Queensland is synonymous with salty beaches and tropical rainforests. Any traveller that has not heard of places like Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, Brisbane, Fraser Island or Whitsundays? The coast is a sun-kissed stretch where eternity-blue meets glistening gold at the edge of the beach. But the greenery and the lushness that characterizes Queensland are mainly coastal. The hinterland is something completely different. The landscape shifts constantly, and the colour goes from green to red, yellow and brown. A significant part is desert. You don’t have to travel very far from the coast to notice the difference. The greenery is an idyll that soon fades away. The hard life that awaits in the wilderness deters many, but do not let the high temperatures stop you. It’s part of the experience. A trip here is quite possible, but you must come prepared. Buy a road map, an extra can of petrol and a whole bunch of drinking water. Another adventure awaits.
Townsville is a tropical city on North Queensland’s coast located along the middle of the Great Barrier Reef, 347 km south of Cairns and 276 km north of Airlie Beach. The city is with its 189,000 inhabitants the largest community north of the Sunshine Coast and is therefore called Northern Queensland’s capital. Townsville has picturesque surroundings. Castle Hill watches over the city, a cliff of pink granite. Too low to be called a mountain but high enough to raise the pulse of those who takes on the challenge of hiking it all the way up to the top. But you can take the car up too, where you are rewarded with panoramic views of the city and Ceveland Bay. From a dam located further in, the waters of Ross River flows towards the coast to finally meet the sea. Glimpse the outlines of Magnetic Island on the horizon, a beautiful island discovered by Europeans when British Captain James Cook sailed to Australia in 1770. The island’s name is said to have originated from when the needle on the compass suddenly moved towards the island just as if it had sensed a magnetic field. One is constantly reminded that this is the tropics.
Along the northern part of the east coast and less than an hour from Cairns lies Port Douglas, a former fishing community. This is where the Australians come for a holiday during the winter months when the temperature drops, reminding them of the non-existent house-insulation and making them flee to warmer areas. Port Douglas is a neighbour of Queensland’s most lush forest, Daintree Rainforest, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest which is more than 135 million years old. With around 3,000 residents, Port Douglas is not very large, but more and more resorts are popping up as tourism continues to grow. To take care of all visitors, many young backpackers are hired at peak season, and the town’s population quadruples.
Sugar cane plantations are located next to the scenic road leading to the town, a town resting on a narrow headland. Four Mile Beach is lined with palm trees and runs east down the coast, parallel to Port Douglas Road. From Port Douglas you can embark on an adventure to The Great Barrier Reef. Visit the dreamlike islands of Low Isles a few kilometres north of Port Douglas and snorkel until your eyes sting from saltwater. Hundreds of fish species and lots of colourful corals thrive in the shallow waters around the islands. Finish the day with a dinner at one of the finer restaurants who prepare fresh seafood and other local delicacies.
The sun-drenched state of Queensland has been blessed with one of Earth’s most majestic wonders, the Great Barrier Reef which is the world’s largest coral reef. There are few who have not heard of the gigantic World Heritage-listed reef stretching over 2,300 km along Australia’s east coast. It is a massive underwater world that offers fantastic scuba diving opportunities. On the coast, small cities make their living on the thriving marine tourism. Especially popular are Airlie Beach and Cairns, both being good bases for water activities. With its crystal-clear warm water and its proximity to the reef, it is easy to understand why long-distance tourists are more than happy to plan a trip here.
There are plenty of options for discovering the reef. Snorkelling and scuba diving are ideal to combine with a longer boat trip that will take you out to the best places. The Great Barrier Reef is an ancient colourful creation that has slowly emerged over many thousands of years. Coral has formed a natural wall in the sea, consisting of living organisms such as sea anemones, fungi and starfish. The Barrier Reef is incredibly rich and classed as one of the world’s best places to dive. Over 1,600 fish species live in these waters. There are plenty of tour operators that happily will show you around. But the increasing tourism is hard on the reef and has caused great damage to the coral. It has been worn out and died in many places, so it has been decided to protect certain areas from human activities.
The north-eastern part of Queensland has two great resources. Forest and sea. Both in abundance. Both being UNESCO World Heritage-listed. The Great Barrier Reef runs along the country’s northern east coast and is the world’s largest living organism. It stretches 2,300 km in length and is a gigantic wall of living organisms. The reef is an underwater home, a complex world and a delicate system. There are colourful corals, huge shoals and large turtles. All possible colours and colour-combinations can be seen. By snorkelling or scuba diving, you can discover this natural and grandiose masterpiece.
Not far from the reef is the rainforest Daintree, a World Heritage-listed ancient jungle with roots from the dinosaur era. The forest lives and breathes. It is steaming and creaking. From the meter-thick tree trunks, vines hang down, growing in spirals, covered in a carpet-thick moss. Large parts are pristine rainforest. A dense maze of chlorophyll filled plants that stretch upward in search of elusive sunshine. The rainforest offers many refreshing waterholes that provide coolness during the hot days. Daintree is an enchanted place between Port Douglas and Cooktown.
Part of the southern coast of Queensland is called Capricorn Coast. What is referred to is the area around the Tropic of Capricorn, which runs in line with Rockhampton. The city is an invisible boundary for the start of the tropics. Northward, the temperature climbs upwards and the high humidity makes the air feel thick and moist. This region is a mix of sun-kissed surfers walking along sandy beaches while the hinterland is dominated by farming cowboys. However, the coast sits on the area’s greatest treasure. Just outside is the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef. And the shoreline is tens-of-kilometres long, far-stretched and golden. Queensland markets itself as the Sunshine State, which is no exaggeration. The state has almost 300 days of sunshine a year and a pleasant temperature regardless of season. You are guaranteed a high dose of vitamin D during a visit.
Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island is located about 250 km north of Brisbane off the east coast of Australia in the state of Queensland. The island stretches 124 km in length and 21 km in width and is since 1992 a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. Tourists flock here every year to discover the island’s mix of hundreds of kilometres of sandy beaches, deep rainforests and fascinating wildlife. But above all, you come here to feel the adrenaline pumping when you push the gas pedal over the hard-packed sand banks in a four-wheel drive jeep. There are neither paved roads nor stop-lights here. Instead, the beach is the road. The landscape shifts between desert-like sandy plains and compact vegetation. Here and there lie crystal clear freshwater lakes, scattered like small jewels. Ancient tree trunks stretch towards the skies and high sand dunes stick up in the middle of dense rainforests that grow right out of the sand. If it is something the island lacks, it is not nature experiences. After a visit to Fraser Island, it is not difficult to understand why the indigenous Butchulla called the island K’gari, paradise.
Whitsunday Islands is an Australian destination as obvious as Sydney. The fabulous islands off the north coast of Queensland sits high on many to-do lists. Whitsunday Islands is an archipelago consisting of 74 islands, most of them uninhabited. The most famous spot in the tropical archipelago is Whitehaven Beach. Its mixture of soft sand and salt sea in photogenic pastel-colours has put the beach on the map. Whitehaven Beach is a delight to the eye, lined with low-growing shrubs under a dazzling white sun. The area shows its best side from above or from a sailing ship. If you are dreaming of cruising your way on a sailboat over an azure sea, Whitsundays is the place for you. Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, it is a perfect stop for snorkelling and diving. The area has long been immensely popular, resulting in the negative side effect that it sometimes can feel a bit too crowded. More than 50 tour operators are ready to transport tourists through the archipelago, hardly in need of any marketing. The beautiful surroundings speak for themselves.
A sun-drenched part of Queensland runs along the Coral Sea from Airlie Beach in the north to Hervey Bay in the south. Far-stretched fine-grained shores line the coast where foaming waters crash onto the beaches. Further out, islands can be seen, making the dream of a tropical paradise come true. Not least Whitehaven’s promising mix of pastel colours of turquoise and creamy white. An irresistible palate of sea and sand among toppy mountains covered in a frizzy greenery. Sailing ships are loaded with expectant tourists who can’t wait to wade into the water and to feel the fine-grained sand between their toes.
But there is more to discover than this Instagram-celebrity in the east. Southern Reef Islands is the name of a group of islands a little further south. Too many to count, and of varying size. Some inhabited, others no more than a few trees surrounded by razor sharp reefs. They offer hidden atolls that form impenetrable walls perfect for snorkelling and diving. The larger islands called Lady Musgrave, Lady Elliot and Heron are perfect havens for those who dare to depart from the well-walked tourist paths. Over here, you can escape the crowds that just like you are looking for crystal clear water. This is a taste of the Great Barrier Reef, where you will meet turtles, sea anemones, sea cucumbers and fish in all its forms.
Shiny skyscrapers lined up along the coastline. Young people wobbling past on heels that are a little too high. Powerful waves crashing on the beach and a frying hot sunshine closer to 300 days a year. The pace is a fast along Queensland’s Gold Coast, an hour’s drive south of Brisbane. The big city Surfers Paradise is like a mix of Miami Beach and Orlando. It has become a place where Australians love to show off a perfect sun-drenched life wearing flip flops and fashion designer clothes, chasing luck and an Australian version of the American dream. But behind the sunshades, baggy eyes are hiding. Hung over teenagers and red sunburnt visitors are more the rule than the exception.