Road trip hack: How to camp from Brisbane to Cairns on the cheap
To really experience the best, cheap camping spots in Queensland, you’re going to need four wheels and your adventurist spirit at a ten.
Whether you’re envisioning a classic campervan holiday or see yourself pitching a tent along Queensland’s breathtaking coastline, camping in Queensland doesn’t need to be costly—and it’s one of the most incredible holidays you’ll have. Period.
You don’t need to splash the cash to road trip from Brisbane to Cairns. Take the iconic Pacific Coast Way route north, and hit up these very beautiful, very affordable, cheap camping spots in Queensland.
Day 1: Brisbane to Sunshine Coast
100km of sub-tropical coastline, bustling coastal towns, all enveloped in ancient hinterland. Queensland’s Sunshine Coast quite literally lives up to its name.
Explore Noosa’s bustling oceanside hub, featuring an established café and dining precinct stretched along postcard-perfect beaches, or
Nature lovers will revel along the hiking trails of Noosa National Park, residing just southeast of the town centre. The famous Fairy Pools are found here; ideal for a morning dip before the crowds descend.
Cost: From $6.65 per person, per night, alongside a camping permit for the area.
Caffeinate: Kenilworth Bakery, 8 Elizabeth Street, Kenilworth (stock up on their award-winning pastries and doughnuts)
Supplies: Kenilworth Friendly Grocer, 13 Elizabeth Street, Kenilworth.
While you’re here: Explore SEA LIFE at Mooloolaba, Australia Zoo or Aussie World; taste the local flavours at the Ginger Factory and Maleny Dairies; or find your perfect patch of sand with this local’s beach guide.
Day 2: Sunshine Coast to Fraser Coast
North of Noosa, the landscape takes a wilder, more rugged turn; expansive National Parks, rugged, empty coastline, and nature, all take centre stage from here on in.
The Fraser Coast is home to Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island; some of Queensland’s most iconic coastal destinations. Any one of them worthy of a pit-stop.
In the winter months, the annual humpback whale migration cruises the Fraser Coast; time your road trip right and you’ll likely catch a glimpse of these majestic giants leaping out of the ocean.
Camp: Stay at the Maryborough Caravan and Tourist Park where you’ll find bathroom and laundry facilities, plus a swimming pool.
Cost: Unpowered caravan or camping sites start from $26 per night ($35 per night to be able to charge your tech essentials).
Cost: From $6.65 per person per night and is accessible by 4WD only—but can you put a price on that view, though?
Caffeinate: Toast Espresso Bar, 199 Bazaar Street, Maryborough.
Stock up: You’ll find local supermarkets and stores in Maryborough’s CBD.
Day 3: Fraser Coast to Bundaberg
Head north through the edge of Wongi State Forest, driving 2-hours on your way to Bundaberg. World-famous for its rum, sugar and ginger, Bundaberg is a must-visit for its regional produce (and customary tour of the Bundaberg Rum Distillery).
Surrounding coastal areas are the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, with world-renowned turtle conservation sites in Mon Repos Conservation Park.
Swim with manta rays and turtles, volunteer at the turtle rehabilitation centre, or simply enjoy the spoils of a region bountiful with coastal and hinterland adventure. How long you end up staying here, is on you…
Camp: For camping or caravanning with all the luxury amenities (laundry, bathrooms and wifi) hit up the Bargara Beach Caravan Park. Alternatively, choose between two of the waterfront campgrounds in Burrum Coast National Park (both sites at Burrum Coast are only accessible by 4WD).
Caffeinate: Oodies Café, 103 Gavin Street, Bundaberg.
While you’re here: Soar at Flying High Bird Sanctuary, scream at Snakes Downunder Reptile Park and Zoo, steam ride through Bundaberg Botanic Gardens, and stare (silently please) during egg laying or hatching of baby turtles at Mon Repos.
Day 4: Bundaberg to Gladstone
Gladstone is the epicentre for all things maritime and water sporting. Drop a rod at one of the many fishing spots, explore the harbour or adjacent islands and drop it back to Central Queensland time.
Just one hour south of Gladstone is Agnes Water Beach; Queensland’s most northerly surf beach and an unspoilt haven for surfing, kitesurfing and paddle boarding.
Camp: Boyne River Tourist Park sits on the banks of the Boyne River and is a great spot for fishing, picnicking and a spot of stand-up paddle boarding.
Cost: From $28 per night
Caffeinate: MJs Retro & Vintage Wares and Café, 48843 Bruce Hwy, Benaraby.
Stock up: Benarby General Store, 48843 Bruce Hwy, Benaraby.
Day 5: Gladstone to Mackay or Cape Hillsborough
Cape Hillsborough is breathtaking beautiful. Where the rainforest meets the ocean, the entire region is abundant with wildlife. Watch Ulysses butterflies float across the many forest walking tracks and catch wallabies on the sand at Cape Hillsborough Beach at sunrise.
Nearby Eungella National Park is a well-known platypus ‘hot spot’ and Araluen waterfall is a local’s not-so-secret swimming hole.
Cost: Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park, from $33 per night. Camping in Cape Hillsborough National park starts from $6.65 per night plus a camping permit.
Caffeinate: Old Station Tea House, 231 Cape Hillsborough Road, Ball Bay.
Stock up: Coles Supermarket, 78 Sydney Street, Sydney St Markets, Mackay.
Day 6: Mackay to Guthalungra via Bowen
Driving through Great Barrier Reef country, white sandy beaches along the Mackay-Guthalungra route are a dime a dozen. You can choose to drive straight to the little coastal town of Guthalungra—it’s laid-back vibes and lush greenery is justification enough for a night or two’s stay—or you can divert along the way to Bowen and Airle Beach.
Ditto Airlie Beach for access to the magic of the Whitsunday Islands. Stay a day, stay a week (you’ll likely want to stay forever) given the near-on idyllic lifestyle on Hamilton, Hayman and Daydream Islands.
Camp: Spread out at the Bowen Palms Caravan Park complete with camp kitchen and BBQ area, amenities blocks, and unrestricted camp size if you opt for their unpowered sites.
Cost: unpowered sites start from $25, and up to $85 in an en-suite cabin
Caffeinate: Le Sorelle Coffee House and Florist, 52 Richmond Road, Bowen.
Stock up: You’ll find various local shops in Bowen and Airlie Beach.
While you’re here: Explore Bowen Museum, and swim at Horseshoe Bay.
Day 7: Bowen to Townsville
Just a 20-minute ferry ride from the mainland, Magnetic Island is absolute escapism from the everyday. Go koala spotting along Forts Walk, hand-feed rock wallabies, go horseback riding through island bush, snorkel in Cockle Bay or Magnetic Island Reefs; it’s a wonder how you’ll fit it all in.
And we haven’t even mentioned the views…
Camp: Set on 55 acres of native bushland, the Bluewater Caravan Park is a camp-treat with clean facilities, pool, and fully equipped kitchen.
Cost: Unpowered sites from $25 per night. Add another $10 for electricity.
Caffeinate: Saunders Beach Bar and Bistro, 31 Lagoon Crescent, Saunders Beach.
Stock up: IGA Mount Low Pkwy & Lionel Turner Drive, Bushland Beach.
Day 8: Townsville to Ingham
Known as the ‘Little Italy’ of Northern Queensland, Ingham is a cultural hub for local Italian history, with its annual Australian-Italian Festival bringing thousands of visitors to the town to enjoy Italian wine, cuisine, music and culture.
If you can make time for Hinchinbrook Island, then do. With only 40 people permitted to set foot on its isle at any given time, this is the ultimate pristine paradise. Offering spectacular hiking and camping spots along the 32-kilometre Thorsborne Trail, avid hikers will know the name; it’s rated one of the top 10 walks on the planet and takes four days to complete. The ultimate cheap camping site in Queensland? We’ll let you be the judge…
Camp: If you’re not camping on Hinchinbrook Island, stay at the Taylors Beach Holiday Park; this beachside village just 20-minutes from town is known by locals as an angler’s paradise. If you want to save even further pennies, drive one hour north to the Broadwater Camping Ground in Abergowrie State Forest.
Cost: Taylors Beach Holiday Park starts from $29 per night for two. Broadwater Camping Ground starts at $6.65 per person per night.
Caffeinate: Jk’s Deli, 78 Lannercost Street, Ingham.
Stock up: Zaghini’s IGA, 82 Cartwright Street, Ingham.
Day 9: Ingham to Mission Beach
Mission Beach is a vision of swaying palm trees and white sand beaches. Bingil Bay is everything you could hope for tropical beach paradise (empty, with golden sands that stretch for miles), while lush Tully Gorge rewards adventurers with glorious views.
Camp: There are a number of cheap camping options in this region of Queensland. Choose between one of two council campgrounds at Bingil Bay or on Porters Promenade in the main village. No forward bookings are accepted, so just turn up and the caretaker will sort you out on arrival (can’t hurt to call the visitor information centre to check availability beforehand).
Cost: A beachside alternative is Mission Beach Camping and Caravan Park; camp sites start from $25 per night. Ocean views and breezes are free.
Caffeinate: Bingal Bay Café.
Stock up: Mission Beach Supermarket Shop 11, Beachtown, 46-48 Porter Promenade, Mission Beach.
Day 10: Mission Beach to Cairns
Cairns’ stunning beaches, ancient tropical rainforests and adrenalin activities (diving the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns needs to be on your bucket list) are the perfect reward for the end of your Brisbane to Cairns road trip.
Camp: Park up at the Bramston Beach council campground, 20-minutes from Babinda, where you’ll find showers, toilets, a laundry and BBQ facilities to go with those million dollar beachfront views.
Cost: From $24 per night on an unpowered plot, $28 per night with electricity.
Caffeinate: Bramston Beach Café, 67 Evans Road, Bramston Beach.
Stock up: SPAR 52 Munro Street, Babinda, or various local stores and markets in Cairns CBD.
While you’re here: Enjoy the scenery on the Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway, kayak around Green Island, take a hike through the Daintree Rainforest at Cape Tribulation or take a cruise down the Daintree River.
For the most up-to-date accommodation pricing please visit the camp sites directly.