Tips for a summer road-trip up Queensland's coast
QUEENSLAND'S fabulous summer weather screams out for a coastal road trip and none is better than the Pacific Coast Way.
A great starting point is the Gold Coast - or any coastal port along the eastern seaboard - en route to the bustling seaside town of Port Douglas.
From the south-east to the tropics, you'll be able to take your pick of world-class places to stay along our coastline or slip off the Bruce Hwy and feast your senses on Mother Nature's fruit bowls, lush national parks and our fabulous rural communities.
This is one roadie where you'll truly appreciate the size and diversity of our Great Barrier Reef.
Day 1: Gold Coast to Brisbane - the Gold Coast is famous for fun and for the golden beaches that frame the coastal strip. From here, it's an easy hour drive to Brisbane, Queensland's cultural hub packed with urban villages, a thumping music scene, temperate climes and eclectic festivals.
Day 2: Brisbane to Maroochydore - nestled between the Maroochy River and the Pacific Ocean, Maroochydore is known for its relaxed atmosphere, fabulous surf breaks and sheltered beaches. Just a stone's throw from the coastline you'll find the sub-tropical rainforests and fertile lands of the Blackall Ranges and quaint country villages.
Day 3: Maroochydore to Hervey Bay - Gympie is known for its annual country music muster and is a great pit-stop on your journey to Australia's whale watching capital, Hervey Bay. Undoubtedly the jewel in the crown for the Fraser Coast region is the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island - the largest sand island in the world and a four-wheel-driving mecca.
Day 4: Hervey Bay to Bundaberg or Gin Gin. Mention Bundaberg and Bundy Rum or Bert Hinkler might come to mind, but this modern farming city is just a 20-minute drive from the annual turtle migration/nesting (November to March) on Mon Repos Beach - perhaps one of the greatest of all the Great Barrier Reef experiences. En route, Gin Gin is known as "halfway to everywhere'' because of its central location and offers a relaxing respite from the road.
Day 5: Onwards to Gladstone - the harbourside town of Gladstone is the gateway to Heron Island, one of David Attenborough's preferred spots on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Day 6: Gladstone to Rockhampton - from seafood to beef, this bustling city is the Beef Capital of the country on the Tropic of Capricorn and is worth an overnighter or two.
Day 7: Rockhampton to Mackay - from Eungella's resident platypus to the beach-mad wallabies at Cape Hillsborough National Park and the flotilla of Great Barrier Reef islands offshore, Mackay is one region that taps into its natural attractions with the snap of a finger, so make sure you put the brakes on and stay awhile.
Day 8: Mackay to Airlie Beach - mention Airlie Beach to a Queenslander and they'll immediately wax lyrical about the beauty. The largest town on the Whitsunday coast, Airlie is where you really start to feel the wonder of the Great Barrier Reef and its hero spots, Whitehaven Beach, Heart Reef and the 74 islands of The Whitsundays.
Day 9: A giant mango heralds your arrival at the town of Bowen - a languid tropical haven with palm-lined beaches, sheltered bays and some of Queensland's best fringing reefs lying just offshore.
Day 10: Bowen to Home Hill and Townsville - if you're a mad-keen diver, chances are the Yongala wreck is on your bucket list. Manta and eagle rays, turtles, the odd whale shark and barracudas are just some of the marine life that you will find in this neck of the woods.
Day 11: As you continue north, you'll pass through the gateway to Queensland's Wet Tropic World Heritage-listed areas. Ingham is known for its large Italian community and hospitality; Cardwell prides itself as a world-class fishing and boating destination and being a stepping stone to Hinchinbrook Island, the largest island national park in Australia; and Mission Beach is a fab spot where the Wet Tropics meet the Great Barrier Reef.
Day 12: Onwards to Cairns - this city is tucked between the Coral Sea and the lush Atherton Tableland. Springboard your way to the reef or, if you're energetic after your epic drive, to a range of adrenaline-charged adventures including whitewater rafting, bungee jumping and diving.
From here, you'll drive one of the most luscious legs on the whole journey - the 60-minute, 66km hop from Cairns to Port Douglas - it's worth the extra kilometres on your clock.