44 things you didn’t know you could do in Queensland
From surfing sand dunes and camel races to drinking cat-poop coffee, there’s no denying the sunshine state makes good on its ability to deliver once-in-a-lifetime experiences, ranging from the weird and wonderful to the WHOA-IS-THIS-FO-REAL??!
There are things going down here that you would never have dreamed possible; some which can’t be experienced anywhere else in the world.
So go forth and see how many of these epic (and unexpected) adventures you can cross off the list.
1. Race through red dirt and chocolate milk-coloured creeks in Australia’s toughest triathlon.
2. Live out your Jay and Bey fantasies when you rent your own island on the Great Barrier Reef. After undergoing a major eco-friendly refurbishment, Pumpkin Island is now ready to take your tropical escape to the next level with this exclusive experience.
3. Make like Tarzan (or Jane) when you take to the treetops on a Jungle Surfing tour of the Daintree Rainforest.
4. Enter into an underwater oasis when you dive the SS Yongala, aka, one of the world’s top 10 shipwreck dives. A colourful metropolis of giant coral structures and marine life, the wreck – which is now over a century old – lies 110 metres long and 28 metres deep off the coast of Townsville.
5. Wine-hop through the vineyards of the Granite Belt and let your taste buds revel in its 5-star tipples (as awarded by wine critic James Halliday, no less).
6. Bask in a winter wonderland when snow falls in Southern Queensland Country. Some years when the temperature reaches below freezing, Stanthorpe and surrounding regions like Eukey and Girraween National Park turn into a scene straight out of an American Christmas movie. But for those times when Mother Nature doesn’t treat us to her frosty goodness, there’s always the annual Snowflakes in Stanthorpe Festival to make up for it.
7. Stroll through the longest lava tube systems in the world.
8. Snuggle up in a swag under the stars when you camp out on a pontoon in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef with Cruise Whitsundays.
9. Bird’s the word at the Feathered Nest Wildlife Retreat just outside of Mackay, where a black-cockatoo aviary inside your room adds the cherry on top to your 5-star luxury eco stay.
10. See a Qantas plane from a different angle when you walk the wing of a Boeing 747 at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach. This historic (and retired) jet is the only 747 in the world on public display.
11. Stand out at the beach this summer with a Rookini (a bikini made entirely out of kangaroo pelt) from the Kuranda Heritage Markets.
12. Tee off on Australia’s only championship golf course on its own island.
13. Or up the adrenaline factor on a heli golf charter with Nautilus Aviation as they whisk you across three iconic golf courses from Palm Cove to Cooktown.
14. While we’re on the topic of choppers, chase the best breaks on the Gold Coast in the most efficient (and speedy) manner on a heli surfing adventure with ABC Heli. Hooked on the high life? Check out our other epic heli experiences from private island picnics to fishing charters.
15. No need to go to Santorini when you can cuddle as many donkeys as you like during a stay at Destiny Boonah Eco Cottages and Donkey Farm.
16. Witness the miracle of Mon Repos as thousands of baby loggerhead turtles hatch and scuttle their way down the sandy shore to begin their life at sea.
17. Make like Cheryl Strayed and get your hike on through the largest national park island in Australia. (Tip: follow the Thorsborne Trail as it winds its way through the changing landscapes of rocky headlands, paperbark country, rainforest and mountain stream waterfalls.)
18. Quench your thirst with a beer from the smallest pub in Australia – the Lynd Oasis Roadhouse in Conjuboy, around four hours west of Townsville.
20. Drink the best rum in the world.
21. Glide alongside the gentle giants of Lady Elliot Island on a dive with their resident population of manta rays.
22. Hand-feed wild dolphins at Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island. You don’t have to be staying there to take part in this wildlife encounter, with day cruises setting sail from Brisbane every day.
23. Traverse the line where two World Heritage areas meet – the Daintree Rainforest and Great Barrier Reef – when you horse ride along the beach at Cape Tribulation.
24. Watermelons are so much more than a fruit to the folk of Chinchilla; they’re a way of life. But to really understand what we mean, head to the biannual Melon Festival, one of the world’s biggest celebrations of all things melon (melon bungee, pip spitting, melon skiing, and a whole bunch of other melon-related activities await you).
25. Conquer Queensland’s Everest when you trek to the summit of the state’s highest mountain.
26. Bid in a cane toad race at the Arcadia Village Hotel on Magnetic Island (and curb your gambler’s guilt with the knowledge that all proceeds are donated to the Surf Life Saving Club).
27. Ditch the Bruce Highway for the beach on this ultimate road trip through UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, a World Heritage Marine Park and the largest sand island in the world.
28. Swap the salty seas for fresh water and dive with a platypus.
29. Become a bonafide paleontologist when you dig for dinosaurs in the outback.
30. The U S of A might have the Grand Canyon, but here in Queensland, we have the ‘Green Canyon’, a sandstone wilderness of dramatic escarpments and narrow-sided gorges 27 million years in the making. Happy hikers can glory in its towering cliffs, ancient cycads and Aboriginal rock art along these day walks.
31. Drive two hours north of Townsville for a glimpse of the highest permanent single drop waterfall in the country.
32. Get down and dirty fossicking for sapphires in the gemfields around Emerald.
33. Learn how to spear mud crabs the traditional way with the Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people in the beach flats and mangrove swamps near Port Douglas.
34. Drink a cup of Queensland’s most expensive coffee, the infamous Kopi Luwak, a $50 brew produced from coffee beans which have been digested by an Asian civet cat. Yes… it’s essentially cat-poop coffee, and you can sample this rare beverage at the Heritage Tea Rooms near Townsville.
35. Shine your jewels for free on the finest silica sand of Australia’s best beach.
36. Place your bets and pray for a win when you throw your money at a camel (not literally, at the bookies please) during these outback races.
37. When the swell ain’t crankin’, surf the sand dunes of Moreton Island instead.
38. Whether you’re in need of a little soul searching or looking to de-stress, get your mindset back on track with Equine Therapy, a therapy assisted by horses at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat. Being socially intelligent animals themselves, you’ll be surprised at the parallels between human and horse nature, and the insight and reflection brought to your attention as a result.
39. Swim with dwarf minke whales in the Ribbon Reefs off Tropical North Queensland. This is the only place in the world where you can share the water with these beauties, so why not time your visit with their annual appearance between June and July. (Psst, you can also swim with humpbacks off Hervey Bay during their migration to our warmer waters each year from June to November.)
40. Walk the ancient bush tracks that Nugal-warra Elder Willie Gordon’s ancestors did as they made their way to the Rainbow Serpent Cave and secret birthing rock (a domain once reserved for women only) just outside of Cooktown with Gurribi Tours.
41. Bear witness to the biggest sex act in the world – coral spawning on the Great Barrier Reef. Each year around October to December, you can watch as millions of tiny cells are released from living coral, which then fertilise to form larvae which eventually settle on the reef to form new coral colonies.
43. Have some supercalifragilisticexpialidocious fun at the world’s only Mary Poppins Festival in Maryborough.
44. Follow in the footsteps of Steve Irwin when you join a group of croc researchers on a trip to the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve north of Weipa to catch, tag and document salties. The trip takes place every August, so keep an eye on the Australia Zoo website and social media pages for available spots.