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Airlie Beach to Brisbane Drive

© Graham Cook

Airlie Beach to Brisbane Drive

Distance: 1,552 kms | 19 hrs over 7+ Days

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.

Itinerary for the Airlie Beach to Brisbane Drive

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

Itinerary for the Brisbane to Airlie Beach Drive

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

The stops are listed from north to south so if you are doing the Brisbane to Airlie Beach Drive, scroll to the bottom and read up.

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Eungella National Park 

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:

  • Araluen Cascade Falls which has a beautiful swimming hole at its base.
  • The Sky Window Lookout with views right down the valley across fields and forests between two mountain ranges. There are gas BBQs and picnic tables here so it's a great place to stop for lunch.
  • The Finch Hatton Gorge.
  • Peases Lookout.
  • The Pine Grove.

Eungella Camping

  • Broken River bush camp is a rustic campsite suitable for campervans, but bring your own drinking water. There are toilets but no showers.
    RATES: $7 per person.

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Eungella National Park. Photo: TheTravelAlbum via IG

Cape Hillsborough National Park

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.

Cape Hillsborough Camping

  • Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park is right on the beach edging the National Park. Facilities include a swimming pool, three shower blocks, laundry, camp kitchen, BBQ areas, reading and TV lounge and a bar.
    RATES: Unpowered from $29 for 2 adults. Powered from $34. Additional adults $10.

  • The National Park campsite at Smalley’s Beach has flushing toilets and drinking water but no showers.
    RATES: $7 per adult.

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Cape Hillsborough National Park. Photo: HashtagTravelers via IG

Capricorn Caves

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 Camping

  • Capricorn Caves has its own accommodation so that you can stop here amidst natural bushland and enjoy the company of kangaroos. Facilities include a swimming pool, bar, outdoor dining, BBQs, showers, laundry, common area with TV.
    RATES: Unpowered sites from $30 for two adults. Powered from $35 for two. Additional adults $5.

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Capricorn Caves near Rockhampton.

Agnes Water and 1770

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.

  • Enjoy some organic sustenance at Sol Foods or good fish and chips at Off The Hook
  • Grab a delicious pie at Agnes Water Bakery
  • Go fishing in a boat hired from the marina.
  • Kayak with dolphins.
  • Learn to surf.
  • Dive the reef or shipwrecks.
  • Grab a book and enjoy afternoon tea at the Getaway Garden Café, which is a short walk from several deserted beaches.
  • Visit the Deepwater National Park. Between January and April turtles are nesting and you might see hatchling turtles emerging from their eggs at night.
  • Take a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island (see article below).
  • Take a walking tour with Cooloola Eco Tours

Agnes Water Camping

There are plenty of places to stay in 1770 and Agnes Water that have full facilities.

  • Agnes Water Beach Holidays is right on the beach and has showers, laundry, camp kitchen, café and picnic grounds. They have a two night minimum stay.
    RATES: $45 for two. Additional adults $10.

  • The Wreck Rock campground in Deepwater National Park behind the sand dunes on the beach has picnic tables, one cold outdoor shower, composting toilets,  fire rings, rainwater and bore water. Treat all tap water before drinking or bring your own drinking water. Campervans and other non-4WD vehicles should access Deepwater National Park via the southern entrance. 
    RATES: $7 per person.

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Paperbark forest walk. Photo: Cooloola Eco Tours

Lady Musgrave Island

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.

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Lady Musgrave Island. Photo: Brooooke_r via IG

Bundaberg

Bundaberg is about midway between Agnes Water and Hervey Bay.

  • On Mon Repos Beach you can watch turtles laying their eggs from November to late March. This is the largest turtle population on the east coast of Australia.  Visit the Mon Repos Turtle Center to find out more.
  • Bundaberg is famous for its rum and you can tour the distillery
  • You can also see a ginger beer factory in operation.
  • Stroll through the botanic gardens and Baldwin Swamp which lies in the middle of town.
  • Learn about Bert Hinkler who made the first solo flight from Australia to England at the Hinkler Hall of Aviation.
  • Enjoy the art works at the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery.

Bundaberg Caravan Parks

  • Absolute Ocean Front Tourist Park on Bargara Beach is a caravan park located right on the beach. Facilities include showers, laundry, camp kitchen, BBQ, dump point and a saltwater swimming pool. 
    RATES: Powered $36 - $38 for two people. Unpowered $28 - $30. Additional adults $10

  • Bagara Beach Caravan Park is a short walk from the turtle centre. Facilities include free WiFi, playgrounds, tennis and basket ball courts, showers, laundry, BBQ area, camp kitchen, dump point, kiosk, tourist information and tour bookings.
    RATES: Unpowered from $29 for two. Powered from $38 for two. Additional adults $11.

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Mon Repos Beach, turtle nesting. Photo: Lauren Bath.

Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay charms every visitor with its sweeping sandy beaches, calm blue sea (perfect for kiddies) and relaxed community. 

  • The kids will love Wetside Water Education Park
  • Swim with sharks (the non-predatory variety) at Reef World Aquarium
  • Hervey Bay is most famous for its whale-watching cruises, which take you up close to the frolicking humpbacks. 
  • Take a day trip or overnight tour to Fraser Island (see below).
  • Fraser Coast Discover Sphere is a great place to learn about the local marine life.
  • Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum will give you some local history.
  • Take a walk along Urangan Pier.
  • Stroll through the Hervey Bay Botanical Gardens.

Hervey Bay Caravan Parks

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.

  • Fraser Coast Beachfront Tourist Park is right on the beach at Torquay. Its facilities include BBQs, camp kitchen, laundry, WiFi, picnic areas and tourist bookings.
    RATES: Unpowered sites from $34 for two people. Additional adults $11.

  • Fraser Coast Tourist Park is a short walk to the beach but has slightly better facilities. They include a heated mineral swimming pool and hot tub, pool table, table tennis, showers, laundry, BBQ area, camp kitchen, pizza oven, tour bookings.
    RATES: $39 for two people. Additional adults $10.

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Whale watching at Hervey Bay. Photo: Blue Dolphin Tours

Fraser Island

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.

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Fraser Island. Photo: Fraser Explorer Tours

Rainbow Beach and the Great Sandy National Park

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.

Rainbow Beach Camping

  • Rainbow Beach Holiday Park is the only caravan park that has four stars from reviewers and is located outside of Rainbow Beach town on the water and Carlo Point Marina. Facilities include BBQ areas, fish cleaning table, dum point, showers, laundry, jumping pillow, playground and tourist information.
    RATES: From $29 unpowered for 2 people. From $39 powered for two people. Additional adults $10.


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Great Sandy National Park.

Noosa Heads

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. 

Highlights include:

  • A walk through the National Park to Hells Gate and the Fairy Pools.
  • Walk up to Laguna Lookout.
  • Swim on Noosa Heads Main Beach.
  • Stroll through Noosa Botanic Gardens
  • Rent a kayak and explore the waterways.

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Noosa Heads. Photo: VisitSunshineCoast.com.au

Sunshine Coast

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. 

Highlights include:

  • Point Cartwright Lighthouse at Buddina
  • Cotton Tree Pier and Cotton Tree Beach in Maroochydoore for a swim at a calm beach sheltered from the wind and a walk followed by a drink at the Boat Shed.
  • A beach walk and a swim at Mooloolaba Beach to Pandanus Lookout.
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Point Cartwright Lighthouse

The Hinterland

The Hinterland is just 30 minutes from the sunshine coast and an hour north of Brisbane but it offers a different beauty altogether. 
  • Tootle along the meandering Tourist Drive 23 through rolling green hills, misty valleys, lush forests, and charming historic villages such as Maleny and Montville. There you can pop into art galleries, tea shops, gift shops, bakeries, and enjoy locally produced food 
  • Partake in the famous Woodford Folk Festival (Dec 27 - Jan 1)
  • Nature lovers can download a walking map to explore the waterfalls, forests and stunning views of the region. 
  • Kondalilla Falls in Kondalilla National Park is a beautiful setting with a swimming hole.
  • Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World gives you an opportunity to get close with parrots and other native birds.
  • Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve has some beautiful walks with stunning views to the Glasshouse Mountains.
  • Australia Zoo is a place that respects animals. Once owned by Australia's famous Steve Erwin, it is now owned by his family.
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Kondalilla Falls.

The Glass House Mountains

The Glass House Mountains are a striking backdrop an hour's north of Brisbane, and have some stunning walking trails.

  • Climb to the summit of Mount Beerburrum.  Park at the Beerburrum Trailhead of Beerburrum Road near Beerburrum. Allow 1.5 hours. 
  • Get a great view of the Glass House Mountains on the Glass House Mountains Lookout which you can drive to.
  • Climb to the top of Mount Beerwah
  • Climb to the summit of NgunNgun Mountain and visit Maxin's Cave.

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Glass House Mountains. Photo: DCWarehouse via IG

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Glasshouse Mountains from Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. 

Brisbane to Airlie Beach Map

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