Tips:   Cairns-Sydney

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Travel Tips – Cairns to Sydney

Arrive Cairns airport, pick up Hire Car. Drive on the correct, (left) side of the road!   This is particularly important as on small roads without a centre line. If you are used to driving in Europe or America your automatic reaction is to veer to the right!

If you don't have an Australian Geographic map of Queensland, pick up one at:

Shop #F3, Ground Level, Pier Marketplace, Pier Point Road Cairns, QLD 4870 Ph: (07) 4041 6211

For a free Motoring Holiday Guide to Queensland, Phone 1 800 222 689

Cairns is a touristic town but you might like to look through the shops on the esplanade.

Obtain tourist maps of the area and for your trip South. If you are a member of TCS, take your membership card along to receive discounts at the RACQ, (Royal Auto Club of Queensland) office. Make sure you get a good map of Brisbane as well.

Things to do in Cairns and the surrounding area.

Check out the possibilities on the web at and select as region, Tropical North / Cairns /Attractions, to see the many possibilities.

The Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Centre is a must to see. It gives you an insight into the local aboriginals and their beliefs and traditions. It also presents a demonstration of the traditional method of making fire and of playing the digeridoo etc. See info under / Cairns / Attractions.

After exhausting the possibilities in Cairns, drive North along the coast road to Port Douglas. Info is  also available on the web site mentioned above. Under / Port Douglas /Attractions

The hit there is the Rainforest Habitat. It has won prizes several times as the best outdoor exhibit in Australia.

Info on the above web site and on    Don’t miss it!

Travelling further North you could visit Mossman Gorge National Park and possibly take a boat trip on the Daintree River.   There is also a very special backpackers hostel at Cape Tribulation with several possibilities for activities. It is a tropical type accommodation right on the beach. You have to cross the river by ferry, but it should be worth it.

Cost was about $23.00 twin share in 2001.  For further information see:

When you are ready to head South again, I suggest you take the inland route and visit the Atherton Tablelands. Here you will see tobacco growing around Mareeba, see Tinaroo dam, Lake Tinaroo and the two volcanic crater lakes of Lake Eucham and Lake Barrine. The huge Curtain Fig Tree is also well worth seeing.

Travelling further South I suggest that you divert a little inland to see the Undara Lava Tubes.

See , or information is also available on the qld-holidays web site. This will also give you a view of the hinterland before returning to the coast at either Ingham (a sugar cane growing area) or at Townsville.

Townsville is an interesting town with a large yacht harbour, a casino and a very nice traffic free shopping mall. The town is overshadowed by Castle Hill, which also provides a super lookout point. There are several shops selling jewellery made with Queensland semi-precious stones. I believe that we were able to get sales tax exemption on presentation of our airline ticket. Hint: Sapphires are the second hardest stones after diamonds and are available in colours ranging from blue to green. Rubies are a little softer and pure opals, although they are varied and very beautiful, are very soft and scratch easily. Queensland opals are often what we call boulder opals, whereby part of the original stone is still attached to the back of the opal. The most practical for regular wear as a ring, are those with a thin layer of clear quartz glued on the top of the opal for protection. These are known as a doublet or triplet depending on the lay up. You can also purchase stones or jewellery at the gem fields of Sapphire and Rubyvale, but the range is often better in a place like Townsville. Good luck!

From Townsville follow the coast road South to Proserpine, then to Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour to organise a boat trip to see the Whitsunday Islands. Check possibilities on the web on

Some of the islands have been developed as tourist resorts and others have been preserved as National Parks. The South Pacific Night at South Molle Island is worth while experiencing. Check ahead to see what night of the week it is and plan around that. Whitehaven Beach is unbelievably beautiful, and the underwater observatory on Hook Island is worth visiting, as long as the weather has not been too rough making underwater visibility poor. Both of these are normally included in a boat tour.

After the Whitsundays, follow the coast as far as Mackay, then head South West to the gem fields of Rubyvale, Sapphire and Anakie. It is interesting to look at some of the stones offered for sale or to try your luck yourself. Some places allow you to wash and sort through a bucket full of river gravel to try your luck. We finished up with about a dozen or so small pieces of various stones. From Anakie travel East to Emerald, then South to Springsure and Rolleston continuing on direction Roma but turning off to see Carnarvon Gorge. This is an extremely interesting National Park, like a miniature grand canyon but with sub tropical growth. If you wish to walk the full length of the gorge and back, it is a 20 km walk, but has no hills as it follows the creek. Many of the small side canyons are very interesting. Try to see a platypus in the pool in the creek late afternoon or early morning. The lodge is very nice, but fairly expensive. There is also a nice camping ground and the information centre is located at the campground.

Leaving Carnarvon Gorge, I suggest you travel North to Rolleston again then turn East to visit the huge open cut coal mine at Moura. Guided tours of the mine are available and are very interesting.  It is hard to believe, but the large coal seam that is being mined here, extends South beyond the Qld. NSW border.

From Moura you could travel East to Biloela, then you have the choice of travelling East to Rockhampton and on to the coast to visit Great Keppel Island, ( see web qld site, /Capricorn area) or to travel South via Monto, Mundubbera and Gayndah to Gympie. This would depend on available time etc. Gayndah is a citrus fruit growing area and is renowned for its beautiful naval oranges.

If you visit Great Keppel Island, your trip South would then take you past Port Alma which is just a little South of Rockhampton. This is a large area of evaporation pans for claiming salt from seawater. The salt that is won is then bulldozed into huge stockpiles to be bulk loaded into ships. It is quite interesting to see. From Port Alma you could then take the Bruce Highway South to Gympie, passing through the sugar cane growing region around Bundaberg.


Gympie was a profitable gold mining town for many years, but when gold prices dropped and water flooded many mines, the economy changed over to agriculture, dairying and forestry. The gold mining has recently been recommenced and the Eldorado mine is running extremely profitably. Gympie is also an ideal starting point for many tours in the area.

Visit the Mining Museum, the Mothar Mountain pool and forest walk is very refreshing on a hot day, make a trip to Rainbow Beach and surrounding area. You can cross to Fraser Island from Inskip Point and make a day trip up the beach by 4WD to visit some of the beautiful sites on the island.

From Gympie you could travel via the Mary Valley, (pineapple plantations, banana plantations, beans and dairying.) then via Mapleton to Montville. Stop to visit Kondalilla National Park. Circuit walk and swim in the pool above the water fall. Return to the Bruce highway near Nambour then head North for a while to reach Noosa Heads.

There is a youth hostel at Halse Lodge right near the surfing beach at Noosa Heads. Take the road leading past Laguna beach to reach Noosa National Park. There is a very interesting walk around the coast track to "Hells Gates" then back through the forest to the car park. Look closely in the eucalypt trees at the car park. There are koalas living there in the wild, but they are rather hard to spot. You could take a boat trip up the Noosa River. This is very interesting and the one tour goes right up the river to Lake Cootharabah, then you walk across a small stretch of sand to the ocean to return to Noosa down the beach by 4WD. A full day trip.

After Noosa take the coast road South right beside the beach towards Coolum Beach. You can stop almost anywhere along the way and walk through to the beach. It is really magnificent. Stop just North of Coolum to see the beach section of Noosa National Park – Take the board walk through the backwaters to the beach. This is how all the beach was before development took over.

Continue towards Maroochydore, Alexandra Headlands and Mooloolaba. Stop to see or surf the beach at Mooloolabah or Alexandra Headlands. Follow the coast road South to Caloundra then turn West to join the main road again. After a short time, turn West off the main road at Beerwah towards Peachester. Note the spectacular view to the South from the top of the range, overlooking the Glass House Mountains. Travel via Kilkoy and Esk passing Lake Somerset and Lake D’agujlar, then South towards Ipswich approaching Brisbane from the West.


If you haven’t seen enough Australian Animals yet, the Lone pine Koala Sanctuary is on your right on the way into Brisbane from Ipswich. It has a lot more than just Koalas. You should take the northern road which takes you through Indooroopilly.

On your way into the city, take a left turn to Mt Cootha for a spectacular view of the whole area. Mt. Cootha is easily recognised by the TV transmitting towers.

Returning towards the city, travel along Coronation Drive which follows the Brisbane River and cross the Story Bridge to visit South Bank Parklands. This is built on the site of the Expo 88. Swimming is available in the freeform pool there. If you wish to see some of the city centre, cross the river and look for a parking place down near the botanical gardens. These are on the river and well worth a visit. Visiting yachts moor between piles on the river beside the Gardens. We spent a few days there 17 years ago. The Queen Street shopping mall is easy walking distance from the gardens, and is traffic free. I’m sure you would enjoy strolling through the various arcades etc.

From Brisbane head South towards the Gold Coast but turn off at Beenleigh to Tamborine. There are great views over the Gold Coast from the road around Mt. Tamborine. From here you have to decide whether you prefer to see the Western side of Lamington National Park  by visiting O’Rielleys Guest House via Beaudesert,  or the eastern side of the park by visiting Binna Burra Lodge, or visit both. Both places are really great and O’Reilleys has a tree top walkway, which could be rather interesting.

O’Riellys and Binna Burra both have accommodation and camping areas.

Binna Burra is on the eastern side of Lamington National Park and you would travel South from Mt. Tamborine to Beechmont, then turn South towards Lamington Nat. Park and Binna Burra.  Both lodges have prepared walking tracks through the park with points of interest marked. Information and daily guided tours are available from both lodges. The area is fantastic. 

After visiting either one or both places, head East towards the Gold Coast. The road from Beechmont joins the Gold Coast Highway at the Beenleigh traffic lights.

There are several interesting attractions on the Gold Coast. See the web site. Sea World is worthwhile visiting, both for the animals and the various shows. They also have a few very interesting rides if you are interested. Currumbin Bird Sanctuary is interesting if you can be there for one of the feeding times. Hundreds of Rainbow Lorrikeets and other birds come in for the feed.

When heading further South, follow the road which runs right beside the beaches to see some of the great surfing beaches, Burleigh Heads, Palm Beach, Coolangatta etc, then cross into New South Wales at Tweed Heads. Fruit is not allowed to be carried across the state border. The Northern Rivers district of New South Wales is a banana growing district, and they are worried about fruit fly and diseases.

You could follow the coast road, checking out the beaches as far as Byron Bay. Byron Bay lighthouse is built on Cape Byron, which is the most easterly point of Australia. There are great views from the lighthouse looking over the long beaches to the South.

From here you can decide whether you would like to continue along the coast, or to turn inland through forrests and varying landscapes. If you decide to go inland you would follow the road to Grafton and then shortly South of Grafton turn off towards Armidale via Nymboida and Wollomombi. It might be worthwhile visiting Wollomombi Falls as you pass. From Armidale you would follow the New England Highway to Tamworth, Muswellbrook, then turn South West at Singleton to travel the back way to the Blue Mountains. Shortly after Singleton you will pass through part of the Hunter river valley, which is a wine growing area. Follow the road via Bulga, Howes Valley, Upper Colo, Bilpin, Mt Victoria and Hampton to the Jenolan Caves. Some of this area could be blackened by bush fires at the moment (Jan. 2002). You should visit at least one of the caves. I highly recommend the Orient Cave. It was carefully cleaned about 25 years ago and is sealed to keep out the dust. The River Cave is very different and also very interesting. Don’t miss the great lunch buffet at the Caves House. It is very good value for money. There is also an interesting view from above the tunnel entrance to the caves house area. If I remember correctly it is called the Devil’s Coach house and is accessed by the steps just inside the northern side of the entrance tunnel.

After the Jenolan Caves you could travel back to Katoomba to see the Three Sisters and from there you would head East towards Sydney.


Just a few suggestions. Take the Manly Ferry from Circular Quay to Taronga Park Zoo. Beautiful views of the city and of the harbour from the zoo, and the nocturnal exhibit is really special. Many Australian animals and birds are night active and cannot normally be seen. Here the day has been changed by 12 hours so that the animals believe it is night and you can observe them in infra red light. They even have a New Zealand Kiwi in the exhibit.

Take the ferry on to Manly and walk or bus across to Manly Beach.   In Sydney itself there is the Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge and it is worth while taking the elevator to the top of Australia Square, or Sydney Tower,   Both have revolving restaurants.

The Rocks Area is the oldest part of Sydney and is preserved as a tourist attraction.

Kings Cross is the night-club area. Walk through there at night but hold on to your partner.

For those with a love for the water, you could rent a boat from Halvorsen Boats and cruise the Hawksbury river estuary. This is a fantastic area only a few kilometres North of Sydney, encompassed by Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.  Boats with overnight accomodation are available from:

Halvorsen Boats, Ku.ring-gai Chase N.P., Bobbin Head. Tel. 02 9457 9011   

I believe that a boat driver's licence is not required, but a bit of experience would be an advantage.

There are lots of other things to see and do in Sydney.  Check out the web sites and enjoy yourself!

Kerry Cassidy

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