The Oz Blog – Road Tripping: Brisbane to Cairns

The Oz Blog – Road Tripping: Brisbane to Cairns


The vehicle – Dolly the hippie campervan 

The inhabitants – Me, Rhi and about 912 mosquitos throughout the trip

The route – Brisbane to Cairns, stopping at Coolum beach, Noosa, Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Airlie Beach, The Whitsundays, Mission Beach, Townsville, Magnetic Island, Seventeen seventy, Kuranda and Cairns

The intention – Explore as many places as possible in the short amount of time we had available

The budget – stupidly, none

We arrived with our 24 bags an Esky (cool box to those not down with the Ozzie slang) and excitement in our eyes for our adventure. We waited too long for our Dolly, but there was air con so we weren’t really complaining. I loved her as soon as I saw her, but was already coming out in hives at how small she looked. 

2 weeks hire of the camper and the extra insurance they scare you into buying costs around £600. We decided to bring the van back to Brisbane as it would have cost a hell of a lot more to leave it in Cairns. 

After checking all the dents and bumps and scratches as being shown the boring bits we were ready to start our adventure….. until I realised there was no bloody petrol in the tank. I popped my head in and they agreed we could bring the van back empty rather than having to fill it up.

Day 1: Coolum Beach

We got off to a bumpy start (I was driving so I’m allowed to say that) and we stopped about 5 mins into our journey to stop and buy supplies and then another 19 mins later to get petrol. It was now about 2pm and we hadn’t even left Brisbane for god sake.

We got to Coolum Beach around 5pm, just in time to manoeuvre the van into our space, realise for the life of us we couldn’t work the awning and have a little wander along the beach whilst the sun set.

Coolum Beach, Australia – East Coast Road Trip


We spent the trip using wikicamps to find campsites and get an idea on prices. Powered camping sites ranged from $24 – $38 per night and I can assure you, the higher the price certainly didn’t mean the better the site.

Day 2: Noosa

Drove around 2.5 hours and made it to Noosa. Made a quick stop at Gympie terrace. The sea was clear and calm and we saw some pelicans just chilling along the shore.

We then headed to Noosa National Park and embarked on a 6km hike along the shore. Taking in wonderful beaches, spectacular surf and wonderful beaches…. I absolutely have to return.

Drove about half an hour out of Noosa and set up camp on the river, we saw wild kangaroos, a Goanna and lots of birds, but the price we paid was all the mosquitos.

Noosa, Australia – East Coast Road Trip

Day 3 – Bundaberg

Another 3 hour drive, with frequent stops for coffee, petrol, snacks and leg stretches. We made it to Bunderberg rum distillery for the last tour at 3pm and we thought it would be rude not to get involved. Tickets were $30 and that included 2 free drinks at the end which were bloody delish…. I’m definitely a Bunderberg rum convert. We toured around the factory and it was pretty amazing to see the long process and smell the molasses, which tasted rank btw.

We then arrived at a very questionable campsite and we locked ourselves in the van around 8pm as scared we may be approached to join a cult.

Bundaberg Rum Distillery, Australia – East coast Road Trip

Day 4 – Rockhampton

Another 3(ish) hour drive to meet the wonderful Michelle who blogs over at theunfinishedbookshelf.com

Michelle showed us around the sites and then we had a wonderful dinner, Michelle and her boyfriend Jack are moving to the UK, so we spent hours sharing tips, drinking wine and laughing at some very inappropriate stories. It felt so good to be looked after so well and we can’t wait to do the same when we are all in the UK at the same time.

Michelle commented that we’ve still got a long way to go to get up to Cairns and we realised we needed to pull our finger out and do some hardcore driving.

Rockhampton, Australia – East Coast Road Trip

Day 5 – Airlie Beach

Rose to the challenge and embarked on a 6 hour journey to Airlie Beach…. in all honesty it took closer to 8 hours, so we were exhausted when we arrived. Broke my flip flops so traipsed around the shops trying to find some new havaianas, finally managed to get some and then lazed by the beautiful lagoon for a few hours, after a long day of bright sunshine the lagoon felt like a bloody bath. You can’t swim in the sea here without a stinger suit as the water is rife with rays and possibly sharks.

Got a bit crazy and went to Magnums bar along the main strip, decided to stay another night because we loved the place.

Day 6 – Whitsunday Tour $115

Wow, what a bloody day. After walking to reception at 8:30am and booking onto a tour that left at 9am it was a whirlwind of showers, throwing clothes about and trying to get organised, but we made it.

After the most exhilarating speedboat ride we arrived at a whitsubday viewing point and holy shit the views were amazing, definitely one to add to the bucket list if its not already on there. It was hard to tear ourselves away and we got a telling off as we were late back to the boat.

Next we sped off to our next destination to do some snorkelling and although I’ll admit it’s not the best snorkelling I’ve done we saw some amazing fish and coral.

Our day finished with the sexiest lunch on Whitehaven beach with the whitest sand I’ve ever seen in my life and some new friendships formed.

The Whitsundays, Australia – East Coast Road Trip

Day 7 – Cairns via Mission Beach

Ohhh the midweek mark. Mixed emotions as we are both feeling very hot and sweaty and feel a bit dirty, but looking forward to what the next 7 days have to offer. Another long drive today to Cairns via Mission Beach.

Whether it was because we were tired and moody I don’t know, but when we got to mission beach it was somewhat underwhelming. A strip of a few shops and restaurants and a beach which was pretty, but just as pretty as every other beach we’d seen. We probably stayed 40 mins and then jumped straight back 8n the van and cracked on with the rest of our journey.

About an hour out of Cairns the rain started and spoiler alert, it barely stopped until we left. Go to Cairns everyone said, it’s aleays hot and sunny there…..well guess what, it’s fucking not.

Day 8 – Cairns and Kuranda

Woke up earl6 as per and the weather was ok, but devastation looked imminent, we decided to take the sky train yo to Kuranda, a village nestled up in the mountains. As soon as we left the camp site the ra8n started and got progressively worse as the day went on, end8ng up in torrential rain whilst we tied to explore Kuranda.

Kuranda itself was very cute and the views l. The sky train are incredible, it’s fairly pricey at around $80 for a return trip, but it’s worth splurging if you can afford it.

The Whitsundays, Australia – East Coast Road Trip

Day 9 – Kuranda and Townsville

Decide to cut our time in Cairns short due to the awful weather and forecast. Before we leave we head back up to Kuranda butterfly sanctuary. At around $20 per pers9n it was a steal and the butterflies were so beautiful.

**top tip** wear white as the butterflies will be d4awn to the brightness of it and you’ve got more chance of them landing on you.

We planned to drive back Arlie beach but after hours of driving we decided to change our plan and head to Townsville. Townsville was on our list originally but we decided to avoid it because of the floods, but we checked and all was clear so we decided to go.

Arrived at a very interesting camp site (being kind) which was the most expensive of the whole trip and decided to treat ourselves and go out to dinner due to the shitty weather over the last few days.

Kuranda Butterfly Sanctuary, Australia – East Coast Road Trip
Donna Bionda, Townsville, Australia – East Coast Road Trip

Day 9 – Magnetic Island

Woke up early and as the weather was nice decided to take the ferry over to Magnetic Island which goes every hour.

The ferry over was beaut and we sat outside so we could enjoy the sunshine and the views. Once we got to the island we took the bus to the furthest point ‘Horseshoe Bay’ it was very pretty, but not as babe as some of the beaches we’ve seen so far on our trip.

After a few hours we moved onto ‘the forts’ and unintentionally embarked on a massive hike up to the top of the mountain. Steeped in loads of history (and steps) the view at the top was breathtaking and pictures just don’t do it justice. We were also lucky enough to see another wild koala babe hanging out in a tree…. you couldn’t miss it because of all the people crowded round getting a little glimpse.

Due to the shitty bus times we couldn’t explore much more of the island but did have an ace ice cream. If I visit again I’d love to hire one of the cute topless cars and also visit the koala sanctuary/hostel on the island.

Got an early ferry so we could drive onto Airlie Beach. Driving at night is rather scary and you have to keep your eyes peeled for those wild kangaroos.

Magnetic Island, Australia – View from The Forts

Day 10 – Airlie Beach

Back at Airlie and had a lovely lazy day, just what the Dr ordered. The lagoon is the perfect place to chill and we got a text from the campsite whilst we were there telling us the fish and chip van would be there that evening, we thought it’d be rude not to indulge (again) and enjoyed our chippie tea whilst sitting watching the birds, the Marvellous Mrs Maisel and drinking wine.

Long day of driving ahead of us so we lay our heads down nice and early.

Day 11 – Agnes Water, Kangaroo Sanctuary

Arrived late in the evening at the Kangaroo sanctuary and greeted by lots of kangaroos lazing about. The site is fairly boho and hobo, but would recommend for anyone to spend a night or 2 here.

Kangaroo Sanctuary, Agnes Water, Australia

Day 12 – Town of Seventeen Seventy and Bunderberg

The campsite is situated at the top of a hill so if you get up early enough you can watch the sunrise and I spent an hour or so chilling with the kangaroos in the morning which was pure bliss. My fave I named Patricia, but I was later told she is called Peaches, I think she looked more like a Patricia TBH.

Spent a few hours at Seventeen Seventy and it’s one of the most beautiful areas I’ve seen. The water is clear and still and there are lots of beautiful banks and boats moored. It is also one of the only places on the east coast you can see the sun set over the sea. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see this as was on a tight schedule, but I’d love to go back and experience it.

The kangaroo sanctuary offer a feeding session at 3pm so we went back and had the best time and then travelled onto Bundaberg.

We were recommended Grunske’s seafood restaurant, which was right on the river and it did not disappoint. The most wonderful spread of seafood I ever did see and it was so fresh. Get yourselves down there if you’re ever in Bundaberg.

Grunske’s Seafood Restaurant, Bunderberg, Australia

Day 13 – Bunderberg

Spent the day chilling, doing washing and waiting to see if we could get on the sea turtles tour, I called them at 2pm and by some miracle they had just had a cancellation so we were in. The most amazing experience and what a way to end our road trip. Read more about it here.

Day 14 – Bye Bye Dolly

After an emotional and amazing 14 days we return Dolly to the depot in Brisbane.

All in all I imagine we spent about £1,000 (around $2,220) per person on van hire, fuel, camp sites, fuel and naughty meals out. This is a very rough estimate, but you could definitely do it for less if you’re not being as fancy as us and eating out constantly.

On a Jolly With Dolly

Wow, sorry for such a monster blog post. I’ve tried to cover as much as I can costs wise and destinations we loved etc. But if you’ve got any questions let me know in the comments below, on my socials or send me a DM or email, we all know how much I love a chat.

Ps. If you want to see all of the pictures from our trip check out our Instagram hashtag #onajollywithdolly

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