A Guide To Queensland

Queensland, the second largest state in Australia and the third most populous, was easily my favorite part of this country. It’s blessed with miles of incredible beaches , beautiful verdant hinterlands, stunning national parks and of course the Great Barrier Reef. I spent a month traveling through Queensland and I wasn’t able to see everything, but what I did see provided me with a lifetime of amazing memories and experiences.

Queensland is a popular destination for both tourists and locals, for good reasons. Its attractions cater to any outdoor interest you can imagine. You can go on bush walks through natural reserves, find amazing surfing conditions along the coast, escape to dreamy islands like the ones in the WhitSundays, dive in the Great Barrier Reef or seek adrenaline infused adventures like water rafting in the Tully River. The options are endless.

This guide is aimed at giving you a high level view of the main attractions in Queensland to help you plan a tour through this incredible state.

Main Attractions

I’ll be listing the main stops along the East Coast trail. There’s a lot of small towns spread throughout this state and it would be impractical for me to list them all. The great joy about traveling this route is you get to choose where you want to go, if you’re not enjoying a particular stop it’s very easy to drive onto the next destination.

Cairns (Pronounced “Caans”):  This is a small town that, on its own, doesn’t have a lot to see. Yet it’s a major destination for most travelers because it serves as a gateway to some of the greatest treasures in Australia. From Cairns you can get to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest, Atherton Tablelands and more. There are lots of tours and activities that you can participate in.

Refer to my Cairns Guide Book for full details on this town.

The Great Barrier Reef is filled with amazing coral, color fish and large marine life.
The Great Barrier Reef is filled with amazing coral, colorful fish and large marine life.


Mission Beach: 140km South of Cairns is Mission Beach, a tiny beach town. Honestly, I consider this an optional stop since there’s no attractions here that you can’t do in Cairns.

Townsville / Magnetic Island: While Townsville is a relatively large town its true attraction is as a gateway to Magenetic Island. The majority of Magnetic island is marked as a national park and only a small part of it has been developed. It’s a small island, very small. It has only one major road that runs through the length of it.

Most visitors choose to skip this destination which is a shame. It offers access to the SS Yongala (named as one of the top 10 dives in the world), some nice beaches and hikes where you can spot koalas, walabies and countless colorful birds. An added bonus, you can rent a colorful topless Moke Car (pictured below) for a fun way to get around the island.

Side Note: Six months of the year the beaches are closed as it’s considered to be stinger (jellyfish) season. This usually runs from November to April

Refer to my Magnetic Island Guide Book for full details on this island.

The Topless and Moke Cars colorful and fun ways to get around the island
The Topless and Moke Cars are a colorful and fun way to get around the island

Airlie Beach / WhitSunday Islands: I generally liked all the places I’ve visited with few exceptions. Airlie Beach is one of those exceptions. This is definitely a backpacker party town. I only stayed one day here, and it was one day too long. It reeked of a poor man’s Daytona Beach during spring break. If you enjoy being around drunk fraternity/sorority types, then this is your town.

The WhitSunday Islands on the other hand is heaven on earth. These are 74 islands that are part of the Great Barrier Reef, which means these islands are rich with coral reefs that are teeming with marine life. Most tours that go through the islands focus on key islands where you can enjoy snorkeling or beach activities. The WhitSundays also boasts having the most photographed and one of the most beautiful beaches in the Pacific, Whitehaven Beach. Seeing it in person didn’t disappoint. The beach was covered with bright white silica sand and its waters were a beautiful green-blue color.

This is a must do destination that shouldn’t be skipped.

Read to my Guide To WhitSunday Islands for details on the islands.

I also wrote about my amazing overnight cruise on the WhitSunday.

Amazing WhiteHaven Beach
Heavenly WhiteHaven Beach


The next three towns are small and I would consider them optional stops:

Rockhampton: This is potentially an interesting stop on your tour of Queensland. It’s the beef capital of Australia and you can experience life on a Cattle Station through a Farm stay (if that’s your thing). It also has access to Great Keppel Island which offers beaches, wildlife and hiking.

Town of 1770: This is a tiny town that’s famous for having the cheapest surf lessons in Queensland. You can learn to surf for 17 AUD for 3 hours. That’s an amazing deal, most places charge 60 AUD for a 2 hour lesson.

Bundaberg: Famous for being the nesting and hatching location for the largest concentration of loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific. This is a seasonal event that happens between November and February.

Hervey Bay / Rainbow Beach: These are two beach towns that are famous for being the perfect gateways to Fraser Island. Visiting Fraser Island is a MAJOR attraction. It’s the largest sand island in the world and it’s best done as part of multi-day tour. There are lots of attractions and activities to do on the island from 4WD driving, to nature hiking, swimming in crystal clear lakes, dingo spotting and much more. You can’t miss visiting Fraser Island.

Dingo on Fraser Island.
Dingo on Fraser Island.

Noosa: This was one of my favorite stops on the sunshine coast. Known as the Hamptons of the East Coast, it has beautiful beaches, high end boutiques, restaurants and cafes all on one street (Hastings street). Noosa also offers excellent surfing conditions for people of all levels. I happily spent a week here and could’ve easily spent another.

Refer to my Noosa Guide for full details on this town.

Surfers at dolphin point
Surfers at dolphin point


Brisbane: This is the largest city in Queensland and the third largest in Australia. Yet it doesn’t exude a big city feel. This is a compact city whose main attractions are located within a 2km mile radius of CBD so its very walkable. It has a number of attractions including:

  • Queen Street Mall which has a nice selection of stores and restaurants.
  • The South Bank area which has a nice promenade, a public pool called “The Beach” which is surrounded by sand (giving it that beachy feel) and grassy lawns where you can lay down and enjoy the city skyline that towers over the brown and muddied waters of the Brisbane River.
  • Another worthy attraction is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is the world’s largest koala reserve (a great family trip).

Refer to my Brisbane Guide for full details on this city.

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