When it comes to a family holiday, few can compare to The Whitsundays – the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, located along Queensland’s central coast in north-eastern Australia, approximately 1,120km north of Brisbane. But getting there can be as much fun as arriving. So grab the kids, the car and head north on a road trip you will remember forever. We are sharing some family-friendly stops to make along the way on your easy self-drive adventure.

Brisbane to Tin Can Bay (220km)

From Brisbane make your first pit stop at Nambour on the Sunshine Coast for a play date with a pineapple. An icon in terms of Queensland history, you can visit for free or pay a small token fee to visit the animals and take a picture with the hero 16 metre pineapple.

Onwards via the Bruce Highway, you will pass historic towns fringing the hills of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland before making your first stop at Tin Can Bay. Once checked in, feast on fresh fish and chips by the beach, check out the rainbow-coloured sands at Rainbow Beach and roll down the sand hills at Carlo Sand Blow.

Image Credit: Moondyne

Tin Can Bay to Rockhampton (454km)

Rise early with the sun for a beach walk before joining the volunteers at Barnacles Dolphin Centre for the 8am feeding of a pod of rare Indo-Pacific Dolphins at Snapper Creek. Depart by 9am, as the road to Rockhampton awaits! Stop at Childers for a coffee, homemade cake or delicious freshly picked fruit and veggies.

Rockhampton, known as ‘Rocky’ is Queensland’s capital of beef so when you arrive, make a meat stop at one of the butchers for some local steaks to sizzle on the BBQ later. And get the quintessential family road trip photo at the Tropic of Capricorn.

Rockhampton to Cape Hillsborough (380km)

North Queensland’s sweetest town, the sugar capital of Mackay is your go to town today and you’ll know you’re getting close when the road cuts a swathe through seemingly endless fields of sugar cane.

Make a stop at the Sarina Sugar Shed and learn how Mackay supplies a third of Australia’s sugar needs. If your game, and time permits, you might like to enjoy a small sip of the rum (otherwise make a purchase, and enjoy it later in the evening).

Press on for another hour north to Cape Hillsborough and get ready to share sunset with a friendly family of wallabies.

Cape Hillsborough to Airlie Beach (126km)

When you’re ready, start heading towards Airlie Beach. If your up to it, stop at Conway National Park and visit Cedar Creek Falls, where in season (or after rain) a gushing waterfall spills into a swimming pool of crystal clear waters. Adventurous types will love the challenging walk to the top of the falls, or if you prefer serenity, find yourself a spot on the rocks to just sit and soak in the view of a natural amphitheatre buzzing with birds and butterflies.

Arrive in Airlie Beach, check-in and relax around the pool or grab a coffee and start exploring! As the gateway to the Whitsunday Islands, Airlie is a place worth taking your time in. The year-round tropical weather, palm-fringed beaches, waterfront parks, al fresco restaurants and vibrant markets will inspire you to go with the flow and soak up the laid-back vibe while you contemplate the incredible marine parks surrounding it and what day tours you may do!

Eager to plan your Whitsunday’s road trip? Then book one of our cars and start counting down the days until you can be on your way!