Written by Lockie Kerr
On the northeast coast of Australia sits what is perhaps its most iconic territory: Queensland. From beaches of silver-white sand to dense rainforests and the red rock Outback; from uninhabited tropical islands to cosmopolitan cities; from eucalyptus forests and waterfalls to rooftop bars and surf breaks – Queensland has it all. This is the home of platypus, koalas and wallabies, a place awash with Aboriginal heritage and of course this is the realm of the UNESCO World Heritage Great Barrier Reef. We are about to guide you through the 13 regions of Queensland so you can decide which areas are right for you. Whether it’s Outback pubs or beachfront bars, surfing or scuba, trekking or animal viewing… or a little bit of everything… this is the guide for you.
Cairns and The Great Barrier Reef
Exploration of Queensland’s tropical north starts with the beautiful and buzzing city of Cairns. From swimming in the ocean lagoon to drinks on a rooftop bar, Cairns is all about enjoying the outdoors. Nearby is chilled out Port Douglas and from there you can easily access Cape Tribulation with its untouched beaches and seemingly endless rainforests. Of course no visit here is complete without discovering the world’s largest reef. Take a day trip, join a scuba diving expedition or spend a few nights on one of the gorgeous tropical islands of the awe inspiring Great Barrier Reef. When travelling around the north of Queensland keep a look out for the fantastic fauna that call this area home, such as colourful cassowary birds: like an emu but with iridescent blue plumage.
Adventure abounds at Townsville with all manner of excitement on your doorstep. Take to the skies for a skydive over azure blue waters and emerald green forests, enjoy a sedate kayak trip to offshore islands or take the ferry to gorgeous Magnetic Island. As evening approaches grab a beer and watch the beautifully coloured (but noisy) lorikeets settling in to roost in trees around the town centre.
If your idea of tropical paradise is lush green rainforest bordered by white sand beaches that slope slowly into gently lapping azure waters, then this collection of idyllic islands is for you. Accessed from the town of Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays is a string of immaculate pieces of paradise. Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island is arguably the most perfect beach in the world with unimaginably fine white sand. Grab a snorkel and witness the kaleidoscope of colours on the Great Barrier Reef or check in to a luxury eco lodge on Hamilton Island. Overnight boat trips are the perfect way to immerse yourself in the Whitsundays, so you can enjoy the sun and seclusion by day and then lie out on deck and float under the stars by night.18-day Rockies & Alaska cruise extravaganza.
Make an early start in Mackay to get yourself down to Cape Hillsborough Beach. Wallabies and kangaroos come here in the cool of sunrise to enjoy a bite to eat before disappearing back inland and you can witness this amazing site for yourself. Animal lovers will also want to visit Broken Hill, the best place in Australia to spot wild platypus as they dive the lakes at dawn and dusk.
From islands to caves to outback exploration – Queensland’s Capricorn region has adventures to delight couples, families and fearless explorers alike. Great Kepple Island has rustic accommodation on sandy beaches so you can wake up and play in the surf or take a walk to a sandy snorkelling beach. Or why not try Pumpkin Island, an eco-friendly paradise? Journey into the otherworldly realm of the Capricorn Caves before taking a few days to explore Carnarvon National Park. This is where you find the Australia of sandstone gorges, Aboriginal rock art, fresh water creeks and a plethora of ancient ferns.15-day Roaming the Rockies with campgrounds.
Despite the Outback being synonymous with Australia, many visitors to Queensland forget to even touch on this vast and iconic region. Even though there’s nearly 902,000 square kilometres of it here in Queensland alone. Escape the crowds and visit some of the most friendly and welcoming towns in the world on a road trip through an area where the journey is the destination. Romance and excitement go hand in hand through the red dust and beneath blue skies. At night enjoy a beer with the locals in an Outback pub, then gaze upon uninterrupted starlit skies.
The city of Gladstone is a jumping-off point for the Southern Barrier Reef islands, but first let’s take some time in the city itself. Foodies will love it here, with international cuisine combining with the amazing sea and farm-to-table cuisine of local producers. There is also a great craft beer scene here, capped off with an annual beer and cider festival. Inland at Kroombit Tops National Park you can get a taste of the outback with gorges, waterfalls and creeks all ripe for exploring by 4WD and on foot.
Just outside the thriving city of Bundaberg is Mon Repos, the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the Southern Hemisphere. Here, from November to March and at a respectful distance, you can witness the timeless circle of life as turtles return to lay and young flippers take their first steps toward the sea. And if eco-tourism is your thing then continue your visit at Lady Elliot Island where an incredible project has turned an over-mined island into a 100% sustainable eco-resort. You’ll see fields of sugar cane around the area, and no stay here would be complete without experiencing the end of this crop’s journey at the Bundaberg rum distillery.
Take a trip to the wild side and spend a couple of days on magical Fraser Island. Here the 75 mile beach serves as the island’s runway and only ‘road’ and you can explore this magical place in your own four wheel drive car or on an escorted tour. Camp the night on the beach, swim in crystal clear Lake Mackenzie and walk among towering rainforest trees. Back on the mainland explore the lush splendour of Mary Valley and take a trip aboard the vintage railway. The Fraser Coast is also one of the best places in the world for spotting humpback whales and the Australian humpback dolphin.
Just an hour’s drive from Brisbane you will find the sophisticated and laidback stretch of the Sunshine Coast. With 100km of golden beach, a luscious hinterland and vibrant towns it is no wonder this area is a favourite for visitors to Queensland. Head out to Bribie Island where you can catch a wave in the surf beaches or chill in the sun on the calm swimming beaches. Jet skis, boats and fishing gear are all available to hire here. Emus and kangaroos call the island home, and you can spot dugongs, dolphins and turtles in the waters around Bribie. In the evening hit the beach bars of Noosa, dine on the catch of the day and prepare for another day of fun in the sun with paddle boarding, beachside yoga and funky little boutique shops to browse.
Boasting 283 days of sunshine a year Brisbane is Australia’s al fresco capital. Subtropical temperatures are not too hot and rarely cool, so rooftop drinks and lunch on the patio are your every day. The city is awash with food markets and the contemporary food scene means there is always something new for even the most ardent foodie to try. The Brisbane River is the best way to get your bearings here, so take a stroll along the Riverwalk. Alternatively get the blood pumping for an adrenaline fuelled climb on the Storey Bridge. No visit to Brisbane is complete without a trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where 100 koalas and 70 other species of Australian animals make this a perfect place to experience the continent’s incredible and unique fauna.
Southern Queensland Country
A short drive inland from Brisbane brings you to the agricultural and epicurean heart of Queensland. Here dramatic national parks sit side-by-side with some of Australia’s best wineries, and local farms provide the freshest ingredients to the local restaurants. After a rewarding day of hiking at the Girraween National Park you can relax with a tasting or two from one of the Granite Belt’s independent vineyards. This region also boasts the spectacular Queen Mary Falls, where you can enjoy the cooling spray after a rewarding walk through the fragrant eucalyptus forest.
Australia’s home of all-out fun in the sun, Gold Coast is where thrill seekers of all ages come to get their adrenaline fuelled kicks. Families can spend days exploring the region’s theme parks, from the thrilling rollercoasters of Dreamworld to the super hero encounters at MovieWorld and the animal experiences at SeaWorld. The big draw here are the miles of gold sand beaches and this is where you can learn to surf or, if you’re already a pro, hit the big waves at Coolangatta. For a more chilled time on the water hire a paddle board, or for something completely new get kitted up with a jet pack! This ocean playground makes the perfect beginning or end to your Queensland adventure.