Toast to the Coast

Gold Coast to Cooktown

Total Distance: 2595km
30hr 0min

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Make sure there is ample space on the camera’s memory card – the Toast to the Coast touring route is jam-packed with incredible scenery. Beginning in the glittering Gold Coast region, this path heads north and incorporates some of the country's best beaches and the world’s most incredible rainforests before reaching Cooktown.

Highlights

  • Relax and play at alluring Sunshine Coast beaches
  • Be enthralled by whales at Hervey Bay
  • Enjoy awe-inspiring Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays
  • Take advantage of the chance to explore the Great Barrier Reef
  • Be left wide-eyed at the sight of the Daintree Rainforest
Noosa National Park, Noosa Heads

Noosa National Park, Noosa Heads

Mamu Rainforest, Innisfail

Mamu Rainforest, Innisfail

Magnetic Island, near Townsville

Magnetic Island, near Townsville

Gold Coast

Start

The Gold Coast sets the tone for this touring route, accounting for 70km of sparkling coastline that’s perfect for swimming and surfing.  

But there is so much more to this world-renowned region. It earns the title of Australia’s theme park capital for good reason, and the Gold Coast hinterland reveals World Heritage-listed rainforests and stunning national parks.

Don’t forget to head over the New South Wales border to uncover Tweed Heads, where there are more incredible beaches and other waterways. Relax in style with a Tweed River cruise.

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Gold Coast (Bigerra Waters) to Sunshine Coast (Caloundra)

165km (1hr 50min)

Depart the Gold Coast and head north along the Pacific Motorway to reach Brisbane.

Spotted on the Brisbane River, the Queensland capital is a thriving city. South Bank is a must-do: cultural attractions mix with restaurants and bars, a man-made beach, the Wheel of Brisbane, and more.

Climb Story Bridge for astounding views or visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to hold a cuddly creature.

Along the Bruce Highway there’s a tempting diversion as you reach the Sunshine Coast. A short detour along Steve Irwin Way leads to Glass House Mountains National Park and, further along at Beerwah, acclaimed Australia Zoo.

From here, the touring route veers towards the coast and reaches Caloundra. This destination introduces you to the sparkling beaches of the Sunshine Coast, and swimming and surfing are among popular pursuits. Kings Beach features a fenced saltwater pool and a time-delayed fountain that will captivate children.

The Queensland Air Museum and Caloundra Regional Gallery are leading attractions. Or visit the Bulcock Street Markets, held each Sunday morning.

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Sunshine Coast (Caloundra) to Noosa Heads

55km (0hr 50min)

It’s a relatively short drive to the next destination as you continue to explore the Sunshine Coast. However, with key spots dotted along the way it might take a while to get there. These include Mooloolaba, home to Underwater World and its profusion of marine life; Maroochydore, the heart of the Sunshine Coast; and Mount Coolum National Park, which provides panoramic views.

Noosa is a sub-region of the Sunshine Coast and one of its main centres is Noosa Heads. This extremely beautiful town enjoys a spectacular location, surrounded by waterways and on the doorstep of Noosa National Park.

Noosa’s main strip of sand is a protected beach that’s great for a casual dip and Hastings Street is a mecca for designer label shoppers and discerning diners.

Walking tracks within Noosa National Park reveal dazzling coastal scenery and provide great vantage points for spotting marine life.

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Noosa Heads to Hervey Bay

185km (2hr 30min)

Visit Noosa Heads’ neighbours as you continue north. Noosaville is a pleasant village spotted on Noosa River; and historical Tewantin houses the Noosa Regional Gallery.

From here, the touring route heads inland along the Bruce Highway and passes through Gympie, a former gold-mining town lined with arresting heritage buildings.

A detour to the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park showcases imposing cliffs and colourful sands.

At its northern point is Rainbow Beach, a delightful town providing easy access to the more prominent section of Great Sandy National Park – Fraser Island. World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is stunning and offers a wealth of stunning landscapes.

Back on the main path, Maryborough has a vast assortment of striking historical structures that are testament to its standing as one of Queensland’s oldest settlements. Soak up the heritage vibe at the city’s Portside Precinct.

Rejoin the coast at Hervey Bay, a city with endless appeal. Water leisure thrives at its glorious beaches, but Hervey Bay gains most attention for its standing as one of the world’s great whale-watching venues. Tours abound during season (July-November) and will provide an experience you’ll never forget.

For beauty of another kind, visit the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens and pay particular attention to Orchid House. The Hervey Bay Esplanade is the place to go for a bite to eat, shopping, a picnic, and much more.

Hervey Bay is another access point to Fraser Island and a great base for exploring Lady Elliot Island, part of the famous Great Barrier Reef.

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Hervey Bay to Bundaberg

120km (1hr 35min)

Continue your climb to Far North Queensland and stop at Childers, another spot where eye-catching old structures are displayed. Further along is Burrum Coast National Park, which features variable landscapes.

A thriving city on the Burnett River, Bundaberg provides easy access to more of the pristine beaches synonymous with this touring route.
 
Bundaberg is famous for its rum, and distillery tours provide a wonderful insight into this iconic product. Another essential attraction is the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, housed in the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens. Bundaberg Railway Museum is another prized find.

A stop at Mon Repos Conservation Park to view turtles (November-March) will leave you awestruck. Or take advantage of Bundaberg’s proximity to the Great Barrier Reef.

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Bundaberg to Rockhampton

290km (3hr 50min)

Along the next stretch of the Toast to the Coast touring route, consider a detour to Agnes Waters and its twin township of Seventeen Seventy. Enjoy more glorious coastline and explore the area’s Captain Cook link at the Agnes Water Museum or nearby Eurimbula National Park.

On the main path, break up the journey with a picnic at Miriam Vale, home to a huge fig tree. Press on to Benaraby, located on the Boyne River.

From here, veer off the Bruce Highway and visit the harbour city of Gladstone. Aquatic adventures abound thanks to its beaches, other waterways, and easy access to Heron Island.

Picnic at Gladstone Marina Parklands and people watch, or relax at Tondoon Botanic Gardens and admire tracts of rainforest.

The end point of this stretch is Rockhampton, an enchanting city spotted on the Fitzroy River.

For supreme views of Rockhampton and surrounds, stroll within Mount Archer National Park. Continue the nature theme at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens, which include a zoo.

Among the enviable collection at Rockhampton Art Gallery are works of big-name Australian artists. Culture of a different kind can be absorbed at the Great Western Hotel, which hosts regular rodeos.

History shines in Rockhampton through a mighty assortment of old buildings: Quay Street is an ideal starting point. Or visit the Rockhampton Heritage Village or Archer Park Rail Museum, which has steam tram rides most Sundays.

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Rockhampton to Yeppoon

40km (0hr 40min)

Steer towards the coast on the next leg of this touring route and reach Yeppoon.

The town is alluring, mixing a village-like ambience with a wide range of amenities. A stroll along the esplanade, Anzac Parade, reveals the beauty of its coastline and views stretch to offshore islands.

In fact, Yeppoon is the perfect place to access the many islands that make up the Keppel Group, part of the Great Barrier Reef. Great Keppel Island is the standout and delivers an array of gobsmacking beaches.

At sunset, don’t miss the extraordinary sight of flying foxes departing to their feeding spots from nearby Figtree and Ross creeks.

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Yeppoon to Mackay

355km (4hr 5min)

As you rejoin the Bruce Highway, a jaw-dropping natural attraction will tempt. The Capricorn Caves are magnificent limestone creations with a twist – they are above ground. Take a tour to learn more.

From here, weave a path that almost exclusively shies from the coast. Sarina is a sweet addition to the touring route; the town has a strong association with the sugar cane industry and a tour of the Sarina Sugar Shed comprehensively traces this link.

Not far north is Mackay, a tropical city with far-reaching appeal. Walk the palm-lined streets to marvel at its resplendent historical buildings or plant your feet along the Bluewater Trail to unearth sparkling views and key attractions.

Among those attractions are the family-friendly Bluewater Lagoon and the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens.

Another prominent attraction is Artspace Mackay, which houses both a regional gallery and a museum.

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Mackay to Airlie Beach

150km (1hr 50min)

A string of national parks make for excellent stops along this stretch of the touring route.

Cape Hillsborough National Park requires a diversion, but the many beach-going wallabies and phenomenal rock formations reward the effort.  

Further along, Eungella National Park provides plausible opportunities to spot platypus and is home to Finch Hatton Gorge, a glorious rainforest-cloaked area.

The Bruce Highway leads to more beauty as it reaches the Whitsundays. The first major destination you’ll stumble across in the region is Proserpine. Classic architecture and the Proserpine Museum allow for a glimpse of the past.

From here, reunite with the coast in style at Airlie Beach. The largest Whitsundays town, Airlie Beach provides easy access to myriad islands scattered around these parts.

Don’t miss a trip to world-famous Whitehaven Beach and take advantage of ease of access to the Great Barrier Reef. Naturally, water leisure takes centre stage and options are abundant.

Airlie Beach has plenty of appeal itself, offering abundant amenities, a humming nightlife, and great beaches.

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Airlie Beach to Bowen

80km (1hr 10min)

Once you have spent adequate time in Airlie Beach, double back to Proserpine and head north. The sight of the Big Mango – if it has not been ‘stolen’ again – signals your arrival at Bowen. Here, the treasure continues to flow.

Perched on Edgecumbe Bay, the town hoards an enviable eight beaches, which easily entertain divers and snorkelers. The Front Beach foreshore is great for families.

While its natural beauty captivates, Bowen will also catch your gaze for the many murals that highlight the town’s history.

Keep the eyes peeled at Muller's Lagoon. This central parkland attracts 170-plus bird species.

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Bowen to Ayr

115km (1hr 30min)

The coast is within close range along the next portion of the Bruce Highway before entering sugar cane country of the Burdekin region.

Just before Inkerman is Mount Inkerman Lookout. It reveals stunning and diverse views of the surrounding landscape.

Home Hill is a welcoming town on the southern side of the Burdekin River. Here you will come across the area’s biggest landmark, the imposing Burdekin Bridge.

Across the other side is water-friendly Ayr: the Burdekin River, creeks, lagoons, and the coast are all within reach. Plantation Park makes a great picnic spot; featuring a creek and a massive carpet snake sculpture.

For a great night out, head to the Burdekin Cultural Complex. It houses the Burdekin Theatre, which hosts regular events. In the theatre’s foyer is the Gallery of the Stars, a photographic display of the many performers who have played at the venue.

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Ayr to Townsville

90km (1hr 5min)

Continue along the Bruce Highway and keep watch for the turnoff to Bowling Green Bay National Park. Among its gems are wetlands, waterfalls, rainforest, and jagged mountains.

Further afield, Townsville is a city that shines. The description is literal – Townsville collects a whopping 300-plus days of sunshine each year. This means outdoor exploration is vital.

Start at the Strand, a beachfront promenade that highlights Townsville’s beauty. Relax at the many enticing beaches or at a trio of botanic gardens, climb Castle Hill for premium views of these surrounds, or grab a ferry to nearby Magnetic Island.

The indoors reward, too. Reef HQ Aquarium gifts an enthralling insight into the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef, while the Museum of Tropical Queensland and the Maritime Museum of Townsville are among the cultural treasures.

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Charter Towers (diversion)

140km (1hr 35min)

An inland diversion from Townsville to Charters Towers won’t disappoint. This former gold-mining town reveals its bustling past through a series of absorbing attractions. A stroll along Gill and Mosman Street highlights striking old buildings, while Centenary Park features monuments that are a nod to its heyday. Wander through the Zara Clark Museum or visit the Venus Gold Battery for more compelling glimpses of a time gone by.

At Towers Hill, combine history with sensational views. This is the site of Charters Towers’ first gold discovery and a series of storyboards reveal this fascinating chapter of history. Nightly film screenings at the amphitheatre cleverly retrace the past.

Grab a culture fix at the eye-catching World Theatre, which combines live events and movies with art exhibitions.

BIG4 Holiday Parks in Charter Towers (diversion)

Townsville to Rollingstone

55km (0hr 40min)

Just ‘up the road’ from Townsville is Rollingstone, another great base for exploring the wonders of the area. Head to nearby Balgal Beach for a relaxing swim or enjoy a glimpse of the past at the Rollingstone Railway Station.

Rollingstone is a great base for exploring nearby Paluma Range National Park, which is found on the next leg of this touring route.

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Rollingstone to Mission Beach

185km (2hr 15min)

Paluma Range National Park marks the start of the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland. Don’t miss Jourama Falls and towering Mount Spec.

Further along is Ingham. The Ingham Memorial Gardens make a great picnic spot. From here, detour to Girringun National Park to marvel at the massive Wallaman Falls.

Or press ahead on the eastern fringes of Girringun and reach Cardwell. The town is an access point to Hinchinbrook Island, which showcases nature at its brilliant best. Nearby Edmund Kennedy, Girramay National Park is another natural gem.

Look for the Golden Gumboot when visiting Tully; it recognises its standing as one of Australia’s wettest towns.

A short detour from the Bruce Highway leads to Mission Beach, a majestic area consisting of four villages linked by a 14km stretch of sand.

Mission Beach enjoys a rare and breathtaking distinction: this is where the rainforest meets the reef. Plentiful water activities are available in these majestic surrounds, whether sedate or daring.

Enhancing its appeal, Mission Beach is a departure point for cruises to the Great Barrier Reef and its various islands, including Dunk Island.

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Mission Beach to Innisfail

50km (0hr 45min)

There is an enticing detour once you rejoin the Bruce Highway that leads to Paronella Park. This award-winning creation features a castle, rainforest, and waterfalls, and has to be seen to be believed.

Nearing Innisfail, Mourilyan houses the compelling Australian Sugar Heritage Centre, which comprehensively retraces this important industry.

Located on the North and South Johnstone rivers, Innisfail is a thriving town at the heart of diverse and appealing landscapes, including flourishing sugar plantations and more dazzling coastline.

Its architecture is just as attention grabbing. Cyclones have devastated Innisfail but a positive has emerged in the shape of art deco buildings that dominate the town. Pay particular attention to Edith and Rankin Street.

Grab abundant delicious tropical fruit and pack a picnic to take to Warrina Lakes. This delightful area includes a playground and a botanical garden.

Innisfail is a great base for exploring Wooroonooran National Park. It is home to Queensland’s highest mountain, Bartle Frere, as well as the glorious Josephine Falls.

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Innisfail to Cairns

90km (1hr 10min)

Massive Wooroonooran is among various national parks that line either side of the Bruce Highway on the next stretch.

At Babinda, a short detour leads to the Babinda Boulders. This is a refreshing swimming hole dotted with – you guessed it – huge boulders.

Continue along the Bruce Highway, passing through several small towns such as Gordonvale, where the sight of towering Walsh's Pyramid dominates the landscape.

The booming city of Cairns is packed with attractions and regularly bathed in sunshine. It also provides easy access to the Great Barrier Reef: myriad tour options are available.

Feel the pulse of the city at the Cairns Esplanade, a sprawling foreshore area that includes parklands, a lagoon, a playground, and more. Soak up the sun at glittering beaches or stroll within the magnificent Cairns Botanic Gardens.

The Cairns Regional Gallery leads the way when it comes to art, although the city has several galleries that warrant attention.

Travel further afield and lap up spectacular scenery aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which travels from Cairns to Kuranda.

BIG4 Holiday Parks in Cairns

Atherton (diversion)

95km (1hr 20min)

A journey inland to Atherton is sure to impress. The road from Cairns encompasses majestic scenery and leads to a town that is at the heart of the Atherton Tablelands. The area reveals diverse landscapes, led by crater lakes, extinct volcanoes, and rainforest.

The Crystal Caves museum and the Hou Wang Temple are both fascinating Atherton attractions.

From Atherton, head to Curtain Fig National Park to witness an extraordinary tree or view a series of captivating waterfalls around Millaa Millaa.

BIG4 Holiday Parks in Atherton (diversion)

Cairns to Port Douglas

65km (1hr 5min)

North of Cairns is a couple of leading attractions best visited while taking to this section of the touring route: Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park and Cairns Tropical Zoo.

A detour to aforementioned Kuranda is highly encouraged. It has a cluster of world-class attractions.

Hug the coast along the Captain Cook Highway before you reach Port Douglas, which earns worldwide attention. Walk palm tree-lined Four Mile Beach and you’ll fall in love with this alluring village.

While Port Douglas is well-suited to lazy days soaking up the sunshine, it also makes a superb base for exploring world-famous wonders that are within easy reach.

Abundant tours options will take you to the Great Barrier Reef, which has attracted many a mention along this touring route.

The other gem is Daintree National Park, part of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. The national park incorporates the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest-surviving tropical rainforest on the planet. Viewing the rainforest is a jaw-dropping experience, especially from Cape Tribulation.

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Port Douglas to Cooktown

270km (3hr 15min)

The final stretch of the Toast to the Coast touring route skirts around Daintree National Park. Near your final destination, stop at Black Mountain (Kalkajaka) National Park to view massive boulders and abundant wildlife.

Become reacquainted with the coast at historical Cooktown. The town was somewhat accidentally discovered by Captain James Cook, thus earning its name.

Learn more about this story and a wider town history at the James Cook Museum.
Or take a wander to Grassy Hill lookout to soak up glittering views from a vantage point Captain Cook once enjoyed.

Stay outdoors and enjoy a stroll through the Cooktown Botanic Gardens or at nearby Mount Cook and Endeavour River national parks.

BIG4 Holiday Parks in Cooktown

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