Things to do in Queensland
Sun, sand, city and rainforest—do it all in the Sunshine State!
Queensland, famously, boasts sunshine for days! Waves lap sandy shores, cities bustle with activity and there are rainforests scattered throughout to provide cool and peaceful relief. The state is Australia’s playground and, no matter where you go, there are a host of unique things to do. All you have to do is discover them!
When travelling to Queensland, it can be hard to know where to pick. The state is so big and diverse that one holiday won’t seem enough! From the world wonders and natural landscapes of the tropical north, to the laid-back luxury around the Whitsundays and even the swelling surf and city-hubs of the southeast, there are destinations for active and chill-seekers alike!
Our Queensland Holiday Experts know that you’ll be spoilt for choice in the Sunshine State, but they also know that this can make deciding where to go hard! To make it easier, we’ve collected a list activities—from some of the most popular things to do across our state, to a few that are lesser known. Read on below, then check out more experiences here!
The Tropical North
The most common thing said when people return from Tropical North Queensland is that they never expected it to be quite so beautiful. With the sun shining bright and a rainforest that stretches down mountains to meet the reef, the region really is a thrill for the senses. Blues and greens form in a rainbow of their own and the climate spurs on outdoor discovery. Embrace the sun, breathe in the fresh air, float, hike, indulge and retreat. Everything is possible in Queensland’s tropical north!
The Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is undeniably one of the most iconic features of Tropical North Queensland, if not of the entire state! It is the world’s largest coral reef and one of the seven wonders of the world. The reef is larger than the Great Wall of China and can be seen from outer space. It starts at the very top of the Sunshine State, off the coast of Cape York, and stretches down beyond the Tropic of Capricorn (in the middle of the state). Over 4000 individual reef systems, vibrant coral cays and hundreds of tropical islands make it up, plus it is home to incredible marine species, including temporary visitors, the humpback whales, as they trace their migratory paths!
There are many ways that people can enjoy the Great Barrier Reef. Most typically it is accessed from the “Great Barrier Reef Towns”—Cairns, Port Douglas, Palm Cove, Townsville and Rockhampton and travel is done by boat, helicopter or sea plane. Snorkel, scuba dive, ride in a semi-submersible or glass-bottom boat. There are day trips to the Barrier Reef Islands (including Herron and Hayman Island to name just a few), educational tours, those focused on sailing and luxury, plus everything in between! Things to spot in the reef include over 1500 species of fish, 4000 species of molluscs and 400 types of coral. Swim with dwarf minke whales off the coast of Port Douglas, turtles in the sand cays and witness unique bird life on the Barrier Reef Islands!
The Daintree Rainforest is the second most popular World Heritage listed site in the Sunshine State’s tropical north. It is a major part of the Wet Tropics—the world’s oldest surviving rainforest, estimated to be around 180 million years old and home to a host of ancient and rare plant and animal species. The heart of the Daintree is approximately 2-hours north of Cairns. This said, the area of the rainforest is expansive and southern ends of it, like Mossman Gorge, are just over 20-minutes inland of Port Douglas. The Daintree stretches 1,200sq. kilometres from the north of the state (Cape Tribulation), down along the northeast coast. It follows the 140 kilometre Daintree River—one of the longest rivers in the east coast!
There are many things to see and do in the Daintree Rainforest. Spot over 12,000 insect species, 30% of Australia’s frog, reptile and marsupial species, 65% of the country’s bat and butterfly species, 18% of all bird species, king ferns, giant bull kauri pines, cassowaries, freshwater fish, barramundi and crocodiles. Explore on a guided walk, 4WD or 8WD tour, cruise or zip-line through the treetops for a one-of-a-kind adventure. If you’re after an authentic way to experience the Daintree, try the Ngadiku Dreamtime Walk. Led by the Aboriginal Kuku Yalanji people, this tour operates out of Mossman Gorge and includes a traditional smoking ceremony, historical and cultural insights, spear throwing lessons and information on how to use the rainforest for food, medicine and shelter!
Answer the call of the nature and get up to see the Daintree! Contact our My QLD Holiday Experts to find out how.
The Atherton Tablelands and beyond
The Atherton Tablelands, known also as the Cairns Highlands, are perfect for those looking for a truly unique Tropical North Queensland adventure. This area has it all—waterfalls, rainforests, lakes, farmland and a healthy dose of iconic, rugged Australian outback! Drive or take our tour on Skyrail up the mountains from Cairns to Kuranda. The journey takes around 1 hour 45 minutes and passes by some of the most impressive ravines and waterfalls that you’ve ever seen! Kuranda, the village in the rainforest, sits 328 metres above sea level and offers quaint, artistic markets, walking trails and more! It is the perfect, graduated introduction for those planning to travel beyond—from the lush scenes of Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas, to the flat plains of the Tablelands and beyond!
While mostly flat, the Atherton Tablelands contain a host of unusual volcanic features. These include the twin emerald lakes of Barrine and Eacham, the Undara National Park and the Mt Hypipamee Crater. Because of these, the region has rich soil and has adopted the fitting reputation of being the ‘fruit bowl of the northern tropics’. Tasting tours are popular as gourmet food grows exceptionally well and you can sample anything from coffee to mangoes, watermelon, papaya, avocados, potatoes, pumpkin, blueberries, strawberries, bananas and more! If you’d rather get active, explore the region on an adventure tour. Mountain bike or hiking tours operate through national parks and there are lakes that host a range of water sports. For those wanting to get airborne, float in a hot air balloon—this is an exceptional way to experience a unique birds-eye-view!
On top of feasting and getting out and about, there are heaps of things to learn in the Atherton Tablelands. The region has a strong pioneering history and there are plenty of geological wonders to discover. Contact our My QLD Holiday Experts to find out more.
The Whitsundays are a water lover’s dream. Made up of 74 islands, a stunning mainland coast and lush hinterlands, this mid-state region is the perfect place to find your sea legs and simply float away! Discover astounding natural landscapes, secluded beachside oases or take some time out for pampering and indulgence especially for two. Your days will be sunny and coloured in aqua-blues. The Whitsundays are a real treat for your body and mind!
Picture clear, calm waters that house vibrant coral reefs, white sandy beaches and national parks that stretch up mountains just back from the shore. The Whitsunday Islands showcase the very best of the region’s natural landscapes and there are countless ways it can be enjoyed! While most of the 74 Whitsunday Islands are uninhabited, there are 4 main islands that accommodate guests. These include Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, Daydream Island and Long Island. Travel by boat or plane to get to each from the mainland and step into a tropical paradise, usually in under just 1-hour!
The Whitsunday Islands are home to some of the best sailing in the southern hemisphere. The protected waters that weave between each island are ideal for those wanting to charter a yacht or try out bareboating (captaining their own crew). Sail to secluded beaches, stop off for a hike or dive right into the water to go snorkelling on top of the reef. Sting and manta ray diving is popular around the islands and, if you travel to Long Island around May to September you’ll be able to witness the calving ground for the migrating humpback whales!
If you’re after something more indulgent to do, stay around the main islands themselves. Spas, fine dining and all things luxurious are common here. On Hamilton Island, golf enthusiasts can tee off at the championship 18-hole Hamilton Island Golf Club while dreaming of the adventures that the next day might hold. Perhaps you’ll ride a jet-ski, helicopter or seaplane—skydiving is also a popular choice for those who want an adrenaline rush!
To find out more about what you can do in the Whitsunday Islands, and which one is best for you, contact our My QLD Holiday Experts now!
The Coast and the Hinterland
There is even more natural splendour to discover along the Whitsunday coast and hinterlands. Think endless horizons and waters dotted with sails in Airlie Beach, lush green rainforests in the nearby Conway National Park, historical relics and shipwrecks in the bays around Bowen and the rural reds, browns and sugarcane fields of Proserpine, Collinsville and beyond. There is plenty to do and see in the Whitsundays—it’s not all just snorkelling and beach!
The coastal and hinterland towns of the Whitsundays are said to be amongst the friendliest in the state. Each are proud of something unique and they’re always happy to show it off. In Airlie Beach, life’s a party. Wander streets lined with cafés, bars and restaurants or shop for jewellery, clothes and artworks. Travel 45-minutes north to reach Bowen and enter history-heaven. Visit the SS Gothenburg wreck, learn about the town’s role in WWII, visit the Bowen Historical Society’s museum to witness Aboriginal relics or see the locations featured in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia.
Inland of Bowen is Collinsville. Travel around 1.5 hours for the Coalface Experience Museum, the Pit Pony Experience, go outback 4WDing, fishing or attend the Bowen River Rodeo in June. Between Collinsville and Airlie Beach is Proserpine (under 30-minutes away from the coast). Still very much dependent on the sugarcane industry, travellers can visit the working sugar mill there or spend their days crocodile spotting on the banks of the Proserpine River. Fishing is popular in Proserpine too—revel in the chance to throw a line in and catch a barramundi—an iconic fish in the Sunshine State’s north!
The South East
Chances are that you’ve already seen pictures of this beautiful part of Queensland. The rolling waves of the coast; the way the river snakes around the capital’s CBD; the theme parks, shopping, zoos and dingoes on Fraser Island—all are iconic images of the Sunshine State’s eclectic south east! But what, specifically, can you do, based on where you plan to travel? Read on to find out more!
Whether your Queensland travels take you to the Sunshine Coast or further north to Bundaberg, Fraser Island is one thing you must see. The World Heritage listed island is the largest sand island in the world. It boasts ancient dune systems, 100 incredible freshwater lakes, 1000 year old rainforests, bushy scrubs and stunning sandy beaches that stretch for miles! To get there, take the 30-minute ferry ride from Hervey Bay (around 2.5 hours both north of the Sunshine Coast and south of 1770). Foot-passengers and vehicles can travel the distance—the island is known for its ‘Beach Highway’, carrying 4WD convoys along the 75 Mile Beach stretch to the eastern side of the island.
Fraser Island is a natural haven. Active travellers can hike along the 90-kilometre Great Walk, passing strangler figs, dingoes and a selection of the island’s freshwater lakes. Sweat it out on the sand dunes or float down Eli Creek in a tube, take a 4WD to Lake Mackenzie and spend some laidback time in the sun. This popular perched lake is something to behold—it contains nothing but rainwater and is the most amazing blue! Fisherman will love Fraser Island too. Throw a line into freshwater rivers, lakes and from boats just off the shore. Try Sandy Cape, Waddy Point, Indian Head or Middle Rocks and learn the benefits of fishing in an area rich with shipwrecks that act as artificial reefs!
There is so much to do at Fraser Island that you’ll want to come back again. Contact our My QLD Holiday Experts to find out more!
The Sunshine Coast is where Queensland’s waves really start to pick up. Unlike the beaches protected by reefs in the state’s north, the beaches in the south are ideal for surfing and body boarding. The area is slightly more laid back than its southern counterpart and you’ll feel like a local from the moment you arrive! Choose between over 100 kilometres of sand to set up for the day and sunbake, paddle or surf to your heart’s content. Hire boats, kayak or stand-up paddle board through the calm waters of the region’s inlets, like the Pumicestone Passage or, if you’re after a break from the water, swap rolling surf for rolling hills. The Sunshine Coast’s hinterlands, including the Glass House Mountains, boast hiking trails, cosy cafés, boutiques and incredible views!
Stop in at the Eumundi Markets, try the wine and cheese in Maleny, shop for antiques in Montville or find waterfalls and more. As you travel, get up close and personal with wildlife at Australia Zoo, ride and play in the Aussie World theme park at the Ettamogah Pub, race in go karts, get lost in mazes and get your photo taken with the iconic Big Pineapple! Music fans can time their visit with the Woodford Folk Festival (December/January), the Big Pineapple Festival (May) or the Caloundra Music Festival (September/October). Active travellers can call in for the Noosa Triathlon Multi Sports Festival (November) and other challenges held throughout the year. Whatever you’re into, on the Sunshine Coast, you’ll fit right in!
Ask our My QLD Holiday Experts more about the Sunshine Coast now!
Brisbane is so much more than just a Central Business District! Set around the snaking Brisbane River, the river city is picturesque, thriving and perfectly cosmopolitan. Shop in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall, dine riverside in South Bank or discover one of the trendy rooftop or laneway bars. Climb the Kangaroo Point cliffs or the Story Bridge, cruise the river in a City Cat and head to Brisbane’s cultural precinct. The Museum of Brisbane, Queensland Museum & Science Centre, Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) always have intriguing features and exhibits to enjoy, plus there are opera, theatre, comedy, music and dance performances all year round at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), the Brisbane Powerhouse and a range of other tailor-made venues!
Sporting feats can be witnessed and tried in the river city. Brisbane is home to a handful of stadiums and complexes hosting everything from national and international Rugby League, Union, AFL, Soccer, Netball, Cricket, Tennis, Swimming, Athletics and Cycling championships. Fun runs and festivals feature throughout the year too. There’s the International Women’s Day and Mother’s Day fun run at the start of the year, Bridge to Brisbane and the Brisbane Marathon in the middle of the year, fashion festivals, the Brisbane Writer’s Festival, BIGSOUND Festival and the Brisbane Festival in September and so much more! If all that’s not enough, you can explore the city’s vibrant markets throughout the week—from Eat Street, to the Young Designers Markets, farmer’s markets and more, there are plenty of ways to delight in the splendours of Brisbane!
Glitz, glamour, sun and surf—the city meets the coast in this metropolitan region that has the lot! Set just over 1-hour from Brisbane, the Gold Coast will dazzle and delight. From its famous surf beaches, to shops, sanctuaries and theme parks, this is one destination that the whole family will enjoy, no matter their age! The water is Gold Coast’s most obvious attraction. Surf, swim, paddle or cruise along its surface—canals weave their way from the ocean to the hinterland, making spots for both rolling and calm water sports! Watch the professionals surf the Quicksilver Pro at Snapper Rocks in March, cruise out to see the migrating humpbacks between May and November or get your heart pumping with jetpack flyboard and jet boating adventures. Wander the long golden sands, relax on the sand to work on your tan and gaze out to the horizon from any of our incredible resorts!
Land-lovers will love the Gold Coast too. Head inland to walk the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk; see and feed native wildlife at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary; watch, learn and play at Sea World; or learn some Australian stockman history at the Outback Adventure park. Other theme parks on the coast include Dreamworld, Whitewater World, Movie World and Wet ‘N’ Wild. Multi-park passes can be purchased for these so you can experience them all in the one holiday if you want! There are climbing, hiking and shopping adventures to be had, plus, the Gold Coast is the host of the 2018 XXI Commonwealth Games. Witness sporting prowess at the region’s purpose-built complexes or try it all out for yourself. Gold Coast people live an outdoor lifestyle—the call of activity is hard to ignore and you’ll find yourself playing tennis, golf, cycling and strolling in no time!