The drive from the tropical city of Cairns to the iconic Opera House in Sydney is one of the popular road trips in Australia, and with good reason! This route will take you via some of the most beautiful parts of Australia, through ocean-fronted national parks, past lush rainforests and to some incredible beaches.

This 2,400km drive is a long one and so we recommend that you hire a campervan from Cairns for at least 21 – 28 days. This will give you enough time to see and do everything you want to. Keep reading for our suggested road trip itinerary that outlines the most popular destinations and the best places to stop and great things to see and do on the way.

Quick stats

2400km trip distance

28 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Cairns to Airlie Beach, via Townsville and Mission Beach

Stop 1, 2 & 3
Cairns road trip

Approx drive time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 620 km

If you plan on spending some time in Cairns before you head south then find a spot at one of the many great campsites in and around Cairns and settle in for a few days of fun. Some of our favourite things to do in this coastal city include taking a trip to the Barrier Reef, (we recommend that you do your research before you go to ensure that the company you travel with follows responsible reef practices), go white water rafting down the Tully River or head up the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway for totally unique views of the rainforest.

When you’re ready to leave then jump into your campervan and hit the road. If you plan on breaking the journey up then then look into stopping at Mission Beach. This scenic beachside town is surrounded by World Heritage rainforest to the west and the Great Barrier reef to the east, making this a popular stop off for backpackers.

Another place to stop is Townsville, home to the Reef HG Aquarium and sea turtle hospital. This large coastal city is a great place to park up and pick up more supplies for your trip.

Your ultimate destination for this leg of the trip is Airlie Beach, the vibrant hub of the Whitsundays and the ideal mainland base for fun and adventure in the Whitsundays Islands such as swimming, snorkelling, sailing and diving.

Airlie Beach to Noosa, via Rockhampton and Bundaberg

Stop 3, 4 & 5
Noosa road trip

Approx drive time: 11 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 1000 km

Leave the aquatic playground of Airlie Beach and head in the direction on Noosa. It’s another long drive so hit play on your favourite playlist, download some podcasts, pack plenty of water and buckle up ready to soak up the views. We recommend that you try to pull over and take a rest at least once every two hours on this leg of the trip and avoid doing the drive at night.

There’s lots of keep you occupied in Noosa such as surfing, kayaking, or hiking in Noosa National Park, we recommend spending one to three days here.

Noosa to Brisbane, via the Sunshine Coast

Stop 6 & 7
Beach surfing sunset

Approx drive time: 2 hours

Distance: 150 km

Once you’ve spent enough time relaxing in Noosa, soaking up the laid back vibes from this chic destination then make way down to Queensland’s state capital, Brisbane. The drive from beach to city down the Sunshine Coast is an enjoyable one and on the way you’ll pass  ancient volcanic peaks, lush rainforests and ocean-front National Parks. Get your camera ready!

When you arrive in Brisbane find a nearby campsite and park up. There is plenty to see and do here so get ready to explore. Highlights of things to do in Brisbane include; the Glass House Mountains, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a trip to Brisbane’s South Bank, or a visit to Stradbroke or Moreton Island.

Brisbane to Coffs Harbour via Byron Bay and the Gold Coast

Stop 8, 9 & 10
Beach surf girl

Approx drive time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 390 km

The route from Brisbane down to Coffs Harbour takes you across the border from Queensland to New South Wales. First stop, Byron Bay! This iconic Aussie beach town is the perfect place to grab breakfast and watch the world go by. If you’re feeling more energetic then take a walk up to the lighthouse for epic ocean views, hire a surfboard or go diving.

When you pull into Coffs Harbour you cannot miss the Giant Banana – a popular backpacker tourist spot. But there’s more to see and do here than just a novelty big banana, Coffs Harbour is renowned for its beautiful beaches and stunning ocean views. Check out the Forest Sky Pier for sweeping views and Dolphin Marine Magic, for a chance to swim with dolphins & seals.

Coffs Harbour to Port Stephens via Port Macquarie

Stop 11 & 12
Port Macquarie

Approx drive time: 3 hours 45 minutes

Distance: 360 km

As you leave Coffs Harbour you’ll find yourself on the A1, which takes you straight down the coast to Port Stephens. A great place to stop for a coffee and lunch is Port Macquarie, and when you see the beaches you might even end up stopping for the night.

Port Stephens is known amongst Australians for being a fun holiday destination, with over 26 beaches that are surrounded by a mountainous rainforest fringed peninsula. It’s also known for being a great place for whale watching during the winter season and snorkeling and sand dune quad biking.

Port Stephens to Sydney via the Central Coast

Stop 13 & 14
Birds flying beach

Approx drive time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Distance: 180 km

If you find yourself with a couple of days spare when you leave Port Stephens then take a detour inland to the Hunter Valley. This famous wine region is home to over 120 wineries, making this the great place to grab a lunch of local produce or book on a winery tour. There are a number of campsites nearby if you choose to do this. Alternatively if you want to spend more time at the beach you’ll be spoilt for choice with the number of great campsites on the Central Coast. Woy Woy and Ettalong beach are both gateways to the Bouddi and Brisbane Water National parks, perfect for bush hikes and picnic spots.

The last leg of the trip sees you driving into the city through Sydney’s leafy northern suburbs and before you know it you’ll find yourself driving over the iconic harbour bridge with views of the opera house. Congratulations you made it!

Travellers Autobarn sitting girl

For more information on how to book a campervan for your road trip from Cairns to Sydney visit the website. Speak to the team about one way campervan hire today. If you want to explore other locations, then check out our latest deals & specials on campervan hire in Sydney.

If you want to read more of our Cairns adventures, come and explore the dedicated Cairns Road Trips. Happy Exploring!

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