The drive from Sydney in New South Wales to Cairns in Queensland is no mean feat. This 2,400km trip is one to do when you have a couple of weeks free and takes you on an a great east coast adventure through rainforests, national parks and traditional Aussie beach towns. We recommend hiring a campervan from Sydney for about 21 – 28 days to really make the most of this trip.

Here’s a run down of the top destinations on the way, the best places to stop and great things to see and do.

Quick stats

2400km trip distance

28 day roadtrip

Campervan recommended

road trip map

Sydney to Port Stephens via the Central Coast

Stop 1 & 2
Port Stephens

Sydney to Port Stephens via the Central Coast

Approx drive time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Distance: 180 km

Leave Sydney’s green northern suburbs as you head out of the city on your way north towards the Central Coast. If you’re keen to hit the beach already then stop off at Woy Woy or Ettalong beach, both gateways to the Bouddi and Brisbane Water National parks and perfect for bush hikes and idyllic picnic spots.

Get back on the highway and drive up towards Port Stephens – however, if you have time them you may want to take a detour to the famous Hunter Valley, NSW’s most famous wine region. There are over 120 world class wineries here and lunch at a one of the many picturesque cellar doors is a must. If you want to go on a tour of the wineries then park the campervan up at one of the nearby campsites for the night.

Port Stephens is renowned for being a fun holiday spot, with over 26 beaches that are surrounded by a mountainous rainforest fringed peninsula. It’s also known for being a great place for boat trips, whale watching, snorkeling and sand dune quad biking.

Port Stephens to Coffs Harbour via Port Macquarie

Stop 3 & 4
Coffs Harbour kangaroos

Approx drive time: 3 hours 45 minutes

Distance: 360 km

The drive to Port Stephens from Port Macquarie along the A1 is one not to be missed – this is the best type of uninterrupted road trip driving routes through national parks and past lakes and pristine beaches. Stop for a rest or a couple of days at Port Macquarie for some beach time and exploring.

As you arrive in Coffs Harbour you can’t miss it’s famous Giant Banana. Pull over for a photo stop at this tourist hot spot. The coastal city of Coffs Harbour is home to a number of great beaches and our favourites include; Diggers, Campbells, Mid Sapphire, Moonee, Shelley, Emerald, Fiddamans & Sandy Beach. You can easily spend a few days here catching the surf and relaxing on the beach.

Coffs Harbour to Brisbane, via Byron Bay and the Gold Coast

Stop 5, 6 & 7
The Big banana Coffs Harbour

Approx drive time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 390 km

This 400km leg of the trip will take you up the coast passing the state border from New South Wales into Queensland. But before you leave the NSW make sure you take a detour to the world famous Byron Bay. This laid-back hippie coastal town is a popular holiday destination, known for its beaches, surfing and scuba diving sites.

When you arrive in Brisbane find a nearby campsite and set up camp, ready to spend a couple of days exploring as there is lots to see here. 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.

For more information on where to camp in and around Brisbane check out our guide here.

Brisbane to Noosa via the Sunshine Coast

Stop 7
Beach surf girl

Approx drive time: 2 hours

Distance: 150 km

From Brisbane you will continue your journey north up the east coast, swapping the city for the coast. This leg of the trip up the Sunshine coast will take you on a journey past ancient volcanic peaks, lush rainforests and ocean-front National Parks. What’s not to love?

When you land in Noosa there are lots of activities on offer to keep you busy, so park the campervan in one of the many local campsites and hit the surf, go kayaking, take a boat trip or visit Noosa National Park for some great hikes.

Noosa to Airlie Beach, via Bundaberg and Rockhampton

Stop 8, 9 & 10
Beach surfing sunset

Approx drive time: 11 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 1000 km

Leaving Noosa will be tough, but when you’re ready it’s time to hit the road again, this time we’re heading to another famous holiday destination – Airlie Beach. This is a long leg of the trip, so put on your favourite playlist, grab some snacks and settle into the journey. We recommend taking regular breaks every two hours for this leg of the trip, this is the perfect opportunity to pull the campervan over and grab a cold drink from the fridge or fix up a quick snack.

Airlie Beach to Cairns, via Townsville and Mission Beach

Stop 11, 12 & 13
Birds flying beach

Approx drive time: 7 hours 30 minutes

Distance: 620 km

The last part of your roadtrip is another long drive, but there are a couple of interesting places to stop on the way. The coastal city of Townsville has a popular water park, great for cooling off in the tropical summer temperatures. The Reef HQ Aquarium based in Townsville also has marine life and coral from the Great Barrier Reef, plus a sea turtle hospital.

Before you arrive at your final destination there is one more beach you might want to visit, Mission Beach. This beautiful small beachside town is a favourite amongst backpackers and travellers, and with World Heritage rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other it’s not hard to see why.

Last stop Cairns, you made it! Cairns, the entrance to Queensland’s tropical north, is a popular stop for travellers off due to its tropical climate and laid back vibe and you can find more ideas on the best things to do in Cairns here. Our favourite things include; taking a trip to the Barrier Reef, (please do your research before you go to ensure that the company you travel with follows responsible reef practices), head up the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway or plunge down the raging Tully River on a white water raft.

Australian coastal road aerial

If you’re not ready to hand your hired campervan back then check out these ideas for day trips you can do in the campervan in and around Cairns.

For more information on how to book a campervan for your road trip from Sydney to Cairns visit the website. Speak to the team about one way campervan hire today.

If you want to read more of our Sydney adventures, come and explore our dedicated Sydney Road Trip section. Happy Exploring!


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