Driving from Sydney to Cairns

Jun 11th, 2004, 12:17 PM
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Driving from Sydney to Cairns

Plan on driving up the east coast of Australia in April of 2005. I have drivin in most of the British Isles and Ireland do I need to be worried about this trek! I plan on just easing along. Any help or ideas on restaurants, hotels, sites to see will be appreciated. I will have the whole month to travel
Decktime63 is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 03:57 PM
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Hi, Decktime63. You certainly don't need to be worried, but the distances between towns may come as a surprise. There will be some fairly long stretches of not-much-at-all as you head up through Queensland, but you can relieve this by leaving the highway and ducking across to whatever towns take your fancy (don't be disappointed that most of the Pacific Highway won't be in sight of the Pacific). As you have a whole month you shouldn't have to make any extra-long (by Australian standards) runs, but it's a good idea to take a break every couple of hours.

As for points of interest, I'm sure you'll get a lot of pointers from other Fodorites (it's a long time since I did that trip) but you might like to supplement them with a suitable guidebook.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 06:15 PM
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Hi Decktime - if we have another late wet season, it could be a bit tricky in North Queensland - the road often floods at Tully on the main coastal road. Keep an eye on road and weather conditions with RACQ - the state motoring association. If the road is under water north of Townsville, you may need to take the inland detour to Cairns via Charters Towers, an interesting town in its own right. It's a disgrace that the main coastal road floods so regularly and although the latest Federal Budget allowed for the upgrading of Queensland roads you can bet your life the State Government will be spending most of it in SE Queensland, where it catches most of its votes.
pat_woolford is offline  
Jun 11th, 2004, 06:38 PM
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Decktime: Don't assume the only way of getting from Sydney to Cairns is the along the coast highway (Pacific and Bruce Hwys). If you have a month, you'll have time to divert quite a lot along the way, which you should do if you want to see the more interesting and beautiful sights. I don't know if you'll be coming from the States or not, but just think of what you would see if you stuck to Rte95 driving all the way from Florida to Boston. Not much would be be the answer.
RalphR is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 09:50 AM
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Thank you all for your help. I'm traveling from the states and this will be a once in a lifetime trip for me. i'm an avid scuba diver and sun lover, and just want to loll around you beaches and gobble up the far north's sun. I don't mind driving if added the RACQ site to my favorites and I'm trying to stockpile as much info as I can in the coming months.
Decktime63 is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 06:45 PM
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Apropos Pat W. comments about the Tully River: We were held up at the crossing for 20 hours; some people had been held up for 3 days. Our time there is one of our fondest memories of our April - May trip. It quite an impressive sight, hundreds of semis waiting for the road to clear. The Murray River north of Cardwell was over its banks also creating a vast lake.
It's shocking that all the Queensland road dollars go for multi lane by passes in the far south and that the north ( and Cairns) can be cut off for days. The inland route appeared to be about 500 extra km from Townsville. So you'd have to weigh that against the reported charms of Charters Towers.
But it was a greta adventure for us and nice to learn that other governments are as dysfunctional as our own (USA),

AndrewDavid is offline  
Jun 12th, 2004, 07:40 PM
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Hi Decktime - yes, Andrew D is right - it's a hell of a long detour via Charters Towers, sorry, should have made that clearer. Have been forced to take it once starting from Cairns - most of the road from the northern part is extremely narrow for several hundred kms - we wouldn't have got through there either without our 4WD as the road was also flooded south of Ravenshoe, (south west of Atherton Tableland). Also heavy rains had turned the usually dry landscape into a green wilderness; grass right up to roadside was about 6'high so visibility was difficult, it was almost impossible to avoid hitting eagles munching on roadkill and you'd definitely collect a kangaroo or two at night.
pat_woolford is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 08:26 AM
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Pat and Mike don't just have a plain 4WD, they have a snorkle version which allows them to get through the big puddles which sometimes litter the Australian countryside.
AndrewDavid is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 10:18 AM
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Decktime: If beaches are your thing, in my opinion, the best beaches on your trip will be in NSW and SE Queensland. Trouble is there is very little surf as you get further north, because of the protective effect of the Great Barrier Reef. The North Queensland beaches are pretty, no doubt, but if you take the surf away, I ask, what's the point of spending time at the beach?

So don't rush to get up north - once you get to say, Coffs Harbour, you'll find the weather just fine for going to the beach. Even in Sydney, we used to go to the beach well into April, though at that time of year, it's a bit hit and miss.

RalphR is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 02:46 PM
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I agree with RalphR regarding the mainland beaches but once you get to Maryborough/Hervey Bay Qld, start considering day trip/overnights on the Queensland islands. Fraser island, the world's largest sand island, is accessible from Hervey Bay and the further north you go you the options multiply. Don't book ahead, call in at the travel agents in adjacent mainland towns to check for standby rates (having prepared a reality check on the normal price (not rack rate) by all but booking some of them beforehand. I'm sure a search of "Queensland Islands" will give you a good starting point. Don't discount Magnetic Island which, although it is virtually a suburb of Townsville, has some wonderful white sand beaches (in contrast to the golden, more coarse sand on some mainland beaches in this area) in spectacular settings accessible by the Mini mokes available for daily hire there. Look for Radical Bay on MI.

Also North and South Stradbroke and Moreton Islands off Brisbane are worth considering. RalphR is right about the weather in April in these parts. I'm on the Gold Coast (south of Brisbane) and we are just about to head for the beach on a winter's day. The weather is just sensational and with a bit of oohing and aahing we'll be in for a dip for sure. April should be no problem.

dougw is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 07:31 PM
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Yes, Fraser Island is most definitely a must-see. Been there once and would love to go again to try and see the more northern parts I missed the first time. Its freshwater perched lakes are gorgeous, as are its pockets of rainforest and the huge eastern beach which doubles as the main road on the island, complete with traffic signs. Difficult to see without renting a 4WD or taking a tour, however. It is a very large island, one of the largest off of mainland Australia I believe (excepting Tasmania of course).
RalphR is offline  
Jun 13th, 2004, 08:27 PM
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We've had many enjoyable holidays driving from Melbourne to Cairns and here are some of our favourite spots.
Mission Beach (between Townsville and Cairns) is a pretty little village, lovely beach, great views across to the islands. Several motels/B&Bs/cabins.
Palm Cove (between Cairns and Port Douglas) - another little village, good beach, lots of places to sleep and eat.
Visit Paronella Park and take the guided tour (about 30 minutes inland from Mission Beach) - fascinating story.
Drive about one hour inland from Mackay and visit Eungella National Park and Finch Hatton Gorge - good places to see platypuses, great views.
Take the ferry across the Daintree River and drive north to Cape Tribulation.
Yeppoon - about 30 minutes east of Rockhampton - is a good overnight spot. Lots of accommodation, great beaches etc.
If you want to visit the Whitsunday Islands, wait to book until you get to Airlie Beach - lots of last minute specials.
Eumundi Market on the Sunshine Coast - open Saturday and Wednesday.
Dorrigo National Park and Bellingen - about 30 minutes inland from Coffs Harbour.
Hope you enjoy your holiday.
marg is offline  
Jun 15th, 2004, 04:23 PM
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I would like to thank everyone who replied to my original post. It bought some interesting and informative responses. Once again thanks to all!
When I have some other questions about the planning of my australian vacation I will post them.
Decktime63 is offline  
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