The best places to visit in Queensland in 2020
The new year is rushing into our psyche, and bringing with it thoughts like ‘I need to exercise more next year’, ‘what book should I read first?’ and ‘what are the best places to visit in 2020?’
The next decade 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.
Torres Strait and Cairns
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 and 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) but as destinations go, a combination of Cairns and the Torres Strait will combine both cultures, and array of new product 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 off Cooya beach, foraging the beach and mangroves for crabs, fish and other edibles while learning about his families 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.
Southern Great Barrier Reef
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.
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:
- 12 unmissable Outback Queensland events
- Seven reasons to have a swing at the Outback Queensland Masters
- Our complete guide to a holiday in the Outback
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.
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.
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 early in the year. 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 a very good long-weekend planned