One of the best ways to see Australia is on a self-drive adventure. And this Queensland Itinerary can make up one segment of your trip. Many international visitors arrive to Melbourne or Sydney, and then buy a used car on a website like Gumtree to drive around Australia, and then sell the car again before they leave.
One of the best routes to take from Melbourne and Sydney is north along the east coast of Australia, up the Pacific highway all the way to Cairns & the Great Barrier Reef. Half way along that route you’ll hit South East Queensland – which includes Brisbane, The Gold Coast & The Sunshine Coast (or “sunny” coast as the locals call it).
A lot of travellers skip SE Queensland, which is crazy as there is so much to explore! Read the full itinerary below and find the free map at the bottom of the article.
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Queensland Itinerary DAY 1 – Gold Coast (Map Items in Green)
Day 1, AM – Prior to your Queensland itinerary, You’ll likely be driving north from a previous destination such as Byron Bay in New South Wales. Plan to leave early enough to make it to the Burleigh heads, at the southern end of the Gold Coast, in time for Lunch.
Day 1, PM – Arrive at Burleigh Heads Beach.
Burleigh heads beach is one of the top surf beaches in Australia, as well as being one of the prettiest too. Grab some food to BBQ from the local supermarket, then use one of the many free BBQ’s that are set all along the thin parkland just behind the beach. If you don’t want to cook for yourself, get an Aussie style pub lunch at North Burleigh Surf Club (their beer battered fries are awesome!)
After lunch, take a swim and/or head to the south end of the headland where the beach becomes a rocky outcrop. Take a walk around the headland for great views back to the beach, as well as south to palm beach, as you walk around the headland. You might even be lucky enough to spot a dolphin or two!
Find a place to stay overnight:
Or check out hotel and hostel options in Burleigh.
DAY 2 – Gold Coast HinterLand (Map Items in Orange)
DAY 2, AM – Just inland from the Gold Coast is the verdant hinterland, sub-tropical rainforest. There are a multitude of walking routes, lookouts, and waterfalls to discover. From full day hikes to quick photo ops. For this short itinerary, we suggest choosing a 2 hour itinerary around Lamington national park, or a visit to the Natural Bridge (a picturesque bridge shaped rock formation, formed by the force of the waterfall over a basalt cave). For a half-day trip, doing both would be a stretch unless you want to start very early in the morning.
DAY 2, PM: Make sure you pack yourself a light lunch for the day and be ready to supplement that with some locally made Jambreen cheeses and wine tasting (drivers can spit out the wine, sad as that is!) at Witches Falls Winery at Tamborine Mountain. They close at 4pm weekdays and 5pm weekends, so make sure to leave enough time to get there after your hike.
Stay at Tamborine Mountain overnight:
OR spoil yourself a little with a hot tub at Wallaby Ridge Retreat
Day 3 – Gold Coast Hinterland & Brisbane (Map Items in Blue)
DAY 3, AM – Enjoy a lazy breakfast in Tambourine Mountain before heading to the Glow Worm Caves, which open at 10am. Learn about one of natures strangest curiosities while seeing thousands of them glowing like little stars in a purpose-built cave.
DAY 3, PM – Drive to The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary where you’ll be able to get up close with many of Australia’s endemic animals. Hand feed Kangaroos and wombats, and get the chance to hug a koala! Lone pine is open until 5pm and you should plan at least 3 hours for your visit. You can grab lunch at Mt Ommaney Centre (A large mall with restaurants and food court) on the way.
Day 3, Evening – For a fun evening in Brisbane (The capital of Queensland), you could take a night river kayaking tour along the Brisbane river (7pm-10pm Fri & Sat). Or just ride the free city hopper ferry at sunset (Get more info on that and other affordable fun things to do in Brisbane.). After that, drink up Brisbane’s burgeoning craft beer seen at Archive Beer Boutique and Brisbane Brewing Co. in West End.
Accommodation in West End
West end is one of the more hipster parts of the city with quirky bars and restaurants.
Day 4 – Brisbane & Sunshine Coast Hinterland (Map Items in Purple)
DAY 4, AM – If you didn’t drink too much beer the night before… you could get an early start with a walk around Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. Otherwise, take a casual breakfast before heading to GoMA – Brisbane’s Gallery Of Modern Art – From 10am (Allow 2 Hours for your visit).
Day 4, PM – Take a look around South Bank Parklands, Streets Beach (A man made beach in the heart of Brisbane) and grab a quick pub lunch at the Plough Inn. Leave by 2.30pm (a bit earlier if its a Sunday) to make it to the Maleny cheese factory before they close (9-5 Mon to Sat, 10 – 4 Sun). If you don’t make it in time, or want to spend a little longer in Brisbane, you can still get their cheese at the local IGA (A small supermarket franchise). The Maleny IGA is one of the best in Queensland because they stock a lot of local artisan cheese, meats, chutneys and more.
Before or after grabbing ingredients for your dinner platter at IGA, head to Mountain View Road, near Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Rainforest Discovery Centre for views of the unique Glass House Mountains.
See options for Sunshine Coast Hinterland Accommodation near Maleny
Queensland Itinerary DAY 5 – Sunshine Coast (Map Items in Brown)
DAY 5, AM – Take a walk around the charming village of Montville and grab a coffee at the Edge restaurant for stunning panoramic views all the way to the coast.
Day 5, PM – Head to Mooloolaba right at the heart of the Sunny Coast for lunch at Mooloolaba Surf Club – right on the beach
After lunch, take a splash, or drive up the coast to the quieter Sunrise beach to find yourself your own little block of beach front. Then head to Laguna Lookout for sunset, and check out Noosa Heads beach restaurants and bars for a sophisticated evening.
Accommodation at Noosa Head:
SE Queensland Itinerary: 5 Day Self Drive Map
Here is our Queensland itinerary map with some of our top picks for things to do along the route. Further details about the itinerary are below the map. All items listed in the article are easily searchable and marked on this Google map:
DAY 1: Green | DAY 2: Orange | DAY 3: Blue | DAY 4: Purple | DAY 5: Brown
Driving Route: Light Blue
Bookmark this article now in your browser so you can access the Queensland Itinerary map whenever you need it.