Travel Report Australia: from Brisbane to Cairns
What could an 18 days phototrip from Brisbane to Cairns look like ?
A photo Tour from Brisbane to Cairns requires some preparation. Here is our routing:
1.Day: Ayers Rock (Uluru) > Brisbane > Caloundra (Ramada Resort by Wyndham Golden Beach)
2.Day: Caloundra > Australia Zoo > Noosa Heads
3.Day: Noosa Heads (Peppers Resort)
4.Day: Noosa Heads > Hervey Bay (Ramada by Windham Hervey Bay)
5.Day: Hervey Bay – Fraser Island
6.Day: Hervey Bay > Mackay (Best Western Mackay)
7.Day: Mackay > Airlie Beach (Mirage Resort)
8.Day: Airlie Beach – Whitsundays & Heart Reef
9.Day: Airlie Beach
10.Day: Airlie Beach – Whithaven Beach
11.Day: Airlie Beach > Townsville (Grand Hotel)
12.Day: Townsville – Magnetic Island
13.Day: Townsville > Mission Beach (Wongalinga)
14.Day: Mission Beach – Clump Mountain National Park
15.Tag: Mission Beach > Cairns > Palm Cove > Port Douglas (Sheraton Port Douglas)
16.Day: Port Douglas
17.Day: Port Douglas – Daintree River – Mossman Gorge
18.Day: Port Douglas – Low Isle Great Barrier Reef
19.Day: Port Douglas > Cairns > Melbourne (Marriott)
20.Day: Melbourne > Bangkok > Zurich > Nizza > Munich
From Brisbane to Cairns on the Map
What you should definitely think about when traveling from Brisbane to Cairns:
Currency: AUD. Exact rates you can find under “Exchange Rate” on this page. For payments or cash withdrawals, you can use your credit card anywhere in the country, without any problems. For small amounts you should keep a little cash. We had planned 400 AUD for a week, which was more than enough.
Vaccinations: Coming from Germany, no vaccinations are required. However, the standard vaccinations are recommended, see suggestions Foreign Office.
Luggage: If you travel by car from Brisbane to Cairns, your car is the limit. If you want to go by plane see Australia I and II reports.
Visa: As a German citizen you need a Visa (!), Which has to be applied for online in advance.
Driver’s license: If you want to rent a car to go from Brisbane to Cairns, the international driver’s license is required for Australia. We were not asked about it at the car hire counter, but if you should be checked (for example by the police), it will apply.
In the European summer, Queensland is about the same temperature as Europe, between 20 and 25 degree, while the temperature from Brisbane to Cairns goes up.
In the evening though it can be chilly. For this reason, you should choose the clothes according to the onion principle and thus for warm and cold. Since many hotels in Australia have washing and drying facilities, you do not have to take too much clothes, for a week at most.
Details Australia Tour III: from Brisbane to Cairns
In 18 days by car from Brisbane to Cairns and Port Douglas
Day 15: From Ayers Rock to Brisbane and Caloundra (we will continue the day count for the entire tour, see Tour Australia I and II):
After 3h flight from Ayers Rock (Uluru) we land at the airport of Brisbane and take over our 4-wheel drive SUV. Actually, we wanted to go straight ahead and skip Brisbane. Unfortunately, there was something in the airport sandwich in Ayers Rock, which did not go well with my tooth and so we first went to a dentist. Highly recommended is the practice of Face Value Dental. This way, we also see something of Brisbane and the city is really beautiful.
3 hours later we are on the way to Caloundra, where we booked a room in Ramada. When we arrive it is already dark. That’s why we just go to the Thai restaurant near the hotel, which turns out to be a real insider tip. The curries are among the best we have ever eaten.
Is Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo worth it?
Day 16: From Caloundra via Australia Zoo to Noosa Heads
Only with the rise of the sun, we realize how beautiful Caloundra is and how well our hotel is located: directly on the sea in a beautiful bay.
After a quick breakfast we head to the Australia Zoo, famous by the “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, who unfortunately passed away in 2006. Shortly before 10am we are at the zoo. We bought the tickets online and arrive before the big bus tours. For tours from Brisbane or Gold coast get your online ticket here.
The Australia Zoo is really great!
Even if you do not like zoos, you can see what a good zoo should be like. Only 1/5 of the total zoo area is accessible to visitors and the zoo today has over 1000 acre (400ha) of surface area.
The animals make a good impression and none of the enclosures is small. The size of Africa, where giraffes, rhinos and zebras are kept together, is the size of some European zoos. Of course there is also the part with the Kangaroos and the Koalas, as well as the Wombats.
Best for the zoo is a 70-200mm lens. Only for a few shots you need more or less focal length. All my shots were taken with the Nikon 70-20mm on the Nikon D850.
Feed Kangaroos and more
The kangaroos can be fed (food must be bought locally) and the koalas can also be caressed. It is strictly on importance that an animal only a short time by the visitors is touched and then it comes back into the tree and another thing. So it is not unnecessarily stressed.
A small note, there are also Wombat, Kangaroo and Koala VIP tours offered, but these are unnecessary and mostly sold out anyway. They are unnecessary, because you can touch the animals so, without paying, just not exclusive.
Which are the 5 most dangerous venomous snakes in Australia (and the world)?
1) The most venomous snake in the world is called the “Fierce Snake” or Inland Taipan.
2) The “coastal taipan”, the larger brother, so to speak (he is nearly twice as big), is the second most venomous snake in the world. His head has the shape of a “coffin”, that says it all, right?
3) The “Brown Snake” or even called brown snake or Australian mock cobra comes in third place.
4) The Tigersnake or Tiger Otter – with a clear drawing – takes 4th place.
5) 5th place takes the “Death Adder”. Their poison does not necessarily lead to death (about 15% death cases from untreated bites), but unlike other snakes, it does not flee when approached, so they often do defense bites. In addition, their camouflage is extremely good and with only 50-60cm length, it is hard to discover them.
Out of competition and not really native to Australia is the king cobra. The name says it all. An extremely poisonous but also beautiful and very big snake.
By the way, some birds and the lemurs, which one should not miss, were also beautiful.
What does a "Tasmanian devil" look like?
The Australia Zoo is one of the few places where Tasmanian devils can be seen outside of Tasmania. These small and cute contemporaries, being the size of a poodle have a bite force that is 3 times stronger than that of a German bulldog.
Unfortunately, the Tasmanian Devil is threatened with extinction in the wild, as a virus kills the animals on a massive scale. In captivity – safe from the virus – today live well over 500 worldwide.
What is an "Echidna"?
“Echidnas” are Australian anteater, which can be recognized by the long snout. They are found in many parts of Australia, but they are very shy and you can see them in the wild usually only dead on the roadside.
We spent almost 7 hours in the zoo and normally we are not really zoo fans. It is an incredible experience and anyone who still knows Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter”, understands the vision that has driven him and whose legacy lives and grows here.
Noosa Heads, a diamond on the East Coast
We arrive at Noosa Heads at Peppers Resort, where we plan to spend the next two nights. The resort makes a great impression and the rooms are pleasantly large, as are the double beds.
Tip: In Australia, there are many hotels whose double beds are only 150-160cm wide. Therefore, when making the booking, make sure that it is a real double bed (180-200cm, Kingsize).
After check-in we drive to the city fo a Sushi Restaurant. We are going to Sushi Yah Man which is absolutely recommended. The sushi is of excellent quality, at the same time the restaurant is wonderfully normal and people are relaxed.
Hiking in Noosa Heads National Park
Day 17: Noosa Heads
Today we want to hike a bit in Noosa National Park. The beaches are incredibly beautiful and we watch the many surfers in the water on the way. After we walked about 2.5km, it started raining like buckets of water being emptied. So we get back to the hotel, being completely soaked.
In the evening we drive to the city again and stroll through the shops. Noosa is really beautiful. Everywhere small restaurants and boutiques. Everything looks very new and high quality. Here you like to stay a few days longer. The miles of sandy beaches invite you for a walk and you can really relax.
Better stay a few nights in Noosa
Day 18: From Noosa Heads to Hervey Bay
Who visits Noosa and has time, should stay at least 3 nights, because there are hardly any nicer places on the tour to come.
After breakfast, we head towards Hervey Bay, about 3 hours drive. We check in at Ramada by Windham Hervey Bay and finish the day with a Dominos Pizza.
Fraser Island, the biggest Sand Island in the world
Day 19: Fraser Island
At 07:30am, we get picked up by our tour operator Adventure Free. The weather is beautiful and we look forward to a day on Fraser Island. It is the largest sand island in the world, which is about 50min ferry ride away from Hervey Bay. There are also options from Noosa and Rainbow Beach, but we chose Hervey Bay.
Self driving is not recommended on Fraser Island
The possibility to drive by car to the island we did not consider. On one hand, because it is very expensive (ferry ticket, national park fees etc.) and on the other hand, because that is really only intended for Pro’s. Moreover, the crossing with the normal rental car is not allowed anyway.
One Day Explorer Tour
We opted for the 1 Day Explorer Tour, which takes a good 10 hours, including transfer from Hervey Bay Hotel and ferry ride. We can really recommend the tour to anyone who does not want to stay overnight on the island. You get to see the main highlights, even if it’s a bit “stressful” at times, as everything important is packed into this one day.
Take a flight over the island
Also highly recommendable is the on-site (practically in the bus) offered flight over the island, which you can spontaneously book. Apart from the unique start right on the beach, it is a really nice experience for a relatively low price.
The one-day excursion we have made can be found here.
Frazer Island Highlights
Lake McKenzie, 75 Mile Beach, Wreck SS Dunning, Eli Creek, Colored Hills and with a bit of luck some wild dingoes. We have seen everything and can really recommend the tour, despite 40 people in the off-road vehicle. By the way, the eclaires, in the bakery on the island, are the best we had on the whole tour!
At 5pm we head back to the ferry and the island says goodbye with a beautiful sunset. At 6:30pm you are back in the hotel.
Day 20: From Hervey Bay to Mackay
This will be the longest trip on our tour. Nearly 900km from Hervey Bay to Mackay in one day to have more time later. The track is really nice. Nevertheless, we are glad as we arrive at 7pm in Mackay. 10h in the car is exhausting.
A small hint. The area around Mackay is known for the many “insects” at dusk. We had to stop a total of 3 times (!), because we haven’t seen through the windshield anymore. Using the wiper is the dumbest thing you can do, believe us! We stayed at the Best Western in Mackay, which is OK for one night.
Kangaroos at the beach! Really?
Day 21: From Mackay to Airlie Beach
The alarm rings at 4:45 o’clock and that is already much too late, as we experience later. Today we want to see the Kangaroos on the beach of Cape Hillsborough. When we arrive after a fairly brisk trip about 50 minutes later, the spectacle is already in full swing and we definitely are not the only spectators. Approximately Twenty Kangaroos scour the beach for food and a ranger makes sure that visitors do not get too close to the animals.
The moments have something magical and you are fascinated by the mood. With the first ray of sunshine, everything is over and the Kangaroos, like most visitors, leave the beach.
Which lens for the kangaroos on Cape Hillsborough? I opted for Nikon’s 200-400mm F4 and that was actually wrong. You get so close to the animals that a 70-200mm is ideal. If you have 2 cameras, you should still have a 24-70mm or a 20mm. No matter which lens, the brighter the better, the morning is still extremely dark.
From Cape Hillsborough we drove to Airlie Beach, about 1.5 hours. On the way there is not much and when we arrive in Airlie Beach it is 9am and breakfast time. We go to the My Rainbow Backery Cafe, right on the harbor and enjoy a delicious breakfast with a view. Then we check in at the Mirage Resort. A dream resort and who has the opportunity to book a room with sea view, should do that.
After check-in, we head to GSL aviation, one of the two providers of flights across the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays. We book a 60min flight for the next day and spend the rest of the day at the hotel, with a magnificent view of the sea. (Book your scenic flight online)
Day 22: Airlie Beach – Heart Reef and the Whitsundays
The pick-up from GSL takes place at 10 am and the trip to the airport takes about 25 minutes. You get “bracelets” with colors and rows of seats and thus divided on the aircraft. Everyone has a guaranteed window seat and the pilot flies every highlight twice, so that everyone gets to see it.
The 1 hour flight to the heart reef is definitely a highlight
Not only the Heart Reef (a heart shaped reef), but also the Great Barrier Reef itself being breathtakingly beautiful. Equally impressive is the flight over the many islands. Hamilton Island and of course the associated dream beach of the Whitsundays. We can only recommend this flight to everyone.
For the round trip the 24-70mm lens is best or something similar, i.e. a fixed focal length like 20mm. Because of the reflection in the aircraft windows, especially in sunny weather, you should definitely wear something dark. ideally black and long-sleeves. If you have a Pol-Filter, use it.
On the return flight you get a great overview of Airlie Beach. The Mirage is located on the far right of the harbor in the picture.
In the evening we go to the restaurant Sorrento at the Airlie Point harbor. Highly recommended, if you like live music or just delicious food in a cool atmosphere.
Where can I feed birds on the Balcony, specifically Cockatoos?
Day 23: Airlie Beach
We just relax and take care of our frineds, the Cockatoos and the green ants.
Whithaven Beach by helicopter. Is it worth the money?
Day 24: Airlie Beach – Whithaven Beach
For today we booked the helicopter flight to Whithaven Beach, again at GSL. (Online booking option). At 11 am we take off. First of all, this was definitely one of the highlights and worth every penny. With a maximum of three guests and a pilot in the helicopter, we are lucky to be on our own.
We fly over the Proserpine River, which has the second highest crocodile population in Australia and continue towards the open sea. The view is breathtaking and the approach to Whithaven Beach is a dream. Likewise the landing on the deserted beach.
For photographers, this flight is an absolute must. The impressions and pictures from the helicopter, as well as the perspective, can not be compared with a normal flight. Unfortunately, no provider offers a helicopter flight to the reef and then landing at Whithaven Beach, that would be perfect. The helicopter-to-reef flight is an upgrade from the plane, as the perspective and the time taken to take pictures is different.
We land at one of the top 10 beaches in the world and for us at least this is the current No.1. The sand is so fine that you can not feel it. Completely white. The sea crystal clear and blue. Here the jungle in the purest green. We have 90 minutes, then it goes back. The return flight is as spectacular as the outward flight and a start directly from the beach. Priceless!
Cool La La
Back in Airlie we go to Thai “Cool La La” a real nice open air Thai restaurant. It is simple but the fried rice is unbeatably good.
Then we go back to our apartment where our cockatoos on the balcony already expect us joyfully. The feeding of 5 cockatoos and 2 seagulls takes a long time.
Day 25: From Airlie Beach to Townsville
Another 3h drive today. Intuitively we know that it has been the best part of the journey in terms of experiences and feel-good factor.
Townsville, nothing special
The route to Townsville is not very varied and so we are happy as we finally arrive. We have reserved in the Grand Hotel and even if the front desk is friendly, we are not really happy about the choice. The rooms are modern but small. Quickly we buy online ferry tickets for Magnetic Island (Tip: These are cheaper online than at the ferry itself! => book here).
Magnetic Island, should you visit it ?
Day 26: Magnetic Island
The ferry to Magnetic Island departs every 45min and you can just go there. The crossing is fast with just under 20min. There are three ways to get around on Magnetic Island. A) on foot, B) by bus or C) by rental car. If you choose C), then you have to choose between “Moke” (car in the middle of the picture), “Barbiecar”, Jeep or 4×4.
Rental cars on the island sell fast
We actually wanted a Moke, but they were all gone as well as the Barbiecars, There was only 1 single 4×4 car left for the day (ours is on the left in the picture). We took it, which had the advantage that we could also look at Westpoint, which is only allowed for 4×4. (To us, however, completely inexplicable, being a normal “dirt road”).
We are surprised how beautiful and peaceful this island is and are glad we did not miss it. First, we look at Westpoint and then continue via Arcadia to Fort Walk. This one is famous, because you almost guaranteed see koalas on the way and with a bit of luck also death vipers. Latter we did not see and were not sad about it. The trail is a 4km round trip and takes 2 hours, because of the many stops and viewpoints.
Then we drive on to Horshoe Bay and that is another highlight of the island. Great bars and restaurants and after the Fort Hill Walk you can enjoy a cool drink here. There is a relaxed romantic atmosphere and you do not want to leave. If you have not done so on the way, you can still stop in Arcadia on the way back and watch the rock kangaroos or even feed them.
If you have the time, you should consider booking an overnight stay or 2 in Horseshoe Bay. Just leave the rental car in Townsville and take taxi or rent a car on the island.
Day 27: From Townsville to Mission Beach
300km of driving distance (3h) are in front of us again and the track is just as interesting as the previous one. One sugar cane plantage after another and one wishes the speed limit would not be there to arrive sooner.
Around noon we reach Mission Beach. An original backpacker place with dream beaches, where time has stopped a bit. We pick up the key to our accommodation “Wongalinga”. This time again an apartment and one of the few accommodations that are right on the beach. Once there, we are thrilled by the view and beach and glad to spend the next 2 days here to relax.
Don't miss Shanti
For lunch we go to the “Shanti”, which is a top tip for good food. The menu is short, but all food and drinks are locally sourced and extremely tasty. A “must do” in Mission Beach.
Day 28: Mission Beach – Clump Mountain National Park
By coincidence, we discover that a couple, which we met on the trip at the Australia Zoo and later in Noosa (Markus and Daniela) are now in a hotel only a few meters away. So we make an appointment to hike the Clump Mountain National Park together, which is about 15km north of Mission Beach.
We needed 2 hours for the 3,9km, because you stop here and there and admire the nature. Incidentally, Mission Beach is also one of the main spots for Kasuare, the largest bird in Australia.
Day 29: From Mission Beach via Cairns and Palm Cove to Port Douglas
Wongalinga was a great place to stay and we can only recommend it. Top beach, everything was great.
Via Cairns to Port Douglas
The last part of the journey is still a 250km drive. We drive through Cairns city to get at least a feel for it and Cairns makes a good impression, with many good restaurants and shops. Nevertheless we are glad not to stay here. It’s just another city and too buzzing for us.
30km north begins the most beautiful part of the remaining track, which can compete with every dream road in the world. A dream beach chases the next and directly adjacent to the rain forest.
In Palm Cove we have lunch. Again, a great waterfront and a stunningly beautiful beach section. Then we continue and we reach the Sheraton Port Douglas, the penultimate station of our trip to Australia.
Day 30: Port Douglas – Inlet
From Sheraton beach you can do a good 5km hike around Port Douglas Inlet. Just walk the eastern beach to the end and then up the stairs. The path leads back through a small jungle in a 270 degree arc back to the shopping street and from there you can walk back to the hotel.
After the walk had a massage at “Noy”. We can absolutely recommend it. Then we went to the “Court House” for lunch. A place where you immediately feel comfortable and with very good food.
Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat
In the afternoon we drove to the Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat. One of the few places in Queensland where you can see tree kangaroos. The habitat is rather small, but there are – except for the crocodiles – no cages. All animals walk around freely and you can get close to them, also to the birds. The tickets are not cheap with 38 AUS per person, but they are valid for 4 days (book here).
The 70-200mm lens is again the choice for great photos. Shorter focal lengths are synonymous, but one or the other time it is still too far away.
Day 31: Port Douglas – Daintree River – Mossman George
Today, we want to see the world’s oldest rainforest – the Daintree Rainforest.
Daintree River and Solar Whisper
From Port Douglas you drive about 45 minutes to the Daintree River. There we stop and take a river cruise with the Solar Whisper, a battery powered boat.
Actually, most people make the trip because of the crocodiles, but we want to see Kingfisher and because the owner is a photographer himself, he supports the wish and stops next to the obligatory crocodiles also at a series of spots for some rare Kingfisher.
Just let him know in advance what you want to see. The journey takes just over an hour and there is plenty of time left to do more.
Take the largest tele, ideally a zoom. The Kingfisher are sometimes very close, but some specimens are really very small. The best time of day for the tour depends on the motives you are looking for. For birds rather lunchtime and early afternoon. For beating and crocodiles best in the morning.
Should you visit Mossmann Gorge?
After the river trip, we actually wanted to catch a ferry and try the Discovery Center and the famous ice cream parlor in the Daintree. However, the owner of the Solar Whisper had given us the tip very gallantly, to better go back and visit Mossmann Gorge. You would save the ferry ride (time and money) and you would experience more. Fortunately, we listened to him!
Take the bus at Mossmann Gorge
Mossmann Gorge can be visited on foot from the parking lot for free, but you have a good 8km walk in front of you, alternative is to take the bus (and thus the Aboriginies still a little support) and the way shortens to 4km. We did the latter and would do it again at any time. The Mossmann Gorge is an experience. When it’s warm enough, you can swim in the crystal clear waters of the river and otherwise explore the rainforest. An experience, which is really great.
Day 32: Port Douglas – Low Isle / Great Barrier Reef
Somehow – even if it is rather cool from the season – we did not want to leave Australia without having snorkeled at least once. That’s why we booked a snorkeling trip to Low Isle with Reef Sprinter in Port Douglas.
Take the speedboat to Low Isle
The speedboat brings you in 15 minutes with about 70km/h from Port Douglas to the island. The ride alone is an experience (you can not be seasick!) And the snorkeling area is the absolute burner. We have even seen whitetip reef sharks just a few meters from the beach. In addition, one can observe gannets and other birds, as well as a brooding osprey there. The trip takes a total of 3.5 hours and you are with a maximum of 14 people in total on site, which is very pleasant. Snorkeling equipment etc. is provided. Very good provider book here!
Day 33: Port Douglas – Cairns – Melbourne
The really last part of our journey from Brisbane to Cairns is ahead of us. From Port Douglas to Cairns and from there the plane to Melbourne. The drive from Port Douglas to Cairns Airport takes just under an hour and on the way you can once again enjoy the dream road with beautiful views of the beaches.
Back in Melbourne after 6 weeks
The flight back to Melbourne takes a good 3.5 hours. We stay at the Marriott Hotel, which is centrally located and gives us the opportunity to really go back to the city on the last day in the morning.
Tag 34: Melbourne – Bangkok – Zürich – Nizza – Munich
The highlights are breathtakingly beautiful and the impressions unforgettable.
If it were not such a damn long journey to Australia, we would certainly go there every year. Especially Airlie Beach and Port Douglas we fell in love with on our tour from Brisbane to Cairns, although we do not want to forget about Noosa Beach either.
So, who has never been to Australia, hopefully likes our reports to prepare your own trip. There is certainly something for everyone.
Want to order calendars from our phototrip?
Which photographic equipment for Australia?
The photographic equipment that we brought to Australia can be found below. In addition, you have the opportunity to order the used photographic equipment directly through our photo shop and to request further technical details. There are also a lot of extras.
- D850 (Nikon)
- D500 (Nikon)
- Apple Iphone X
- 70-200mm f/4 (Nikon)
- 20mm f/1.8 (Nikon)
- 200-400mm f/4 VRII (Nikon)
- 105mm f/2.8 (Nikon)
- 24-70mm f/2.8 G2 (Tamron)
- Sirui Carbon
- Kugelkopf (Sirui)
Backpack / Trolley:
- Tenba Roadie Roller 21*
*The Tenba Roadie Air Case Roller 21 is really a great “camera trolley” to fit even the big telephoto lenses. As far as the flexibility of the interior layout is concerned, this is outstanding. Also the accommodation of a professional DSLR with more than 11cm height and attached lens is possible. The trolley has many storage options. The “21er” is almost perfect, if you want to have the greatest possible flexibility and the ability to take this in the plane still on board.