Fancy taking three boys under nine on a 3700 km road trip over two weeks? Our guest writer Trinh did just that on a Gold Coast to Port Douglas road trip and has shared with us exactly how they did it.
Family road trip Gold Coast to Port Douglas
I love holidays! The best part about them is creating lifelong memories for the boys and I. My husband hates flying, so if we could travel the world in our car, we would.
Our first big road trip as a family was from the Gold Coast to Port Douglas with our three boys (8, 6 and 3). As it was our first road trip and we only had two weeks to do it, we decided to go with a basic itinerary and break the trip up so that we spent a maximum of 11 to 12 hours in the car.
‘Are we there yet?’ echoed in the back seat constantly amongst the sound of occasional bickering. If I was made to listen to the Pitch Perfect soundtrack again, I would honestly shoot myself. However, it still was one of my favorite holidays. We have a 7-seater, so it was easy to banish one of the boys to the back seat when they were naughty.
- 1 night – Yeppoon
- 1 night – Airlie Beach
- 7 nights – Port Douglas
- 3 nights – return to Airlie Beach
- 1 night – Yeppoon
- Home to the Gold Coast!
Preparing for our trip
As we are considered a large family, our accommodation, food and activities bill can get quite expensive, so I am now accustomed to planning my holidays 12 months in advance, and usually during off peak or shoulder season. This allows me time to jump onto the internet and check out accommodation deals every so often, as well as research activities and plan what we are doing so I have an idea on how much to save, especially when we want to do activities. We also like to mix up our stays with budget and luxury accommodation.
We left home on the Gold Coast at 4am in the morning to avoid traffic and to give the boys an opportunity to see some of Australia’s best scenery. Leaving early also gave us some daylight hours when we arrived at our destination to do a bit of exploring. It took us approximately 10 hours to get to Yeppoon from the Gold Coast, this included our stop at Costco, as well as a stop to refuel and get a bite to eat for lunch.
Yeppoon was literally only an overnight stay for us, so I wanted to stay in a place where we didn’t need to go anywhere and be able to recuperate before the next pit stop.
We stayed at the Capricorn Resort Yeppoon (which is now closed down). The weather wasn’t that great when we arrived but the resort had plenty of things for the boys to do. It was walking distance to the beach and had a large pool in which we spent most of our short stay. There are also a couple of onsite restaurants, which was handy, as we didn’t need to go anywhere.
Yeppoon to Airlie Beach took us around 6.5 hours including a pit stop, and although the scenery was mainly bush, it was different from what we are used to. As Port Douglas was our main destination we decided to stick with an overnight stop on our way there and booked three nights on the return trip home.
On the way up, we stayed at the Big4 Caravan Park in a two-bedroom cabin. It was nice a clean and had plenty of room for us. Room one had a queen bed and room two had two lots of bunk beds. The boys absolutely loved it here and didn’t want to leave. When I ask them about our road trip and some of their memorable moments, they always bring up the Big 4 Park.
It is a fair bit out of town but it was fine with us as we had our own car. As it was a pit stop, we really didn’t need to head into town for anything, and like any other Big 4’s, they have the big jumping pillow, nice playground and a waterpark – plenty to keep the boys amused!
Next stop – Port Douglas!
Cabin fever finally caught up with the boys and with ‘Flashlight’ by Jessie J basically on repeat since we left home, we just had to stop.
Our first stop of the day was in Townsville (just over 3.5 hours). The boys couldn’t escape the confines of the car quick enough. After a long lunch, fresh air and a kick of the footy, it was enough to clear their minds, and off we went to our next planned stop in Cairns (4.5 hours from Townsville) for some groceries before we hit Port Douglas.
The boys found it amusing when their constant nagging of ‘Are we there yet?’ was mirrored on the road signs along the way.
The trek from Cairns to Port Douglas took us just over an hour winding and twisting along one of the most spectacular coastlines I’ve ever seen. Imagine the rainforest meeting the ocean and you are there. Absolute perfection!
Discover more: Best family accommodation in Port Douglas
Port Douglas Day 2 – Wildlife Habitat
The Port Douglas Wildlife Habitat is a great place for adults and children alike. It isn’t that big but there was lots to see. Unlike a zoo, you are able to get up close and personal with the animals in their natural environment. There’s a few exhibits to check out, but one of the boy’s favourite was feeding the wallabies with their $2 bag of food. Please be careful around them, our little 3 year old almost got taken by a wallaby right under our noses. I don’t think it meant any harm as it wasn’t kicking or scratching, perhaps it was due to the fact that Master 3 was the same height, the wallaby must’ve thought it was cool to hop off with him. lol.
Port Douglas Day 3 – Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures
A short drive back towards Cairns and arrive at Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures. The snake show, crocodile attack show, crocodile farm visit and the boat tour around the lagoon were the highlights for the boys. Staff were knowledgeable and informative. A must with kids who love wildlife.
Port Douglas Day 4 – Daintree River Cruise
It was a great time of year to spot crocodiles on the mud banks as they laid there basking, not bothered with us passing by during our Daintree River Cruise. We also got to see a wonderful array of birdlife, pythons and butterflies. The boys’ highlights were the crocodiles, it became a competition to see who spotted the most crocodiles and pythons.
Port Douglas Day 5 – Four Mile Beach and Macrossan St
We ended up having an activity free day to unwind from the last few days. After breakfast we went for a walk around our hotel (Ramada Resort Port Douglas) and found a footpath that led us down to Four Mile Beach. Thinking that there were crocodiles everywhere up north, we didn’t let the boys swim. Instead we opted to keep walking until we got to Macrossan St, and had a nice coffee at one of the local cafes. Macrossan St reminded me a bit of my home town, Byron Bay back in the days when it wasn’t as commercialised.
Port Douglas Day 6 – Daintree and Cape Tribulation self-drive
We decided to not do any of the activities today, so we went for a drive back to the Daintree. We hopped onto the Daintree River Ferry which is the entry point to Cape Tribulation section of the Daintree National Park. From there, we drove through the most amazing lush rainforest scenery with some great views of the coastline. A stop off at Thornton Beach, a couple of boardwalks along the way and a quick stop at a swimming hole for a quick dip next to a beautiful waterfall completed our day.
Port Douglas Day 7 – Last day in Port Douglas
Return trip to Hartley’s in the morning and Daintree River Cruise in the afternoon.
Note: Wildlife Habitat, Hartley’s Crocodile Adventures and Daintree River Cruises have return trips included in their entry fees so you can return for free within three days, which was very handy as our boys begged to go back to all three attractions. They just loved it and couldn’t get enough.
Airlie Beach – 3 nights
On our return trip to Airlie we decided to splurge a little and stayed at Peppers Resort in a 3-bedroom apartment. The apartments are situated high up on a hill, and the hotel offers golf buggy transfers up and down the hill, however we had a car so we didn’t use the service. We did walk up and down the hill with the boys once or twice which left us breathless, but was great exercise.
Airlie Beach Day 1 – half day trip to Whitehaven and Hamilton Island
Unfortunately for us, it was a rough rainy day, what was meant to be a two hour stopover on Whitehaven ended up being just a little over one hour as we had to beat the rough seas back to the harbour. I can’t complain, I scored some travel money after winning a competition on our local radio station which I used to book the cruise. Although the weather gods weren’t on our side that day, we managed to avoid any seasickness and can only imagine how beautiful Whitehaven would be if it was nice and sunny. The island was beautiful even on an overcast day.
TIP: If you plan to bring food with you to Whitehaven, be prepared for the seagulls! I was the victim of an attack and although I’m laughing now, it wasn’t funny at the time!
Our next stop was Hamilton Island, again it was only a quick stop due to the seas, but we managed to go for a walk down to Catseye Beach and also came across a marine lagoon with reef sharks and other fish on our way back to the cruise boat. We spent a good hour there as the boys ran around the lagoon!
Airlie Beach Days 2 and 3 – Exploring Airlie
The sun came out and we spent most of our time exploring Airlie.
We started off at Airlie Beach Saturday markets (every Saturday 7am – 1pm) which is located on the beachfront, opposite the Airlie Beach Hotel. There is parking available at the site and in the surrounding streets. It’s the perfect place for buying gifts and souvenirs, breakfast, coffee and listening to live music.
Further along the beachfront we came across a lagoon pool and a few playgrounds which the boys happily swam and played at on both days.
We did a lot of walking around Airlie and found walkways that led us onto Cannonvale and Shute Harbour.
Airlie Beach is just absolutely beautiful and the views from our apartment were simply breathtaking, with the pristine water views, the mountains and the forest. We really didn’t need to spend much money to enjoy our time there. We are definitely coming back here, but will most likely head over to Hamilton Island for a stay.
Would we do it again?
Oh heck yeah! The boys still talk about it today and can’t wait to return. The best part of driving is that you don’t have to pay so much money on air tickets (especially for our family of five) and a hire car. We saved loads of money and had the best trip ever.
Author: Trinh B
I am a busy mum of 4 who loves creating memories with my family. My biggest motivation is to provide my boys with a wealth of knowledge and experiences through travel, as well as ensuring they have the best upbringing possible. I am the ultimate footy mum and love taxiing the boys and their friends around. My life is crazy busy but this is my journey and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
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