3 Week Brisbane To Cairns Explorer


Select Date and Passengers

Adult (18+)
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Airlie Beach + Islands

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3-day K'gari 4WD

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Reef + Rainforest

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Beach Camping

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Social Vessel

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Great Barrier Reef

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Hostels + Cabins

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Totally Included

20 Day Explorer Brisbane To Cairns


From the city lights of Brisbane to the dazzling reefs of Cairns, discover the East Coast like a local on the 21-Day Explorer Itinerary! With the perfect combination of iconic Aussie destinations and hidden local gems, explore both natural wonders and social backpacker scenes on this semi-guided itinerary.

Stopping at Noosa, Rainbow Beach, K’gari (Fraser Island), Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach and Cairns, make your way up the East Coast in style at any budget! From decadent sailing adventures to everglade kayaks and VIP afterparties to waterfall day tours, make the most of your sun-soaked days in a traveller’s paradise!

  • Enjoy social vibes, freedom and local tips on this semi-guided itinerary through the East Coast’s most beautiful wonders.
  • Soak up the sun amongst island wonders in Airlie Beach, surf the waves at Noosa, camp on K’gari’s beaches and wander the rainforests of Cairns! 
  • Stop at hidden gems such as Magnetic Island and Rainbow Beach to get off the beaten path and see what Australia’s really about.
  • Indulge in the best hostels and bus transport on this tried-and-tested itinerary made for those travellers who value comfort on a budget.

Your Sample Itinerary

Day 1

Two people watching the sunset on Brisbane river

Brisbane City to Noosa

Arrive in the bustling Brisbane before making your way to the Sunshine Coast. The beautiful beaches of Noosa await as you arrive in the mid-afternoon at your deluxe beach hostel and unwind… a divine sunset is definitely on the cards!


Deluxe Noosa hostel

Trip Extension

  • Explore Brisbane with some pre-tour activities and accommodation! 

Day 2

Woman with red hair in a bikini at the rocks

Discover Noosa

Today is up to you as you enjoy a free day in the sunshine state! Check out one of the many free things to do in Noosa and the Sunshine Coast (hint it includes coastal hikes, beachside bliss and oceanfront picnics) or book into an unforgettable Noosa day tour… whatever your style! 


Deluxe Noosa hostel

Trip Upgrades

  • Noosa Everglades experience
  • Australia Zoo

Day 3 & 4

Passport, thongs and sunnies in the sand

Rainbow Beach awaits

Hop from one beachside haven to the next as your make your way to Rainbow Beach today. Renowned as the gateway to K’gari, as well as a hidden backpacker hotspot, jump into a leisure day or book into a Rainbow Beach day tour (dolphin kayak anyone?). On your final night in Rainbow, have a relaxing evening tonight in anticipation for your K’gari camping tour tomorrow! 


Rainbow Beach hostel

Trip Upgrade

  • Dolphin kayak

Day 5, 6 & 7

Aerial view Lake Mackenzie with blue, turquoise and white water and sands

K’gari (Fraser Island) 4WD camping adventure

Following an early induction by your guide in the morning, catch the barge over to the world’s largest sand island; K’gari (Fraser Island)! This naturally breathtaking destination is a flourishing hidden gem home to impeccable natural wonders, endless swimming spots and thriving forests. Spend three days and two nights being guided to Lake Mackenzie, Lake Wabby, the Champagne Pools, the Maheno Shipwreck and more awesome destinations, while having plenty of time to unwind amongst some of the most incredible marvels of nature. Enjoy starlit camping with your social group as the warm, sunny days stretch out in front of you! 


Day 5 & 6 - starlit beach campsite with excellent facilities

Day 7 - return to your Rainbow Beach hostel 

Day 8

Three backpackers smiling by the lagoon for a selfie

Airlie Beach here we come!

Today is your biggest travel day as you embark north towards the Whitsundays. Hop on the bus, write in that travel journal and catch on some downtime on your comfortable coach with onboard wifi! 


Hostel in the centre of Airlie Beach

Day 9

Two women chatting with cocktails in hand

Airlie Beach adventuring

The colourful, backpacker-filled township of Airlie Beach is your oyster, so explore and discover the bayside bliss of this tropical favourite! You’re based in a central hostel, so explore the city, escape to the bush for a hike, indulge in local food, swim in the lagoon and dance the night away in Airlie Beach!


Hostel in the centre of Airlie Beach

Trip Upgrade

  • Scenic flight over Heart Reef

Day 10 & 11 

Curly haired person on a chaser boat looking at a ship at sunset

Sail the Whitsunday Islands

Set sail for the marvels of the dazzling Whitsundays today aboard your sleek, spacious and fun social boat! The next two days and nights will be filled with beachside bliss, snorkelling adventures, delicious food and unforgettable times with new mates! Discover the silica sands of Whitehaven Beach, dive into the Great Barrier Reef, hike up to Hill Inlet Lookout and rub shoulders with sea turtles. In the evenings, enjoy good conversations, dancing and funky tunes under the stars out at sea as you make paradise your home with great company!


Shared cabin aboard modern vessel

Trip Upgrade

  • Scuba diving

Day 12

Partying backpackers dancing

Island adventures & VIP afterparty

Wake up at sea for breakfast under the sun and a quick dip before sailing back to the mainland! After checking back into your hostel, freshen up and put on that one nice outfit in the bottom of your backpack and hit the town. Enjoy VIP access to the hottest club in Airlie, with discounted meals and drinks all night with your new makes and crew from your sailing adventure! 


Hostel in the heart of Airlie Beach

Day 13

Heart Reef waters and islands

Airlie Beach free day

Spend another final day in the sunny Airlie Beach before continuing north. With an abundance of local gems near and far, choose to keep it local in the seaside CBD or venture to more regional spots like Bowen for beachside chilling or Proserpine for a crocodile experience! Or, if you want to see the Whitsundays from a different angle, opt-in to a scenic flight that will take you over the incredible reef sceneries!


Hostel in the heart of Airlie Beach

Trip Upgrade

  • Scenic flight over Heart Reef

Day 14, 15 & 16

Group of backpackers jumping at the beach

Drive to & discover Magnetic Island

Depart Airlie Beach for the palm-lined shores of Magnetic Island; the trip will take about half of the day. Renowned as “Maggie” Island by the locals, explore the many divine hidden beaches, dig into that book and relax with friends on these sun-drenched bays! Add a little something extra to your time on Magnetic Island with a Koala experience at the local centre for these furry creatures!


Magnetic Island hostel

Day 17

Two women with juices at Cairns fruit market

En route to Cairns!

Make the scenic journey to your ultimate destination and tropical haven; Cairns! Arrive in the afternoon and enjoy some downtime in this flourishing tropical Queensland capital!


Central Cairns hostel

Day 18

Turtle in the Great Barrier Reed

Great Barrier Reef snorkel & dive

Hit the reef for a day of underwater tranquillity, brilliant coral gardens and majestic sea creatures! Be guided through this world-wonder by your friendly local crew, who will show you the very best of Cairns’ reefs! From swimming with turtles to learning how to scuba dive, Cairns is quite literally your oyster today!


Central Cairns hostel

Day 19

Couple sitting together at Millaa Millaa Falls

Chase waterfalls in the Daintree

Whoever said ‘don’t go chasing waterfalls’... we totally disagree! Embark on a lush day tour to the ancient Daintree rainforest and check out Millaa Millaa Falls and Josephine Falls for cooling dips, exquisite views and photo ops! Then, explore the iconic Curtain Fig Tree and Lake Echam, to get off the beaten path. Tropical heaven is yours on this fully-guided day trip!


Central Cairns hostel

Day 20

Daintree Rainforest views of Cape Tribulation

Travel through Cairns at your own pace!

Whether you’ve got oodles of energy left for a dive course, Cape Tribulation adventure or unique wildlife tour, or you just want to relax by the pool of your hostel and enjoy the ‘holiday’ part of your tour, enjoy Cairns at your own pace!


Central Cairns Hostel

Trip Upgrade

  • Cape Tribulation tour 

Day 21

Woman taking a photo of palms and blue skies in Cairns

It’s not goodbye, it’s only g’day!

Wake up for a leisurely breakfast and final morning in Cairns with a mid-morning checkout. While your East Coast itinerary may be coming to an end, the adventure is really just beginning! Extend the magic with help from our local travel agents, and don’t forget to tag us @eastcoasttours in any dazzling pics you post on the socials!

What's Included?

  • 2-day, 2-night Whitsundays Sailing Trip
  • 3-day, 2-night K'gari Camping Safari
  • Great Barrier Reef Intro Dive Tour
  • Cairns Waterfall Day Tour
  • 3 nights on Magnetic Island
  • Return Ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island
  • Luggage Storage in Airlie Beach
  • All bus travel from Brisbane to Cairns
  • All meals during your tours
  • 20 nights of accommodation (hostels, sailing cabins and island camping)

What's Extra?

  • Scuba diving in the Whitsundays
  • Cairns Skydive
  • Cape Tribulation tour 
  • Scenic Heart Reef Flight 
  • Rainbow Beach Dolphin kayak 
  • Noosa Everglade Kayak 
  • Van or rental car transport 
  • Private hostel rooms

Terms and Conditions

Please read our terms, conditions and cancellation policies before booking your East Coast itinerary package. 


Who will I travel with?

This is not a group tour, so you only travel with whoever you book for. Whether solo, with your partner, friend or group of your choice, spend your downtime how you like and make memories with your tribe!

Whenever you embark on a tour during your itinerary (like your Whitsunday sailing trip or K'gari 4WD), rest assured they will be adventurous backpacker-style trips, so you will be joined by like-minded travellers.

Will there be a tour guide?

This is a semi-guided itinerary, meaning that professional skippers and tour guides lead any time spent on individual tours (like sailboats, 4WD camping tours, reef tours, and the likes). However, the in-between bits like travel days, downtime and free days are up to you.

While nobody will be waking you up for your early bus or checking into hostels with you, this style of travel makes your time in Australia undeniably more personalised and flexible. Read more about our semi-guided itineraries in our FAQs or chat with a local travel agent to match you with your dream experience.

If you are looking to travel with a group of other backpackers and be guided through every leg of your journey by a local leader, check out our fully guided group itineraries.

Are meals included?

5 breakfasts, 6 lunches and 5 dinners are included in this itinerary package. The rest of the meals are up to you, and you will have plenty of access to bars, restaurants and supermarkets along the East Coast.

Do I need travel insurance?

Yes, we strongly recommend that travellers purchase their own travel insurance before their East Coast trip. Travel insurance is not included in your package price, and East Coast Tours is not responsible for personal injury, operator cancellations or delays.

How much spending money do I need per day?

We recommend about $60 to $100 AUD spending money per day. This will cover you for a meal in a restaurant, a couple of beers and some supermarket supplies daily. For details on your daily spending budget in Australia, check out our budget travel guide!

Where will I stay?

You will stay in a variety of beachfront, poolside and city-centre hostels on this trip. A highlight is definitely your Magnetic Island oceanview hostel! You will sleep in a shared cabin aboard your deluxe Whitsunday vessel, and on your K'gari 4WD tour, you'll be spending two nights at your beachside campsite with hot showers and all gear supplied.

Can I upgrade to private rooms rather than shared dorms?

Of course! If you prefer some privacy, you can absolutely upgrade to a private room. You will pay the difference from a shared dorm to a private room, and all accommodation is subject to availability. For detailed costs, chat with our friendly travel agents over live chat to secure your space.

What kind of transport is included?

This itinerary includes bus transport which is primarily a Greyhound Whimit Pass. Greyhound Busses are deluxe coaches with in-seat USB charging, wifi, reclining seats, air conditioning and onboard bathrooms. If you wish to upgrade your package, you can book a rental car or campervan through our friendly travel experts to go your own way!

Can I extend or personalise my itinerary?

Simply chat with our friendly travel agents to personalise your itinerary before you book. We wouldn't blame you for wanting longer in the Noosa surf or Airlie Beach sunshine!

Are the dates flexible?

Yes, the dates for this itinerary are flexible. Simply input your preferred arrival and departure dates before booking, or chat with our expert travel agents about your timeframe and we'll make it work for you!

East Coast Tours acknowledges all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traditional Owners of Country and recognises their continuing connection to land, sea, culture and community. We pay our respects to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations peoples.

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