Coast action.

Rooms and suites are spacious and modern, with cosy beds and private balconies for soaking in the views. Plus, there’s a dreamy lagoon-style pool, a spa for pampering, and loads of family-friendly fun like kids’ clubs and playgrounds.

And when hunger strikes, hit up one of Novotel’s dining spots for fresh local flavours and killer cocktails with a view.


Address: 24 Duporth Ave, Maroochydore, QLD 4558, Australia

Contact Details: +61 431 539 885

Operating Hours: Tuesday – Thursday: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM; Friday – Saturday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM

If you’re craving upscale American cuisine with a French twist in the Sunshine Coast area, Orleans Restaurant & Bar is your go-to spot. Set in a stylish atmosphere, they offer a variety of dishes and tasting menus to satisfy your taste buds.

With options for outdoor seating and a menu featuring great cocktails and vegan dishes, this restaurant and bar provides a delightful dining experience for all.

Day 2: Noosa to Agnes Water

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On day 2 of your Brisbane to Cairns road trip, you’ll journey from the laid-back vibes of Noosa to the beautiful coastal town of Agnes Water. Get ready for a charming drive covering approximately 220 miles, with an estimated travel time of around 4.5 hours.

Leaving Noosa behind, you’ll wind your way northward, traversing through the stunning landscapes of the Sunshine Coast and beyond.

Along the route, you’ll pass through quaint towns, rolling hills, and stretches of pristine coastline, offering plenty of opportunities to stop and stretch your legs or snap some Insta-worthy photos.

As you arrive in Agnes Water, you’ll be greeted by its peaceful beaches, charming shops, and friendly locals. Take some time to explore the town’s laid-back atmosphere and perhaps indulge in some beachside relaxation or water sports activities.

One of the highlights of Agnes Water is its proximity to Seventeen Seventy, where Captain James Cook first set foot on Australian soil. Consider taking a detour to explore this historic site and soak in the breathtaking views from the lookout points.

DAY 2: Noosa to Agnes Water
Distance: 220 milesTravel Time: 4.5 hours

Address: 3 Agnes St, Agnes Water, QLD 4677, Australia

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For those of you looking for a cosy spot to rest during your Brisbane to Cairns road trip, consider staying at Agnes Water Beach Club for an overnight break. 

The Agnes Water Beach Club offers a beachfront view, spacious rooms, and fully equipped apartments, giving you a comfortable stay. 

Besides its prime location right by the beach, the resort also offers fantastic facilities like a swimming pool, barbecue area, and tropical gardens. 


Address: 7 Agnes St, Agnes Water, QLD 4677, Australia

Contact Details: +61 7 4974 7004

Operating Hours: Wednesday – Monday: 7:30 AM – 8:30 PM

One of the restaurants you can go to when you’re in Agnes Water is Codie’s Place. With a diverse menu featuring delicious options like tacos, pizza, and burrito bowls, it’s perfect for sharing with friends or family. 

Day 3: Agnes Water to Cape Hillsborough

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On day 3 of your road trip from Brisbane to Cairns, you’ll be journeying from Agnes Water to the scenic destination of Cape Hillsborough.

Get ready for a drive spanning about 376 miles, which will take you approximately 7 hours in total to traverse.

Leaving the laid-back atmosphere of Agnes Water behind, you’ll begin your adventure through Queensland’s gorgeous landscapes.

Along the way, you’ll pass through charming towns, rolling hills, and perhaps catch glimpses of the stunning coastline.

As you approach Cape Hillsborough, you’ll be greeted by its clear beaches, lush rainforest, and unique wildlife, including kangaroos and wallabies that often roam freely along the shorelines.

Here, you can take some time to explore the natural beauty of Cape Hillsborough National Park, with its relaxing trails, secluded beaches, and stunning lookout points offering panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

DAY 3: Agnes Water to Cape Hillsborough
Distance: 376 milesTravel Time: 7 hours

Address: 1 Headland Dr, Haliday Bay, QLD 4740, Australia

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For those seeking a comfortable stay in the Cape Hillsborough area, Halliday Bay Resort and Golf Course and RV Park is an excellent choice. 

Travelers riding their RVs will find convenient parking facilities available, making it easy to settle in and enjoy the natural beauty of the region.

You can even take advantage of the resort’s golf course for a leisurely round of golf or explore the nearby beaches and hiking trails.

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Address: 51 Risley Parade, Cape Hillsborough, QLD 4740, Australia

Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

If you’re in Cape Hillsborough National Park, check out their very own Cape Hillsborough Diner! This cosy spot is open during lunchtime and serves up delicious pizzas and wraps.

Day 4: Cape Hillsborough to Airlie Beach

On day 4 of your road trip from Cape Hillsborough to Airlie Beach, get ready for a short and scenic drive covering 79 miles, which should take about 1.5 hours.

As you hit the road, consider making stops along the way to take in the natural beauty of the region.

Once you arrive in Airlie Beach, there’s plenty to do! You can take a scenic flight to the famous Whitehaven Beach for some stunning views, or opt for Ocean Rafting’s afternoon tour, which combines island time with snorkeling along the Great Barrier Reef.

If you find yourself distracted by the breathtaking scenery and arrive a bit later, don’t worry! You can still head out on a sunset sailing trip to make the most of your time in Airlie Beach.

DAY 4: Cape Hillsborough to Airlie Beach
Distance: 79 milesTravel Time: 1.5 hours

Address: 16 The Esplanade, Airlie Beach, QLD 4802, Australia

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At Airlie Beach Hotel, you’ll find comfortable accommodations perfect for your stay in Airlie Beach. With a variety of room options available, including options for solo travelers, families, or friends, there’s something for everyone.

Plus, the hotel’s central location makes it convenient for exploring the town and nearby attractions. 


Address: 7/6 The Esplanade, Airlie Beach, QLD 4802, Australia

Contact Details: +61 7 4948 1888

Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday: 11:30 AM – 10:00 PM

La Tabella Italian in Airlie Beach is a fantastic dining spot offering authentic Italian cuisine. With a warm and inviting atmosphere, it’s perfect for a family meal or a romantic dinner for two.

One of the great things about La Tabella is their kids’ menu, which features delicious and kid-friendly options that are sure to please even the pickiest eaters. From pasta dishes to pizza, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Day 5: Airlie Beach to Ingham

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Day 5 of your road trip continues with a drive from Airlie Beach to Ingham, covering a total of 238 miles and taking approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes.

After soaking up the beauty of Airlie Beach, hit the road towards Ingham, passing through picture-worthy landscapes along the way.

Make sure to stop in Bowen for a relaxing swim in its quiet bays, or venture to Crystal Creek in the Paluma Range for a picnic surrounded by lush rainforest.

Ingham, known as the Italian epicentre of Queensland, offers a rich cultural heritage stemming from its Italian immigrant population. Delis, bakeries, and great coffee spots abound, reflecting the town’s Italian influence!

DAY 5: Airlie Beach to Ingham
Distance: 238 milesTravel Time: 4.5 hours

Address: 58 Lannercost St, Ingham, QLD 4850, Australia

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When you’re in Ingham, a decent place to recharge before starting on your next stop on the road is Lee’s Hotel.

This cosy spot offers comfortable accommodations with amenities like clean and spacious rooms, free Wi-Fi, and complimentary breakfast to start your day right.

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Address: 68 Lannercost St, Ingham, QLD 4850, Australia

Operating Hours: Monday – Saturday: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM; 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM; Sunday: 5:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Jufu is a popular Chinese restaurant located in Ingham. From classic favourites like sweet and sour chicken to more adventurous options like Peking Duck, there’s something for everyone on the menu.

The restaurant also has a cosy and welcoming atmosphere, perfect for enjoying a meal with family and friends. 

Day 6: Ingham to Mission Beach

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Day 6 of the road trip from Brisbane to Cairns brings you to your next stop: Mission Beach. It’s about a 2.5-hour drive covering 77 miles from the previous destination.

Before reaching Mission Beach, make a detour to Wallaman Falls, the tallest single drop waterfall in Australia. Take a two-hour walk to the bottom of the falls to witness its impressive 268-metre plunge. 

Don’t forget to look out for a full rainbow through the mist!

After soaking in the beauty of Wallaman Falls, continue your journey north for about 106 miles until you reach Mission Beach. 

Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for cassowaries, as this area is one of the best places to spot these unique birds.

Once you arrive at Mission Beach, get ready for more than just a spa experience at Castaway Resort. With 8.6 miles of white sand, palm trees, and fringing reef, Mission Beach offers a nice setting for relaxation and exploration. 

DAY 6: Ingham to Mission Beach
Distance: 77 milesTravel Time: 2.5 hours

Address: Lot 4 Wongaling Beach Rd, Wongaling Beach, QLD 4852, Australia

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Mission Beach Resort is a fantastic choice for your stay in Mission Beach. This resort offers a range of amenities to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience for you before you head out for your next pit stop. 

With spacious and well-appointed rooms, you’ll have everything you need for a relaxing stay. The resort offers a beautiful outdoor pool, perfect for cooling off on hot days or simply lounging in the sun.

For those looking to stay active, there are tennis courts and a fitness centre available for use. Plus, the resort offers bike rental, making it easy to explore the surrounding area while you’re at it!

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One great place to dine and unwind after a day of driving and exploring Mission Beach is The Pirate Den Bar and Grill.

They offer a tasty menu with a variety of dishes, from juicy burgers to fresh seafood. Don’t miss their delicious cocktails, perfect for sipping while enjoying the beachside atmosphere. 

Day 7: Mission Beach to Atherton Tablelands

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Day 7 of the road trip continues as you leave behind the sandy shores of Mission Beach and venture towards the lush Atherton Tablelands. With a distance of 94 miles ahead, it’s a drive of about 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Located within the World Heritage Wet Tropics rainforest, the Atherton Tablelands has rich volcanic soil that nurtures some of Queensland’s finest produce. It’s not just a place to eat, but also one to explore.

Here, you can visit the region’s most stunning waterfalls for a refreshing dip, or challenge yourself with the Mt. Bartle Frere trail, offering breathtaking views from Queensland’s highest peak.

DAY 7: Mission Beach to Atherton Tablelands
Distance: 94 milesTravel Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

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Address: 106 Maunds Rd, Atherton, QLD 4883, Australia

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When you’re in the Atherton Tablelands area, Atherton Motel is a great choice for accommodation. With comfortable rooms and convenient amenities such as free Wi-Fi and parking, it’s great for travelers seeking a cosy place to stay.

Plus, its central location makes it easy to explore the surrounding attractions. 

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Address: 63 Main St, Atherton, QLD 4883, Australia

Baba Curry in Atherton Tablelands is a must-visit dining spot, offering delicious Indian cuisine in a cosy atmosphere. With a diverse menu featuring flavourful curries, biryanis, and vegetarian options, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Day 8: Atherton Tablelands to Cairns

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On day 8, the final leg of the Brisbane to Cairns road trip spans approximately 49.6 miles, taking you from Atherton Tablelands to Cairns in under two hours. 

Found between the ancient Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a gem of the north.

Spend your afternoon exploring Mossman Gorge on a Dreamtime Indigenous tour, then head to the Esplanade at sunset for a refreshing dip in the lagoon or drinks at the waterfront bars.

As your road trip comes to an end, why not indulge in both? After all, this is your holiday, and Cairns offers the perfect blend of relaxation and adventure to conclude your memorable journey.

DAY 8: Atherton Tablelands to Cairns
Distance: 49.6 milesTravel Time: 1.5 hours

Address: 122 Lake St, Cairns City, QLD 4870, Australia

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Novotel Cairns Oasis Resort is a great accommodation choice in Cairns, offering a blend of comfort and convenience for travelers.

With its central location, this hotel and resort is just a short walk away from Cairns’ main attractions, making it the perfect base for exploring the city and beyond. 

They also offer a beautiful outdoor pool surrounded by lush tropical gardens, providing a calm oasis in the heart of Cairns.

And for dining options, you can enjoy delicious meals at the on-site restaurant, or grab a drink at the bar.

Address: Marina Point, 6/2 Pier Point Rd, Cairns City, QLD 4870, Australia

Salt House in Cairns is a popular waterfront dining destination, offering stunning views of the marina and Trinity Inlet. Here, you can enjoy its diverse menu featuring fresh seafood, burgers, and cocktails.

Salt House’s relaxed atmosphere and spacious outdoor seating make it perfect for a casual meal or drink with friends.

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