9 Jun 2022
From the South East to the Tropical North, the sunny coast of Queensland has it all.
Full of incredible highlights, warm weather and inspiring destinations, it’s no wonder so many of us come here for a holiday and never leave!
See why The Pacific Coast Way deserves its place on your list of must-do Australian road trips.
Stretching out between Cairns and the Gold Coast, use this suggested itinerary from Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach to guide your family's next Queensland road trip.
Hervey Bay to Airlie Beach
South to north or north to south? Both ways of tackling this are great!
Distance to Travel: 1,100 km
Recommended Trip Length: 12-14 Days
From rugged reefs and idyllic islands to quaint country towns and lush national parks, come with us and explore the very best of this iconic Australian journey.
In this blog we’ll break the road trip down stop by stop, suggest some must-see local attractions, things to see and do and where you can score the best accommodation for your family!
Brisbane to Hervey Bay
You've got to get where you're going first before you get where you're going!
Skipping the Sunshine Coast might seem like a burn, but once you've arrived in the slower lane of Hervey Bay, you won't regret it at all.
Distance to travel: 286 km
Hours by car: 4
Suggested stay in Hervey Bay: 3-4 nights
Nearest Discovery Park: Discovery Parks - Fraser St. Hervey Bay
As one of Queensland's best natural holiday destinations, the opportunities for adventure are massive in Hervey Bay. Realistically, you could bin the rest of this trip and just stay here for two weeks, but then you’d be missing out!
Famous for being one of the best places in the world to meet a whale, Hervey Bay has boat tours that will get you close to humpbacks in their natural ocean habitat.
Witnessing these dinosaurs of the sea is something you won’t forget.
The other thing to put on your list of must-do’s’ is a day trip to Fraser Island. Offering loads of history and heaps to do, the World Heritage-listed island is essentially a national park, and only a short ferry ride away.
The village of Hervey Bay is dotted with cosmopolitan cafes, surf shops, restaurants, a popular local market and a vibrant marina.
Take a morning off to do slow coffee, hire a kayak, book a dive tour, learn how to windsurf or just simply relax in the gentle surf.
5 Things to see and do in Hervey Bay
- Tour Fraser Island
- Whale Watching
- Hire a Jet Ski or Sail a Catamaran
- Visit Reefworld Aquarium
- Get Wet'n'Wild at Wetside Water Park
Tour Fraser Island (K’gari)
Escape the mainland by jumping on a 4WD tour of the world’s largest sand island.
Prepare to be dwarfed by ancient rainforests, marvel at decades-old shipwrecks and swim in freshwater lakes and creeks. An amazing day whether you choose a self-guided drive or join an expert in a larger group.
Lake McKenzie is a pristine freshwater swimming hole you can spend hours at. There are also rainforests to trek, Eli Creek to explore and the white sands of 75 Mile Beach to see.
READ ALSO: 3 Reasons to Hire a 4WD on Fraser Island
Get up close to these giants of the ocean and enjoy a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Explore the untouched remote west coast of Fraser Island or take a tranquil cruise through the Great Sandy Strait with Tasman Ventures.
Get Ready for Action at Aquavue
Aquavue Cafe is the premier destination for fun, action and adventure in Hervey Bay!
Hire your choice of jet ski, kayak, sailing catamaran and even four-wheel sandcruiser bikes. Plenty of fun to be had here for big and little kids!
Right on the shores of Hervey Bay, Reefworld Aquarium is an all-natural aquarium using only sand-filtered sea water and natural sunlight.
An iconic attraction since 1979, displays of marine life here captivate audiences and include the chance for kids to get even closer at their touch tank. A great afternoon for the whole family!
Wetside Water Park
Especially fun when the heat is on, Wetside Water Park features various rides, slides and attractions that deliver an endless amount of joy!
Create waves, try the boardrider, splash about in the waterpark - a ten-ride pass gets you on every waterslide you can see! Although the park is closed during winter, the park normally re-opens in the middle of September each year.
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Hervey Bay to Bundaberg
Once you’ve extracted yourself from the natural splendour of Hervey Bay, the historical town of Bundaberg is worth checking out.
Distance to travel: 111 km
Hours by car: 2
Nearest Discovery Park: Discovery Parks - Fraser St. Hervey Bay
Most famous for the distillery that bears its name, a trip to ‘Bundy’ wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the Bundaberg distillery.
You can also get close to turtles and manta rays off the pristine beaches of Lady Elliot or Lady Musgrave Island's. Bundaberg is home to the largest turtle rookery in the southern hemisphere at Mon Repos.
2 Things to see and do in Bundaberg
- Tour Lady Elliot Island
- Visit Bundaberg Distillery
Lady Elliot Island Day Tour
Another example of marine life at its best in Queensland, Lady Elliot Island is a coral cay at the very southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.
Known as a sanctuary of over 1,200 species of manta ray, turtle, tropical fish and unspoiled coral reef, the eco resort remains a family run and operated business.
Bundaberg Distillery Tours
Home to Australia’s world famous rum, a tour here will prove why it's the most popular rum distillery in Australia. Immerse yourself in the history of a brand Australian’s love and feel free to sample the product while you’re at it!
Bundaberg to Tannum Sands
From Bundaberg your journey continues toward the Great Barrier Reef.
Distance to travel: 169 km
Hours by car: 2.5
Suggested length of stay in Tannum Sands: 2-3 nights
Nearest Discovery Park: Discovery Parks - Tannum Sands
On the way it's worth slowing down at the oasis of colour and relaxation that is Tannum Sands, an idyllic coastal town half an hour south of Gladstone.
A lush harbourside city, the area around Gladstone boasts fishing, camping and snorkelling opportunities, and is among the last chances to get some decent surf before you hit the Reef!
Synonymous with a pace of life typical of North Queensland, 4WD-lovers will appreciate the rugged terrain of Kroombit Tops National Park, and the resting place of a crashed WWII bomber!
READ ALSO: 6 Things You Shouldn't Miss in Tannum Sands
3 Things to see and do in Tannum Sands
- Kayak Lake Awoonga
- Go to the Beach!
- Visit Boyne Island
Kayak on Lake Awoonga
Open for fishing all-year round, the calm waters of Lake Awoonga are an ideal place to swim, sail, canoe or ski.
Surrounded by amazing landscapes teeming with native flora and fauna, this makes it a great place for bushwalking, bird watching and photography, too!
Millennium Esplanade and Tannum Sands Beach
The eco-friendly Millennium Esplanade connects to Discovery Parks - Tannum Sands and is an ideal spot for picnics, barbecues and swimming.
Kids will enjoy the playground and flying fox, grassed areas for ball sports and pathways for riding bikes and scooters. Lifeguards patrol the beach from September to May each year and the local surf lifesaving club is open to the public on weekends for meals.
Visit Boyne Island
Another popular fishing and water-skiing location, Boyne Island is surrounded by the Boyne River.
Take a walk around the estuaries here and enjoy a relaxing vantage point from which to observe boats, outrigger crews and water skiers - the epitome of the Tannum Sands lifestyle.
Tannum Sands to Rockhampton and Yeppoon
Welcome to the Capricorn Coast!
An exciting and diverse region, Queensland’s Capricorn Coast delivers golden days and balmy, moonlit evenings mixed with the scent of the tropics and the best of Queensland's climate.
Distance to travel: 173 km
Hours by car: 2.5
Suggested length of stay in Yeppoon: 2-3 nights
Close to both the Keppel Islands, Great Keppel Island is a popular day trip that’s accessible via a 30-minute ferry.
Alternatively you can take a day cruise to explore private coves, snorkel coral reefs or laze about in aqua blue waters while turtles and dolphins swim around you.
Also home to a long list of beaches that make the Capricorn Coast what it is, despite being the region's unofficial capital, the town of Yeppoon has largely retained its village charm.
READ ALSO: Our Guide to the Capricorn Coast
4 things to see and do in Yeppoon
- Explore Keppel Bay Marina
- Hike to Bluff Point
- See the Capricorn Caves
- Sail the Capricorn Coast
Explore Keppel Bay Marina
Just a 6 minute drive from Discovery Parks - Coolwaters Yeppoon, Keppel Bay Marina is a mecca for boats and yachts of all sizes.
The annual B2K Yacht Race from Brisbane to Keppel is one of Queensland’s premier yacht races and a great long weekend of festivities in late July every year.
Take on Bluff Point Walking Track
As part of the Capricorn Coast National Park, this moderate 2.3 km circuit culminates in a superb vista of the Keppel Bay Islands. Reach Turtle Lookout and see turtles swimming in the bay below. Don’t forget to pack a picnic lunch!
Get low in Capricorn Caves
Drive 40 minutes inland from Yeppoon to discover an ancient underground limestone cave system.
The towering Capricorn Caves will dwarf you as you begin exploring this 390-million-year-old natural wonder. The Cathedral Cave Tour is the most popular with wheelchair access and amazing natural acoustics within the Cathedral Chamber. An underground opera is held here twice a year!
Sail the Islands
There are 27 islands off the Capricorn Coast and you can explore them all on a day cruise adventure.
Visit secluded island beaches, go snorkelling in azure waters or set sail on a sunset cruise (wine in hand). There are several great dive sites and bushwalks to discover too!
We couldn’t not mention the beef capital of Australia!
Famous for its steaks, Rockhampton is the Central Coast town where the city, coast and country all seem to meet in one place.
As one of the oldest cities in Central Queensland, a walk along Quay Street reveals a historical streetscape of glorious sandstone buildings and architecture reflecting its status as an industrial and agricultural centre.
READ ALSO: Our Top 10 Things to Do Around Yeppoon
2 things to see and do in Rockhampton
- See Archer Park Rail Museum
- Visit Koorana Crocodile Farm
Archer Park Rail Museum
Featuring a restored steam tram, the Archer Park Rail Museum will take you into Rockhampton’s rich rail history.
With a state of the art soundscape of passengers speaking around the train line, you’ll quickly be thrown into early 20th Century Queensland!
Koorana Crocodile Farm
Koorana Crocodile Farm is a commercially operated crocodile farm and restaurant only a half hour drive from Rockhampton or Yeppoon.
Crocodiles can be seen hatching from February to May and Koorana has approximately 3,000 crocodiles. Another kids favourite here!
Yeppoon to Mackay
The perfect place to refresh yourself on the way to Airlie Beach, Mackay is home to endless beaches, ancient reefs and lush tropical rainforest - in other words classic Queensland!
Distance to Travel: 360 km
Hours by car: 4.5
Suggested length of stay in Mackay: 1-2 nights
Nearest Discovery Parks: Discovery Parks - Mackay
Also home to a beautiful marina and bustling CBD, a trip to Mackay should always include a visit to Finch Hatton Gorge for a freshwater dip, or one of a number of national parks where you can find yourself face to face with wallabies, platypus and a range of native animals.
3 Things to see and do in Mackay
- Explore Cape Hillsborough National Park
- Swim in Eungella National Park
- Go to the Whitsunday Farmer's Market
Cape Hillsborough National Park
Only 45 minutes away from Discovery Parks - Mackay, Cape Hillsborough is one of the most striking places on the Central Queensland Coast.
Filled with life from the rainforest to the beaches, this ruggedly scenic park includes rainforest, eucalyptus forest, beaches, rocky headlands and volcanic rock formations. Don't skip this!
Eungella National Park
Eungella National Park is a forest-clad mountain refuge filled with a diverse range of plants and wildlife.
From incredible waterfalls to the Eungella day frog, the Eungella spiny cray and the always elusive Platypus, nature-spotters will not be disappointed here.
Greater Whitsunday Farmers’ Market
If you appreciate fresh local food when you’re on holiday, then the Greater Whitsunday Market is for you. Located at Bluewater Quay, the markets are just a 5-minute drive from Discovery Parks - Mackay.
Mackay to Airlie Beach
Airlie Beach is the gateway to the incredible Whitsunday Islands, including Whitehaven beach, and much like Hervey Bay at the beginning of this road trip, offers enough fun to quit this entire itinerary and just stay here for weeks!
Distance to travel: 152 km
Hours by car: 2
Suggested length of stay in Airlie Beach: 3-4 nights
Nearest Discovery Parks: Discovery Parks - Airlie Beach
As the main launching pad for tourism in this region, Airlie feels like staying on a tropical island itself, but with all the convenience of supermarkets, banks, restaurants and shopping!
Nestled alongside the rainforest of Conway National Park and in a protected natural amphitheatre, Discovery Parks - Airlie Beach rewards guests with the resort vibes of a sensational swimming pool, outdoor spas and umbrellas for days.
The park is also a wildlife reserve of its own, with kangaroos, possums, wallabies and rainbow lorikeets amongst the many types of animals keen to say G’day!
4 Things to see and do in Airlie Beach
- Spend a day on Whitehaven Beach
- Ocean Raft the Great Barrier Reef
- Hike in Conway National Park
- Visit Daydream Island
Catch the Whitehaven Express
As one of the most photographed locations in the world, it's worth finding out what all the fuss is about at Whitehaven Beach.
Enjoy an unforgettable day with your family, swimming and snorkelling with incredible views from Hill Inlet. Snorkel Mantaray Bay, eat a freshly cooked BBQ lunch and laze about on this idyllic stretch of sand. Book your Whitehaven adventure today.
Go Ocean Rafting (or not)
Get close to the Great Barrier Reef by ocean rafting on an inflatable vessel that is super fast and super fun. Choose your own adventure via Hill Inlet Beach and check out the Estuarine Stingrays!
Hike Conway National Park
Conway National Park covers 22,500 ha of land between Mackay and Bowen. It incorporates 35 kms of coastline and covers a large peninsula made up of the Conway Range.
Offering incredible views of the Whitsundays, a diverse range of vegetation thrives within the park including open forest, mangrove canopy and tropical lowland rainforest. Don't miss Cedar Creek Falls!
Do a Day Trip to Daydream Island
Daydream Island is a great island for all ages and only a short journey from Airlie Beach.
You can choose from a full or a ½ day trip, or if you are an early riser, head over for a delicious buffet breakfast. Mini golf, snorkelling, bush walks, beach time and cocktails by the pool…some choices are hard to make!