east-au-roadtrips-feature

East Coast Australia road trip itinerary

How to drive from Sydney all the way to Cape Tribulation – as well as some shorter road trips in between.

From two-week blitzes to six-week adventures, we've nutted out the best itineraries along Australia's east coast to showcase its beautiful beaches and charming small towns. Plus, we've even included links to our favourite activities and accommodation options so you don't miss out on any fun.

Now all you have to do is pick how long you want your road trip to be: Two, three, four or six weeks?

Find your ride for your East Coast of Australia adventure


Map of the east coast of Australia

Recommended itineraries based on trip length

2-week itinerary: Brisbane-Cairns

Brisbane-Cairns itinerary overview

  • Distance: 1,922km
  • Highlights and attractions: Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest
  • Landscape: Coastal, forested national parks
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized (SUV with 4WD needed if driving on Fraser Island)
Day Itinerary
Day 1

Distance: 0km

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Brisbane
Day 2-3

Distance: 140km

Approx drive time: 2 hours, 5 minutes

Brisbane to Noosa Heads
Day 4-5

Distance (Noosa to Rainbow Beach): 118km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island
Day 6

Distance: 336km

Approx drive time: 4 hours

Rainbow Beach to Agnes Water
Day 7-9

Distance: 706km

Approx drive time: 8 hours

Agnes Water to Airlie Beach
Day 10-11

Distance: 275km

Approx drive time: 3 hours

Airlie Beach to Townsville and Magnetic Island
Day 12-14

Distance (Townsville to Cairns): 347km

Approx drive time: 4 hours

Townsville to Cairns
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street

finder.com.au Hotels

Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)
Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)

finder.com.au Hotels

Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday
Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday

finder.com.au Hotels

Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn
Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn

finder.com.au Hotels

Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA
Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA

finder.com.au Hotels

Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside
Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

finder.com.au Hotels


3-week itinerary: Sydney-Cairns

Sydney-Cairns itinerary overview

  • Distance: 2,868km
  • Highlights and attractions: Sydney, Byron Bay, Stradbroke Island, Fraser Island, Magnetic Island, the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest
  • Landscape: Coastal, mountains, forested national parks
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized (SUV with 4WD needed if driving on Fraser Island)
Day Itinerary
Day 1-3

Distance: 0km

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Sydney
Day 4-5

Distance: 764km

Approx drive time: 8 hours, 30 minutes

Sydney to Byron Bay
Day 6-7

Distance: 166km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Byron Bay to Brisbane
Day 8-10

Distance: 288km

Approx drive time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Brisbane to Sunshine Coast/Noosa Heads
Day 11-12

Distance: 0km (if doing a tour)

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island
Day 13

Distance: 322km

Approx drive time: 3 hours, 40 minutes

Rainbow Beach to town of 1770 and Agnes Water
Day 14-16

Distance: 706km

Approx drive time: 7 hours, 45 minutes

Agnes Water to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands
Day 17-18

Distance: 275km

Approx drive time: 3 hours

Airlie Beach to Townsville and Magnetic Island
Day 19-21

Distance: 347km

Approx drive time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Townsville to Cairns
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street

finder.com.au Hotels

Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)
Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)

finder.com.au Hotels

Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday
Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday

finder.com.au Hotels

Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn
Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn

finder.com.au Hotels

Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA
Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA

finder.com.au Hotels

Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside
Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

finder.com.au Hotels

Byron Bay: Byron Springs Guesthouse
Byron Bay: Byron Springs Guesthouse

finder.com.au Hotels

Townsville: Aquarius on the Beach
Townsville: Aquarius on the Beach

finder.com.au Hotels


4-week itinerary: Sydney-Cairns

Sydney-Cairns itinerary overview

  • Distance: 3,063km
  • Highlights and attractions: Sydney, Byron Bay, Stradbroke Island, Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, the Great Barrier Reef, the Daintree Rainforest
  • Landscape: Coastal, mountains, forested national parks
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized (SUV with 4WD needed if driving on Fraser Island)
Day Itinerary
Day 1-4

Distance: 0km

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Sydney
Day 5

Distance: 527km

Approx drive time: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Sydney to Coffs Harbour
Day 6-9

Distance: 239km

Approx drive time: 2 hours, 50 minutes

Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay
Day 10

Distance: 94km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Byron Bay to Gold Coast
Day 11-12

Distance: 78km

Approx drive time: 1 hour

Gold Coast to Brisbane
Day 13-15

Distance: 140km

Approx drive time: 2 hours

Brisbane to Sunshine Coast/Noosa Heads
Day 16-17

Distance: 135km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island
Day 18

Distance: 379km

Approx drive time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Rainbow Beach to town of 1770 and Agnes Water
Day 19-22

Distance: 706km

Approx drive time: 7 hours, 45 minutes

Agnes Water to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands
Day 23-24

Distance: 275km

Approx drive time: 3 hours

Airlie Beach to Townsville and Magnetic Island
Day 25

Distance: 235km

Approx drive time: 2 hours, 50 minutes

Townsville to Mission Beach
Day 26-28

Distance: 219km

Approx drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Mission Beach to Cairns via Atherton Tablelands
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street

finder.com.au Hotels

Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)
Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)

finder.com.au Hotels

Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday
Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday

finder.com.au Hotels

Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn
Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn

finder.com.au Hotels

Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA
Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA

finder.com.au Hotels

Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside
Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

finder.com.au Hotels

Byron Bay: Byron Springs Guesthouse
Byron Bay: Byron Springs Guesthouse

finder.com.au Hotels

Townsville: Aquarius on the Beach
Townsville: Aquarius on the Beach

finder.com.au Hotels

Coffs Harbour: Ocean Park Motel & Holiday Apartments
Coffs Harbour: Ocean Park Motel & Holiday Apartments

finder.com.au Hotels

Gold Coast: Vibe Hotel Gold Coast
Gold Coast: Vibe Hotel Gold Coast

finder.com.au Hotels

Mission Beach: Eco Village Resort Mission Beach
Mission Beach: Eco Village Resort Mission Beach

finder.com.au Hotels


6-week itinerary: Sydney-Cape Tribulation

Sydney-Cape Tribulation itinerary overview

  • Distance: 3,442km
  • Highlights and attractions: Sydney, the Blue Mountains National Park, the Hunter Valley, Byron Bay, Fraser Island, the Whitsundays, Magnetic Island, the Great Barrier Reef, the Atherton Tablelands, the Daintree Rainforest
  • Landscape: Coastal, mountains, forested national parks, rainforest
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized (SUV with 4WD needed if driving on Fraser Island)
Day Itinerary
Day 1-3

Distance: 0km

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Sydney
Day 4-5

Distance: 341km

Approx drive time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Sydney to Katoomba to Hunter Valley
Day 6-7

Distance: 0km

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Hunter Valley
Day 8-9

Distance: 417km

Approx drive time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Hunter Valley to Coffs Harbour
Day 10

Distance: 138km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Coffs Harbour to Yamba
Day 11-13

Distance: 124km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yamba to Byron Bay
Day 14-15

Distance: 94km

Approx drive time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Byron Bay to Gold Coast
Day 16-17

Distance: 78km

Approx drive time: 1 hour

Gold Coast to Brisbane
Day 18-20

Distance: 275km

Approx drive time: 3 hours, 45 minutes

Brisbane to Sunshine Coast/Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach
Day 21-23

Distance: 0km (leave the car at Rainbow Beach and hop on a tour instead)

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island
Day 24-25

Distance: 379km

Approx drive time: 4 hours, 20 minutes

Rainbow Beach to town of 1770 and Agnes Water
Day 26-27

Distance: 707km

Approx drive time: 8 hours

Agnes Water to Rockhampton to Airlie Beach
Day 28-30

Distance: 0km

Approx drive time: 0 hours

Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands
Day 31-33

Distance: 275km

Approx drive time: 3 hours

Airlie Beach to Townsville and Magnetic Island
Day 34

Distance: 235km

Approx drive time: 3 hours

Townsville to Mission Beach
Day 35-37

Distance: 238km

Approx drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Mission Beach to Cairns
Day 38-42

Distance: 141km

Approx drive time: 2 hours, 40 minutes

Cairns to Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street
Brisbane: Ibis Styles Brisbane Elizabeth Street

finder.com.au Hotels

Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)
Fraser Island: Sailfish on Fraser (book only if not doing a Fraser Island tour)

finder.com.au Hotels

Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday
Agnes Water: Agnes Water Beach Holiday

finder.com.au Hotels

Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn
Airlie Beach: Colonial Palms Motor Inn

finder.com.au Hotels

Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA
Magnetic Island: Bungalow Bay Koala Village YHA

finder.com.au Hotels

Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside
Cairns: Holiday Inn Cairns Harbourside

finder.com.au Hotels

Byron Bay: Byron Springs Guesthouse
Byron Bay: Byron Springs Guesthouse

finder.com.au Hotels

Townsville: Aquarius on the Beach
Townsville: Aquarius on the Beach

finder.com.au Hotels

Coffs Harbour: Ocean Park Motel & Holiday Apartments
Coffs Harbour: Ocean Park Motel & Holiday Apartments

finder.com.au Hotels

Gold Coast: Vibe Hotel Gold Coast
Gold Coast: Vibe Hotel Gold Coast

finder.com.au Hotels

Mission Beach: Eco Village Resort Mission Beach
Mission Beach: Eco Village Resort Mission Beach

finder.com.au Hotels

Blue Mountains (Katoomba): Sky Rider Motor Inn
Blue Mountains (Katoomba): Sky Rider Motor Inn

finder.com.au Hotels

Hunter Valley: Hunter Valley Resort
Hunter Valley: Hunter Valley Resort

finder.com.au Hotels

Cape Tribulation: Heritage Lodge in the Daintree
Cape Tribulation: Heritage Lodge in the Daintree

finder.com.au Hotels


Need a car? Book a ride now

An overview of Australia's East Coast

  • Weather: The weather varies greatly along Australia’s east coast, with half of the coast experiencing four distinct seasons and tropical northern Queensland experiencing two seasons: wet (November-April) and dry (May-October). Sydney can get as cold as 8°C in winter and 30°C or higher in summer. Tropical Queensland has temperatures that are typically in the high-20s and don’t often dip below 25°C.
  • Best time to visit: Opt to travel during the shoulder seasons of September to November or March to May when the weather is a comfortable temperature in Queensland, prices are lower and there are fewer travellers.
  • Recommended vehicle type: Economy or mid-sized (SUV with 4WD needed if driving on Fraser Island).

Car hire deals for the east coast of Australia

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Valid for rentals until 21 July 2019 at participating locations across Australia and New Zealand. Minimum of 5 days rental. T&Cs apply.

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Campervan hire from $5/day

Available on select routes, dates and locations in Australia and New Zealand.

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Valid on select dates on select car hire relocations in Australia. Destinations updated regularly.

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Up to 20% off Australia car hires

Valid for car rentals until 31 May 2019 across Australia. Destinations include Sunshine Coast, Hobart, Launceston and more. T&Cs apply.

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Up to 20% car hire worldwide

Valid for travel on select dates. Destinations include Australia, Japan, Europe, China and more. T&Cs apply.

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Up to 20% off car hire

Valid for rentals until 1 August 2019 at participating locations across Australia and New Zealand. Minimum of 2 days rental and must be booked 21 days prior vehicle pick up. T&Cs apply.

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Double upgrade car hire

Valid for rentals from 28 January - 30 April 2019 across Australia. Minimum of three days rental. T&Cs apply.

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Car hire from $23 per day

Hire cars across Australia from as little as $32 per day.

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Get up to 25% off on your car rental when you purchase GoZen Cover. Valid at participating locations across Australia and New Zealand. T&C's apply.

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