Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip Itinerary – The Best Way to Experience Australia

Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip
Disclosure: is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. (paid link)

Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia and is a great place to visit. It allows visitors to enjoy the sun-splashed riverside setting and sophisticated big-city attractions. Undoubtedly, both Cairns and Brisbane are full of beauties. With a Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip, you can explore all the tropical islands, incredible beaches, restaurants, museums, and more. 

1056 miles or 1699 KM is the driving distance from Cairns to Brisbane. And the approximate non-stop driving time is 21 hours and 5 minutes under normal traffic conditions. However, you can go by bus, train, or flight besides car driving. 

But, if you choose any of these transportation modes except the car, you will miss visiting the 37 attractive places along this route. Considering this, we developed this comprehensive three days road trip itinerary for you. 

Just go through this article, and you will get the entire idea of where to start and what to do on your trip. So, let’s dive into the discussion: 

Cairns to Brisbane Road Trip: Itinerary, Drive Time, Attractions & Activities 

Route Bus, Car, Train, Plane 
Total Road Distance 1699 KM or 1056 Miles 
Bus 29 Hours 5 Minutes 
Car 21 Hours 34 Minutes 
Train 24 Hours 45 Minutes 
Stops 37 
Nearest Airport Cairns (CNS)

Cairns to Brisbane’s direct drive distance is 1699 KM or 1056 miles. Under normal traffic, you will need to drive for 21 hours and 5 minutes to cover this vast distance. While travelling from Cairns to Brisbane on the road, you can visit 37 attractive places along the way. 

By making an itinerary for a few days, you can visit all these beautiful places and escape from your busy city life. However, you can reach Brisbane from Cairns in several ways like the bus, car, train, flight, etc. Obviously, you will reach Brisbane in the shortest time through the flight. 

But here we are, developing a complete itinerary for a road trip. For a successful trip, you must have 3-5 days spare in hand. In fact, you will require three days to reach Brisbane by covering all the beautiful places and attractions from the two ends.

You can also read: Hobart to Launceston Road Trip

Cairns to Mission Beach

6849552445 51501874e2 b
Mission Beach| Photos take over Mission Be… | Flickr

You have to drive a lot of miles to reach Brisbane from Cairns. So, start your journey from Cairns on day 1. Before starting the journey, begin your day with breakfast. It will keep you in full energy. The first destination from Cairns is Mission Beach.

Make your way along the Bruce Highway A1 to reach Mission Beach. The distance between Cairns to Mission Beach is 138.9 KM. And the driving time is approximately 1 hour and 48 minutes. You can stop at Etty Bay on the way to this destination.

This Etty Bay is well-known to the cassowaries for roaming the beach. Mission Beach is a special visiting place in Australia because of its rainforests. You can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, and other fun activities in Rainforests.

Mission Beach is full of attractive places. By visiting here, you will definitely leave with great memories and big smiles. With no chain stores, traffic lights, or no crowds, Mission Beach is a tropical paradise full of natural beauty.

While staying here, you must visit the Kennedy Walking Track, Helen Wiltshire Gallery, and Mission Beach Visitor Information Centre. You can also take a walk in the Djiru National Park to enjoy the nature and wildlife areas. If you have kids with you, don’t miss visiting the Ratary Splash Pad. It’s an amusement and theme park. This park offers fans for your kids and provides a great community facility.

To enjoy the hiking experience, you can go to the Dreaming Trail. While visiting here, don’t bring any dogs or bikes because these are not allowed here. If you are quite adventurous and want to do Scuba, snorkelling, and boat tours, then you must visit the Mission Beach Charter. On the other hand, Wildside Adventures is another great place for Scuba & and snorkelling, river rafting, and tubing.

Mission Beach to Townsville

Ross River flowing through Townsville CBD 1 scaled
Ross River flowing through Townsville – Wikimedia Commons

The distance between Mission Beach and Townsville is 234.6 KM. To cross this distance, you must drive your car for 2 hours and 48 minutes along the Bruce Highway. Take a break at Townsville for a few hours to visit its beautiful places. Actually, a few hours are not enough to enjoy the beauty of this city. 

There is a lovely beachfront walking path in Townsville. Walk along the Strand. The Strand is a pathway and garden. There is also a Water Park in the Strand for the kids. To enjoy Townsville’s heart-pumping great views, you should visit Castle Hill. Here on this hill, you can walk along the different walking tracks.

However, visiting the Billabong Sanctuary is a must if you are a wild animal lover. Little Crystal Creek is a beautiful nature and wildlife area for nature lovers. Other places to visit are the Jezzine Barracks, Riverway, Townsville Palmetum, Museum of Tropical Queensland, etc.

Townsville to Airlie Beach

467525255 18472e3aba b
Airlie Beach From The Air | Flickr

So, after spending quality time in Townsville and visiting its beautiful places, move ahead to your next destination Airlie Beach. The distance between Townsville and Airlie Beach is 274.3 KM or 173 miles. Along the Bruce Highway A1, you will require 3 hours and 17 minutes to reach your destination.

One of the recommended places for travel in Australia is Airlie Beach. While staying here, a great place to visit is the White haven Beach and Hill Inlet Lockout. Here you can enjoy a full day snorkelling at the top snorkelling spots. You will definitely admire the greatest dramatic coastal views of this area. Moreover, you can enjoy your ocean rafting tour from this beach.

All your time will vanish in a blink of an eye by exploring the beauty of this beach. For adventure tours, the best thing to do is the Airlie Beach glass bottom boat tour. The 70-minute tour is specially designed for those who want to see the beauty and wonders of Whitsundays.

Along with all these, some more attractions here are the Airlie Beach Lagoon, Bicentennial Walkway, Heart Reef, etc. Also, you can visit Coral Sea Marina, Conway National Park, Boat haven Beach, Shute Harbour, Lions Airlie Beach Markets, etc.

Stay Overnight at Airlie Beach

On your 1st-day journey, we recommend you stay at night at Airlie Beach. After driving for more than 7 hours, it’s not wise to start the trip again at night. Therefore stay at a hotel in Airlie Beach and have a good sleep. Several night stay options are available here.

The hotel accommodation facility in Airlie Beach will make your trip more flexible and easier. Planning and booking the hotel is quite easy. Some hotels where you can stay at night are Mantra Club Croc, Coral Sea Marina Resort, Sebel Whitsundays, Waters Edge Resort, etc.

Airlie Beach to Mackay

Mackay City Heart Bank building
Mackay City Heart Bank building.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Hopefully, you will have a good night at Airlie Beach. Now, early in the morning, pack your bag, be ready and leave this place for your next destination.

149.2 KM is the distance between Airlie Beach to Mackay. Along the Bruce Highway A1, the driving time is nearly 1 hour and 47 minutes. Mackay is a picturesque city in North Queensland. 31 beautiful luscious rainforests and beaches surround Mackay. This city is close to the famous Great Barrier Reef

Considering the popular Queensland tourist route, this city is not the largest. But it is full of attractive places to visit and enjoy your time. On your Mackay trip, the Bluewater Lagoon is a perfect place for the kids to enjoy. 

There are also biking, and hiking trails for the elder called Bluewater trail. Some more visiting places are the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, Orchid Display House, Lamberts Lookout, Slade Point, etc. 

Mackay to Tannum Sands

Looking north on the Tannum Sands Main Beach panoramio
Looking north on the Tannum Sands Main Beach – panoramio.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Mackay to Tannum Sands is a long route, and the distance between these two is 468.3 KM. The approximate driving hours are 5 hours and 13 minutes along the Bruce Highway A1. On the contrary, if you drive along the Fitzroy Development RD or State Route 67, the driving time will be nearly 6 hours and 35 minutes. 

Tannum Sands is famous for its access to the Great Barrier Reef. There are several picture-perfect beautiful sea beaches in this city, for example, the Millennium Esplanade, Tannum Sands Beach, Canoe Point Beach & Parklands, etc. 

Some other visiting places are the Wild Cattle Island National Park, Boyne Tannum Turtleway Artscape, etc. After visiting all these beautiful places, stay overnight at the Tannum Sands.

Tannum Sands to Bundaberg

6495390907 e6bff8d15e b
Metropolitan Hotel, Bundaberg, Qld. | Bourbong & Barolin Str… | Flickr

After spending a good night at Tannum Sands, now be ready again. The early morning move for your next destination Bundaberg

Along the Rosedale Road, you need to cross 169 KM to reach Bundaberg from Tannum Sands. The straight distance between these two ends is 88.29 miles. On the other hand, 123.12 miles is the driving distance. 

Bundaberg is a great city to make a tour on the way to your Brisbane journey. You can visit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, Mon Repos Turtle Encounter, Bundaberg Botanic Gardens, etc. Some more visiting attractions are the Alexandra Park Zoo, Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Wood gate Beach, Bundaberg CBD, etc. 

Bundaberg to Fraser Island

Fraser island
Fraser island.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

232.3 KM is the Bundaberg to Fraser Island distance. The approximate driving time between these two ends is 5 hours and 56 minutes along Good wood road. 

Whereas along State Route 86, the driving time is 6 hours and 57 minutes, and the distance is 322.4 KM. While staying in Fraser Island, you can drive along the 75 Mile Beach. This beach is ranked as Australia’s one of the top outdoor adventures. 

You can also swim in Lake McKenzie. This lake is one of the most-visited attractions on Fraser Island. For multi-day tours, tours and sightseeing, and outdoor activities, there are numerous options on Fraser Island. 

Fraser Island to Brisbane

brisbane 2333237 1280
Brisbane,city,australia,queensland,architecture – free image from

 Finally, after driving for a few more hours from Fraser Island, you will reach your dream destination, Brisbane. Along the M1 road, the distance between these two ends is 404.7 KM. 

The approximate driving time is 7 hours and 57 minutes. Once you reach Brisbane, you must visit all the beautiful places in and around the city. 

Attractive Places to Visit in Brisbane

Brisbane is a city of beauty in Australia. It is full of beautiful places, tourist spots, award-winning restaurants, 5-star hotels, rooftop bars, a shopping center, etc. 

You can experience the best urban and cultural adventures by visiting this beautiful city. However, the noteworthy places to visit in Brisbane are: 

  • Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary 
  • City Botanic Gardens 
  • Brisbane Powerhouse 
  • Queensland Cultural Centre 
  • Streets Beach 
  • Queensland Gallery of Modern Art 
  • Story Bridge 
  • Museum of Brisbane 
  • Wheel of Brisbane 
  • City Hall 
  • Roma Street Parkland 
  • Mount Coot-tha Lookout
  • South Bank Parklands 


What is halfway from Brisbane to Cairns?

Middle mount, Australia, from Brisbane to Cairns, is the geographic halfway point.

What is the best island to visit from Cairns?

There are several best islands to visit from Cairns, like Fitzroy Island, Low Isles, Michaelmas Cay, Dunk Island, and Frankland Islands.

How many days in Brisbane is enough?

Only to visit all the attractive places in Brisbane, 2-3 days is enough. Within this time you will surely be able to see all the city highlights. But if your plan is bigger and you want to visit all destinations in and around Brisbane, then you will require 5-7 days.


And that is all about our Cairns to Brisbane road trip itinerary. There are different beautiful places to stop along the way of this journey that we already mentioned. How long you want to spend on the road to reach Brisbane from Cairns is up to you. 

There is complete flexibility in this itinerary. So you can make a little change to the plan. Depending on your choice, you can choose different stops to visit. However, for three or more days while you are on the road and driving your car, be a little careful and stay safe. 

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *