Gold Coast to Cairns road trip with NRMA Parks & Resorts

Category: CTAM News Date: 13 Dec 2023

Stretching from the bright lights of Brisbane City and the Gold Coast to the Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North QLD, this famous East Coast road trip features spectacular coastal drives, activities and attractions, food and beverage hotspots and ample amounts of #instaworthy opportunities. Throw in the keys to a car or campervan and book your accommodation at several NRMA Parks and Resorts along the way, and you’ve got yourself a road trip just waiting to happen.

Brisbane City, QLD.

Leg one: Gold Coast to Brisbane

Journey time: 1 hours

There’s really no better place for fun and excitement than the holiday destination of the Gold Coast. Boasting some of Australia’s best beaches, action-packed theme parks and beautiful hinterland, it’s no wonder the Gold Coast is a thriving tourism destination.

NRMA Blue Members can also save on entry to Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet‘n’Wild theme parks.

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Treasure Island, Gold Coast

Stay at NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort on the Gold Coast

NRMA Treasure Island Holiday Resort is located in central Gold Coast, offering everything from cosy cabins to caravan and camp sites and close to everything on the Gold Coast worth exploring.

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On the banks of the Brisbane River, the heritage-listed Cultural Precinct in South Bank offers a host of museums, galleries, and performance venues.

An art-lovers haven, the The Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is a must-do. Admire the beauty of more than 1,700 works of art from Australia and around the world.

Shop to your heart’s content, or pick up any last-minute road trip essentials at Queen Street Mall, a shopping and lifestyle precinct located in the heart of Brisbane City with over 700 stores.

For a spot of good grub, head to Brisbane’s West End and indulge in a fruity blend of coffee at Morning After, a light-filled cafe boasting a tantalising breakfast and lunch selection.

Leg two: Brisbane to Noosa

Journey time: 1 hours 54 minutes

Noosa National Park

Noosa National Park

Immerse yourself in the tranquil serenity of Noosa National Park, nestled on the doorstep of the famous tourist town of Noosa. Walk along the spectacular coastline, watch the waves crash on the rugged rocks at Hells Gap and spot the dolphins frolicking through the haze. Wind your way through the various rainforest tracks before enjoying a picnic at the Noosa Headland day-use area.

Leg three: Noosa to Hervey Bay

Journey time: 2 hours 4minutes

Hervey Bay

Experience some of the best whale-watching in the world at Hervey Bay on the spectacular Fraser Coast. Between July and November is the best time to see the magnificent humpback whales up close. Drop by Reefworld Aquarium and check out the sharks, turtles and reef fish in this natural aquarium just meters from the beach.

Hervey Bay to Fraser Island: 3h 4min (includes ferry/barge ride time)

Fraser Island

First stop is Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world! Explore the wonders of this beautiful island that stretches over an impressive 120km. There are rainforests to explore, sand dunes to witness, freshwater swimming spots to cool off in, and amazing panoramic views perfect for your next #instapic backdrop.Fraser Island is accessible only by a 50-minute ferry or barge ride from River Head (20-minutes south of Hervey Bay) . If you’re planning on spending the day, there’s plenty of places to stop and eat on the island. Satiny Bar & Bistro is our top pick. Enjoy lunch or dinner on their large outside deck overlooking the spectacular views.

Leg four: Fraser Island to Bunderberg and Woodgate Beach

Journey time 4 hours 15 minutes (includes ferry/barge travel time)

Bundaberg and Woodgate Beach

Next up is a visit to the city of Bundaberg, home to the famous Bundaberg Rum Distillery. Established in 1888, the Bundaberg Distillery is the most awarded rum distillery in the country. Take a tour and learn to craft your own unique blend direct from the barrel.

For something slower paced, head to the sleepy and sandy town of Woodgate Beach. With a beach that stretches 16 kilometres, and features panoramic sea views best witnessed by its esplanade. Enjoy a good meal and a tasty coffee at one of the towns laid-back cafes.

Woodgate Beach accommodation

Stay at NRMA Woodgate Beach Holiday Park

Set on ultimate beachfront on the stunning Fraser Coast, NRMA Woodgate Beach Holiday Park is the perfect location to relax, unwind and experience nature at its best.

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Leg five: Woodgate Beach to Agnes Water

Journey time: 2 hours 6 minutes

Agnes Water

Agnes Water is a small beach town on the grow. Located just south of the iconic Seventeen Seventy Two, this is a must visit destination that covers the gamut of Queensland’s best features. Snorkel, surf and swim at the beautiful beaches, tour the local islands and rainforests, and top it off with a visit to 1770 Distillery

Agnes Water Holiday Park

Stay at NRMA Agnes Water Holiday Park

Nestled at the Southern End of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Agnes Water is a holiday destination with both beauty and fun around every corner.  

Stay in a villa, cabin, apartment, caravan or pitch a tent at one of the many powered and unpowered sites available, right off some sensational beachfront. 

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Leg six: Agnes Water to Gladstone

Journey time: 1 hours and 27 minutes


First stop on your leg of the trip is the city of Gladstone. A great destination for fishing, eating and relaxing. Check out Lightbox Espresso and Bar for a delicious coffee and a lazy breakfast. If you’re there on a Sunday, you can enjoy live music in the garden or courtyard. There’s a cool art gallery, a beautiful botanical garden and plenty of bush walks and marine activities to experience. Just take your pick.

Leg seven: Gladstone to Yeppoon

Journey time: 2 hours


Yeppoon is the doorstep to Island hopping and the Great Barrier Reef. While in town, check out the crocs at the Koorana Crocodile Farm, hike the famous Bluff Point Track to the Turtle Lookout and spot the super cute green turtles as they pop up for air. Spend a day visiting Great Keppel Island, often described as an idyllic tropical paradise. Once you reach the island, relax and sunbathe on the white sandy beach, or tickle that sense of adventure with an action-packed day of snorkelling, jet skis, stand-up paddle boarding, wakeboarding and more.

Capricorn Yeppoon

Stay at NRMA Capricorn Yeppoon Holiday Park

Situated along 16km of breathtaking coastline, the park is nestled between a stunning white sandy beach and beautiful National Park. It’s the perfect location to relax, unwind and experience nature at its best.

Stay in a beach cabin or villa or pitch a tent at one of the many campsites around the park.

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Leg eight: Yeppoon to Rockhampton

Journey time: 37 minutes


Despite being one of the largest cities in QLD, Rockhampton flies under the radar as a tourist hot spot. But it’s actually one of Queensland’s hidden treasures, offering so many things to see and do. From quaint riverside dining at Boathouse Rockhampton, a beautiful botanical garden, live rodeo nights at The Great Western Hotel and a thriving beef industry – Rocky is a true gem that keeps in touch with its roots while still producing a modern city buzz.

Leg nine: Rockhampton to Mackay 3h 52min

Journey time: 3 hours 52 minutes

Mackay is a cool coastal city known for its marina, Harbour Beach and Bluewater Lagoon, a city water park full of waterslides, swimming pools and a great onsite cafe.

Experience diving in Mackay’s crystal clear rivers and pools and meet one of the world’s most elusive animals, the Australian Platypus. This nocturnal mammal can be tough to spot due to its timid nature, so make sure you keep super quiet when on the lookout.

Leg ten: Mackay to Airlie

Journey time: 1 hours 48 minutes

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is a little slice of paradise. The coastal oasis boasts plenty of things to do from fantastic Saturday markets to amazing sailing spots. But what makes Airlie Beach so great is it’s getaway to the 74 tropical islands that are scattered in the heart of the beautiful Great Barrier Reef – the Whitsunday islands, a definite must-do on your East Coast road trip. It’s an unparalleled playground for boaters, fishers, campers and divers alike.

Experience a guided backpackers tour of the island starting from Airlie Beach. Most tours pass through Whitehaven Beach, located on the largest of the 74 islands. Whitehaven beach is an award-winning beach due to its pristine white sands and unspoiled nature, so definitely pack the camera!

Arlie Beach

Stay at NRMA Airlie Beach Holiday Park

A tropical getaway with some of the most beautiful beaches on the coast, Airlie Beach is well situated with both the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday Islands across from that glorious beachfront.

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Leg eleven: Airlie beach to Bowen

Journey time: 59 minutes


Did you even visit Bowen without a selfie with the Big Mango? This 10-metre high tourist attraction represents the delicious fruit the town is famous for, the ‘Bowen Mango’.

Spend a day or two relaxing in this gorgeous coastal town located in the Whitsunday Region, with plenty of fishing hot spots and coastal dives to discover. Head into town and enjoy fresh fish and chips at Birds Fish Bar located right on the marine.

Bowen Beachfront

Stay at NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park

NRMA Bowen Beachfront Holiday Park is the ideal location to explore the Whitsunday coast and soak up the Queensland sun. Located in Bowen, at the top of the Whitsundays, this seaside hamlet overlooks beautiful islands and is well-known for its friendly hospitality and diverse local produce, especially seafood.

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Leg twelve: Bowen to Townsville

Journey time: 2 hours 22 minutes


Townsville is a vibrant and busy city perfect for exploring. For some food and drink, head to Rambutan, a stylish rooftop bar and restaurant.  Laze about with a few delicious cocktails and take a dip in the rooftop pool or sit back in one of their luxury poolside cabanas.

For things to do – that’s really up to personal preference. If you’re an adventure seeker, you can’t go past a visit to Magnetic Island. Accessible by ferry, this beautiful island is a tourist hot spot, home to pristine beaches and bays, amazing wildlife, walking tracks and instaworthy sunsets.

If you’re into diving, Townsville is home to one of the best diving experiences in the world. The SS Yongala dive, is an old underwater shipwreck with a tragic history. Take a day tour starting with a 4WD transfer to the beach launch followed by a quick 30-minute boat ride before you dive deep into the waters below. Finish the day with a true Aussie BBQ – yum!

Leg thirteen: Townsville to Cairns

Journey time: 4 hours 22 minutes


Celebrate the final destinations on your East Coast road trip the right way and experience the beauty of The Great Barrier Reef.. Catch a boat or take a scenic flight for some awe-inspiring views. Better yet, enjoy a once in a lifetime experience and go snorkelling or scuba diving in the reef on a special guided tour. Discover the amazing array of marine wildlife and exotic coloured coral that make up this incredible deep underwater world.

Explore more of the tropical north and pay a visit to Palm Cove, a small beachside village centred around an esplanade that’s lined with 500-year-old melaleuca trees.

For nature-lovers, we suggest paying a visit to the stunning Atherton Tablelands. This region has some of the best waterfalls and national parks in Far North Queensland, and is well-loved by hikers and cyclists alike, with plenty of places to explore by foot or pedal.