Cairns Tours and Attractions

Great Inland Way - Sydney to Cairns

The Great Inland Way is the journey of a lifetime, weaving its way from Sydney through the rugged Blue Mountains – rich in natural attractions and on through the rolling hills of crops and vineyards; over the wide open plains and cattle country of outback NSW and Qld to the rainforest covered tablelands that is the backdrop for Cairns. But just like the wines that are produced at some of the boutique wineries along the way, the 2600km journey should be savoured not rushed.

The World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains are one of Australia’s most spectacular icons, beckoning for you to explore some of its picturesque towns and magnificent National Parks. Admire the colonial architecture at the historic village of Hartley and pause for a while in Lithgow, famous for its industrial heritage and birthplace of the Australian iron and steel industry. Visit Blast Furnace Park, State Mine Heritage Park, the Small Arms Factory Museum or the 19th century engineering masterpiece - The Great Zig Zag Railway; all shining examples of Lithgow’s proud past. 

Since the early 1900’s Bathurst has been synonymous with motor racing; cars and motorcycles, Speedway and Grand Prix – not only because of the several historic racing circuits around the city and the races, festivals and events that seem to happen every few weeks but because Bathurst is also home to The National Motor Racing Museum, covering the history of speedway, drag racing, rallying, open wheelers, sports cars, touring cars and motorcycles.

It is with anticipation that you press on, your journey takes you through the exciting wine and farm produce district surrounding Orange, home to several Food and Wine themed festivals during the year. Indulge your senses at some of the boutique wineries or local farmers markets before taking in the historic town of Wellington, home to the well-known Wellington Caves and Phosphate Mine.

Explore the World renowned Taronga Western Plains Zoo, an African safari right in the middle of NSW or any one of the 25 or so other attractions that will keep the family occupied for ages at Dubbo.

Turn off the Newell Highway at Gilgandra, home to the Coo-ee Heritage Centre and follow the Castlereagh River through the picturesque towns of Gulargambone, gateway to the Warrumbungle Mountains National Park and Siding Spring Observatory; and Coonamble, where you can participate in a genuine Australian Cattle Drive.

At Walgett you enter Artesian Spa Country where the therapeutic liquid flows out of the ground at about 40 degrees at several locations nearby including Lightning Ridge. It is well worth spending a few days in ‘the Ridge’ – a frontier town with character (and characters) and home of Australia’s national gem – the prized Black Opal.

Just across the Queensland border lies Hebel, a town whose rich and interesting history is narrated in the form of public art, a gem of a country pub, and a quaint General Store. A few kilometres up the road is Dirranbandi, last stop on the south west rail line and home to the famed Cubbie Station; and St George but not before you take a small detour to the iconic Nindigully Hotel, a classic friendly outback Qld pub. The Balonne River at St George has a reputation as one of the best inland Qld fishing spots, but that’s not all St George is famous for – drop into the Visitor Centre to unlock more secrets including where to find extraordinary hand carved illuminated emu eggs, sample some local wines and grape jams, or perhaps relax and unwind on board a river cruise.

The Cobb & Co Changing Station at Surat is well worth a stopover on the way to Roma, a thriving beef cattle town and site of the first oil and gas discoveries in Australia. Experience the whole story at the Big Rig Tourist Complex on the eastern edge of town. An hour north of Roma is Injune, gateway to the spectacular Carnarvon NP and Carnarvon Gorge; an oasis of cool tranquillity featuring secluded moss-covered gorges, ancient Aboriginal art sites, crystal clear streams, abundant wildlife and birdlife – Mother Nature’s finest works. Several other National Parks can be accessed along the road between Injune and Rolleston.

A few kms up the road is Springsure where you will find Old Rainworth Fort, built in 1862 as protection against aboriginal attack; and Virgin Rock, an uncanny resemblance to the Virgin Mary cradling baby Jesus that overlooks the town. The bustling town of Emerald sits on the crossroads of the Great Inland Way and Capricorn Hwy; Gateway to the Sapphire Gemfields and with Lake Maraboon on its doorstep, Emerald is worthy of a few days’ stopover - there’s plenty to see.

Pop into Capella and check out the Capella Pioneer Village and the rustic Lighthorse Memorial before joining a tour around the gold & coal town of Clermont. Unearth fascinating history on ‘the town that moved’ including copper, gold and coal mining, floods and the railway, picnic at Hood’s lagoon or enjoy a feed of freshly caught Red Claw at beautiful Theresa Creek Dam.

You will pass through the tiny town of Belyando Crossing enroute to the city affectionately known as ‘The World”. Charters Towers, a city of Grandeur, Greed, Gold and Ghosts boasts lashings of beautifully restored historical buildings to see, museums, the Venus Gold Battery and so much more - captivating would be an understatement.

Head north-west through Greenvale and The Lynd Junction, before stopping off to explore the world’s longest lava tube system at Undara Volcanic NP. Stop off for a dip at Innot Hot Springs, 16 kms east of the interesting little mining town of Mt Garnet or a ‘coldy’at the highest pub in Qld - Hotel Tully Falls in Ravenshoe.

The next stretch of Great Inland Way will see you passing by pristine rainforest, cascading waterfalls, picturesque lakes and the rolling green pastures of the Atherton Tablelands. The area, known as ‘food bowl of the tropics’ supports thriving tea and coffee plantations, coffee roasters, tropical fruit and fruit wine producers, dairies, gourmet cheese production and a distillery; but no trip to the tablelands would be complete without a visit to the famous Kuranda Markets. Spend a few days on the tablelands – it’s too good to rush.

From Kuranda it’s just a hop, step & jump to the tropical city of Cairns (or better still Skyrail Cableway over the rainforest one way and return by Kuranda Scenic Railway – what an adventure) Cairns offers great shopping, fantastic restaurants and the step-off point for a day on the Great Barrier Reef – just magic.

The final leg of the Great Inland Way takes you back into the rainforest, through the tiny town of Lakeland, the departure point for Cape York (another great adventure) and on to Cooktown one of Australia’s most historically significant towns that pays tribute to the place where Lt James Cook anchored ‘The Endeavour’ for repairs in 1770. After visiting the many attractions of Cooktown there is no more fitting place to end your journey along the Great Inland Way than to witness a stunning North Queensland sunset over Cooktown and the Endeavour River from Grassy Hill, reflecting on all that you have experienced along the way; but even with all those memories, you've hardly scratched the surface of what this beautiful country has to offer….      

Great Inland Way Itinerary               

Great Inland Way Map

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