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Queensland Australia Attractions

Attractions / July 12, 2020

Queensland, the Sunshine State, is Australia's most popular holiday destination. Golden beaches, reef-fringed tropical islands, fantastic surf breaks, World Heritage-listed rainforests, rivers, reefs, and waterfalls are just some of Queensland's natural jewels. And all of these sun-soaked settings offer a multitude of outdoor adventures. The dazzling Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef offer superb diving and snorkeling. Fraser Island is a favorite for four-wheel-driving with its dunes and dingoes, and the ravishing wilderness areas along the Queensland coast are excellent for hiking, biking, boating, and fishing.

For a change of pace, Queensland's capital, Brisbane, delivers big-city attractions with a small-town feel. South of Brisbane, lies the glitzy Gold Coast with its hedonism and high rises. Traveling north along the coast from the capital, visitors will discover a string of holiday resorts, from sleepy beach towns and rainforest villages, to picturesque Port Douglas, and the tropical tourist-magnet of Cairns.

1 Great Barrier Reef

The world's largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef is often ranked as one of the natural wonders of the world. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park extends off the northern coast of Queensland from Mackay to the northeastern corner of Australia. It protects more than 3, 000 coral reefs; 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays, and many mangrove islands. The reef's astounding diversity of marine life lures divers and snorkelers from around the world. More than 1, 600 species of tropical fish inhabit the reef as well as sharks, dugongs, dolphins, turtles, giant clams, and kaleidoscopic soft and hard corals. Underwater viewing stations and glass bottom boats also offer a window into this underwater wonderland.

On the mainland, Cairns, Port Douglas, and Airlie Beach are the main launching points for tours. Alternatively visitors can stay at one of the many islands within the marine park. Remote Lizard Island, the park's most northerly island, is famous for its exclusive resort.

2 Daintree National Park

A Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, Daintree National Park is the planet's oldest surviving rainforest and harbors one of the world's highest concentrations of threatened and endangered species. Located in Far North Queensland, the two main sections of the park include the crystal clear waters and lush forests of Mossman Gorge, and Cape Tribulation where tropical rainforest fringes the reef-splotched shores of the Coral Sea. The area belongs to the Eastern Kuku Yalanji Aboriginal people, and many of the park's sites hold great spiritual significance as well as providing habitat for an astounding diversity of flora and fauna. More than 18, 000 plant species live within the park as well as a fascinating array of wildlife including the flightless southern cassowaries, crocodiles, Boyd's rainforest dragons, brightly hued azure kingfishers, the spotted cuscuses, and musky rat-kangaroos. Just south of the park, the resort town of Port Douglas is a popular base for arranging rainforest wilderness safaris.

3 Fraser Island

Between Bundaberg and Brisbane, World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Four-wheel drive adventures here explore wide windswept beaches, crystal clear lakes and streams, dingoes, dense forests, sacred aboriginal sites, and multi-hued rock formations. Seventy Five Mile Beach is the island's main thoroughfare and provides access to attractions such as the rusted hull of the Maheno shipwreck, the bubbling rock pools of Champagne Pools, Eli Creek, and the colored sandstone cliffs of The Cathedrals.

Top tourist attractions inland include the aquamarine Lake McKenzie, the rainforest of Central Station, and Lake Wabby, backed by a towering sand dune. Tiger sharks, dolphins, and whales swim in the wind-whipped waters, and the island's fauna includes wild horses, Australia's purest strain of dingo, and more than 300 species of birds. Access to Fraser Island is by ferry from Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay. Since the island lacks sealed roads, four-wheel drive vehicles are essential.

4 Gold Coast

The Gold Coast is one of Australia's best-known holiday regions. During the last few decades, a building boom transformed the coast into a kind of tropical Las Vegas with high rises and hotels stretching from Southport, in the north, to Coolangatta, in the south. Packed with attractions and high-rise hotels, Surfers Paradise - 'Surfers' for short - is a tourist magnet legendary for its alliterative assets: sun, surf, and sand.

To the south of Surfers, visitors flock to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Movie World, where old film sets have been recreated by Warner Bros. To the north, in Southport, lies Seaworld. Excellent networks of roads lead to scenic lookouts in the hinterland where many wilderness areas are within easy reach, including popular Lamington National Park. Visitors can fly into the Gold Coast at the Coolangatta airport near the Queensland-New South Wales border.

5 Whitsunday Islands

Off the coast of central Queensland, the Whitsunday group encompasses 74 stunning islands strung along the Great Barrier Reef. The Whitsundays are continental islands, the summits of a coastal range emerging from the sea. All but five of them have been declared national parks and about eight are home to popular resorts. The most famous resorts include luxurious Hayman Island, tiny Daydream Resort & Spa, Long Island Resort with 13 km of walking tracks, and well-developed Hamilton, the largest of the island resorts. On uninhabited Whitsunday Island, Whitehaven Beach, with its powdery white sands and turquoise water, is considered one of the most ravishing beaches in the world. Airlie Beach and Shute Harbor are the main launching points for island excursions.

6 Editor's Pick Port Douglas

Dotted with palms and mango trees, the once-sleepy village of Port Douglas is now a charming holiday resort and a popular base for wilderness safaris and reef trips. This picturesque town lies about an hour's drive north of Cairns, along a scenic coastal road that winds between beaches and rainforest-cloaked hills. It's the closest mainland town to the Great Barrier Reef. Skirting the beautiful blond sweep of Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas has a relaxed tropical vibe with cute cafes, shops, and art galleries. From the Flagstaff Hill Lookout enjoy breathtaking views of the palm-fringed beach merging with the turquoise Coral Sea.

Top tourist attractions include the Wildlife Habitat and the Bally Hooley Sugar Train, an old steam engine chugging through the cane fields to the sugar mill at Mossman. Other adventures on offer include safaris in all-terrain vehicles to Daintree National Park, fishing trips, northbound expeditions through the rugged landscape of the Cape York Peninsula, and boat trips to Cooktown and the Great Barrier Reef.