Ready for great scenic road trips from Cairns? With Cairns as a starting point, you can visit a variety of intriguing and beautiful places on easy, convenient drives that you can complete in one day. From coral reefs to rainforests, wine tasting to scuba diving – the Cairns area has it all, and it can all be yours thanks to East Coast Car Rentals.

7 Road Trips from Cairns

Palm Cove – A Little Corner of Paradise

The perfect destination for road trips from Cairns when you want to slow down and take it easy. Walk among the rustling palm trees on the beach esplanade. Watch a sunrise over the ocean. Visit the famous jetty and watch the fishermen angling for mackerel, whiting, and stripeys. Everything is close by and easy to get to.

Stroll the streets of the village, explore the quirky shops, find gourmet coffee and tropical specialties – and most of all find peaceful hours and a mellow sun-splashed vibe. Palm Cove is right at the northerly edge of Cairns, although it seems a world away. You can drive there from central Cairns in about 30 minutes on National Route 1 and Cairns Route 44.

Coastal Drive – Palm Cove to Port Douglas

Take a leisurely drive on Cairns Route 44, the Captain Cook Highway – it’s the coast road out of Palm Cove up to historic Port Douglas, with the coastal rain forest right alongside, and it’s one of the best-loved road trips from Cairns. Admire sweeping ocean vistas over the Great Barrier Reef and explore quiet beaches. Stop and listen to the birds singing and just soak in the beauty all around you. This is a very rural drive, so fuel up before heading out.

Without any stops, you’ll reach Port Douglas from Palm Cove in about 45 minutes – but allow more than that, because you’ll want to take your time traveling one of the most scenic drives Cairns has to offer, along one of the most enjoyable stretches of coast in Queensland.

Port Douglas – Coffee and The Reef

Hard to know which Port Douglas has more of – boat tours to the Great Barrier Reef, or excellent coffee roasters in town. You can sip your favourite and enjoy a Lamington while sitting outside and people-watching, before taking a relaxing walk around the historic town and on the beach esplanade. If you go out to the reef you can stay dry on the boat, or dive in on a snorkel or scuba charter. Whatever you do, you’ll work up a great appetite for the outstanding restaurants that Port Douglas is famous for.

Just want to chill? Check into one of the day spas. From Cairns, you can get to Port Douglas on National Route 1 and Cairns Route 44 in an hour and a half or less. Or more – the drive up the coast is definitely worth a stop or two.

The World’s Oldest Rainforest – With Ice Cream

That would be the Daintree – huge, primitive, unspoiled, and an easy day trip from Cairns. Take a tour by riverboat and see the world’s most diverse array of wildlife in comfort. Or immerse yourself with a one or two-hour hike on established trails. Go on your own or take advantage of a guided tour.

However you choose to experience the Daintree, it is like no other anywhere. Where else can you wander in a fabulous World Heritage rainforest – and then take a break and enjoy a tropical ice cream at an eco-friendly shop right under the forest canopy? Hotels are available in the Daintree if you decide you want to stay overnight. The rainforest is very large – the southerly part is easiest to get to from Cairns, and it’s a complete adventure in itself. From Cairns it’s less than a three-hour drive to the Daintree Rainforest, on National Route 1 and beautiful Cairns Route 44 up the coast.

Kuranda Markets – Beware of the Chilies

The hill town of Kuranda, surrounded by rainforest, offers the Heritage Market and the Original Rainforest Market – both are justifiably famous. Both showcase a truly impressive range of crafts, goods, and food items, mostly locally sourced, including what they say are the world’s hottest chilies. There is a strong emphasis on eco-awareness and eco-friendliness. The Original Rainforest Market is a wonderland under the trees – the Heritage Market is fully covered.

The Heritage Market includes a restaurant, and even a butterfly sanctuary. Nearby, you’ll find tropical gardens, a life-sized dinosaur, the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway, and the charming town with heritage-listed buildings. Always something new and beautiful to discover – you can’t miss in Kuranda, even if you skip the chilies. About 35 minutes from Cairns on National Route 1.

Mission Beach – With Elusive Cassowaries

Head south out of Cairns with Mission Beach as your destination. The road runs inland from the coast, through rural towns and green valleys. You’ll see an authentic part of Queensland away from the popular coastal destinations. The road is excellent, so you’ll make good time, but don’t miss the wineries and small restaurants along the way. You can side-trip to a hike at Behana Gorge and a cooling dip at the Babinda Boulders or Josephine Falls. Mission Beach is not a big place – it has a relaxed, unstructured vibe.

The area is famous for its long uncrowded beaches, so you can really chill. Or skydive and jet-ski, if you prefer. You might even spot a cassowary – the iconic bird of Australia that gives the Cassowary Coast its name. Mission Beach is about 2 hours from Cairns on Bruce Highway/A1 and El Arish Mission Beach Road.

Ravenshoe – High on the Tablelands

The highest town in Queensland, and a complete change from the coastal environment of Cairns and the surrounding area. The route climbs up to the beautiful Atherton Tablelands through a mix of forest and green open spaces – one of the more unique and adventurous road trips from Cairns. There are waterfalls and hiking trails to enjoy. In the historic old town, you can walk the quiet streets and eat and sample a beer at Queensland’s Highest Pub. This is a relaxed visit to Australia’s interior. Ravenshoe is about 2 hours from Cairns on Bruce Highway/A1, Gillies Range Road/State Route 52, Kennedy Highway/National Route 1, and Moore Street into town. Route 1 branches off from Route 52 in Atherton for a more twisty climb – the roads rejoin before the turn from Route 1 onto Moore Street.

Your Cairns Trip Starts Here

There is so much to do and explore in Queensland – this is just a small sample. Cairns is the perfect place to start, and a personal car hire from East Coast Car Rentals really is the best way to travel and enjoy the scenic drives Cairns is famous for. When you drive you see so much more of the countryside, you can stop whenever and wherever you like – and change plans and destination at a moment’s notice.