Rockhampton - Cairns via Bruce Highway (Highway
Total Distance 1082km
All distances measured from Rockhampton
If you are not in a hurry to leave the Rockhampton district then a visit to Yeppoon or Emu Park on the coast is worth thinking about. You can go and stay at one of the many caravan parks or just do it as a day visit using the scenic circular route.
'Rocky' is also the jumping off point for a trip west on the Capricorn Highway (Hwy 66) heading for places like Emerald and Longreach.
As you head north you will notice the Ramsey Creek rest area on the right a few kilometres from town and this could be handy if you have driven straight through the town and need a toilet break.
You will have seen all the replicas of cattle in Rockhampton so it is no surprise to find you are driving through cattle country on the way to the little town of Marlborough (105km). The road to the left was the only way north until the coastal route was constructed some years ago.
About 70km north you come to the well patronised Waverley Creek rest are and there are usually a number of RVs parked overnight at this convenient stop. Just after that you will see the turn to the right that takes you to St Lawrence ó a little town mostly known for being mentioned in the coastal weather forecasts ó but there is also a little, free rest area for overnighting with showers and an honour box for donations to keep it running.
Donít drive past the little shop at Flaggy Creek if you like home-made ice-cream ó itís delicious.
Before long you are in sugar country and start to see the chimneys of the molasses distillery at Sarina. As you approach the town you soon begin to notice the rich, cloying smell emanating from the mill.
Roads towards the coast from here take visitors to the lovely little seaside areas of Sarina Beach, Campwin Beach and Grasstree Beach while just a little to the north is the Hay Point Coal Terminal.
Our next major town is the city of Mackay (344km) with its sugar terminal and harbour, supermarkets and shops, restaurants and hotels, caravan parks and beaches. Mackay is also the access point for the northern beaches of Blacks Beach, Emeo, and Bucasia.
Mackay is also a good staging post for visits to the sugar producing areas in the Pioneer Valley and also to make the scenic drive up to Eungella where there are rewarding nature walks, breathtaking views and maybe even a glimpse of a platypus.
On the road north again after passing the intriguing The Leap, the road to the right takes you to the Cape Hillsborough National Park and the council camping area near the beach at Seaforth. Unfortunately, at Cape Hillsborough, you must stay at the resort as the camping area has been closed since November, 2000. The beach here is one of the nicest in Queensland with its firm, clean sand stretching for as far as you can see in both directions.
Little towns dot the highway as you continue northwards until you come to Proserpine (468km) ó a sizeable township itself but best known as the gateway to the Whitsundays and the road to the right from here leads to Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour where boats of all descriptions ply the islands every day.
Another 66km along the track and if you are not careful you could miss Bowen (532km) which would be a shame as itís a lovely town with much to offer the traveller. A drive up Flagstaff Hill to the lookout gives awe-inspiring views in every direction and from here you can see the beautiful eastern beaches, the busy boat harbour and yacht club and the town itself. Past the sparkling blue sea and the nearby islands broods the dark forbidding presence of Gloucester Island.
Bowen was a flying boat base during WW2 and a mural in the main street depicting this was the forerunner of a great number of beautiful, professionally executed murals that grace the streets of the town. Approaching the town along the highway it would be easy to dismiss the town as uninspiring with little more than the salt works at its entrance and a few assorted van parks and traders as you pass.
If you need fruit and vegies, donít miss the ëBig Redí barn on your left as you leave town.
The next stretch of highway doesnít have anything notable except the ever-present splendour of the Dividing Range to our left until we reach the little town of Home Hill just before reaching the mighty Burdekin River and itís most impressive bridge that carries rail traffic besides the constant stream of cars and heavy vehicles.
Ayr (647km) can be by-passed to the left although this thriving town has excellent shops and facilities to tempt you to linger a while before moving north to Townsville (735km)- North Queenslandís largest city and a major centre for shipping to all parts of Australia and in fact the world.
A few days are needed to sample Townsvilleís many attractions but a drive up to the summit of Castle Hill to see the magnificent view from the lookout should certainly rate a mention in your itinerary. Do you like to gamble ó go to the casino. Want to see the Barrier Reef ó luxurious catamarans will take you there. Havenít time? Walk through a simulation of the reef down near the wharf. Restaurants, hotels, entertainment and nightlife are all here plus a stroll through the busy shopping mall if that takes your fancy.
The view from the lookout at night is a sight worth seeing and best of all, Townsville is in the Dry Tropics so you wonít be dodging showers all the time.
An hour north of here, after passing numerous little beaches off to the right, we reach Ingham (848km) on the Herbert River. This is sugar country and the town supports two mills besides boasting the longest loading facility in the State at nearby Lucinda with the jetty stretching an incredible 6km into the sea!
After climbing to the top of the range donít be in a hurry to start down again as the view from the top is worth studying. It looks out over the Hitchingbrook Channel to the bulk of huge Hitchingbrook Island.
The new modern road nowadays sweeps down to Cardwell at the northern tip of Hinchingbrook and soon reaches Tully (944km) once known as Australiaís wettest town but nowadays that doubtful record belongs to Babinda a little further north. A competion each year awards the ëGolden Gumboot; to the town with the highest rainfall for that year! Tully is the place to turn if you want to go to the popular tourist destinations of Mission Beach and Dunk Island.
Examples of building with European influence can be seen at Innisfail (996km) and this can be attributed to the large numbers of Italians who came to work on the sugar farms in the early days. Innisfail sitting at the junction of the North and South Johnstone rivers, is an attractive town and nearby Etty Bay and Flying Fish Point are delightful little places.
A road to the left just north of town is the most southerly access to the Atherton Tableland and a climb up its winding curves would take you past the Nerada Tea Plantation. Later on our journey another ascent starts at Gordonvale and a short time afterwards we reach our destination of Cairns (1082km).