Queensland, situated in the northeast corner of Australia, is the country's holiday playground, attracting visitors all year round. It is known as the 'Sunshine State', and the major attraction is the incredible underwater world provided off its coastline along the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef is a UNESCO-listed marine park that stretches for more than 1,250 miles (2,000km) along the Queensland coast, home to one of the most diverse animal and plant ecosystems on earth, and is dotted with idyllic island resorts. Queensland is also home to four other UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Australian Fossil Mammal Sites at Riversleigh, the Wet Tropics of Queensland, the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, and Fraser Island.
Further south, beyond Brisbane, the coastline is known as the Gold Coast. Here visitors can swim and surf all year round at 35 patrolled beaches along the 45 miles (70km) of coastline. Brisbane is the capital city of Queensland, while Cairns, in the tropical north, is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. Brisbane boasts some world-class attractions too, such as the iconic Story Bridge and the oldest and largest koala sanctuary in the world, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where lucky visitors can feed, pet and hold the lovable koalas.
Travellers should be aware that especially during the summer months (usually between October and May) the shallow coastal waters of Queensland become infested with marine stingers, commonly known as box jellyfish, whose sting is highly dangerous and can be deadly. Many beaches offer protected swimming with stinger nets in place, or enclosed tidal pools, and surf lifesavers may warn people off infested beaches. A lycra 'stinger suit' may be worn by swimmers as protection.
Queensland is one of Australia's main tourism hot spots, with attractions and activities enough to entertain anybody lucky enough to visit. It is a big state and it would be hugely challenging to take in all its glories in one visit. Although best known for its spectacular beaches and coral reefs, Queensland also boasts incredible rainforests and desert landscapes. The most popular cities, towns and resorts in the state include Surfer's Paradise, Hamilton Island, Noosa, Port Douglas, Airlie Beach, Burleigh Heads, Mooloolaba, Coolum, and, of course, Brisbane.
Queensland is home to an impressive five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island; The Gondwana Rainforests, ancient and teeming with wildlife; The Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world; Riversleigh, Australia's most famous fossil site; and the spectacular rainforests of the Wet Tropics of Queensland. Other must-see tourist sites include Magnetic Island, the Skyrail of Cairns and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, not to mention the many urban attractions of Brisbane and all the theme parks along the celebrated Gold Coast.
This is the world's largest sand island, situated a two-hour drive north of Brisbane. Fraser Island has a unique ecological system of giant dunes, forests, streams and freshwater lakes, and in 1993 it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The island draws visitors wishing to explore the unique elevated lakes (there are more than 200 of them) which contain pure, acidic water that is so low in nutrients that few fish survive in them. The island, well-covered in vegetation, is inhabited by bats, dingoes and more than 350 species of birds. It also features giant satinay trees that stand 60 metres high as well as several other rare and ancient botanical species. The island is 75 miles (120km) long and about nine miles (15km) wide, and can be explored on walking trails or by four-wheel-drive vehicle. Accommodation is plentiful on the island, in ecologically sensitive resorts.
Magnetic Island was named by Captain James Cook in 1770, when he believed that the landmass of the island affected the magnetic compass on his ship, 'Endeavour'. More than half of the island, which is about five miles (8km) from Townsville, is a National Park known for its rugged landscape of granite boulders, hoop pines and eucalyptus trees. The island has 23 beaches and bays, some of which can only be reached on foot. There are more than 12 miles (20km) of walking trails marked out on the island. Part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park fringes the island, which is also home to the most northerly colony of free-ranging koala bears in Australia. The island offers a wide range of accommodation and transport is available on the island.
Tamborine Mountain is inland from the Gold Coast, about 21 miles (34km) northwest of Nerang and about 40 miles (62km) from Brisbane. It is a popular scenic drive destination, as the area includes seven national parks featuring a variety of subtropical rainforest. Mount Tamborine itself rises 1,837ft (560m) above sea level. The main Tamborine National Park covers a large section of the mountain, offering walking trails through abundant rainforest and past waterfalls, with excellent picnic facilities. There are also numerous art and craft galleries in the area, several restaurants and a few wineries. Tamborine Mountain is the perfect excursion for those staying on the Gold Coast who want to experience more of Australia's natural landscapes than just the lovely beaches.
This premier water theme park was recently voted Brisbane's best tourist attraction. Situated at Oxenford on the Pacific Highway, in 20 acres of tropical parkland, it incorporates a wave pool, children's pool, speed slide, toboggan ride and a variety of twisting slides, all supervised by fully qualified lifeguards. There are also barbecue and picnic facilities in the park, as well as a cafe and souvenir shop. A variety of combo tickets are available, including a combined pass to three of the big theme parks: Wet 'n Wild, Movie World and Sea World. Wet 'n Wild is open every day of the year except Christmas and Anzac Day, and the water is heated when necessary, ensuring a fun day out even in miserable weather.
The recently renovated Cairns Esplanade is the entertainment hub for visitors to the city, providing numerous recreational opportunities, and lined with a host of good restaurants, bars and cafes. Apart from a safe, sandy swimming lagoon and vast lawns used for all sorts of purposes from picnics and barbecues to kite flying, the Esplanade features wonderful Saturday arts and crafts markets, spiced up by buskers and colourful street characters. The Cairns Esplanade is also a great place to get some exercise in the city, popular with joggers and the site of a free fitness programme with classes four days a week that anybody can join. There is never a dull moment on this lively foreshore. Check out the website below for details on what's on.
The most popular tourist attraction in Cairns is the Skyrail rainforest cableway, which travels nearly five miles (7.5km) from the Caravonica Terminal, the gondolas gliding above the canopy of the rainforest over magnificent waterfalls and lush gorges, to the village of Kuranda. En route passengers can alight temporarily at two stations to explore the boardwalks that have been constructed in the heart of the forest. Interpretative centres have been set up so visitors can learn about the ecology, fauna and flora of the fascinating ancient rainforest. The return journey takes about two and a half hours, and the gondolas seat up to six people. Booking in advance is advisable.
Named after the suburb of Woolloongabba in which it is located, and with a seating capacity of 42,000, the famous Gabba Cricket Ground is just a short bus ride from the city of Brisbane. Visitors can check out locals, the Queensland Bulls Cricket team or the Brisbane Lions Australian Rules football team, depending on when you choose to visit. Over the years The Gabba has hosted athletics, Australian Rules football, baseball, concerts, cricket, cycling, rugby league, rugby union, soccer and pony and greyhound races. Those lucky enough to catch an international cricket match are ensured a great day out. Sport is integral to Australian culture and even for those who are not themselves fanatical a visit to this passionately supported sports ground will be an exciting experience.
Billed as 'Australia's first fully integrated tourism resort' the Sanctuary Cove holiday resort is situated on 474 hectares in picturesque surroundings around four man-made harbours on the Coomera River. Sanctuary Cove is a gated community, but is open daily and entry is free. The holiday resort can be reached by road, north from Surfer's Paradise or south from Brisbane (exit 57 off of the Pacific motorway), or by water (cruises operate daily). The waterfront Marine Village contains more than 80 speciality stores, cafés and restaurants and visitors on holiday here can watch glass-blowing and opal cutting. The Sanctuary Cove holiday resort also contains a health and fitness centre, two championship golf courses, a 300-berth marina and a private country club. There are many major events held through the year such as the Sanctuary Cove International Boat Show (each May), golf tournaments and concerts.
Formerly a small coastal resort town, the Surfer's Paradise holiday resort has blossomed into the pulsating heart of the Queensland Gold Coast. Set on a peninsula, about 50 miles (78km) from Brisbane, with the warm Pacific Ocean on one side and the deep blue Nerang River on the other, Surfer's Paradise is considered to be the holiday capital of Australia. Visitors throng here to holiday among the bright lights, shops, high rise resort hotels and attractions squeezed onto the finger of land that is surrounded by a 492-foot (150m) wide beach that stretches for almost six miles (10km) in each direction. Although now best known for its more glitzy attractions, Surfer's Paradise is also a popular surfing destination and deserves its name, though those keen to catch some waves should note that the breaks can get very busy.
This 1.3-mile (2.2km) long tropical beach and palm tree-dotted promenade is one of Townsville's most popular attractions. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the scenery from their bicycles, take a dip at one of the safe swimming beaches, or enjoy a picnic overlooking the ocean at one of the many designated picnic areas in the gardens. Families travelling with their children in tow can visit the nearby water park, while the trendy restaurants and bars that line the strip make a wonderfully romantic and picturesque setting at any time of day with views stretching out over to Magnetic Island. The fourth Friday of each month also sees Strand Park used for night markets - a great place to pick up some unique souvenirs in Australia, such as Aboriginal arts and crafts and boomerangs.
This beautiful riverfront parkland stretches along nearly seven miles (11km) of the Ross River, with nodes at Pioneer Park, Loam Island, Apex Park and the Ross River Dam. The Riverway has fast become one of Townsville's most popular tourist attractions. Pioneer Park is the activity hub where visitors can enjoy sport, entertainment, performing arts, visual arts, swimming in the two huge lagoons, dining and shopping at the village precinct, and even picnicking and barbecuing along the picturesque shores of the Ross River. There is something to amuse and delight people of all ages, making the Riverway popular with locals and tourists alike.
One of the largest living coral reef aquarium in the world, the Reef HQ Aquarium was built as part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Featuring 130 species of coral, 120 species of fish and plenty of star fish, sea urchins, sponges and sea cucumbers, Reef HQ also features a predator exhibit, a children's section, a gift shop and a café to provide refreshments. A trip to the Reef HQ Aquarium is a must for all visitors who plan on taking a dive at the Great Barrier Reef, to learn more about the species of marine life they might encounter while exploring the miraculous underwater world. The Aquarium is a great attraction for families in Townsville, especially on a rainy day.
This spectacular attraction is enclosed by a 65-foot (20m) high glass dome on top of Cairns' iconic Reef Hotel Casino and offers exhibits and shows featuring of some of Australia's most exotic and fascinating animals. Here visitors can learn more about these unique creatures and get a fabulous introduction to the Wet Tropics Rainforest area around Cairns, preparing them for all the close-up encounters they may have with the indigenous wildlife. In this rainforest environment visitors can experience the thrill of birds such as parrots, cockatoos, lorikeets, doves and rosellas swooping freely overhead and come face-to-face with the adorable rainforest wallabies. Of course, the fact that the wildlife experience is housed in a giant dome makes this attraction wonderful no matter what the weather.
The world's oldest and largest koala sanctuary, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to more than just the cute and cuddly koala, but also to kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas and various species of reptiles as well as Australian parrots, cockatoos, kookaburras and cassowaries. Lucky visitors are actually able to handle the koalas here (for a fee) making this one of only a few sanctuaries in the world where this is possible - a dream come true for many. Feeding and petting is also permitted and is carefully monitored, making this an ideal activity for families travelling with small children. The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is arguably the best place to get up close and personal with Australia's unique animals, and a delight for the whole family.
The South Bank is a central Brisbane district packed with world-class attractions and experiences for visitors. It attracts nearly 10 million people each year, mostly to the South Bank Parklands, which were established on the former site of World Expo 88. The Parklands contain Australia's only man-made beach and lagoon, right in the heart of the city, known as South Bank Beach. There are also rainforest walks, picnic and barbecue areas and water features. One of Brisbane's most popular tourist attractions, South Bank is also home to the Queensland Cultural Centre, which includes Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, the State Library of Queensland, the Greater Union Hoyt's South Bank Cinemas and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, which all line the Brisbane River proudly.
Shoppers and fashion lovers will enjoy Little Stanley Street, where all the latest in fashion can be picked up from the boutiques and retails stores lining the strip. The South Bank Art and Craft Markets take place every Friday night, as well as every Saturday and Sunday during the day. Visitors should head to the South Bank Visitors Centre which provides information on current events, including cultural activities, accommodation options, event information and details regarding restaurant and bar facilities.
One of the oldest bridges in Australia, the Story Bridge is a 3,517-foot (1,072m) long cantilevered bridge which spans the Brisbane River, connecting Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point. Brave visitors who are certain they don't suffer from vertigo can climb to the top of the bridge and be rewarded with breathtaking views over Brisbane's cityscape. One of only a handful of bridge climbs in the world, the Story Bridge is well worth a visit for those travelling through Brisbane. Advance bookings are recommended and money can sometimes be saved by booking online. Special deals are available for groups and there is even an abseiling option. Check out the official website listed below for more details.
Formerly known as the Central Eastern Rainforest Reserves, the Gondwana Rainforests are so-named as the fossil records show that when Gondwana existed it was covered by the same kind of rainforests. Gondwana was a southern supercontinent that existed approximately 550 million years ago, about 250 million years before Pangaea.
The reserve includes 50 national parks which include Lamington National Park, Mount Chinghee National Park, Springbrook National Park, Mount Barney National Park and Main Range National Park, among many others that lie on the New South Wales side of Queensland. There are very few places on earth that contain so many plants and animals which remain fairly unchanged from their fossil records. The rainforests are remarkable and hugely rewarding for hikers and nature-lovers. Unsurprisingly, the forests have been UNESCO-listed.
There are a number of entry-points to the rainforest and despite the pristine nature of the region, there is sufficient infrastructure to enable in-depth exploration of the forest, with well-maintained access-roads and walking trails, a number of adventure tour operators offering activities, and various accommodation options.
The most developed of the Whitsundays, the privately owned Hamilton Island is also the most populated, boasting some of the most valuable real estate in Australia, and when you take a look at the breathtaking scenery and views, the value of the land is not surprising! With the Great Barrier Reef a short boat ride away, pristine and unspoilt surroundings, and world-class accommodation and dining opportunities, Hamilton Island makes a great day or overnight trip for visitors to the Whitsundays. During peak season, September to January, it can become extremely busy, so if you're looking for a quiet retreat from the noisy crowds, come another time. Stroll around Marina Village window shopping and stop for a bite to eat, catch a golf buggy to the 'northern end' or simply relax on Catseye Beach and soak up the sun.
Whitsunday Island is a popular tourist resort island for both day-trippers and overnight visitors and is the largest and most popular island of the Whitsundays. Most famous for its 2.8 mile (4.5km) stretch of pristine sugary white sandy beach known as Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Island's beauty is unrivalled. Featuring what is said to be the purest sand in the world (98 percent silica), the American government considered mining the sand from Whitehaven Beach for military purposes in the 1960s but, thankfully, this never happened and the beach is now protected within the bounds of the national park.
Many boats dock at the beach daily bringing thousands of tourists to explore one of the most famous beaches in the world. Tongue Point features a wooden trail which stretches up to a lookout point over Whitehaven Beach - the ideal location for that picture-perfect postcard shot.
The gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands, Airlie Beach is a small town in the Whitsunday region and is a fabulous place to soak up all there is in this idyllic part of Australia. With a great variety of activities to enjoy, such as snorkelling, fishing, crocodile safaris and scenic flights over Whitehaven Beach, there's plenty to see and do in this laid-back and picturesque town. Although the vibe is generally relaxed, it becomes simply electric after dark, with holidaymakers lining the streets, beer gardens overflowing and bars and clubs pumping until the wee hours.
Travellers should be aware that the Irukandji jellyfish, which pack a powerful sting, pose a major threat to swimmers during the months of November to May when they abound in the water, but there are safe places to swim, including a medium sized swimming lagoon on the foreshore which is the perfect place to cool off on a hot summer's day.
One of Queensland's most popular attractions for visitors of all ages and an absolute must while on holiday with the kids in Brisbane, Sea World offers marine attractions, rides, shows and much more. Check out the ocean's most fearsome predator at Shark Bay, get up close and personal with Australia's only polar bears at Polar Bear Shores or check out the Fairy penguins in their penguin suits, before taking a stroll through the Sea World Aquarium to discover Australia's exotic marine life. The adventurous can climb aboard the Jet Rescue rollercoaster ride - an exhilarating ride for kids of all ages.
Straddling the Tropic of Capricorn, Queensland's climate is subtropical. From November to March humidity is generally high throughout the state, but sea breezes bring some relief along the coast. Brisbane in the south has a hot and humid climate, particularly in summer, but winter is mild and sunny with cool nights (July and August). The best time to visit the northern part of the state is from September to November. Tropical cyclones can occur in the north from November to April, mostly during January to March.
About a six-hour drive south of Cairns lies Bowling Green Bay National Park. Covering 55,300 hectares, this is the largest National Park in the region, an area once home to the Wulgurukaba Aboriginal people who have left their mark with beautiful rock paintings. Bowling Green Bay National Park is situated between Townsville and Bowen and includes the Mount Elliot area and adjacent coastal wetlands, saltpans and mangrove swamps. Alligator Creek meanders through the park, with beautiful waterfalls and cascades crashing into deep pools, surrounded by tropical rainforest. Bowling Green Bay is a glorious place to enjoy hiking and camping and is a popular weekend excursion from Cairns.
The name 'Tjapukai' means 'people of the rainforest' and refers to the indigenous people who have inhabited the tropical region between Cairns and Port Douglas, and inland to Kuranda, for eons. About 20 years ago a group of entertainers established Australia's first aboriginal dance theatre at the village of Kuranda, near Cairns, in a shopping centre basement. Its popularity with tourists led to expansion into a fully-fledged award-winning 25-acre Cultural Park, which now draws the crowds at Smithfield, a few miles north of the city. Show business, in the form of history and dance theatre, remains the basis of the attraction, and at the Camp Village visitors can interact with the Tjapukai and try out traditional activities like playing the didgeridoo and throwing a boomerang. The park also offers a night-time show experience where the audience is swept up into the ancient rituals and ceremonies of the 'Dreamtime', including fire dancing and a dinner banquet of local food and wine.
Magical Paronella Park was the imaginative brainchild of a young entrepreneur, Jose Paronella, who built his dream castle on this site near Mena Creek, about 75 miles (120km) south of Cairns, in 1929. Since then the castle has come to be regarded as an architectural marvel, and a top tourist attraction, which has been used as a set for several movies. The picturesque grounds, overlooking Mena Creek Falls, feature interesting forest walks, bamboo gardens, a secret garden and a 'tunnel of love'. Cultural performances and guided walks are offered to visitors as part of the admission price. In 1997, Paronella Park was recognised as a historical treasure and listed by the National Trust. It is a popular venue for romantic events like weddings and consistently delights visitors.
The Wet Tropics of Queensland is said to be the oldest tropical rainforest still surviving on earth and a UNESCO-listed site containing the highest number of rare or threatened plant and animal species on the planet, as well as 13 different types of rainforest and 29 species of mangrove. Among the national parks included in the Wet Tropics are Barron Gorge National Park, Black Mountain National Park, Cedar Bay National Park, Daintree National Park, Girringun National Park and Wooroonooran National Park.
This unique area covers around 745 miles (1,200km) of northern Queensland, and is visited by drives of tourists who access it usually from Cairns, via Daintree Village. Visitors enjoy an unrivalled natural experience, from the beautiful golden beaches to hiking through ancient forest ecosystems full of gorgeous birds, primitive flowering plants, and fascinating animals like the estuarine crocodile. Daintree is about two hours north of Cairns, on the Captain Cook Highway, making it easily accessible for excursions and weekend getaways.
One of the great natural wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef is as big as the total combined area of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and contains more than 1,000 islands, from sandy mounds to rainforest isles. Divers, snorkellers and nature lovers can reach specific sites by air or by water taxi. Non-divers can view this underwater world from a glass-bottomed boat.
The Reef ecosystem has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to give life to almost 7,000 species of plants and animals. It is home to some endangered species like the green loggerhead turtle, and is a breeding site for humpback whales. Visitors can either cruise the islands or make a base in Cairns or one of the many seaside towns along the Queensland coast. Visitors can access the Great Barrier Reef from numerous regions in Queensland, from the southern gateway of Bundaberg, Coral Coast and Country to Gladstone, Capricorn, the Whitsundays, Mackay, Townsville and Tropical North Queensland, including Cairns.
The Great Barrier Reef is rapidly degrading due to environmental damage so visit soon!
Located within the Daintree National Park and the Wet Tropics area of Queensland, the pristine and picturesque destination of Cape Tribulation is well worth a visit while travelling through Queensland. With the Great Barrier Reef just a short boat ride away, the oldest tropical rainforest on earth on your doorstep, spectacular beaches on which to stroll, world-class snorkelling, kayaking, jungle surfing, horseback adventures and the chance to spot the endangered cassowary, a large flightless bird, there is so much to see and do on a trip to Cape Tribulation.
Explore the rainforest from the treetops or on horseback, take a cruise on the crystalline turquoise waters, relax on a river cruise and spot one of Australia's most famous predators, the crocodile, or simply relax and enjoy the breath-taking scenery that abounds. Accommodation such as luxury resorts, self-catering cabins, bed and breakfasts and camping facilities are available.
Australia's most famous fossil site, Riversleigh, in northwest Queensland, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an extension of the Lawn Hill National Park. It contains the fossil remains of ancient mammals, birds and reptiles of Oligocene and Miocene age, which were found in limestone by freshwater pools, and in caves during the period when the surrounding ecosystem was evolving from rainforest to semi-arid grassland. Most of what is known about the evolution of Australian mammals in the last 30-million years comes from bones found at a single site in the Riversleigh fossil beds, half of which were unearthed in one hour. Species such as primitive koalas and wombats, huge crocodile and large, flightless birds, as well as a range of ancestral thylacines (Tasmanian tigers) were discovered in Riversleigh.