From world famous beaches to lush tropical rainforests, historic mining towns to enormous gorges, there’s so much to see and do in Queensland. The best way to explore it all? Take a road trip!
Road tripping is a fantastic way to explore areas off the beaten track, especially if you find yourself behind the wheel of a 4WD. Road trips offer you total flexibility, spontaneity, stunning scenic views, and hopefully some great tunes on the radio.
For the ultimate Queensland road trip, check out our top 10 scenic drives:
Promoted as Australia’s Adventure Drive, the Savannah Way is a staggering 3700km route that takes in no less than 15 national parks. Discover herons, jabirus and brolgas between Normanton and Karumba, enjoy a sunset over the Gulf of Carpentaria or take a rainforest walk and marvel at waterfalls in the Atherton Tablelands. If you don’t fancy exploring it all, however, opt for the shorter route of the Great Green Way, which condenses the trip to show highlights of the regions. The route takes you 450km between Townsville and Cairns, with the obvious highlight being the Great Barrier Reef.
The Matilda Highway stretches for 1700km, from Cunnamulla in the south to Karumba on the Gulf. The landscape here is forever changing, and features spectacular Mulga plains, rugged gorges, and harsh outback. Highlights along the way include the Charleville Cosmos Centre, the Qantas Founders’ Outback Museum, and the site of a dinosaur stampede in Lark Quarry.
For the ultimate “geo-journey”, the Capricorn Highway from Rockhampton to Barcaldine takes you through the country’s beef capital, past historic mining towns, and out to magnificent caves where fossils of ringtail possums and marsupial lions with meat-cleaving teeth were found. This route is all about discovering minerals and fossils in prehistoric burial grounds and Mount Morgan is a must-visit.
The Capricorn Way also features some of the largest sapphire fields in the Southern Hemisphere, and towns such as Sapphire, Rubyvale, Emerald and Opalton honour this.
Right on the doorstep of Brisbane lies the Valleys and Vines Drive, famous for golden sands, dramatic green landscapes, and tasty wine country. The 894km circular route either takes you south towards the Gold Coast and into the beautiful hinterlands of Mount Tamborine, or north towards Boona with it’s quaint orchards, roadside stalls, and pretty villages.
If it’s wine you like then you’ll love Stanthorpe for its 45 wineries, but if it’s dining on fine food or shopping up a storm that interests you then the cosmopolitan town of Noosa will be more your style.
The Great Sunshine Way takes in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Island and the vibrant Gold Coast, where – unsurprisingly – there is no shortage of spectacular beaches. Pack the board in the back of the car and hit some waves, or simply enjoy a good book while lying on the golden sands while staring over the Pacific Ocean. For those really wanting to explore, Fraser Island makes for the perfect escape, being home to uninterrupted white sand beaches, 100 freshwater lakes, and an ancient rainforest that will amaze.
Covering more than 1500km from Townsville to the Northern Territory, the Overlander’s Way highlights the sheer vastness and diverse landscape of Queensland. Townsville offers access to World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, but inland you can follow the route once used by drivers to move cattle from the Kimberley to the Queensland east coast.
Visit Charters Towers and re-live the gold rush days, excite the child inside and explore dinosaur country in Hughenden, or discover another world in the mining town of Mount Isa.
First established during the 1880s as a stock route between Marree in South Australia and Birdsville in Queensland, the Birdsville Track is most likely Australia’s most iconic outback route. Once upon a time it took over a month to complete, but these days travel time between the two regions is far less testing.
As you drive, take in white salt lakes, homestead ruins, gushing hot water bores, and the Natterannie sand hills where the Tirari and Strzelecki deserts meet. A must stop is the famous Birdsville Hotel, which stands at the edge of the incredible Simpson Desert.
The Great Tropical Drive enables visitors to g the beaten track between Cairns and Townsville, offering up gems such as palm-fringed beaches, ancient rainforests, and the golden outback of North Queensland. Choose from 13 discovery trails, each one a unique itinerary that will give you the ultimate taste of Tropical Australia. Whether you want to experience nature, Indigenous culture, food and wine or heritage and adventure, it’s all here on the Great Tropical Drive.
Heading south from Brisbane you will find a different world of mountains, rainforests, and world-heritage wilderness. Known as the Scenic Rim, the Gold Coast Hinterland is home to beautiful waterfalls, picturesque brooks, fertile river valleys and craggy mountains. Be sure to take in Springbrook National Park to explore the area around Natural Bridge, or stop for tea and scones in the quaint hills of Mount Tamborine.
The Simpson Crossing consists of a mixture of clay-topped and sand tracks that are definitely best suited for a 4WD. It’s not for the faint-hearted, and will cross some of the most desolate and remote country on the continent. To attempt the crossing, you must be very well prepared.
The main feature of the desert is the series of parallel sand dunes that stretch some 300km, but the clay playa lakes and salt crusted pans are worth a look too.