Plan Your Trip

The Great Green Way

348km (one way)

Car or Camper

Townsville to Cairns

All year round

It’s an area with two World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics rainforests, more than 12 National Parks and is the closest mainland access to the Great Barrier Reef – Yet it’s possible that even well-seasoned travellers haven’t done this drive.

Stretching between Townsville and Cairns, this under-the-radar route can be completed in four hours, but is best enjoyed over a couple of days so you can soak up the region’s spectacular natural assets and relaxed friendly vibe. You’ll see beautiful beaches, sugar towns, a castle (yes, really) and, because it wouldn’t be an Australian road trip without seeing at least one “big thing”, a giant Golden Gumboot.


165km 2hrs


Townsville to Cardwell

Museum of Tropical Queensland Townsville

As the largest city in northern Queensland, there’s plenty to keep you occupied in Townsville … everything from the Museum of Tropical Queensland to the Castle Hill Lookout and its fabulous panoramas. If you’ve got time, make a day-trip to nearby Magnetic Island – “Maggie” to locals – home to coastal walking trails, colonies of koalas and 23 bays and beaches. The ferry, which departs from Breakwater Terminal, takes about 20 minutes.

When you’re ready to hit the road, make sure you start the day off right with a decent breakfast: try the regional fruit platters at Jam Corner or the smoked bacon chops at The Balcony Restaurant.

Jourama Falls

Stop one, about 90km north of Townsville, is Jourama Falls in the Paluma Range National Park. Make the effort to work off breakfast with the 3km return walk  (it starts 700m past the main camping area) and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views over the falls and surrounding rainforest.

Lucinda Jetty

Then, past Ingham, arrive at Lucinda, home to the longest service jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. Stretching almost 6km into the sea, it’s a sight in itself – but it’s also a great place to drop in a line and try your hand at catching a Spanish mackerel, giant trevally, queenfish or northern bluefin tuna. No luck? Don’t worry, you can still catch fish and chips from the Lucinda Jetty Store and Take Away.

Hinchinbrook Island Channel

After lunch it’s on to Cardwell, the gateway to Hinchinbrook Island. Spend the afternoon doing a short cruise around Hinchinbrook Channel to spot native wildlife or, if you have an extra day to spare, be sure to organise a day-trip to the island to experience one of the many walking trails.

Settle in for the night at Cardwell Beachcomber Motel and Tourist Park in a three-bedroom Ocean View Villa or a Poolside Cabin.

165km 2hrs
70km 1hr


Cardwell to Mission Beach

Golden Gumboot in Tully

First up today is a 30-minute drive to Tully, centre of the region’s sugar-cane plantations. In harvesting season, some two million tonnes of cane are processed through the Tully Sugar Mill – you can tour the facility between June and November. Tully is also known as one of the wettest places in Australia, a tightly contested title that prompted the construction of the big Golden Gumboot. The recently renovated boot is 7.9m tall (reflecting the highest annual rainfall recorded in the town) and features a rain gauge, a viewing platform, photos of past floods and, on its exterior, a giant green treefrog.

Dunk Island

From Tully, detour off the highway through national park to Mission Beach. The four villages of Mission Beach are linked by 14km of palm-fringed golden paradise beaches. There is plenty to keep you active here, including kayaking, sky diving and rainforest walks, where you might be lucky enough to spot a notoriously shy cassowary. A day-trip to Dunk Island or a scuba diving trip to the reef are not-to-be-missed experiences.

Opt for a Rainforest Hut, set in the rainforest canopy, at the eco-minded Sanctuary Retreat. The alfresco ensuites add to the retreat’s natural ambience.

70km 1hr

Optional Detour – Etty Bay

If you missed seeing a cassowary in the rainforests of Mission Beach, take a detour to Etty Bay, 15 minutes south of Innisfail. Known as one of North Queensland’s most scenic beaches, Etty Bay is often patrolled by cassowaries and their chicks in the late afternoon and early morning. The beach is also patrolled by surf lifesavers and is a lovely spot for a swim or fish.

140km 2hr


Mission Beach to Cairns

Mena Creek Falls at Paronella Park

Take the scenic route out of town along Alexander Drive and Bingil Bay Road before rejoining the highway, then take another short detour to Paronella Park at Mena Creek. Here you’ll find a heritage-listed concrete “castle”, built by a Spanish cane farmer in 1935, and surrounded by 5ha of rainforest. Take the 45-minute guided tour to learn the full fascinating history, and don’t miss seeing the stunning avenue of kauri trees.

Babinda Boulders

Stop for a snack and a refuel in Innisfail: the rolls at Oliveri’s Continental Deli on Edith Street are legendary. Then drive another 30 minutes to Babinda, a cute little town sitting in the shadow of Mt Bartle Frere. If it’s warm, the Babinda Boulders – a freshwater swimming hole dotted with huge, smooth granite rocks – is a beautiful spot for a refreshing afternoon dip before driving the final leg (about an hour) north to Cairns.

140km 2hr

Take a little longer...

Spend some time and explore the beautiful attractions off the Cassowary Coast