The Sunshine State has a population of 4.5 million, with 2 million living in Brisbane, the state capital.

Brisbane

Queensland’s capital has all the trappings of a big city, plus the laidback style which epitomises this state.

It’s the third-biggest city in the country, but a million miles away from Sydney and Melbourne in lifestyle.

Built along the Brisbane River, it’s a clean, attractive city, and is worth staying to explore for a few days.

It’s also a great base for touring south-east Queensland.

The holiday centres of the Gold Coast (80km south) and the Sunshine Coast (100km north) are accessible by bus or train.

Arriving in Brisbane

Brisbane’s international airport is only about 30 minutes from the city centre, so a cab isn’t too pricey. You can also catch the Airtrain, which runs every 30 minutes, or a shuttle bus.

Getting around Brisbane

The Brisbane Transit Centre on Roma Street has a helpful Backpackers Information Desk, which will provide you with information on transport and accommodation, If you’ve booked a hostel, call ahead as they may pick you up for free.

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Things to do

More detailed information can be obtained from the Brisbane Visitors Information booth in the Queen Street Mall.

Abseiling: Take a leap of faith off Kangaroo Point on the south bank of the Brisbane River.

As you make your way down the cliffs, make sure you pause to take in the great view of the city behind you.

Castlemaine XXXX Brewery Tour: You’ve drunk the beer, now see with your own eyes just how XXXX is made. If you’re nice they might even let you try some of the amber nectar at the end. Woo hoo!

Queensland Cultural Centre: It has been suggested that Queensland is a little short on culture, but an
afternoon in here will set you straight.

Fortitude Valley markets: Open every Satuday and Sunday in Brunswick Street Mall is the Valley Markets, hosting talented young clothing and jewellery designers as well as racks full of stylish second-handwares.

Live music will help you fossick through the second-hand book and CD stalls.

South Bank: On the river, South Bank hosts a few pubs, restaurants and cinemas just a footbridge away from the city. Jump in the man-made lagoon nearby to cool down.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: The oldest and one of the best wildlife sanctuaries in Australia is just 11km south-west of the city and has more than 100 koalas and other native animals. Take a bus or river cruise to get over there.

Mt Coot-tha Park: Great for a stroll in the botanic gardens, Mt Coot-tha also has a lookout with stunning views to Moreton and Stradbroke Islands and mountain ranges to the north and south.

Out on the town

The free inner-city weekly newspaper, Time Off, publishes a “What’s On” guide, as does Saturday’s Courier Mail. Rave Magazine has details on the alternative live music scene.

Brisbane isn’t as big a party place as the Gold Coast but there is plenty to do and plenty of places to drink, dance and eat out.

Fortitude Valley is where you’ll fi nd most of the good pubs and bars to mix with the friendly locals.

The Valley is also the hub of Brisbane’s enviable live music scene.

 

Brisbane daytrips

East of the city, Moreton Island is a large sand island and great for the wilderness lover.

A bit like Fraser Island, except without the crowds, it’s a great place for 4WDing down the beach and giving sandboarding a go.

You can even feed the friendly dolphins. Once on the island and among the lakes, beaches and wildlife, it’s hard to imagine the city is only a couple of hours away.

South of Moreton, North Stradbroke Island is more populated and developed.

It has many great beaches and bays, providing opportunities for canoeing, diving, whale watching and some of the best surfing in the state.

There are camping sites as well as backpacker hostels on the island. Just below ‘Straddie’ is the virtually deserted South Stradbroke Island.

The southern end has a great surfbreak and is accessible from Southport, on the Gold Coast.

North of the city, along Steve Irwin Highway in Beerwah, is the Crocodile Hunter’s very own Australia Zoo. Make sure you catch a show at the Crocoseum.

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Gold Coast (Surfers Paradise) Queensland’s southern-most coastline, the Gold Coast, is like the Miami of Australia.

The area is a tourist haven but is very backpacker-friendly, and enjoys a subtropical climate that attracts travellers all year round.

The Gold Coast is a 42km uninterrupted string of beaches from Coolangatta in the south (which has an airport) to Southport in the north.

The surf at Kirra Beach and Burleigh Heads is legendary and many top surfing carnivals are held there.

It’s also a great place to learn to surf.

The increasingly-popular area also offers skydiving, scuba diving, fishing, whale watching and golf. Currumbin is another gem, with the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary being the main attraction.

The most famous and busiest of the Gold Coast beaches is Surfers Paradise, where there’s always something going on, from volleyball to craft markets.

Considered the centre of the Gold Coast, travellers fl ock to Surfers for the activities, shopping, restaurants and pumping nightlife.

The area has a reputation for being Australia’s party capital and as the sun rises the party-goers can usually be seen making their way home after a wild night out. The area hosts a variety of events.

One of the biggest is October’s V8 races, when racing cars screech through the streets, Monaco-style.

The Gold Coast offers a range of good hostels, cheap eats and an almost endless menu of activities.

Check out visitgoldcoast.com for Gold Coast Tourism.

Things to do

Bicycle tours: Enjoy a relaxed and different way of seeing the sights around town.

SuperBank: This sandbank stretching across three beaches, from Rainbow Bay to Kirra, is a surfers‘playground. Have a go or just watch the locals.
 

Dream World: Try out their thrill-seeking rides and get up close to Aussie animals.

Gold Coast Arts Centre: Culture vultures should head for the banks of the Nerang River for classical music, theatre and ballet.
 

Lamington National Park: Rainforest area with mountains, gorges, waterfalls, wildlife and 260km of walking trails. A great daytrip by car, or you can camp overnight in the park.
 

Learn to surf: Coolangatta has a great surf break, making it an inviting spot to learn to surf. At some point while you’re in Oz, you’ve just got to take to the waves.
 

Movie World: Hollywood comes to the Gold Coast at this Warner Brothers extravaganza. Start your screaming – there are loads of rollercoasters.
 

Sea World: The grandaddy of Australia’s theme parks and one of the best. It has great rides, dolphin and sea-lion shows and water-skiing displays – you can even snorkel with sharks at Shark Bay.
 

Wet ’n’ Wild Water Park: At Oxenford, this splashhappy spot has a permanent one-metre swell in the giant pool plus thrills and spills on the many other slides and pools. There’s even dive-in movies.

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Out on the town

There are more clubs, pubs, eateries, karaoke nights, theme nights, parties and fun activities along the Gold Coast than you can shake a stick at.

From treasure hunts during the day to glitzy, cheesy nightclubs going on till the early hours, there’s no end of choice when it comes to having a big night out.

The place to head in Surfers is Orchid Avenue, the main strip with all the bars, clubs and restaurants.

After a few beers you could be in any place in the world – the dancing backpackers and cheap beer all blur into one – but you’re guaranteed to have a great time.

Sunshine Coast

A beautiful area north of Brisbane with yet more wonderful beaches and spectacular hinterland is the Sunshine Coast. Although not as developed as the Gold Coast, Noosa, Maroochydore and Caloundra are still thriving holiday resorts.

The Sunshine Coast offers a unique mix of tourism and adventure pursuits with a lifestyle that is so laidback you may have to give the locals a nudge just to check they’re still breathing.

That’s when they’re not plunging into the waves: it’s also one of the last really good surfi ng locations on the Queensland coast as you head north.

Finding a hostel shouldn’t be a problem, but be careful during peak periods – it can get very busy.

Heading north from Brisbane, the Glasshouse Mountains’ dramatic peaks welcome you to the Sunshine Coast. Bizarre yet striking, these strangelyshaped rocks jut out from the lush forests.

At the southern end of the coast, Caloundra used to be the biggest tourist resort in the area, but these days it has been overtaken by Noosa and Maroochydore.

It’s still a good place to take cruises to Bribie Island and see the Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra Aerodrome – it’s also one of the top places to skydive and land on the beach.

Maroochydore is one of the main resort towns, also comprising Mooloolaba and Alexandra Headland.

These towns each have great beaches, with Mooloolaba and Maroochydore offering the best nightlife and restaurants.

A fashionable resort with some very expensive areas, Noosa attracts most visitors to the Sunshine Coast, yet still maintains plenty of charm.

The easy breaking waves in crystal clear waters are perfect for learning to surf. Set around a spectacular cape, the Noosa National Park has some great walks and scenery.

From beachfront Hastings Street, take the boardwalk and don’t forget to look up as there’s a good chance you’ll spot a koala. With a lot of cool (but pricey) eateries, Hastings Street is the place to go in the evening.

If the coast is too hot for you, head inland to pretty Mary Valley and rent a kayak and paddle along secluded rivers. Or rent a mountain bike and cycle through the cool forests.

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Fraser Coast

The Fraser Coast region encompasses the areas of Fraser Island, Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Tiaro and the Great Sandy Strait.

The mild year-round climate means visitors can enjoy a subtropical haven.

The diverse Fraser Coast region provides the opportunities for whale and bird watching, 4WD, fishing, retail therapy and a variety of adventure activities.

World Heritage-listed Fraser Island has some of the most spectacular scenery in the entire country.

Home to endless white sandy beaches, pristine rainforest, freshwater lakes, bubbling streams and mosaic-coloured sands, Fraser is the world’s largest sand island and is a must see for anyone travelling the east coast.

There aren’t too many places in the world like this, so move heaven and earth to get there. Luckily, you don’t have to.

From Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach you can book one, two or three-day tours with any number of operators, or you can do it yourself, and hire your own 4WD with a few mates.

We strongly recommend going for three days as any shorter trip will mean having to skip some of the sights, and this is one place you really don’t want to miss anything.

You will need a national parks permit and you need to adhere to the regulations on the island – take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Be especially careful when driving on the sand dunes – Fraser is the only place in the world to have a beach which is also a national highway and airstrip – and be wary of the dingoes (native dogs).

They are not afraid to steal food and have attacked people in the past.

Some of the highlights include beautiful Rainbow Gorge, the cobalt blue waters of Lake MacKenzie, Lake Wabby and the amazing walk along the sand dunes to get there, Cathedral sandcliffs and the Maheno shipwreck.

Indian Head at the north of the eastern beach has a lookout to spot sharks, rays, whales and other sea life. Champagne Pools are just a short walk away and great for a salty bathe.

As the closest access point to Fraser Island, Rainbow Beach is popular with independent travellers, but this laidback seaside town has plenty of attractions in its own right.

There are spectacular coloured sand cliffs – which gave the town its name – freshwater lakes, rainforests and a shipwreck to
explore. Local adventure activities include skydiving, parasailing, hang-gliding, canoeing and surfing.

Nearby Tin Can Bay is a great place to do a spot of dolphin-watching.

Also nearby is the Cooloola National Park, which stretches more than 50km down from Rainbow Beach. It is a wilderness area with mangrove swamps, lakes, and heaths with an abundance of native animals.

Hervey Bay is a hub for travellers, and the place most people stop before heading over to Fraser Island.

It also draws tourists for its own merits, being home to excellent sailing, diving, snorkelling, skydiving and jet skiing.

You can even book a scenic fl ight to take you over Fraser for a fantastic aerial view.

However, Hervey Bay is most famous for its whale watching. Between July and November, humpback whales are on their annual migration from Antarctica to the warmer seas of eastern Australia and back again.

Many operators run boats out to see the massive mammals in their own habitat. It’s truly a privilege, especially when the whales breach.

If you’re really lucky you might also catch sight of the dolphins, turtles and dugongs who hang out in the bay.

West from Hervey Bay are Queensland’s Central Highlands – rugged sandstone cliffs and fern-filled gorges set amid arid Outback cattle country.

A series of spectacular national parks offer great bushwalking and lots of wildlife.

Bundaberg

Famous for its rum (an Aussie institution), Bundaberg offers harvest work prospects, pleasant beaches and nearby national parks. See turtles nest from November to February and whales pass through between August and October.

Bundaberg is also a major departure point for both Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands, which are both near the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef and boast some of the best opportunities Down Under for snorkelling or diving with turtles and manta rays.

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Capricorn Region

The stretch of land that covers the central Queensland coast is known as the Capricorn region, for its position across the Tropic of Capricorn.

A popular destination for travellers for not only the fun but the funds, there’s loads of fruit-picking and harvest work here.

From Childers to Bundaberg, Rockhampton, Yeppoon, Great Keppel Island and further afi eld, there is plenty to do and see on the Tropic of Capricorn.

The first stop for many northbound travellers are twin settlements Agnes Water and Town of 1770.

The highest point you can surf on the coast, the area has stunning beaches, crazy motorbike tours, and is another launchpad for Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot islands.

About 40km from the coast, Rockhampton is the largest city on the Tropic of Capricorn.

The “Beef Capital of Australia”, Rocky is a great place to enjoy an Aussie steak.

Drop by the Great Western pub, watch a rodeo and holler with some of the local cowboys.

This area is also a great place to do a farmstay, where you can learn how to throw a lasso, crack a whip and muster cattle.

From Yeppoon harbour take a boat over to Great Keppel Island – a classic tropical island with crystal clear water, secluded beaches, watersports, reef snorkelling and nightlife.

There is a Contiki resort on one part of the island, leaving plenty of wilderness and 19 other stunning beaches to explore.

If you’re prepared for a bit of a walk, you can find one all to yourself.

Yeppoon is a cosy town 45km east of Rockhampton and is the stop-off point for the surrounding islands.

Beautiful beaches, laidback atmosphere and well-priced adventure activities mean there’s plenty to keep you busy.

There are many fishing and diving charters around the 32 islands of Keppel Bay, so lots of tasty seafood.

You can feed kangaroos and see koalas at the nearby Cooberrie Park.

Around 800km from Brisbane is one of Queensland’s fi nest national parks.

Carnarvon Gorge is 30km long with 250m-high cliffs and fern-filled side canyons, including the awesome amphitheatre, only accessible by a high, steel ladder.

Wildlife is abundant at the campsite, where kangaroos graze by your tent. The nearby creek is home to a dozen platypus that can be viewed late each afternoon. The gorge also has two of the most extensive Aboriginal rock art sites in Oz.

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Great Barrier Reef

Undoubtedly one of the world’s top travel destinations, the Great Barrier Reef is a living phenomenon and as iconically Aussie as the Sydney Opera House or Uluru.

It stretches for more than 2,000km along the Queensland coast – from Bundaberg to Cape York – and parts of it are more than 18 million years old.

The ecosystem that allows the reef to thrive is extremely fragile, and as a result, tourism is controlled.

The reef was proclaimed a national park in 1979 and a management programme tries to balance the interests of scientists, tourists, divers and fi shing enthusiasts.

While there, take care to stick to the rules which allow this underwater wonderland to survive.

There are many tour operators offering boat or diving/snorkelling trips.

Whitsunday Islands

A spectacular chain of islands with the best cruising grounds for all types of boats.

All 74 islands in the Whitsundays are accessible from Airlie Beach.

Each of the islands is covered in sub-tropical rainforest and pine trees and surrounded by glorious, sandy beaches and fringing coral reefs.

The most popular thing to do is to jump on a boat from Airlie and explore the postcard-perfect area.

You can do a daytrip, but the most popular traveller option is a three-day, two-night cruise.

There are many different operators offering these cruises so shop around and ask your hostel and other travellers to fi nd the one that suits you best.

The mainland base for exploring the stunning Whitsundays, Airlie Beach is backpacker heaven.

The main street is lined with pubs, shops, pubs, restaurants, palm trees and pubs. It’s a party town
with a massive range of activities.

In cane-growing country halfway between Hervey Bay and Cairns, Airlie has excellent budget accommodation and the main street comes alive at night.

If you can make it out of bed in the morning, there’s plenty to keep you busy – sailing, game fishing, learning to dive, bungy jumping, skydiving, land sailing, reef and island tours, and whalewatching (July-September).

Although Airlie doesn’t exactly have a beach as such, you can cool down at the lagoon, a man-made pool which is free from stingers (jellyfish), complete with BBQs and gazebos – a great place to chill-out in the sun.

There is also a wildlife park (featuring the original Croc Dundee), national parks and rainforest tours. Nearby Cedar Creek Falls has a beautiful freshwater swimming lagoon.

The more popular Whitsunday islands include Brampton, Whitsunday, Lindeman, Hook, Hamilton, South Molle, Hayman, Long and Daydream.

The most famous icon of the Whitsundays, however, is Whitehaven Beach, boasting stunningly white silica sand and endless photo opportunities.

Just 30km further east is the Outer Great Barrier Reef with some of the best coral and marine life at places like Bait Reef Marine Park, Hardy Lagoon, and Hook, Line and Sinker Reefs.

Hamilton is one of the most developed islands on the coast with a huge marina, shops and banks. Hook Island is renowned for its breathtaking underwater observatory, which gives you a great view of the reef.

The island is 90 minutes by boat from Shute Harbour. Mackay, just south of the Whitsundays, is the sugar-producing capital of Oz.

There are some amazing animals in the surrounding area as a result of the sub-tropical rainforest being isolated for thousands of years, and you may even spot a platypus near the Broken River camping ground.

Visit nearby Cape Hillsborough National Park, 40 minutes north, and you’ll most likely see kangaroos, wallabies, turtles and sugar gliders (those flying possums with a soft spot for honey).

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Townsville & Magnetic Island

Halfway up the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville is the largest city in Tropical Queensland.

It’s surrounded by both rainforest and outback, being one of those rare places where the dusty interior meets the Coral Sea, and is known as the “sunshine capital of Australia”, because it hardly ever rains.

Most travellers come here to pay a visit to Magnetic Island, a laidback tropical paradise just a swift ferry ride from town.

Out in Townsville

Much of the nightlife is concentrated around riverside Flinders Street but there are also pleasant alfresco bars over the river at Palmer Street.

If there’s a US ship in port you can be sure the town, which has a big military base, will be partying extra-hard.

Don’t miss Reef HQ during the day – a living reef aquarium experience, the IMAX Dome Theatre and the modern, fun, interactive Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Just out of town is the popular Billabong Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can feed kangaroos and get up-close to local animals like koalas and crocodiles.

Magnetic Island

Known fondly as ‘Maggie’, Magnetic Island has wild koalas, 5,000ha of national park, secluded and barely-accessible beaches, wreck diving, beachy nightlife, action adventure, great seafood and beach bumming galore.

“Maggie” is also popular for its full moon parties, regarded by some as one of the east coast nightlife highlights.

There’s a good choice of hostels here. Getting around the island is best done by renting a bike or in a Mini Moke.

Further afield

Via Townsville you can visit outback Charters Towers and Ravenswood, historic towns from the gold mining era.

Drive to Wallaman Falls (100km north of Townsville), Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall in thick mountain rainforest.

Watch the water rush down a 300m gorge and into a large swimming hole.

Townsville also has world-class diving, at the Outer Reef and Magnetic Island. The nearby Yongala wreck, 30m below the surface, is considered by many to be Australia’s best wreck dive.

Other things to see include the massive Burdekin Dam, which has four times the water capacity of Sydney Harbour.

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Tropical north & Cairns

The tropical region of northern Queensland is the place for budget, big-town partying in tropical Cairns, or if you prefer, rainforest magic at Cape Tribulation. But don’t neglect the coast along the way.

Hinchinbrook Island is the second-largest national park island in the world – all 642km are protected. There are no roads, no shops, and no accommodation on the island.

Just camping spots and beautiful creeks with fresh water. It has bushwalks, secluded beaches and mangrove everglades.

The Thorsborne Trail stretches for 32km and is the main reason that many people, especially serious bushwalkers, visit Hinchinbrook.

Between Townsville and Cairns, there are also several towns that are perfect for picking up harvest work.

Tully, for example, is popular for fruit pickers and a great spot to try whitewater rafting.

Mission Beach, where the rainforest meets the reef, is a special place with a real village feel.

Once an Aboriginal mission and a hippie hang-out, it’s now home to budget accommodation.

Enjoy 14km of secluded beaches and pretty rainforest areas.

It’s also developed a reputation for its love of adrenalin.

Mission is one of the best places to do a skydive, admiring the reef before landing on the sand, while the area is also good for less crowded dive sites and daytripping to the Tully rafting.

Just off Mission Beach, Dunk Island is a must for daytrips or a few days camping.

Famous for its sunsets, it’s home to 150 species of birds and the air is thick with fliterring butterflies.

At the time of going to press, Dunk Island’s resort was sadly still closed due to suffering severe damage in last February’s Cyclone Yasi.

However, the resort changed hands at the end of last year and will hopefully reopen in 2012.

Innisfail offers plenty of harvest work. Most of the hostels in town help organise work, and some even sort out transportion to the farms.

One of the most popular destinations in Australia, Cairns is well known as the backpackers’ party and adventure capital.

Many travellers end up spending a fair bit of time here – diving, working, soaking up the beauty and taking advantage of the nightlife.

Cairns’ tropical climate means it offers perfect swimming weather (apart from stinger season which runs between October and May), and while every hostel worth its salt has a pool, the town has also a very picturesque man-made lagoon.

Want to jump out of a plane or go bungy jumping? No worries. Want to learn to dive on the world’s largest living reef system? Not a problem.

Fancy meeting some of the world’s biggest crocodiles? It’s possible.

Want a daytrip where you can spot tree-dwelling kangaroos, swim in waterfalls and take tea and scones by a volcanic crater lake?

Cairns is that sort of town.

Cairns is the gateway to some of Australia’s most spectacular natural wonders – The Great Barrier Reef, the Atherton Tablelands and the Daintree Rainforest.

Arriving in Cairns

Cairns airport is only a 10-minute drive from the city centre. There’s a shuttle bus into town, but call ahead as many hostels offer a free pick-up.

Getting around Cairns

Lake Street Transit Mall is the transportation centre of the city. From there you can catch the Cairns Red Explorer Bus for a tour of the city

Cairns accommodation

A great place to start is the Tourism Tropical North Queensland Visitors Centre. Whether you’re looking for a hostel or long-term accommodation, they offer impartial advice. They can also help you with many other things, including car rental, camping and tours.

Email them at info@tropicalaustralia.com.au. Look in TNT Magazine for accommodation options.

If you’re thinking of sticking around for a few weeks, there are some good share accommodation options too (cairns-sharehouse.com).

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Things to do in Cairns

ATV/Quad biking: Take a four-wheeled bike out into the rainforest. Check out the wonderful scenery as you hoon around – you can even rustle horses like a futuristic cowboy!

Bungy jumping: Feel like hanging around or want to get the old adrenalin pumping? Try bungy jumping at the AJ Hackett tower.

You can also try something called the Minjin Swing, where you lie in a harness, are lifted up 40m into the rainforest, then released to swing back and forth till you stop.

Mountain biking
: Cairns could be the mountain biking capital of Australia, boasting two World Cups.

A wild way for adventurers to explore the rainforest.

Scuba diving: For very good reason, Cairns is a hotspot for all fans of the sport, with everything for beginners through to pros, including liveaboard PADI courses (where you stay on a boat on the reef). See dive shops for more information.

Snorkelling
: If you’re not a keen diver, you can still experience the wonders of the reef with just a snorkel.

All the dive schools offer a snorkelling option, where you explore the reef that sits near the top of the ocean.

The lagoon
: Those nasty jellyfi sh used to make it near impossible to swim in Cairns in the summer – until the opening of the lagoon, right on the Esplanade.

Whitewater rafting
: An exhilarating way to see the rainforest along the Tully, Barron and Russell Rivers. Half, full-day, overnight and ‘extreme’ trips are available.

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Out on the town

From blues bars to English-style pubs, live music venues to budget backpacker meal deals, there are innumerable party places, packages and people in Cairns.

Nearly all offer cheap (and often free) meal deals to go with that first jug of beer, so you shouldn’t go hungry in Cairns.

North of Cairns

As well as being a haven for the odd US president, the upmarket, pretty resort town of Port Douglas is perfectly positioned by the reef and is fringed with stunning white beaches.

The town has a great atmosphere, holding an annual carnival, open air cinema season, loads of live music and a nightlife full of top-notch restaurants and bars. A great jump-off point to Cape Tribulation and Cape York.

The World Heritage-listed Daintree National Park is a fantastic setting for a few days’ relaxation and environmental awareness.

The Daintree River is one of the best places to take a crocodile tour – the famous ‘Gummy’ is king of the river, and with luck you might just spy him sunning himself on the banks of the river.

Cape Tribulation is situated at the northern end of the Daintree with pristine rainforests and beaches.

It’s gobsmackingly beautiful. Backpacker accommodation is available on the beach or in the forest.

This is an ideal area to go horse riding along the beach or through the rainforest.

Northwards from here it’s pretty much dirt roads all the way, and once past Cooktown there are only small communities.

Few travellers make it up here and the conditions can be pretty harsh – the heat and dust are unrelenting as you can’t swim anywhere (crocodiles abound), but the rewards are huge.

Beyond Cooktown lies the remote Cape York Peninsula, at the northernmost tip of Australia (it is only 150km from Papua New Guinea.) It is still one of the wildest and least populated parts of Australia.

Getting there can be quite an adventure as the roads are all unsealed and certain river crossings can become difficult to cross.

Plus it’s croc country. A 4WD is a must. If you’re not too hot on your mechanical knowledge it’s probably best to join one of the camping tours on offer.

However, prepare to console your wallet as they’re far from cheap. If you do make it on the road (well, track), get ready for one of Australia’s ultimate roadtrips.

 

West of Cairns

In the heart of sugar country, Babinda lies at the foot of Mt Bartle Frere, Queensland’s highest mountain.

There are incredible rainforest walking tracks too.

Take a daytrip by car, a tour or catch a bus to the Atherton Tablelands from Spence Street, Cairns.

They rise from the coastal plains and are home to some stunning bushwalking country.

You can also take one of many tours to this area and take in the incredible Curtain Fig tree, lakes Eacham, Barrine and Chillagoe, and the limestone caves and mining ruins.

Mungalli Falls Outpost is at Millaa, which has whitewater rafting and horse riding.

The quiet town of Yungaburra is a good base for exploration and has a picturesque old pub.

Kuranda is a quiet village just west of Cairns.

It’s well worth a visit on market day and is a gateway to the Atherton Tablelands. Arrive via the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which provides a spectacular ride for cheap, or skyrail, the treetop cable car.

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Western Queensland

Those wanting to experience a true outback town can make the 737km trek to the historic town of Charleville.

Swimming and gold prospecting head the list of things to do, other than meeting the locals.

Budget accommodation and camping are available.

The remote town of Birdsville’s annual claim to fame is the Birdsville Races, which are held each September.

Folk flock from miles around to join in the fun. It’s worth visiting if you have time. Away from the coast you’ll find a diversity of landscapes.

Darling Downs is one of Oz’s richest agriculture areas.

Beyond that there’s Cunnamulla, a classic outback town. But past Charleville is the desolate south-west corner and the Channel Country.

Only well-prepared 4WDs can venture that far. Toowoomba is an inland city and has beautiful architecture, plus horse trail rides, an adventure park and botanical gardens.

Not too far away are Warwick, a major farming centre, and Goondiwindi, which is worth driving to for the surrounding bushland.

 

Images: Getty, TNT, AndesXtremo