Roadtrip through Tropical Australia’s East Coast

30 January 2020
roadtrip australie

Australia! For many of us, this gigantic island remains a distant dream. The only realistic method to explore Australia is a roadtrip! You want to see an abundance in a short period of time and that’s a challenge in Australia.We were presented this challenge when our parents came to visit us during our Working Holiday Visa. In three weeks time we had to show a country that’s 254 times bigger than Belgium. We decided to discover the tropical ‘Capricorn Coast’, more specifically from Cairns to Brisbane.


Cairns: from the Kuranda Scenic Railway to relaxing in Palm Cove

Tropical vibes galore in Cairns. A rainforest that has survived the dinosaurs, world’s biggest living creature: the Great Barrier Reef, agricultural tablelands, jungles and much more. You won’t find a better starting point than Cairns. Don’t expect too much from the city itself. Apart from an impressive public swimming pool overlooking the ocean, the city doesn’t have a lot to offer.

Then why Cairns?

From Cairns you have access to:

– Daintree Rainforest
– Mossman Gorge
– Port Douglas
– Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
– Palm Cove
– Atherton Tablelands
– Kuranda
– Crystal Cascades
– Waterfall Loop

If you’re someone who likes a lot of options, you’re in dreamland. If not, buy yourself a stressball.

cairns zilla falls

Protip A car is necessary. For a safe and stress-free rental car, I’d recommend Sunny Cars. They have a set All-In formula so you can drive around without any worries.

We chose to relax the first three days in the laidback area of Palm Cove and Trinity Beach. This region takes away the city feeling of Cairns, but is still within comfortable driving distance of the shopping malls. After our parents digested their jet lag, the journey really took off! If you want to read more about Cairns, you can do that here.


Pure magic in Daintree Rainforest

Ever ended up in a time machine? Walked around in Jurassic Park?

Neither did we. But Daintree is the closest thing you can get to such an experience. The rainforest isn’t just Australia’s oldest, it’s the world’s oldest. The hikes in Daintree are bucket list material. Australia is very good at preserving their wondrous, natural treasures and Daintree is fine proof. If you don’t have much time to visit Daintree, don’t forget Cape Tribulation. It’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

cape tribulation
ProtipBook your stay above the river so you don’t have to take the ferry several times with your rental car.


Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure

Australia is the country with the most dangerous animals. It’s no over-the-top luxury to gain some knowledge about their animal kingdom. On your way from Daintree to Port Douglas you’ll come across Hartley’s Crocodile Adventure. Cruise on a river with jumping crocodiles, walk along emu’s, meet all kinds of lizards, stroke your first kangaroo and cuddle a koala.

Attending a Croc Attack and the Snake Show could save your life. Useful tips on camping in the habitat of crocodiles and how to deal with snake bites are included in the price. You can also come back again, as your entry ticket is valid for several days. We thought it was worth it.



Kick back in Port Douglas

After a few days in the jungle, it’s time to go back to civilization. Port Douglas is a high end destination in Australia and has a beautiful azure bay with nice bars and restaurants. There’s also a huge beach with a sunset hike that will blow your socks off. The hardest decision you’ll make in Port Douglas is where you’re going to watch the sunset.


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Kuranda, ski lift in Australia?

As if Daintree wasn’t enough, there’s another rainforest 25km South of Cairns. Kuranda is a small tourist village where you can buy artisan souvenirs while enjoying a great coffee. The tourism industry is completely out of control here. You have the choice to explore the area by ski lift, historic train or your own car. Similar to Daintree, there are a lot of walks here to enjoy the prehistoric nature. The main attraction are the Barron Falls. A waterfall which you can enjoy in full glory after the rainy season. Moreover, the water tumbles down no less than 125 meters.

  • Ski lift: $50
  • Train: $120
  • Rental Car: $ …

ProtipWe booked the combi ticket for ski lift and train. If we would do it again, we would do it with our rental car. Park and stop wherever you want, start a hike to the Barron Falls and plan your own route. Although the ski lift is okay, the train is too claustrophobic. This experience is not very pleasant, as you share it with hundreds of other tourists.


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Paronella Park

José Paronella was a Spanish immigrant who went to Australia to pursue his dream: A castle in the middle of the tropics. The result was a fairytale castle with modern European technology that was nowhere to be found in Australia at the time. He laid no less than five hectares of land, which was in line with his dream. A castle, a ballroom, a waterfall, a love tunnel, a towering tree tunnel and much more. At the time, Paronella Park was an amusement park and an ideal wedding venue. The only thing José Paronella hadn’t thought of was the storms that often hit this region of Australia…

Today it’s a monument and an ode to José Paronella’s work ethic. If you spend the night here, you can also enjoy a free light show.

Entry: $47

ProtipThe price is negotiable 😉 We got in with two people for the price of one. If you do better, let me know!


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Mission Beach and its grand surprise Dunk Island

The road from the Cairns region to Mission Beach is pure enjoyment. Australia has a lot of secrets. Mission Beach and the water taxi to Dunk Island are part of it. For only 12 dollars you can take the water taxi to a nearby uninhabited island. Dunk Island was in the hands of an owner who had built an exclusive resort there. In Australia, one big storm is enough to completely change the way of life. This disaster scenario happened on Dunk Island.

At the moment there are hardly any tourists. However, this can change quickly as there are plans for reconstruction. Enjoy the peace and quiet and take a look.

dunk island

ProtipPut on your walking shoes (or flip-flops) and walk to the highest viewpoint on the island for a breathtaking view!

Townsville’s The Strand

A good two hours from Mission Beach is Australia’s largest city above the Tropic of Cancer, Townsville. This place is ideal for a rest day. You can relax all day at ‘The Strand’. A public swimming pool with a great view on Magnetic Island. Don’t forget to take a look at the pier. Around sunset, the turtles dare to come and show their heads. Both big and small come squeaking if you pay close attention. In the evening you can enjoy a nice meal by the ocean at The Long Board. Moreover, Townsville has a cosy city centre where you can walk around for an extra day.

Bowen and its Horseshoe Bay

We thought it was important during our road trip to have enough ‘pit stops’ on the road. Bowen was an ideal location to split a full day of driving with some adventure. Bowen is perfectly situated on the route from Townsville to Airlie Beach. Horseshoe Bay is highly recommended. Azure blue water, rough rock formations along the bay and a pearly white beach. For those who are looking for adventure, I can recommend to climb the rock formations. The view at the top is definitely worth it.

Airlie Beach as Gateway to the Whitsundays

The highlight of your trip is undoubtedly your visit to the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef. Airlie Beach will be your base for exploring the Whitsundays in the coming days. This harbour town has as its beating heart a street full of tourist offices, hostels, hotels and apartments in every price category. Would you like to stay a little closer to the Great Barrier Reef and complete your experience on one of the Whitsunday Islands? Your options in a nutshell:

  • Daydream Island
  • Hamilton Island
  • Hayman Island

To simplify, your options are listed in ascending order according to your capital strength.

Would you rather keep it simple? Then I advise you to stay at Airlie Beach and finish your bucket list with tours you can easily book here. It’s impossible to explain Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays in one paragraph, so you can read the full guide soon on this website.


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Yeppoon and the biggest secret of the Capricorn Coast

Recommended to us via an unknown Belgian who has been living for years on the East Coast of Australia. The enthusiasm exploded off of her when she gave a description of Yeppoon and the pearl that lies half an hour from the coast: Great Keppel Island.

Of course we trust our compatriots and we departed for Yeppoon and took a ferry to Great Keppel Island. An island with no less than 17 (!) beaches, hardly any inhabitants, hardly any tourists, a pristine marine life, wonderful walks, the most beautiful sunsets, the sweetest staff and an incredibly relaxed atmosphere. The surprise during our roadtrip was undoubtedly Great Keppel Island.

The whole experience forced us to rebook our ferry ticket. Kate’s father even said he was born in the wrong spot. If you want to live like Robinson Crusoe, Great Keppel Island is the place to be!


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Noosa Heads the main attraction of the Sunshine Coast

Noosa was our last stop on our road trip through the tropical East Coast of Australia. This attraction has a lot to offer and it’s impossible to discover all the beauty in a short period of time. We decided to explore Noosa National Park, including a beautiful cliffside walk where you can spot koalas and dolphins in the wild. This hike is often taken as a morning jog route by the locals and we understand 100%.


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Roadtrip through the tropical East Coast of Australia

We were proud of this trip. Everything went smooth and we had enough time to relax and enjoy. A right mix between activity and rest, beach and jungle, isolation and city. Of course there are a thousand and one possibilities to do this roadtrip. In our original plan we had Fraser Island, due time constraint we weren’t able to do this. Whale watching in Hervey Bay would’ve been part of it as well, but it wasn’t the season. A lot of options were lost. If certain questions arise or if you want to go into more detail, don’t hesitate to ask. Your questions have probably already crossed our minds.

To rent a car without worrying about insurance, accidents, extra miles, multiple drivers, etc. I’d recommed Sunny Cars their All-in formula which covers almost everything.

Interested to discover the West Coast? Click here
Want to know more about working and traveling in Australia, here is more information.

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