Updated: Aug 3, 2020
With restrictions easing, travellers are pressing the pause button for their overseas trips plans and are taking a road trip.
A recent survey by Siteminder* shows that despite timings around international travel remaining in limbo, the desire for trips locally is strong. More than half of those surveyed plan on hitting the road this year, and nearly 80% will have travelled by the end of next year – despite some 70% being impacted financially by the virus.
In the US, Airbnb is seeing a rise in bookings for rural cabins and large homes. In Europe, car rentals are climbing, as people travel in multi-generational family groups. As travellers are seeking more socially distanced options, what a great time to re-connect!
Mostly low-risk, road trips allow for better control over who we interact with, where we are stopping, eating and sleeping and offer an ideal socially distant method of travel,
Now is the perfect time to discover North Queensland: for some of us, it is a great opportunity to discover our own backyard. And let’s face it, our coastline is simply spectacular. So, jump in your car, buckle up and enjoy some awesome scenery and create memories.
From the blue waters of the reef to the reds of the outback, the green rainforest or the yellow grasslands, there really is so much beauty to be seen by driving in North Queensland and there is a road trip to suit every adventure seeker. Nothing here says anodyne, it is all about over the top awesomeness and Instagram worthy snapshots.
A word of caution, though: although the idea of simply driving off into the sunset and being spontaneous seems rather appealing, it is best to book your accommodation ahead as many places, especially in remote areas, have restricted camping spots or rooms available due to COVID-19 restrictions. Check ahead if the restaurant or attraction you plan to visit is open.
Here are some suggestions:
The Great Tropical Drive
Cairns to Cairns 2,080km
Get ready to discover the very best of Tropical North Queensland on the Great Tropical Drive. Some 26 different routes make up the drive, Experience bustling cities on the coast, laid-back holiday towns and tiny bush outposts, and some of the region’s most spectacular natural landforms. There’s a lot of ground to cover in these 12 days (more than 2,000km in fact), so what are you waiting for?
The Great Barrier Reef Drive
Cairns to Cairns via Cape Tribulation - 300km (return)
Welcome to the loveliest little drive in Queensland. Short but oh-so-sweet, the Great Barrier Reef Drive covers just 140km in a straight line north from Cairns. Some of Tropical North Queensland’s most famous spots are along the route, from World Heritage sites and national parks to luxury resorts.
The Great Green Way
Townsville to Cairns - 348km (one way)
It’s an area with two World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics rainforests, more than 12 National Parks and is the closest mainland access to the Great Barrier Reef – Yet, it’s possible that even well-seasoned travellers haven’t done this drive.
Lava Tubes, Gems and Gorges
Undara to The Lynd Junction 437km (one way)
Want to discover the real Australia? Head into Queensland’s Gulf Country during the dry season to find a landscape shaped by ancient volcanoes and the powerful forces of nature. Scratch beneath its surface and you might unearth gold or gemstones. Or simply take a jaunt and enjoy the stunning gorges, incredible wildlife, fascinating history and zany characters that are part and parcel of this region.
The Savannah Way
Cairns to Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park - 1,700km (one way)
The Savannah Way is an epic, two-state, one-territory, 3,700km journey across the top of Australia. Leave the lush rainforest of the coast behind and head to the cool of the tablelands and the dramatic landscapes of the Queensland outback. Walk through ancient geological formations, have a yarn with the locals in tiny country pubs and catch barramundi in the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. You’re in for quite an adventure.
The Wheelbarrow Way
Mareeba to Chillagoe (add Cairns) - 143km (one way)
Named after the miners of the late 1800s who used to pile all their belongings into a wheelbarrow and travel the region looking for work, The Wheelbarrow Way travels through verdant crop-producing farmlands, cattle country, wooded savannah and friendly little towns with impressive histories. It’s a relaxing and rewarding outback drive packed with rich culture, glorious landscapes and unexpected wildlife encounters.
Cairns to Cape York
Cairns to Cape York 1,432km (one way)
Got a heightened sense of adventure and want to take it all the way to the top (of Australia)? Jump into a 4WD and head off on an unforgettable journey from Cairns to Cape York, via Cooktown. Along the way, you can be challenged with creek crossings and corrugations, experience culture in communities, come across relics of wartime history and be on the look out for unique and elusive Cape York wildlife. It’s a journey that will stay with you for a lifetime.
The Bloomfield Track
Cape Tribulation to Cooktown 103km (one way)
Wild and beautiful, The Bloomfield Track is rated as one of Queensland’s most scenic short road trips – a bucket-list drive for both local and international 4WD enthusiasts. Flanked by a pristine coastline one side and ancient rainforest on the other, the track starts 40km north of the Daintree River ferry and travels just over 100km to Cooktown. Beauty is not without a price though; even in the dry season the track can be subject to sudden flooding, fallen trees and potholes, so always check conditions before heading off. You can make the Bloomfield Track a loop, too: taking the inland Mulligan Highway back from Cooktown to Cairns.
The Waterfall Circuit
Cairns to Atherton Tablelands 100km (one way)
Tropical North Queensland’s annual wet season produces a spectacular side-effect. All that rain trickles into creeks and rivers, some of which spill spectacularly over the jagged landscape into waterholes and rock pools. Happily, for visitors, it’s easy to soak up the sight of these photogenic waterfalls – and perhaps enjoy a refreshing swim or even a few mist-fuelled rainbows – on a languid day-trip around the region.
The Canecutter Way
Kurrimine Beach to Innisfail 52km (one way)
They call it the “Greatest Detour in the North”, but you’ll soon find out that The Canecutter Way is much more than that. It follows the route of the Old Bruce Highway, running between Kurrimine Beach in the south and Innisfail in the north. The Canecutter Way passes through thriving rural communities, vast sugar-cane fields and fruit orchards, and into historic towns. It’s only a short drive but take your time and discover the unique delights of the Cassowary Coast region.
Find full details and itineraries on: /www.tropicalnorthqueensland.org.au/plan-your-trip/roadtrips/
*Siteminder is an Australian-based company providing cloud-based software to the travel and hospitality industry. Its main focus is online distribution and direct booking technology.
* SiteMinder’s Changing Traveller Report - Special COVID-19 Australia Edition
Photo: @Tourism and Events Queensland