Road trip to Cairns by Campervan
5 years ago, me and some friends did a one month road trip from Melbourne to Cairns. That was the best road trip of my life. I'm lucky enough to get another opportunity to drive up the East coast again. But this time its a shorter 4 day compressed version!
There's a site called standbyrelocs.com where you can rent campervans for dirt cheap. These are one way relocations where you're basically helping the company drive their vehicles back to its original destination. There are deals as cheap as $1-$5/day. Some even give you fuel allowance. Based on timing I couldn't wait for the perfect deal to come up so we took this 2 berth Campervan for $25/day with no fuel allowance. We didn't want to wait till the last min to make a decision or else we might not even have a Campervan relocation secured at all. Last thing we want to do is be forced to spend extra days in Brisbane and spend more money that could be better utilized elsewhere.
They allot certain amount of days for you to reach the final location but you could purchase extra rental days if the deadline wasn't urgent. We had 4 days to drive from Brisbane to Cairns. With our two side stopover trips the total distance driven would come to 1900km.
The first checkpoint of the trip was Rainbow Beach. Gorgeous everything! The water. The shoreline. The sand. The mountain backdrop. The sand along the shoreline looked so smooth the sun literally reflected off of it like a mirror. The inclination to shore was minimal so we would see a thin layer of water just glide effortlessly towards the beach.
First you pose…
Then you jump!
There were these round jelly things all over the beach. What is this?
Come to daddy…
Some people paragliding here. Must have been a great view from above.
We planned on spending the night in Hervey Bay, but settled in Maryborough as it got dark by 6:30pm. No point in driving there at night having to leave early next morning.
Our home for the next few days
2nd day was the longest drive of the day. Almost 750km = 9 hrs of driving. Start at the crack of dawn for maximum sunlight and hoped to arrive at Airlie Beach before it got dark. I got a bit worried as there was road improvements were being done on the A1 highway throughout the day. We were delayed several times as certain points only allowed one lane of traffic to cross. But we finally got to Airlie Beach just after 6pm and before sunset.
At certain times, there would be trivia questions thrown at you to keep your mind sharp and help prevent fatigue before your reach the next rest area. Smart.
My favourite time of day driving is the late afternoon when the sun is setting. The gradual changes of colour and lighting over the landscape was captivating.
We checked into a caravan parked called Seabreeze. It wasn't in the smack middle of the center, but would allow us to leave town easier. We didn't know if it was too late to book a cruise to the Whitsundays Island for the next day though. The place we wanted to check out there was Whitehaven Beach. 7km stretch of white silicia sand and pure torquoise waters. Labelled as the most beautiful beach in Queensland. The reception called the tour company and the afternoon half day option for tomorrow was open, yes! What was left to do now is grab dinner and call it an early night.
The next morning we walked 2.5km along the bicentennial walkway towards the Saturday community market. It took about 40min to reach the market but we were occupied with the nice surroundings so we didn't mind 🙂
There were boats everywhere!
What you see from the Airlie Lagoon
We finally reached the market. It was what you would expect to see: fresh local produce, hand-made souvenirs and crafts, clothing etc. The difference was the venue location. It was held at a parking lot right by the waters so you get a beautiful background of a yacht filled wharf surrounded by aqua green waters. Now that's a cool marketplace!
Afterwards we headed back to Seabreeze so the tour shuttle can pick us up. They dropped us off at Abel Point which is the pier location at Airlie Beach. It took about 2 hours to get to Whitsunday Island as the ship makes stops to a couple of other island resorts to pickup and drop off passengers as well.
Whitehaven beach – breathtaking! Fine white silica sand and the greenest waters you could imagine. It was a surreal sight. I had a similar experience with this type of sand in Lake Mackenzie on Fraser Island before. The grains are so fine you can exfoliate your skin with it. Too bad you can't take any of this stuff home with you 🙂 One thing I have to mention is that there are no retail shops, hotels, or restaurants here. It's a smart move by the government to preserve the natural environment here so everyone can marvel at its pristine beauty.
Our chill spot
To the right
and to the left
The next day was the final 630km drive to Cairns. We left the caravan park at sunrise so we could get to the van drop off office by 3pm. This drive was much easier than a couple of days ago. The roads were straighter and less winding so you could stay at a consistent speed. There were no road delays either which helped shave some travel time to reach Cairns an hour early.
This was the first time I've driven such a large campervan. Although the drives were long, it was still a rewarding experience. I would totally recommend it if you decide to do a road trip up the East coast of Australia. Just make sure you get a relocation deal with fuel allowance as gas and diesel prices were $1.50/liter here.
Great Barrier Reef here we come!