Airlie Beach to Cairns Road Trip – 13 Stops to Visit While Driving

Airlie Beach to Cairns Road Trip
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Both Airlie beach and the Cairns-two popular coastal town of Queensland. It is considered that Airlie beach is on the nave of the Whitsunday Islands, whereas Cairns is on the Nave of North Queensland (with the Great Barrier Reef).

Many travellers think that Airlie beach and the Cairns are pretty close to one another! But it is not true. So if you cannot make a well trip plan, it could swiftly dispute you from your main goal.

That’s why we are with our latest session on the Airlie beach to cairns road trip. After time-consuming research, recalling all our personal experiences on this road trip-we has made this session. If you are really in need of Airlie beach to cairn road details with all related attractions-please scroll down slowly–

Airlie Beach to Cairns Road Trip: Itinerary, Attractions, and Activities

Route3 different ways (Bus/Car, Train, Plane)
Total Road Distance387 mi (623 km)
Shelf Drive/Car (Direct route)8 hrs 5 mins (normal traffic)
Bus9 h55m
Stops31 stops
Prime AttractionsMagnetic Island, the Cardwell Spa Pools, and Mission Beach.

Airlie Beach and Cairns are 619 km far from one another. So it’s not close distance, almost give a punishment of nonstop driving of 8 hours.

However, you can change the punishment for long driving into an enjoyable one if you make the trip with several stops! 

The Airlie beach 1
Airlie Beach From The Air | Flickr

You will find many coastal attractions during your trip- don’t miss them. Remaining will automatically bring good feelings for you!

Different routes are there on Airlie Beach to cairns drive. You can fly directly to cairns from Proserpine. Proserpine is a little far from Airlie beach. Direct train trips are also available from Airlie beach station to Cairns. Shelf driving or bus also available on this road.

Total driving details are 7 hr 16 min (618.8 km road far) via A1 and Bruce Hwy/A1. The number of total stoppages in the trips is almost 31. Significance among them will discuss in today’s session.

You can read also: Adelaide to Darwin Road Trip

Airlie Beach to Bowen

Airlie Beach to Bowen
Bowen Sunrise | Bowen, Queensland, Australia | Flickr

Start your trip from Airlie beach. And drive 1 hr 2 min via Bruce Hwy/A1. After driving 78.4 km, you will find the first stoppage between Airlie beach and the Cairn trip.

This stoppage name is Bowen. Direct bus service is also there to reach Bowen from Airlie beach, which will take 1 hour and 40 minutes. The bus fair also is cheap, only $10 to $22.

This coastal Queensland was originally located in Whitsunday Region. The total area is 1,652 km², with a population of 10,377 people.

Bown is a large coastal area; travelers often spend 1 to 2 days and explore all the beaches and islands. This picturesque seaside town has 8 glorious beaches. 

All these beaches are visit-worthy, offering visitors only a ten-minute radius! And the majority of all Brown’s beaches are present at Cape Edgecumbe (5 minutes far from the town). Mentionable beaches in this area are-

  • Rose Bay Beach
  • Dog-off-leash Beach
  • King’s Beach
  • Koral Beach
  • Horseshoe Beach
  • Queens Beach (Long Beach, perfect for swimming)

Bowen to Delta

Delta only is 10 minutes far from Bowen. In a straight line, you have to drive only 3.3 km. However, you can bypass to stop here.

But like any other south coastal region, Delta is also visit-worthy due to some prime seaside attractions. If you don’t want to stop here, continue your drive towards Home Hill.

Delta to Home Hill

Home hill is located in the township of Burdekin, Queensland. This city is situated on the delta of the Burdekin River. However, the total drive time you have to spend reaching here is 1 hr 5 min (normal traffic).

Home hill is a tiny cute city. This city is perfect for people of all ages, whether the child or the oldest grandmom-everybody could stay here even for their whole life. Lots of good educational institutions are present in this little city. The main attractions of Home Hills are-

  • The Burdekin Bridge
  • Inkerman Sugar Mill
  • Ashworth’s Rock Shop

Home HIll To Ayr

Lake Ayr – Mount Oakleigh in Distance | Flickr

Ayr is not so far from Home Hills. Most often, people usually non stop the drive from Airlie Beach and take the stoppage at Ayr. So you also can bypass others meanwhile towns if you are in a hurry to reach Cairns. Ayr takes only 12 min (11.5 km) via Bruce Hwy/A1 from Home Hill.

Ayra is not only important as the Queensland coast city, but rather more it also is the centre of the Sugarcane-Growing-Region in the whole of Australia. Ayra also is an important administrative portion of the Burdekin Shire Council.

The foundation year of this city is 1882. And the area of this city is not so large, only 29.1 km². It is one of the rural portions of Queensland-85, far from another important city, Townsville.

The prime attraction of Ayra is its sugarcane industry, based on over 80,000 hectares of sugar cane fields. Also, this city is addressed as the most beautiful and fertile farmland in Australia.

Ayr to Townsville

Train, bus, car-in all ways you can go Townsville from Ayr. Townsville is 87.7 km from Ayr and needs 1 hr 3 min of shelf driving through the Bruce Hwy/A1.

However, you can visit several important things in this northeastern Queensland’s coastal city. The rainforest, Coastal beaches, parks-lots of other natural wonders are present here.

Some prime attractions in this place are-Reef Headquarters Aquarium, The Strand, Billabong Sanctuary, Riverway, Castle Hill, The Magnetic Island, The Palmetum, Queens Garden, etc.

Besides all these places, you can also visit some other natural attractions like Cape Pallarenda Conservation Park, Anderson Park, Perc Tucker Regional Art Gallery, and Maritime Museum Of Townsville.

Townsville to Ingham

With the Habitation of Shire of Hinchinbrook, Ingham is also worthy of being the off-stop between your Airlie beach and Cairns road trip. The distance is 111.5km, so nonstop driving of 1 hr 23 min via Bruce Hwy needs, therefore.

Archetypal tractions of Ingham are-Wallaman Falls, TYTO Wetlands, TYTO Regional Art Gallery, Jourama Falls, Mercer Lane Mosaic, Broadwater National Park, etc.

Ingham also is reputed for the sugar mill industry. Many Italian migrants each year stay in Ingham to work in these sugar cane mills. Therefore the annual Australian-Italian festival became so enjoyable for the native people and also for the Italian migrants.

Many visitors come to Ingham each year to enjoy the yearly festival only. Not only the festival, but people also enjoy the local cuisine, wine, tourist places, music, culture, and so on.

Ingham to Cardwell

Cardwell Queensland. 51383349743
Cardwell, Queensland – Wikimedia Commons

You are on your trip to the Cassowary Coast Region, Queensland. And Cardwell city is the first in this region. Cardwell is 53.7km far via Bruce Hwy/A1, so 35 minutes of driving time is enough when the traffic is normal.

You can visit Murray Falls, Cardwell Spa Pool, Hinchinbrook Island, Attie Creek Falls, Historic Cardwell Post Office & Telegraph Station, Kirrama National park, etc, in Cardwell.

Cardwell to Tully

Tully river scaled
Tully river – Wikimedia Commons

Though Tully is 39 km from Cardwell, you have to drive a little more, I. e. 43.8 km to reach there from Cardwell city. 31 minutes shelf driving is enough, but you can catch other options, like bus, taxi or train to reach here.

Visit worthy places inside Tully are Tully Visitor and Heritage Centre, Golden Gumboot, Tully Sugar Mill, Mount Tyson, Tully Falls, Bushwalking the World Heritage Rainforests, Tully Gorge Forest Park, and White Water Rafting.

Tully To Mission Beach (Wongaling):

Mission Beach
Castaways Resort , Mission Beach, Queensland, Australia -Wikimedia Commons

Do you know how Mission Beach is named? This beach is named Hull River Mission, an Aboriginal mission built in 1914. Unfortunately, this mission was defuncted in 1918.

However, Mission beach is only 25 to 30 minutes fastest driving far from Tully. You can go to Tully 3 ways, by bus, taxi, and car. Mission Beach is habituated to Cassowary Coast Region, Queensland. Its total area is 13.6 km², and the total number of people is approximately 1000.

However, visit-worthy places in Mission beach or Wongaling are Kennedy Walking Track, Rotary Splash Pad, Helen Wiltshire Gallery, Djiru National Park, Dreaming Trail, Mission Beach Dive, Coral Sea Kayaking, Mission Beach Dunk Island Water Taxi, Charly’s Chocolate Factory.

The mission is also famous for the 1.5 km long walking trails. This walking trail is on the Ulysses Link, and you can cover this zone only within 30 minutes.

Mission Beach To Innisfail:

It takes 42 min to reach Innisfail via El Arish Mission Beach Rd and Bruce Hwy/A1. Mission Beach is a 51.5km road distance from Innisfail. Innisfail is a city full of sugar cane fields. It’s also a popular tropical north Queensland city.

People often go there to blast the city’s nature, local food, hospitality, and the incredible adventure of moving with its nature comb.

This city is based in Cassowary Coast Region. However, you can also visit there-

  • Mamu Tropical Skywalk
  • Innisfail Temple
  • Cassowary Coast Art Deco

Innisfail to Babinda

Babinda Boulders NQld – Wikimedia Commons

Almost 5 options are there to reach Babinda from Innisfail-bus/train/shuttle/taxi/car. The distance is also not so high, only 29.6 km from Innisfail central town.

So you can reach, in addition to that, a nonstop driving of 23 min (29.6 km) via Bruce Hwy/A1. Babinda is a 39.9 km² larger rural city based in the Cairns region.

Visit worth places in Babinda are-

  • Babinda Boulders
  • Babinda Kayaking
  • Devils Pool Lookout
  • Boulders Gorge Lookout
  • Babinda Munro Theatre
  • Babinda District Arts
  • Craft Co-Op

Babinda to Gordonvale

Just Drive 26 min more on Bruce Hwy/A1, and after 36.2 km, you will reach Gordonvale. Gordonvale also is an important sugar-producing country in Australia. It is stated in north Queensland, north of the Cairns region.

After Gordonvale, you will reach Cairns. So it is the last off-stop on your Airlie Beach to Cairns trip. You can also visit here lots of things, like Walsh’s Pyramid, Mulgrave Settlers Museum, Grey Peaks National Park, Gordonvale Golf Club, etc.

Gordonvale to Cairns

Cairns qld scaled
Cairns-| Cairns is a regional city | Flickr

So if you are still at Gordonvale, you are 29 minutes driving from the dream city, Crain’s. Crain’s only is 22.9 km far via Bruce Hwy/A.

If you reach Crain’s, you are at the gateway of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It’s a city in Far North Queensland based on the Tjapukai Aboriginal culture.

This wonderful tropical city is well lined up with all good bars, restaurants, and a blue lagoon! People often come here to enjoy the seaside beauty!

The top attractions of this city are-

  • Coral reef water adventures
  • Visits to the rainforest
  • Aussie animals & wildlife
  • Rainforest adrenaline activities
  • Great Barrier Reef from above

More hundreds of activities you can do here. And most of these activities are based on a day trip to the cruise option, visiting the islands, water rafting, enjoying the Outer Edges of The Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flights, and so many others.

Prime Attractions in Between the Airlie Beach to Cairns Road Trip

Though we have tried to enlist all the prime attractions on our above off-stop segment trip discussion, here we are going to include some other important visiting places between this trip.

To visit these places, you must drive far; sometimes, you might have to take a short/long detour from the highway.

Mungalli Creek Dairy

Mungalli Creek Dairy is a cafe at 6 hr 47 min driving distance from Airlie beach. The total road distance is 575.2 km via A1 and Bruce Hwy/A1.

It’s a relaxing space for all travellers. You can also enjoy their organic coffee or tea, the open nature in front of the cafe, and take candid snaps.

Barron Gorge

47178854482 0ef2678b7f b
Barron Falls, Queensland, AU | Barron Gorge | Flickr

If you are on a relaxed trip, do not miss the Barron Gorge Hydroelectric Power Station on your trip. This station is only about 630.9 km from Airlie beach via A1 and Bruce Hwy/A1. You can go here by bus/car/train/taxi.

But she driving requires only 7 hr 34 min. As the power station is a bit different from all visited spots, I suggest visiting here.

Atherton Tablelands

Rainforest 3 Atherton Tableland Queensland Australia
Atherton Tableland, Queensland, Australia.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Atherton Tablelands needs a 630.5 km road trip from Airlie beach. If you drive via the A1 and Bruce Hwy/A1, you will reach here only after 7 hr 22 min driving. You can also catch a direct flight from Proserpine to reach Atherton Tablelands for your convenience.

You can visit the waterfalls and enjoy the wine and local fruits. Also, the wildlife tour, spending time with birds, enjoying various waterfalls, and water sports are mentionable here.

Wooroonooran National Park

Josephine Falls Wooroonooran National Park panoramio
Wooroonooran National Park – Wikimedia Commons

From Airlie beach, drive 6 hr 33 min (559.2 km) via the A1 and Bruce Hwy/A1, and you will reach Wooroonooran National Park.

Like any other Queensland city’s park-this park is also full of lots of natural diversity, trees, birds, wildlife, hiking trail, and so many others.

Especially the Josephine Falls (full of Natural Rock Side) is perfect for wild swimming. So don’t miss swimming here.

Hinchinbrook Island

Hinchinbrook Island NQ
Hinchinbrook Island – Wikimedia Commons

Hinchinbrook Island is 340 km far from Airlie beach. And you have to ride on a ferry to get over there. If you want to taste an incredible Tropical North Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef, Hinchinbrook Island will serve you that.

Like any other coastal island, this place is also full of many beach points and seaside relaxation points.

Magnetic Island

45392432634 47f5edd633 b
Magnetic Island | Flickr

This island is 234 km road distance from Airlie beach. This 52 sq km island is full of palm trees, beaches, hidden beaches, and gorgeous natural relaxable parks.

You can make a Magnetic Island picnic day with your group. Seeing the full island, of course, will introduce you to the wonder of wonderful hidden nature.


Is Cairns or Airlie Beach better?

If you consider the temperature, then Airlie beach is better comparatively. The north you go from Cairns, the cooler the region will be.

As Airlie beach is almost 1000 km from Cairns, it would be a minimum of 5 times cold than Cairns. However, Which place is better usually depends on you and your preference; on rainy days Cairns, also is unbeatable.

How many days do you need in Airlie Beach?

Depends on you. I spent 2 days there and almost covered the whole surroundings. However, if you want to take sunbathe for too long, you can decide how many days you want to stay there. Otherwise, 2 days is enough.

Final Verdict:

You could reach cairns from Airlie beach with only 8 hours of non-stop driving! But why do you need to drive nonstop when you have hundreds of scope to grab nature’s beauty?

Unless you are on the way to attend someone’s farewell party, you can stop anywhere and see what is new for you there.

The world is big but your life is short! So spend your life as much as possible blasting nature’s secrets. So, travel more, see more, and enjoy more!

That’s all on the Airlie beach to cairns road trip. Thank you for staying with us for so long.

Hi, I'm Md Abid Hasan. The owner & content editor of is a travel blog that covers road trips, day trips, and destinations guide.

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