The best East Coast trip experience ever starts with our free insider's road trip guide
Posted on 27/07/2020 by Spaceships Crew
Queensland is the best part of Australia for road tripping… In our humble opinion as Aussie road trip experts. To answer questions like “what to do in Queensland”, we have created this mega blog post that we like to call the ultimate insider’s guide to help you have the best East Coast trip ever. Check it out.
Create your East Coast trip: things to do in Queensland
Queensland is known as the Sunshine State, it’s a place of spectacular natural beauty. Most people travel the Bruce Highway route from Brisbane north to Cairns. The 3 most popular stops on the East Coast route are
These are not to be missed however there is far more to Queensland’s East Coast!
Gold Coast and Surrounds
Surfers Paradise is an iconic destination to check out on your east coast trip, but make sure you explore the area further. In 2016 the Gold Coast was announced to be the 8th World surfing reserve. This is the area from Burleigh Heads south to Snapper rocks and is home to some of the best surf in the world.
Experience it like a local: Pop into the Burleigh Brewery Co. and grab a beer to go (for example their Smoked Lager that has won a gold medal in the World Beer Championships) and head to Burleigh Hill for a sunset picnic.
The beach isn’t the only place worth visit in the area – the Gold Coast is surrounded by the northern end of the UNESCO World Heritage area known as Gondwana Rainforest. Just a short drive west of the Gold Coast and you will find Springbrook and Lamington National parks. Here you will find stunning waterfalls, beautiful rock formations cascading creeks through lush rainforest.
See it like a local: Head to the Natural Bridge in Springbrook at night to see Australia’s biggest population of Glowworms!
Governors Chair at Main Range National Park
This National Park is part of Gondwana Rainforest. The park is part of the Scenic Rim Important Bird Area. The Governors Chair lookout track takes you to a popular resting spot for early Queensland governors. Originally this spot was Governors Rock but that was changed in 1854 to Governors Chair.
The views from this spot are stunning. You can see so many landmarks from here, for example, Mt. Fraser, Lake Moogerra and even Mt. Barney. To name a few, there's lots more to be seen as the Governors Chair lookout point is 773 metres above sea level. You have to see it for yourself.
If you want to get further off the beaten track on your East Coast trip keep heading west. There is so much to explore in this area known as the Scenic Rim. The Scenic Rim is an area filled with charming towns and villages littered with boutique wineries and breweries, art galleries and cafes and so much to more. The pinnacle of the area is the magnificent Mt Barney – Queensland’s 4th highest peak. This wilderness park has so much to offer any outdoor enthusiast.
See it like a local: We recommend camping at Mt Barney Lodge to explore the all there is to see. You can park by the creek and enjoy the warmth of an open fire at night.
Brisbane is one of Australia’s most underrated capital cities. There are many hidden cafes and laneways to discover. With plenty of free activities such as soaking up the sun at the Southbank lagoon, check out GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art), views from Mt Coo-tha or a walk through the Botanical gardens.
The real secret of Brisbane is the spectacular sand islands just off the coast. Stradbroke and Moreton Islands are lesser-known little brothers to Fraser Island and far more accessible! Straddie and Moreton are the 2nd and 3rd largest sand islands in the world! They are a tropical oasis a short boat ride from the city. Day tours or overnight trips are available and well worth checking out!
Experience it like a local: Don’t miss the foodies' paradise at Eat St Markets Friday-Sunday nights.
Or check out our detailed blog post about Brisbane and check out more things to do & see in Brisbane.
Arriving north into the Sunshine Coast the first stop is Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Get up close and personal with Australia’s unique wildlife. Most travel straight to Noosa from here, however, we recommend taking a detour into the Sunshine Coast hinterlands. Taking the winding route up into Mapleton, Maleny, Montville and Kenilworth is a spectacular journey with unique shops, thriving art trail and many cafes to indulge in.
Experience it like a local: Make sure to schedule some time for food in Maleny. Indulgent. Heaven for foodies.
- Gelato & Sorbet at Maleny Food Co. - Nothing is more refreshing than ice cream and sorbet (vegan-friendly) that has been crafted fresh daily using traditional artisan techniques. There are over 100 gelato ice cream flavours to taste here. Several of these flavours have won a gold medal at the DIAA Queensland Dairy Product Competition.
- Cheeses at Maleny Cheese Factory - Definitely try their Smoked Cheddar or the Wasabi variety if you like it spicy.
- Craft beer at Brouhaha Brewery - Make sure to try their DIPA or Watermelon & Lime sour, the perfect refreshing brew after a long day of roadtripping.
Noosa will be one of the highlights of your trip – secluded beaches and rugged coastlines are just the beginning for this hotspot. Noosa is the 10th World Surfing Reserve and known for its eco-friendly practices and sustainability projects. Noosa became Queensland’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2007 and pushes the local community to support projects such as Plastic Free Noosa, Zero emissions Noosa, Trees for Tourism – Noosa has a long history of looking after its pristine environment. Noosa has something for everybody and you will not want to leave.
See it like a local: Park in Noosaville and jump on the ferry into Hastings Street to spend the day. Get a couple for drinks and nibbles for the ferry ride home at sunset!
World Heritage-listed K’gari (Fraser Island) is a must thing to do in Queensland! It can be accessed from Noosa, Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay. It is the world's largest sand island covered in lush rainforests, crystal clear freshwater lakes and huge stretches of pristine beaches. There is so much to explore here, you cannot see it all in just a day tour. There are 4wd tours, camping trips, resorts – something to cater to everyone.
Experience it like a local: Best time to spot a dingo is at sunrise or sunset on the quieter beaches.
Swimming with whales
Hervey Bay is famous for its whale population. There are few places in the world where you can swim with Humpback whales. From June to October Hervey Bay is the place to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity. There is something majestic about whales that cannot be described until you find yourself floating next to one of these mammals up to 16 metres in length. Close enough to hear their muted, lyrical wail and feel the pull of the ocean as they swim by. This is an experience you will never forget.
See it like a local: Enjoy a cocktail at Enzos at sunset while spotting whales in the Ocean.
Mon Repos Conservation Park is an opportunity to get up and personal with the endangered loggerhead turtle. From November to January watch as mother turtles lay their clutches of eggs on the beach, then from January to March form a pathway to the ocean as baby turtles begin their dangerous journey into the ocean. If you are travelling outside of these times, then you still can grab a snorkel and swim with these beautiful creatures.
Experience it like a local:: Late Feb is the best time to see the hatchlings.
Welcome to the start of the Great Barrier Reef. Agnes Water is the most northern point you will find any surf in Queensland as the Great Barrier reef protects the rest of the Coast from waves. Agnes water is a picturesque holiday town with beautiful beaches and heaps to do. Go for a ride on the Larc to learn a bit about the area or just kick back on the beautiful beaches. There are some great priced surf lessons available here!
See it like a local: check out the secluded Chinamans Beach for your own private paradise.
Great Keppel Island
Just off the coast of Emu Park and Yeppoon is Great Keppel Island – with sandy secluded beaches, sparkling clear water Great Keppel is a snorkelers paradise. There is so much to explore, it is well worth a day-trip.
Experience it like a local: Stay at Emu Park resort for a special Space Mates deal to Great Keppel (just for you as Spaceships customer).
A trip to the Whitsunday Islands is one of the things to do in Queensland you can’t skip. It’s a must-see. With 74 islands just off Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays are the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. It is the perfect base to embark on an overnight boat trip to get the full experience of the Whitsundays (Daytrips are also an option). No trip to the Whitsundays is complete with a visit to Whitehaven beach. This is constantly rated as one of the Worlds best beaches due to the pure white sand and crystal-clear water.
See it like a local: polish your jewellery in the silica sand and it’ll come out looking as good as new.
There are plenty of amazing things to do around Townsville – One of the best dive sites in the World is just south of Townsville – the SS Yongala. This wreck dive is rated as the best wreck dive in the world – giant groupers the size of a car, huge schools of barracudas, turtles, eagle and manta rays and much, much more! For any Space Traveller that is into diving and experiencing the beauty of the ocean, Townsville is a must-do in Queensland.
This tropical palm-fringed paradise is a must-do when travelling up the coast – only a 20-minute ferry from the mainland. More than half the island is National park with over 2000 koalas living there. This island has so many secluded rugged areas to explore and an abundance of wildlife to see.
See it like a local: Take your Spaceships campervan over and stay at Bungalow Bay if you want to get to know some of the local inhabitants or do the Forts walk for the best place to spot Koalas on the island.
Make sure you check out the incredible Wallaman Falls and add it to you things to do in Queensland list. This waterfall has the title of Australia’s highest permanent drop waterfall – 268 metres high! It is situated in the Girringun National Park – part of the World Heritage-listed Wet tropics rainforest.
Experience it like a local: take the hour-long trek from the lookout to the base of the falls!
Cardwell Spa Pool
This seasonal delight is a swimming hole located in Cardwell and is best experienced from May to September. Due to a geological phenomenon, the pools can vary from a bright baby blue colour to a milky blue depending on the time of day and amount of sunlight. The colouring is caused by the chemistry of the rocks and water. A great place to cool off during a long drive of driving on your East Coast trip!
See it like a local: Avoid over the weekend as it can get overcrowded
Paranella Park is a heritage-listed park at Mena Creek. The Park is a magical, unforgettable place nestled amongst 13 acres of lush rainforest. One man’s dream to build a castle in the early 1900s has resulted in this epic park. A nights camping is included in the admission.
The Atherton Waterfall Circuit
If Waterfalls are your thing – then look no further – the Atherton tablelands has you covered. Here is a shortlist of waterfalls to check out:
- Millaa Millaa
- Zillie Falls
- The Ellinjaa Falls
- Stoney Creek Falls
- Malanda Falls
- Millstream Falls
- Nandroya Falls
- Tchupala Falls
- Wallicher Falls
- Dinner Falls
See it like a local: We recommend staying at On the Wallaby in Yungaburra for a great Space Mates deal (just for you as Spaceships customer) and platypus spotting!!
Cairns is the northernmost city on the east coast and the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. It should be on your to-do in Queensland list as it’s the perfect spot to start or end your campervan trip. There are many Reef trips to choose from or check out one of the local islands like Fitzroy Island.
Experience it like a local: Check out the Babinda boulders for the perfect swimming hole!
Have a look at our blog post about Cairns, packed with tips for things to do & see there.
Even the road from Cairns to Port Douglas itself is worth the visit. Hugging the coastline, it winds its way between the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef. It is the perfect spot to explore or just to relax and enjoy the laid back vibe along Macrossan Street.
Cape Tribulation is the only place in the world where two World Heritage sites collide – the Daintree forest and the Great Barrier Reef. Exploring the Daintree is a must – it is the oldest rainforest in the world - over 180 million years old – don’t miss out on a guided tour with a local Kaku Yalanji Aboriginal guide to get the full experience.
See it like a local: Get a great Space Mates deal ((just for you as Spaceships customer) at Safari Lodge or PK’s Jungle Village
The Queensland Outback
Above was the ultimate guide to the East Coast of Queensland. Queensland itself is actually almost 5 times the size of Germany, 7 times the size of Great Britain – there is a lot more to Queensland than just the East Coast!! Here is a bit of information about getting further off the beaten track on the inland Loop
Cambooya Sunflower route
From December to March each year The Cambooya Sunflower route is a 26km stretch in the Southern Downs southwest of Brisbane. A picture says more than 1000 words, so no need to add more words about this amazing & colourful part of Queensland. Just check out this photo and you'll know why the sunflower route will be the most colourful part of your Queensland road trip.
Or check out the many amazing photos #SouthernDownsSunflowers on Instagram.
The Bunya Mountains an hour west of Brisbane are an immense subtropical range of lush rainforest, eucalypt forest and beautiful fig trees. It is home to the worlds largest forest of Bunya Pines. The area is significant in the aboriginal culture as it was a meeting place for the various aboriginal tribes. There are countless rainforest walks to explore and plenty of Bunya pine delicacies to sample. Stay and the beautiful Dundabah campsite and share your breakfast with the 100’s of wallabies. Tip – visit in October/November to see fireflies buzzing around at dusk.
Charleville Cosmos Centre & Observatory
A Spaceship journey isn’t complete without a trip to the Cosmos Centre! The Outbacks low residual light takes stargazing to another level. There is no better place to do this than the Cosmos Centre!
This is an oasis in the middle of the outback with towering sandstone cliffs on each side. It’s an amazing place for hiking and something you have to do in Queensland on your road trip. There is a multitude of walks to do but we recommend the main gorge walk out to the Art Gallery and back – it is a significant aboriginal slice of history with over 2000 engravings and freehand rock painting 1000’s of years old.
Experience it like a local: Do the Nature’s Trail at dusk to meet some platypus in the wild paddling in the creek!
Chicken Racing in Tambo
The Outback is littered with fair dinkum Aussie characters. The publican at the Royal Canrrangarra Hotel is Ben the ‘chook trainer’. From May through to October you can visit his pub for a legendary bush camp tucker dinner and watch his ladies (brightly coloured chickens) have a race – all in the name of raising funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
Longreach is the heart of the outback where you will get an insight into life in the outback. There are a range of experiences such as the Australian Stockmans hall of fame, the Qantas Founders Museum. Be entertained at the amazing Smithy’s Outback Dinner & Show. Smithy’s will be a highlight of your outback adventure. Enjoy a delicious dinner and a few drinks while being entertained with live music and stories about life in the Outback.
Underground Mount Isa
Mount Isa, the Oasis of the Outback is most famous for its Rodeo in August, the 3rd largest in the World. Several days can be spent exploring the surroundings and the spectacular Lawn Hill Gorge. Right next door is another of Queensland's UNESCO World Heritage sites- the Riversleigh Fossil Fields. One of the top 10 fossil sites in the world! Mount Isa is built on the mining industry and is the worlds largest producer of copper, silver, lead and zinc. Experience the underground world by visiting the Hard Times mine tour on the Mount Isa Underground Hospital.
Undara Volcanic National park
Heading back to the East Coast don’t miss one of the rare volcanic marvels of Australia, the Undara Lava Tubes. Almost 200,000 years old, they are some of the world’s longest lava tubes (up to 160km long) and have formed a spectacular network of caves. It is an experience of great walks and guided tours in a truly unique setting.
When will you explore the outer space of Queensland?
Our East Coast trip guide should have given you plenty of road trip inspiration. There are so many things to do in Queensland that you will need to go for one long road trip. Or break it down into several smaller trips. Never stop exploring. It’s road trip time.
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