From swimming with minke whales to shucking and eating oysters straight from the sea, Queensland is a treasure trove of unexpected experiences.
Queensland is a beacon for travellers for its perpetual sunshine, blissful beaches and UNESCO World Heritage sites. For every typical bucket-list experience you can enjoy in Queensland, there’s also a unique activity that’s guaranteed to spark the fire of your wanderlust. From adults-only castaway island retreats to hiking thunderous, single-drop waterfalls and spotting humpback whales, the lesser-known experiences of Queensland are calling.
Ready to explore? Check out our handpicked Queensland escapes.
Swim with minke whales, Cairns & Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef in Tropical North Queensland is one of the only places in the world that you can swim alongside dwarf minke whales during migration in June and July. Armed with a snorkel, wetsuit and a rope anchored to your boat, you can float in crystal-clear water and watch as these inquisitive and playful ‘dwarf’ whales glide past (all 5.5 tonnes of them), watching you from the corners of their eyes.
Visit Wallaman Falls, Townsville
Did you know the highest permanent single-drop waterfall in Australia is just a 2.5-hour drive from the town of Townsville? Wallaman Falls is surrounded by the world’s oldest rainforest, 150 million years of natural history that lives and breathes around you. Stand at the lookout, perched 268 metres in the air, and take in the cascade from a lofty position. If you’re feeling adventurous, embark on an epic hike to the base of the falls. Follow the 3.2km trek along the Djyinda walk, traversing open forest, rocky gorge and dense rainforest.
Take a scenic flight over Heart Reef, The Whitsundays
It’s no secret The Whitsundays is a treasure trove of natural splendour, with its myriad of idyllic islands scattered across a turquoise sea, each with white, crescent-moon coastlines disappearing into emerald-topped forests. Take it all in from a unique perspective when you soar over The Whitsundays aboard a scenic flight. Admire wow-factor aerial views of the iconic Heart Reef, a striking coral cluster that’s naturally formed into a heart shape over time. It’s practically impossible to snap a bad photo of the reef, so keep your camera at the ready.
Escape to adults-only Wilson Island, Southern Great Barrier Reef
The Southern Great Barrier Reef’s islands are a sight to behold. If you’re looking for an adults-only escape, make a beeline for Wilson Island. Just a 25-minute boat ride from the world-renowned Heron Island, this castaway retreat is the perfect place to disconnect from the rest of the world and lose yourself, through daily snorkelling, exploring the island on foot, lounging in a hammock or lazing on the postcard-perfect beaches. With only 18 guests permitted on the island at any one time, you can rest assured this island paradise is the exclusive hideaway that dreams are made of.
Visit UNESCO World Heritage-listed K’gari (Fraser Island), Fraser Coast
Step foot on an island made entirely out of sand and feel the power of beach magic on a grand scale. There are not many places on Earth where you can swim in an essential-oil-infused lake (Lake McKenzie’s waters are naturally steeped with tea tree oil), rip across sugar-white sand in a 4WD and explore old shipwrecks all on one pint-sized island. If you visit between June and October, you might be lucky enough to spot migrating humpback whales and their calves passing through the protected bay.
Kayak through the Noosa Everglades, Sunshine Coast
The jewel in the Sunshine Coast’s crown, Noosa is a captivating concoction of laidback seaside culture, upscale designer boutiques and destination restaurants. Get to know the natural landscape by hopping on a kayak for a leisurely paddle through the everglades. Glide by bucket-list-worthy wonders including Lake Cootharaba, Kinaba, Fig Tree Lake and the upper Noosa River, before pausing for a delicious lunch and freshly brewed coffee to recharge your batteries.
Champagne & oyster tour, Brisbane
There’s little comparison to knocking back a freshly shucked oyster, lightly spritzed with a lemon wedge and washed down with an effervescent flute of champagne. The promise of ‘the freshest oysters you will ever try’ beckons foodies near and far to take a highspeed boat from Northshore Harbour to Moreton Island, bypassing dolphins, turtles and dugongs en route. On arrival to Moreton Bay, kickstart your tour with a tasting accompanied with fizzing champagne before learning the ins and outs of the farming process.
Hot air balloon ride over the Gold Coast Hinterland
See a different side to this iconic holiday destination and trade the golden beaches and silver city in favour of the natural wonders of the hinterland. The best way to see it? At the crack of dawn on a hot air balloon ride. Watch the ever-changing sunrise paint the hinterland in a rosy hue from your bird's-eye vantage. Soar over rainforest, waterfalls and national parks, capping off an unforgettable experience with a hearty breakfast at a local winery.
Enjoy a tipple or two in Australia’s highest wine
region, Southern Queensland Country
Granite Belt wine country in Southern Queensland Country, just a three-hour drive from Brisbane, is home to over 50 wineries, cideries and breweries. It’s also Queensland’s largest wine region, with rich soil and an impressive output of cool-climate wines. Visit the region’s oldest winery, Ballandean Estate Wines, and try a glass of its malbec alongside a mouthwatering Italian lunch. At Twisted Gum Wines, the sweet-toothed can’t pass up a tasting of the widely popular pink moscato, while red-wine-lovers shouldn’t leave without sampling its signature shiraz.
Discover our selection of exciting Queensland experiences here.
For more Queensland inspiration, read Things to Do in Queensland: How to Get Your Nature Fix.
All images are courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland.