Wilson Island

It’s a beautiful place to holiday here

We can be frank – it’s been a tough start to the year in Australia. But as you know, Queenslanders are a resilient bunch and after the recent bushfires, floods and drought we’re ready to open our doors and show you why it’s a beautiful place to holiday here. In fact, it’s one of the best places to visit in 2020.

So what should we expect? The year is shaping up to deliver travel experiences like never before. We want to be more connected with ourselves, experience genuine culture and leave a place having learned something new. Give and no take, all while leaving as little a footprint as possible.

From new immersive reef experiences, to connecting with the oldest living culture on earth, and slow travel options that are as good for you as they are the environment – here’s our wrap of the best places to visit in Queensland in 2020.

Self-drive the Scenic Rim and Southern Queensland Country

Homage Restaurant, Spicers Hidden Vale

Homage Restaurant, Spicers Hidden Vale

Wineries perched overlooking the water, granite-strewn National Parks, and food worth savouring – all about an hour from Queensland’s capital. This is the holiday you can have next weekend.

The Scenic Rim, headlined by ancient volcanic peaks, and its neighbour, Southern Queensland Country, home to the Granite Belt wine region and the ever-evolving hub of Toowoomba, have burst into the periphery of travellers in recent years.

Homage, Spicers Hidden Vale’s restaurant headed up by Ash Martin, recently moved into the Homestead, rebuilt on the property after fire destroyed the building nearly two years ago. The hyper-local restaurant bases its menu on cooking over flames – and with menu items like beef fat crumpets you’re guaranteed an unforgettable meal.

If you’re looking for a 48-hour escape in region, head over to this article. For a food trail through this salad-bowl head here and to ensure your lungs are full of that clean country air before you depart, here’s our wrap of the best walks in the region.

Torres Strait and Cairns

Keep the flame of culture burning festival_The best places to visit in Queensland in 2020

Keep the Flame of Culture Burning Festival

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been proudly practicing and preserving their cultures by sharing it with the next generation for tens of thousands of years. In 2020, Queensland will focus on the world’s oldest living cultures through the Year of Indigenous Tourism.

Incredible Indigenous experiences are available across the state (be sure to check out this article). However, as destinations go, a visit to Cairns and the Torres Strait will combine both cultures, an array of new experiences, and a destination that is only beginning to appear on travellers’ radars.

Beginning in Cairns, visit the Great Barrier Reef with the recently launched Dreamtime Dive and Snorkel and explore the bommies of Moore, Milln or Flynn Reefs with Indigenous sea rangers.

Back on the mainland, explore the oldest living rainforest and enjoy Australia’s only rainforest dining experience or join Juan Walker on a guided tour of Cooya beach. You’ll forage the beach and mangroves for crabs, fish and other edibles while learning about his family’s connection to the land.

After exploring Cairns, the islands of the Torres Strait are next. Departing Cairns, you can fly to Horn Island before catching a ferry with McDonald Charter Boats to Thursday Island.

Crystal clear waters, pearl farms, island-hopping and lush, tropical greenery await – check out this post for the seven must-do experiences, or time your visit around one of these events.

Southern Great Barrier Reef

Wilson-Island-Southern-Great-Barrier-Reef_The best places to visit in Queensland in 2020

Wilson island. Photo by @_markfitz

The Southern Great Barrier Reef is home to abundant wildlife and reef only metres from your bed, but in 2020, the offering will become even more immersive with the opening of the Lady Musgrave Experience pontoon.

Based in Lady Musgrave Island‘s lagoon off the coast of Bundaberg and 1770, the 3-story, 36m pontoon will include diving and snorkelling experiences, reef data collection programs and underwater accommodation so you can stay up all night watching the reef spur into action.

The Mon Repos Turtle Centre re-opened in November 2019 after undergoing a $22 million refurbishment. Supporting the largest population of nesting marine loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific, the centre will provide visitors with an insight into both the life of these amazing creatures and the critical work scientists are leading to ensure their protection.

Looking for an island escape instead? Wilson Island, 80 kms off the coast of Gladstone recently launched eco-tent accommodation for a maximum of 18 on-island guests. A Green and Loggerhead turtle nesting site from November to March (closed 26 January-28 February due to proliferation of nesting sea birds), Wilson is the definition of reef within reach.

Outback Queensland

Cobbold Gorge_Outback Queensland

Standup paddle boarding on Cobbold Gorge

Undoubtedly the biggest trend of 2020 is going to be slow travel, exploring destinations in alternative ways that help reduce your carbon emissions. Leading the genre is train travel, which also happens to be one of the best ways to explore Outback Queensland.

Queensland Rail has multiple routes from Brisbane including the Spirit of the Outback to Longreach, the Westlander to Charleville and the Spirit of Queensland/The Inlander combination taking you to Townsville then Mount Isa.

Following the Year of Outback Tourism in 2019, there has been a boom of new events and products in the region, including the Outback Queensland Masters golf tournament and the opening of the Cobbold Gorge glass bridge.

2020 will also see Qantas celebrate 100 years and the Qantas Founders Museum will be worth visiting year round, especially after the completion of a new sound and light experience, Luminescent Longreach, in May.

To help make the most of your trip, be sure to brush up on some light reading with:

Whitsundays

Reefsuites | great barrier reef without getting wet

Reefsuites. Photo by @cruisewhitsundays

The Whitsundays isn’t just having a moment, it’s undergoing a complete rebirth. After a transformative 2019 it’s impossible to leave off our 2020 list.

New island resorts, including the highly anticipated re-opening of Daydream Island Resort and the new Intercontinental Hayman Island are just the beginning.

Add to this a $40 million airport upgrade, $6.3 million foreshore revitalisation, the opening of Cruise Whitsundays Reefsuites (the first underwater accommodation on the Great Barrier Reef); Elysian Retreat – the first 100% solar powered resort on the GBR; four pieces of underwater art installed throughout the islands; and the heli-turn-private-boat experience Journey to the Heart launching at the famous Heart Reef.

Yep, 2019 was pretty big.

And 2020 is now the time to feast on the spoils. Check out this post to find your Whitsundays indulgence and check out these nine must-do experiences.

The hot list

Besides the above, there is plenty happening across Queensland in 2020 including:

  • Scenic Rim Eat Local Week will celebrate its 10th Anniversary in 2020, from 27 June – 5 July 2020. The event is a celebration of the region’s farmers and producers set against the stunning backdrop of the Scenic Rim. Meet the people behind the produce in a celebration that features festivals, farm-gate events, and culinary experiences for all foodies.
  • Hervey Bay was declared the world’s first Whale Heritage Site by the World Cetacean Alliance in 2019. Check out this post for everything you need to know to see and swim with these gentle giants.
  • The Museum of Underwater Art will open in Townsville in 2020. The globally significant asset is the only of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and has been Designed by world renowned underwater sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor (creator of MUSA in Mexico and Museo Atlantico in Spain). Add to this a Cowboys home game at the new Townsville Stadium, and you have an excellent long weekend planned.