Queensland is a myriad of different cultures and experiences, woven loosely into Australia’s second-largest state, a piece of land seven times the size of the United Kingdom with only seven percent of the population.
A sizeable amount of the state’s population is located in Southeast Queensland, centred on the capital of Brisbane, but unlike the other states, the population of Queensland is much less centralized. This means that there’s plenty of Queensland to see without Brisbane; there’s plenty more to do in other areas in the southeast such as the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
Heading further north, the Sunshine State really begins to shine with towns up and down the coast all the way up to tropical Queensland’s regional centre at Cairns almost a day away. Don’t be discouraged by the distance from place to place; the experience is definitely worth it!
Brisbane is the major city in Queensland and probably a major stop on the way up or down the east coast. As with any big city, Brisbane has got a lot to offer in terms of activities and accommodations, and if you want to learn more, visit our Brisbane A-to-Z page.
The Gold Coast is another destination viewed by millions of visitors each year, and as Australia’s sixth-largest city just south of Brisbane, it holds a ton of exciting things to do, stretching 60km from Coolangatta just on the border with New South Wales all the way up to Paradise Point.
Because it’s so big, the Gold Coast manages to fit in amazing surf sites and crazy nightlife in the suburb of Surfers Paradise, theme parks such as Dreamworld (Australia’s largest) and Warner Bros’ Movie World, and quiet beaches off the beaten path in the south. Further inland, the Hinterlands offer a lot in terms of scenic walks, quaint villages, and gigantic National Parks. Chief among them being Lamington National Park, Australia’s largest preserved subtropical rainforest. For more specific information about the city as well as the suburbs of Surfers Paradise and Coolangatta, feel free to click on their links.
– Where to stay: Staying in the Gold Coast is like staying in any other city; you have to know what you want and what you’re looking for. If you’re into wild nightlife and staying out until almost sunrise, then Surfers is definitely the place to stay. If you’re into collapsing into your bed after a long day, then Coolangatta might be right for you. Search the widget to the left in order to figure out exactly which place is best for you.
• Fuel your adrenalin by participating in a variety of sports like 4WD drives, bungy jumping, helicopter tours, and more in Australia’s adventure capital.
• Discover the many sights of the Hinterland, from local produce stands at farmers’ markets dotted around the region, to rainforest walks available in Lamington National Park and Tambourine Mountain.
• Get a thrill from the big five theme parks on the Gold Coast – Dreamworld, Sea World, Warner Bros’ Movie World, Wet ‘n’ Wild, and WhiteWater World.
• Walk the Burleigh Hill, surrounded by the remnants of rainforest that is Burleigh National Park, so that you can appreciate views of Surfers and other parts of the Gold Coast.
• Discover Ozball, the world’s newest and strangest outdoor activity. Jump into a plastic inflated ball and roll down hills and tracks at speeds upwards of 35kph.
The Sunshine Coast is located north of Brisbane, easily accessible by bus, train or plane. It extends from Caloundra in the south, just an hour and a half drive north of Brisbane, all the way up to Cooloola in the north, a distance of over 100km. It is the perfect mix of coast and country, including sights such as the Glass House Mountains and the Noosa Hinterland. Check out Sunshine Coast for more information.
Fraser Island, created by hundreds of thousands of years of sands drifting from ocean currents, is a unique ecological paradise of rainforests, beaches, and freshwater pools sitting on top of nothing but sand. It’s also the home to many different species of animals, being part of the Great Sandy National Park, created in 1991 mainly to protect the island from logging and sand mining and made into a World Heritage site in 1993.
Today many visitors come to appreciate the island’s natural splendour, leaving from either Rainbow Beach, a town known for its rainbow cliffs made out of over fifty shades of sand, or Hervey Bay, a top tourist destination that used to be known as the caravanning capital of Queensland. To learn more about Fraser Island visit its web page.
– Where to stay: Since staying on Fraser Island is most often incredibly pricey, think about staying in Hervey Bay, one of two towns with ferries over to the island. Hervey Bay is the home to sandy white bays and pods of humpback whales. Search the widget to the left, under the “Beds” tab, in order to find the perfect hostel in Hervey Bay.
• Explore parts of Fraser Island on foot, especially the walking trails leading from Central Station to Lakes McKenzie and Birrabeen.
• Take an organized tour from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach, which will allow you to cover as much of Fraser Island as humanly possible without a multiple-day trip.
• Go for a whale-watching tour to see some amazing humpback whales, especially during the months of August to October, where you get a free subsequent trip if the whales are a no show.
• Take a 4WD tour up and down Rainbow Beach, visiting the lighthouse at Double Island Point and an abandoned freighter – many places in Rainbow Beach are inaccessible to those without 4WDs.
• Swim in the gentle, shallow bay that gave the town of Hervey Bay its name. Snorkelling in Hervey Bay is another big water-sports attraction.
Both the Burnett River and the Mary River flow into the ocean in this part of south-central Queensland, allowing for the creation of several small settlements; these towns and cities have quite a number of things to see. Starting from Maryborough, a great example of an old Queenslander town with many heritage buildings, Bruce Highway wanders north, passing through small towns such as Childers, a town known for its sugar cane, its liquorice-coloured houses and, most infamously, as the site of a fire in 2000 that destroyed the main hostel there.
About two hours after leaving Maryborough visitors come upon the city of Bundaberg, the largest city in the region, but still one with a small-town feeling. Feel free to learn more about Bundaberg by clicking on the link to take you to the city’s page.
– Where to stay: There are many accommodations up and down the Bruce Highway, but most in this area are found in the city of Bundaberg. Many illegal backpacker hostels were shut down in 2008, so be sure to stay in a legitimate operating hostel; many good ones are located on Bourbong Street, the main road into the city. When looking at accommodations, also see if turtle tours leave from that location.
• Take a riverboat cruise down the Mary River, an affordable and fantastic way to get to know the town of Maryborough and the surrounding region.
• Explore the old town of Maryborough by walking and picking up self-guided tours at the visitors’ centre at City Hall. Make sure to also stop by Brennan & Geraghty’s Store, a museum resembling a general store, and a time capsule at the same time.
• Visit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, and experience an alcohol production tour with an Australian twist. If you’re over 18, you’ll get to sample the product afterwards!
• Head to the small beach town of Bargara, located less than 20km from Bundaberg, where divers, snorkelers, and surfers can all find something to do.
• If you’re lucky to be in Bundaberg on the first Friday of the month, from September to April, visit the Riverside Parklands for a fantastic night market.
Appropriately named for the Tropic of Capricorn that bisects this region, the Capricorn Coast is home to coral shelves, fantastic tropical islands, and stories of cowboy crusaders. It is also one of Queensland’s most varied and treasured, with fantastic turf around the regional centres of Rockhampton & Gladstone, quaint seaside villages such as the town of Yeppoon, coastal peaks and the magnificent green-and-gold coloured Southern Reef Islands surrounding the towns of Agnes Water & 1770, and sights such as the amazing Carnarvon Gorge in Capricorn’s Hinterland. If you want to learn more about some of the attractions located in “Capricornia,” feel free to click on the links.
– Where to stay: As a business centre, Rockhampton has a lot of business motels, but the alternatives are a much better decision. The YHA is located just north of city centre, across the Fitzroy River. There are also a few other great options located on the banks of the Fitzroy River; the Heritage and the Criterion are also pretty inexpensive. Double-check the rates for the places mentioned, and see which ones are to your fancy.
• Visit the Capricorn Caves, a group of deep limestone passageways that are particularly fantastic to visit around the period of the summer solstice.
• Take surfing lessons at one of the many schools in the small town of Agnes Water.
• Head to the Southern Reef Islands for some of the greatest beaches and snorkelling spots in this part of Queensland, and especially don’t miss the chance to see the southern edges of the Great Barrier Reef.
• Don’t miss the sandstone plateau that dominates the Blackdown Tableland National Park, located in Capricorn’s Hinterland.
• Visit the many gem fields in the Hinterland not far from Carnavon National Park, featuring the ever popular gorge carved out over millions of years by the creek below.
Approximately six hours away from Capricorn, the Whitsunday Islands are a fantastic weekend destination, where experiences of sun, sand, and sailboating are popular, and where the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park lies below the water surface. The Whitsundays are definitely the highlight of the region, but there are definitely other places to visit besides the islands. Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays, but it is also a destination of its own accord, with many different bars, restaurants, and backpackers.
Outside of the Whitsunday Island area, Mackay is a tropical town located only two hours south, and is definitely worth a day or two of stay beforehand. It is a premier base for Eungella National Park with its famous platypuses, and is also home to a redeveloped centre with plenty of things to do. For more information on either the Whitsundays or Mackay, click on their links.
– Where to stay: Depending on where you are up and down the Whitsunday Coast, Airlie Beach is a great destination for you to stay in, though the Whitsundays themselves are a good choice as well. They both feature a number of accommodations. Search the widget under the “Beds” tab and selecting either the “Whitsundays” or “Airlie Beach” as destinations.
• Visit Artspace Mackay, which is a great example of an already strong reputation that regional Queensland art galleries have. It showcases local and visiting works from all over Queensland.
• Head to Pioneer Valley, located near Mackay, and visit Eungella National Park, home to the oldest stretch of subtropical rainforest in all of Australia and some of the weirdest species known to man.
• Also in Pioneer Valley, go for an extreme sport of another kind: flying through the forests wearing a harness attached to a cable, see if you can spot many different types of animals.
• Head out of Airlie Beach for a sailing cruise, which may include a trip to the fringe of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
• North of Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays, visit the town of Bowen, most famous for its Big Mango and its role in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. It’s a great example of how beach towns were before tourism.
The North Coast is a collection of many different mountain ranges, outback towns and fantastic islands all within reach of the unofficial capital of Townsville, a city with a celebratory nature and a vibrant nightlife. Abutting the Coral Sea, Townsville has a mix of students, military personnel, and hip locals, all who enjoy the gourmet eateries and Zen-inspired watering holes.
Outside of the city, backpackers are drawn to Magnetic Island, with inhabitants ranging from koalas to families enjoying school holidays. Further inland, the North Coast Hinterland features the old mining town of Charters Towers, with ghost stories playing a major role in town culture. Driving north towards Tropical Queensland, one can even see the ever-expanding Tyto Wetlands at Ingham, along with nearby 305m Wallaman Falls.
– Where to stay: Townsville is centrally located on the North Coast, and is probably the best (or maybe only) place to look for accommodations. Nearby Magnetic Island may be a good choice for those who plan on sticking on that island for longer than just a day; check the widget if interested.
• Visit Reef HQ – Townsville’s aquarium – which is a place to see the best of the reef in a series of recreations. This is an essential stop if you aren’t visiting the reefs themselves.
• Spend a few hours in the Museum of Tropical Queensland, a museum filled with rainforest exhibits and shipwrecks that took place in this part of Australia.
• Rent an electric bike and spend the day riding around Magnetic Island, seeing attractions like Cockle Bay and Horseshoe Bay, home to one of the island’s best patrolled beaches and stinger enclosures.
• Head to the town of Charters Towers and see a still-alive gold mining town, complete with the oddball stories.
• Heading to Cairns? Visit the wettest town in all of Australia at Tully, also considered the UFO capital and a prime banana-growing town.
Tropical, or Far North, Queensland would not be complete without the trek to Cairns, complete with its mangrove promenades, its crocodile-infested rivers, and its location near the Great Barrier Reef. Cairns is an eclectic mix of many different styles, all wrapped up into a nice, spread-out package. For more information on this bustling city, visit Cairns.
Cairns may be the popular destination in the Far North, but by no means is it the only destination worthy of a visit. Towns like Port Douglas are home many a visitor especially during the winter months, known for its hot weather and nearby rainforest. Daintree is the home of Far North Queensland’s cattle farming industry, as well as quite a number of crocodile tours.
About two hours south of Cairns, Mission Beach is a stretch of fantastic beachfronts and rainforests that’s growing at a steady pace, complete with the requisite adrenalin sports. Any further north of Cairns and you’re going to start running into rugged Cape York Peninsula, the northernmost point in all of Australia and an isolated twenty hours away from Cairns proper, a long trip that will definitely take you quite a few days. For any more information about any of these sites, click their links.
– Where to stay: No matter where you are in Far North Queensland, Cairns is the best place to stay with a wide array of accommodations. For more information on these accommodations, use the widget to the left.
• In Mission Beach, take in some fantastic skydiving (though the hostels will recommend you to do so anyway). If you’re skittish on jumping out of a plane, perhaps a dive to the nearby wreck of Lady Bowen will do.
• Take a ferry from Cairns to Fitzroy Island, home to a National Park…as well as a famous nude beach.
• Take a river cruise from Daintree, and see how many crocodiles you can spot.
• Take a trip to see as much of Cape Tribulation as you possibly can. Especially try to get to Cape Kimberley Beach, a prime destination for those searching for the best beaches in all of Australia.
• Since Cairns doesn’t have an actual beach, visit one of the many beaches located to the north of the city, including Holloways Beach and Yorkeys Knob.
There’s a popular saying throughout the state that goes something along the lines of this: you’re not a true Aussie until you visited western Queensland. The harsh and rugged outback, along with the farmlands of the Downs, make up the part of Australia most backpackers don’t get to see.
Still, it’s important to make note of such places as Toowoomba, Queensland’s largest interior city with a few museums to check out, and Mt Isa, an isolated community in the heart of Australia with a big sense of community and the home to Australia’s largest rodeo. It might be worth checking out if you’re here for an extended period of time.
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