When we were planning our Australia trip we had a great idea: “Let’s drive from Sydney to Cairns!”. We figured with about three weeks in Australia, we’d find plenty of things to do to break up this 35+ hour road trip covering more than 3,000km (1,864 miles). To put that distance into perspective, we could have driven from Paris, France to Athens, Greece in a shorter time… hopefully we made the right choice.

We began our journey in Australia with the obvious staring point: Sydney. We spent 5 days in one of the most beautiful port cities in the world and had an amazing time. If you want to read more about what we did in Sydney check out our previous post!

Day 1: Blue Mountains 

Once we were given our Australian nicknames (Jazzaaa and Pascaaa) from a local Aussie we were ready to start our journey. Only an hour outside of Sydney, we made our way to the Blue Mountains National Park to spend a few hours taking in the jaw-dropping mountain ranges, steep cliffs and waterfalls. There were several quick walks to go on that made it the perfect pit-stop to stretch our legs.

Sydney to Cairns

Sydney to Cairns

Hanging out with the Three Sisters (rock formation behind us)

Day 2: New Castle to Byron Bay

After getting a great nights sleep at a hotel above a bar (added bonus of staying at this hotel; guests got 2 free drinks, but in our case 4!), we started the 7 hour drive to Byron Bay.

On our way to Byron Bay (we’re poets and we didn’t even know it!) we stopped off at the coastal town of Port Macquarie to grab a bite to eat and take a quick walk along the water. When we started our walk we noticed Koala statues all around us. Apparently we had stumbled onto an outdoor Koala art exhibit. Taking in some Australian culture!

Sydney to Cairns

Sydney to Cairns

Following the decorated rocks of Port Macquire

If you’re ever driving north to Byron Bay, Port Macquire is a great pitstop along the way. There are tons of cafes and places to grab a quick bite to eat and it’s a fun town to walk around.

Day 3: Byron Bay to Brisbane 

We didn’t arrive in Byron Bay until 10:00pm and were staying at a local campsite. As soon as we got there we set up our tent, and within minutes of getting the rain cover on it began to down pour. It was probably the craziest nights sleep we’ve ever had. The thunder and lightning were so intense that at times we had contemplated just sleeping in the car.

The next morning the storm had passed and we made our way to check out the famous Byron Bay. We only had a couple of hours so we grabbed breakfast by the beach and watched some of the surfers catch some gnarly waves!

Sydney to Cairns

Byron Bay

Since it was only a two hour drive from Byron Bay to Brisbane we stopped off at a couple other spots along the way. The Gold Coast is known for it’s golden sand beaches so we checked out Coolangata and Surfers Paradise. Both are awesome beaches, but we found Surfers Paradise to be a little touristy while Coolangata is more low key, making it our favorite between the two.

Sydney to Cairns

Surfers Paradise

Sydney to Cairns


Day 4-8: Brisbane

Check out our Brisbane post to see how we spent our time in this awesome city!

Day 9: Brisbane to Tin Can Bay

We had been stopping at so many Aussie beaches and were getting pretty envious of all the surfer bro’s hanging ten. So we decided to grab a few long boards of our own and start day 9 of our road trip with our very first surf lesson!

We took our lesson an hour and a half outside of Brisbane at Noosa Heads with the surf company Learn to Surf Noosa. We first learned some basic safety tips, which included watching out for riptides, string rays and sharks (we’re pretty sure they were trying to weed out the weak), followed by a beginners guide on how to surf. After about 30 minutes on land, we jumped into the ocean and attempted to stand-up on our boards. Although we both only successfully stood up twice, it’s still pretty cool to say that we learned to surf in Australia!

Sydney to Cairns

Once we left Noosa Heads, we drove an hour north and stayed in the small town of Tin Can Bay.

Day 10: Tin Can Bay to Airlie Beach

We planned to stay in Gladstone to break up the 10+ hour drive. However, as with any road trip sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

To sum-up our experience in Gladstone in one word: Spiders.

When we arrived at our camp site around 9:00pm Nick began setting up our tent when he noticed there were little green reflections coming off the grass. When we looked closer we noticed that the little green reflections were actually little green spiders. For those of you that don’t know, Nick is a bit of a pussy when it comes to spiders. So we did the only sensible thing in this situation… Packed up our tent, got back in the car, and got the fuck out of there!

Gladstone, we won’t be back.

Instead of sleeping with the spiders, we drove through the night another 6 1/2 hours (on top of the 4 we had already driven) and arrived at Airlie beach around 4:30am.

Like the beach bums that we are, we figured we could just find a nice comfortable spot on the sand and pass out for a few hours. Unfortunately for us, as soon as we arrived we found no camping signs posted all around the beaches and parking lots.

At this point we were exhausted and needed a place to rest our eyes. So we did the only thing we could… yup, we slept in our car on the side of the road with trucks whizzing by us and the occasional car pulling up behind us with their brights on.

When we woke up at 7:30 we were still exhausted and needed to find a bed, so we checked into a hostel and took a much needed nap.

When we finally woke-up around 1:00pm we were ready to explore the town. We quickly noticed that Airlie is more of a port town than a beach town. There are lots of boats that will take you to really nice beaches out on the islands (like Whitehaven Beach), but Airlie lacks a really nice beach of its own. Since we had slept till 1:00 in the afternoon we had literally missed the boat.

However, just a 20 minute ride from Airlie you can find Hideaway Bay and Dingo Bay, two great non-touristy beaches. Hideaway was our favorite and a great place to getaway and relax on the beach. Dingo Bay was definitely named appropriately… we must have seen over 100 kangaroos hopping all over the place!

Sydney to Cairns

Hideaway Bay

Day 11: Airlie to Cairns

When we finally arrived in Cairns we could hear the gospel choirs signing hallelujah! We survived our 3,000km road trip, which took us just 11 days, and we got to see the majority of Australia’s east coast.

If the distance doesn’t kill you, it only makes you stronger!

Cairns was filled with jumping out of airplanes, scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and walks through the rainforest… but that’s another post all together.


What’s the longest road trip you’ve ever been on?