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Brisbane itinerary - HELP!

My husband and I will be traveling to Australia in late October - flying and out of Brisbane (no flexibility there). We only have 10-12 days on the ground and want to make the most of it. Bummed the Outback can not be included this time! Need help planning an itinerary via car travel. We will spend 1-2 nights in the city and save the rest for other areas. Yes, we'd like to get to the GBR but need to see how to work it in. Want to do the islands, rainforest, maybe hinterland, horseback riding and of course snorkel - not sure we would dive, but maybe. Love to explore little towns. Want to spend maybe 2 nights in one place, two nights in another and so on. Don't want to be on the road doing long trips every day. Partying night life in the city is not what we are looking for. Have to keep in mind that we need to work our way back to Brisbane.
Help! I am feeling overwhelmed.
Cheers!

Posted by
7124 posts

Fly in to Brisbane (2 nts)
One full day for exploring Brisbane.
••Fly to Cairns - stay Port Douglas or Palm Cove (4 nts)
Three full days are needed here for
1. Great Barrier Reef
2. Daintree Rainforest
3. Atherton Tableland
••Fly to Sydney (3 nts)
Two full days for exploring Sydney.
Pick up hire car and drive to Hunter Valley (1 nt)
Drive to Byron Bay (1 nt)
Drive to Brisbane (1 nt)
Return hire car and fly out of Brisbane.

••QANTAS low cost subsidiary Jetstar offers good fares to/from Cairns.

Posted by
2236 posts

Given the vastness of Australia and the limited amount of time available to you you'll really need to prioritize.
A couple of days in Brisbane will allow you to explore the city and maybe get down to the Gold Coast if you're a beach person. Alternatively, a day or two in Lamington National Park would be a delightful way to get out into the bush - some very nice hikes there.
I agree that Port Douglas would be the better option for exploring that part of Queensland. Other than the obvious attraction of a day out on the reef, both Kuranda and the Daintree would be pleasant excursions with a car.
Suggest that you check fares and schedules on Jetstar - the Aussie budget airline, to see if you could add a stop in Alice Springs and/or Uluru for a quick taste of the outback. Might be reasonable fares on Virgin Australia or Qantas too. Worth a look anyway.
Sydney is a great travel destination - so much to see and do, from the Hunter Valley to the Blue Mountains. Buy a day (or weekly) pass on the ferries and use them as a hop-on, hop-off, service to explore one of the most beautiful cities you'll ever see.
While the drive up the coast is a pleasant one, I'm not sure that would be the best use of your limited time...maybe save that sort of excursion for a future visit.

Posted by
7124 posts

I wouldn't recommend Uluru or the Outback in November - just unbearably hot, even for an Aussie. May to September are the best times for these areas.

Posted by
38 posts

Thank you all for your notes and thoughts. We will only be in Queensland this time. Additional flying is not something we were looking to do once there, but maybe....

Posted by
7124 posts

Just to give you some idea ...
It is 1050 miles (1690km) to drive from Brisbane to Cairns - 2 full days non stop driving. The road is not of the divided multi lane motorway type, so can be slow and frustrating (and dangerous).
Add to that, it is not a very interesting drive between Hervey Bay and Mackay. The road south to Sydney holds much more interest.

Posted by
7124 posts

An idea may be to fly to Mackay, and drive north from there. If Sydney is not part of your plans then you can easily fill up to a week in SE Queensland.

Posted by
38 posts

David - Lots of flying to get to Brisbane and home so don't want to do additional flying - wish we had longer. Lots of great ideas!

Posted by
7124 posts

Unfortunately flying is a necessary part of a holiday down under - it's a big country and distances are great. As you say it's a big time (and money) investment to get here, and consequently most people try and make the most of that time.

Posted by
2236 posts

You'll be lucky to average 50 mph on the long drive from Brisbane to Cairns, making it a 20 hour ordeal each way. While there are a lot of scenic and enjoyable drives in Oz, this isn't one of them.
With direct flights on Jetstar costing less than US $80 why would you drive?

Posted by
145 posts

I'm myself in the planning stage (though we leave for our vacation later this month!). But I agree with the others that you would be better off flying.

We only have 10-12 days on the ground and want to make the most of it.

Don't get me wrong - in my planning, I have tried to maximize driving and train experience as well. However, in your case, Brisbane to Cairns is too long and even though I don't know what the scenery is like, that would be too long a drive. Besides, don't forget that gas would be much more expensive in Australia than in the USA, so even budget wise it might not be a good option.

Instead, you might be better off taking the time you save for local trips on either or both ends (Brisbane or Cairns)!

  • Porcupyn

PS: [Edited to add] If you really want to drive, you might also consider driving just up to Mackay (I read somewhere that this area is very good for the GBR as well because it is less crowded/polluted/endangered, plus you could visit the Whitsundays, which I don't know much about). This would definitely be a much more manageable drive.

Posted by
703 posts

I think Robert has some good suggestions. as driving can be long and boring in Australia, if you have limited time. and don't detour off the major highways.

Given the vastness of Australia and the limited amount of time available to you you'll really need to prioritize.
A couple of days in Brisbane will allow you to explore the city and maybe get down to the Gold Coast if you're a beach person. Alternatively, a day or two in Lamington National Park would be a delightful way to get out into the bush - some very nice hikes there.
I agree that Port Douglas would be the better option for exploring that part of Queensland. Other than the obvious attraction of a day out on the reef, both Kuranda and the Daintree would be pleasant excursions with a car.
Suggest that you check fares and schedules on Jetstar - the Aussie budget airline, to see if you could add a stop in Alice Springs and/or Uluru for a quick taste of the outback. Might be reasonable fares on Virgin Australia or Qantas too. Worth a look anyway.
Sydney is a great travel destination - so much to see and do, from the Hunter Valley to the Blue Mountains. Buy a day (or weekly) pass on the ferries and use them as a hop-on, hop-off, service to explore one of the most beautiful cities you'll ever see.
While the drive up the coast is a pleasant one, I'm not sure that would be the best use of your limited time...maybe save that sort of excursion for a future visit.

there is plenty to see in South east QLD and near the border of NSW if you don't want to travel too far.
Flights to Sydney and back can be relatively inexpensive sometimes. from brisbane and/or the gold coast.( coolangatta) if you change your mind about flying. the coolangatta/tweed area is much nicer IMO than surfers paradise area. ( for what is worth)

hope this helps.

Posted by
7124 posts

Expanding on my suggestion that SE Queensland has a lot to offer, then forget the Barrier Reef, and forget the long drive north.
You could easily fill your time with 2-3 nights at each of these locations.
Brisbane
Surfers Paradise/Gold Coast
Byron Bay
Lamington NP
Fraser Island
Noosa/Sunshine Coast

Posted by
38 posts

Keep the ideas coming...starting to all fall in place. The only thing I am not sure of based on what I have read and what I have be told by some is that the Gold Coast is more built up, amusement parks, etc. Have plenty of that at home :-). Heard that Sunshine coast is more beautiful and less built up which is why we were thinking of just going north from Brisbane. Will look at a few options south of Brisbane too now. Some of the locations I am hearing about don't sound like that far of a drive so it may be plausible to do some of south and north.
Thanks everyone!

Posted by
703 posts

yes, forget the gold coast, eg: surfers paradise area. south of there (closer to the NSW border) or the sunshine coast has more to offer. IMO.
Fraser island is interesting.
It really depends on if you like the coast lifestyle or the country?

Posted by
38 posts

That's the problem - love them both. Maybe a swing up the gold coast and then back down through the hinterland, back out to the coast for the last two days to rest and then home. It is starting to come together. Just not enough time :-( Trying to convince my husband to add an additional week though!

Posted by
2236 posts

If you're looking for interesting, scenic, off-the-beaten track excursions near Brisbane with a car I might suggest grabbing a copy of "Back Roads Australia" by DK publishing...available on Amazon. Have seen used copies on there for just a few dollars. Has 2 or 3 road trips near Brisbane & the Sunshine Coast that might be of interest to you.

Posted by
7124 posts

Just staying in the South East this round trip makes approx 900km driving ...
After flying in to Brisbane, pick up your hire car to immediately head north to the Sunshine Coast and Australia's premier beach resort with a small town feel and great restaurants - Noosa (3nts)
Then the world's largest sand island, Fraser Island (2nts)
Heading south again, bypassing Brisbane, to the mountain rainforest at Lamington NP (2nts)
Over the border into NSW and the eco friendly, arty hippy hang out of Byron Bay (2nts)
Drive to Brisbane via the Gold Coast beaches - Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads, Surfers Paradise
Finally the state capital, Brisbane (3nts)
Fly home from Brisbane

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks David for the reco'd itin! Will check out all the options here. I think Fraser Island and Noosa are on our list already. If we don't make it up to the GBR area (Lady Elliot), I assume that some of the other areas still have excellent snorkeling. I guess it is one of those places that, as one of the 7 wonders, I really want to get to, but shouldn't kick myself if I don't :-(

Posted by
977 posts

Personally, Surfers and the Gold Coast are the last places I would visit in Queensland. Hervey Bay, Fraser Island, Noosa (and the hinterland). If you could make it to the Whitsundays, it would be well worth the effort.

Posted by
7124 posts

Whilst I would not recommend Surfers Paradise as my first choice for a beach stay, it has improved over the last 10 years or so, and the new light rail gives it an energetic buzz. Ignoring all the high rise apartments, the makeover of the beachfront promenade has been done really well, and the beach is still glorious in morning sun. Broadbeach and Burleigh Heads have some great cafes and restaurants, and the surf break at Burleigh along with the beachfront pine trees are exactly as they have always been. It's definitely worth a 'drive thru' to check out if heading to Byron.

Lady Elliot, Lady Musgrave and Heron Island are southern reef options, but here the Reef is much further from the coast than in the north at Port Douglas. You would definitely need to stay for 2 nights minimum on one of these islands.
http://www.southerngreatbarrierreef.com.au/destinations/islands-beaches

Posted by
126 posts

If you desperately want to see the GBR then Lady Elliot Island will do the trick, see the reviews on TA you won’t be disappointed. There has been some coral bleaching in the north due to warmer water, but Lady Elliot hasn’t suffered this as it’s quite a way south.

There are quite a few options to get there, either from Brisbane (Redcliffe about 30 minutes from the Brisbane airport) or further north. You can do a day trip as well if you are running out of time – have a look at their website

I agree with David, there is plenty to do within 250Kms of Brisbane, north, south or west.

North to Noosa, Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island

West to Toowoomba, then south to Stanthorpe and its wineries, then over the border into NSW, you’ll get a feel of country life out that way, not outback life though.

At Tenterfield, head east to Ballina and Byron Bay and the alternative cultures in the hills. Keep to the coast roads rather than the main highways.

Head north along the coast back to the Queensland border, then pass through the Gold Coast area back to Brisbane.

And if you are into Whale watching, trips depart from Brisbane & further north, the whales are heading back to Antarctica after spending time along the east coast of Australia..

Posted by
38 posts

Thanks, Baz. More great info. Booking flights today and then starting to lay in the flow of the trip. So excited.

Posted by
38 posts

Have been doing more research and came across the Capricorn region - Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Keppel Islands, etc. Sounds really interesting. Any thoughts? Seems like a bit of the coast, a bit of the rainforests and a bit of the outback?