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We’ve just got back from a fabulous Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip. We’ve driven this leg before while on a Sydney to Port Douglas road trip in a motorhome (before we had kids) but this was our first time travelling a longer road trip like this with kids which completely changes the whole experience!

It was a journey I wanted to do with the kids as there were some epic travel experiences I wanted them to have. 

I feel like Australia is filled with so many bucket list travel experiences, and although we’ve done quite a bit of family travel within a few hours of Brisbane, I’m excited to be able to do bigger trips together. 2020 – 2021 paused our exploring, and in 2022 we did a big trip back to the UK instead so now the world is back to normal I’m keen to get back to seeing more of Australia. 

Travel enriches your life so much, and I’m really excited about sharing more of this beautiful country with the kids (and you!). I feel really privileged that we’re able to enjoy experiences like this – growing up, my highlight of the summer was usually a day trip to Skegness or a week on Southport! Now I get to take my kids to see the dazzling sand of Whitehaven Beach and to see wild platypus deep within a lush national park! 

Last time we did this Brisbane road trip, we did a one-way drive but this time we did a round trip so got to experience even more as adding in the Airlie Beach to Brisbane return journey allowed us to stop at different places in both directions.

It’s worth adding in here, we didn’t try to cram absolutely everything in. There are SO MANY cool things to do on this trip, but we prioritised rest and enjoyment over trying to rush through too much. We looked at the things to do and narrowed down what was important for us. I’m not cramming in hundreds of things to do just for the sake of it or to make a really long article for Google! So much fun comes in those moments of rest too, so you need to build in time to just unwind and enjoy the experience as often those end up being the highlights of the trip.

For disclosure, as I like to be transparent: This was a family holiday and it was all self-funded. I received a small discount from one of the tours for being an affiliate but otherwise I paid full price for everything. 

This post about our Airlie Beach road trip includes affiliate links

Table of Contents

Budget for our Brisbane – Airlie Beach road trip up the Queensland coast

We didn’t have a definite budget in mind for our Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip, but we wanted to keep costs as low as possible. Family travel (especially for a family of five) gets expensive very quickly. I always see influencers talking about how incredibly ‘cheap’ places are to visit and then when I price them up for five of us, it’s usually a big shock to the system! A room for two people might be cheap, and a room for four might be too, but when you step up to five people it changes things as it usually involves an extra bedroom and a few hundred dollars more.

Even day trips usually have four-person family deals – and big day tours for five can easily cost $1000 so I planned out as much of the trip as I could to manage and spread the costs, and I organised our spending on a spreadsheet to help me stay in control. 

Thinking of planning your own Australian road trip? Listen to my podcast episode all about planning a big trip in Australia 

To plan our finances for the trip, I created a spreadsheet to allow me to plan where we were going to stay and when, how much the accommodation would cost at each stop, and what must-do activities we wanted to do in those locations. I had some things on this Brisbane to Whitsundays trip that were non-negotiables – they were things we HAD to do, or places we HAD to stay (our Airlie Beach accommodation was one of these as it was a place I’ve been wanting to take the kids for years – read about it below…). 

I shopped around for accommodation on Booking.com and mostly selected caravan parks that were cost-effective (most of our accommodation was $180 – 250 a night for all of us), although I did select one more luxurious option and it was so worth it. If you’re staying in basic accommodation without much room between you, it’s a good idea to splurge at least once on the trip and enjoy a nice place with more space – you really appreciate it all the more! 

The reason I love Booking.com is: 

  • You get good deals and get to level up the more you use it
  • It keeps all of your travel plans in one place
  • It’s really easy to use to filter and find exactly what you’re looking for and price results are clearly laid out.
  • You can often cancel or change your plans for free – check the terms when you book.
  • Often you can choose to pay closer to your travel date which is handy as the money stays in your bank account for longer!

Our accommodation costs for the trip came out at just over $3300 for 13 nights. 

Our other main expenses on the road trip were: Fuel, food and attractions/tours. I’ll list the cost of tours below with links, and will give you the total mileage as well so you can get an idea of fuel costs.

Food was our biggest expense aside from accommodation as I have teenage twin boys who don’t stop eating (they also have a tendency to order steaks when we go to restaurants!). Every meal we had out cost around $180 – 200!  I did save by getting a Woolworths shop delivered at Airlie Beach though and we did cook some food in our cabins or the camp kitchens or resort BBQs at various places.

We could definitely have planned better and organised picnics for the longer drives to save money on food, but instead we found ourselves stopping at MacDonald’s, KFC or a bakery for snacks during the long drives. Next time, I’ll try to be more organised but we were definitely in holiday mode so just wanted to keep things simple.

When to explore the East Coast of Australia on a road trip 

We are so lucky that our school holidays break early for Christmas. We usually do our main travels in late November/early December before a lot of schools finish – it’s such a great time to go! This makes it easier to get bookings, and means tours, trips and attractions are quieter. So for us, the best time for an East Coast road trip (or any big holiday) is when we can fit the trip in! 

For most people, the ‘best time’ for a northern East Coast road trip is spring and autumn. In peak summer, it gets hotter and even more humid (Far North Queensland gets SO humid and sticky!), and you can expect storms which can interrupt your plans.

Winter is also a lovely time to visit as the temperatures are cooler – but that’s an Aussie definition of ‘cool’ not a European definition of cool! If you’re heading to Airlie Beach from the UK, it will likely feel more like summer to you in our winter. 

Do the Brisbane to Airlie Beach drive or book flights Brisbane to Airlie Beach?

When we decided to go on holiday to Airlie Beach, initially we considered booking flights to Airlie Beach from Brisbane.

The idea of being able to hop on a flight to Airlie Beach airport (Proserpine Airport) and begin the holiday immediately was tempting. Flights from Brisbane to Airlie Beach return weren’t too expensive either, but then I started thinking about the added cost of Airlie Beach car hire as we knew we’d need a vehicle to explore so factoring in the cost of Brisbane to Airlie Beach flights for five of us AND the cost of an Airlie Beach hire car for a couple of weeks, things started to add up.

While flying is convenient, it would have taken away the adventure of getting there and all of the incredible experiences we could have on the way. 

I decided the best way to get to Airlie Beach was going to be on a road trip as you get to enjoy all of the fabulous stops along the way. There are so many great options of places to stay for your next stop.

There are some beautiful coastal towns to break up the journey on a Brisbane to Airlie Beach, so you can limit yourself to a short drive between stops if that’s your preference on this north Queensland drive.

I think it’s important to break things up with an overnight stay at multiple spots (or ideally two to three nights in each stop to give you a real flavour of the place and give you time to explore) but sometimes you’re on a budget or time limit, so even one night to rest your head between big drives helps make the journey more manageable. 

Driving a long straight road is dangerous when you get tired, so stopping for a rest regularly is also important.  

Driving distance and driving time Brisbane to Airlie Beach 

The driving distance from Brisbane to Airlie Beach is 1,126.7km.

The total driving time from Brisbane to Airlie Beach is 12 hours 34 mins.

When you break that up with a few stops in either direction, it feels manageable and honestly, Australia is a country that is built for road trips! The road conditions on the east coast are great – the Bruce Highway takes you right up to Far North Queensland so it’s not too challenging a drive. 

Stinger season and crocodiles 

I know when it comes to exploring Australia, people are often cautious about our dangerous creatures. This is definitely something you need to be mindful and aware of (but not scared of).

Stinger season is the time of year when you can find Irukandji and box jellyfish in waters in some parts of northern Queensland. This season lasts from October until May, but it doesn’t need to stop you from getting in the sparkling, clear water. You just wear a stinger suit (and many tours include this so you may not even need to hire one). Some beaches have swimming nets too so you can swim without suits. 

Crocodile country generally begins around Gladstone. You can learn more about being croc-wise here. It’s not something be be fearful of but you do need to be aware of it. 

Sharks live in the waters, so follow local advice. There are some great Shark Smart tips on this website

As for the rest of the dangers of travelling in Australia, the sun is the most important danger to think about. You burn very quickly even if you’re regularly reapplying sunscreen. Always wear a hat, and cover up with a rash vest/rash guard when you are at the beach or in the pool.

It’s also useful to travel with a beach shade too – we used our Cool Cabana regularly on our road trip and it was so easy to take to the beach for day trips. 

Brisbane to Airlie Beach: Road trip itinerary

This is our Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip itinerary broken down by stops and driving distances. 

Brisbane to Bundaberg: Drive time 4 hours 24 minutes

Bundaberg drinks soft drinks tour - image of the bar with all of the flavours lined up

Our first stop on this road trip was Bundaberg, the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef. (You could easily break this 4 hrs 24 mins journey up with a stop on the northern Sunshine Coast or at Rainbow Beach on the way if you wanted to make the drive time shorter.) 

Our reason for stopping at Bundy was really because I love seeing the turtles at Mon Repos at nearby Bargara. Here you can enjoy a ranger-guided night time turtle encounter from November to March (the first half of the season you get to see turtles heaving themselves up the beach to lay their eggs, and the latter part of the season allows you to see the baby hatchlings emerging and scurrying down to the water.)

It was our second visit and it was such an incredible experience. 

The highlights of our stay at Bundaberg were: 

  • Visiting the Bundaberg soft drinks factory with the kids. The tour included taste testing and a mixed pack of six bottles to take home for adults (my favourite is always pineapple and coconut and least favourite is  sarsaparilla – I can’t even bring myself to smell it!) I booked with Get Your Guide. Adult tickets were $18 (this includes the six bottles to take home) and kids up to 17 were $6. Find out about the Bundaberg soft drinks tour here on Get Your Guide
  • Touring the rum distillery – my hubby did this as he’s a rum drinker and I hate the stuff! He loved touring the distillery and of course had to treat himself to a bottle at the end. He did the Museum Experience and Distillery Tour for $30. You can book a tour here
  • Seeing a beautiful turtle laying her eggs on the beach at Mon Repos and exploring the turtle education centre. I paid $88.75 for the five of us. Find out about Mon Repos Turtle Encounter here. 

A turtle at Mon Repos at Bargara laying eggs on the beach

Where to stay at Bundaberg

We stayed at the Big 4 Cane Village Holiday Park in Bundaberg. It was a basic caravan park where we stayed in a small one-bedroom unit with a kitchenette and air conditioning.

It cost $180 for the night. Ideally, for visiting Mon Repos, it’s better to stay at the Big 4 Breeze Bargara (so you don’t have to drive as far in the night and risk the dangers of kangaroos and possums on the road). We’ve stayed at the Bargara site in the past but it was booked out for our dates so this was the next best option I could find and it worked well as it was close to Bundaberg’s attractions. Next time, I’ll aim to get in at the Bargara site though for convenience.

Bundaberg tour links 

Bundaberg to Seaforth for Cape Hillsborough National Park to see the kangaroos at sunrise: Drive time 7 hours 24 

Kanargoos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough at sunrise

7 hrs 24 was a long drive, and it wasn’t by choice! Ideally, I’d have broken this up with another night in between if I could, but we were restricted with our Airlie Beach accommodations date so one night was all we could fit in at Seaforth.

We decided as a family that we really wanted to visit Cape Hillsborough National Park to see the famous kangaroos on the beach at sunrise so decided it would be worth the pain of one very long drive to get there. 

There was no getting away from it – it was a big day of driving. We set off early, bleary-eyed after a late night seeing the turtles the night before. We drove from 7.30am with some short food and toilet stops on the way.

We decided to stay at Seaforth Holiday Units (instead of the Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park which is on the doorstep of where you see the kangaroos on the beach at sunrise). Seaforth is a beautiful, sweet little town that makes a great base if you’re looking to get away from it all.

We’d never been before but wish we’d had time to stay for another night or two as it was so relaxing. Not only was the accommodation pristine and the cleanest place I’ve ever stayed, but the owners Tracy and Jason were so lovely and welcoming and gave us lots of great tips and advice to make the most out of our short stay there. They are very deserving of their very high review rates!  

We arrived late in the day but had just enough time to head to the free water park and playground two minutes’ walk away in a beautiful park. There was a swimming net at the beach but you need to plan your tide times to make the most of this. The kids were very happy in the water park and playground though. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, this is the perfect place to chill out.

Seaforth Holiday Units had the prettiest outdoor area I’ve ever seen – there was a big BBQ and pizza oven and it was decked with fairy lights. I wish we’d had more time to enjoy it before we had to move on.

We visited the Cape Hillsborough National Park the next morning to see the kangaroos on the beach at sunrise which meant getting up a crazy o’clock, but it was worth it.

There was a group of 30 – 50 people there on the morning we were there, but some mornings during peak holidays it can be as many as 200 people. There is no charge to view the kangaroos, and there is a volunteer at the beach to talk about the experience and explain the history of how it developed. You park up near the Cape Hillsborough Tourist Park and walk onto the beach. I’ll be writing a blog post about it shortly, so make sure you check back! 

We appreciated being able to go back to bed after it for another snooze before it was time to move on again. Thankfully it was only a short drive to Airlie Beach after this!

Highlights of our stay at Seaforth: 

  • The incredible park with enormous trees!
  • Enjoying the water play after such a long car journey.
  • Seeing the kangaroos right in front of us with an incredible sunrise.
  • The beautiful communal outdoor area at Seaforth Holiday Units.

Where to stay at Seaforth, Queensland

To stay at Seaforth Holiday Units, we paid $180 for the night in their large studio for five of us (we were upgraded to their larger accommodation as they were doing some work outside the original room so that was a win for us!) 

​Seaforth to Airlie Beach: Drive time 1 hour 30

The huge waterpark at Big 4 Adventure Whitsundays

After such a long drive the day before, one and a half hours was easy peasy!

I was so excited because Airlie Beach is such an amazing place filled with natural wonders and I had been wanting to go back to visit for such a long time. We stayed nearby town at the Big 4 Adventure Whitsundays. (There are two Big 4s, so don’t get mixed up when searching for them if you want the one with the epic waterpark!)  

Airlie Beach is a vibrant, fun town packed with energy. I love it – it’s like a smaller, more tropical version of Byron Bay but throw in turquoise waters and palm trees (and some extra heat and humidity!) I was so excited to stay at the Big 4 because of the huge waterpark for the kids. I booked our Airlie Beach accommodation back in September for our December stay, and cabins were already quite limited. I managed to find a 5-person studio cabin for just four nights and it was sold out after that hence we had to arrive when we did, but I knew we couldn’t visit Airlie Beach without staying at this resort! 

There are so many activities at Airlie Beach and so many day trips from Airlie Beach, you could easily spend a lot more time here. For me, the priority was to visit the Whitsunday Islands and Whitehaven Beach. I wanted the kids to see Hill Inlet and be amazed at the spectacular colours as it left such a big impression on Matt and I when we did a tall ship sailing adventure around the Whitsunday Islands 15 years ago. 

On the run up to our trip, I considered all of the Airlie Beach tours on offer. I thought about the Airlie Beach half-day tours of Whitehaven, but those didn’t include Hill Inlet so I ruled them out. I’ll write a separate post all about choosing the best Whitehaven tour soon to share how we chose and talk about the full-day Whitehaven Sealink one we booked (which was fabulous!) You can find out more about it here. 

I booked the tour through Sailing Whitsundays for $827 for the five of us. I wished after that I’d booked with Get Your Guide – although it was slightly more expensive through them ($883), there are benefits to booking with them including the fact you can cancel for free if your plans change. There is a lot to be said about choosing a flexible option, but saying that I was really happy with the service from Sailing Whitsundays and it all worked perfectly and we saved a little $$. 

Although I really wanted to go, we decided to skip Hamilton Island day trip –  advice from travel Fb groups was that there is so much to do there and a day trip to Hamilton Island from Airlie Beach won’t do it justice so I’ve decided we’ll take a holiday there instead another time to give us plenty of time to explore the best beaches. There was a Whitehaven tour that included Hamilton, but again it missed off Hill Inlet which was important to me so we skipped it. (Tip: If Hill Inlet is a priority for you like it was for us, make sure you check your trip includes it as not all of them do). 

I’ll also be writing up a full review of the Big 4 Adventure Whitsundays in a separate post too so look out for that, but it was a great base for our stay and we enjoyed some resort days where we didn’t leave. Our studio for five was very tight and compact though with two teenagers and a tween (I don’t think we’ll all try to squeeze into one room again on a trip as it’s not worth all being on top of one another as we all need space).

There was an excellent camp kitchen next to our unit which was handy for cooking on the BBQ and using the oven (as the kitchenette in the holiday cabins didn’t include one). And there was a toilet and shower block next to us which came in handy as five people fighting for one shower and toilet in the cabin often caused fights too so it was great having another option! (That’s the perk of staying at caravan parks!)

We decided to slow down at Airlie after a busy few days of driving and exploring. It was time to let the kids have fun in the water park and pool and just rest and relax. We ordered food shopping from Coles so had plenty of treats to enjoy, and it was a beautiful chilled-out few days. We pottered around Airlie Beach, visited the Airlie Beach markets, enjoyed a breezy pavement cafe lunch a couple of times and just enjoyed relaxing. 

We didn’t get to visit Cedar Creek Falls on this visit – it had been very dry and we didn’t think there would be much to see at the time of our visit plus it would have eaten into the kids’ pool time so we skipped it but it’s well worth visiting if you get chance. Another place we’d had recommended to us but we ran out of time to visit was Northlies Beach Bar and Grill which looked like a fab evening out to enjoy dinner and drinks at the beach but we couldn’t fit it in – there is always next time!

Where to stay at Airlie Beach  

The cost of Airlie Beach Big 4 Adventure Whitsundays was $1050 for four nights ($262.50 per night) in a studio sleeping five (one of the beds was a rollaway that had to be put out every night). The kids spent most of their time on the water slides, so the small accommodation was OK but it was tight and for a longer stay we’d definitely need more room!

My older two (14 yo twins) were towards the top end of appreciating the water park so I’m glad we got to enjoy it while they were still young enough to have fun in it. It was also lovely as they were old enough to go off on their own without us needing to follow them around and our cabin was opposite the water park so they could come and go as they wanted. 

Airlie Beach tour link

Airlie Beach to Eungella National Park to see wild platypus at Broken River: 2 hours 17 mins

Platypus watching at Eungella National Park

This was an addition to our itinerary that my hubby threw in after browsing an old Rough Guide to Australia book. Our kids have always been fascinated by platypus (since staring at them for hours at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary as kids!) and we always love viewing the local wildlife when we go away so this was a detour from the coastal route and it turned out to be a real highlight.

The drive up to the Broken River Mountain Resort is winding and stunning – it’s a little like the drive up to O’Reilly’s if you’ve ever done that in the Gold Coast hinterland. (Tip: If you’re not in an off road vehicle, set your sat nav to avoid unsealed roads – we accidentally ended up on one and were worried we’d get a puncture!)  

You can walk from your cabin to the river in a couple of minutes, and there are viewing spots dotted along the river. We spent the early evening viewing the platypus swimming and diving in the water – it was such a special experience. I know it’s not something many people in Australia have been able to do as it’s so difficult to find places to see them in the wild – this was one of the highlights of our Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip!

You could extend your stay and enjoy some hikes in the national park. If looking for plant species and bird and wildlife spotting is something you love then you’d be very happy here for a few days. We only had the single night to spare but it was worth the detour for the experience, and the national park is breathtakingly beautiful. 

Highlights of staying at Eungella National Park: 

  • Of course, it was seeing platypus in the wild! It was so exciting!
  • Seeing all of the other wildlife around the river – lizards, kingfishers etc. 
  • The drive up to the resort was stunning (although very winding and high – not so good for those of you that get car sick although we made it without any of the kids vomiting thanks to travel sick tablets and wristbands!) 

Where to stay at Eungella National Park

We stayed at Broken River Mountain Resort. It cost us $280 for one night in a spacious two-bedroom cabin with air conditioning just a few minutes walk from the platypus river. It was an ideal location. The accommodation was basic but very clean. 

Eungella/Broken River to Yeppoon: Drive time 4 hours 58 mins

The beach at Great Keppel Island on a day tour

The almost five hours to Yeppoon didn’t feel so challenging by this point in our Brisbane Airlie road trip. We just hit the road and spent most of the day driving. When we arrived and checked into our caravan park – Discovery Parks Coolwaters – the kids were very happy to find a jumping pillow for the first time this trip. (The Big 4 at Whitsundays used to have one but it had been removed). They could play on these for hours on end so it was a big hit. There was also a waterpark but after the Big 4, most other water parks felt much smaller and they were too excited about the novelty of the jumping pillow to go in it. 

We stayed in a basic two-bedroom cabin with air con and it was a simple base for our stay as we were excited to visit the Keppel Islands so knew we wouldn’t have much time in our rooms anyway. I’d booked us on to this Great Keppel Island day trip with lunch through Get Your Guide.

Our caravan park was just a few minutes’ drive from the marina where we picked up our day trip the next day. There was plenty of free parking there when we visited so it was really easy to rock up and board the boat.

Great Keppel Island was a great place for a lazy beach day – it was a chance to lay back on the beautiful beaches and enjoy this tropical islands paradise! Look out for a new post about our Great Keppel day trip soon! 

Highlights of our stay in Yeppoon: 

  • The kids loved the jumping pillow at the caravan park.
  • The visit to Great Keppel Island was amazing – such a lazy, easy day out. The included lunch was delicious. The water was clear and pristine. I can’t wait to go back for a longer trip! And in my opinion, it was a brilliant price for a lovely family day out. 

Where to stay at Yeppoon

Our stay at Discovery Parks Coolwaters Yeppoon was $505.60 for two nights ($252.80 per night) in a two-bedroom cabin. 

Great Keppel Island tour link

Adults were $90 each and kids (up to 14 years) were $50 each. Kids age 4 and under go free. Note: Kids get a kids’ meal included. Before I booked with Get Your Guide I did look at the tour on a different website and it was trying to get me to pay an additional $10 for our kids’ lunch which didn’t seem to make any sense. This tour INCLUDES a kids’ lunch for kids aged 5- 14 so you don’t need to pay any extra for it, so don’t get caught out. Get Your Guide didn’t try to make me pay the extra – not sure why the other site kept promoting me to!

Again booking with GYG meant I could cancel late if I wanted to so it kept things flexible. 

Yeppoon to Town of 1770:  3 hours 21 minutes

The waterfront view from the deck at 1770 Beach Shacks

I love 1770 (Town of Seventeen Seventy) and Agnes Water – it’s such a chilled-out area. We’d previously stayed when doing a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island so we didn’t have much time to enjoy the small town, but this time we were able to relax in this beautiful place for two days. 1770 got its name as Captain Cook came ashore here and made his first landing in Queensland soil. 

I fell in love with the 1770 Beach Shacks while browsing Booking.com, and couldn’t not stay here! It was well worth the splurge in our budget as it was such a great spot and we all agreed it was one of the best places we’ve ever stayed – the place had such personality. 

Our time at 1770 was spent relaxing both in the accommodation on the balcony (especially in the hammock) overlooking the water, and at the beach right across the road from our accommodation. The water was so calm and clear – we spent so long floating around and swimming. We loved the marine life too – we saw stingrays in the clear water right next to us!

If we’d wanted to, there was a pub next to our accommodation, but instead we cooked a BBQ on the balcony with that most amazing view. I could have spent weeks enjoying this place – it was a delight! 

Highlights of our stay at 1770: 

  • All of it – we just love the place! The one-of-a-kind accommodation with all of its hand-crafted quirkiness, the beach view, the lagoon right outside our door, the amazing deck with hammock, chairs, table and BBQ….

Where to stay at Town of 1770

We stayed at 1770 Beach Shacks in a two-bedroom villa with air con. Our stay cost $760 ($380 a night). It was incredible and I highly recommend it! I will definitely be back – in fact, even though there was no pool or water park, the kids have ranked this their favourite stop on the road trip and a place they want to go back to for longer.

Note: To check in you have to walk up a lot of steps to the very top of the hill to find reception (the view is so pretty from up there)! Our accommodation happened to be the first you come above the car park but it still involved a flight of steps to get there – so if you’re staying here, pack light. If you end up in one of the villas higher up the steps, you’ll have to carry your things up and it’s not fun when it’s hot. 

Tours from 1770

If you have time here, you could consider doing the day tour to Lady Musgrave Island. We’ve done it before and it was fun, and we’ll likely do it again when we go back to 1770 for a longer stay (which we will definitely do). 

1770 to Noosa: Drive time 4 hours 28 minutes

Noosa Main Beach

Our final destination on our Australian road trip was Noosa. We know Noosa very well and go there regularly, but we really wanted to break the final leg of the journey up (as we had to collect our dog from the pet retreat on the Sunshine Coast in the afternoon slot and we wanted to be closer for that.) Four and a half hours wasn’t too bad a drive, but if we’d collected the dog and driven home it would have made it a long day so it was worth the extra stay.

There is so much to see and do in Noosa – Noosa National Park, shopping on Hastings Street, watersports, boat trips… by this point we were just ready for more beach time and lots of ice cream. It was fun being back at a place we know well too. 

We chose a basic, cheap caravan park – Ingenia Holidays Noosa North – as it was just a base to rest our heads and turned out to be a good place for the kids as although there wasn’t a lot there other than the swimming pool, there ended up being a heap of other kids for them to play with which really made a difference. The pool did close very early though (5.30pm) so that was a bit frustrating as we love a night swim when we’re on holiday but often they closed it up a bit later as there were so many kids in the pool. 

While visiting the Sunshine Coast, of course, we had to call in to the British chip shop, the Fryer of Whitby, which we all adore. Matt and I also sneaked out to enjoy a lovely dinner at The Boat House too which is one of my favourite restaurants in Noosa (the joys of having kids that are older!) Noosa has so many amazing dinner options!

Highlights of our time in Noosa: 

  • Spending the day on Main Beach and seeing the fabulous sea of Cool Cabanas!
  • Meeting the artist Tracy Keller in her shop on Hastings Street – she is the loveliest person and we ended up buying heaps of pictures for ourselves and as gifts!
  • Enjoying a kid-free meal at The Boat House.
  • Watching the kids devouring all the ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s. 
  • Shopping on Hastings St. I bought my new favourite hat!

Where to stay at Noosa

Our stay at Ingenia Holidays Noosa North cost $376.64 ($188.32 per night) in a two-bedroom cabin. 

Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip review

We loved the Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip. There were plenty of sights to keep us all entertained and we weren’t short of tour and day trip options (in fact, if we had an endless budget we could have done so many!). 

I think it would have been helpful to have a couple of extra days in our itinerary but overall, I think two weeks was a fair time to enjoy our Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip. 

Other stops between Brisbane and Airlie Beach 

Here are some other stops you might consider on your Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip if you have more time. 

K’Gari Fraser Island

K’gari is a must-visit location if you’ve never been. Imagine pristine freshwater lakes, rustic beaches, big dunes, rolling waves and wild dingoes. The world’s greatest sand island is a special place. You can also go out to see humpback whales from K’gari or Hervey Bay too if you visit between June and October. You can visit K’gari on a day trip if you’re short on time and there are some amazing trips from Hervey Bay that take in the main sights. I’ve done it as a day trip from Hervey Bay myself, and also stayed for a couple of nights and either works well. 

Rainbow Beach

Check out the spectacular coloured sand, the enormous sand dunes of Carlo Sandblow, learn about the cultural meaning of the area and how it got its name, and immerse yourself in the Great Sandy National Park. Rainbow Beach is a great place to spend a few nights on this road trip. If you visit, make sure you get out to see the colour sand on a beach drive (if you prefer not to drive or don’t have a car suitable for beach driving, you can book onto a tour).   

Gladstone

Stay on the mainland or hop over for a short stay on nearby Heron Island ($85 one way per adult, $45 one way per child on the ferry). Gladstone is a hidden gem with plenty of outdoor activities such as fishing, snorkelling and water sports such as paddle boarding and kayaking. I haven’t made it over to Heron yet but it’s on my list – just saving up as for a family of five things add up quickly!)

​Rockhampton

The beef capital of the world – otherwise known as Rocky – offers lots of things to do on its doorstep from breathtaking ancient caves to gardens and heritage buildings, and you can even see the Tropic of Capricorn line which is pretty cool. 

Lady Elliot Island

You can fly to the pristine Lady Elliot Island from Hervey Bay, Bundaberg. You can go on a scenic day trip flight or stay over (return flights are around $465 for adults from Bundaberg or Hervey By and $330 for children). As you can imagine, for a family of five, this can add up but it is on my bucket list as it’s supposed to be a truly gorgeous destination! 

There really are so many options of places to stay on your road trip whether you’re keen to explore historic towns, coastal gems, island paradises or inland retreats. 

Road trip Brisbane to Airlie Beach

There were plenty of attractions to keep us occupied on this Airlie Beach road trip. 

The best things about our road trip were: 

  • spending quality time together as a family
  • being able to see platypus in the wild for the first time
  • getting away from the busyness of Queensland’s capital city to experience the smaller towns and stops along the way
  • staying somewhere truly tropical where the colours don’t even seem real
  • floating in the calm waters of the bay at 1770 and watching a stingray swim right by us
  • laying under our CoolCabana at Great Keppel Island and watching the world go by
  • paddling in a kayak in the clear waters around Great Keppel Island 
  • seeing the sun rise behind the kangaroos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough
  • being inspired about places we might want to move to when the kids have grown up and left school (it’s a tight battle between Airlie Beach and 1770!)
  • remembering how much fun life on the road is
  • reminding ourselves that we really don’t need much ‘stuff’ or many clothes (we could have taken a lot less than we did) – experiences matter a lot more than things
  • discovering my favourite new brand of swim wear – Jantzen – bought from Myer for the trip. Wearing quality swimwear (as a mum in my mid 40s!) is really worth the investment! 
  • coming home again to a home that we love (there is nothing worse than coming back from a great holiday to somewhere you don’t love – it’s life-changing when you love where you live!) 

Tips for your Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip

Take out travel insurance 

I think it’s important to take out domestic travel insurance when you travel. For me, I wouldn’t travel (even domestically) without travel insurance. I also take out the extra cover for floods, bush fires etc. You never know what is going to happen, so it pays to be prepared. People get sick, plans change. When I’m paying $$$$ for a trip, I don’t want that spoiling. 

Plan for car/travel sickness if you have kids

Take Kwells or other travel sick tablets with you. Pack some sick bags, tissues and towels, and take travel wristbands. Trust me, it’s worth being prepared! (Speaking from a mum of three kids that get travel sick!) 

Take cool bags filled with cold drinks and plenty of water

It’s an obvious one but you will drink a lot on long car journeys. I packed a cool bag with cold cans of soft drinks and ice packs, plus we each had an insulated water bottle, and I packed a flask so we could make a coffee en route too. It saved us stopping for water all the time. 

Plan fuel stops 

Fuel stops can be further apart than you’re used to when you’re further away from the main cities, so plan when and where you need to stop for fuel (and food too). Our kids got a bit hangry at times as there were not fast food stops for a while. Luckily I had a bag filled with snacks to keep them from killing each other! 

Do washing on the road

Pack less and do laundry. All of the caravan parks have a laundry room. We paid around $5 per load and $4 for a tumble dryer at the Big 4s. We mostly lived in swimmers anyway, and you can rinse those every night and dry them on your balcony or deck.  

Our Airlie Beach road trip was a success! 

The kids weren’t sure about doing a big road trip like this but they loved it! Now we’re already thinking about where to go next year. Maybe the great Ocean Road? Maybe Melbourne to Sydney. Maybe a West Coast adventure. Watch this space! 

I’ll be writing more detailed posts about this Brisbane to Airlie Beach road trip over the coming weeks so be sure to check back. 

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