Where to stop between Brisbane and Airlie Beach

This coastal trip is a favourite with backpackers, caravanners and all manner of road trippers, as there is so much to see and do along the way.

Driving from Brisbane to Airlie Beach is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.

Known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, here are some of the highlights along this 1700 kilometre route.

Moreton Bay

The first place to stop is the Moreton Bay Marine Park, just 35 kilometres north of Brisbane. The island is mostly National Park with fabulous pristine beaches, huge sand dunes, crystal freshwater lakes, wetland, mangroves, and an abundance of marine life. It’s also famous for the resident dolphins you can hand feed.

Sunshine Coast

Next, you head to the Sunshine Coast, one of the most popular holiday destinations for Australians. It has numerous coastal towns like Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Coolum Beach and Noosa, where you can relax, enjoy loads of beach activities, play a round of golf on a resort course, go shopping or enjoy the cafe strips.

Hervey Bay

About four hours north of Brisbane is Hervey Bay. It is famous for whale watching as every year, from August to October, humpback whales visit on their migration south to the Antarctic. Hervey Bay is also the gateway to Fraser Island where the catamarans and barges leave from Urangan Boat Harbour to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island and has now become a World Heritage Listed area. You’ll discover numerous beaches, sand dunes, 100 freshwater lakes, tea tree forests, and rainforests. Dingos are also common on the island, along with a vast array of mammals and 74 different species of reptiles.


Bundaberg is famous for the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, which is always worth a visit and tasting. If you love turtles, take a drive to Mon Repos Turtle Rookery. From November until the end of March, hundreds of turtles return to complete their natural breeding cycle at the beach at Mon Repos.

Agnes Water

This little gem dates back to Captain Cook. On Wednesday 24 May 1770, he went ashore from the Endeavour, for his second landing in Australia. Sir Joseph Banks also collected plant species from this area, which was noted in his journals.The nearby Town of 1770 is known for being in close proximity to Lady Musgrave Island, Fitzroy Lagoon, Heron Island, Lady Elliot Island and the Southern Great Barrier Reef. The whole region offers plenty of attractions and activities to suit any traveller.

The Bunker Group of Islands

This group of islands is located approximately 80 kilometres north of Bundaberg in the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. It includes Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands among others. The islands are teeming with an abundance of live colourful coral and an endless array of marine life, including Manta Rays. Snorkeling is as easy as walking into the ocean from the beach. If you are there for the right season you will see birds nesting, turtle hatchlings, dolphins or humpback whales.


Gladstone is a small town and is the gateway to Heron Island which lies approximately 72 kilometres NE off the coast from Gladstone. Helicopters operate scenic transfers between Gladstone Airport and Heron Island daily.


Rockhampton is known as the Beef Capital Of Australia. It has some interesting heritage buildings in the “old part of town” which is worth strolling through. Here are some popular things to do within two hours of Rocky.


Mackay is known as the sugar capital of Australia as the area farms more than a third of Australia’s sugar cane. It also has a fabulous marina where you can stroll along the foreshore promenade to the patrolled beach. There are plenty of restaurants and cafés located at the marina which is approximately a five minute drive out of town. Finch Hatton is close by and features lush tropical rainforests and waterfalls. You can take a ride over the rainforests on a flying fox or stroll to the Wheel of Fires waterfall.

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands. It’s a fabulous place to base yourself for exploring the many wonderful islands and the Great Barrier Reef. There are an array of tours on offer including sailing, diving, snorkelling, skydiving, and others. Helicopter and seaplane flights fly daily over the Whitsunday Islands and also to the world famous Whitehaven Beach.