Your Ultimate East Coast Australia Itinerary: Cairns, Whitsundays and K'gari

Updated Wed 25 May 2022

G’day fellow travel chasers and adventure seekers!

Three people swimming off Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays

International borders are opening and travel bucket lists are quickly reigniting worldwide!

Now is certainly the time to bring those daily daydreams of Australia’s sunny seaside destinations to reality by planning your very own Ultimate East Coast Itinerary! Who’s keen to find out the best way to do more and spend less - we sure are!

Home to a magical island archipelago that boasts dazzling aquamarine waters that are every avid sailor's dream, it is no surprise that the world-famous Whitsunday Islands is a must-do on every traveller's Ultimate East Coast Itinerary! However, for those craving salty adventures in Australia’s sunny state of Queensland, your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary shouldn’t just start and end with the Whitsundays! We’re all about planning a destination brimming East Coast Itinerary!

From the natural beauty of the K’gari (Fraser Island) coastline that is laden with off the beaten track East Coast gems to the abundance of dreamy snorkelling and dive spots located a short boat trip from the bustling hub of Cairns, the East Coast encapsulates all of the tropical wonders Australia has to offer!

Our crew of sun chasing, experience loving globe-trotters is ready to help you plan your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary that includes the best of Cairns, Whitsundays, and K’gari adventures - time to say goodbye to travel FOMO… finally! 

You’re going to want to put on the captain hat for this one!


Stop 1 on your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary: Cairns

First, let’s touch down in Cairns, a lively tropical town where the lush rainforest meets the spectacular reef! Considered to be the gateway to one of the seven wonders of the natural world, the expansive coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef are just a short boat ride away! So hop aboard, cruise into the gleaming horizon, and fill your itinerary with the Top Things To Do in Cairns During Your Ultimate East Coast trip!

Women waving on a Cairns Outer Great Barrier Reef tourCairns Outer Great Barrier Reef.

1.   Snorkel or Dive the Outer Great Barrier Reef 

Who’s ready to start their East Coast itinerary off with a splash? Nothing says complete freedom like the open ocean, and lucky for you, some of the Great Barrier Reef’s best snorkelling and diving locations are dotted off the mainland of Cairns!

Home to 75% of the world's corals, hundreds of quirky reef fish, and incredible serenity, Cairns is the ultimate East Coast destination to put on a snorkel or try your hand at diving and rub shoulders with true Aussie locals! Underwater playgrounds as far as the eye can see, shimmering sunny skies ahead, and warm salty ocean breezes - the Cairns Great Barrier Reef is a must-do!

To explore all of your Cairns Great Barrier Reef tour options live chat with our friendly reef experts!

Person snorkelling amongst the Cairns Outer Great Barrier ReefCairns Outer Great Barrier Reef.

2.   Explore the Daintree Rainforest

From the Great Barrier Reef one day to the mystical wonderland of the Daintree Rainforest the next! Step inside the dense emerald canopy of the Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest by an impressive 10 million years!

Approximately 180 million years old, the Daintree Rainforest grants one-of-a-kind scenery and exotic wildlife, and the opportunity to learn and acknowledge the rich cultural legends and history of the area’s traditional owners and custodians, the Kuku Yalanji people. 

For those first-timers in Cairns, a Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation tour is the best place to experience the seamless melt of reef to rainforest, the only destination in the world where two World Heritage Listed sites sit side by side!

Two people about to go swimming at Blue Hole Daintree Rainforest, CairnsBlue Hole, located within the Daintree Rainforest, Cairns.

3.   Visit the Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls

From waterfall tours to renting a car with your fellow adventure-seekers, the Atherton Tablelands is brimming with off the beaten track gems to add to your Cairns itinerary! Find your zen amongst majestical cascades, lush waterfalls, and refreshing rock pools that offer a dreamy respite post-hike!

The renowned Atherton Tablelands Waterfall Circuit boasts the likes of Millaa Millaa Falls 18 metre freshwater pool, Ellinjaa Falls rushing rapids, and Tutamonlin (Malanda Falls) which offers abundant opportunities to learn about the area's rich Indigenous history. Depending on your time in Cairns, a day tour or road trip to the Atherton Tablelands is a must-do!

Person wearing a backpack at Millaa Millaa Fall CairnsMillaa Millaa Waterfall, located within the Atherton Tablelands, Cairns.

Whether you're adding a Cairns Great Barrier Reef dive, or a whole Cairns tour week to your East Coast trip, make sure to contact our team of travel experts to bundle and save!


Stop 2 on your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary: The Whitsunday Islands

Ahoy there sailors! Next up, we have our heavenly backyard, the Whitsunday Islands! It takes approximately 11 hours to travel to Airlie Beach by bus or an hour and a half by plane from Cairns, however, we suggest taking to the open roads and enjoying the tropical marvels along the way! If cuddling a koala is on your Aussie bucket list, a stop at Magnetic Islands' stunning palm-fringed beaches is a must-do on your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary!

Best explored on the decks of a state-of-the-art vessel, let us fill you in on the Top Things To Do in the Whitsundays During Your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary!

Two people aboard the Atlantic Clipper mega yacht, Whitsunday IslandsAtlantic Clipper overnight sailing tour, Whitsunday Islands.

4.   Visit Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet on an Overnight Sailing Tour

The Whitsundays - home to some of the world’s best sailing adventures and holidays! Set sail into the sunset with a glass of bubbly in hand, wake peacefully to the gentle lull of the big blue, and fill your days with island-hopping adventure!

An overnight sailing tour in the Whitsunday Islands is the best way to visit the world-renowned likes of Whitehaven Beach’s sparkling silica sands and the ever-swirling kaleidoscope of colours that is Hill Inlet! From lively backpacker boats that combine the best of the Whitsundays with friends new and old to small-group catamaran sailing, there is an abundance of overnight sailing tours that guarantee an ocean full of wondrous tropical sites and vibes!

Two people smiling at Hill Inlet Lookout, WhitsundaysHill Inlet Lookout, located on Whitsunday Island.

5.   Snorkel or Dive Amongst Inner Fringing Reefs

You’ve ticked off the Outer Great Barrier Reef at Cairns, and you’re itching for another underwater adventure amongst thick flourishing forests and unique marine creatures! Lucky for you, nestled amongst the 74 Whitsunday Islands is an array of vibrant inner fringing reefs that are waiting to be explored!

For those setting sail on an overnight tour of the Whitsundays, the vast plethora of snorkelling and diving sites are at your doorstep! Following balmy morning hikes, rest assured, your next stop is Hook Island, home to gentle Maori Wrasse, curious batfish, giant trevallies, and sprawling coral walls! If you’re excited to make a splash scuba diving, explore the range of vessels with scuba diving onboard here.

Inspire your wanderlust dreams, by checking out our favourite Whitsundays diving location - Mantaray Bay!

Schools of colourful reef fish, Whitsundays inner fringing reefsSchools of colourful reef fish swimming amongst the Whitsunday's inner fringing reefs.

6.   Have a Night Out in Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach - the renowned East Coast hub for laid-back tropical days and boogie filled nights on the dancefloor! A bustling main street brimming with raving nightlife is the place to be after days spent island-hopping around the Whitsundays, and the ideal scene to meet fellow East Coast travellers and backpackers!

Whether you’re after a sunset-lit low key arvo session, a classy poolside cocktail, or a spirited night of dancing to booming DJ sets with friends, Airlie Beach sure does have it all! Check out the Best Bars and Nightclubs in Airlie Beach - these gems are always busy, with good times guaranteed!

Table of friends enjoying an afternoon beverage at Northerlies, Airlie BeachNortherlies Beach Bar & Grill, Airlie Beach.

Find your dream overnight Whitsunday Island sailing tour here, and get ready to live the laid-back Whitsunday sailing life!


Stop 3 on your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary: K’gari (Fraser Island)

Now it’s time to hit the open road and make your way to K’gari (Fraser Island), famously known as the largest sand island in the world, and home to diverse coastal landscapes and one-of-a-kind world heritage listed sites! Fill your days with action-packed four-wheel-drive discovery adventures and a perfect balance of scenic relaxation, with the Top Things To Do in K’gari During Your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary!

It takes approximately 10 hours to travel to K’gari by bus or car from Airlie Beach. With an abundance of sites and towns to visit in between, be sure to live chat with our travel experts to customize your very own East Coast Itinerary!

Three people sitting on a 4WD looking out at the K'gari (Fraser Island) rainforest.K'gari (Fraser Island) four-wheel-drive adventure tour.

7.   Swim in Lake Mckenzie

From crystal-clear to bright turquoise, to deep indigo, the seamless melt of blue at Lake Mckenzie is just beckoning for you to dive right in! K’gari is home to over 100 freshwaters lakes, with Lake Mckenzie renowned as the ultimate crown jewel! As a perched lake, its mass is made up completely of fresh rainwater, with compact smooth sand along the lake floor preventing water from spilling out.

Isolated and contained within itself, Lake Mckenzie is a literal paradise on Earth, creating a day filled with complete clarity and abundance - the zen you’ve been dreaming of!

Person about to go for a swim at Lake Mckenzie, Fraser IslandLake Mckenzie, K'gari (Fraser Island).

8.   Visit the Champagne Pools and Indian Head

From freshwater havens to saltwater abundance, K’gari is filled with stellar swimming destinations! Indian Head on the northeast edge of the island is the premier lookout point on K’gari to spot turtles, sharks and migrating whales, with the collection of dazzling Champagne Pools found right below! Nestled on the edge of the ocean, the Champagne Pools are a unique sought-after destination on K’gari!

Naturally formed, the rocky exterior of the Champagne Pools creates a barrier from the surrounding ocean, with waves lapsing into the shallow sandy pools continuously! A bubbly sensation, much like champagne is the end result - jacuzzi time anyone?

Drone image of the Champagne Pools, K'gari (Fraser Island)Champagne Pools, K'gari (Fraser Island).

9.   Relax at Eli Creek

Slow-moving, knee-deep, and surrounded by lush island vegetation Eli Creek is a dreamy K’gari destination to grade a tube and float lazily down the river with friends - and then do it all over again! Simply walk up the boardwalk that leads to the top of the river and enjoy the fun!

Eli Creek astoundingly moves approximately 80 million litres of fresh water per day, ending at 75 Mile Beach’s sandy shorelines. With fine soft sand filtering rainwater constantly, the water flowing through Eli Creek is so pure you can even drink it!

Time to cruise through the rainforest and sand dunes in Eli Creek, and spread the picnic rug for lunch afterwards along the stunning 74 Mile Beach!

People on assorted animal floats at Eli Creek, K'gari (Fraser Island)Eli Creek, K'gari (Fraser Island).

We can see you adding these must-visit K’gari favourites to your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary already! Live chat with our team of travel experts to explore the best of K’gari packages and deals!


10.   Continue your journey along Australia’s East Coast! 

If you haven’t realised by now, Australia’s East Coast stretches for approximately 4,000 kilometres, beholding a never-ending list of sun-soaked must-visit destinations and secret secluded hidden gems!

Continue the fun past K’gari and catch a wave at Noosa Beach, chill out in Byron Bay like a true local, and road trip to the buzzing eclectic capital city of Sydney - East Coast Itinerary options are endless!

Bunch of friends relaxing in the onboard jacuzzi, Atlantic Clipper, WhitsundaysAtlantic Clipper overnight sailing tour, Whitsunday Islands.

From build-your-own East Coast itineraries to popular pre-made packages, our team of experience loving travel experts are ready to help you customise your Ultimate East Coast Itinerary - the unbelievable deals and local knowledge doesn’t just stop with the Whitsundays!


Get ready to see more of Australia’s East Coast for less, and leave your inner traveller (and wallet) happy! 

Live chat or call us on +61 7 4914 2425 to speak with an experienced travel expert and explore our exclusive East Coast package prices and unmissable deals!

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