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Road Trips from Cairns

Road Trips Starting at Cairns

Cape York the ultimate trip from Cairns: The beginning of this 1432 km journey is in spectacular Cairns. You may find it hard to leave Cairns due to its laid-back atmosphere, but this journey is worth it. Have a look at our 4 reasons to stay in Cairns on your 4WD trip. The trip will snake its way up the north coast until you reach Cape York where your journey will sadly conclude. During your travels, you will meet some interesting locals who may have a couple of stories to tell, cross creeks that will question the need for boats, and learn about the rich history of the North Queensland outback.

For the big trip to Cape York be sure to allow at least 7 to 10 days for this trip to ensure you experience everything on offer! This adventure needs to be planned. Starting your road trip in Cairns means you can pick up all the supplies you need before heading off to Far North Queensland and ‘the Tip’, Cape York. Make sure plan ahead with your overnight stays and book in, the trip to the Cape is so popular now, places do book out!

Be sure to book some pre and post-travel accommodation in Cairns to make the most of your trip and allow time for picking up supplies or delays getting back for your flight. A lot can happen on the road.

Some shorter Self Drive Options could include: Near Cairns, there are lots of beautiful places and National Parks with waterfalls, crater lakes & rainforest to explore around Cairns, Port Douglas, Cape Tribulation, the Daintree National Park, “Bloomfield Track”, Cooktown, The Atherton Tablelands, Undara, Chillagoe and all places in between without having to drive long distance.

Cairns to Cooktown is a shorter trip: There are two different experiences that can be had when travelling on a road trip from Cairns to Cooktown.

Route 1 – This route begins with travelling to Kuranda. Kuranda is a town packed full of little cafes and pieces of art. It is famous for its markets which offer handcrafted goods, Aboriginal arts and crafts, galleries, local honey and coffee beans, and tropical fruit ice cream. Mareeba is the largest town on the Atherton Tablelands. This region produces 70% of Australia’s coffee crop and is home to the Coffee World Experience. This is a must-go if you are a coffee lover. From here you follow Mulligan Highway and continue onto Cooktown.

Route 2 – Route 2 is a more scenic drive. You stay on the coast for the first leg of the road trip journey by following Captain Cook Highway. This stretch of highway will leave you breathless – rainforest on one side and the Great Barrier Reef on the other. This route will take you to Port Douglas. Port Douglas is the ultimate destination for relaxation. Once you have left Port Douglas in the rear-view mirror, you will head into Mossman Gorge which is teeming with rainforest flora and fauna. After Mossman Gorge, you will link up with the Mulligan Highway and continue onto Cooktown.

Whichever road trip you decide to take they will all be a great adventure. Another option is a Cape York Tour, where all the hard work is done for you! Ask our helpful, local team for advice on the best options for you.

Regional Attractions

Cairns Aerial View 4WD Hire Cairns

Cairns Day Trips

There are so many things to do locally. You can spend a day or a whole week around town. From good food to go-carts. There is something for everyone in Cairns.

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SkyRail to Kuranda 4WD Hire Cairns


Surrounded by the world’s oldest living tropical rainforest, the colorful village of Kuranda is known as the Village in the Rainforest. Just 25km northwest of Cairns.

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Cape Tribulation 4WD Hire Cairns

Daintree & Cape Tribulation

The Daintree covers 1200 sq km between the Mossman Gorge and Bloomfield River. Cape Tribulation is where the Wet Tropics Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef meet.

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Great Barrier Reef Trip 4WD Hire Cairns

Great Barrier Reef

Visiting the Reef includes: snorkelling, scuba diving, aircraft or helicopter tours, glass-bottomed boats, semi-submersibles and educational trips, cruise ship tours, whale watching and swimming with dolphins.

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Atherton Tablelands 4WD Hire Cairns

Atherton Tablelands

Located just south of Cairns, the cooler-climate of the Atherton Tablelands has variety of landscapes and attractions – waterfalls, national parks and coffee plantations. Markets, food and wine.

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Cape York 4WD Hire Cairns

Torres Strait

The ultimate self-drive location – Cape York. You will find more 4WDs here than anywhere else in the country. A 1200km strip of road connects Cairns with Cape York allow at least 7 days to take the drive.

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Plan your road trip to Cape York from Cairns