The five best activities to experience on a Brisbane to Townsville road trip

blog campervan britz couple beach
Meghan Advent
18 Oct, 2022
9 minutes to read

So much to see and do

The drive from Brisbane to Townsville is one of the best stretches of highway for a family road trip in Australia. There are natural wonders, water sports and stunning beaches, to amusement parks and wildlife. There really is something to delight every family member. To help you on your journey, we’ve gathered up a comprehensive list of the best activities to experience, as well as some handy tips on making the trip as smooth as possible.

What is the distance between Brisbane and Townsville?

The distance between Brisbane and Townsville is roughly 1350 kilometres. This would take approximately 15.5 hours to drive straight, but with plenty of exciting places to stop along the way, breaking up the drive will be easy.

How long does it take to drive between Townsville and Brisbane?

Technically, the total driving distance without stops is 836 miles, for 15 hours and 12 minutes. So you can drive Brisbane to Townsville in one day. However, you’ll want at least a week (ideally more) to enjoy everything the east coast has to offer.

A highway in Australia at sunrise.
There is still so much to explore in Fraser Island, like this paradise-like beach in its southern area.

Where should I stay between Townsville and Brisbane?

Once you secure campervan hire in Brisbane, we recommend reserving campground space at the major destinations along your route - especially during summer and school holidays. These places will book out, and travel with kids can get tricky once the family-friendly accommodations get snapped up. Some of the most popular locations to stay are as follows:

  • Sunshine Coast
  • Noosa Heads
  • Central Bundaberg
  • Rainbow Beach
  • Hervey Bay
  • Fraser Island
  • Seventeen Seventy
  • Rockhampton
  • Airlie Beach
  • Proserpine
  • Whitsunday Islands
  • Magnetic Island

What are the best activities to do on the Brisbane to Townsville drive?

Without further ado, here are the hotspot destinations and activities to experience on your trip from Brisbane to Townsville or Townsville to Brisbane.

  1. Go to the best beaches

The East Coast of Australia is renowned for its incredible beaches, each one special in its own way. Both domestic and international tourists flock here to lay out on the golden sand and frolic in the warm Pacific waters. Here are the ones you can’t miss on a Brisbane to Townsville North Queensland road trip.

Mooloolaba Beach - Sunshine Coast

Patrolled by lifeguards 365 days a year, Mooloolaba Beach is a family favourite. The kids love to splash in the rock pools at the northern end of the beach, while the older kids and adults can swim and surf in the rolling waves.

  • Discover over 10,000 sea creatures when you visit the incredible all-weather attraction: SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium.

Onyour Sunshine Coast vacation, be sure to enjoy the white sand and gentle tide of Mooloolaba beach, the safest beach in QLD.
Aerial view of Noosa Heads beach.
Sunshine Beach - Noosa Heads

Arguably one of the best beaches in Australia, Sunshine Beach’s massive 15 kilometres of coastline is known for its ideal surfing conditions. If you prefer to relax with the odd dip in the water, you can rest assured the beach is patrolled by lifeguards daily.

Elliott Heads - Central Bundaberg

Elliot Heads is a stunning Queensland beach located just a 15-minute drive from central Bundaberg. When travelling with the little ones, it’s best to stick to the river mouth, where the calmer waters allow for snorkelling, paddleboarding, and splashing around in the rock pools.

  • Elliot Heads has plenty of places to camp or picnic nearby.

The Whitsundays offer some of the most picturesque beaches in Australia.
  1. Get out on the water

Not only is the East Coast of Australia home to the Great Barrier Reef, one of the most complex natural ecosystems in the world, but it is also host to some of the most incredibly beautiful and unique islands on the planet. On your Brisbane to Townsville drive, you must take to the sea to experience this wonderland of sightseeing and water adventures of all kinds.

Whitsunday Islands - Airlie beach

The Whitsundays offer some of the most picturesque beaches in Australia. Aqua blue water laps against powder white sand to create the most magical site for visitors willing to venture out to these stunning islands. Sail, snorkel, and swim until your heart's content.

  • Airlie beach is the perfect family-friendly base for Whitsundays activities, with plenty of camping options, as well as dining, entertainment and kid-focused activities.

Come to Proserpine, the first mainland port of call for visitors of Whitsunday Islands.
Allow a whole day to explore the Great Barrier Reef.
Moreton Island - Brisbane

A 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane will bring you to the third largest sand island in the world. Hop on a sandboard and zoom down the iconic sand dunes of Moreton Island. Or, explore the Tangalooma Wreck, a cluster of 15 deliberately sunken ships on the east side of the island. Kayakers, snorkelers and divers have multitudes to explore here.

  • It’s easy to organise a day trip from Brisbane, or there are camping and glamping options for those keen to spend the night.

Noosa Everglades - Sunshine Coast

Spend a few hours or a few days exploring this phenomenal network of pristine waterways and wetlands connecting the Northern Noosa River system in the Cooloola Region of the Great Sandy National Park.

  • Queensland has 1 of only 2 Everglades biospheres worldwide (the other one is the Florida Everglades).

Great Barrier Reef

A world-heritage-listed wonder of the world and the largest living structure on the planet, the Great Barrier Reef is a must-see attraction on your Brisbane to Townsville drive. Find a reef experience for the whole family and immerse yourself in this aquatic wonderland.

  • There are daily tours of all kinds, allowing you to discover endless marine wildlife, including manta rays, sea turtles, and thousands of species of fish.

  1. Hit the amusement parks

While most theme parks are located a bit south of Brisbane on the Gold Coast, the kiddos likely won’t mind the extra time in Queensland’s capital. Make it worth your while by visiting one or two parks, or get a combo deal and hit them all!


Australia's largest theme park, Dreamworld, is fun for every family member, with heaps of rides, attractions, restaurants and shopping options. This 40-year-old establishment frequently hosts events and keeps the entertainment fresh and new, drawing crowds year-round.

Whitewater World

Next door to Dreamworld is Whitewater World, where the kids, and the kids at heart, can splash around in a truly remarkable waterpark experience. For a bit of luxury, you can opt for a cabana, which gives you shaded lounge chairs, a fridge to keep your drinks cold, and a dedicated locker.

  • Ensure you check out the hours of operation, as opening times are seasonal.

People riding on a rollercoaster.
Four waterslides emptying into the same pool.

Australia’s top-rated theme park, Movieworld, is home to a wide range of rides and activities to suit everyone in the campervan. Whether you love speed, spins and thrills, or meeting your favourite stars, this exciting park doesn’t disappoint.


Australia's biggest water park, Wet’n’Wild, is home to some thrilling attractions, including the tallest waterslide tower in the country. Kids and parents not keen on adrenaline-pumping slides can take it easy on the Lazy River or in Whirlpool Springs.

  1. Get close to nature

Hervey Bay - Fraser Island

Hervey Bay sits on the Fraser Coast, roughly three hours north of Brisbane, drawing tourists with its mild climate, the island's beaches, and incredible whale-watching tours. Hervey bay also happens to be the gateway to the unmissable Fraser Island.

  • Fraser Island, also known as K’gari, is a Heritage-listed island made entirely of sand. Featuring freshwater lakes, a rainforest habitat for dingoes and much more, this is a one-of-a-kind experience on the drive between Brisbane and Townsville.
  • Ferries to the island leave every 20 minutes south of Hervey Bay and take approximately 30 minutes. If you have the time, you can spend a few nights on the island by booking accommodation or camping.
People swimming at a beach on Fraser Island.
The Glass House mountains at sunset.
Springbrook National Park

A drive less than 100 kilometres south of Brisbane will bring you to Springbrook National Park. This World Heritage-listed rainforest is home to beautiful waterfalls, lush green vegetation and ancient beauty. Families can spend a few hours or a few days exploring this gorgeous caravan park.

  • The most accessible and popular trail is Natural Bridge, which takes about an hour to complete and is suitable for almost everyone, with a paved path leading you through a basalt cave.

Glass House Mountains

On the drive from Brisbane to Townsville, you’ll have the option to stop at the Glass House Mountains near the Sunshine Coast. Comprising eleven rugged volcanic peaks, this stunning attraction offers walking tracks, horse trails and abseiling.

  • Take a short walk (10 minutes) up to the Mountain View lookout with views over Mount Beerwah, Mount Coonowrin, Mount Tibberoowuccum and Mount Tunbubudla. If the little legs are up for it, continue on the Tibrogargan Circuit walking around the base of Mount Tibrogargan through casuarina groves, open eucalypt and melaleuca forests. (Allow about one and a half hours to complete this 4.1-kilometre circuit of a moderate grade.)

  1. Experience the local wildlife

Australia Zoo

One hour north of Brisbane on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is the world-famous Australia Zoo, Home of The Crocodile Hunter. Stretched across more than 110 acres of beautiful land and with more than 1200 amazing animals, it’s the most interactive conservation destination on the planet.

  • For an interactive animal experience like cuddling a koala, you’ll want to book in advance. But either way, a spontaneous visit will be worth the trip.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Located just 15 minutes from Brisbane’s city centre is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, home to over 100 koalas and 70 species of other Australian native animals. The health and wellbeing of the sanctuary’s animals are at the forefront of everything they do, along with their extensive research and conservation efforts.

Rockhampton Zoo

Located in Rockhampton between Bundaberg and Airlie beach along your Brisbane to Townsville drive, you can discover over 100 species of native animals. The free-to-enter Rockhampton Zoo is committed to educating future generations about conserving animal populations and habitats and supporting research that enhances our understanding of the animal kingdom.

An Ibis at Rockhampton zoo.

Ready to book?

An Apollo campervan parked on the beach with two people beside it.

How much does it cost to drive from Townsville to Brisbane?

Whether you drive from Brisbane to Townsville or Brisbane to Townsville, the cost will depend entirely on the length of your trip, the activities you choose, and your spending habits. Renting a campervan will allow you to save money by combining transportation and accommodation, and providing the option to cook meals. For current rental prices, go here to compare Brisbane campervans across multiple brands.

How do I make the most of my Brisbane to Townsville road trip?

Now that you know the most exciting places to visit on the drive from Brisbane to Townsville, it’s time to start planning and booking. You’ll have your pick of the best motorhomes and well-equipped campgrounds if you book your trip well in advance. Make sure you reserve any activity that requires tickets, and organise any equipment you need to make the most of your time spent on Australia’s East Coast. After that, simply follow the road rules and have an amazing time!

If you have more time, a Brisbane to Cairns road trip is also worth a try!