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Brisbane to Cairns

bg washington
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Brisbane to Cairns

We will be visiting Brisbane next summer. Want to experience snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. We enjoy driving and have time but have been told to fly from Brisbane to Cairns. What's the drive like? Are there snorkel options and other points of interest before Cairns?

Thanks for all your help

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1. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

There are places to see BUT for most of it you will be wishing you flew. Take the advice of someone who has done this trip too many times - FLY!

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Brisbane to Cairns


As mentioned by Whiteman its a very long drive from Brisbane to Cairns & if you have limited time flying is the best option.

Domestic flights - check out www.webjet.com.au for the best deals.

However if you like driving see the link below for additional information.




There are many options regarding flying - Qantas operates the " Milk Run " using Dash 8's which is a fabulous way to explore this coast. Basically; the flight goes from Brisbane & stops at Gladstone / Rockhampton / Mackay / Townsville / Cairns.

You can get off & explore each destination for a few hours & the next day continue onto the next town.


b) Drive from Brisbane to Cairns = approx 1708 km


c) Fly Brisbane to Mackay - pick up car - See The Whitsunday Islands / Bowen / Ayr / Townsville / Magnetic Island / Mission Beach / Tully / Hinchinbrook Island / Cairns.

D) Fly Brisbane to Cairns - pick up car explore - Port Douglas / Daintree NP / Cape Tribulation/ Atherton Tablelands.

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3. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

I agree. Fly - flight is about two and a half hours - you will spend 3 days flat if you drive and petrol is expensive. Not worth driving up - roads are not that great, not much to see/do. Around Cairns the northern beaches are great (Palm Cove has some nice hotels) and Port Douglas is also beautiful and you can do outer reef trips from Port Douglas as well as Cairns - I personally prefer Port Douglas over Cairns and it is only 1 hour drive north from Cairns.

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4. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

Cairns is 1686km from Brisbane. You can often get good deals on flights from Virgin . . and probably Jetstar. My experience is with Virgin!

Interested to see that another Brisbane -ite prefers Port Douglas!


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5. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

Hi gja52,

Most people who are saying fly know three things:

1. It's a long way to drive and a lot of the miles are only two lanes

2. For a state that has remarkable coast line, the road hardly ever sees it

3. And the interesting points along the road are miles apart

Any stop option along the way if your drive will require you in most instances to take a detour to the coast.

It's your choice, if it was me I would fly.

Safe travels - Robert

Gales Ferry...
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6. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

As suggested by Ellemay, I thing the best option is to fly part way, either to Mackay or Townsville then head north. Lots to see, particularly north of Townsville. I loved seeing Wallaman Falls, inland from Ingham - Australia's highest. We saw a casowary there, as well as platypuses in the creek.

Brisbane, Australia
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7. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

Summer is the wet season in far north queensland so unless you have unlimted time I agree with most and would fly. More time to spend on the reef.

Daintree, Australia
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8. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

Just clarifying which summer we're talking about - Australia's or the USA's??? Aussie summer is December, January and February so if you are coming then it could be rainy, especially in Cairns and the far north - every year is different and some years the wet season starts in December, others it can be February or even March. So at that time of year flying would definitely be the best option as roads can be cut by floods.

But even if it does rain (and the sight, sound and even smell of warm tropical rain is very spectacular) there are always lovely sunny days in between. All the snorkelling/diving cruises operate all year round so it's just a case of picking the best days while you are here.

9. Re: Brisbane to Cairns

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