Motorhome Hire: Brisbane to Cairns

With the motorhome packed and ready to go and having seen the best things to do in Brisbane, it’s time to get on the road and head north.

Just an hour’s drive out of Brisbane will take you to the Sunshine Coast, home to an array of pristine beaches and exciting hinterland adventures. While a detour along the Sunshine Coast is definitely rewarding, a trip to Australia Zoo is a must if you are on a motorhome adventure with your family.

Home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, Australia Zoo sets its focus on conservation and educating kids as they fall in love with the many animals that call this unique conservation centre home.

Another two and a half hours on the road, and you will reach Hervey Bay. Located on the majestic Fraser Coast, Hervey Bay is the drop-off point for Fraser Island, which just so happens to be the world’s largest sand island – and a 4WD playground.

As a World Heritage-listed National Park, Fraser Island presents stunning inland lakes, lush rainforests and fantastic wildlife. It is one of the few spots in Australia where you can drive along the beach. If you love adventure and want to stay off the grid for a while, taking an extra day or two to explore Fraser Island might be just the trick. 

After taking some time to visit Hervey Bay and the surrounding area, jump back into the motorhome, then head north to Bundaberg, where you will bed for the night.

Brisbane to Cairns One-Way Itinerary

Planning a motorhome trip from Brisbane up north to Cairns? Explore Australia’s East Coast in a one-way motorhome rental. Don’t forget to try this one-way itinerary that we just prepared for you. This itinerary tails the coastline between the two prominent QLD cities of Brisbane and Cairns and covers a distance of over 1,800 km.

Day 1: Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast

Distance: 100 to 150 km

Estimated driving time: 1.5 to 3 hours

Things to see:

  • Australia Zoo
  • Glasshouse Mountains
  • Sealife Aquarium
  • Noosa Beach

Day 2: Sunshine Coast to Hervey Bay

Distance: 180 to 200 km

Estimated driving time: 2.5 to 3 hours

Popular attractions:

  • Whale watching
  • Fraser Island

Day 3: Hervey Bay to Bundaberg

Distance: 100 to 150 km

Estimated driving time: 1 to 2 hours

Attractions along the way:

  • Bundaberg Rum Distillery
  • Musgrave Island
  • Southern Great Barrier Reef

Day 4: Bundaberg to Rockhampton

Distance: 250 to 300 km

Estimated driving time: 3.5 to 4 hours

Things to see:

  • Rockhampton Botanic Gardens
  • Japanese Garden

Day 5: Rockhampton to Airlie Beach

Distance: 450 to 500 km

Estimated driving time: 5.5 to 6 hours

Attractions along the way:

  • Airlie Beach
  • Whitsunday Islands

Day 6: Airlie Beach to Townsville

Distance: 250 to 280 km

Estimated driving time: 3.5 to 4 hours

Attractions:

  • Reef HQ Aquarium
  • Magnetic Island
  • Billabong Sanctuary

Day 7: Townsville to Cairns

Distance: 340 to 380 km

Estimated driving time: 4.5 to 5 hours

Things to see:

  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Daintree Rainforest
  • Kuranda Scenic Railway

The Best Stops On a Brisbane – Cairns Road Trip

Our itinerary will drive you through the most iconic towns and cities, including the laid-back surfing district of Noosa, sandy Fraser Island, and the bright Whitsundays.

However, before you begin your journey, we want to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will transpire along the way, and you want to avoid getting stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills.

Brisbane

Start your Brisbane to Cairns road trip by taking some time in Queensland’s capital. Whether you’ve just flown in before the trip or driven north from New South Wales, Brisbane boasts plenty of history, culture, and entertainment to keep you occupied. At the same time, you can prepare for your road trip to Cairns.

The Glasshouse Mountains

One of Queensland’s most untamed national parks is just an hour north of Brisbane. Despite its short distance to the state capital, few visitors stop at the Glasshouse Mountains National Park. However, this is an ideal first destination for those looking for an uncrowded place with stunning scenery.

Noosa

Next, head up north to the laid-back surfing community of Noosa. Noosa is a stunning, relaxing town near the Sunshine Coast.

Hervey Bay and Fraser Island

A two-hour drive north of Noosa will carry you to the town of Hervey Bay, the gateway to Fraser Island. This is the world’s largest sand island, an unmissable stop when driving from Brisbane to Cairns by car.

Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Waters

Take another three-hour drive along the coast, and you will reach the small coastal towns of Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Water. In his trip along the east coast of Australia, these communities were assembled where Captain Cook moored the Endeavour in 1770.

Airlie Beach

Next up on the Brisbane to Cairns itinerary is the renowned town of Airlie Beach. This is the jump-off point to the fascinating Whitsunday Islands. The drive from Seventeen Seventy and Agnes Waters to Airlie Beach will take the entire day, as you drive around 400 miles. By now, you will be approximately two-thirds of the way to Cairns.

Townsville

Townsville is the biggest city in Far North Queensland. It is situated halfway between Airlie Beach and Cairns, which makes it a superb stopover. The town itself has a few intriguing museums. However, the actual attraction lies offshore.

Cairns

After four hours of driving and over a thousand miles north of Townsville, you will reach Cairns. Cairns is Far North Queensland’s tourist hub, so drop in and be prepared to stay for at least a few days to witness everything there is to see.

There are some amazing things to do in Cairns. While the city has fascinating art galleries, museums, and bustling night markets, tourists travel here to visit the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest.

Tips for Driving from Brisbane to Cairns  

We have a few tips for you, though, to help you better prepare your Brisbane to Cairns road trip itinerary.

  • Summer in Australia runs from December to March, which is also the wet season in North Queensland. Rainy days are excellent for the waterfalls but might prevent you from other outdoor activities due to the humidity.
  • Winter in Far North Queensland goes from May to September, with more infrequent rainy days to enjoy outdoor activities. Days will still be lovely and warmer as you travel north. Nighttime could get a little cooler, but bring layers or a light jacket to make your trip more comfortable. The colder nights will affect you more in the southern towns, with a moderate low of 10 degrees Celsius.
  • Driving from Brisbane to Cairns in your car or a rental motorhome is more flexible. A four-wheel drive will open opportunities for more experiences, especially on Fraser Island, and to visit locations on your own. You can rent a motorhome in Brisbane and drop it off in Cairns.
  • Travelling as a couple or in a small group will help lessen costs and make the trip more affordable.
  • Consider hiring a campervan or motorhome to save on accommodation costs. There are hundreds of paid and free camping possibilities along this journey and an intelligent way to travel. Cabins, motels, hostels, and luxury set accommodations are available everywhere and are best reserved beforehand.
  • If you drive to the main roads, the entire journey is on sealed bitumen, but some spots can be busy or run down. If you drive inland or deeper into some of the national parks on these road trips, you’ll require a 4×4.
  • Maintenance or road works are always happening on this highway, so put some extra time into getting to each stop.
  • Service stations, fuel or petrol, can be located nearly every 100 kilometres. However, some will require access off the highway and in small towns. Be prepared and always fill up and bring supplies before you need them.
  • Expect to pay a little more in high tourist hubs like Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Airlie Beach, Mission Beach, the Whitsunday Islands, the Sunshine Coast and Cairns, and if you take a road trip to any of the remote tropical islands.

5 Essential Packing Items for Australia

  • Good Camera: Chances are you will be snapping photos non-stop in Australia, so you need an excellent camera to accomplish its beauty justice.
  • Good Walking Shoes: You’ll do a lot of walking around in Australia, so a good pair of shoes is really essential.
  • Good Guidebook: Lonely Planet Guidebooks are the best. Their Australia edition is complete and a must for anybody having a great time of their life around Australia.
  • Good Water Bottle: The sun can be brutal in Australia, so always have a refillable water bottle with you. After all, tap water in Australia is drinkable and free.
  • Good Reef-Safe Sunscreen: Conventional sunscreen damages the reefs, so please ensure to bring a good reef-safe sunscreen instead.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any one-way rental fees for this trip on this vehicle?

Motorhome rental companies may charge a one-way rental fee. If there is such a fee, we will incorporate it into the rental price listed in our comparison tool.

Can I take a road trip from Cairns to Brisbane instead?

Yes, you can. Simply look for the search tool at the top of this page to check availability.

Can I drive my rental motorhome to the beach?

Most rental suppliers in Australia prohibit travelling to sealed bitumen roads. Travel off-road on sand and beaches is expressly prohibited, and doing so will cancel your contract. You will also be responsible for any damages incurred while travelling on the beach.

Can I drive my rental motorhome beyond Cape Tribulation?

No, the road from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown in Far North Queensland is unsealed and can be tough for a motorhome. Generally, rental providers restrict access to this area. Check with your rental supplier for any inquiries regarding restricted areas.

Can I drive my rental motorhome to Cape York?

Generally, standard 2WD campervans are not allowed to travel to Cape York. Many rental providers make exceptions for 4WD campers, but written permission must be acquired first. Check with your rental provider for any inquiries regarding restricted areas.

Can I drive my rental motorhome to Fraser Island?

Most rental providers in Australia include Fraser Island as a restricted area. 4WD campers are also included in this restriction and are not permitted on the island under any circumstances.

Check with your rental provider for any questions regarding prohibited areas.

Can I drive my rental motorhome to Moreton Island?

No, most rental suppliers in Australia add Moreton Island as a restricted area. 4WD campervans are also incorporated in this restriction and are not permitted on Moreton Island under any circumstances. 

Check with your rental providers for any questions regarding restricted areas.