Things to see & do in Queensland

Sprawling across the northeast corner of the country, Queensland comes in two parts. Coastal Queensland is lush, wet and tropical, home to almost 7,000km of coastline, the dazzling Great Barrier Reef, and thick tracts of rainforest teeming with flora and fauna. Outback Queensland, meanwhile, is dry, dusty and searingly hot, a land of ranchers, sheep stations and country towns, where Banjo Paterson reportedly penned Waltzing Matilda.
Most of our tours focus on the coastal areas, with snorkelling, sailing and beach time all high on the agenda, and combinations with New South Wales a possibility, too.

What to do in Queensland

Explore the Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is so massive that it can be seen from space. It’s more than 2,000km long and is bigger than the UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands put together. It’s also part of the 344,400km2 Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which is made up of approximately 3,000 coral reefs, 600 continental islands, 300 coral cays and 150 inshore mangrove islands.

The reef is well worth a visit all year round, though the January to March rainy season can get very hot, with lower visibility and a few more jellyfish in the water. After the rains have passed, during April and May, conditions are more comfortable and underwater visibility is at its best. June to November bring the calmest seas and the arrival of migrating humpback whales.

Guided snorkelling tours and glass-bottom boats allow you to explore the most impressive shallows, while setting foot on rainforest-covered islands offers further opportunities to revel in the region's wildlife. Sadly, the Great Barrier Reef is not immune to climate change and coral bleaching has become a real and present concern.

Sail the Whitsundays

A stunning collection of 74 islands offshore from the laid back town of Airlie Beach, the Whitsundays are on the same latitude as Tahiti, and their clear, blue waters, beaches and colourful coral reefs are equally lovely – though they’re less about palm trees and more about pine, eucalyptus and dense undergrowth. Most of the islands consist of national park land, while the surrounding waters belong to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Pretty much every Whitsunday Island is encircled by a reef and the water is warm enough for swimming all year round.

Head for Fraser Island

Backpackers, ecotourists and fishermen flock to Fraser Island. The largest sand island in the world, it’s completely free of paved roads, and its 162,000-hectare wilderness includes rainforest, woodland, sand dunes, startling blue lakes and gorgeous beaches backed by dramatic sand cliffs. If you’re here from August to October, you can catch humpback whales frolicking in the waters between Fraser Island and Hervey Bay, and the island is home to Australia’s most significant purebred dingo colony. About 200 live on the island and they’re a protected species. They can be also aggressive, so tourists are warned to take precautions.
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Hike the trails in the Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree Rainforest is an ancient ecosystem that has stayed pretty much unchanged for over 100 million years. World Heritage listed as well as being a national park, it holds a river, a reef, and all kinds of flora and fauna, including giant strangler figs, fan palms and dinosaur trees. Pythons, lizards, frogs and all manner of brightly coloured birds and butterflies also make the forest their home. The Daintree’s traditional custodians are the Kuku Yalanji people, making it a great place to learn more about Aboriginal culture.

Board a small ship cruise

In a state that’s so well known for its beaches, offshore islands and underwater world, it’s no surprise that some of our Queensland holidays involve getting on a boat for a small ship cruise. Unlike the mega ships that pull into ports in Cairns and Brisbane, boats are small, understated and built for maximum enjoyment with minimum environmental impact, with whisper-quiet engines that have been developed to minimise emissions and improve fuel efficiency.

Our cruises last between four and seven nights. Days will be spent snorkelling, swimming, scuba diving and visiting forested islands, and you’ll be served, fresh, locally sourced produce, including plenty of seafood. You’ll also have a fully qualified marine biologist on board, who’ll be a font of information on the reef.

Bear in mind that small ship cruises are usually sociable affairs. You’ll spend a lot of time with your fellow passengers, star gazing, swimming and dining on deck or on the beach together – though there’s always an option to retire to your en suite cabin to get a break from all the camaraderie.

Read more about Queensland in our Queensland travel guide
Written by Nana Luckham
Photo credits: [Page banner: Oz MLCN] [Top box (Daintree NP): dronepicr] [Whitsundays: Lily Wenzel] [Daintree Rainforest (Double-eyed fig parrot): James Niland]