5 must-do Queensland road trips

With tens of thousands of kilometres to drive, you only need a licence and a set of wheels to set out on an incomparable road trip in Queensland (a great playlist doesn’t hurt either!). Australia’s second-largest state covers just about every type of scenery you can imagine – city, country, coast, mountain, outback, rainforest and then some.

Here are five great Queensland road trips that will make you want to get on the road again.

(And here are four awesome outback road trips you might have missed!)

1. Adventure Way – 4 days / 1152kms

Bunya Mountains | 5 Queensland road trips

Bunya Mountains

Adventure Way

On this adventure you’ll be retracing the tracks of the original outback settlers – Cobb and Co. You’ll see evidence and hear tales of heroic spirit and gut-wrenching tragedy.

Check out the full itinerary and maps here.

See & Do:

  • Let the city lights of Brisbane fade in the distance and take in some fresh air at Picnic Point in Toowoomba.
  • Stop and cool off in the shade of the Bunya Mountains National Park – spot some wallabies and feed the birds while you’re there.
  • If you enjoy casting a line, St. George is known as an optimal boating and fishing spot. Try your luck at catching a codfish – some as big as a boat!
  • The Bilby Experience in Charleville is one of the only places in Queensland dedicated to preserving this tiny marsupial.
  • Just before arriving at the Queensland-South Australian border, you will reach the historic Burke and Wills ‘Dig Tree’ site on the banks of Cooper Creek, where the Burke and Wills expedition ended in tragedy and the site of their original graves. Just outside of Innamincka, stop to view the Aboriginal rock carvings at Cullyamurra Waterhole on the Cooper Creek.

2. Great Tropical Drive – 12 days / 500kms

Paronella Park | 5 great Queensland road trips

Paronella Park

Great Tropical Drive

On this iconic drive, you’ll be able to take in some of the most breathtaking attractions in Tropical North Queensland: The Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Hinchinbrook Island and the Undara Lava Tubes. Comprised of 13 separate routes, choose one or choose them all depending on how much time you have to venture out.

Check out the full itinerary and maps here.

See & Do: 

  • Stop at the Rex Lookout to get one of the most spectacular panoramic views of the Coral Sea on offer.
  • If catching a glimpse of a crocodile in the wild is on your bucket list, Port Douglas is the place to do it. Take time to wander around the Daintree while you’re there –the world’s oldest tropical rainforest – or head out to the Great Barrier Reef. Port Douglas is the closest mainland port of call, making it an easy day trip.
  • Experience traditional hunting courtesy of an Indigenous guide who can show you how to bag a mudcrab with your own spear on a Kuku Yalanji Cultural Habitat Tour at Cooya Beach.
  • Keen for some adventure? The Tully River hosts some of the best white water rafting you can do in Australia.
  • Between Innisfail and Kurrimine Beach, stop at Mena Creek to learn about the legendary love story that built Paronella Park. Built in 1929, the ruins of a Spanish castle are framed by magnificent gardens, lakeside tunnels and bridges, all built by a Spanish immigrant to show his love for his wife.
  • View the largest known collection of prehistoric rock art near Laura.
  • Visit Girringun National Park with the spectacular Wallaman Falls, Australia’s longest permanent single-drop waterfall.
  • Walk in the path of a volcano at the Undara Volcanic National Park home of lava tubes, formed about 190,000 years ago.
  • Ravenswood is a wonderful example of a true ghost town. Once boasting 48 hotels and 5000 residents after the discovery of gold in 1868, the township was deserted after an industrial strike in 1912, and subsequently World War 1 in 1915.
  • To the south and west of Cairns, take in some of the best waterfalls in Queensland including Barron Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls and Malanda Falls where you can try to spot the elusive Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo.
  • Spot a cassowary on one of the many bush walks around Mission Beach.
  • Visit Reef HQ Aquarium‘s Turtle Hospital in Townsville.
  • Jungle surf at Cape Tribulation.
  • Take a boat from Cairns for Fitzroy Island to explore the coral on AquaJet, a water toy that speeds you along under the water.

3. Border Range Loop Drive – 3 days / 529kms

Queen Mary Falls

Queen Mary Falls

Border Range Loop

Head out from the capital city on this three-day drive that will take you past waterfalls, stunning vistas, rolling countryside and mountain trails.

Check out the full itinerary and map here.

See & Do:

  • Nestled on the western slopes of the Great Dividing Range are Queen Mary Falls and Browns Falls, both with walking tracks and great picnic spots.
  • 4WD enthusiasts will love the off-road adventure that the Condamine River has to offer – with 14 river crossings on a track that will lead you from Killarney towards Boonah.
  • On your way to Tamborine Mountain, stop at the breathtaking Carr’s lookout and be sure to bring your camera with you.
  • Mount Tambourine is the home of many a local artist, quaint boutique and cafe. However, if you’re there for the natural scenery, there are plenty of bushwalks to try out too.
  • OReilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards, just outside Canungra, is an excellent stop for a bit of platypus spotting on your return journey to Brisbane.

4. Central Queensland Outback Drive – 9 days / 1985kms

Sapphire Fields | 5 must-do road trips in Queensland

Sapphire Fields

Central Qld Outback Drive

Follow the Tropic of Capricorn on an epic coast-to-outback-and-back-again adventure.

Check out the full itinerary and map here.

See & Do:

  • At Rubyvale and Sapphire, you’re in the midst of the largest sapphire fields in the Southern Hemisphere
  • Stop for a look at the Tree of Knowledge in Barcaldine, where the Australia Labor Party was established during the great shearer’s strike of 1891.
  • In Longreach take time out to visit the Stockman’s Hall of Fame, which wraps up outback history into one fantastic museum or visit the Qantas Founder’s Museum, complete with its own Boeing 747 as its centrepiece.
  • Seventy-one kilometres south of Springsure is the tiny township of Rolleston, which is the best access point to the remarkable Carnarvon National Park. Spend at least a day or more exploring the 30-kilometre chasm of white sandstone cliffs.
  • About 12 kilometres to the south of town is Mount Scoria, a strange basalt formation about 150-metres high with symmetrically shaped rocks which look like a giant staircase.

5. Airlie Beach to Cedar Creek Falls – 30 minutes / 31kms

Airlie Beach | 5 must-do road trips in Queensland

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach to Cedar Creek Falls

A quick, yet scenic drive to the hinterland of the Whitsunday Coast is what is in store for this itinerary.

Check out the full itinerary and map here.

See & Do:

  • If you’ve had your fill of salt water, Cedar Creek awaits with a seasonal freshwater waterfall. Just a half hour’s drive from Airlie Beach and you’ll be dipping your toes in the fresh emerald green water in no time.
  • If you’ve still got time to spare, continue your day trip to include the Conway National Park to enjoy a birds’ eye view of the Whitsundays.

Which of these road trips is next on your list?

*This post was first published in 2014 and updated in August 2018.