It is little surprise that a province nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State’ is all about the great outdoors, boasting some of Australia’s most sparkling beaches, ancient rainforest, colourful coral and turquoise water within its borders. See the best of Queensland at these 10 dynamic destinations.
Brisbane’s riverfront | © Nam Nguyen / Flickr
Queensland’s capital city doesn’t enjoy the reputation of its southern cousins Sydney and Melbourne, but Brisbane has its own distinct vibe. Blessed with balmy weather 12 months of the year, Brisbane is defined by the gardens and parks lining the river that snakes through the city, an eclectic arts and cultural scene, and the locals’ love of rugby league—grab a beer on Caxton St before a big game at Suncorp Stadium to see what that’s all about.
Burleigh Beach on the Gold Coast | © Kerrie Brailsford / Wikimedia Commons
About an hour down the road from Brisbane is a region blessed with 50-plus kilometres of golden sand on its doorstep. The Gold Coast is famous for its many beaches, including world-class breaks at Snapper Rocks and the Superbank, as well as its rowdy nightlife and Australia’s best selection of theme parks. Head inland to escape the high rises and nightclubs in the serene national parks of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
North Stradbroke Island
View from the Headland Walk on Stradbroke Island | © Michael Zimmer / Flickr
Just a short ferry trip from the Cleveland suburb of Brisbane, ‘Straddie’ is a popular seaside escape for city dwellers. Most of the best action on this idyllic sand island is in, on or around the water—kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving, surfing and fishing at some of the best spots in the state. Back on dry land, keep an eye out for kangaroos and koalas on the iconic North Gorge Walk.
Crocodile feeding at Australia Zoo | © thinboyfatter / Flickr
A couple of hours north of Brisbane is a sun-kissed span of seaside that has no problem attracting visitors to its string of superb beaches. Mooloolaba, Coolum and Noosa’s Main Beach are some of the most scenic strips of sand, and that’s before we even start to talk about the network of leafy bushwalks, the impressive Glass House Mountains and the mega-popular Australia Zoo, home of the ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin.
Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island | © Yannik Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
The largest sand island on the planet sits just three hours’ drive north of Brisbane, earning UNESCO World Heritage status for its natural splendour. Fraser Island features most of the Earth’s supply of perched lakes (freshwater swimming spots formed by dips between sand dunes) as well as awe-inspiring ancient rainforests, peerless whale-watching vantage points, and a remarkably pure strain of dingo that remains untarnished by the foreign mutts on the mainland.
Great Barrier Reef
© Melissa Fiene / Getty Images
Another UNESCO World Heritage listed marvel starts just north of Fraser Island, then stretches for 2,300 kilometres up the Queensland coast. The Great Barrier Reef contains some of the most dazzling marine scenery you’ll find anywhere on Earth, including unique fish species and brilliant coral. Hurry and see it while you still can because, tragically, climate change is draining much of the reef of its colour.
Whitehaven Beach | © Petra Bensted / Flickr
One of the sparkling highlights of the Great Barrier Reef is this network of 74 tropical islands situated smack bang in the middle of it. Use Airlie Beach as your base to cruise around the Whitsundays, a region renowned around the world for its snow white sand beaches, lush green national park, serene snorkelling opportunities and abundance of tropical fish.
Daintree Rainforest | © Master Man / Flickr
If you can drag yourself away from the turquoise water along the coast, don’t miss the chance to explore tropical North Queensland’s epic ancient rainforest. Only an hour’s drive north of Cairns, the Daintree is home to plants that are literally 100-million-years-old, as well as species of bird that are unique to this part of the world and a healthy population of crocodiles stalking the waterways.
Scenic Railway journey in Cairns | © Anne and David / Flickr
The largest city in tropical North Queensland is the perfect home base to discover the region. You could spend weeks in sunny Cairns embarking on day trips of the surrounding area—the Daintree and the Great Barrier Reef are the most famous, but there’s also the postcard-perfect Palm Cove, the lofty Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Kuranda Scenic Railway, the lush Atherton Tablelands, and the otherworldly Paronella Park to name a few.
Koala on Magnetic Island | © Tchami / Flickr
‘Maggie’, as the locals call it, is only a 25-minute ferry from the bustling city of Townsville, but it feels like a faraway island paradise. Surrounded by reef and covered in forest, Magnetic Island is a trove of pristine beaches, spectacular snorkelling sites and stacks of native wildlife, especially rock wallabies and koalas—you can even have breakfast with the koalas at Bungalow Bay Koala Village, the only resort in Australia with its own on-site wildlife park.