With its palm-fringed, white-sand beaches, verdant rainforests and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, Queensland is one of nature’s most exquisite adventure playgrounds.
Whether you’re looking for a gentle stroll amid inspiring scenery, or something to really get your pulse racing, here’s our pick of the best things to do in Queensland to immerse yourself in its beauty.
Get up close to the Great Barrier Reef with a Master Reef Guide
Hugging the coast of Queensland, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef is home to the world’s largest group of coral reefs. Here, the diversity is breathtaking: 1,500 varieties of fish live among 400 different types of coral. You may have snorkelled the Great Barrier Reef before, but have you experienced it with a Master Reef Guide?
Explore the world’s most famous reef system with a highly trained marine expert and you’ll gain a fascinating insight into its history, inhabitants and health. If you’re looking for a sustainable tour option away from the crowds, check out Passions of Paradise. This Cairns-based eco-tourism operator offers cruises on its 30-metre catamaran, with an opportunity to snorkel at two exceptional reef sites and learn about its coral planting program.
Discover an underwater art gallery in Townsville
Taking underwater exploration a step further is the Museum of Underwater Art: an ethereal art installation off the coast of Townsville, in Queensland’s northeast. Featuring the work of the world’s leading underwater sculptor, Jason deCaires Taylor, this underwater gallery – the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere – tells the stories of the reef and Indigenous culture.
The initial two installations lie 80km off the coast, visited by a selection of reef tour operators who will give you the opportunity to snorkel or dive at the site.
Go off-grid at Wilson Island, off the coast of Gladstone
If you need a moment to slow down and reset we can think of no better place than this untouched jewel in the ocean. Nestled directly on Wilson Island Reef, this five-hectare coral cay is the setting for your own castaway adventure, with no Wi-Fi and not a car in sight. Transition from champagne-coloured sands to azure waters, where a plethora of brightly coloured fish can be seen darting among the coral.
Wilson Island is available for private hire or adults-only glamping in one of just nine safari tents.
Wander through 20,000-year-old rock art in Cape York
Australia’s Indigenous history is thought to date back further than any culture in the world. Immerse yourself in its ancient stories on a tour with Jarramali and encounter original rock art, regarded by archaeologists as a 20,000-year-old outback museum. Together with a traditional owner, you’ll travel by 4WD or helicopter flight to an exclusive location in Cape York, North Queensland. Here, you’ll camp overnight while uncovering the rock art of the Kuku Yalanji people and their connection to the land.
Go kayaking amid the Noosa Everglades
One of just two everglades systems in the world, the Noosa Everglades – around 40 minutes from Noosa Heads – is known as the ‘River of Mirrors’ due to the reflections in its serene waters. Stretching for 60km, these waterways are home to one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems, with countless wildlife, flora and fauna to discover.
The best way to explore the area is by kayak. Kanu Kapers offers an overnight, self-guided experience, beginning with a kayaking tutorial before you venture into the wilderness of the Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park. The evening is spent at a private campsite beside the Upper Noosa River, where you’ll enjoy dinner under the stars.
Explore Mossman Gorge and the Daintree Rainforest with a Traditional Owner
Where better to get back to nature than in the world’s oldest rainforest? The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Daintree is one of the most biologically diverse rainforests on the planet and “the most extraordinary place on Earth”, according to Sir David Attenborough.
The Mossman Gorge Centre is the perfect launchpad to the forest. Indigenous owned, this eco-tourism initiative provides visitors with cultural, historical and environmental experiences, and access to otherwise forbidden land to meet the local custodians. During a 90-minute tour, you’ll learn about the legends and landscapes that have been passed on through the generations.
Meet the turtles on Lady Elliot Island, near Bundaberg
Nestled on the Southern Great Barrier Reef, off the coast of Bundaberg, is Lady Elliot Island, a 45-hectare, palm-fringed drop in the ocean, and one of the world’s finest snorkelling sites. Its highly protected coral cay is home to 1,200 species of marine life – most notably, green and loggerhead turtles, who return to the island between November and February each year to start a new life cycle.
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort operates trips to the island from Bundaberg, Hervey Bay/Fraser Coast, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Join a sunset ‘turtle trek’ and see this natural spectacle come to life as the turtles ascend the beaches to lay their eggs. Between February and April, visitors are treated to the sight of hundreds of baby turtles migrating to the water.
Feel the adrenaline with white-water rafting on the Russell River near Cairns
Get your blood pumping with white-water rafting on the mighty Russell River. An hour south of Cairns, in Wooroonooran National Park, the Russell River flows down some of Queensland’s highest mountains – offering serious thrills for those in search of adventure.
A dip in the scenic Golden Hole swimming area at the foot of Mt Bartle Frere is the perfect wind-down after all the excitement. Bookable through Cairns Adventure Group.
Looking for more Queensland inspiration? Check out 9 of the Best Places to Watch the Sunset on the Gold Coast and Things to Do in Brisbane: 10 Unusual Ideas.
Images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland