Braving the Bruce

It might be responsible for a hefty proportion of Queensland’s road toll, but at its far northern end where the Bruce Highway swings close to the sea, the state’s blacktop lifeline turns distinctly tropical. 

Calling the escapee in all of us, the tricoloured coastline from Carmilla Beach to Cairns is stacked with laidback holiday hotspots that swell with summertime holiday crowds. But along this wild, coconut-fringed coastline, you’ll also unearth coastal havens that fly happily under the radar, and these are the places worth braving the Bruce for. 

Carmilla Beach

Carmilla, 108kms south of Mackay

Squeezed between the verdant Connors Range and a seemingly endless stretch of the Coral Sea, Carmilla is a well-kept secret on the Capricorn Coast. With a quiet reputation for prized tropical catches of barramundi, mangrove jack, trevally and flathead, this low-cost camping destination should draw a crowd, but a hundred beachfront places to park your rig guarantee everyone a slice of tropical serenity.

If you love to fish and beachcomb, this is a perfect place to put your road trip on pause and escape the busy highway run between Rockhampton and Mackay. Sites cost just $12.50 a night, and at its northern end, the sealed camping area is accessible to all rigs, providing just the basics (a toilet and dump point). The best spots await beyond the bitumen – wilder camps for those with 4WD, tucked beneath a shady beachside fringe of casuarinas and eucalypts. 

To fish offshore, launch at the boat ramp located at the far northern end of the beach where there’s a playground and toilets too. For the ultimate leg-stretch and endless Coral Sea views, take a hike to the top of Flaggy Rock Bluff on the other side of the Bruce Highway. 

Where: Turn off the Bruce Highway at Carmilla (108kms south of Mackay), and drive 6kms to the sea.

Campsites: $12.50 per night, payable by phoning 1300 472 227.

Facilities: Toilets, BBQs, dump point, boat ramp and playground (14-night limit, BYO drinking water).

Contact: Download a visitors guide at

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