BACKGROUND The gap between current and evidence-based best practice management of chronic diseases in Australian general practice is widely acknowledged. This study seeks to explore some of the factors underpinning this gap in relation to type 2 diabetes management in rural and remote general practice settings. METHODS A cross-sectional survey of 854 general practitioners (GPs) currently practising in rural and remote Australian communities with populations between 10 000 and 30 000. RESULTS A total of 209 completed surveys were returned for an overall response rate of 24.5%. GPs reported on their education preferences, knowledge, attitudes and practices relating to type 2 diabetes. GPs indicated a strong preference for face-to-face education options such as conferences and seminars (75.2%). Whilst structured online education activities were less utilised than face-to-face options, GPs reported a desire to undertake more of their education online in the future. Survey findings revealed gaps in GP knowledge around the medical management of diabetes. The most prevalent self-reported learning needs related to pharmacological management (n=87, (45.5%)). Correspondingly, in the GP knowledge test, GPs received the lowest mean score for the section on medical management. GPs also reported having the least confidence in providing effective insulin treatment, compared with other aspects of diabetes management. GPs identified an array of difficulties encountered in providing best practice diabetes care, which were classified into three main categories: GP clinical management problems, patient-related challenges and health system-related difficulties. CONCLUSIONS This national survey highlights a number of barriers to GP provision of best practice diabetes care in rural and remote Australia. Despite the availability of education programs and clinical practice guidelines, GPs revealed deficits in knowledge and confidence in type 2 diabetes management. GPs identified numerous challenges to effective patient care, some but not all of which can be addressed through continuing professional development. GP preferences for continuing medical education and information may inform future activities, to specifically address the needs of GPs in rural and remote locations.