Cairns to Sydney Road Trip: Perfect Itinerary for Nature Lovers

Cairns to Sydney Road Trip
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Need a break from city life? Then a road trip from Cairns to Sydney is just what you need! This stunning coastal journey will take you through Australia’s most beautiful scenery, from the Great Barrier Reef to the gorgeous beaches of Byron Bay

Cairns To Sydney Road Trip’s amazing 2,800 km drive will take at least 28 hours and offers breathtaking coastal views with stops in Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Brisbane, Byron Bay, and Port Macquarie

While these are the most popular coastal points, you can also choose to follow our Inland Route, which takes you through Dubbo, Emerald, and Blue Mountains National Park – giving your road trip an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime feel.

This summer, we took a road trip from Cairns to Sydney. We had always wanted to do this drive, and it did not disappoint! The scenery was absolutely beautiful, and the roads were fun and twisty. We stopped at a few places along the way and enjoyed every minute of it! 

If you’re thinking about doing this drive, here are some tips to help make your trip smooth sailing. So pack your bags, fill up the tank and get ready for an unforgettable adventure!

Cairns to Sydney Road Trip: Itinerary Attractions & Activities

Bus Distance2 days 1 hour  3:00 from Cairns  (250 $ to 350$)
Car Distance1 day 4  hours  (350 $ to 450$)
StopsLone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Surfers Paradise Beach, and Australia Zoo. City Cat Terminal South Bank, Cape Byron Lighthouse Cafe, and Noosa National Park are also popular stops.
Nearest AirportCairns Airport (CNS)

Cairns to Sydney road trip can offer the best of Queensland and New South Wales, a true east coast exploration! Driving from Cairns to Sydney, holidayers will be enthusiastic about experiencing the natural wonders that both states have to offer. 

Most notably, consider hitting the world-famous Great Barrier Reef for some beautiful snorkelling or scuba diving off one of Australia’s most breathtaking coastlines. Then head further south and take a hike through stunning rainforests and national parks-Lamington National Park in QLD and Royal National Park in NSW are two unique highlights.

During stops along your journey, don’t forget to explore vibrant city centers such as Townsville, Brisbane, and Byron Bay before finally winding down your adventure in Sydney. All Go cairns to Sydney road trippers will surely come away with cherished memories enjoyed only by visiting these magical places!

From Cains to Sydney, you can take a combination of air, taxi, and bus trips to make your trip more comfortable and affordable. You can fly directly to Sydney, drive your car, or take the bus.

But travelling on your own is a great way to see all the tourist spots at the same time. There are numerous great visit halt exits that are marked on the road map from Cairns to Sydney, and I don’t want to miss any of them on any road trip I do between the two cities.

Below is a list of some of the sights you can see on your Cairns to Sydney road trip:

You can also read: Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay Road Trip

Cairns to Mission Beach

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Mission Beach | Picture might be available without watermark… | Flickr

The 139 kilometres from Cairns to Mission Beach on a paved road takes about 1.5 to 2 hours. Known as the Bruce Highway, this journey will take you through the heart of sugar cane and banana plantations, showcasing some of Australia’s most vibrant scenery if you’ve never seen it up close.

The Cairns to Mission Beach drive is an absolute must-see, packed with memorable views that are sure to create an incredible vision of adventure. You also see farms, beachfront, and rainforest – Cairns to Mission Beach awaits!

From snorkelling in exotic coral reefs to visiting a wildlife sanctuary and taking part in outdoor adrenalin-pumping activities, this journey has something special that awaits every traveller! 

Mission Beach to Townsville

Townsville Queensland Beach
Townsville, Queensland – Beach.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

From Mission Beach to Townsville is a direct 146 miles (235 kilometres) and should take about 3 hours and 11 minutes under typical traffic conditions.

This is the quintessential Australian experience. Nothing beats the feeling of taking a long drive along the coast, stopping off at serene towns and iconic beaches, and filling your lungs with salty ocean air. This stunning stretch of coastline offers some of the most breathtaking views in Queensland, so travellers can also expect plenty of opportunities to take picturesque photographs. 

With coastal views on one side and lush rainforest on the other, travellers can see some of Queensland’s most beautiful natural wonders. Along the journey, you’ll take in Mission Beach’s fourteen kilometres of sandy shoreline stretching from Clump Point to Bingil Bay, followed by a winding drive that takes you through Curtain Fig Tree National Park and its ancient 500-year-old tree root system. 

The final stretch of your Mission Beach to Townsville road trip is a picturesque drive along Castle Hill with its high cliffs, providing breathtaking panoramic views as you finish up your journey.

Townsville to Magnetic Island

Beautiful Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island
Beautiful Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Townsville to Magnetic Island is a road trip that offers stunning seascapes and exciting attractions

The distance between Mission Townsville and Magnetic Island is 6 kilometres, and a car trip there and back should take about 11 minutes under normal traffic conditions. Benwell Road allows visitors to take in the sweeping views of Townsville’s glittering harbour before setting eyes on Magnetic Island’s bays and beaches. 

Along the route, travellers should look out for the Townsville Palmetum botanic gardens for an opportunity to stop and smell the roses. Whatever you’re after, Townsville to Magnetic Island promises something for everyone, from beachy vibes all the way through to mountainous trails, from local wildlife wonders up close to unique Instagram spots further away.

Magnetic Island to Airlie Beach

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Airlie Beach | Airlie Beach Queensland | eGuide Travel | Flickr

Magnetic Island to Airlie Beach is a road trip full of natural beauty. 295 km of stunning views unfold around every bend in the road, with crystal clear bays, tropical rainforests, and galleries showcasing local art and culture. This trip will take you 5 hours and 40 minutes and will take you through the beautiful Whitsunday area of Queensland.

Cruising down winding coastal roads with endless blue ocean views, you’ll have plenty of time to stop off and explore hidden bays or enjoy a picnic on the secluded beaches Magnetic Island offers. With picturesque scenery around every corner, this drive won’t disappoint – Magnetic Island to Airlie Beach is an unforgettable experience.

Fishing and water sports can be enjoyed in Magnetic Island’s Nelly Bay, and you won’t want to miss the chance to visit some of the area’s incredible national parks. This 5 hours 40, minutes journey of discovery passes many quaint towns along the way, offering delicious delicacies from food trucks and cafes as well as excellent shops for souvenir hunters. Magnetic Island To Airlie Beach is a wonderful experience that shouldn’t be missed.

Airlie Beach to Whitsunday Islands

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Whitsunday Islands National Park (23720070439).jpg – Wikimedia Commons

From Airlie Beach to the Whitsunday Islands is approximately 34 kilometres, and the ride takes 2 hours and 10 minutes. This stunning route offers dreamlike scenery, quaint beach towns, and crystal-clear waters. The entire drive will take you about two and a half hours, with plenty of opportunities to explore the area along the way. 

Airlie Beach has stunning outdoor seating options, so make sure to grab a bite and soak up your surroundings. As you approach the islands, you’ll be captivated by the picturesque scenery. Spend some time soaking in nature or grab adventure gear – kayaking or sailing is a great experience! 

If you decide to stay overnight in Airlie Beach afterward, there are numerous cozy restaurants and bars offering delicious food and drinks right near Airlie Beach Lagoon. Any road trip is made better with friends – Airlie Beach to Whitsunday road trip promises loads of picture-perfecting moments!

Whitsunday Islands to Agnes Water

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St Agnes Head | St Agnes Head | James Stringer | Flickr

For anyone looking to experience the picturesque Whitsunday Islands while also taking in a bit of Australian Island life, the journey from Agnes Water to Whitsunday Islands is an unparalleled one. With a distance of 526 km, the beautiful drive takes about 10 hours and 12 minutes and offers some truly stunning sights. 

The Whitsunday Islands to Agnes Water is a stunning journey filled with breathtaking beauty and diverse cultural experiences. From the rainbow reef and white sand of Whitsunday Island, boat through the azure waters of Whitsunday Bay, to the fiery sunsets bathing in Scarness over Hervey Bay

On route, you can explore the rolling hills, rivers, and creeks that make up much of the area before reaching your ultimate destination or take in some extra sightseeing stops along the way. 

Explore the tropical rainforests of Eurimbula National Park before reaching Agnes Water, where you can swim in clear blue lagoons and surf some of the best waves on Australia’s east coast. 

Take time to visit local townships and absorb colonial history in a hard, longboarder way of life shared by locals in the quiet beach-facing village of Agnes Water. An unforgettable adventure awaits those who travel from Whitsunday Islands to Agnes Water.

Agnes Water to Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach Queensland
Rainbow Beach, Queensland.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Agnes Water to Rainbow Beach is a great Australian road trip adventure spanning 379.0 kilometres and taking approximately four hours and nineteen minutes.

The journey takes you through some of the most breathtaking scenery this great country has to offer, including stunning rainforest and the rolling surf of Agnes Water beach. Along the way, keep an eye out for unique wildlife such as sea turtles, echidnas, and plenty more.

Make sure to stop in Agnes Water Town of 1770 to experience the history before continuing on to Rainbow Beach and its world-renowned Carlo Sand Blow. Agnes Water to Rainbow Beach is an unforgettable trip that should be added to everyone’s Australian bucket list.

Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island

Australia Queensland Fraser Island Lake McKenzie
Australia, Queensland, Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island is an unforgettable journey along the beautiful Maryborough Cooloola Rd. Meandering along this scenic drive, you’ll pass tranquil fishing spots, vibrant rainforests, and thriving local wildlife.

With a total distance of 188.5 km, Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island can be reached in just under 4 hours. The views on your journey will provide you with plenty to take in and appreciate, with rugged cliffs, glimmering seaside villages, and striking beach dunes illuminated by warm sunshine. 

Rainbow Beach to Noosa

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Sunset over Noosa Beach, Noosa Heads, Queensland 03.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Rainbow Beach to Noosa is the perfect way to explore the serene and beautiful beach of Rainbow Beach and the captivating coastline of Noosa! 

The drive, which generally takes an estimated 101.8 km and 1 hr 19 min via Rainbow Beach Road, is sure to be an adventure filled with breathtaking views encompassing sparkling waters and picturesque landscapes. 

This stunning journey includes Rainbow Beach’s stunning shoreline of gold sand and gently lapping waves and Noosa’s gorgeous beaches, where you can surf or just sit on a beach towel soaking in the sunshine. 

Make sure you stop by Rainbow Beach’s Carlo Sand Blow Lookout for a magnificent view of the 12km wide sweeping plain retreating towards the water along with a range of beautiful birdlife ready for viewing. 

Noosa to Brisbane

Story Bridge seen from Howard Smith Wharves Brisbane 01
Story Bridge seen from Howard Smith Wharves, Brisbane 01.jpg – Wikimedia

Noosa To Brisbane is one of the most scenic coastal drives in Australia. Brisbane is a stunning destination situated just 2 hours from Noosa on the Sunshine Coast

Travelling to Noosa can be done via car or by taking a bus from Noosa to Brisbane, or even from the Sunshine Coast Airport, which is located only half an hour away. Noosa is renowned for its beautiful beaches, but there is much more to this resort town than just its glamorous appeal. Noosa boasts many trails and national parks as well as natural attractions such as Noosa Heads.

From Noosa to Brisbane, visitors will experience sweeping views of golden beaches and rocky shorelines for a truly unique and immersive journey. Along the way, travellers can stop at small beachside towns populating the route.

Each destination offers its own unique charm and character, from unhurried local shops to quaint cafes and restaurants. No matter the length of your stay, Noosa To Brisbane provides a beautiful journey showcasing some of Australia’s most stunning coastal scenery.

Brisbane to Surfers Paradise 

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Surfers Paradise beach, Queensland 04.JPG – Wikimedia Commons

Brisbane to Surfers Paradise is a beautiful scenic drive, taking just over an hour and 19 minutes along the highway. It’s the perfect way to experience the Queensland coastline while journeying from the city of Brisbane to the stunning beachfront of Surfers Paradise. 

You will be delighted by picturesque views of sparkling blue-green waters and golden sandy beaches that line your route all along this drive. You’ll spot wildlife both along and onshore, including wallabies, kangaroos, and dolphins. 

Surfers Paradise to Byron Bay

800px Byron Bay Lighthouse Beach and Hinterland in the Northern Rivers NSW Australia
Byron Bay Lighthouse, Beach and Hinterland in the Northern Rivers, NSW, Australia.jpg – Wikimedia Commons

Surfers Paradise to Byron Bay is a great journey full of scenic views! Though it only takes 92.4km (or 1 hr 10 min) to travel between Surfers Paradise and Byron Bay, you certainly won’t feel like you’re missing out on any experiences or sights along the way.

As a traveller, this road will give you an energized sense of appreciation for the beauty of our surroundings that can be hard to find without taking on such a trip. Taking this route is an ideal way to take in all the best nature Australia has to offer while also having an enjoyable experience travelling with family or friends.

Byron Bay to Yamba

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Yamba Sunrise NSW | Yamba is a picturesque seaside / fishing… | Flickr

Byron Bay to Yamba is a journey that will take you through some of Australia’s most stunning coastal scenery, with the trip taking just over an hour and 24 minutes to complete. This short but picturesque route takes you on an adventure down the New South Wales coastline, starting in Byron Bay and travelling south along smooth roads before arriving in Yamba.

Along the way, you can take in pristine beaches, lush rainforests, charming surfer towns, and historic lighthouses – all framed against bright blue water and white sand shores. Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway or a leisurely drive, Byron Bay to Yamba will let you experience the best of what Australia’s Eastern Coast has to offer.

Yamba to Coffs Harbour

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View of Coffs Harbour from Sealy lookout | A S | Flickr

Yamba to Coffs Harbour is a picturesque scenic drive along the eastern coast of Australia. Starting in Yamba, a beautiful seaside village, you will quickly find yourself high up on the hill overlooking Brunswick Valley before descending down into the Great Dividing Range. From here, stunning hills and valleys provide an interesting contrast to the blue horizon as you make your way further south. 

Visiting quaint towns like Ulmarra and Grafton, you can take in local experiences such as visiting unique boutiques or taking part in local events like Yamba Yacht Club’s famous weekly races. 

It will take you just over 1 hour and 24 minutes to reach your destination; this leisurely drive takes you straight into the heart of Coffs Harbour with its vibrant city life and laid-back coastal culture.

Coffs Harbour to Sydney

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The Sydney Opera House. | Sydney Opera House sits on Bennelo… | Flickr

Coffs Harbour to Sydney is a stunningly scenic journey that can be completed in just five and a half hours. The 525.4 km drive is the perfect opportunity for travellers to take in beautiful rural scenery and some bustling towns along the way.

From Coffs Harbour, visitors will get to experience the culture of Coffs Coast before heading south past Coffs Coast Hinterland and Coffs Coast Regional Park down to Sydney. This picturesque stretch offers up plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy while en route – including visiting a boutique winery or immersing oneself in history at one of many heritage sites.

Whether driving it as part of one’s catching a swift ride there, Coffs Harbour to Sydney makes a delightful journey!

Why is Sydney Famous? 

Sydney is one of the most famous cities in the world with its iconic Opera House, its stunning harbour, and its vast array of attractions. This global destination has something for everyone and is renowned for its great climate and natural beauty. 

Sydney is famous for its sophisticated dining scene with some of the best restaurants in Australia, from waterfront seafood restaurants to charming cafes and stylish bars. Its hinterland also provides outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of options for recreation, like hiking in Royal National Park or exploring one of Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites. 

Sydney Tower Eye offers 360-degree views over the city, and the Blue Mountains close by. There’s no letdown when it comes to things to do; there’s shopping, art galleries, theatres, wildlife parks, and much more. 

What Can You do in Sydney?

Sydney is an amazing city full of things to do. Whether you’re looking for an adventure, getting creative, relaxing on the beach, or enjoying a delicious meal, Sydney has something for everyone. 

If you’re in the mood for culture, explore some of the iconic museums and galleries, then catch a show at the majestic Sydney Opera House or hit up one of many live music venues located throughout the city.

For outdoor activities, take a scenic walk around one of its stunning harbor parks, wander through historic The Rocks district or brave a daring surf lesson at Bondi Beach.

Lastly, don’t forget to treat yourself to some exquisite seafood dishes at one of Sydney’s renowned seafood restaurants overlooking glimmering waterfronts.

Where to Stay During the Cairns to Sydney Road Trip?

Planning a Cairns to Sydney road trip? There are all sorts of ways to make the most of your journey, and you can rest assured there’s an accommodation option to suit every budget

Whether you prefer camping, hostels, or luxury hotels – there is something for everyone to enjoy. If you’d like a taste of the Aussie Outback en route, why not rough it in a caravan park for a few days? 

There’s nothing quite like drinking in the night sky from afar as vibrant stars twinkle overhead. Or if you’re looking for creature comforts along your drive, numerous cost-effective motels can be found with ease.

Whatever kind of stay works best for your travels, there’s no shortage of accommodation options when setting out from Cairns to Sydney!


When you drive from Cairns to Sydney, how long does it take?

Travelling from Sydney to Cairns (or vice versa) involves 3,000 kilometres when you factor in the time spent at each stop. That’s even further than the 2,280 km between Edinburgh and Istanbul or the 3,220 km between New York and Los Angeles (2,780 km)

Should I take the road trip to Cairns from Sydney?

Yes, One of the great Australian road trips is from Cairns to Sydney. You can take either the Coastal Route or the Country Route. Some of the world’s most breathtaking landscapes are on display along both itineraries, and you’ll also see well-known cities and other cultural hotspots.

How many days do you need in Cairns?

People who go to Cairns often say they could live there for the rest of their lives because the city and its surroundings are so beautiful. But if you only have three days, you may still see the best of this beautiful city and its tropical beauty.

Where should I go if I just have a few days in Sydney?

Sydney is a bustling metropolis packed with museums, galleries, and other points of interest, as well as beautiful beaches and other natural landmarks. Bondi Beach, Manly Beach, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Taronga Zoo, and the world-famous Sydney Opera House are just a few of the many attractions in Sydney.

The Queen Victoria Building and the surrounding region, as well as Darling Harbour, Circular Quay, and The Rocks are also very well-visited.


The Cairns to Sydney road trip is one of the most popular road trips in Australia. It takes you through some of the country’s most iconic landmarks and attractions.

The drive can be done in as little as two weeks and covers around 3,000 kilometres, but we recommend taking your time and enjoying everything that this amazing country has to offer.

You’ll see some of the most amazing scenery Australia has to offer, and you’ll get to experience two very different cultures.

There are many different routes that can be taken, but the most popular ones include stops at Byron Bay, surfers paradise, and Brisbane.No matter which route you take, the Cairns to Sydney road trip is an unforgettable experience.

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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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