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Queensland Islands, reefs and rainforests

By Martha Tattersall

Explore ancient rainforests, snorkel with rainbow fish, sink your toes into some of the world's whitest sand and watch whales on their annual migration. Discover the living masterpiece that is the Great Barrier Reef, stay at one of the world's best hotels or shop up a beachside storm on the cosmopolitan Gold Coast. Head north to admire the world's largest sand island, explore the tropical city of Cairns, and experience a thriving cultural and arts scene in an emerging world city – the state of Queensland really does have something for everyone.

Map of Queensland

Admire the incredible Great Barrier Reef

The living masterpiece that is the Great Barrier Reef stretches for more than 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) along the Queensland coastline. There are hundreds of tours and experiences available along the Great Barrier Reef coastline – most notably from the towns of CairnsPort DouglasTownsvilleAirlie BeachHamilton Island1770BundabergGladstone and Mackay – but whether you snorkel, scuba dive, fly, motor or sail over it, you simply must experience the colours and textures of this natural wonder. 

Visit tropical Cairns

With its international airport and excellent shopping, the tropical city of Cairns, in Queensland's far north, is a convenient access point for the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest, but don't miss the great things to do in and around town. You'll find brilliant cafés, bustling markets and plenty of beaches nearby. Relax by one of the pools at a five-star resort, day trip to the nearby stylish villages of Port Douglas and Palm Cove, or spend your days out and about exploring this city oasis.

Daintree Rainforest

The Daintree, a two-hour drive north of Cairns, is the world's oldest tropical rainforest. The Daintree's scenery is so beautiful that it provided inspiration for the movie Avatar. Stand in awe under the branches of the 600-million-year-old Zamia Fern, which has an underground trunk system evolved in defence against dinosaurs. Cruise the Daintree River, where you might spot a crocodile waiting in the mangroves or glimpse a turtle in the clear, sparkling streams below. Stay at one of the luxury eco lodges nestled in the rainforest such as Silky Oaks Lodge, or in the lovely beach village of Port Douglas nearby. 

Explore Brisbane

Soak up the subtropical climate, explore the river, parks and outdoor spaces or delve into its arts and culture at South Bank. Take a paddle steamer or ferry down the Brisbane River or bike ride through the City Botanic Gardens. Then, take a dip at Australia's only inner-city, man-made beachBrisbane is the perfect gateway from which to explore the wonder and beauty of Queensland.

Discover the Gold Coast

From the iconic Surfers Paradise beach and the dining precincts of Main Beach and Broadbeach to the lush, green hinterland, there’s an experience waiting for you at every turn on the Gold Coast. In Australia's "theme park capital" see native Australian wildlife, meet your favourite movie characters and superheroes, or swim with dolphins.

Indulge on the Whitsunday Islands

Made up of 74 tropical islands, the Whitsundays archipelago lies just off the Queensland coast next to the Great Barrier Reef. Here, you’ll find some of the world’s best island resorts, including qualia, as well as Whitehaven Beach – regularly voted into top 10 round-ups of the world's most beautiful beaches for its powder fine sands and dazzling aqua water. You'll also find Heart Reef, named for its incredible shape.

Watch whales at Hervey Bay

The safe, sheltered waters of Hervey Bay make it one of the best places on Earth for whale watching. In winter months (July to November), humpback whales travel north along the Queensland coastline from Antarctica to the warm waters of the Whitsundays, stopping in calm Hervey Bay to breed and nurse their young.

See the world's largest sand island

A short ferry ride from Hervey Bay is World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island. It's easy to see why the traditional Aboriginal owners called Fraser Island K'gari – paradise. Four-wheel drive next to the coloured cliffs of The Cathedrals, take a joy flight over 75 Mile Beach, bushwalk through rainforest growing from the sand and swim in mirrored lakes ringed with golden sand. There's also kayaking, jet skiing and wind surfing to enjoy.

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