Let’s face it, Queensland is a big place. Commanding a respectable 1.7 million square kilometres of the Australian continent, the state is big enough to fit the United Kingdom into it seven times or twice the size of Pakistan. If you add to this a world heritage listed rainforest, a trove of world class beaches and the largest coral reef in the world, where do you start?
We could list hundreds of places you have to see, feel and experience before you kick the bucket, but we understand that you’re short on time so here’s our top 10 must-see destinations for anyone coming to Queensland.
1. Discover the largest natural wonder of the world
The World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef should be experienced by everyone at least once. Dive with turtles and manta rays off Lady Elliot Island, snorkel the spectacular Low Isles coral cay off Port Douglas, take a romantic scenic flight over the iconic Heart Reef, or try a helmet dive at Green Island.
2. Experience the Queensland Outback
Queensland’s outback explodes into a dirt-busting riot of colour, cowboys, horse races and oddly enough, operas, every year in celebration of spring with a calendar full of quirky events. Meet the friendliest of folk from the quaintest towns in the country at the Australian Dunny Derby in Winton, the famous Birdsville Races, or Mt Isa Rodeo – the largest in the southern hemisphere.
3. Go back to surfing’s roots
Pull on your boardies, grab your board and get out with the pros at some of the most famous surf breaks on the planet. Home to the Quiksilver Pro and a few of the world’s best surfers including Joel ‘Parko’ Parkinson and Michael ‘MP’ Peterson, the beaches from Dicky Beach on the Sunshine Coast to the famous break at Snapper Rocks are where Australian surf history began.
4. Dive with minke whales
For six weeks of the year Queensland offers one of the most life-changing experiences in the country. During June and July, minke whales come to play in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and live-aboard vessels head out for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive and snorkel with these curious and amazing sea creatures.
5. Take the plunge
A family trip to visit the Gold Coast theme parks is a rite of passage for every Aussie teenager. A mad few days swapping between the sickening rides at Dreamworld, getting to your saturation limit at Wet’n’Wild, or hanging with the polar bears at Sea World combined with too much fairy floss and too many Dagwood Dogs makes for a perfect weekend! Or if you really want to get the heart started, head to Cairns to the only bungy site in Australia and trial their world-first jump menu.
6. Immerse yourself in Australian history
Discover the historical gems of Outback Queensland – learn about bushrangers, shearers, stockmen and drovers at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame; or the history of QANTAS at the Qantas Founders Museum. Retrace the steps of Cobb & Co. by travelling on the original mail route between Longreach and Windorah on a fully-laden stagecoach with Kinnon & Co; or visit the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.
7. Taste-test true blue Queensland drops
The Bundy bear and the flashing XXXX sign winking out over Brisbane are two of Queensland’s proudest icons. The two labels personify Queensland’s laid-back attitude and larrikin nature and a visit inside the hallowed walls of the distillery and brewery should be included on every imbiber’s list.
8. Go camping on Fraser Island
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, boasting ancient forests, one of the world’s most beautifully blue freshwater lakes, Lake Mackenzie, and of course, kilometres of undulating sand dunes. Whether you fly down them on a sand board, careen up them in a 4WD, or camp at the base of them, this World Heritage-listed island is a must-visit for all Australians.
9. Climb to record-breaking heights
Brisbane’s Story Bridge not only features in hundreds of images of the beautiful city but it also boasts the achievement of being the only bridge in the world to offer both a climb and an abseil experience. And just down the road you can get even higher with Australia’s tallest external building climb at SkyPoint on the Gold Coast.
10. Sail the 74 islands of the Whitsundays
The destination of choice for weddings, luxury holidays or sailing adventures for people all over the world, the 74 islands that make up the crystal blue Whitsundays are a mecca for sailors. Whether you want to be spoilt on a luxury yacht, hire a bareboat with your mates or sail off into the sunset with your lover there could be no better way to spend a holiday.