Plan Your Trip

Cairns to The Whitsundays


Car or Camper

Cairns to Airlie Beach

Year round

Australia is the kind of country that is best explored behind the wheel of a car; nothing beats an Aussie roadtrip! This certainly applies to North Queensland, many of the best places to experience such as deserted beaches, waterfalls and freshwater creeks, can be quite remote, and with each region being so different and diverse, self-driving is the way to go. There’s no better place to start than a trip from Cairns to The Whitsundays.


375km 5hrs


Cairns to Townsville

From Cairns head south along the Bruce Highway for about 1 hour and turn right into the town of Babinda. Road signs then direct the way to this gorgeous natural swimming hole, the perfect place to stretch your legs and have some morning tea. Surrounded by lush rainforest, the Babinda Boulders is an iconic attraction and popular swimming hole and tourist attraction. It is a classic example of the fast-flowing tropical creeks in the area that are perfect for afternoon dips in the cool water to combat Far North Queensland’s tropical heat.

Mission Beach, situated midway between Townsville and Cairns is made up of four beach villages linked by 14 kilometres of wide golden sands. This beautiful beachside area blends vibrant art and culture with unique tourism attractions, inviting you to relax and unwind. When you hear of a beach situated between the Great Barrier Reef and a World Heritage-listed rainforest, you know it’s a worthwhile stop. If you’re lucky, you might even see an endangered cassowary. Adventure-seekers love Mission Beach and can fill their boots here with skydiving, deep-water diving, and white-water rafting!

You’ve covered some miles, so it’s time to relax and take in Townsville’s cosmopolitan ambience. Unofficially known as the ‘Capital of North Queensland’, Townsville boasts a more metropolitan feel due to its urban expansion. Here you can enjoy some boutique shopping on Flinders Street or hit up the local markets. When hunger calls, check out the top-notch restaurant scene on Palmer Street.

375km 5hrs
279km 3.5hrs


Townsville to Airlie Beach

Continue on the Bruce Highway heading South until you reach Bowen, the mango capital of Australia, home to the delicious Bowen Mango (aka Kensington Pride). Bowen is a small town with big photo opportunities and an even bigger mango. Tick an Aussie icon off your list and grab a photo with The Big Mango. Bowen’s secluded beaches are one of the many treats you’ll enjoy about the town, so secluded that you only have to share with locals who are in-the-know. Horseshoe Bay is a must, an all-rounder perfect for swimming and relaxing or take a picnic and enjoy the beautiful Bowen breeze! This secluded cove is also ideal for snorkelling; it is one of the only places where you can snorkel the fringing Great Barrier Reef straight off the beach!

Spend the next 3 nights in and around Airlie Beach. Dine out in one of Airlie Beach’s delicious restaurants or perhaps a BBQ on the beach. If you’d prefer something a little more upbeat the pumping Airlie Beach nightlife will not disappoint. With clubs, bars, and live music venues, you can party the night away with like-minded travellers and make lasting memories.

Check out our local itineraries for inspiration. The stunning natural landscapes of the coast and islands are dotted with secluded beaches and cascading waterfalls, a rich tapestry of hinterland through to the vibrant great barrier reef. The Whitsundays is a feast for the senses. There’s so much to do, you’ll just have to work out how to fit it all in!

279km 3.5hrs