Take a Queensland road trip to enjoy wide-open spaces as you explore less travelled routes chasing waterfalls, music festivals, dinosaurs, big things or fabulous food. Road tripping is the favourite new way for Aussies to get away and everyone is planning to travel big, far and wide!
Australian Age of Dinosaurs – Home to the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Plan your Queensland drive with these 10 top tips
Road tripping is the new black, and it is a low-cost, fun way to holiday, but with so many travelling it also pays to plan ahead. There are a few essentials that need to accompany you on your Queensland road trip. Simple things but they will make the difference between a good trip and a great trip. Use these tips for a stress-free holiday!
- Pick your dates carefully to avoid school holidays if you can. If you must travel during the school holidays, the first weeks of December and the last weeks of January are usually cheaper.
- Check your car insurance before you set out and make sure you have roadside cover for the unexpected
- Add some luxury to your trip with your accommodation or keep it lean with motel stays, vans or camping. If you don’t have your own van, check out Camplify where you can dip into the sharing economy and hire someone else’s pride and joy.
- If you plan on taking a longer break in one spot, consider a house swap if you live in a desirable area. Another option is to put your house on Airbnb.
- Book accommodation with cooking facilities and pick up local produce along the way. Roadside stalls often have great bargains with fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. You’ll save on dining costs and can use the money for day trips instead. Keep a stash of cash and small change for the roadside stalls, and enjoy a taste of the region as you travel.
- Take an esky or portable fridge in the car for day-to-day needs (I like to have milk on hand for my tea) and your take-home treats. You can pick up a take-home meal in one town and eat it in the next if it’s kept cool while travelling.
- A picnic chair, maybe two, or a blanket is a great addition to your travelling kit. This means you can stop and enjoy that view. The makings for a cuppa would also come in handy.
- Keep your energy up with snacks to enjoy along the way. Some say your road trip snacks should look like they were bought by a 10-year-old given $100! Doesn’t that sound like fun?
- Make sure to include refillable water bottles so you can keep hydrated and still be sustainable.
- A playlist with everyone’s favourite tunes will keep you entertained. On my last road trip, we made a Spotify playlist that was inspired by the drive. It was fun coming up with songs that reflected the journey. We also asked people to contribute songs for us and included songs playing in restaurants where we dined. The Shazam app was helpful in identifying the songs we were hearing.
Guided 4WD tour along the beach IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Where to go on your Queensland road trip?
Great Beach Drive, Sunshine Coast to Fraser Coast
Epic road trips don’t come any greater than the Great Beach Drive. Adventure and nature collide on this five-day, 380km 4WD journey along the golden sands of the Sunshine and Fraser Coasts. Starting in Noosa, take the vehicle ferry across the river to Noosa Northshore – the gateway to The Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve. Driving onwards to Double Island Point, home to the world’s longest right-hand surf break and onto Rainbow Beach. A short jaunt up the beach to Inskip Point, followed by a barge across the Great Sandy Strait, takes travellers to the southern tip of World Heritage Listed K’gari (Fraser Island).
The beach driving doesn’t stop there. Cruise the eastern fringe of the island along 75 Mile Beach and take in K’gari (Fraser Island) beauty spots like Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Indian Head, Champagne Pools and Pile Valley. Want to tackle the Great Beach Drive without getting behind the wheel? Join the experts at Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours or Discovery Fraser Island on a guided 4WD tour.
Hit the road on a Brisbane to Winton Outback Queensland road trip.
The ‘Big Things’ Road Trip, state-wide
There’s no denying Queensland is big, so it’s only fitting Australia’s second largest state is home to a monumental assortment of ‘big things’. Road trippers can tick many of these off the big bucket list with a blockbuster voyage spanning the length of Queensland’s coastline. Starting in border town Stanthorpe, see Australia’s answer to the ‘big apple’, before turning to the coast to drool over the Big Pie at Yatala’s famed pie shop on the Gold Coast. Head north on the Bruce Highway to the Sunshine Coast – home to the Big Pineapple and ‘Matilda’ the big kangaroo from the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games (located at Kybong, just south of Gympie). Sticking with the theme of iconic Aussie characters, a towering statue of Ned Kelly can be found in Maryborough on the Fraser Coast.
The namesake of Bundaberg Rum, ‘Bundy’, as the town is affectionately known, doesn’t do beverages by halves with the big Bundaberg Barrel serving up refreshing Bundaberg Brewed Drinks. Still thirsty? Near Childers check out the big Beer Bottle. It will be no surprise that Australia’s beef capital, Rockhampton, boasts six Big Bulls while in Sarina, south of Mackay, Buffy the Big Cane Toad stands guarding the main street. For something sweeter, the ten-metre-high Big Mango in Bowen welcomes visitors to the town made famous by the tropical fruit. In Tully, stand next to the Golden Gumboot to understand how much rain fell in the Wet Tropics town in 1950 – the highest annual rainfall ever recorded in Australia. On the Cassowary Coast, seek out the Big Cassowary at Mission Beach, and in the tropical north, climb inside the Big Croc Head in the Daintree or travel to gulf country to meet Krys the Big Crocodile in Normanton. For more big things away from the coastal drive, take the inland route with plenty more ideas here.
Ballandean Estate Wines IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Savour Southern Queensland Country Tasting Trails, Southern Queensland Country
The Savor Southern Queensland Country Tasting Trails are a must-do for foodies with each trail calling for empty baskets and empty bellies. Six delectable self-drive itineraries wind through the rolling hills, towering mountain ranges and sprawling countryside west of Brisbane. Choose from cellar doors and vineyards, food-focused events and workshops, local producers, breweries and distilleries, picnics and country pubs. Whether it’s a day trip or a multi-night culinary journey, travellers have the flexibility to follow just one trail or combine different experiences from a few, tailoring the trip to individual tastebuds.
I compiled these trails so I know they are excellent!
The Long Sunset IMAGE Mitch Lowe .
Queensland Music Trails, state-wide
The Queensland Music Trails is a first-of-its-kind event series that blends outstanding musical performances with roving Queensland backdrops. From opera to DJs and everything in between, performers take to the stage across seven distinct trails. The curtain raises in April when the Outback Trail roams through St George, Cunnamulla, Tambo and Charleville across eight days of blues, folk, jazz and retro tunes. The Long Sunset in the Scenic Rim follows on 29 April 2023 and will see crowd favourites, Lime Cordiale, headline alongside a superb lineup of Queensland talent, including Hatchie, Sycco and Tia Gostelow.
Switching gear, billowing ballads of the opera will ring through the countryside for the Southern Trail with historic Jimbour House in the Darling Downs hosting the star-studded symphonies of Opera Queensland, Ensemble Q and a 26-piece Orchestra from Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. The final four trails in the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Great Barrier Reef and Tropical North will be announced in the coming months.
Eromanga Natural History Museum showcasing the fossil, natural and cultural heritage of the upper Murray/Darling and Lake Eyre/Cooper basins IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Australian Dinosaur Trail, Outback Queensland
Jurassic Park fans and budding paleontologists can head due west to Outback Queensland to unearth Australia’s prehistoric past on the Australian Dinosaur Trail. Start the expedition in Eromanga and say g’day to Australia’s largest dinosaur, a 90-something-million-year-old titanosaur called ‘Cooper’ at the Eromanga Natural History Museum.
In Winton, get digging at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs which houses the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in one enormous museum located on the summit of a stunning jump-up (butte). While here, volunteer to help prep a dino or take part in a paid dinosaur dig held on select dates throughout the year.
Just over an hour’s drive southwest of Winton is the Lark Quarry Conservation Park and Dinosaur Stampede National Monument – the site of the only recorded dinosaur stampede on earth. Pass back through Winton and onto Hughenden to meet ‘Hughie’, a seven-metre replica of a 110-million-year-old Muttaburrasaurus found in 1963. Finish the trail in Richmond, the Fossil Capital of Australia, and rewind the clock 120 million years at Kronosaurus Corner. The museum holds 1,150 local fossils from the Cretaceous Inland Sea that covered a large section of Queensland millions of years ago.
Outback Queensland Masters IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Outback Queensland Masters, Outback Queensland
Australia’s most remote golfing event, the Outback Queensland Masters sees a brigade of amateur golfers trek more than 2,000km across Outback Queensland. In 2023 the tournament stretches from St George to Mount Isa with players taking to the ‘green’ in Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Richmond and Karumba in between. The final stop in Mount Isa sees players take a swing at the coveted Million Dollar Hole-In-One challenge – making the event one of the richest amateur golf tournaments in the world. Those following the event route have plenty of time between tee-offs to visit other country towns like Windorah, Winton, Longreach, Hughenden and Cloncurry.
Enjoying Zillie Falls. IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Atherton Tablelands Waterfall Circuit, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef
If there was ever a time to ignore the advice of 90s pop sensation TLC, it’s in the Atherton Tablelands where we say DO go chasing waterfalls! The Atherton Tablelands lie in the hinterland southwest of Cairns, boasting freshwater creeks and lofty mountain plateaus that produce gushingly gorgeous waterfalls. The Waterfall Circuit starts and ends in Cairns with stops at some of the most photogenic cascades in the country, such as Josephine Falls, Tchupala Falls, Nandroya Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls and Zillie Falls. Break up the trip with a walk through the canopy at Mamu Tropical Skywalk, cool off at Lake Eacham, or refuel at the many local producers dotted throughout the highlands. Continue the rainforest theme staying in treehouse accommodation at Canopy Rainforest Tree Houses and Wildlife Sanctuary and Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat.
Exploring the rainforest around the waterfall IMAGE Tourism and Events Queensland
Glamping eco tent on Stradbroke Island. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Food Lovers Lockyer Valley Road Trip
Explore the Lockyer Valley on a two-day road trip from Brisbane with plenty of things to do, all within just an hour’s drive. You’ll eat the best country cakes, fill your esky with country meat, skip back to the 1950s, buy some great greens, enjoy a country breakfast, visit a sustainable farm and a sheep cheeserie. The Lockyer Valley road trip would appeal to food lovers, those who love to browse and is gold for anyone with a penchant for the past. Accommodation options range from lux homesteads to budget hotels.
Beach Lovers North Stradbroke Island Road Trip
Take a North Stradbroke Island road trip and explore the secluded beaches and relaxed lifestyle of Straddie. The road trip takes you right around the island sharing the best places to eat and drink. Stradbroke is a wonderfully relaxing place to visit and I highly recommend the island for beach lovers and surfers. There are some wonderful walks and beautiful nature spots as well as some shopping gems.
Noosa Country Food Trail Day Trip
Change up your Noosa beach experience with some food culture and a day trip into the hinterland. This Noosa Country Food Trail is a deep dive into an extensive deep produce bowl, and you’ll find where the locals eat. The route takes you on the backroads where you’ll stop for farmhouse food, local coffee, a distillery, and the freshest local produce. Pack your cooler and fill it with roadside produce, pastured eggs, local beef, and seasonal fruit. Don’t forget small change for the roadside stalls, and check the map for directions.
Take a Brisbane road trip to Noosa and explore the back roads. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Granite Belt Food Trail at Your Leisure
You’ll find exceptional eats and drinks in this top 10 Granite Belt food lover’s guide. Expect to browse cellar doors, eat the best apple pie, find local cheese and taste local beer, and don’t start me on the strawberries. The Granite Belt is a great Queensland road trip for food lovers but there are also cute shops to browse and a soaperie that will have you wondering how much more you can fit in your car.
I’ve got your route all sorted with a map for an easy Granite Belt food lover’s road trip.
Five Day Cairns to Cape Tribulation Road Trip
Hugging the coast between two Tropical North Queensland World Heritage areas, the Great Barrier Reef Drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation is one of Australia’s prettiest coast roads. It is also a bit curvy so if you a prone to motion sickness take it slowly, which also gives you a better chance to enjoy the view.
This is a trip that you can take in under three hours or spend three days exploring the many stops along the way. Expect crocodile farms and hang gliders, tropical rainforest and mysterious mountain streams, local food markets and foods to try all along the route. I love exploring this part of the world and highly recommend making the trip to Cairns and setting out to explore the Great Barrier Reef Drive.
Enjoy spectacular views on this Queensland drive from Port Douglas to Cairns. Photo: Kerry Heaney
One day Atherton Tableland Explorer
Base yourself in the glorious environment of Palm Cove and take a day trip around the Atherton Tableland on this Queensland Road trip. You will see platypus, sample local liqueur and cheeses, and pick your own strawberries. This is the deli of the tropics and a great food bowl to explore.
How many days for your Queensland road trip?
It’s really up to you how much you stretch out these Queensland drive itineraries on a road trip from Brisbane. I can tell you that there were plenty of things to do in each destination that I wish I could have added to the list. A Queensland road trip without a time limit? Now that sounds like fun!
Where’s your next Queensland drive going to be? There is much to explore on Australia’s east coast and planning your itinerary will mean you don’t miss any gems.