Total distance: 3,893 km

We drove this itinerary from 24 September to 10 November 2017 in a Toyota Hiace camper van from Travel Wheels.

We know 47 days is more time than many people have when driving the coast so if you need help planning a shorter trip or you just don’t fancy planning an itinerary yourself, hit up Ratpack Travel who can put one together for you.

Day 1
CAIRNS TO ELLIS BEACH (A to B)
Approx   27 km =  32 mins  

Collect your van from Cairns, hit the shops to stock up and make the short drive to Ellis Beach. Stay at Ellis Beach Oceanfront Caravan Park which is next to a lovely beach and has mango trees.

What to do:

  • Enjoy the beach
  • Head across the road to Ellis Beach Bar & Grill open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks

Day 2 and 3
ELLIS BEACH TO CAPE TRIBULATION (B to C)
Approx  115 km =  2 hr 15

Head up the coast, grab the ferry and continue your drive to Cape Tribulation.  Keep an eye out for the cassowaries and the crocodiles! Stay at Cape Tribulation Caravan Park (eco-camp)

What to do:

  • Check out the beach (direct access from the eco-camp)
  • Organise a trip to the Great Barrier Reef (Cape Trib is the closest point to the reef)

Day 4
CAPE TRIBULATION TO MALANDA (C to D)
Approx 193  km =  3 hr 13

Make your way back down the coast. Stop at Malanda Falls Caravan Park so you are in position to drive waterfall way the next day.

What to do:

  • Swim Malanda Falls which is directly accessible from the caravan park
  • Play with the farm animals at the caravan Park (they have pigs, sheep, goats, a cow, a horse, ducks, chickens and a turkey)

Day 5
MALANDA TO ETTY BAY (D to E)
Approx   95 km =   1 hr 15

Make your way to the gorgeous Etty Bay and stay at the Etty Bay Caravan Park.

What to do:

  • Sit on the beach and watch parachuters land on the sand
  • Go to the beach at sunset and catch a glimpse of the cassowaries

Take a detour – Drive the Waterfall Circuit of Millaa Millaa

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Day 6, 7 and 8
ETTY BAY TO MISSION BEACH (E to F)
Approx  53  km =   43 hr

A short drive south on the Bruce Highway takes you to ‘Mission’ which is made up of four beaches, Mission Beach, Wangling Beach, South Mission Beach and Bingil Bay. Stay at Mission Beach Caravan and Camping Park which has direct access to the beach.

Take a detour – on the way to Mission Beach take a left off Bruce Highway down Murdering Point Road where you will find Murdering Point Winery who make wines , ports and liqueurs from fruits such as pineapple, passionfruit, mulberry, mango and much more.

What to do:

  • Go fishing off the jetty and you might catch a glimpse of the resident big grouper that steals your bait
  • Skydive and land on the beach
  • Kayak the Coral Sea
  • Grab a water taxi to Dunk Island
  • Walk the 7 km coastal Edmund Kennedy Walking Track

Day 9, 10 and 11
MISSION BEACH TO MAGNETIC ISLAND (F to G)
Approx  235  km =   2 hr 53

Drive from Mission Beach to Townsville where you can get the ferry to Magnetic Island either as a foot passenger or with you vehicle. If you want to camp, the only campsite on island is at the Bungalow Bay Koala Village

What to do:

  • There are quite a few walks around the island and takes you to some beaches only reached either by foot or 4WD. (The Forts Walk gives you the chance to see wild koalas)
  • Hit one of the many beaches and spend the day relaxing on the sand and paddling in the water
  • Go to the Koala Park to see the animals and have a cuddle with a koala
  • Hire a mini moke/ topless car to drive around the island and take in the views
  • If you are staying at Bungalow Bay Koala Village go along to the rainbow lorikeet feeding at about 4pm. It is free and a brilliant experience

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Day 12 and 13
MAGNETIC ISLAND TO AIRLIE BEACH (G to H)
Approx   275 km =   3 hr 12

Head south on the Bruce Highway to Airlie Beach, the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. Stay at the Island Gateway Holiday Park which is only 1 km out of town.

What to do:

  • Visit the Whitsunday Islands. Whether it be a day trip or a 2 day 1 night or a few days on a sailing boat, just get out there. It is expensive for all of the Whitsunday excursions, but these islands are beautiful and need to be seen up close.
  • Hang out at the lagoon for the day to soak up some rays and dip into the water when it gets a little too sweaty
  • Grab a pint at one of the bars aimed at backpackers. It will be noisy and full of people but a great laugh and cheaper than one of the fancy wine bars.
  • Check out the Saturday market which has local fruit and veg stalls, handmade jewellery stalls and natural skincare stalls.
  • Skydive!

Day 14 and 15
AIRLIE BEACH TO YEPPOON (H to I)
Approx   499 km =  5  hr 28

This is a bit of a drive but there wasn’t too much that grabbed our interest on this stretch. Stay at Beachside Caravan Park which is 800m out of town and right next to the beach.

What to do:

  • Get the boat to Great Keppel Island for the day (you can stay for longer as they do have some accommodation) and have a beach all to yourself
  • Hit the beach at Yeppoon and sail a Hobie Cat
  • Go for a run along the track that runs the length of the entire beach
  • Drive to Rockhampton, the beef capital of Australia, and buy yourself a great steak

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Day 16
YEPPOON TO AGNES WATER (I to J)
Approx  265  km =   3 hr 14

Continue south and head to the beachside towns of Agnes Water and 1770. For a different experience, stay at the Kangaroo Sanctuary who have a handful of pitches. Your pitch fee goes towards the care of the orphan kangaroos.

What to do:

  • Play with the kangaroos
  • Learn to surf and chill on the beach

Day 17
AGNES WATER TO ELLIOT HEAD (A to B)
Approx   141 km =  1  hr 42

Less than 2 hours drive brings you to the coastal town of Elliott Heads. Stay at Elliott Heads Holiday Park which has direct access to the beach.

What to do:

  • Head into Bundaberg and sample some locally made rum
  • Visit Mon Repos, one of Australia’s most accessible turtle rockeries

Day 18
ELLIOT HEAD TO HERVEY BAY (B to C)
Approx  118  km =  1  hr 22

Another short drive south brings you to Hervey Bay with a long sandy beach and a beachside road chic-a-block with hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and cafes. Stay a little down the road at Torquay to avoid the super busy areas.

What to do:

  • Go whale watching between late July and early November
  • Get fishing on a charter fishing boat
  • Grab a scenic flight over the Fraser Coast
  • Skydive

Take a detour – make sure you visit Fraser Island. Our favourite place to access Fraser Island is from Rainbow Beach as it takes less time to travel to the island than Hervey Bay.

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Day 19 and 20
HERVEY BAY TO NOOSA (C to D)
Approx  159  km =   3 hr

A longer drive today to get to the seaside town of Noosa. We stayed at Ingenia Holiday Park and got the bus into town.

What to do:

  • Head into town to eat and drink at one of the many bars, pubs, restaurants and cafes.
  • Shop till you drop – Noosa has a great selection of boutiques as well as high street shops
  • Hike the coastal track at the Noosa National Park

Take a detour – make your way to Edmund markets open on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. There are over 300 stalls offering food, drink, clothes, furniture and lots of other hand made items

Day 21
NOOSA TO AUSTRALIA ZOO (D to E)
Approx 78   km =   59 hr

Not one to miss! A short drive to Australia Zoo where you can spend hours, even days wandering the grounds learning about some amazing animals. Stay at Landsborough Caravan Park just down the road from the zoo.

What to do:

  • Go to Australia Zoo!

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Day 22 & 23
AUSTRALIA ZOO TO BRISBANE (E to F)
Approx  110  km =   1 hr 29

Head to the city for some art and nightlife. There are lots of places to stay but Newmarket Gardens Caravan Park is the closest caravan park to the city.

What to do:

  • Visit the Gallery of Modern Art, the City Botanic Gardens, Parliament House and the Treasury Building
  • Check out the comedy and music performances hosted at the Brisbane Powerhouse
  • Eat, drink & shop!

Day 24
BRISBANE TO SURFERS PARADISE (F to G)
Approx  78  km =  1  hr 12

Next on the list is Surfers Paradise, where skyscrapers meet the beach. There are quite a few options for camping along the coast. We chose to stay in Burleigh Heads, a short drive further south along the main road.

What to do:

  • Surf
  • Explore the many beaches
  • Drink, dance and be merry
  • Go shopping for the latest in surf labels

Day 25
SURFERS PARADISE TO MURWILLUMBAH (G to H)
Approx   60 km =   58 min 

We used Murwillumbah as an overnight stop on the way to Springbrook National Park. A small village with not a lot going on.

Day 26
MURWILLUMBAH TO SPRINGBROOK NP (H to I)
Approx  60  km =   1 hr 07

Head to Springbrook National Park, drive up steep winding roads to get some great views all the way out to Surfers Paradise. Stay overnight at the Settlement Campground to make the most of the day exploring.

What to do:

  • Best of All Lookout
  • Purling Brook Falls
  • Goomoolahra Falls
  • Canyon Lookout

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Day 27,28 & 29
SPRINGBROOK NP TO NIMBIN (I to J)
Approx  103  km =   1 hr 44

For something a little different, head to Nimbin. There are day trips here from Byron Bay but should you wish to stay a bit longer, and get a feel for the place, there is a campsite a 2 minute walk from town.

What to do:

  • Check out the Nimbin Museum
  • Grab a coffee at one of the many cafes
  • Go shopping to add a little tie-dye to your wardrobe

Day 30 & 31
NIMBIN TO BYRON BAY (A to B)
Approx  65  km =  1  hr 16

Head back to the coast to the famous town of Byron Bay for a great mix of surfers and hippies. Stay at Clarkes Beach Holiday Park with direct beach access.

What to do:

  • Hit the beach to sunbathe, surf, kayak, paddle board, kite surf
  • Grab a bite to eat in one of the endless choices of eateries
  • Walk the Cape Byron Walking Track to the lighthouse for some great views
  • Check out the market at Bangalow

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Day 32 & 33
BYRON BAY TO RED ROCK (B to C)
Approx   216 km =  2  hr 37

Make your way down the coast to the gorgeous beaches at Red Rock. The town itself is tiny but the coastline is great. Stay at the Red Rock Caravan Park for direct access to the beach.

What to do:

  • Explore the beaches
  • Go fishing

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Day 34
RED ROCK TO NAMBUCCA HEADS (C to D)
Approx  88  km =  1  hr 06

We slept at the Nambucca Heads Caravan Park after a day of driving Waterfall Way.

What to do:

  • Drive Waterfall Way by heading to Dorrigo National Park. Once you reach the town of Dorrigo there is a further 125 km of Waterfall Way before you reach the town of Armidale. If you don’t have time to do the whole drive make sure you check out Ebor Falls (about 50 km past Dorrigo).

Day 35
NAMBUCCA HEADS TO PORT MACQUARIE (D to E)
Approx   113 km =   1 hr 22

Carry on along the coast and stop overnight at Flynn’s Beach Caravan Park. This place had the best wifi on this itinerary. Super speedy, unlimited and FREE!

What to do:

  • Check out the beaches along the way particularly Horseshoe Bay between Grassy Head and Hat Head. Walk over the hill on the right when facing the bay and find the wooden bench next to this tree (see picture below)  for great views.

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Day 36 & 37
PORT MACQUARIE TO SEAL ROCKS (E to F)
Approx  153  km =   1 hr 54

It was a really hot day so we didn’t want to drive for too long but find a beach to spend the day enjoying the sunshine. We stopped at Seal Rocks North Coast Holiday Park which was just across the road from the beach.

What to do:

  • Enjoy the beach!

Day 38 & 39
SEAL ROCKS TO PORT STEPHENS (F to G)
Approx  139  km =   1 hr 42

Famous for its beaches, we had to stop at Port Stephens. Stay at Ingenia Holiday Park on the One Mile Beach.

What to do:

  • Check out a surf competition. There happened to be one at the One Mile Beach whilst we were there. It was a great way to spend the day.
  • Hit the beach
  • Head into town and grab lunch at one of the many waterside eateries

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Day 40, 41 & 42 & 43
PORT STEPHENS TO HUNTER VALLEY (G to H)
Approx 99   km =   1 hr 24

You all know why we drove to Hunter Valley! Stay at the Wine Country Tourist Park where you can be picked up for any wine tours.

What to do:

  • Drink the wine

Check out our blog post for more information on the Hunter Valley.

Day 44, 45 + 46
HUNTER VALLEY TO BLUE MOUNTAINS (H to I)
Approx   238 km =   3 hr 53

Another world famous site which we just couldn’t miss. Base yourself in Katoomba for easy access to the Blue Mountains

What to do:

  • Get your hiking boots on and go walking

Click here to read our blog post on what we did in the Blue Mountains

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Day 47
BLUE MOUNTAINS TO SYDNEY (I to J)
Approx  118  km =  2  hr 20

Today we drove into Sydney to drop off our van back to Travel Wheels. Luckily, we still had another week left in Australia so had booked an air b’n’b in Bondi Beach.

There is so much to do in Sydney here are a few things we did:

Walk the coastal path from Bondi to Coogee. End the walk with a few glasses of wine at one of Coogee’s many bars looking over the ocean

Walk to Potts Points, past the naval base, through the Royal Botanical Gardens and along to the Opera House.

Hop on the boat at Circular Quay to Manly and get some great views of the Harbour Bridge both on the way there and back.

Grab the ferry to Taronga Zoo

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