Best Queensland road trips cred @benjamin_crisp

On the road to adventure: 4 of the best Queensland road trips

As Australia’s second largest state, there’s a whole lot of Queensland to discover – 1.85 million square kilometres, to be exact.  But don’t be put off by its impressive size: all you need to start exploring is a driving licence, a reliable set of wheels, and our guide to the best Queensland road trips.

With thousands of kms of road linking countless bucket-list destinations and every type of scenery you can imagine, there’s a Queensland roadie route to suit every traveller (even those braving it with the teens in tow). Here are four of the best.

1. Travel back in time on the Adventure Way  – 4 days / 1152 kms

Adventure Way | Queensland road trips

Retrace the tracks of the intrepid Cobb & Co stagecoaches which once linked the east coast of Queensland with the Outback. Leave Brisbane behind and head way out west, through ‘big sky country’ and sweeping desert plains.

Road trip must-dos

  • Reconnect with nature in Bunya Mountains National Park. Expect to encounter red-necked wallabies and crimson rosellas as you hike through the largest stand of bunya pines on the planet.
  • Drive through quaint country villages and rural hamlets on your way to George, Australia’s inland fishing capital. Drop a line in the famous Balonne River, land a Murray cod for your supper, then set up camp on the riverbank.
  • Swap stories with the friendly locals in Cunnamulla on the Warrego River. Plan your visit to coincide with the Cunnamulla Fella Festival or Music in the Mulga to see this country town at its colourful best.
  • Relive the tale of famed explorers Burke and Wills at the Dig Tree site on the banks of Cooper Creek, where their fateful attempt to cross Australia ended in tragedy. Follow Cooper Creek across the border to Cullyamurra Waterhole – Australia’s largest billabong – to marvel at the ancient Aboriginal rock art that surround its tranquil waters.

Check out the full itinerary and maps here.

2. Journey from rainforest to Reef on the Great Tropical Drive – up to 12 days / 500kms

Paronella Park

Choose your own Tropical North Queensland adventure on this web of 13 interconnected drives. The Great Tropical Drive stretches north from Townsville, past the beaches of Cairns and the Daintree Rainforest all the way up to Cooktown, taking in the Atherton Tablelands and Savannah country to the west.

Cover as little or as much ground as you wish as you follow your choice of Queensland road trips around this diverse region of natural wonders.

Road trip must-dos:

  • See the land through the eyes of an Indigenous guide. Learn about the Aboriginal people’s connection to nature on a cultural tour of the Daintree Rainforest, or get schooled in traditional spear-fishing techniques on the beaches of Port Douglas.
  • Take a dip in a freshwater swimming hole or bathe under a waterfall. South of Cairns you’ll find Barron Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls and Malanda Falls (if you’re lucky, you might even spot the elusive Lumholtz Tree Kangaroo). Head further south to Girringun National Park to reach Wallaman Falls, Australia’s longest permanent single-drop waterfall.
  • Further west, explore the Quinkan Rock art sites with a local guide. Discover the sandstone escarpments and ancient rock art that have made the small North Queensland town of Laura.
  • Hop aboard a day trip to the outer reef from Port Douglas and snorkel or dive your way around the Great Barrier Reef. See how many of Australia’s ‘great eight’ you can spot on your underwater adventure (the list includes clownfish, sea turtles and manta rays).
  • Learn about the legendary love story that built Paronella Park, near Mena Creek. Built in 1929, the ruins of a Spanish castle are framed by magnificent gardens, lakeside tunnels and bridges, all built by a Spanish settler in honour of his wife.
  • Follow the path of a 190,000 year old volcano at the Undara Volcanic National Park. Explore the longest lava tubes in the world while keeping a lookout for the rock-wallabies, bats and owls that have made them their home.

Check out the full itinerary and maps here.

4. Get a taste of outback life on the Central Queensland Outback Drive – 9 days / 1985 kms

Central Queensland Outback Drive | Carnarvon National Park | best Queensland road trips

Experience old-fashioned country hospitality and enjoy an Australian history lesson or two on one of the most epic Queensland road trips from the Capricorn Coast to the Queensland Outback – and back again.

Road trip must-dos:

  • Fossick for gems in the largest sapphire fields in the Southern Hemisphere. Take time out to visit the towns of Sapphire and Anakie where you can tour an underground mine, buy a bucket of sapphire “wash” and learn how to recognise sapphires in the rough.
  • Head west to Longreach and the Stockman’s Hall of Fame to find out what Outback life is really like. Walk the wing of a 747 at the Qantas Founders Museum or gallop along on a Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience.
  • Discover the outback oasis of Carnarvon National Park, home to ancient rock art galleries and hanging gardens of ferns and moss. Follow the tracks along Carnarvon Creek to uncover Aboriginal art sites, hidden caves and freshwater swimming holes.
  • Take a detour south of Biloela to hike the trails around Mount Scoria, a 25 million year old basalt formation formed from a volcano. Its symmetrically-shaped rocks resemble a giant staircase, but don’t be tempted to climb – the mountain is sacred to the local Gangulu people.

Check out the full itinerary and map – or get more Queensland outback road trip inspiration here.

5. Go wild-swimming on a round-trip from Airlie Beach to Cedar Creek Falls – 30 minutes / 31 kms

Even the shortest of Queensland road trips are packed with memorable experiences and jaw-dropping scenery. Pack a picnic and make the most of this quick yet scenic drive from Airlie Beach through the Whitsunday Coast hinterland.

Road trip must-dos:

  • Make a splash in the refreshing, emerald waters of Cedar Creek – it comes complete with a freshwater waterfall that’s most impressive after a downpour.
  • Take the short uphill hike through the ghostly white cedar trees to reach the top of the falls.
  • Go wildlife-spotting along the creek – expect to see lizards, fish and freshwater turtles.
  • If you’ve still got time to spare, drive on to explore the rainforest-clad hills, panoramic views and secluded beaches of Conway National Park.

Check out the full itinerary and map here.