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Darwin to Brisbane Stunning 12 Day Self Drive Itinerary

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A road trip through the north end of Australia is becoming a frequent bucket list adventure for family holidays. Traversing through the tropical climate of the north with its exotic wildlife and wetlands, through the rugged red arid outback, all the way to the palm-lined coastline gives such a perfect snapshot into the diverse climates that Australia is best known for.

However, with so much to explore and a variety of routes to take through Australia’s Top End, it can be hard to know where to begin. That is why we have created this stunning 12-day self-drive itinerary from Darwin to Brisbane, so you can plan your trip around all the best places.

This itinerary starts in Darwin in the tropics of the Northern Territory and winds through the outback, all the way down along some of the most iconic palm-fringed beaches of the Queensland coast. Covering 4142.9 km (43.2 hours of driving) this itinerary really does have it all. We have spaced this iconic drive out over 12 days, giving you the time to take in everything along the way from soaking in the hot springs in Katherine, taking in the stunning views of the outback, to exploring the beaches and rainforests of Tropical Northern Queensland.

Other things to consider when travelling the Top End of Australia

While travelling around the majority of Australia is excellent year-round, the Northern Territory is the exception to the rule. The summer heat is scorching and humid as the wet season sets in between November and March. As such it is best to plan to travel this route between April and October when the weather is cooler and the climate is more temperate.

Be sure to check the road rules for travelling through these more rural areas and pack a variety of clothing as Australian weather does vary quite significantly in these tropical regions.

Travel

12 Days


Route

Darwin to Brisbane

4135km


Best Time of the Year

May-September

Highlights

  • Saltwater Crocodiles at Crocasaurus Cove
  • Katherine Hot Springs
  • Julia Creek Artesian Baths
  • Eungella National Park
  • Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary 

The Journey

Days

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

Tourism NT

Day 1
Darwin to Katherine

Distance 317km - Driving Time 3 hours 10 minutes

Start by picking up your campervan from Maui Darwin and then start your Darwin holiday exploring the beauty that is on offer in this Top End tropical city. Of all the things to do in Darwin, be sure to head to Crocasaurus Cove to see the saltwater crocs and make your way to Charles Darwin National Park to explore these city wetlands before driving south.

Take a detour through Litchfield and stop off at Wangi Falls for a dip to cool off, and enjoy a quick roadside stop at the Bridge Creek rest stop before making your way to Katherine. Once in Katherine, you can check out Nitmiluk Gorge and relax and unwind for the day in Katherine Hot Springs before heading to BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks for the night.

Tourism NT

Day 2
Katherine to Daly Waters

Distance 276km - Driving Time 2 hours 53 minutes

After breakfast at the holiday park, get a start on the day by heading south towards Mataranka. Stop for a picnic in nature at Elsey National Park in Mataranka and enjoy a post-lunch float in the hot springs at Bitter Springs. Once you have soaked up the last of the hot springs, drive the rest of the way south to Daly Waters.

Once you arrive, check out the Stuart Tree Historic Site and learn about the Northern Territory’s aviation heritage at the Daly Waters Aviation Complex. Turn in for the night at Daly Waters Hi-Way Inn.

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Day 3
Daly Waters to Tennant Creek

Distance 599km - Driving Time 6 hours 7 minutes

Begin the day by driving south to see the beauty of Karlu Karlu. On the way, be sure to stop for a picnic at the Lake Woods Conservation Covenant to take in the wildlife on this beautiful lake. Driving further south, take a second rest stop in Tennant Creek to be inspired by local artists at the Aboriginal Art Galleries before driving to Karlu Karlu to experience the majesty of the Devils Marbles. Take a walk through these stunning granite boulders, learning about their history, enjoying their sunset red glow before heading back north to Tennant Creek Caravan Park for the night.

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Day 4
Tennant Creek to Camooweal

Distance 471km - Driving Time 4 hours 53 minutes

On the drive toward Camooweal, stop for a packed lunch at Connells Lagoon Conservation Reserve to rest and stretch your legs. On the final drive to Camooweal, keep an eye out for sinkholes and caves as you navigate your way through eucalypt woodland and spinifex plains at Wiliyan-ngurru National Park.

Learn about the droving era at The Drovers Camp Museum before making your way to Camooweal Roadhouse for the night. Be sure to check your clocks when you enter Queensland, Australia as they operate in a different time zone to the Northern Territory.

Tourism and Events Queensland

Day 5
Camooweal to Julia Creek

Distance 447km - Driving Time 4 hours 52 minutes

Continuing east, treat yourself to a nice lunch while passing through Mount Isa (Bambino Espresso offers good coffee and healthy eats!) on your way to Julia Creek. In Julia Creek marvel at the Spirit of Light Horse Sculpture, meet Donald and Duncan (the endangered marsupials at the local visitor centre) and book in for an artesian bath for two when you stay the night at Julia Creek Caravan Park. You can opt to BYO nibbles and wine or order ahead a cheese platter from reception for an evening of unwinding in a bore water bath, watching the sunset over the outback.

Tourism and Events Queensland

Day 6
Julia Creek to Hughenden

Distance 263km - Driving Time 2 hours 51minutes

Stop for a bite to eat at Mood Rock Cafe in Richmond or head to Bush Tucker Gardens to whip up a motorhome meal while overlooking the banks of Lake Fred Tritton. Then head into Richmond to step back in time to Australia's premier marine fossil museum. Easily located by the giant statue dinosaur outside, this is a great place to learn about the long lost history of this former inland ocean floor. After driving the last leg to Hughenden, head up to Mount Walker Lookouts to get a picture in the Etna Lookout frame, visit Flinders Discovery Centre before calling in for the night at Hughenden Allen Terry Caravan Park.

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Day 7
Hughenden to Townsville

Distance 383km - Driving Time 4 hours 11 minutes

Take in the stunning nature at White Mountains National Park as you make your way across this final leg of the inland section of the road trip. Once you arrive at Townsville, there is plenty to see and do: take a nice walk along the golden sand beaches on The Strand, cuddle a koala at the Billabong Sanctuary, take a walk up Castle Hill and enjoy the views from the top before heading to BIG4 Igenia Holidays Townsville for the night.

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Day 8
Townsville to Bowen

Distance 201km - Driving Time 2 hours 25 minutes

After spending the morning exploring Townsville, begin the drive south towards Bowen, with an option to stop for lunch on the banks of the Burdekin River. Once you arrive at Bowen, get a selfie with Bowens’ Big Mango at the Visitor Information Centre, grab a mango sorbet, and head to the Horseshoe Bay Rotary Lookout for a short walk to enjoy the stunning views overlooking the bay.

Finish the day by parking up at Lions Park to enjoy a unique experience of watching the sunset over the ocean (one of the few places on the east coast where this is possible) before heading to the Tropical Beach Caravan Park Bowen for the night.

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Day 9
Bowen to Mackay

Distance 192km - Driving Time 2 hours 19 minutes

When travelling south through Proserpine, keep your eyes peeled for saltwater crocodiles. There are many crocs roaming in the wild here, head to a croc lookout for your best chance of spotting one.

Then drive inland and up the ranges to go platypus spotting at Eungella National Park before making your way to Mackay for the afternoon. Take advantage of the many beautiful beaches and be sure to check out Bluewater Lagoon leisure centre to cool down and relax before heading to Discover Parks Mackay for the night.

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Day 10
Mackay to Rockhampton

Distance 336km - Driving Time 3 hours 47 minutes

Start the day by driving south towards Rockhampton with a stop in Clairview (only a short way from the highway) for a picnic right on the beach. Once you’ve arrived at Rockhampton, get a selfie with one of the six cow statues along the main stretch, enjoy a cultural experience at the Rockhampton Art Gallery or treat yourself to a coastal retreat on the coconut lined beaches of Yeppoon. Finish the day by parking up at the Riverside Tourist Park for the night.

Tourism and Events Queensland

Day 11
Rockhampton to Bundaberg

Distance 287km - Driving Time 3 hours 12 minutes

On the drive south stop by Gladstone to check out the East Shores Water Park or drive a little further to Agnes Waters to enjoy a smaller town feel and take a wander around their paperbark forest boardwalk. When driving the final stretch to Bundaberg, plan a stop at the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens for a strol.Once you’ve finished driving for the day, park up for the evening at Bundaberg Caravan Park. From here you can walk or taxi to check out the Bundaberg Rum Distillery and enjoy the rum this town is known for.

Tourism and Events Queensland

Day 12
Brisbane

On this final stretch of the 12-day itinerary, there are so many beautiful places to see. While passing through Maryborough, pop into Fraser Coast Wildlife Sanctuary to get up close with Australian Wildlife. Then cruise south through Noosa and the Sunshine Coast and enjoy the endless opportunities to marvel at these iconic beaches. This region is known for its beaches and its food so be sure to grab a bite to eat at one of the many highly-rated eateries before making your way to Brisbane for the afternoon.

South Bank Parklands is a great spot within the Brisbane CBD to enjoy free swimming facilities, walking tracks, and picnic areas. Be sure to ride the iconic Wheel of Brisbane. Then, with only a short walk into the city, you can seize the opportunity to go shopping for any last-minute souvenirs. With so much to see and do, this last day of the trip could be extended over a few days if you have time to squeeze in Brisbane road trip. Otherwise, you can drop your campervan off at Maui Brisbane at 87 Bancroft Road and make your way home, with your suitcases packed and hearts full after this iconic Australian road trip.

Ready to hit the trail?

A campervan trip from Darwin to Brisbane has it all; from long stretches of the outback to golden sandy beaches. With the long distances, many in such remote areas, it is important to bring ample food, water and other supplies. We have created this itinerary to be motorhome-friendly by making sure that all roads in this itinerary are sealed.

If you're looking for other places to visit and aren't sure if they are motorhome- friendly, download the road trip itinerary planner THL app for great tips for travelling around Australia. If you’re looking for more inspiration you can also check out our travel guides.

There are so many hidden gems all around Australia ready to be explored.If you’re ready for your next adventure, check out our range of premium vehicles and book your motorhome today.