Inspiration Destinations Australia Queensland The Ultimate Queensland Road Trip: Brisbane to Townsville

The Ultimate Queensland Road Trip: Brisbane to Townsville


From Brisbane’s jacaranda-lined streets and showstopping culinary scene to Townsville’s sun-kissed esplanade, Queensland’s great southern coast offers one of Australia’s most legendary road trips.  

With the salt breeze in your hair and the Great Barrier Reef on the horizon, the Brisbane to Townsville coastal stretch is a magnificent journey. Through vast sugar fields, storied rainforests and vivid coastal towns, it’s a tour that spans not only distance but time – pass through Bundaberg’s historic streets, witness Rockhampton’s rich, gold rush-era architecture and savour time on Noosa’s shaded sands, sacred to Kabi Indigenous Australians for over 40,000 years. This is our pick of the most unmissable stops on this Queensland road trip, created in partnership with Lexus. 

Add a little luxury: With Lexus, your prestige vehicle for the city or wherever the road may lead you, countless unforgettable memories on the open road await. Once inside you’ll be embraced by the Tazuna-designed interior that fully connects you to the vehicle, through the placement of intuitive features such as the generously-sized touchscreen and spacious, air-conditioned leather bucket seats – all paired with an innovative hybrid engine offering sharp fuel efficiency and exhilarating power. 

Ready to plan the ultimate Queensland road trip? Check out our selection of Queensland escapes

Day 1: Brisbane 

Brisbane, Queensland’s powerhouse capital, is a city of mighty contrasts. World-class galleries and a flourishing food culture backed by the country’s best local produce make this city an unmissable road trip stop, while the surrounding region’s primordial rainforests and rolling vineyards elevate it to new heights.  

Stay overnight at W Hotel – valet parking is available onsite or there’s self-parking at Wilson Parking’s Brisbane Quarter. The hotel’s signature ‘Whatever/Whenever’ service, unbeatable Brisbane River location and unmistakable quirky style make it the perfect starting line.  

Be sure to indulge in the city’s brilliant culinary scene – we recommend a sumptuous shared dining experience, complete with a dry-aged, fire-pit grilled tomahawk steak, at City Winery Brisbane.  

Day 2: Sunshine Coast 

The drive from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast takes approximately two hours and follows laidback beaches and hip surf towns in the shadow of the mysterious Glass House Mountains. Stay at Breeze Mooloolaba for luxury apartment living directly overlooking the shimmering blues of Mooloolaba Beach, or the five-star Rumba Beach Resort to maximise your exposure to the Sunshine Coast’s numberless spectacular beaches. With such a breezy drive, you’ll have plenty of time to frolic across sun-kissed surf and sand. 

Day 3: Noosa 

Ultimate Queensland Road Trip

It’s a cruisy half-hour drive north to Noosa from the Sunshine Coast, but you’ll feel like you’ve floated into another world. The town is ensconced by vivid blue waters and lush rainforest, at once intimate and laidback, feeling like you’ve stumbled on a precious secret – wander through spiky screwpine and witness stunning seascapes at Tea Tree Bay or savour artisanal ice cream on the Main Beach. Check into Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort for light-filled European-style luxury or Peppers Noosa Resort and Villas for an unforgettable stay deep in the spectacular Noosa National Park. 

Day 4: Tin Can Bay and Hervey Bay 

You’re in for a treat – the 90-minute drive from Noosa to Tin Can Bay is a wonderful journey, cutting through Toolara State Forest’s exotic pines and mangrove creeks en route to the easy-going seaside town. Leave before dawn if you want to arrive in time to feed the endangered Indo-Pacific dolphins at the Barnacles Dolphin Centre.  

Press on another hour to Hervey Bay – the entirely flat, pristine waters are the best place to catch a glimpse of the majestic humpback whales. Stay overnight at Mantra Hervey Bay for stylish rooms with spectacular Coral Sea views to match. 

Day 5: Bundaberg and Bargara 

Drive an hour and a half through Bingera National Park’s mellow wetlands and through swaying cane fields to arrive at Bundaberg, Australia’s cherished rum capital. Treat yourself to a glass of local ‘bundy’, popularly mixed with Coca-Cola, at the iconic Bundaberg Rum Distillery, which offers tours and tastings daily. Onwards through the fields to nearby Bargara – stay overnight at Bargara Blue Resort for a slice of Santorini-style beach luxury on the dazzling Queensland coast. 

Day 6: Rockhampton and Yeppoon  

Historic Victorian buildings, ambling cane trains and cows as far as the eye can see – Rockhampton, Australia’s beef capital, is a breezy three-hour drive from Bargara through picturesque villages and past grand salt lakes. Stop for a cracking meat pie lunch and then head onwards towards Yeppoon, a 40-minute drive north through the volcanic wilderness of Baga National Park. We recommend a stop at the vast, coral-filled Capricorn Caves before exploring Yeppoon’s beachy-keen boutiques and surf shops. Stay overnight at the quirky Coral Inn Boutique Hotel, the perfect place to slow down and savour Yeppoon’s many charms.  

Day 7: Mackay 

You’re deep into Whitsunday country now – sparkling emerald islands dot the horizon, backed by the shimmering majesty of the Great Barrier Reef. It’s a delightful four-hour journey to Mackay, through lush rainforests and past waterlily wetlands. Mackay’s an adventurer’s wonderland – breathtaking stretches of subtropical rainforest, technicolour reefs and balmy waterholes guarantee an unforgettable stop. Make yourself at home for the evening at Best Western Marco Polo Mackay

Day 8: Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays 

Ultimate Queensland Road Trip

Tanned, grand and never bland, Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands and the great blue beyond, only a two-hour cruise through emerald sugar cane fields and verdant rainforests. Buzzing with world-class restaurants, quirky markets and palm-fringed sands, the coastal town deserves every bit of its incredible reputation. Sail through turquoise waters on a private yacht before heading to the ultra-stylish Pavilions Collection for a self-contained apartment escape. 

Day 9: Hamilton Island 

Park your Lexus at any of the convenient off-street car parks in Airlie Beach, and then catch a ferry to the spectacular Hamilton Island for an evening in paradise. Swing your way through the island’s best golf courses or grab your wetsuit and scuba your way through the magnificence of the Great Barrier Reef. Stay overnight at the adults-only Beach Club, offering unrestrained luxury on the tranquil edge of Catseye Beach.  

Day 10: Townsville  

Ultimate Queensland Road Trip

Savour every moment of the 3.5-hour coastal drive from Airlie Beach to Townsville’s stunning landscapes. Wander the town’s famous esplanade, admire its historic architecture, visit the world-class Reef HQ Aquarium or take the short ferry hop to the magnificent Magnetic Island. Retreat to an oasis of Miami-style glamour and effortless retro cool with a final evening at The Ville Resort, Townsville’s premier flop-and-drop resort escape.  

Ready to plan the ultimate Queensland road trip? Check out our selection of Queensland escapes

For more Queensland road trip inspiration, see Gold Coast to Cape Tribulation: A Guide to Queensland's Best Beaches.

Discover the world with Luxury Escapes 6pm Saturdays on Network 10 (check your local time), in partnership with Lexus.     

About Nate Robinson
Mad for travel and an incorrigible foodie, Nate is as at home in a Mexican taqueria as he is at Tsukiji. When he's not abroad, you can always find Nate with a book in one hand and a tiki cocktail in the other.

phone-handsetmap-marker linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram