First Stop: Port Macquarie – 386km north of Sydney (4hr drive)
The lovely seaside town of Port Macquarie sits at the mouth of the Hastings River. Be sure to keep an eye out in the water, you may spot a dolphin or whale frolicking.
Port Macquarie has the highest koala population on the east coast of Australia and is home to the famous Koala Hospital. Treat the kids to a visit to the Billabong Zoo: Koala and Wildlife Park. Here they can pat a koala and meet the resident saltwater crocodile Shrek. If you’re short on time, take the Port Macquarie Coastal Walk into the Sea Acres National Park and follow the rainforest boardwalk, where you might spot a koala in the wild.
It’s then a cruisey three hundred, and eighty-five kilometre drive up the Pacific Highway, into Byron Bay. Coffs Harbour makes a beautiful rest stop midway. Continue travelling north and you will find the Big Banana fun park! A great way to entertain the kids and grab a few family photos at one of Australia’s iconic destinations!
Overnight Stop: Byron Bay – 385km north of Port Macquarie (4hr drive)
With its stunning natural attractions and eclectic community, Byron Bay is one of the world’s most famous coastal towns. You’ll be captivated by gorgeous beaches, breathtaking hinterland rainforest, spectacular coastal trails, incredible marine life and a buzzing food scene. Finding accommodation close to town is recommended as it’s easy to walk around. Cape Byron Lighthouse will give the whole family some much needed time out of the car and provide the perfect setting for family photos and selfies! Built-in the nineteenth-century, Cape Byron Lighthouse stands resolute on the most easterly point of the Australian mainland. You’ll enjoy some of the best views of the ocean and hinterland from the top of the lighthouse walk, and if you’re lucky you may spot a turtle, dolphin or humpback whale.
First Stop: Noosa Heads – 307km north of Byron Bay (3.5hr drive)
Noosa Heads is the cosmopolitan coastal town situated on the southern shore of Laguna Bay. Hastings Street provides a hive of activity with many places to stay and eat. Noosa Heads and Main Beach offers a safe location for the whole family to take a dip. To the north past the groyne, the surf is suitable for beginner and experienced surfers.
The Noosa National Park boasts a beautiful walk up through the park onto the headland stopping at Hell’s Kitchen. Walkers can enjoy views of the ocean, surfers, dolphins, and turtles. Jump back in the car heading north along the Bruce Highway/M1 and headed for Bundaberg.
Second Stop: Bundaberg – 260km north of Noosa Heads (3hr drive)
Enjoy the Burnett river flowing through Bundaberg central or head out to the beach for a rest stop, continuing your coastal adventure. Bundaberg is renowned for Bundaberg Rum, Bundaberg Botanical Gardens, and Mon Repos Regional Park, home to sea turtles. A stop off in Bundaberg central to stock up on supplies and sustenance, followed by a stroll along the Burnett River, losing yourself (and a break from the kids) in the lush botanical gardens. A tour and tasting at the Bundaberg Distillery will entertain the whole family!
As you head out of Bundaberg, take Rosedale Rd, Lowmead Rd, and Tableland Rd to Round Hill Rd, to arrive into Agnes Water.
Overnight Stop: Agnes Water – 122km north of Bundaberg (1.5hr drive)
Agnes Water & 1770 offers pristine beaches, an extensive range of wildlife. Create some lasting memories by taking a family sunset tour and paddle past Captain Cook’s landing point towards the headland to watch the sunset. Go glamping & fall asleep under canvas listening to the sound of gently crashing waves from the comfort of your beachside safari tent. The morning views are breathtaking.
Before you leave, the history lesson on board the LARC, a bright pink amphibious tour bus, is undoubtedly worth a go! Educate the kids as you cruise along deserted sandy beaches and through pristine estuaries, hearing stories of the town’s early settlers and take in all the sights that made Captain Cook drop anchor all those years ago.
First Stop: Rockhampton – 225km north of Agnes Water (2.5hr drive)
The Beef City of Rockhampton offers all your cosmopolitan conveniences in a contemporary riverside setting. There are plenty of places to keep the kids occupied including the newly redeveloped Riverbank Precinct, the beautiful Botanic Gardens, and Zoo, which is proudly home to more than 70 species of native and exotic animals, and a must-do for families is a visit to the Kershaw Gardens Central Precinct – Playground and Water Play area!
As you drive through town keep an eye out for Rockhampton’s six iconic bull statues standing proud throughout the city.
Second Stop: Mackay – 336km north of Rockhampton (3.5hr drive)
In the centre of Queensland’s coast, and neighbouring The Whitsundays, you’ll arrive in the Mackay region. The historic town of Mackay is filled with 1920s Art Deco buildings and public artworks, as well as a vibrant dining precinct in the city.
Mackay’s revitalised city centre has seamlessly linked central businesses with the attractive Bluewater Quay riverside precinct. At the intersection of Wood and Victoria Streets is Cane Fire, an interactive sculpture which, produces swirling effects of colour, light, and mist; controllable by visitors using a mobile phone.
Mackay boasts one of the best art scenes in Queensland, check out the art down Fifth Lane, download the Zappar App, and watch the artwork come alive before your eyes!
The Bluewater Trail is a shared bicycle and pedestrian path which links a variety of Mackay City’s attractions, including the Mackay Regional Botanical Gardens, Town Beach, and the Bluewater Lagoon, a three-tiered swimming haven. Mackay’s largest shopping mall can also be found along the Bluewater Trail, lined with riverside cafes and restaurants.
Time to stop and stretch your legs, you’ve reached your destination! Old fashioned courtesies meet country hospitality in the quaint hinterland village of Proserpine. Head to the Whitsunday Gold Coffee Plantation for a cup of coffee, to explore the bird aviary and wonderful farm animals on site. Need to book a tour or accommodation for your Whitsundays stay? Be sure to pop in and visit the visitor services team at the Whitsundays Visitor Information Centre.
Want to know what to do and where to go in The Whitsundays? Click here for a selection of great itineraries!