Brisbane to Cairns
Jump on the Share Bus to travel with a bunch of other backpackers between Brisbane and Cairns to see the biggest highlights of the East Coast on a camping road trip. Share the rental of our backpacker minibus and camping trailer!
How it works
We’re not a tour – we’re a shared rental! This means we’re different from a tour… but we’re not quite a normal rental either. The travellers and backpackers on the road trip share the driving, camping, trip planning and experience. This way of travelling offers a more flexible and self-guided trip. It’s also more affordable than a tour. However, you get everything you could need for a camping road trip plus an awesome group of travel mates!
About the Brisbane to Cairns route
You have 17 days to drive from Brisbane to Cairns. This is the stuff of backpacker dreams! At first you’ll see sites near Brisbane, like the Glasshouse mountains and the Sunshine coast and Noosa! Then, take the opportunity to 4WD Fraser Island, explore the Whitsundays and see incredible beaches, mountains, rainforest and animals. You’ll have the opportunity to visit incredible islands, beaches and towns as you also travel to places like Mission Beach, Magnetic Island, the town of 1770 and Cardwell Spa Pool and Paluma Range National Park. Towards the end of the trip you’ll get to hike around a few waterfalls near Cairns and then finally, head into Cairns to celebrate and enjoy a night at a hostel.
Expect to get fit with lots of hiking, snorkeling and exercise as you appreciate the natural sights. This is a no-frills adventure – you’ll be setting up your own tents, sharing the driving, cooking your own dinner and sharing your tent with another person. The target age group is 18-35.
Check out Amy’s blog about her experience on this trip!
Things to note
Please note this is a minibus rental, not a guided tour. The group share the rental of a minibus, trailer and camping equipment. You essentially ‘rent your seat’ on the minibus!
We provide a recommended itinerary to help you. This includes recommendations for different places, camps and activities (like beaches, snorkel spots and hikes!). We also teach you how to use the equipment before you leave, teach you how to attach, detach and pack the trailer. We are also available to contact for any questions during your trip.
You will rent your seat as either a ‘driver’ or ‘non-driver’. If you choose non-driver you must never drive. Drivers can share driving and must be aged 21+. The minibus seats 12, and anyone with a regular driver’s license can drive it.
Please bring your own water bottle and sleeping bag. However, limit your luggage to about 20kg – 1 big bag, and one day bag/small backpack. The trailer is full of all the camping equipment you need and has space for your bags. Be prepared to free camp at least half the time!
Brisbane to Cairns Highlights!
Day 01: Glasshouse Mountains
Time to start your trip from Brisbane to Cairns! First meet the crew and get some advice from teh Share Bus team. Then go grocery shopping and drive out of Brisbane to explorethe Glasshouse Ranges. 11 volcanic peaks make for some interesting landscapes, lookouts and walking tracks! If there’s time after your walk, there is also an interesting scenic tourist drive.
Day 02: Sunshine Coast
In the morning you can explore the scenic area around Malerny, or start the short drive from the mountains to the beach. Don’t forget to stop at a waterfall on the way! Once you hit the coast travel North, stopping at a few beaches as you make your way up to Noosa Heads.
Day 03: Noosa and Hinterland
A nice coastal town, Noosa has it’s own, amazing, national park. Look up and you’ll see koalas in the trees. Take the coastal track through the park and visit the ‘Fairy Pools’. If you plan an extra day in the area, you could also kayak through the Everglades.
Day 04: Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay
Drive towards Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay! View the rainbow sand dunes at Rainbow Beach, see the incredibly large sand dune at Carlo Sandblow, and go to Point Vernon to see Kangaroos. On the next morning you should pick up a 4WD from either Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay and take a ferry over to Fraser Island (if you’re not going you can stay on the mainland though). We can help you book a rental company, and sharing between the group it should not cost too much. Alternatively you can book into a tour or a tag along tour if you’d like a guided experience.
Day 05/06: Fraser Island
Enjoy some time on the sand island of Fraser Island, where you also can spot some dingoes. You can only drive around here with a 4WD. See some classic sights like the Maheno shipwreck, Cathedral Beach and Lake McKenzie. The 4WD company can help you plan an itinerary around the tides
Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy
The seaside town of Agnes Water is somewhat known for being the cheapest place to learn how to surf in Queensland. Give surfing a go or see the paperbark forest nearby. Agnes Water is on the very southern tip of Great Barrier Reef, so you can also snorkel or dive here (from nearby Lady Musgrave Island). Afterwards check out the town of Seventeen Seventy. It’s the point at which captain James Cook landed and is evidently named after the year he landed. Also, You can watch the sun set over the beach here – which is especially nice given you are on the east coast!
Day 08: Cape Hillsborough
A long drive to Cape Hillsborough, but if you can camp there at night you will see many wallabies and kangaroos come to the beach the next morning. However, there are a few walks and lookouts close to Cape Hillsborough you can do if you arrive in the afternoon.
Day 09/10: Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays
Time to explore Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays – this is one of the highlights of the Brisbane to Cairns road trip! You can join a sailing tour if you wish. We’ll be able to get you an awesome deal on an overnight adventure. However, if you’re looking for something different you can catch a watertaxi with a camping gear and set up camp on one of the islands. You’ll have the whole white beach to yourself. In Airlie Beach there are a few walks and a waterfall not too far away.<
Day 11/12: Magnetic Island
Catch a ferry here from Townsville and check out this little island paradise! There’s some good snorkelling here. You can also do the Fort’s Walk where you can spot Koalas and see some ruins from WW2. You can take the minibus to Magnetic Island on the ferry, however if you prefer you can leave it on the mainland and use the bus to travel around the island.
Day 13: Paluma Range and Cardwell Spa Pool
See some rainforest, waterfalls and jump in some swimming pools. Enjoy a hike in the rainforest before heading to the Cardwell Spa Pool to cool off. It’s a naturals swimming hole, coloured an incredible blue, with the added bonus of natural spa jets.
Day 14: Mission Beach
Enjoy some beach time. This beach connects 4 palm fringed villages which you can walk to. When you want a break from the beach check out the chocolate factory or the nearby rainforest and Fan Palm walk
Day 15/16: Wooroonooran National Park
Home to the two largest ‘mountains’ in Queensland as well as rainforests, waterfalls and swimming holes. You can walk a skywalk, climb a ‘natural pyramid’, and see the very best waterfalls on this trip. Plan out a circuit to see the best waterfalls in one day.
Day 17: Atherton to Cairns
Detour to Atherton to see the Curtain Fig Tree and the volcanic lake, Lake Eachem. Then make your way into Cairns to finish your trip! Celebrate the end with your new friends.
Brisbane to Cairns
Trip length: 17 days
Early bird: $626 (4+ weeks before Start date)
Full fee: $674
Start Dates: not currently running
Discounts are available:
- if you book more than 4 weeks in advance
- for groups of friends travelling together
- if you want to stay on the Share Bus for more than one trip
Please send us an email for details and to ask for your discount eligibility.
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