The best places to travel to in Queensland in 2018
Most people’s mental image of Queensland is one of white-sand beaches, painted-on blue skies and swaying palm trees. And that’s entirely warranted, as the Sunshine State is home to some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline and best places to travel in the world.
This year, many of those beaches will be on display as the state hosts the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games (GC2018), which is set to attract more than 672,000 visitors.
Haydn Long, Global Media & Investor Relations Manager for the Flight Centre Travel Group, says in addition to an increased focus on the Gold Coast as the host city gets its Games face on, a large proportion of Queensland will also be in the spotlight.
If you’re able to build time into your schedule to explore before and after the closing ceremony, here are some of the best places to travel to in Queensland in 2018.
Fun and Games on the Gold Coast & Beyond
“The Gold Coast always ranks among our top tourist destinations because it’s world-class beaches have enormous appeal,” Long says. “But it’s not just about surf and sand. There are also the theme parks, top restaurants, nightlife, and proximity to the Hinterland.“
One of the Hinterland highlights is a visit to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. The company is set to launch the new Green Mountains campground, an eco-friendly concept that will include hanging sky tents and a more contemporary approach to camping.
Nearby Canungra is also a world away from the glitz of the Gold Coast and one of the best places to travel to for a day trip. The township is located in the Scenic Rim and home to one of the best Australian wine regions you’ve never heard of including Canungra Valley Vineyards.
From Canungra, you will find yourself in hills outside the mountain townships, which are knitted with terraced vines. Put a pilgrimage to the cellar doors on your list of must-dos in Queensland to truly immerse yourself in the exceptional terroir.
Breaking ground in Winton at the Way Out West Fest
To celebrate the grand opening of the Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton, the town is treating visitors to a spectacular music festival. After its devastating destruction by fire in 2015, the opening of the newly rebuilt $23 million centre will be a new chapter for the town.
The four-day Way Out West Fest line-up includes performances by the award-winning Jessica Mauboy, John Williamson and Busby Marou.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. #WOWF will include a Bluegrass Breakfast and Bush Poets’ performance and a recovery gig at ‘The Jump-Up’ at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, where the surrounding swathes of red dirt and rock inspired Banjo Patterson to pen his famous poem.
Visitors to the festival will be able to stay in a fully serviced ‘Tent City’, while those with their own RV, tent or swag can also camp at the showgrounds.
Camping in the Outback on the rise
Outback Queensland General Manager, Peter Homan, says visitor numbers to the region have doubled in the past three years as families are being drawn to the area in droves.
“The main cause of visitor numbers increasing are families using camper trailers and undertaking a short break. Carnarvon Gorge, Longreach, Winton, Mount Isa, Roma, Eromanga, and Birdsville are all heavy hitters and hugely popular with traditional grey nomads, who traditionally travel in caravans,” he says.
This year also marks the 60th anniversary of the Mount Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo, where the meeting of man and bovine is the biggest draw. Isa Rodeo Manager Natalie Flecker says she is expecting thousands of people to pour through the gates at the diamond jubilee event.
Play hide-and-seek with Nemo in Cairns
You no longer need to take a boat to the Great Barrier Reef. The brand-new Cairns Aquarium replicates 10 ecosystems in 71 habitats, has 15,000 animals on display and a deep reef tank that is one of only three in the world.
The visionary new aquarium, which opened in September, is also a dedicated research facility. The long-term objective is to propagate enough coral so it doesn’t need to source coral from the wild.
General Manager of Cairns Aquarium, Julie Cullen, adds it’s the only aquarium in the world to exclusively showcase the animals of Far North Queensland. “Normally when you walk into an aquarium, you have an acrylic tank and a glass box. But this aquarium is truly immersive in honour of our unique coastal environment,” she says.
“The deep reef tank is 10m high x 8.5m wide and replicates the drop-off on the Continental Shelf. It showcases the stratification of coral from the sun-loving coral to the shade-loving animals at the bottom of the ocean,” she says.
You can also experience the eye-popping action in the shark tank when dining at Aqua Luna.
As well as being an ‘event city’ during GC2018, five new flight routes from China to Cairns from December 2017 will see Tropical North Queensland pulsing with energy as one of the best places to travel to in Queensland. Those who enjoy the suite life should keep an eye on Crystalbrook Collection’s new hotel developments in Cairns CBD.
Islands and bay deemed ‘Insta-worthy’
Fraser Island sets the bar high when it comes to beautiful landscapes. From its lakes shrouded in an eerie calmness to its sand-swept dunes and jagged sandstone bluffs, Fraser is one of the best places to travel to year-round.
International visitation to the Fraser Coast region has grown by 12.4% in the year ending June 2017. And overall holiday visitation also grew 29.7% for the period to December 2016.
Monique Parker from the Kingfisher Bay Resort Group believes it’s the wild, untamed beauty of the island that is the No. 1 draw for visitors.
“People who love to get away from it all and immerse themselves in nature come to Fraser Island. The resort has many repeat visitors – from international backpackers to eco-minded travellers to families wanting an inter-generational escape,” she says. “Nature-based holidays used to be a niche market but it’s becoming increasingly mainstream as people want to get offline.”
Parker adds that 4WDers, hikers, campers, and holidaymakers are using Instagram to identify the island and its sand-swept beauty as a must-do.