Queensland in the Northeast of Australia is the country’s second-largest state. It is flanked by 7000 km of coastline and is most famous for The Great Barrier Reef – the world’s largest coral reef system. Peppered with tropical islands, pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and vibrant cities, Queensland has become a tourist magnet. Travelers can enjoy an array of exciting activities in Queensland from whale watching, wine tours to snorkeling, surfing, and much more.
If you are planning a holiday to Australia, make sure Queensland features high on your agenda! Here are the top 10 things to do in Queensland that guarantee a fantastic holiday experience.
1. Visit the heart of the Great Barrier Reef in the Whitsundays
Australia brims with pretty islands that dot its coastline, but most popular are the Whitsundays, a group of 74 islands that lie in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the islands are forested national parks that boast sandy white beaches and colorful reefs. There are fully developed tourist islands like Hamilton Island that cater to budgets from 4.5 stars to 7 stars. The newly reopened Daydream Island is also a great spot to base yourself in the Whitsundays. However, if you want to get a taste of the mainland as well, head to Airlie Beach. And if you are looking for luxury in isolation, Hayman Island is for you.
Sail among the Whitsunday islands and discover a new island everyday. Enjoy its secluded beaches or explore the many dive and snorkeling spots. You can even take a scenic flight across the islands to take in the mesmerizing aerial views. Enjoy a picnic on Whitehaven Beach, one of the world’s cleanest beaches. And a must-do is a scenic flight over the heart reef.
Travel tip: You can hire your own private boat through the islands, or else take a boat with a full crew and watch the islands float by as you sip on champagne.
2. Take a Self-Drive Trip along the Queensland coast
Queensland with its diverse and spectacular natural beauty, smooth roads, and great connectivity is the perfect place for a road trip. You can hire a car, a 4 X 4, or a camper-van and set off on a journey down its winding roads. Throw in a 4WD and make the holiday more adventurous. Choose from mesmerizing coastal drives to Heritage-listed rainforests, from red dirt tracks to exploring the adventurous Outback, the choices are many.
One of the popular self-drive road trips is from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. A glorious stretch of 120 km of coastline from Bribie Island in the south to Rainbow Beach, near Fraser Island, in the north. The golden sands are set against a backdrop of rolling green hills, peppered with quaint villages and mystical volcanic mountains. You can go up to Noosa to indulge in some hedonistic pleasures.
Another scenic trip is from Cairns to Port Douglas. The drive takes just over an hour past sandy stretches, lovely views of the Great Barrier Reef, and lush green rainforests. You can go right up to Daintree National Park in Cape Tribulation.
Travel tip: If you want to do a longer trip, you can take the drive from Brisbane right to Cairns.
3. Get a real taste of Australia in Brisbane – the capital of Queensland
The lively capital of Queensland is a bustling river city, cohabited by high rises and botanical gardens in the CBD. A contemporary hub of culture, art, fine dining, and entertainment, Brisbane is also the gateway to the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
Howard Smith Wharves located along the Brisbane River is the city’s newest entertainment and lifestyle destination. The site’s unique position beneath the Story Bridge gives the scenic city and river views that add yet another cultural dimension to this vibrant city. Loved by its residents and visitors alike; it is a place to connect and celebrate the best of what Brisbane has to offer.
The most instagrammable food market in Australia would hand down be Eat Street Northshore. A waterfront setting of about 180 shipping containers of eats and entertainment in Hamilton, and a 20-minute cab ride from the CBS. A budget dining hub for the whole family it offers lovely sunset views over the river and city skyline. It has two entertainment stages, an outdoor cinema, and the widest variety of international cuisines imaginable. Brisbane is indeed the perfect place to sample the awesome food and wine of Queensland.
If you are a culture enthusiast head across to South Bank, its hub of theatres, world-class museums, and local events. Don’t miss the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary when in Brisbane. Just a 20-minute drive brings you to the world’s largest koala sanctuary, which houses more than 130 of these cuddly creatures.
Travel tip: Other places to visit in Brisbane include the Story Bridge, Brisbane Botanical Gardens, Wheel of Brisbane, Queensland Museum and Science Centre, and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.
4. Experience Snorkeling and Diving
Queensland with its clear warm waters and rich marine life is a diver’s paradise, that offers diving experiences year-round. You can enjoy snorkeling and diving at the Great Barrier Reef or even shipwreck diving in Southern Queensland. Opt for open water dives, night diving, specialist dive, and liveaboard tours, or even get PADI certified.
You can choose to take a Reef Cruise – a luxury sailing and snorkeling cruise. Else enjoy a unique snorkeling experience in the rainforests where platypus lives. Anywhere you choose, a colorful kaleidoscope of shoals and sea creatures await you.
The Great Eight of the Australian undersea can be sighted in the Great Barrier Reef that includes manta rays, sharks, turtles, giant clams, whales (humpbacks and minkes), clownfish, potato cod, and Maori wrasse.
Travel tip: For the best dive site, head to Lady Elliot Island (north of Fraser Island) for its unspoiled coral reef and an astounding array of marine life. This site is considered among the top ones in Australia for diving and snorkeling.
5. Bask at Queensland’s top beaches
Queensland is known for its miles and miles of sandy white stretches that will give you many pinch-yourself moments. Soak in the panoramic sea views, indulge yourself at the luxury beach-side resorts or embark on exciting water adventures. Drive down the Great Beach Drive from Sunshine Coast to Rainbow Beach in a 4 X 4, go surfing on the Gold Coast, else sit back and watch the sunset amid the swaying palms of Palm Cove or Port Douglas.
Queensland boasts some of the best beaches in the world! Be it the famous Whitehaven Beach in Whitsundays or the renowned Nudey Beach on Fitzroy Island. The stunning Whitehaven beach lapped by turquoise waters stretches 7 km. Dig your feet into its soft powdery sands, and to take the best photographs head to the adjacent Hill Inlet Lookout. The Nudey Beach is just a 45-minute ferry ride from Cairns on Fitzroy Island and a trek through lush rainforests brings you to this lovely expanse.
Some of the other popular beaches where you can also try your hand at surfing are the Surfers Paradise Beach in Gold Coast or the Noosa Main Beach on Sunshine Coast.
Travel tip: If you are an experienced surfer then Snapper Rocks or the Burleigh Heads Beach is for you.
6. Go whale watching on the Gold Coast
If you are fascinated by these quaint aquatic creatures – then Queensland is just the right place to go on a whale watching tour. The period between June to November is when you can sight different types of whales along the coastline. The Humpback whale that is the size of about 11 elephants, is the most surface active and an admirable sight to behold.
The warm coastal waters of Queensland are a migration site for Humpback whales from Antarctica. Almost 17000 of these whales migrate from June to November and are increasing each year. These whales can be sighted during this period along the Gold Coast. Whale-watching cruises are very popular here at this time. Many of them offer a complete luxury experience with a guaranteed whale watching experience.
Between July to October, the Humpback whales can also be sighted along the Sunshine Coast. You can spend a day snorkeling with these lovely creatures here. The Minke Whales can be spotted around the Great Barrier Reef for a brief period between June to July.
Travel tip: Hervey Bay, near southern Queensland, is called the whale watching capital of the world, as it is a focal point of the whale migration.
7. Have fun at the Theme Parks
Gold Coast is the theme park capital of Australia, making it a popular destination for families and young people. Queensland has world-class theme parks with crazy rides, fun slides, and lively entertainment options for everyone. From Dreamworld in Coomera to Wet n’ Wild in the Gold Coast, from Warner Bros Movie World to Sea World & White Water World, you will be spoilt for choices.
Get an adrenalin rush on a roller coaster ride, or discover the world behind your favorite movies, or watch amazing shows that leave you fascinated. Get a chance to get up close with animals of the wild, from a swim with the dolphins to petting a tiger cub to cuddling cute koalas, or encountering polar bears.
Travel tip: If you are looking for the scariest rides, a must-do is the Hypercoaster in Movie World that is Australia’s fastest, highest rollercoaster.
8. Tour a National Park
Queensland is blessed with over 1000 parks and forests, and taking a getaway into the lap of nature is easy. Head out to its beautiful forest trails and Great Walks. Amble into amazing underground lava tubes, or explore its glittering waterfalls. You will encounter many of its indigenous wildlife too.
Two of its rainforests are UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Daintree Rainforest is one, and it is also the world’s oldest rainforest, said to be 135 million years old! The other is the Gondwana Rainforest, the world’s most extensive subtropical forest. It has spectacular hiking trails replete with waterfalls.
Take the Gold Coast Hinterland Walk that stretches across 54 km. Pass by an ancient volcano, rainforest hills, and the Lamington and Springbrook national parks. Else go for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland or the trekkers’ favorite – the spectacular Cooloola Wilderness Trail.
Travel tip: Pick up a car and drive from Gold Coast to Mt Tamborine and onto Springbrook National Park. If in Cairns drive from Cairns to Daintree and Cape Tribulation.
9. Soak in the Aboriginal Art & Culture
Queensland is where Australia’s Indigenous culture abounds. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait culture of the country dates back over 40,000 years and is followed even today. The dance, art and traditional feasts of these people are still alive here. You can take up an Aboriginal tour to get a first-hand experience of the people and their culture. Else you can see a spattering of their works at different places.
Soak in a unique cultural experience at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park in Cairns, that narrates the stories of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait people through music and dance. Enjoy the art, performances, food, and dance of the Aboriginals.
Take on an interactive session at Dreamworld Corroboree that showcases Australia’s Indigenous people, and their close connection with the land and animals.
At the Mossman Gorge, Dreamtime Center join a guided walk by the Aboriginals and hear their ancient stories and legends. View their significant sites and trees, and gain many insights into their daily living. Moreover, enjoy the beauty of the stunning rainforest.
Travel tip: You can join interactive workshops and get a hands-on learning experience to paint, weave, and dance like these tribesmen in Brisbane and Cairns.
10. Must visit Cairns
Cairns is famed as Australia’s natural capital, thanks to its easy access to the country’s two world heritage sites and major attractions – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. That also makes it the adventure capital of the country, and it brims with nature and adventure experiences.
You can take a trip to the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway that offers a scenic 7.5 km ride above the Barron Gorge National Park, a World Heritage Area. Else go on a Daintree River Cruise to spot crocs or head to the Smithfield Mountain Bike Park. Have some family fun at the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon that is lined with cafes and bars, and has a swimming lagoon. Else head to the Cairns Zoom and Wildlife Dome. It offers zip lining and rope climbing, with an interactive koala and crocodile shows. There are plenty of things to do in Cairns.
Travel tip: Northwest of Cairns, lies the Daintree National Park marked by verdant mountainous rainforests, beautiful gorges, and delightful beaches. Inland you can visit the famous waterfalls like Josephine waterfalls & Babinda boulders and also spend some time at Paronella Park.
How to Reach Queensland
You can take a direct flight to Brisbane, Cairns, or the Gold Coast to reach Queensland. These cities have international airports and are well-connected to most of the major cities around the world, as well as within Australia. There are 14 other regional airports for internal flights if you are traveling from another part of Australia. Self-drive car rentals are another popular way of traveling from within the country. You also have the options of bus, train and ferries/cruise to reach Queensland.
So take your pick from our list of top things to do in Queensland and have a fantastic holiday in Australia!