Drive the Great Green Way: Cairns to Townsville Road Trip

great great way view of hinchinbrook
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It takes 4-5 hours to drive the Great Green Way between Cairns and Townsville if you drive without stopping. However, as I found out recently there are lots of reasons to take a few days on this road trip and to make it more about the journey than the destination. 

I was commissioned to write a travel story for Luxury Travel Magazine about taking a family road trip along the ‘Great Green Way’. I’d driven this road many times before and to be honest, I couldn’t really imagine what on earth I was going to write about!

As it turned out the agenda for our trip was so packed we felt like we barely had time to stop and breathe.

Here’s an outline of our road trip along the Great Green Way:

day 1: cairns to mena creek

Our first stop south of Cairns was Babinda Boulders – a beautiful fresh water swim hole. If you’re there in the summer it is a great place to stop off for a refreshing swim.

babindakayaks1There used to be a kayaking business operating on Babinda Creek but it has unfortunately now closed down. If you’ve got your own, this is a  wonderful way to soak up the scenery.

Next stop was Paronella Park, a castle built in the middle of the rainforest in the 1930’s by a Spanish immigrant.

A castle is probably the last thing you expect to find in this part of the world, but it has beautiful landscaped gardens with waterfalls, tunnels and bridges. It’s magical at night by torchlight with fireflies, lighting and music.

day 2: mena creek to cardwell

mamu rainforest walkwayWe set off early for our first stop at Mamu Rainforest Canopy Walk. It took us about an hour to walk through the rainforest on elevated pathways and take in the views of the South Johnstone River.

Next stop was the Murdering Point Winery (in Silkwood on the road to Kurrimine Beach) to taste a few different exotic fruit wines, ports and liqueurs. We left with a bottle of banana cream liqueur to enjoy as a pre-bedtime nip!

We had a very quick pit stop at Mission Beach (could definitely stay there for 1-2 days if you’ve got more time) and stopped overnight in Cardwell.

day 3: cardwell to lucinda

boat to hinchinbrook islandThe next morning we took a boat over to Hinchinbrook Island and we were soon standing on the beach where they filmed Nim’s Island (starring Jodie Foster).

We spent a few hours bushwalking sections of the world famous Thorsborne Trail (the whole trail takes a few days).

Ferry times to Hinchinbrook are very dependent on tide times so make sure you check ahead of time to avoid being disappointed.

Back on the mainland we drove to Lucinda and walked along part of the Sugar Jetty – the world’s largest bulk sugar loading facility (this is major sugar cane country!).

day 4: lucinda to rollingstone beach

We got up early to go fishing off the jetty but we didn’t catch anything so we continued with our road trip to Wallaman Falls – the highest single drop of water in Australia and well worth the effort of driving up the steep and windy roads.

Paluma Park bridgeFurther south, we also diverted off the main highway up to Paluma Range National Park.

Touted as the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area it is great for a refreshing dip in one of the refreshing creeks and waterholes.

There are also some short walking tracks with opportunities to catch glimpses of wildlife such as a platypus (if you’re lucky!)

We finished off our day with a swim in the pool at Rollingstone Beach, just north of Townsville.

day 5: rollingstone beach to townsville

The next day we finished off our road trip along the Great Green Way in Townsville where we squeezed in trips to the Reef HQ Aquarium, Museum of North Queensland and Magnetic Island.

We could easily have spent an extra couple of days doing this whole road trip from Cairns to Townsville at a more leisurely pace so it is worth adding a few more days than you need to allow ample time to really soak up the sights of the region.

travel nq fast facts:

  • The accommodation options between Cairns and Townsville are mostly motel/holiday park affairs and there’s not much above 3 stars.
  • There are lots of campervan hire companies in Cairns – we decided to go with Britz which was a great solution and gave us plenty of flexibility to change our itinerary if we needed.
  • Read our story about our road trip from Cairns to Airlie Beach for some more ideas about places to stop along the Great Green Way.

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