Girl standing in the Paperbark Forest in Agnes Water Sarah Latham

If you’re heading on a Queensland road trip, it’s guaranteed you’d want to check out everything that’s on offer. In addition to the Queensland road trip must do’s like Noosa Fairy Pools, The Whitsundays, the Bowen Mango and Magnetic Island, check out these unexpected and lesser known gems that will add something special to your Queensland road trip.

Suggested read: 50 things to do in Queensland & Cairns to Townsville: The 2 day North Queensland road trip for time poor travellers

1. Sunshine Coast Hinterland road at Mt Tibrogargan

Wake up bright and early and start heading north. While the Sunshine Coast is famous for its beach side towns (i.e., Noosa) and stunning coastline, there are a few beautiful gems (and famous on Instagram) spots in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Start your road trip with the ultimate ‘I’m on a road trip!’ pic at the Mt Tibrogargan Instagram road. Find this spot: Looking for that Instagram road at Mt Tibrogargan, Sunshine Coast?

Mt Tibrogargan Instagram Road Sunshine Coast Sarah Latham

2. Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow Beach

A local’s favourite, Rainbow Beach, is found at the very northern end of the Sunshine Coast region below K’gari (Fraser Island). While it is about 50 minutes drive from the Bruce Highway (turn off at Gympie), it is well worth the detour. The town itself is buzzing with a pleasant holiday atmosphere and the Carlo Sand Blow is a natural phenomenon you should clap your eyes on at least once in your life. Find this epic spot: How to get to the Carlo Sand Blow

girl standing on sand dune at Carlo Sand Blow

3. The Pier at Hervey Bay

Continuing along your Queensland road trip from Carlo Sand Blow and the next best unexpected spots to stop is Hervey Bay, about 90 minutes north. A famous spot in this sleepy seaside town (well known for being the gateway to K’gari/Fraser Island) is the Urangan Pier. This looooooooong pier takes about 10 minutes to walk to the end and is especially stunning at sunset with pastel views across K’gari, calm waves and birdlife.

Girl standing at Urangan Pier at Hervey Bay

4. Paperbark Forest near Agnes Water

One of the most unexpected stops on a Queensland road trip and a lesser known gem of this area is the Paperbark Forest at Agnes Water. Found about a 3 minute drive out of Agnes Water (directions here), enjoy a beautiful and short boardwalk through the paperbark trees.

Girl standing in the Paperbark Forest in Agnes Water Sarah Latham

5. Seaforth Beach and Cape Hillsborough

Just north of Mackay, you’ll find the fantastic Cape Hillsborough. Each morning, a collection of kangaroos and wallabies make their way to the Cape Hillsborough beach to eat and bound along the waterfront. Even as an Australian, where kangaroos and wallabies have never been out of the ordinary for me, I was mesmerised by this experience. You don’t need to book or pay, just turn up before first light each morning! We stayed at the nearby Seaforth Beach (directions here) and found it a very pleasant and relaxing sleepy town.

Girl and kangaroo at beach at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough

6. Wallaman Falls

If you’re looking for mind blowing waterfalls, Wallaman Falls will deliver. Australia’s tallest single drop permanent waterfall is found in the Townsville region and is well worth the detour from Ingham. You can view the waterfall from above at the dedicated lookout or make the hike to the base to experience the waterfall in all its glory. Find this spot: How to get to Wallaman Falls.

Wallaman Falls Sarah Latham

7. Cardwell Spa Pools

If you’re looking for the unexpected spots on a Queensland road trip you’ll find it here. Be prepared to rub your eyes in disbelief as you stumble across the Cardwell Spa Pools. Found only 10 minutes from Cardwell on an unsealed road, these vibrant blue waters are worth the visit, whether on a longer Queensland road trip, the shorter Cairns to Townsville road trip or if you’re just looking for things to do near Innisfail.

Sarah Latham Cardwell Spa Pools Cairns

8. Mission Beach

The quaint towns of Mission Beach are sometimes overlooked by travellers anxious to arrive in Cairns; however, they are well worth a look in. A gorgeous sandy beach connects the villages and is one of the most dreamy places to stop for a moment and relax. Learn more about what to do in Mission Beach here: Where to eat, sleep and play in Mission Beach.

Coconut Trees Mission Beach Sarah Latham

9. Wander the castle ruins at Paronella Park

You might not have been expecting a Catalan castle on your Queensland road trip, but you’ll find one. Just outside of Innisfail, you can wander through the dreamy grounds and castle ruins of Paronella Park. Find out more about a day exploring here: Paronella Park – The Dream Continues.

Two girls standing in castle ruins at Paronella Park Sarah Latham

10. Frankland Islands

While North Queensland is known for its islands (E.g., Fitzroy Island and Green Island), there is a lesser known collection of islands on the way into Cairns called the Frankland Islands. These uninhabited islands are fringed by the exquisite Great Barrier Reef and are the perfect place to relax after your week driving up the Queensland coast. Suggested read: Frankland Islands: The must do Cairns tropical island.

Sarah Latham Frankland Islands

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