|Brisbane to Airlie Beach|
This is coastal Queensland at its very best! Our journey takes you to superb national parks, spectacular Fraser Island, the rum town of Bundaberg, Rockhampton and beautiful coral islands right on the Great Barrier Reef.
The magnificent Whitsunday Islands encompass over 70 isles; offering seclusion, white sandy beaches, bushwalks, birdlife and brilliant blue seas that form an aquatic paradise, all at the doorstep of Airlie Beach.
Drive north out of Brisbane on the Bruce Highway, then take the turnoff to Caloundra, the gateway to the Sunshine Coast. The coast road leads to the ‘Sunshine Strip’, where Mooloolaba offers a good variety of shops and cafes, river and canal cruises and adventure activities.
Nearby you can skydive from the busy centre of Maroochydore or visit the Australia Zoo (Beerwha). Home to a variety of unique Australian and overseas wildlife, the zoo holds daily demonstrations featuring animals including a giant tortoise, alligators, otters, crocodiles, koalas and a giant python. Provides hours of fun for the whole family.
Beyond here, cosmopolitan Noosa Heads offers beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants, cruising the Noosa River and fishing. Shoppers will be delighted by the array of boutiques and art galleries along Hastings Street!
You’ll be reluctant to leave the Sunshine Coast, but there’s more to see further north! From Gympie, take a detour to the villages of Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach - from where you can reach Fraser Island and Cooloola National Park - before arriving in the ‘Heritage City’ of Maryborough - founded in 1842 and one of Queensland’s oldest cities.
From here head out to Hervey Bay, an access point for Fraser Island, but a holiday centre in its own right. There are protected beaches and the area is ideal for fishing. Boats depart here for whale-watching trips and vehicle ferries travel to World Heritage listed Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.
Back on the Bruce Highway you’ll travel past sugar cane farms around Gin Gin. From here, take the road to Bundaberg, home of the famous ‘Bundy’ rum and the birthplace of aviator Bert Hinkler - tour the rum distillery (and sample the produce!) and visit the Mon Repos turtle rookery. Bundaberg is also the departure point for two exquisite islands - Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave, at the southernmost edge of the Great Barrier Reef.
To the north, Agnes Water is a must! This quiet area has some wonderful beaches and great fishing. The highway then passes on to the busy port of Gladstone, of interest mainly for its southern beaches and boat trips to Heron Island.
You’ll then arrive in Rockhampton; this substantial city offers many attractions, including the Aboriginal Dreamtime Cultural Centre.
Continue on the Bruce Highway to the town of Mackay which is Australia’s largest sugar centre and take informative tours of a sugar mill and sugar cane farms. Mackay’s other attractions include historic Greenmount Homestead and a heritage walk around town. There are some idyllic resort centres to the north, including Blacks Beach where you can enjoy fishing and relaxing on 5km of beachfront.
An excursion west of Mackay will take in the Illawong Fauna Sanctuary and Eungella National Park - located high in the Clarke Range - a superb environment of rainforest, gorges and open forest. Mackay Harbour is the access point for national park Brampton Island.
North of here, the highway reaches the sugar town of Proserpine and the turn-off for Airlie Beach, the ‘Gateway to the Whitsundays’. This small resort centre features dozens of diving and water sport companies and you can hire anything from paddle-skis to yachts to explore the blue waters around these hilly, generally forested islands. Nearby Shute Harbour is the departure point for day trips to resort islands like Daydream, Hamilton, South Molle, Lindeman and national park Long Island - and also out to the Great Barrier Reef.
Where to Stay
Time required: 7 - 10 days recommended