East Coast Australia Road Trip Itinerary: Cairns To Melbourne

Campervan road trip in Australia - travellers autobarn Kuga campervan

Australia is the 6th biggest country in the world and an amazing road trip destination! Because Frank and I are huge road trip addicts it wasn’t a surprise an East Coast Australia road trip would be included in our yearlong trip around the world. Frank and I drove from Cairns to Melbourne with a camper van and explored Australia’s beautiful and varied East Coast.

As always I documented every nitty gritty detail of our trip, so I could share our travel adventures on the blog and hopefully help you plan your Australia road trip.

Byron Bay lighthouse Australia


Australia East Coast road trip

In this post you will find:

  • Important things to know about driving in Australia
  • Renting a camper van (the best way to make an Aussie road trip)
  • A 5 week East Coast road trip itinerary

How to save on fuel in Australia - best budget tips


Important things to know about driving in Australia

Australia is massive

Like I said at the beginning of this article, Australia is big. Huge. In fact, it’s so big it qualifies as a continental landmass instead of just a country. So while you technically can drive the East Coast in 2 weeks I don’t recommend it.

You’ll be driving the entire day with almost no time to actually see and do things. We had 5 weeks to  drive from Cairns to Melbourne and I would have loved to have even more time, because there are lots of activities along the way!

Drive on the left in Australia

This may seem kind of obvious, but you have to drive on the left in Australia! Be especially careful when you are getting back on an empty road as it can be easy to forget which side of the road you are supposed to be on.

Important things to know - Australia road trip - drive on the left

Watch out for wildlife

We saw so many dead kangaroos and other animals on the side (and on) the road. Be careful and avoid driving in the dark if you can. You do not want to be involved in an accident as this isn’t covered by the insurance. Also, I would be horrified if I would hit an animal… The unique wildlife of Australia has been around a lot longer than cars, so just be careful and mind the (wildlife) signs.

Be careful in strong wind and heavy rain

There are several high wind areas on the road from Cairns to Sydney, be especially careful in these areas if you have a high-top camper van (or a car with a tent on top). Also, sometimes it rains. A lot.

We’ve had a couple of days when suddenly there was a serious downpour and we could barely see through the windshield even with the wiper-blades at maximum speed. In those cases we either found a rest area or a pullout and waited for the worst to pass.

Important things to know - Australia road trip - be careful in rain and wind


The best way to make an Aussie road trip: rent a camper van

In my opinion, there is no better way to explore the East Coast of Australia than with a camper van. A camper will provide both transportation as well as accommodation, therefore giving you maximum freedom and flexibility.

We rented a Kuga campervan from Travellers Autobarn and were very happy with it. In the van we had a small kitchen with a sink, fridge, 2-pit stove and even a microwave. There were two windows on the side of the roof, both covered with mosquito nets, so it was easy to ventilate the van without getting lots of bugs inside. The bed was very comfortable and easy to convert into a seating area.

The best way to make an Aussie road trip - rent a camper van

Most importantly however, having your own house on wheels means you can go pretty much anywhere you like! We used the free Campermate app to find free campsites. In the app you can read comments from people who have recently visited a place and commented on the facilities.

You can also use the Campermate app to find (free) hot showers, drinking water, gas bottle refill points and much more. Don’t forget to download the offline maps to avoid using lots of data!

Alright, let’s get to the most important point of this post: the ultimate East Coast Australia road trip itinerary!

Port Douglas Aussie road trip 5 week itinerary


East Coast Australia: a 5 week road trip itinerary

Week 1: Cairns, Daintree National Park and Townsville

Day 1: Cairns to Mt. Molley

Things to do in Cairns city center - Australia East Coast road trip Trinity Beach and Palm Cove - Cairns and around road trip attractions
Port Douglas Flagstaff Hill Viewpoint St. Mary’s by the Sea Australia views on the Captain Cook Highway - East Coast road trip Australia

Distance: 120km
Highlights:

  • Cairns Esplanade: a lovely walk along the ocean, we saw pelicans and many other birds. Don’t forget to bring your bathing suit for a dip in the public pool!
  • Trinity Beach and Palm Cove: driving up from Cairns we stopped at Trinity Beach and Palm Cove, two little villages with stunning beaches and tropical palm trees.
  • Port Douglas: a beautifully located town! We visited the Flagstaff Hill Viewpoint and St. Mary’s by the Sea, a lovely little church. The sun was almost setting and gave everything a gorgeous golden glow…
  • Captain Cook Highway: the further north from Cairns you get, the more beautiful the road! We pulled over a couple of times to take a snapshot of the amazing views.

Campsite: Rifle Creek Rest Area

  • A basic campsite flat spots (both for tents and vans) with a clean toilet, cold water shower and rubbish bins. A small donation (2AUD) is requested to maintain the site.

Day 2: Mossman Gorge and Daintree National Park

Mossman Gorge - great swimming hole highlights around Cairns Mount Alexandra Lookout - road trip to Cape Tribulation
Cape Tribulation Beach and the Kulki Boardwalk - things to see and do around Cairns Cow Beach - Cape Tribulation East Coast Cairns

Distance: 250km
Highlights:

  • Mossman Gorge: a 2km walk leads to a beautiful gorge in the rain forest. We went swimming in the fresh water and walked along the River Track. Pay attention to the warning signs, sometimes swimming is prohibited due to dangerous conditions (currents). Note: there is also a shuttle bus is you don’t want to walk to the Gorge, the price is 8,50AUD per adult return.
  • Mount Alexandra Lookout: after a short trip on the Daintree river ferry (27AUD return) we arrived in Daintree National Park. A twisting and turning narrow road led us further and further into the green jungle. We pulled over at Mount Alexandra Lookout and had a beautiful view over the forest and the ocean.
  • Cape Tribulation Beach and the Kulki Boardwalk: even though clouds covered the sky, Cape Tribulation Beach was still beautiful. We walked the short Kulki Boardwalk which led to a lovely view of the bay.
  • Cow Beach: on our way back to the ferry we took a short detour to Cow Beach, which was completely deserted. Along the way we spotted a cassowary! Unfortunately he disappeared before we could take a picture.

Campsite: Travellers Autobarn parking lot

  • Because we had to be at our dive excursion very early the next morning, we spent the night parked in front of the Travellers Autobarn building.

Day 3: Diving at the Great Barrier Reef

Why you should dive the Great Barrier Reef now Australia Cairns

Distance: 100km (on water, 0 on the road)
Highlights:

  • Diving the Great Barrier Reef: diving is one of our favorite travel activities and diving at the biggest reef in the world was a bucket list item for us! We went on a day trip with Tusa Dive and saw white-tipped reef sharks, lagoon spotted stingrays, nudibranchs and much more cool underwater creatures. Read more about our Great Barrier Reef diving experience here.

Campsite: Travellers Autobarn parking lot

Day 4: Flying over the rainforest

Best things to do around Cairns Australia road trip

Distance: 100km
Highlights:

  • Skyrail Rainforest Cableway: we hopped aboard the Skyrail near Cairns and flew over the tropical rainforest. Along the way we explored the jungle, learned about the ecosystem and admired the impressive Barron Falls. Read more about our Skyrail Experience here.

Campsite: Kairi Lions Park Rest Area

  • Grassy field in Kairi village with lots of other campers. Cleanish toilet with running water. Flat spots and very quiet. Free.

Day 5: Fig trees, lakes and boulders

The Curtain Fig Tree - East Coast Australia road trip Lake Eacham - volcanic lake Australia

Distance: 120km
Highlights:

  • The Curtain Fig Tree: this is one big strangler fig! This fig slowly took over another big tree, that tree fell over and the fig created a curtain to support itself and continued growing (aka slowly killing) an adjacent tree. Survival of the fittest indeed.
  • Platypus viewing: unfortunately we didn’t see any of these fascinating creatures but don’t skip this spot next to Peterson Creek, perhaps you’ll get lucky!
  • Lake Eacham: we walked around this beautiful volcanic crater lake (3km) through the dense jungle. Fun facts: the lake is 65 meters deep and has no in or outflow other than groundwater (no streams flow in).
  • Lake Barrine and the Twin Kauri Trees: another lovely crater lake with two very large Kauri trees growing on its shore. There is a path around this lake as well (5km) but we skipped this hike.
  • Gillies Range Road: an amazing twisting and turning road leading from Yungaburra to Gordonvale. Beautiful views but drive carefully because there are no straight parts in this road.
  • Babinda Boulders: we went for a swim in one of the designated swimming areas and watched the rushing water at the Devil’s Pool Lookout and the Boulders Lookout. Mind the warning signs, people have died at the Babinda Boulders because of the treacherous currents.

Babinda Boulders the perfect swimming hole Australia

Campsite: Babinda Rotary Park

  • Beautiful free camp spot just outside the village Babinda. Lots of spots, clean toilets and hot showers (2 dollar for 4 minutes, only 1-dollar coins accepted). Clean drinking water available to refill your water tank.

Day 6: A waterfall, a beach and a natural pool

Josephine Falls - highlights on the East Coast

Distance: 300km
Highlights:

  • Josephine Falls: a beautiful multi-tiered waterfall! There is a 700-meter trail leading to 3 viewing platforms. You can go for a swim in the fresh water but again: be careful, the currents can be strong.
  • Mission Beach: there are so many great beaches along the Queensland Coast, with tropical palm trees and white sands… In and around Mission Beach there are several places with stinger nets where it’s safe to go swimming.
  • The Spa Pool: a little of the A1 you will find a lovely blue pool, perfect for an afternoon dip! The 3km gravel road leading to the pool is in excellent condition.

The Spa Pool - things not to miss in Australia

Campsite: Balgal Beach Camp

  • Nice free campsite next to the beach. Only a couple of spots so you got to be a bit lucky. Toilets are clean and there is a small restaurant across the street (though we cooked our own meals).

Day 7: Townsville

Distance: 160km
Highlights:

  • The Strand: a beautiful esplanade along the ocean in the center of Townsville. We walked along the beach and paved road and enjoyed the view.

Townsville The Strand - Australia road trip 5 weeks on the East Coast

Other than exploring Townsville we had a to-do day. Yes, even when traveling you have those! We did laundry, showered at the public showers at the Strand, did grocery shopping and visited the public library to charge some equipment and use the WiFi.

Campsite: Home Hill Comfort Stop

  • Not the prettiest spot but lots of amenities and free. Free hot showers (5 minutes), clean toilets, warm water on tap and 200MB free WiFi per day at the Visitor Center. There was even a BBQ in the kitchen area, though we didn’t use it as we cooked in our van.

Week 2: the Whitsunday Islands, Agnes Waters and the Inskip Peninsula

Day 8: Stunning beaches

Distance: 270km
Highlights:

Australia Easy Coast off the beaten track - Dingo Beach

  • Dingo Beach: what a stunning beach! It was very quiet and we spent a relaxed afternoon lazing about and enjoying the views.
  • Hideaway Bay: an equally beautiful beach but we ran out of time. We drove up the hill and took this beautiful snapshot. The color of the water was so vivid!

Australia Easy Coast off the beaten track - Hideaway Bay

Before coming to the beaches, we made a quick stop in Bowen but there wasn’t much to do there. We just passed through for groceries and gas and continued. I’m glad we did because we got to spend more time at Dingo Beach!

Campsite: Cedar Creek Falls parking lot

  • Simple free site (actually just the parking lot of Cedar Creek Falls) with a toilet and non-potable water. Many other cars as well and no ‘No Camping’ sign. How long that will be the case remains to be seen…

Day 9: Airlie Beach and around

Distance: 100km
Highlights:

  • Cedar Creek Falls: the perfect place to wake up and take an early dive! The water is cold but fresh (and croc-free).
  • Conway Beach: if you feel Airlie Beach is too busy, go to this beach! It was completely deserted. Granted, the water isn’t the pretty blue color it has in Airlie, but at least you got the whole stretch of sand to yourself…
  • The Lagoon: we spent an afternoon at the lovely Lagoon in Airlie Beach. The swimming pool is great and there are plenty of good spots on the grass to relax. Nice atmosphere and diverse crowd.
  • Mandalay Point: a beautiful viewpoint, just of outside Airlie Beach. There were so many sailing yachts on the water…
Cedar Creek Falls - Airlie beach things to do Conway Beach - Airlie beach things to do
The Lagoon - Airlie beach things to do Mandalay Point - Airlie beach things to do

Campsite: Flametree Tourist Village

  • Our first paid campsite in Australia and excellent value for money. Yes, it’s next to the airport so it’s noisy during the day. But there is a good camp kitchen, hot showers, clean toilets, a laundromat + a place to dry laundry, a pool and free WiFi (12-hour access). All this for just 27AUD (we got a discount because of our Travellers Autobarn campervan).

Budget Campsite Airlie Beach - Flametree Tourist Village

Day 10: Cruising the Whitsunday Islands

Distance: 70km
Highlights:

Hill Inlet Lookout the most beautiful view in the Whitsunday Islands Australia

  • Sailing around the Whitsunday Islands: we had an amazing day on the Whitsunday islands… We sailed around the beautiful islands for hours on the Camira catamaran. Along the way we stopped at Whitsunday Island and climbed to the famous Hill Inlet Lookout (pictured above). We relaxed at the gorgeous white sands of Whitehaven Beach and had a delicious lunch on board. After lunch we went snorkeling before returning to Airlie Beach. Read more about our day on the Whitsunday Islands in this this post.

Campsite: BP Bloomsbury

Good free spot next to the A1. We parked behind the BP where it was very dark and quieter than expected. The BP has clean toilets and a shower (you can buy a token at the counter).

There are sockets for charging as well and you can buy 1-hour Wi-Fi for 5 dollar (which I don’t recommend, get a local SIM instead, more data for less money).

Day 12: Rockhampton Botanical Gardens and Zoo

Distance: 470km
Highlights:

  • Clairview beach: we found this spot by chance and it turned out to be the perfect place for a picnic.
  • Rockhampton Botanical Gardens and Zoo: after a long day of driving we were desperate to stretch our legs. The Botanical Gardens were a great place to do so! We visited the (free) zoo as well and spotted some cool animals.
Cassowaries endangered flightless birds in Northern Australia Rockhampton Botanical Gardens and Zoo - Australia East Coast

Campsite: BP Bloomsbury

Good free camp spot, next to the A1. Several other campers, clean toilets at BP and free hot shower.

Day 12: Agnes Waters and Seventeen Seventy

Distance: 320km
Highlights:

  • Agnes Waters Bakery: I am usually not one for pies, but after reading about this little bakery in Lonely Planet I wanted to try one anyway. I’m very glad we did, the bacon and cheese pie was delicious!
  • Agnes Waters Beach: so many beautiful beaches in Australia but this was the first beach with people on it! Probably because there aren’t as much marine stingers in the waters south of Agnes Waters…
  • Chinaman’s Beach: no crowds here, just beautiful views…
  • Paperbark Forest Boardwalk: a short (400 meters) but fun boardwalk through a paperbark forest.
Agnes Waters Bakery - best homemade pie on Australia East coast Agnes Waters Beach - places to swim safely
Chinaman’s Beach - quiet beach near Agnes Waters Paperbark Forest Boardwalk - short hike near Agnes Waters
  • Seventeen Seventy: the town derives its name from Captain Cook’s landing here in 1770. We walked from the James Cook Memorial to the viewpoint at the tip of the peninsula (3km return). A nice walk through the forest with beautiful panoramas along the way.

The town of Seventeen Seventy - Australia road trip

Campsite: BP Bloomsbury

Nice free campsite with toilets, running water and a camp kitchen. It’s close to Bundaberg (15km).

Day 13: Bundaberg

Distance: 70km
Highlights:

  • Mon Repos Turtle Rookery: a very interesting turtle information center with lots of displays about the turtles who nest on the beach. The center also organize tours and have strict guidelines as not to disturb the turtles.
  • Mon Repos Beach: we walked along the beach for a bit and doubled back through the forest (the Turtle Trail).

Mon Repos Beach - short hikes on the East Coast

Campsite: Wallum Reserve

  • Good free site with plenty of spots. We were the first to arrive and picked a secluded site under the trees. Drop toilet but relatively clean. No drinking water.

Day 14: Maryborough and the Inskip Peninsula

Distance: 70km
Highlights:

Maryborough: one of the oldest town in Queensland and famous because Pamela Lyndon, the author of Mary Poppins, was born here. There are several old buildings and a life-size (aka rather small) statue of the iconic nanny.

Maryborough oldest town Queensland - birthplace of Pamela Lyndon - author of Mary Poppins Mary Poppins traffic light in historic Maryborough Queensland

Inskip Peninsula and the Carlo Sandblow: the Inskip Peninsula feels very remote… It was raining when we arrived, but luckily the sky cleared up and we made the short hike up the Carlo Sandblow. This 120-meter-tall dune offers beautiful views over the ocean and the colorful sands. If you have time you can hike the 5-day Cooloola Great Walk, read more here.

Carlo Sandblow on the Inskip Peninsula - must see on the East Coast Australia
Inskip Peninsula and the Carlo Sandblow - highlights on Australia East Coast

Campsite: Roos Creek Store Rest Area

  • Quirky free site next to the S15. Grassy field (can be a bit muddy after rain), with clean toilets and a sink to do dishes. Friendly shop owners! Donations are appreciated.

Week 3: the Glass Mountains, Towoomba, Brisbane and Byron Bay

Day 15: Gympie

Distance: 26km
Highlights:

None, it was raining the entire day so we did laundry, grocery shopping, refilled our cooking gas and petrol and visited the library.

Campsite: Six Mile Creek Rest Area

  • Busy free site but okay. Next to the highway but not too loud. Toilets were clean. No drinking water.

Day 16: Mapleton Falls and the Glass Mountains

Distance: 175km
Highlights:

Mapleton Falls - Queensland Australia waterfalls Wompoo circuit Mapleton Falls - short hike Queensland
  • Mapleton Falls: because the viewing platform is above the falls you can’t really tell, but this waterfall is 120 meter high! The view is beautiful and the Wompoo circuit trail (1.3km) a nice stroll through the rain forest.
  • The Glass Mountains: there are 14 of these strange freestanding mountains in an otherwise flat area. From the Mountain View Lookout you can see them all. We also made a short hike around Tibrogargan, but because it started to rain we didn’t complete the circuit. More information about hikes in this area can be found here.

the Glass Mountains - Tibrogargan circuit hike

Campsite: Kilcoy Anzac Memorial Park

  • Great free campsite! Free hot shower, clean toilets and along a road with no traffic during the night. Lots of other campers, by the looks of it some are staying here for a while.

Day 17: Towoomba and around

Distance: 175km
Highlights:

The Japanese Garden Ju Raku En Towoomba

  • The Japanese Garden ‘Ju Raku En’: I love Japanese gardens because of their clean designs and beautiful bridges… And because I just love Japan and anything related to it.
  • Picnic Point: beautiful lookout and indeed the perfect place for a picnic!
Picnic Point - viewpoint in Towoomba Australia Tabletop Mountain Towoomba Australia - fun short hike
  • Tabletop Mountain: we hiked to the top of the Tabletop Mountain (600 meters high). We parked our car at the start of the gravel road, from there it’s about a 3.6km return hike. The path is quite rocky and steep in some places, so wear proper shoes and hiking clothes. I made the climb in my long dress which was far from ideal (I didn’t know it would be a climb instead of a hike). At least I got a cute picture!

Campground: James Hedges Park

  • Nice, free and very quiet (only 2 other cars stayed the night) even though it’s next to the A2. Clean toilets and good spots, we parked on the far side on the grass overlooking the adjacent river.

Day 18: YWAM and Airbnb Brisbane

Distance: 120km
Highlights:

  • YWAM: We visited the YWAM base where my younger sister lived for 3 years. It was really nice to visit this place, it had such an impact on her life and she also met her husband here.
  • Chilling at our Airbnb: I love exploring and seeing new things, but sometimes it can be so nice to relax and binge-watch Netflix…

Accommodation: Ellie’s place on Airbnb

We stayed at Ellie’s for 1 night and I have to say this was one of our best Airbnb experiences ever! Communion with Ellie was fast and easy, check-in was effortless because of the detailed information provided, we could do laundry, breakfast was provided, the room was clean and comfortable. We parked our car (free) and took a bus to Brisbane center (bus stop 2 min walk).

Two minor things: WiFi was slow, but somehow that’s everywhere in Australia. Also, the blinds in our room did nothing to keep out the light, so we woke up around 5.30am (when the sun came up). A curtain would be an improvement. But I’m nitpicking, I would definitely stay here again!

—> Accommodation discount <—

If you have never traveled with Airbnb before you can get €30 of your first Airbnb stay with this link!

Day 19: Brisbane

Distance: 40km
Highlights:

GOMA Yuyoi Kusama exhibition Brisbane Brisbane - GOMA Yuyoi Kusama exhibition
  • GOMA: there was a Yuyoi Kusama exhibition and while I don’t know much about art, her style I recognize immediately! I loved the funky and colorful installations, especially the box with all the black and yellow pumpkins.
  • The South Bank: we walked along the South Bank and loved the lively atmosphere! We visited on a Sunday and there were lots of families and groups of friends chilling out by the pool and Streets Beach.

The South Bank Brisbane sightseeing DIY

  • Epicurious Garden: I love the concept of this organic city garden, you can read all about it here.
  • Brisbane City Hall: you can go to the top or sign up for a free tour (more information can be found here).

Read more about Brisbane and the South bank in this post.

Campground: Hugh Muntz Rest Area

  • Nothing special but when it’s free you can’t complain;-). Metallic toilets without seats, dirty in the evening but clean in the morning (thank you cleaning crew!). Many campers even though there is a sign saying it’s only for self-contained vehicles.

Day 20: Waterfalls!

Distance: 160km
Highlights:

  • Cedar Creek Falls, Curtis Falls and Witches Falls: three nice waterfalls, my favorite was Cedar Creek. The walk through the forest (3km) at Witches Falls is nice too and the view over the valley is beautiful.
Cedar Creek Falls Australia East Coast Witches Falls trail - short hikes East Coast Australia
  • Currumbin Rock Pools: unfortunately we arrived late in the afternoon and didn’t go for a dip, but I’ve hear it’s an excellent spot for swimming!

Campsite: Yelgun Rest Area

  • Another free site, along the highway so not very quiet. Clean toilets despite the many campers. There is a sign saying ‘no camping’ but we decided to risk it. You can also choose to stay at the Sleepy Hollow rest area a little north of Yelgun.

Day 21: Byron Bay

Distance: 100km
Highlights:

  • Byron Bay village and beach: the atmosphere in Byron Bay is lively but laid-back at the same time. There is a great beach which is busy no matter what time of the day and plenty of cafes for a drink or a bite.
  • Byron Bay Lighthouse: the highlight of the day was our visit to the famous lighthouse. While the lighthouse is very pretty, it’s the stunning color of the water that draws the eye. At least our eyes. What a gorgeous bay! We even spotted some rays from above, the water was so clear seeing them was easy.

How to travel Australia on a budget - road trip

Campsite: New Italy Rest Area

  • Free site but right next to the road so rather noisy. The cafe on site is great though, as is the small museum and shop. Very clean toilets. The complex is run by volunteers and donations are much appreciated.

Week 4: Yamba, Sydney and the Blue Mountains

Day 22: Yamba

Distance: 60km
Highlights:

  • Stroll around Hickey Island: a quiet and relax place for a short walk. The view over the bay is beautiful, with and without clouds.
  • Turners Beach: it was a lot of fun to see the surfers ride the waves!
  • Yamba Lighthouse and Yamba Main beach: a cute lighthouse atop a hill and another beautiful beach.
  • Frozen Yoghurt at Amicici: get the cake batter flavor, it’s good…
Yamba Lighthouse - Yamba village East Coast Yamba Main beach - things to do in Yamba

Campsite:

  • We stayed with the mother of an Aussie friend of ours, lucky us!

Day 23: Yamba

Distance: 175km
Highlights:

Blue and Green Lagoon Angouri - Yamba Yamba highlights - Blue and Green Lagoon Angouri
  • Blue and Green Lagoon (Angouri): two freshwater pools next to the ocean. The weather was a bit dreary but I imagine it gets very busy on a sunny (weekend) day.
  • Yamba Cinema: because of the terrible weather we went to the movies in the small but cute Yamba Cinema. There were only 6 people (including us), a very different cinema experience than usual!
  • Mutton Bird Island viewpoint: in the afternoon the rain finally cleared up and we were desperate to stretch our legs. From the Marina boardwalk we spotted a lot of fish and even a couple of stingrays! The view from the top of Mutton Bird Island was beautiful, it felt like the end of the world…

Campsite: Burdett Park Rest Area

  • Quiet and peaceful free site next to a sports field. Clean toilets, running water and even a place to do the dishes. Next to the road but almost no traffic at night. Donations are highly appreciated.

Day 24: Dorigo National Park

Distance: 250km
Highlights:

Dangar Falls - most beautiful waterfall in Australia Dorrigo Rainforest Skywalk
  • Dangar Falls: what an impressive waterfall! The waterfall is best viewed from the top viewing platform. We walked to the bottom viewing platform as well, which was a nice stroll (but the view from the top is much better).
  • Dorrigo Rainforest Center: a very interesting and informative visitor center about this particular section of rain forest. The movie about Dorrigo National Park is long but very interesting! The entrance fee is 2 dollar per person.
  • Skywalk and Wonga Walk: from the Skywalk platform we had an amazing view over the forest. The Wonga Walk took us along two waterfalls and through the dense jungle, it took us about 2 hours to do the circuit (6.6km).
Wonga Walk - Dorrigo Rainforest Dorrigo Rainforest - Wonga Walk

Campsite: John’s River Tavern/Blacksmiths Inn Tavern

  • Quiet free spot a little of the road. Plenty of grassy shady spots below the trees. Toilets in tavern during opening hours, public toilet a little down the road when the tavern is closed.

Day 25: Sydney

Distance: lots of walking!
Highlights:

Sydney harbor - city skyline with Opera Building and Harbor Bridge Sydney harbor - view from Manly ferry
Sydney Botanical Gardens - green city space Hyde park and the AnZac memorial Sydney Australia
  • Sydney harbor: I had seen many pictures of Sydneys beautiful harbor but seeing it in person was amazing! The opera building, the skyline, the harbor bridge, it really is as cool as in the pictures. In my opinion, the best way to see the harbor is from the ferry between Manly and Circular quay.
  • Botanical gardens: I love cities with big green spaces and Sydney has a lot of those. Located next to the Opera building are the botanical gardens, perfect for a stroll.
  • Hyde park and the AnZac memorial: another lovely park with the impressive ANZAC memorial to remember those fallen in the wars Australia has fought over the years.
  • The Rocks: a very lovely pedestrian friendly neighborhood with beautiful old buildings, lots of shops and restaurants.

Also read this post about 5 days in Sydney.

The Rocks - Sydney historic neighborhood - old church The Rocks - Sydney historic neighborhood street food

Accommodation: friends in Sydney

We were lucky to stay with friends in Sydney (in Manly, a very nice neighborhood). However, there are many accommodation options on Airbnb. You can also check prices on Agoda and Booking for (last-minute) deals in Sydney.

Day 26: Sydney

Distance: another day of walking!
Highlights:

Chinatown Sydney - neighborhood Dragon Gate View over Sydney from the Observatory
Crossing the Sydney Harbor Bridge on foot Manly harbor walk - Sydney neighborhood
  • Chinatown: a small neighborhood, fun for a walk and to buy bubble tea!
  • The Observatory: from the observatory hill you can see different areas of Sydney and get a grasp of the size of the city. Did you know about 20% of the Australian population lives here?
  • The Harbor bridge: it’s a bit of a walk but crossing the Harbor bridge on foot is definitely worthwhile. The views over the city and the harbor are great!
  • Manly: a wonderful neighborhood located on the north side of the bay. There is a beautiful walk  from Manly wharf to Spit Bridge.

Also read: the ultimate Sydney city walk

Day 27: the Blue Mountains

Distance: 150km (we avoided the tolls around Sydney;-)
Highlights:

The Blue Mountains - view from Jamisons Lookout

  • The Jamisons, Princes Rock and Wentworth Falls Lookouts: stunning views over the beautiful blue mountains! A short trail leads down to the Princes Rock lookout which offers a much better view of the waterfalls than the Wenthworth lookout.
  • Wenthworth Falls Lake and Reserve: a peaceful and quiet place which would be great for a picnic. But because we arrived late in the afternoon we didn’t stay long as we wanted to reach the campsite before darkness.

Wenthworth Falls Lake and Reserve - Blue Mountains Australia

Campsite: Blackheath Glen reserve

  • Quiet campsite ( though there were lots of campers) in the forest. Toilets were dirty and smelly, there are garbage bins. If you arrive early you may be able to confiscate one of the good spots, otherwise you’ll have to squeeze in with the rest.

Day 28: the Blue Mountains

Distance: 200km
Highlights:

The Blue Mountains Australia - Echo point and the Three Sisters

  • Echo point and the Three Sisters: a very busy but beautiful viewpoint overlooking an amazing valley and a cool rock formation called the Three Sisters.
  • Evans Lookout and the Grand Canyon trail: great hike down into a moist green gorge. I felt like I was walking through the King Kong film-set. There are a bunch of steps and the trail is 6.6km but nothing too heavy. The loop took us 2 hours.
The Blue Mountains - Evans lookout and the Grand Canyon trail Blue Mountains - Evans lookout and the Grand Canyon trail

Campsite: Abercrombie River Camp

  • One of our favorite sites! We didn’t go all the way down to the river because we didn’t want to get stuck with our camper van. It was very quiet during the night and the starry night was beautiful. Toilet very basic, lots of garbage bins, free.

Free campsite Easy Coast Australia - Abercrombie River Camp

Week 5: Canberra, Daylesford and the Great Ocean Road

Day 29: Canberra exploration

Distance: 250km
Highlights:

  • Exploring Canberra: I’ll get straight to it, I didn’t love Canberra. Maybe we didn’t do the right things, for one we should have visited the Australian War Memorial and the National Nuseum of Australia but the city felt so… quiet, almost sterile. We walked along the river, across Reconciliation Plaza, visited the National Gallery and the National Library of Australia but just didn’t feel the vibe. It was a little more lively in the area around City Hill where we went for dinner but altogether I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in Canberra, especially after falling in love with both Brisbane and Sydney.
Capital of Australia - Canberra sightseeing - reconciliation Plaza Capital of Australia - Canberra sightseeing - National Gallery

Campsite: parking area in Murbateman

  • It was quite late when we left Canberra and we don’t like driving in the dark. So we spent the night at a small parking area in Murbateman, a little village along the A25. There were no signs saying no overnight camping and but it’s in the middle of the village so I’m not sure if the locals really appreciate people camping there. Anyway, we arrived late and nobody disturbed us.

Day 30: On our way South via Yass and Albury

Distance: 330km
Highlights:

  • Murbateman farmers market: every Saturday there is a small farmers market in Murbateman. There were cherries, local beer, freshly brewed coffee and raw honey for sale amongst other things.
  • Free shower at Caltex in Holbrook: yes, after not showering for a couple of days this can be a highlight;-). It was nice to feel fresh and clean again.
  • Albury museum and library: we needed some WiFi and power, the library offered both. There is also an exhibition about the area.

Australia road trip itinerary

Campsite: Chiltern park rest area

  • Free, next to the highway but behind an earthen wall with trees so the noise from the highway isn’t that bad. Toilets are being renovated and indeed look very old but at least they were clean. There is a short stroll through the forest, we even saw a kangaroo!

Day 31: Daylesford

Distance: 325km
Highlights:

Lake Daylesford - best day trips from Melbourne

  • Lake Daylesford: we walked around the lake on a quiet sunny Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t spectacularly beautiful, but sometimes you are just perfectly content in the moment. This was one of those moments:-).
  • Hepburn Springs: there are a couple of mineral springs in this cute little village. We checked out the Wyuna spring, Sulfur spring and Locarno spring. Be sure to bring an empty bottle to sample some of the spring water!

Daytrips from Melbourne - Hepburn Springs

Campsite: Mount Franklin reserve

  • Our favorite camp spot in Australia! This free campsite is located in the heart of an old caldera. There are lots of beautiful spots under the trees and there is a nice walk up the hill and around the edge of the caldera. The pit toilets smelled horrible but were relatively clean. No water or garbage bins so bring your own water and take your trash with you when you leave.

Free camp site Australia - Mount Franklin reserve

Day 32: Queenscliff and Bells Beach

Distance: 250km
Highlights:

Things to do in Queenscliff - stroll around Princes Park Things to do in Queenscliff - visit Queenscliff Fort
  • Princes Park: nice place for a stroll. Be sure to walk to the beach for beautiful views over the bay. We could even see Melbourne in the distance!
  • Queenscliff Fort: a fortress built in 1860. Unfortunately there was no tour at the time of our visit so we couldn’t actually enter the fort. Check this website for more information.
  • Bells beach: Torquay is the official starting point of the Great Ocean Road and there are loads of beautiful viewpoints from here until Petersborough. One of those is Bells Beach, we spent quite some time watching the surfers catch the long waves!

Campsite: Big hill campground

  • It was a bit of a squeeze but we managed to find a spot on this free campground. Toilets were surprisingly clean. Garbage bins on site.

Day 33: the Great Ocean road

Distance: 250km
Highlights:

Things to see along the Great Ocean Road - Erksine Falls Things to see along the Great Ocean Road
  • Erksine Falls: a beautiful tall waterfall! The trail leading to the lower viewpoint has a bunch of steps but the view is much better than the top viewing area.
  • The Great Ocean Road: we pulled over so many times I lost track… An amazing road to drive! Slow, lots of bends and twists and turns and phenomenal views, everything you want in a road trip.
  • Castle Cove lookout: we choose to stop at this place for lunch but there are lots of picnic options along the coast.
  • The Gibson Steps: it’s really too bad the original steps have been replaced by concrete ones. The old ones were carved from stone by hand by a man called Hugh Gibson. The view is beautiful, both from the top as well as from the beach.
  • The Twelve Apostles: a world famous and iconic view… with good reason. Yes it’s super crowded but just look at it, gorgeous right?!
  • Loch Ard wreck lookout: another beautiful viewpoint! From this point you can see both a natural arch as well as the location where the Loch Ard clipper went down in 1878 (after a 3 month journey from England).
Things to see along the Great Ocean Road - the Twelve Apostles Things to see along the Great Ocean Road - Loch Arch wreck lookout

Campsite: Killarney Beach Camping reserve

  • The second paid campsite of our 5 week road trip (22AUD). Included in the price was use of the outside camp kitchen, hot showers and obviously the toilets. Cold laundry was also free. Just behind the campsite (which doubles as a sports field) lies the ocean!

Day 34: Tower Hill Reserve

Distance: 150km
Highlights:

Tower Hill Reserve - overlooking the crater

Tower Hill Reserve: a small but beautiful park consisting of an old volcano and wetlands. In the park you can do several (short) hikes and spot wildlife. We saw emus just before exiting the park, a mother with two chicks!

Tower Hill Reserve - emu with chicks

Campsite: Meredith Park

A lovely free site next to Lake Colac. Clean toilets, several trash cans and beautiful view…

Free camp site Australia Meredith Park

Day 35: the end of our trip 

Distance: 160km (back to Travellers Autobarn)

We had planned to spend a couple of days in Melbourne and subsequently fly to Darwin to visit friends. However, a close friend of us unexpectedly passed away so we abruptly ended our trip and flew home to attend his funeral and be with our family and friends. 


Despite the very sad end of our Australia road trip, we had 5 wonderful weeks. Rain forest, coral, ocean, lakes, waterfalls, fun cities, little villages, Australia has so much lot to offer!

I hope this itinerary will help you plan your Australia road trip. Also check out my budget breakdown post to learn more about traveling Australia on a budget.

Make the most of your East Coast Australia road trip with this detailed Cairns to Melbourne itinerary! Including all the highlights (Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands, Brisbane, Sydney, the Great Ocean Road and much more), free campsites and travel tips. #australia #roadtrip #itineraryMake the most of your East Coast Australia road trip with this detailed Cairns to Melbourne itinerary! Including all the highlights (Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands, Brisbane, Sydney, the Great Ocean Road and much more), free campsites and travel tips. #australia #roadtrip #itinerary

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8 Comments

  1. January 24, 2018 / 6:39 pm

    Awesome article. This info is really going to come in handy during my road trip in May. I only have two weeks though 🙁 I’m really looking forward to the Whitsunday Islands the most I think. I’m going to do a cruise like you and I think I might do a flight too.

    • Lotte
      Author
      January 24, 2018 / 7:22 pm

      Hi Marta,

      Thanks, happy to hear you like the post! Enjoy your Australia trip, you can always go back to see more;-). The Whitsundays must look amazing from the sky, all that white and blue… Have a great trip!

      Lotte

  2. Ange
    January 26, 2018 / 11:05 am

    Hi Lotte!
    Wonderful article, thank you so much for the detailed information! This will definitely come in handy 🙂
    Thank you so much for keeping track of every one of those little things; Those are really helping us out.
    These detailed information is one of the things why I love your blog the most!
    Much love,
    Ange

    • Lotte
      Author
      January 28, 2018 / 3:34 pm

      Hi Ange,

      Thank you very much:-) Helping people plan their trips is why I started the blog so I’m super happy to hear I’m achieving that goal! Hope all is well with you, happy travels in 2018!

      All the best!
      Lotte

  3. January 26, 2018 / 3:38 pm

    Now, this is what I call a travel journal! You’ve really given awesome tips for anyone wanting to hit the road in Australia. That is on our to do list!

    • Lotte
      Author
      January 28, 2018 / 3:32 pm

      Hi Mikaela,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! I hope you get to go on an Aussie road trip soon, it’s awesome:-)

      Lotte

  4. February 4, 2018 / 2:21 am

    Great post! We did this road trip a few years ago but you found a tonne more places to go. Feeling inspired to do it all over again!

    Jodie | roadtowander.com

    • Lotte
      Author
      February 4, 2018 / 10:10 am

      Thanks Jodie! Even though we covered quite a lot, there is always more to see;-).

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