Driving to Cairns

We are all about having the best holidays, so we never pick the quickest route.  We always choose the most scenic route.  You will find out why if you decide to follow our guide.

With so many great destinations along the way, driving to Cairns is a great way to see the best of Australia.

Sydney to Cairns

the distance of 2636 kilometres via the coastal road Pacific Highway and then the Bruce Highway (  miles), taking approximately 29 hours and 9 minutes of driving time.

Brisbane to Cairns is 1702 kilometres via the Bruce Highway, 19:30 hours driving time.

Melbourne to Cairns

We chose a route via Eden, Kangaroo Valley, Sydney, Coffs Harbour, North Stradbroke Island, Brisbane, Fraser Island, Whitsunday Islands, and Cairns.  A distance of 4074 kilometres driving time of 52 hours and 48 minutes

Cairns to Port Douglas

Travel along the Captain Cook Highway from Cairns, pass through 4 roundabouts staying on the Captain Cook Highway for 61.2 kilometres.  At the roundabout, take the second exit onto Port Douglas Road.  Next, pass through 3 roundabouts on Port Douglas Road, and veer right onto Davidson Street.  Turn left onto Macrossan Street.  We are a travelling time of approximately 1 hour and ten minutes.

Townsville to Cairns

Starting in Townsville city, the drive to Cairns is 349 kilometres, taking 4 hours and 42 minutes.  Head West along Flinders Street towards  Denham Street for .3 kilometres.  Turn left onto Denham Street and then in 1.7 kilometres, turn right onto Boundary Street, travel for 5 kilometres through 2 roundabouts remaining on Woolcock Street for 11.7 kilometres at the exit take the ramp onto Bruce Highway.  On Bruce Highway Drive for  329 kilometres, turning right at the set of lights onto Abbott Street, Cairns.

Cairns to Atherton Tablelands

We have chosen the Gillies Highway Route for this trip.  This route is 80 kilometres, allowing 1 hour and  21 minutes.  The Gillies Highway has 263 corners and an 800-metre elevation.  From Abbott Street, Cairns heads southwest to Wharf Street, turning right onto Wharf Street at the Traffic lights.  Bear left onto Kenny Street and then left onto Draper Street, and then right onto Ray Jones Drive.  Travel for 3.6 kilometres and then take a left-hand exit onto the Bruce Highway for 17.8 kilometres.  At the lights, turn right onto the Gillies Highway for 55.9 kilometres, then turn right on Robert Street to Atherton.  This scenic road has several lookouts to take in the fantastic views.

Whitsundays to Cairns

This route is 620 kilometres long and will take approximately 7 hours and 50 minutes.

This route departs from Airlie Beach along the Esplanade, exit roundabout on the first exit onto Shute Harbour Road (the same road with a different name).  Pass through 4 roundabouts for 10 kilometres.  Turn right onto Gregory-Cannon Valley Arod toward Bowen for 14.1 kilometres.

Turn right onto Bruce Highway for 592.7 kilometres and into Abbott Street, Cairns.

Along the way, there are some famous tourist things to do.  Stop for a swim at  Josephine Falls or the Cardwell Spa pool.  Take a detour to explore the beautiful Mission Beach or Magnetic Island.

Car hire in Cairns

Car rental companies are available from the airport as well as Cairns city.

Parking in Cairns

Parking in Cairns is easy most of the time.  However, watch the time as the parking inspectors will be happy to put a ticket on your car if you overstay the time, and tickets are expensive.

There are signed areas where P3, for example, means you can park for 3 hours.  There are also areas on Abbott and Lake Street in the middle of the road that are not signed where you can park all day in.


Next, See the best things to see and do in Cairns.