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Pacific Coast Way - Brisbane to Cairns.

Bucket list trip for sun seekers

This Article has been adapted from the article "Pacific Coast Way" by Sam Marsh, RACQ Living.


Key Information:

  • The total distance is 1,808 kilometres
  • Travel time is approx. 21 hours
  • Best time of year to go is May to November
  • This trip is suitable for 2WD or 4WD Vehicles
  • Highlights include; Whale watching in Hervey Bay, Bundaberg Rum Distillery, Capricorn Caves, Seventeen Seventy, Cape Hillsborough National Park and Magnetic Island among many others.



Image: Great Keppel Island via @doingdownunder

Image: Great Keppel Island via @doingdownunder



Brisbane to Bundaberg, 360km


(via M1 and Bruce Hwy/A1)


There are few better ways to embrace a holiday road trip in Queensland than to cruise along the eastern coastline. Stop for a swim at the Sunshine Coast, there are plenty of patrolled beaches, including Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Coolum and Noosa Heads. Back on the road you will pass through the gold rush towns, Gympie and Maryborough, before reaching beautiful Hervey Bay.


Hervey Bay is the best place to witness humpback whales as they make their journey from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica. Tourists can witness the friendly giants by booking a whale watching tour during the whale season (July to November). Further north you will pass Bundaberg, Australia’s favourite rum-producing town. Take a tour around the Bundaberg Rum Distillery and travel east to Mon Repos Beach to witness turtle nesting and hatching on the beach (November to March).


Image: Whale Watching via Tourism & Events Queensland

Image: Whale Watching via Tourism & Events Queensland



Bundaberg to Yeppoon, 328km


After heading north of Bundaberg, drive east to Seventeen Seventy, a small coastal town near Agnes Water. It’s the most northern surf beach along Australia’s coast and is one of the few locations in Queensland to witness the sun set over the water. It’s no surprise why people call it one of Australia’s best kept secrets.


Further north you will drive through the major cities of Gladstone and Rockhampton. A must-see see is the Capricorn Caves. It is an amazing walkway into limestone caves where, once a year, in December, a beam of light shines through a 14m shaft and creates a spectacular light display inside the cave.


Just a 30-minute drive east from Rockhampton is Yeppoon, a beautiful beach town at which you can relax and have some lunch. It’s the gateway to the Capricorn Coast, Southern Great Barrier Reef and Great Keppel Island.



Yeppoon to Airlie Beach, 498km


(via Bruce Hwy/A1) 


Drive through the laid-back town of Mackay, where wild wallabies and kangaroos greet you each morning at sunrise at the Cape Hillsborough National Park. Eungella National Park is another must-see destination. Here you will have the chance to snorkel to see Australia’s iconic platypus in the Broken River.


Next stop is Airlie Beach, part of the Whitsundays. There are 74 islands, as well as plenty of opportunities for snorkelling and scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, and luxury resorts to stay at. Remember to be mindful of stinger season during summer.


Image: Cape Hillsborough National Park via @melissafindley

Image: Cape Hillsborough National Park via @melissafindley



Airlie Beach to Townsville, 275km


(via Bruce Hwy/A1)


Pass through Bowen, the town of the Big Mango and indulge in the fresh local produce before making it to Ayr and then through the sugarcane fields to Townsville. Townsville’s Esplanade, The Strand, has plenty for visitors, including restaurants, cafes, bars and beaches. Best of all it’s the gateway to Magnetic Island, known as ‘Maggie’ to the locals. It has hectares of national park, unspoiled beaches and sleepy villages – the perfect place to escape.


Image: Magnetic Island via @mitch_cox

Image: Magnetic Island via @mitch_cox



Townsville to Cairns, 347km


(via Bruce Hwy and Bruce Hwy/A1)


Midway between Townsville and Cairns is the beautiful beachside town called Mission Beach. It has World Heritage-listed rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other. It’s the perfect place to explore Dunk, Bedarra and Hinchinbrook islands.


Just two hours north is Cairns, the main city of Tropical North Queensland. Here you can enjoy the Great Barrier Reef, visit a crocodile farm, explore Mossman Gorge, visit Rusty’s Market and take a seat on the scenic Kuranda Train. If you have time, head further north to the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest living rainforest in the world.



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