The coastal route between Airlie Beach and Brisbane is best explored behind the wheel of a campervan because it gives you the extra flexibility to stay in some fantastic camping sites and national parks. If you want to do everything listed on our itinerary, including Fraser Island and Lady Musgrave Island, this will take you 9 - 10 days.
For Brisbane to Airlie Beach scroll down.
Day 1: Airlie Beach, Eungella & Cape Hillsborough National Parks: 276 km | 3 h 45 m
Day 2: Capricorn Caves: 362 km | 4 h
Day 3: Agnes Water, 1770: 253 | 3 h
(optional extra day at Lady Musgrave Island)
Day 4: Bundaberg, Hervey Bay: 230 km | 2 h 45 m
Day 5: Fraser Island: (no driving)
(optional extra day at Fraser Island)
Day 6: Rainbow Beach & Great Sandy National Park: 135 km |1 h 35 m
Day 7: Noosa, Glass House Mountains, Brisbane: 296 km | 4 h
Day 1: Brisbane, Glass House Mountains, Noosa: 296 km | 4 h
Day 2: Rainbow Beach & Great Sandy National Park: no driving
Day 3: Fraser Island: no driving
(optional extra day on Fraser Island)
Day 4: Hervey Bay and Bundaberg: 135 km | 1 h 35
Day 5: Agnes Water, 1770: 230 km | 2 h 45 m
(optional additional day at Lady Musgrave Island)
Day 6: Capricorn Caves: 253 km | 3 h
Day 7: Cape Hillsborough National Park: 363 km | 4 hr
Day 8: Eungella National Park, Airlie Beach: 277 km | 3 h 45 m
Eungella National Park (173 km and 2 hr and 20 mins from Airlie Beach) is a misty forest-clad mountain refuge high above the surrounding plains. Eungella is an Aboriginal word that means "Land of the Clouds". More than 20 kms of walking trails take in stunning views, rivers, pine groves, and diverse flora and fauna. Highlights include:
Eungella National Park. Photo: TheTravelAlbum via IG
Cape Hillsborough National Park (128 km south of Airlie Beach) is one of the most ruggedly beautiful parks on the Central Queensland coast, famous for its turquoise waters, tide rippled sand with barely a footprint to be seen and friendly kangaroos who seem to enjoy the beaches as much as the human visitors. Through a network of walking trails you can explore creeks, waterfalls, valleys and hills, headlands and heaths, mangroves, a diverse range of forests, and rugged coastline.
The Capricorn Caves near Rockhampton are a system of above ground caves in a limestone ridge. Tours range from the easy but beautiful to the more adventurous (including abseiling, wall climbing and caving) and run from 9 am until 4 pm. Book ahead.
Capricorn Caves near Rockhampton.
Agnes Water and the neighbouring town of Seventeen Seventy (so named because that’s the year Captain Cook mapped it) are picturesque coastal towns every bit as beautiful as Airlie Beach to the north and Noosa to the south, but without the crowds. Getting off the beaten track is one of the many perks of touring Australia in a campervan. Agnes Water is the most northerly surf beach before the Great Barrier Reef begins.
There are plenty of places to stay in 1770 and Agnes Water that have full facilities.
Paperbark forest walk. Photo: Cooloola Eco Tours
It’s possible to park your campervan in 1770 and day trip to Lady Musgrave Island for some spectacular reef snorkelling and diving. The waters are crystal clear and the temperatures sublime. Dolphins, turtles, nesting birds, manta rays and humpback whales are common sights here. Full day tours to the Lady Musgrave Island include snorkeliing, glass bottom boat tours and a guided walk on the island.
RATES: $200 per adult.
Lady Musgrave Island. Photo: Brooooke_r via IG
Bundaberg is about midway between Agnes Water and Hervey Bay.
Mon Repos Beach, turtle nesting. Photo: Lauren Bath.
Hervey Bay charms every visitor with its sweeping sandy beaches, calm blue sea (perfect for kiddies) and relaxed community.
There are several caravan parks in Hervey Bay from which to choose and they are nearly all rated four starts or more on Trip Advisor and Google. Check the map at the end of the article for more options.
Whale watching at Hervey Bay. Photo: Blue Dolphin Tours
The unspoiled beauty of World Heritage listed Fraser Island off the coast of Hervey Bay will take your breath away. Known as K’Gari, or ‘Paradise’, by the local Aboriginal people, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It has fresh crystal clear creeks and lakes perfect for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and snorkelling, majestic sand dunes and ancient forests with thousand year old trees, swampy wetlands, walking trails, turtles, dugongs, birds a plenty, whales, dolphins, sharks, wallabies, and of course Fraser Islands iconic dingo. 1 and 2 day tours are available through a range of tour companies based in Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach.
RATES: Day trips start from $155 per person. 2 day overnight tours start at $390 per person.
Fraser Island. Photo: Fraser Explorer Tours
Rainbow Beach is a tiny town surrounded by the Great Sandy National Park with multi-coloured sand cliffs overlooking the beach and ocean. It’s a convenient stepping off point for Fraser Island, or a base from which to explore the Great Sandy national park.
Great Sandy National Park and Cooloola Recreation Area is a large swathe of preserved coastline. The landscapes are varied from high sand dunes, sand blows, coloured cliffs, beaches, freshwater lakes, paperbark swamps, tall forests and wildflower heaths. Cooloola is a refuge for plants and animals, many threatened with extinction due to coastal development in Queensland. It is also home to the flightless emu. There are lots of walks from which to choose from easy 200 meter boardwalks to longer and more strenuous walks for the more experienced hikers.
Some of the roads into the national park are 4WD only. Grab a map from the Visitor Information Centre and ask what roads you can access in a conventional vehicle. All camping in the national park is only accessible by 4WD, boat or walking.
Noosa Heads is a ritzy beach-side town on a gorgeous sweep of beach. Most of the peninsula is national park with some short but rewarding walking trails. With a glut of world class restaurants on Hastings Street, there is no shortage of places to eat, unless you’re on a budget.
Noosa Heads. Photo: VisitSunshineCoast.com.au
The Sunshine Coast is a seemingly endless string of sandy beaches. Unlike Noosa Heads, it’s swanky neighbour to the north, the Sunshine Coast is residential, laid-back, and more affordable. Mooloolaba, Alexandria Headland, and Maroochydore are all great places to stay with plenty of caravan parks, places to eat, and things to do.
The Glass House Mountains are a striking backdrop an hour's north of Brisbane, and have some stunning walking trails.
Glass House Mountains. Photo: DCWarehouse via IG
Glasshouse Mountains from Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve.
Heart of Reef Shuttles, 48-50 Carlo Drive, Cannonvale, Queensland 4802 Phone: 1800 216 223
40 French Street, Eagle Farm, Queensland 4009
Phone: 1800 216 223
440 Sheridan Street, Cairns,
Queensland 4870 Phone: 1800 216 223
2/11 Northview St, Mermaid Waters QLD 4218 Phone: 1800 216 223
273 Elizabeth Street, Coburg,
Victoria 3058 Phone: 1800 216 223
23-25 Erskine Rd, Caringbah,
Sydney, NSW 2229 Phone: 1800 216 223
167 Mount Low Parkway, Townsville,
Queensland 4814 Phone: 1800 216 223