We’ve driven all over the Sunshine State to bring you this epic guide to the best Queensland road trips! If you’re wondering what drives in Queensland you can’t miss, this article is for you!
If you’re the kind of person that loves packing the car and hitting the road on an epic road trip, then chances are you already have driving around Australia on your bucket list.
We have travelled the world searching for the most iconic driving itineraries, yet for some reason we never really had the chance to explore much of our home country.
That all changed in 2020, when we were lucky enough to be able to get up to Queensland on the northeast coast of Australia and travel around in our campervan.
After more than a decade on the road, it takes a lot to impress us. But what we found in the Sunshine State was nothing short of spectacular!
We started in the south exploring the rolling hills and forests of the Hinterland and zig-zagged along the coast all the way to Cooktown.
The further north and west you go the greater the opportunity for some great 4WD Queensland road trips that should not be missed if you have the right vehicle and are prepared for adventure.
If you’re ready to find the best Queensland drives, fill the tank and dive into our latest epic guide!
The best way to get around is to rent a car and explore on your own! We recommend Rental Cars, which has the largest range of vehicles for the best value on the market.
Here is our list of Queensland road trips that all people can enjoy.
We’ll start from the south and work up north, as most people fly into Brisbane or the Gold Coast before continuing onwards.
Let’s hit the road!
Gold Coast Hinterland Road Trip
Surfers Paradise to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Brisbane, Ipswich, Toowoomba, Warwick, Barcaldine, Winton and Birdsville
Sealed at the beginning then becomes unsealed near the end.
Pacific Coast Way Road Trip
Brisbane up the coast to Cairns
Great Beach Drive Road Trip
Maroochydore, Noosa Heads, Rainbow Beach, Fraser Island, Hervey Bay
Sand Beaches (Need to be prepared with rescue gear)
Cunnamulla, Blackall, Longreach, Winton, Cloncurry, Karumba
Overlander’s Way Road Trip
Townsville, Charters Towers, Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mount Isa, Camooweal
Cairns, Ravenshoe, Undara, Forsayth, Cobbold Gorge, Karumba, Boodjamulla
Fully sealed (often closed by flooding streams during wet season)
Cairns to Cooktown Road Trip – Inland Route
Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, Mossman, Cooktown
Fully sealed (Ferry over to Cape Tribulation)
The Bloomfield Track Road Trip
The Bloomfield Track Road Trip
(no caravans or camper trailers)
Mostly sealed (Caution when wet and with heavy rain)
Cairns to Cape York Road Trip
Cairns, Cooktown, Cape York
Great Inland Way Road Trip – Queensland SECTION
Hebel, Roma, Injune, Emerald , Clermont, Charters Tower, Ravenshoe, Atherton, Mareeba, Cairns, Cooktown
The Gold Coast Hinterland is an area of stunning natural beauty with ancient national parks peppered throughout the region.
Up here you’ll find plenty of activities for travellers who want some fresh air in their lives, but still prefer to have easy access to the city literally just an hour away.
The Gold Coast Hinterland Tourist Drive boasts plenty of magnificent lookouts out towards the mountains and active volcanic creeks, waterfalls and swimming holes.
This is a short and easy Queensland road trip that starts in Surfers Paradise and heads up towards Toowoomba, making it perfect for a day trip from Brisbane or the Gold Coast, or a possibility for a weekend away.
After you’ve ticked off all the awesome things to do in the Gold Coast, your itinerary will see you drive up to Tamborine Mountain then back down towards Lamington National Park and Springbrook National Park.
The beautiful Tamborine Mountain offers a variety of hikes through the national park, as well as hang gliding off of the launch site that overlooks an otherworldly valley!
If you’re more into sampling local produce, there are plenty of distilleries, wineries and fruit and vegetable farms all around this scenic mountain town.
After you’ve hiked, ate and drank all throughout the national park, head down to the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.
This is where you’ll find the gorgeous Springbrook National Park, home to the Hinterland’s most iconic site, the Natural Bridge.
This enchanting waterfall cascades through arches in a basalt cave and is a wonderful place to walk around and practice your photography.
Then wind your way higher along Lamington National Park Road where you can enjoy spotting waterfalls while strolling amidst treetops covered in blossoming flowers.
Finish up your drive at the legendary O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, where you can take part in a bunch of activities, or spoil yourself by spending the night.
The Big Red Bash Road Trip is popular for those who want a bit of adventure in southern Queensland.
The Queensland outback is the place to go if you want some of the best, authentic experiences in Australia.
The landscape offers rolling hills, endless horizons, and quaint towns that will make for a memorable trip, with the possibility of seeing a lot more wildlife than other tourists!
Start off in Brisbane and then head inland towards Ipswich, past Toowoomba and then up to Warwick and Barcaldine.
If you can, time your trip to be on a Saturday, where there is a fantastic little market at Pittsworth. So make sure you stop by for some great coffee and home made cakes.
Then on your way South you will find open grazing land where you can see cattle or even the odd horse if you’re lucky.
This drive is Southeast Queensland’s own road less travelled. Satisfy your hunger for adventure with a journey to one of the most unique events in Australia.
In the midst of Queensland’s vibrant red desert, you’ll find The Big Red Bash–the world’s most remote music festival.
It is an annual rock concert hosted on sand dunes along Birdsville’s Simpson Desert border and usually takes place in July.
Getting there is all part of this ultimate Australian experience as well—you’re going to be traversing across some incredible scenery both before getting there and once arriving at the destination itself.
So take your time, enjoy everything that surrounds you while making your way out into our nation’s far-flung corners, stopping every so often to catch your breath and take it all in.
If you have a 2WD, go through Roma and Windorah. There is another way from Brisbane to Birdsville for those who have 2WD vehicles. You can travel through Roma and Windorah.
A Route Breakdown
The Pacific Coast Way is a highway that links towns and cities along the east coast of Australia.
The route starts in Sydney, then goes all the way up to Cairns on Queensland’s northeast coast.
Along this path, you’ll find plenty of coastal havens as well as inland hinterland regions with beautiful farming areas – perfect for those looking for an escape from city life!
Keep your eyes open. There are many hidden gems waiting just outside major population centres ready to be discovered off this famous road trip (and they’re worth every kilometre!).
Our favourite side trip took us to Magnetic Island, with which we immediately fell in love! Here’s our day trip to Magnetic Island guide.
READ MORE – Want to learn more about this road trip? Check out our article on Brisbane to Cairns Road Trip.
With its endless stretches of coastline here in Queensland, World Heritage listed landscapes and quirky, colourful towns and so many amazing road trips, they don’t come much better than the Great Beach Drive.
This 3-7 day off-the-beaten-track road trip will take you 380km on an adventure from Noosa to Hervey Bay via Fraser Island!
This road trip covers Rainbow Beach, 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island and Marcoola Beach in Hervey Bay. The Great Beach Drive is full of lots of beach beauty.
This one is only for the 4WD, so bring your own or you can rent one. The four-wheel-drive tracks have beautiful views that are worth seeing on a sunny day.
They also lead to beaches with waves crashing against them in the mornings before sunrise. But also at sunset hours after work for people seeking relaxation or adventure from their everyday lives.
This area has plenty of adorable permanent residents like koalas and kookaburras who live alongside migratory birds too such as pelicans, cormorants and fairy terns which can be seen while fishing off one side or another!
Driving on some of the world’s most stunning beaches and through idyllic National Parks, this road trip also connects to World Heritage listed Fraser Island (K’gari) in Queensland’s Australia Nature Coast region.
There’s no shortage of reasons as to why people love the scenic drive along Fraser Island’s famous 75-mile beach. Another one of Queensland’s pristine stretches of white sands and crystal clear waters, this adventure is like no other.
The Matilda Way is an excellent way to experience rural Australia while travelling 1812 kilometres from the New South Wales border in Tamworth through St George, Charleville, Cunnamulla, Blackall, Mitchell Creek National Park (with over 250 waterfalls), Taroom and eventually Karumba on the Gulf of Carpentaria.
So grab two mates along for this extraordinary journey as well your trusty vehicle.
The Matilda Way road trip is a 1,812km highway that is fully sealed, starting from the New South Wales border at Cunnamulla and runs all the way up to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
This road will lead you on an adventurous trip with different experiences each day!
Here is a rough guide
On your Overlander’s Way road trip, you’ll get to explore untouched natural beauty and dinosaur discoveries while admiring breathtaking landscapes and interacting with rich Indigenous history – without having to take your vacation days from work!
Once only for the 4×4 vehicles, it is now sealed so everyone can explore this part of Queensland.
Along with seeing some amazing natural sights like the Great Barrier Reef and pristine beaches in North Queensland, your journey will also include all sorts of intriguing historic sites such as architecturally rich towns which showcase Australian history.
The road starts near the city of Townsville (check out our guide to all the great things to do in Townsville), then you head west where the real adventure begins.
From Charters Towers where you will learn all about the gold mining town to learning about dinosaurs in Hughenden at the Flinders Discovery Centre, which are home to some incredible ancient fossil beds with dinosaur footprints preserved by natural forces over time!
You can learn about the cattle drovers at the Drovers’ Camp Museum in Camooweal Caves National Park, which also has amazing sinkholes dating back 500 million years.
This land is just bursting full-speed ahead into a new future that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon – even without leaving the bitumen roads behind!
The Overlander’s Way road trip is a Queensland route that will have you fall in love with the country all over again.
This is the inland route for any vehicle to drive. Here is a route guide.
The Savannah Way is an amazing route for exploring the tropical savannahs of northern Australia.
The route winds from Cairns, Queensland to Broome in Western Australia and offers a unique opportunity to see some incredible sights along the way including ancient rock art paintings and Australian wildlife.
The Queensland section of Savannah Way goes from Cairns to Hell’s Gate or vice versa.
Your Savannah Way safari starts in Cairns, the crowning jewel of the Queensland coast. Set your sights south toward Millaa Millaa, a drive of about 1.5 hours where you will find stunning waterfalls amidst vibrant green rainforests and waterways that are perfect for swimming at any time during the year!
Once there, make sure to take in not only the well-known waterfall but also Zillie and Ellinjaa Falls before heading on to Ravenshoe.
If you’ve always wanted to see where the Reef meets the Rainforest, the only place where two UNESCO World Heritage Sites actually meet, this is the road trip for you!
The 327km drive takes four hours and is full of nature, history, and outback characters that will keep your interest for days on end!
You can explore Cooktown’s historical significance as Australia’s first European settlement or enjoy its beautiful harbour with many local attractions in town.
It may not be the most action-packed adventure around – so pack accordingly if you’re looking for some excitement.
But it’ll definitely get your creative juices flowing before heading off into our vast country again!
This is the inland route for any vehicle to drive. Here is a route guide.
While Cooktown itself is a bit far to visit as a day trip from Cairns, you can break it up into two days if looking to return back to Cairns.
The Bloomfield Track is one of Queensland’s most scenic short 4WD drives that leads to the coastal town in Wujal-Wujal.
The track passes through a rainforest archway with majestic plants, unexpected wildlife and history.
It was constructed by protestors back in 1983-84 leading up to an important environmental protest known as the “Bloomfield Blockade.”
Nowadays it has become World Heritage protected land thanks to these protesters who were concerned for its natural beauty!
The coast drive from Cooktown down south on Australia’s Northern Territory border all the way beyond Huonbrook Station takes travellers past spectacular views, creek crossings and secluded beaches where they can take some well-deserved rest before continuing their journey inland into more remote areas.
READ MORE: Coming from south of the border? Make the most of the journey with our Sydney to Brisbane road trip itinerary!
With varying conditions and a mixture of gravel, red soil, or wet weather on the road, driving can be tricky.
With its rugged landscape and plenty of natural creek crossings after heavy rainstorms this drive may become impassable at times as well- so make sure you have your 4WD vehicle always ready!
You can do it in one long day or break it up. Here is a rough guide
No one can claim to have seen all of Australia without going on a long, adventurous road trip.
One such adventure that you should take in your lifetime is the 1000km journey from Cairns straight up to Pajinka (traditional name for the northernmost point of mainland Australia at top of Cape York Peninsula).
Australians have an adventurous spirit that is deeply ingrained in their culture. In Cairns, you can jump into a 4WD and head off on an unforgettable journey to the top of Australia with cooked towns as your stops along the way.
You will experience creek crossings and corrugations, meet interesting people from various communities while encountering relics of wartime history all throughout this life-changing adventure through Cape York!
Along this breathtaking drive, there are natural treasures like national parks with their bird-filled wetlands and rainforests as well as waterfalls, beaches, and Old Telegraph Track which will challenge even the most hardcore adventurer.
Although it’s not easy driving through rough terrain or crossing treacherous waters during the rainy season beware: the rewards never stop coming!
Here is a rough guide
Want to go off the beaten track? Then let’s leave the coast and drive inland through Queensland’s outback.
You’ll traverse some of the most uninhabitable landscapes, steep in history with rural towns as well.
Driving up here is a totally different experience than driving along coastal highways since there are fewer service stations.
But it does offer unique experiences for those who want something less travelled that has many tourist attractions such as red sand deserts or gazing at stars under night skies!
The Great Inland Way is a road trip that follows the Australian coast from Sydney to Brisbane.
The Queensland leg of this journey passes through Dirranbandi and St George before detouring off onto some surprisingly flat, sealed roads leading into Surat, Roma and Injune.
Stop for lunch at Nindigully Pub (if you dare!) in Australia’s oldest hotel-turned restaurant which offers up 1.2kg hamburgers called Road Train!
Journey through Queensland’s Outback from the mountains to the coast. Continue along well signed and flat sealed roads to Surat, Roma and Injune en route to sandstone escarpments of Carnarvon National Park.
Stop off at Emerald for a fossicking permit before detouring on Capella, Clermont, Charters Towers or Undara with plenty of stops in between!
Find an authentic Australian experience by visiting Ravenshoe’s highest pub or enjoy gourmet cheeses at Atherton Tablelands’ luxurious resorts after exploring lush rainforest gardens.
Spend time admiring birds-of-paradise and other native flora from Kuranda’s scenic cable car perspective then visit Cairns where you can explore nature above ground as well as below sea level!
Stop off at the gateway to Queensland’s sapphire jewel fields for fossicking permits, detour through the tropical fruit growing area of the Atherton Tablelands for fresh local produce before navigating the Cairns hinterland, Queensland’s largest protected rainforest.
After heading north all the way to Cooktown to explore the outback and the extraordinary Aboriginal rock art.
This road trip is fully-sealed the whole way weaving its way from Sydney to outback NSW and Queensland, the Central Queensland Highlands and then as far north as Cooktown.
Here is a rough guide
There are so many great Queensland road trips. We hope this list has given you some ideas for your next road trip.
There is so much beauty to be seen and so many activities and attractions to fill your days.
There are some that are full of adventure that you need a 4WD. And there are some we are yet to do which are all the 4WD ones. But we hope to do them later in the year!
What is your favourite Queensland road trip? Drop a comment below and let us know!
And while you’re at it, check out all these other epic things to do in Queensland!
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