Sunny Queensland is one of Australia’s most alluring holiday destinations, and that’s no mystery once you see the attractions on offer. From the warm turquoise water of the Whitsunday Islands to the ochre red dust of the outback, tick these 10 activities off your Queensland to-do list.
Think Whitsunday Islands, think luxury. This series of 74 islands in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef are exactly what you’d imagine a tropical paradise to look like, right down to the snow white sand, warm turquoise water, and thriving greenery. And there’s no shortage of five-star resorts that match the salubrious surrounds, especially on the aptly named Daydream Island.
Located three hours’ drive north of Brisbane, Hervey Bay is the end of the ‘Humpback Highway’ up Australia’s east coast—the place where whales stop to rest, give birth and teach their calves to swim in the calm waters sheltered by the world’s largest sand bank, Fraser Island. Plan your trip during winter (July to November) to see humpbacks splash around, frolic and breach out of the water.
The Great Barrier Reef is literally Queensland’s biggest attraction, spanning 2,300 kilometres of sun-kissed coastline. The best way to see the colourful coral and even more brilliant array of marine life is up close and personal on an eco-friendly snorkelling tour—the large tropical city of Cairns is a great launch pad for your trip to the reef, as well as coastal towns like Airlie Beach and 1770 (Seventeen Seventy).
‘The Home of the Crocodile Hunter’ was founded by Steve Irwin’s parents in 1970, and made famous by the khaki-clad TV star before his tragic death in 2006. These days, Steve’s wife Terri and kids Bindi and Bob continue his legacy at Australia Zoo, which houses 1,000 animals on 100 acres of leafy Sunshine Coast hinterland. Don’t miss the legendary live crocodile feeding show!
Queenslanders are truly fanatical about rugby league, and Lang Park is the code’s spiritual home in the Sunshine State. Called Suncorp Stadium for sponsorship purposes but known to all red-blooded Queenslanders as ‘The Cauldron’, Lang Park comes alive for fearsome State of Origin clashes against arch rivals New South Wales, as well as Brisbane Broncos NRL games throughout winter.
This Queensland sporting spectacle truly belongs in the ‘only in Australia’ category, as horses from around the country gallop through the dust of the Simpson Desert on the first Saturday of September. Held in the tiny town of Birdsville 1,600 kilometres west of Brisbane, the Melbourne Cup of the Outback draws thousands of spectators for the big-money race program plus plenty of entertainment off the track, too.
If you can drag yourself away from the Gold Coast’s 50-odd kilometres of golden sand or acres of untouched hinterland, the region is also Australia’s capital of amusement parks. The Gold Coast is home to the Hollywood-themed Warner Bros. Movie World, the hair-raising rollercoasters of Dreamworld, and the water slides of Wet ’n’ Wild and WhiteWater World. Family fun for days!
Australia’s much-loved national carrier was founded in the remote Central Queensland town of Winton way back in 1920, and today you can step through the airline’s storied history at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach. Head deep into the outback to see where the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services began almost a Century ago, with stacks of interactive exhibits and historic artefacts.
Brisbane isn’t blessed with the city beaches of Sydney down south, so the Queensland capital came up with a solution: a man-made lagoon on the banks of the Brisbane River, which is always well populated on sweltering summer days. The luscious gardens, the Wheel of Brisbane, the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and the Queensland Museum are other interesting attractions in the South Bank precinct.
The other option for beach-lovers in Brisbane? Plan a day trip to one of South-East Queensland’s many sandy isles, such as Moreton, Bribie and North Stradbroke islands. The Tangalooma ship wrecks supply the postcard picture of Moreton Island, but the most exhilarating activity there is, features throwing yourself down towering sand dunes like Little Sand Hills, Big Sand Hills and The Desert on the back of a toboggan.