Famed for its warm year-round weather and infectiously laid-back vibe, Cairns attracts scores of campervan enthusiasts each year. But while the town is undeniably pleasant, it’s the outlying region that lures nature-loving campervan travellers in droves. So why not rent a campervan out of Cairns and see it for yourself?
From psychedelic Great Barrier Reef corals to the wildlife-rich Daintree, outdoor adventures abound in Far North Queensland. An endless array of cascading waterfalls and sugary white beaches lie within a few hours’ drive of Cairns, ideal for exploring on a road trip.
Camping is a popular pastime in the Tropical North (and throughout Australia), so expect excellent RV infrastructure. Water refills, dump stations, laundry facilities, and well-equipped campgrounds are rarely more than a quick drive away. Campervan-friendly campsites span rustic national parks to scenic cattle-strewn farms and flashy RV parks—there’s something for every budget and taste.
As most natural attractions lack on-site accommodation, a self-contained campervan rental is the most convenient (and cost-effective) way to explore the Cairns region. With convenient amenities onboard, you can park by a pristine lake and spend your days soaking up the magnificent scenery of Australia’s Tropical North.
Not all vehicles may be available. Use the search tool to check availability for your travel dates.
There’s plenty of cause to explore Far North Queensland in a motorhome rental. You’ll venture between breathtaking sites at your own pace and camp overnight amid spectacular scenery—all this is super affordable, too.
Travelling in and around Cairns in a campervan rental entails a broad array of benefits:
Cost-Effective: A camper is hands-down the most affordable way to explore Tropical North Queensland. As your accommodation and transport come rolled into one, you won’t have to fork out for pricey tours or hotels.
Self-Catering: Not only will you save on transport and accommodation, but you’ll slash your daily food spend. Any respectable campervan has a fridge and kitchen, letting you save big bucks by cooking at “home.”
Convenience: Forget returning to the city once you finish sightseeing for the day. With a motorhome, you can cruise to the closest campsite and wake up within easy reach of tomorrow’s adventure. Less driving and more soaking up the sites.
Freedom: The flexibility of motorhome travel is tough to overstate. Choose where you’re going on a whim—there’s no need to stick to a set schedule.
Onboard Amenities: Large motorhomes have top-end facilities like indoor showers, kitchens, couches, TVs, and comfy king-sized beds. Some are even more luxurious than what you’re used to at home.
Remember these helpful tips when driving around Cairns in a campervan rental:
Located at the end of Boulders Road (a sealed road).
Free stays of up to 72 hours are permitted on a first-come, first-served basis. Facilities include toilets, cold showers and BBQ’s.
No pets allowed.
Overlooking the Billabong with hot showers and WiFi.
Each campsite has its own open campfire.
Prices start at $30 for an unpowered site for two people and $40 for a powered site.
Children under 12 are half-price and under 4 are free.
Beachfront powered and unpowered campsites just 2.5 hours north of Cairns accessible via sealed coastal roads. Daintree Ferry transfer to Cape Tribulation is required.
There are no dump points in the Cape Tribulation area. The closest spots are located at Mossman or Port Douglas. Only bore water is available, which requires booking a powered site to fill your water tanks.
There is only bore water onsite to fill vans! You must book a powered site to fill your tanks with water.
There are beachfront, middle row and back-row sites available with direct beach access.
The campsites have the following facilities:
Powered sites start from $39 for two people in low season to $50 during high season.
Located near Innisfail along the Esplanade in Etty Bay on the beachfront.
Facilities include laundry, amenities, WiFi, a general store and public BBQ’s and a playground nearby.
Prices start from $35 for an unpowered site and $45 for a powered site. Rates are based on two adults and two children, 4-12.
A savannah wilderness landscape just 12 km from Mareeba.
Powered and unpowered sites are available.
Prices start range from $16-$18 per adult and $6-8 per child per night.
Camping Facilities include:
Surrounded by rainforest and located in Palmerston (Doongan), Wooroonooran National Park, 38 km from Innisfail, just off the Palmerston Highway.
There are ten grass sites available for advanced booking.
Facilities: composting toilets, picnic tables, gas barbecues.
Open fires are restricted.
A small camping area at the edge of Lake Tinaroo in the Danbulla State Forest area.
Amenities include flushing toilets and a shower room.
Bring your own water and firewood and book in advance.
Located in the Cairns Highlands, right next door to the Malanda Falls, which flow all year round. Facilities include open recreational spaces, a camp kitchen and electric BBQs, laundry, and three amenity blocks. There is also an onsite animal nursery.
Powered and unpowered sites starting from $27.
Located in the central part of the Atherton Tablelands, about 1.5 hours from Cairns.
Facilities include toilets, picnic tables, and wood BBQ’s.
HINT: bring drinking water and an external shower for the shower room.
Book in advance to secure your spot.
Care-free Cairns is home to just 150,000 inhabitants; nothing is ever more than a 15-minute drive away.
But that’s not to say it’s a sleepy backwater. A constant influx of visitors—especially in the mild winter months—has seen the local hospitality scene flourish. Bopping bars and swanky late-night clubs lie peppered around the CBD, catering to everyone from backpackers and out-of-towners to locals.
By day, take a scenic stroll down the pedestrian-friendly Esplanade or cool off in the stinger-free Esplanade Lagoon. Culture vultures can check out a small but impressive selection of galleries and museums: the Cairns Museum, Cairns Art Gallery, and Australian Armour & Artillery Museum are the pick of the bunch.
Keen to see exotic marine life without getting your feet wet? Make a beeline for the Cairns Aquarium. Foodies can frequent Rusty’s Markets by day and the Cairns Night Markets come sundown.
Cairns is best known for being the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. As the world’s most extensive coral system, this mind-boggling biological structure runs 2,300 km along the coast.
But there’s more to the region than its world-famous reef. Cairns serves as the jumping-off point to explore Far North Queensland, a tropical paradise of wild luscious landscapes.
The hippy hamlet of Kuranda sits between the thick rainforest and the gushing Barrons Falls—best admired from the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. Venturing west leads you to the Atherton Tablelands, a lush pastoral land famed for its rolling green hills. Cute little villages, platypus-filled ponds, fabulous fig trees, and thundering falls beckon in-depth exploration.
Beach bums will find a string of idyllic sandy stretches heading north: try Yorkeys Knob, Trinity Beach, Palm Cove, and Ellis Beach. Cruising further up the coast leads you to Port Douglas, a swanky beach resort with more Great Barrier Reef tours.
Then you’ve got the ancient Daintree. This spell-binding 135-million-year-old rainforest (the first on earth) is home to pristine beaches, colourful cassowaries, and crocodile-infested rivers. Don’t miss the magical Mossman Gorge.
Keen to go chasing waterfalls? Far North Queensland delivers: Millaa Millaa, Josephine, Wallaman, Windin, Stoney Creek, the Crystal Cascades… the list goes on.
Cairns, located in tropical North Queensland offers plenty of spots to explore for those taking a campervan road trip. From Central Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef, there is a range of activities to enjoy. Take a scenic cable car ride through the Skyrail Rainforest, visit the Northern Beaches, Nudey Beach, Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, or explore the Atherton Tablelands and the Daintree Rainforest. Don't miss out on the Great Barrier Reef Drive, with its stunning views of the Coral Sea and rainforest. Enjoy a memorable motorhome adventure in Cairns!
Quaint rural communities, green rolling hills and photogenic windmills lie peppered around this crisp highland region. Pop into Yungaburra to spot platypus splashing in a stream and marvel at the otherworldly Curtain Fig Tree. Crater lakes and rainforest-fringed waterfalls give cause to linger more.
From munching noodles at Rusty’s Markets to swilling beer in city centre bars, Cairns offers a cosmopolitan experience sans the frantic traffic. Cool off in the Esplanade Lagoon or head west to swim in the Crystal Cascades.
The oldest rainforest on earth wows visitors with verdant canopies and unspoiled beaches. Marvel in the magic of Mossman Gorge, meander along moody boardwalks, and camp overnight on Cape Tribulation, where the rainforest meets the reef.
While some sections have succumbed to coral bleaching, vast swathes are still ripe for underwater exploration. Kaleidoscopic corals and curious ocean-dwelling creatures comprise any given trip. Opt for an Outer Reef tour to optimise the experience (albeit at a higher cost).
From Palm Cove to the Port Douglas turnoff, this breathtakingly beautiful section of the Captain Cook Highway is among Australia’s most scenic drives. Enjoy turquoise Coral Sea waters on one side and lush Macalister Range rainforest on the other.
Struggling to spot a cassowary or crocodile in the wild? This well-regarded wildlife park brings you up close to all sorts of exotic Australian animals. Don’t miss the 3 pm Crocodile Attack Show—it’s one heck of a wild ride.
This string of three stunning cascades is a must for any wannabe waterfall chaser. The highlight is Millaa Millaa Waterfall, a picture-perfect cataract plunging 18 metres into a refreshing swimming hole.
A string of golden sand beaches lies directly north of Cairns, perfect for sunbathing or frolicking in the waves. Hit Holloways Beach and Yorkeys Knob for laidback local vibes, or Trinity Beach and Palm Cove for swanky resort-style towns. At the top end, Ellis Beach is a palm-thronged paradise without a high-rise building in sight.
Arguably Australia’s best beach, this tropical dreamscape is Fitzroy Island’s sparkling highlight. Snorkel offshore to spot sea turtles or soak up some sun on its squeaky white sand. Just keep your kit on—contrary to its namesake, this isn’t a nude beach.
Ditch the motorhome for a day and take this scenic cable car towards Kuranda, admiring untouched rainforests and the thundering Barron Falls from above. Serene riverfront walks, intriguing wildlife sanctuaries, and hip counter-culture markets await in this forest-enshrouded town.
This 7-day itinerary offers a fantastic mix of city, beach, and nature experiences. You'll explore the natural beauty of the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, discover ancient cultures and hidden waterfalls, and enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of the tropical paradise of Cairns.MORE: 7-Day Cairns Itinerary
Set off on an adventure through the breathtaking natural beauty and deep cultural history of Australia's Northern Territory as you journey from Cairns to Darwin in a cozy campervan. You'll have 14 days to immerse yourself in some of the most captivating destinations in the Australian outback, from stunning landscapes, quirky wildlife, and lively Aboriginal culture. Transcend from the underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef to traversing the untamed terrain of Kakadu National Park, discovering all the hidden gems in between, and revelling in the unparalleled splendour of the Australian wild.MORE: Cairns to Darwin Itinerary
This itinerary follows the coastline between the two major Queensland cities of Brisbane in the South East and Cairns in the Tropical North, and covers a distance of over 1,800 km. What will thrill you the most? Spectacular white-sand beaches? Outstanding mountain scenery? Unique Australian wildlife? In tropical Far North Queensland, the rainforest meets the Reef, so get ready for an epic road trip across one of the most beautiful coastlines in Australia.MORE: Brisbane to Cairns Itinerary
As always, an Australian will need a valid class C (car) licence to rent a camper in Cairns. Probationary, provisional, and learner licences won’t cut it. Few campervan hire companies rent vehicles to customers under 21. Travellers aged under 25 will pay more to cover higher insurance costs. International travellers can rent a campervan with a valid International Driver's Permit (IDP) or an approved English translation of a comparable (car) foreign licence.
Free camping is only allowed at designated sites in Cairns, and overnight parking is generally prohibited. Staying at a holiday park or caravan park will generally cost about $50–$100 (AUD) per night.
Some popular campgrounds include: NRMA Cairns Holiday Park, Cool Waters Holiday Park, and NRMA Palm Cove Holiday Park.
It’s worth planning to spend several days in the Cairns area, as there is a lot to explore within a relatively short distance from the city. To the south are the Atherton Tablelands with multiple waterfalls, to the west is Kuranda and Barron Gorge National Park, and to the north are Port Douglas and the Daintree Rainforest.
Of course, Cairns City itself is a great base for excursions into the Great Barrier Reef.
No, the road from Cape Tribulation to Cooktown in Far North Queensland is unpaved and can be challenging. Generally, companies limit access to this area. Check with your rental company for any questions regarding restricted areas.
Generally, regular 2WD campervans are not allowed to travel to Cape York. Many companies make exceptions for 4WD campers, but prior written permission must be obtained. Check with your rental company for any questions regarding restricted areas.
Most companies generally have a minimum rental period. Weekend rentals are possible, but the minimum rental period can range from 1 day to a full week depending on the time of year.
Enter your dates in the comparison tool to see which vehicles are available for your travel dates.
Yes, a large number of rental companies allow for one-way rentals. Our comparison tool will show you availability on your preferred route and automatically factor in any one-way fees charged by the campervan rental company.
A one-way motorhome road trip starting or ending in Cairns is a popular way to explore the East Coast of Australia. Many travelers choose Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, or even Melbourne as the other endpoint of their journey.
Popular stopping points for travelers on their way to Cairns include Mission Beach, Airlie Beach, and Townsville.