4 budget-friendly and Instagramable road trips to take during uni holidays

You’ve spent all semester staring at that desktop screensaver of a tropical location dreaming of a land where group assignments and lectorials don’t exist.

Enter freedom (AKA uni holidays) and suddenly you have two glorious months to do as you please… but you always end up staying at home. 

Take this as your intervention – it’s time to trade submissions for ignitions, open books for open roads and ditch lectures for locations with these budget-friendly and Instagramable road trips.

Start Cairns: Waterfall Wonders

Road trips for Uni Students_Waterfall Wonders TNQ

Photos top L to bottom R: @christiephedon (Josephine Falls), @jasminaaolive (Nandroya Falls), @geoff.r.king (Millaa Millaa Falls), @travel_mooners (Ellinjaa Falls)

Distance: 267kms
Duration: 4 hours

They say you shouldn’t chase waterfalls but, in Tropical North Queensland, we beg to differ. In fact, road trips to do just that are encouraged.

Venture a few hours south of Cairns and you will stumble across a circuit of waterfalls so epic your jaw will meet the floor quicker than you can say “Atherton Tablelands“.


Start your day at Josephine Falls and shoot down the natural rock waterslide. But be warned. They don’t call it the Bottom Pool for nothing; extreme wedgies are likely.

From Josephine, take the 45-minute journey to Nandroya Falls and crane your neck looking up at a fall that makes The Big Pineapple look small (it’s three times taller).

Travel a few minutes over to Mungalli Falls for lunch at Mungalli Creek Dairy (think tapas with country charm) then capture that perfect Insta shot at the ever-photogenic, Ellinjaa Falls.

To wake up for the journey back to Cairns, stop in at Millaa Millaa Falls and stand beneath the cascading waterfall for both a chill and thrill.

At the end of the day, you will feel as buggered as if you’ve completed an assignment at the last minute, but the memories are 100% worth it.  

Start Sunshine Coast: Beach Bouncin’

Road trips for Uni Students_Great Beach Drive

Photos top L to bottom R: + @havewheelchairwilltravel (Double Island Point), @iamjustfitz (Rainbow Beach), @arahcaz (75 Mile Beach), @jessicaharker_ (Lake McKenzie).

Distance: 380kms
Duration: 78 hours (3 days)

Some are born great, some achieve greatness but if you’re travelling along the Great Beach Drive, greatness is pretty much guaranteed.

Located on Australia’s Nature Coast, this is the Beyonce of all road trips and a triple-threat with its beaches, national parks and World Heritage-listed areas to boot.


Kicking off from Noosa, jump in your rented 4WD and board the vehicle ferry to Noosa North Shore to access one of the most scenic highways in the world. We’re talking driving-along-the-beach, hair-blowing-in-the-wind as-you-breathe-in-the-salty-air kinda scenic.

Set up camp* for the night at Rainbow Beach and watch the golden hashbrown-coloured sun make way for the moon. *PS. If the thought of camping makes you sweat, don’t fret. Camping packages are available and include everything from A-Z (even complete setup and pack down of your site) – score!  

In the AM, hitch a ride on the car ferry to the largest sand island in the world and cruise along 75 Mile Beach – a bona fide beach highway! Take time to explore Lake Mckenzie, Maheno Shipwreck and the Champagne Pools (PS. It doesn’t contain the alcoholic beverage). When you’ve island hopped ‘til you dropped, retreat to the east coast to spend the night at Kingfisher Bay Resort if one night of camping was enough for you.

You’re on the home stretch! Continue to water sports mecca Hervey Bay and spend the afternoon paddling and swimming. If the budget permits (because let’s be honest, student life is tough), finish off the trip with a champagne sunset sail from the Urangan Boat Harbour. You’ve earned it.

Wanna extend your stay? We’ve got an epic week-long adventure up our sleeves too (you’re welcome).

Start Brisbane: Change of Scenic-ery

Road trips for Uni Students_Scenic Rim

Photos top L to bottom R: @jacintashakleton (Lamington National Park), @chaydavies (O’Reilly’s Green Mountains), @leoniegores (Tamborine Mountain), @emerge.creative (Mount Tamborine National Park)

Distance: 100kms
Duration: 1.5 hours

When you’ve reached breaking point at the end of the semester and want to escape without breaking the bank, look no further than the Scenic Rim.

Only a hop, skip and jump away from Brisbane, road trips here are perfect for commitment-phobes who want to get off the grid… but not too far.


Ditch the sleep in and head south-west into Lamington National Park. As the city falls further into your rearview mirror, wind down the car windows and breathe in a big gulp of the fresh air. You’ll feel like you are a world away as you drive through the dense rainforest with nothing but good tunes and great mates.

Follow the rainforest drive through Binna Burra and continue on to Canungra, where you can turn off for the O’Reilly’s Green Mountains section. After you’ve documented the occasion (because pics or it didn’t happen), head down Lamington National Park Rd to Tamborine Mountain where you can grab a feed at the Spice of Life Cafe & Deli on Main St, or if you’re daring, hang glide off the mountain. Not your flavour? Relish in the digital detox and visit Mount Tamborine National Park nearby for a picnic in Mother Nature’s backyard.

Want route inspo? Check out this.

Start Gold Coast: Island Invigoration

Road trips for Uni Students_South Stradbroke Island

Photos top L to bottom R: @am_yt (Main Beach), @seawaykayakingtours (South Straddie mangroves), @benjamin_crisp (Main Beach), @alistarbell (Tipplers Campground)

Distance: 40kms
Duration: 40 mins (by ferry)

Think of the Gold Coast as the gateway to adventure and you will discover a place that is truly off the road trips radar.

Enter South Stradbroke Island, a pristine sub-tropical oasis surrounded by Tiffany blue waters. If South Straddie were a Hemsworth, it would be the third brother – often forgotten about but still just as great as its sibling North Straddie.

In fact, the lesser-know Straddie is actually more accessible from the Gold Coast than its brother, with water taxis departing from a handful of mainland marinas including Runaway Bay, Sanctuary Cove and Main Beach.


Drive an hour from Main Beach to Hope Harbour Marina and leave your car behind to board the Couran Cove Island Resort passenger ferry ($50pp) for a scenic ride to the island.

When you hit the sand, take to the water with Seaway Tours and explore as you pedal, kayak, 4WD and eat your way around the island. Make sure to use your GoPro throughout the day to capture the stunning surrounds. Better yet, create an epic time-lapse sequence when you get home.

Set up camp for the night with South Stradbroke Island Camping, crack open a beverage and relish in the moment with your beloved uni pals before heading back to the coast.