The Gold Coast route from Brisbane to Cairns offer so much more than just backpacking options. Try surfing in the resort town of Noosa, before sailing out the Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island) and exploring the natural cove of Champagne Pools. Back on the mainland, take the short drive to Mon Repos near Bundaberg to watch turtles hatch and watch out for kangaroos and platypus on a Eungella National Park bushwalk. As you continue north, try sailing on the Whitsunday Islands, scuba diving on the world-famous Yongala Wreck near Townsville and white water rafting on the Tully River near Mission Beach. If all this activity hasn’t worn you out, end by snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef on a day trip from Cairns.

Key information

Destinations Destinations Whitsunday Islands, Brisbane, Cairns, Fraser Island, Mon Repos Conservation Park, Townsville, Mission Beach, Noosa, Eungella National Park
Activity Activity Beach, Nature & Wildlife, Active
Physical Level Physical Level Easy
Season Season January - December

Suggested itinerary

Feel the heat in tropical Brisbane

Feel the heat in tropical Brisbane

Day 1–3 in Brisbane

Smaller than its West coast sister cities but no less interesting, Queensland’s riverside capital is as cool as its climate is not. A student city at heart, Brisbane doesn’t lack for galleries, dining and nightlife options, with hip cafes, high-end restaurants and rooftop bars lining the tropical waterfront. A trip to South Bank, the city’s premier cultural, social and recreational neighbourhood — is a must, and families will rejoice at the free public swimming pools, man-made beaches and bike-friendly boardwalks. If these aren’t enough, the beautiful beaches of Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise are just an hour’s drive away, a short hop in Australian terms.

Cricket-lovers shouldn’t miss a trip to the Gabba (Brisbane’s Cricket Ground) which is notorious for its intense and raucous atmosphere. Extremely popular, but for good reason, is a trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where visitors can cuddle Australia’s most endearing marsupial.

Go surfing in Noosa

Go surfing in Noosa

Day 4 in Noosa

Spend a day learning to surf in resort town Noosa before sailing to Fraser Island.

Set up camp on a paradise island

Set up camp on a paradise island

Day 5–7 in Fraser Island

Known by the local Butchulla people as K’gari, meaning “paradise,” the world’s largest sand island more than lives up to its nickname. Emerging from lush rainforests, ancient sand dunes dissolve into turquoise lakes and coral coastlines, making the island a haven for beach-bums, hikers and adventurous sand-surfers alike.

As a camping and eco-tourism destination, development has been purposefully restricted and 4WD car rental is advised for those who want to explore further.

Don’t miss crystal-clear Lake McKenzie and the natural cove of Champagne Pools.

Watch turtles hatch at Mon Repos

Watch turtles hatch at Mon Repos

Day 8–9 in Mon Repos Conservation Park

Head Bundaberg and the Mon Repos Conservation Park to see Loggerhead turtles laying eggs between November and January and hatching from January to March. Only 1 in 1,000 will make it to adulthood.

Search for Skippy in Eungella National Park

Search for Skippy in Eungella National Park

Day 10 in Eungella National Park

Keep your eyes peeled for duck-billed platypus and eastern grey kangaroos on a bushwalk though Queensland's Eungella National Park.

Sail the Whitsunday Islands

Sail the Whitsunday Islands

Day 11–13 in Whitsunday Islands

A sailing trip around the jaw-dropping Whitsunday Islands might be one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever do. Dive with rainbow-coloured fish and friendly sea turtles on the surrounding Great Barrier Reef, stroll along white sand beaches and swim in the warm aquamarine bays which encompass the 74-island archipelago. The ancestral home of the sea-faring Ngaro people, the Whitsundays also host some of the oldest archeological sites in Australia.

Scuba dive on the Yongala Wreck

Scuba dive on the Yongala Wreck

Day 14–15 in Townsville

Near Townsville is the SS Yongala, a 110m passenger ship that sank 1911 during a tropical cyclone. The wreck was found in 1958 and is considered one of the best dive sites in the world, offering views of the ship itself and marine life like manta rays, sea turtles, barracudas, sharks and even humpback whales.

Go white-water rafting on the Tully River

Go white-water rafting on the Tully River

Day 16–17 in Mission Beach

Get your heart pumping by going white-water rafting on the world-class rapid of Tully River. This exhilarating – if wet – experience will take you through the jungle-like rainforests of the Cassowary Coast.

Get wet and wild in Cairns

Get wet and wild in Cairns

Day 18–20 in Cairns

While once people flocked to marshy, tropical Cairns in search of treasure in the Hodgekinson goldfields to the west, they now arrive in droves to sample the natural delights of Far Northern Queensland and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Unabashedly a tourist hub, the city is the jumping off point for the sailors, divers and snorkelers hoping to experience the incredibly rich reef ecosystem. To the north-west of the city, Daintree National Park is an outdoor enthusiasts dream — biodiverse virgin rainforest, mountains and beaches offer a multitude of activities.

Don't miss

Swim with fishes at the Great Barrier Reef

Swim with fishes at the Great Barrier Reef

Plunge into the waters of the world’s largest coral reef system, and home to more than 900 tropical islands. Whether you opt to take Cairns-based day trip or join a diving live-aboard, it is hard to deny the beauty of this natural wonder of the world.

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