The summer is in full bloom in the Land Down Under, and considering the circumstances across the world, you need to get creative with your travel plans. More specifically, you need to master the art of appreciating local sights and travel spots, as the pandemic has prevented us all from flying halfway across the planet to a new and exotic beach getaway. If you live in Australia, this has its perks: you get to immerse yourself in the local, unsurpassed beach towns, give your vacation the edge of sustainability, and discover novelties that have been hiding in plain sight.
Since road trips are a great choice during this difficult time, you can prepare yourself by choosing the right destination. For example, the east coast road is one of the most scenic, memorable experiences for solo travelers, couples, but also entire families with kids – there’s something for everyone. Let’s take Brisbane as your starting point and Cairns as the final destination, with many dreamy stops in between.
2 Week Brisbane To Cairns Road Trip
Here’s how you can plan your road trip while the pandemic is still ongoing, to stay safe and still satisfy your travel cravings!
Plan Your Itinerary
Brisbane to Cairns is 1672km via Bruce Highway, even if you know this road like the back of your hand, you should plan your itinerary in advance. This will help you prepare your fuel needs, calculate how much food you should bring, as well as water and other essentials. It’s quite a long drive so take your time and stop at some of the most memorable places on this part of the East Coast.
Some of the most memorable stops to add to your itinerary include:
- The Sunshine Coast
- Noosa National Park
- Fraser Island
- Cape Hillsborough National Park
- Airlie Beach
- Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsundays (if you have the time and the budget)
- Magnetic Island
- Kuranda – the Village in the Rainforest
- Go a little out of your way beyond Cairns and venture into Daintree National Park
2 weeks; where to stop and for how long
My advice would be to stop in Noosa for at least 2 nights so you can explore the beaches and Noosa National Park. Noosa is also the starting point for Nomads Fraser Island Tours, so park up and store your luggage and head to Fraser Island for 2 nights, before staying one more night in Noosa before heading north towards Airlie Beach. Either stay in Bundaberg overnight, if you’re a fan of rum, or head to Agnes Water / Town of 1770 to experience a lovely little beach town. The next day you could spend all day driving to get to Airlie Beach, or stop somewhere along the way overnight before exploring Cape Hillsborough National Park.
Once in Airlie Beach, organise your 2 night sailing trip (pretty much a must do for any East Coast trip) and then have a good nights sleep in Airlie Beach before heading to Townsville to get the car ferry to Magnetic Island. I recommend staying overnight on Maggie Island for at least 2 nights so you can explore the island and just take a few days to relax next to the beach. Base Magnetic Island is located right on the beach.
After that it’s just over 4 hours to Cairns. Use Cairns as your base before exploring Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation and Kuranda. There are also loads of Great Barrier Reef trips to choose from for all budgets departing from Cairns. I reckon a minimum of 5 nights in Cairns so you can fully explore the area.
That’s a total of 13 nights, but you can be as flexible as you like depending on the time you have available.
Choose a reliable ride
In order to stay safe on the road and enjoy a comfortable ride while you’re exploring the east coast, you need a car that can go the distance. For that very reason, it’s smart to explore car rental in Brisbane and find a vehicle that can store all the items you plan to bring, but that also ensures a comfortable driving experience. Rental vehicle companies in this situation are taking extra precautions to keep their cars clean and safe for their customers.
If sustainability is your thing, make sure you only rent a car that’s the size you need, this will also save you money in rental and fuel costs as well as minimising your emissions.
That said, keep insurance in mind as another option, so that your possessions and your health are protected on the road. Even if this is just a ten-day trip in familiar territory, you should always look after yourself with preventative measures.
Pre-Book Overnight Stays
Since you’ll come across all kinds of issues if you drive in the middle of the night (such as kangaroos jumping out), you should instead spend your nights sleeping in safe and secure accommodation. Not everywhere is open at the moment due to you-know-what, but when in Brisbane you can stay at Nomads Brisbane while you plan your itinerary. The staff can help you to book tours, let you know what is and isn’t running, and help you rent a car.
Recommended places to stay on the East Coast
- Nomads Noosa
- Nomads Airlie Beach (dorms, private rooms, camping and campervans) – use Nomads Airlie Beach to park your car / campervan and luggage while you visit the Whitsunday Islands!
- Fraser Island (3 day 4WD tours are highly recommended, stay in a dorm or camp.)
- Base Magnetic Island
The most important detail: book in advance because locals are now traveling more than they normally would across Australia, and the limited number of guests per accommodation means you need to book ahead.
Road Trip Essentials
Bring plenty of water, snacks, and sanitizer for when you’re on the road.
Even though a road trip that covers the well-populated east coast from one lovely city to another means you’ll have easy access to everything, you should still bring those essentials with you. Some stores and pharmacies might have different work hours compared to before the pandemic, whereas the whole point of a road trip is to limit social interaction with larger crowds, stores included. So, if it’s possible to stock up before your drive, that’s the best option for everyone.
For starters, remember that this is Australia and pack plenty of water. Summers are vicious and you need to stay hydrated especially behind the wheel. Snacks should be nutritious, not just delicious, so keep that in mind for your on-the-road meals. Finally, the situation calls for an additional item on the list: sanitizer! Make sure that you pack plenty of sanitizer that you can use for your hands as well as your things, such as your phone.
Treat Yourself to Camping
You should consider using the warm summer nights on the coast to experience camping in Australia in all of its glory. If you’ve packed enough insect repellant and sunscreen, paired with enough food and water, then camping is the perfect solution to avoiding nighttime drives. Some stops are great for camping and they will give you access to the beach, as well as various amenities to get yourself cleaned up or freshen up before you hit the road again.
Whether you’re looking to escape your routine, work on the go, or simply enjoy the wonders of Australia’s east coast, this road trip is one of the best experiences you can have in your life. Make sure to plan accordingly, especially with the temperatures in mind, and book ahead everything that you can so that you can have that peace of mind on the road and focus on the wonders you’ll find between these two wonderful cities.
Author: Sophia Smith is a freelance graphic designer by day and a lifestyle and health blogger by night. She is very passionate about traveling, yoga, wellness rituals, natural skincare, and living in balance with nature. She loves sharing meaningful content that educates and inspires people. Sophia has covered topics ranging from organic beauty products and sustainability to conscious traveling.