Cairns to Townsville Distance: 347 Kilometers | 4 hours and 30 minutes
Although they’re both tropical cities, Cairns and Townsville are as different as chalk and cheese in many ways. While they’re both synonymous with warm climates, the Great Barrier Reef and rich in North Queensland history, both cities offer up something unique for locals and tourists alike.
There’s only one way to truly get a taste of the two cities as well as the 350 kilometres that lie between them, and that’s by embarking on a Cairns to Townsville drive to get acquainted with the Far North.
We’ve mapped out a route – but let’s call it an exploratory journey from Cairns to Townsville.
Starting point: Cairns
Surrounded by reef, rainforests, and a vibe like no other, Cairns really is the great tropical gateway. Each year people flock from all over the world to get a glimpse of this coastal gem, making it the fourth most popular destination for international tourists in Australia.
Once you’ve snorkelled till your heart’s content, waltzed along the esplanade, dipped in the lagoon (yes, a lagoon!) and perhaps enjoyed a few day trips outside of Cairns, it’s time to hit the road.
Grab your Cairns hire car and set off to conquer the Great Green Way!
First stop: Babinda
60 km South of Cairns | 1-hour drive
Nestled between Queensland’s two highest mountains, it is no wonder Babinda is home to some of the most stunning waterfalls one might have the pleasure of seeing. The smooth granite boulders make for the most picturesque freshwater swimming holes in the region.
After an hour of driving in that tropical heat, you’ll need to pull over for a quick dip and a picnic. If you’ve got longer, why not hire a kayak and explore the creek?
Second stop: Mission Beach
80 km south of Babinda | 1-hour drive
When you hear of a beach situated between the Great Barrier Reef and a World Heritage listed rainforest, you know it’s a worthwhile stop. Palm trees line the 14 kilometres of lush white sands, with secluded inlets and coastal walking trails aplenty.
If you’re lucky, you might even see an endangered cassowary. Adventure-seekers love Mission Beach and can fill their boots here with skydiving, deep-water diving, and white-water rafting!
Third stop: Ingham
123 km south of Mission Beach | 1.5-hour drive
Time for a culture stop – Ingham is the heart of the local sugar cane industry and home to one of the largest sugar cane mills in Australia.
Ingham, or Little Italy, also holds the annual Australian-Italian Festival in August, bringing thousands of visitors to experience an authentic collection of wines, cuisine, and music.
The stunning green landscape of Ingham is also a bird lover’s paradise, with more than 230 different species residing in the TYTO Wetlands.
Final Destination: Townsville
113 km south of Ingham | 1.5-hour drive
You’ve covered some miles, so time to relax and take in Townsville’s cosmopolitan ambiance. Unofficially known as the ‘Capital of North Queensland’, Townsville boasts a more metropolitan feel due to its urban expansion. Here you can enjoy some boutique shopping on Flinders Street or hit up the local markets. When hunger calls, check out the top-notch restaurant scene on Palmer Street.
Don’t leave Townsville without visiting Reef HQ, which holds many of the native flora and fauna to the Great Barrier Reef and is an absolute must.
You’ve made it – Cairns to Townsville and the best in-between. Drop off your car hire at any of the Townsville car rental locations, or if you still want more, turn around and do a Townsville to Cairns road trip!