3 Week Cairns To Brisbane 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 Cairns To Brisbane


Experience the marvels of Australia’s East Coast authentically with the 21-day Explorer itinerary! Wander your way from tropical Cairns to dazzling Brisbane, stopping at Magnetic Island, Airlie Beach, the Great Barrier Reef, Rainbow Beach, K’gari (Fraser Island) and Noosa

This itinerary combines both hidden gems, awesome value and iconic Aussie destinations with seamless travel inclusions, making these three weeks on the East Coast utterly unforgettable. Enjoy social tours, all travel and accommodation sorted and the flexibility of add-on activities along the way. The East Coast really is your oyster, so pack your swimmers and a camera and dive into the adventure of a lifetime! 

  • Explore Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Airlie Beach, K’gari, Magnetic Island, Noosa and more!
  • Snorkel, scuba dive, hike, kayak, surf, relax, swim, dine out and camp on this inclusive and adventurous itinerary!
  • See the very best of the East Coast and venture off the beaten track as you explore unique and flourishing natural ecosystems.
  • Relax and focus on the good stuff with all transport and accommodation included and sorted!

Your Sample Itinerary

Day 1

Two people in swimmers relaxing by the Cairns lagoon

Welcome to tropical Cairns!

Let your East Coast adventure begin in the palm-tree-clad Cairns! Make your own way to this bustling local gem and check in to your deluxe central hostel. Today is yours, so settle in and explore the vibrant town surroundings, before perhaps a cheeky hostel drink in the downstairs bar!


Deluxe central Cairns hostel

Day 2

Clownfish in a pink anemone in the reef

Great Barrier Reef adventuring

Embark on your day tour to the kaleidoscopic reef today for an unforgettable natural experience! Head out on a state-of-the-art vessel with all snorkel gear included before you dive into the wonderous marine world below! From colourful fish to abundant coral and sea turtles to reef sharks, see the very best of Australia’s reef ecosystems. Enjoy inclusive lunch on this fun and social boat for delicious healthy nourishment on your big day! 


Deluxe central Cairns hostel

Day 3

Two people at the Millaa Millaa Falls in swimmers

Atherton Tableland waterfall chasing!

Set your sights on the towering rainforests today as you embark on a day tour to all of the best falls in Cairns and the Atherton Tablelands! Stop at the magnificent and renowned Millaa Millaa Falls and connect with nature, before heading to a lesser-known gem; Josephine Falls. Here you can swim and frolic, before exploring Lake Eacham and more regional gems far from the beaten tourist path!


Deluxe central Cairns hostel

Day 4

Three people walking through forests in Cairns

A day of Cairns leisure

Whether you want to seize the day and book into an optional Cape Tribulation day tour or catch up on some R&R amidst your jam-packed East Coast itinerary, do today your way! Check out the many free things to do in Cairns and its surrounds, hang out with your new mates or simply relax by the lagoon as you soak up your final day in tropical paradise!


Deluxe central Cairns hostel

Trip Upgrade

  • Cape Tribulation day tour

Day 5, 6 & 7

Grey koala in a tree

Discover Magnetic Island

Say goodbye to Cairns as you head onto even more wonderful beachside destinations. Drive south to Townsville before catching the ferry over to Magnetic Island. “Maggie” Island is a beach-lovers haven, laden with secret bays, crystal waters and towering palms! Spend your time here relaxing and swimming, as well as indulging at the bars and restaurants. Or, for a wildlife experience, make your own way to the local Koala Wildlife Centre, where you can eat breakfast with these cute Aussie creatures (additional activity)!


Magnetic Island hostel or accommodation

Day 8 & 9

Woman with a drink in Airlie Beach

Explore Airlie Beach

Head back to the mainland en route to Airlie Beach! Then, take this backpacker-friendly town at your own pace as you explore the best of Airlie Beach. Today’s free day can be as jam-packed or as low-key as you choose. If you’re after a day of thrills and views, book into a scenic flight over Heart Reef. Or, take some time for yourself as you sunbake by the local lagoon or enjoy a flourishing hike. Don’t forget to pick a local spot to enjoy lunch as you soak up the sun and tropical lifestyle in Airlie Beach! 


Hostel in the centre of Airlie Beach

Trip Upgrade

  • Scenic flight over Heart Reef

Day 10 & 11

Whitsunday backpacker ship at sunset

Whitsunday Island sailing

Embark on the island adventure of your dreams and discover the wonders of the Whitsundays! Spend two full days snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, relaxing on Whitehaven Beach, gazing out at Hill Inlet views, relaxing aboard a spacious vessel and digging into delicious, included meals! One of the best, social backpacker experiences, enjoy fun nights with new mates, friendly crew and unforgettable memories in tropical paradise!


Shared cabin aboard a spacious vessel with great facilities

Trip Upgrade

  • Scuba diving

Day 12

Partying backpackers dancing

Islands by morning, Airlie by night!

Wake up on your boat for a final morning breakfast under the sun and swim, before a scenic sail back into the mainland. Check back into your central hostel before a relaxed arvo at your own pace (we’re talking local live music, lagoon swimming and cocktails on the esplanade). Then, don your finest threads and head to Airlie’s finest club for your special VIP afterparty with all of your crew and new mates!


Hostel in the heart of Airlie Beach

Day 13

Woman with palm tree reflected sunglasses

Rainbow Beach travel day

What’s the perfect cure for an Airlie Beach hangover? A day of worry-free travel that is Hop on your bus and relax, as you nap, listen to your favourite tunes or post your Aussie pics for your friends back home to see! 


Overnight bus to Rainbow Beach

Day 14 & 15

Woman holding a surfboard on her head

Rainbow Beach free days

Enjoy self-guided exploring in the hidden paradise on the East Coast! Named Rainbow Beach after its glittering sands, revel in low-key hiking and beachside relaxing in this backpacker-friendly town! Or, add on a dolphin kayak or surf lesson to complete your time in Rainbow.


Central Rainbow Beach hostel

Trip Upgrades

  • Dolphin kayak
  • Surf lesson

Day 16, 17 & 18

Aerial view of Lake Mackenzie

K’gari (Fraser Island) 4WD camping adventures

Embark bright and early on the island camping adventure of your dreams! K’gari (Fraser Island) is a natural haven renowned for its many dazzling lakes, secluded beaches, towering rainforests and rich Indigenous culture. Venture to Lake Mackenzie, Maheno Shipwreck, Central Station, Eli Creek and more as you enjoy this fully-guided and fully-catered adventure through amazing Butchulla Country! Settle down at night to your firelit campsite as you hang out under the stars with your local guide and fellow travellers! Return to the mainland on the barge to Rainbow Beach.


Day 16 & 17 - starlit beach campsite on K’gari

Day 18 - central Rainbow Beach hostel

Day 19 & 20

Two women in summer clothes walking up the beach

Sunny Noosa days!

Head from Rainbow Beach to Noosa and live it up in coastal paradise! The Sunshine Coast is laden with turquoise beaches, incredible surf spots and friendly locals that make it a total bucket list item! You’re staying in the heart of sunny Noosa, so hit the beach or embark on a coastal hike! Or, add on an everglades kayak tour to explore this precious ecosystem, just you and your paddle!


Hostel in the heart of Noosa

Trip Upgrade

  • Noosa Everglades kayak 

Day 21

twinkle tree at QUIT gardens point in Brisbane

Hello Brisbane!

Indulge in a chill morning with beachside coffee and relax before checkout. Then hop aboard your vessel of choice to Brisbane, with its dazzling lights and awesome backpacker-friendly things to do! It is time to say farewell as your 21-day itinerary comes to a close, but fear not! The adventure has only just begun, so extend your itinerary or make your own way further south through the neverending wonders of the East Coast!

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
  • Luggage Storage in Airlie Beach
  • 3 nights on Magentic Island
  • Return Ferry from Townsville to Magnetic Island
  • All bus travel from Cairns to Brisbane
  • 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?

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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