Crystal blue water, long stretches of sandy beaches with palms trees swaying in the fresh breeze while overhead the seagulls enjoy their flight and you right in the middle. That would be pretty much all of Queensland’s east coast. Apart from beach hopping, there are so many more attractions on offer here.
The Great Barrier Reef is certainly the most attractive but it is a long drive from Cairns to Brisbane and if you plan on seeing more than passing tin houses and stop at petrol stations, then take a look at my quick guide to get an overview. One word of caution, there will be a lot of beautiful beaches and you might find yourself receiving a big dose of wanderlust.
There is not much to see in Mission Beach unless you appreciate wonderful nature. Walk all the way from Mission Beach to Wongaling Beach, hop on the water taxi and take hikes around Dunk Island. For landlubbers, the rainforest next door offers enough walking opportunities and maybe there is even a cassowary to be spotted there. For those seeking adrenaline, Mission Beach is a popular spot for sky diving over the Reef, complete with smooth landings on the sand.
Watch kite surfers while you stroll on the sand and towards the foodie street Flinders East, where you can also take a look into both a Sealife and Aboriginal museum. Afterwards, head up castle hill for a remarkable sunset and spend at least one full day on Magnetic Island. Apart from its many pretty bays and bush walks, it is the best place for learning to dive for those on a budget. There are no cheaper deals in Australia. The reef might not be as impressive here as up in Cairns, but it is much, much closer, too.
If you're a backpacker looking for farm jobs, you will find farming hostels here or in nearby Ayr that can help you land the job among bananas and other fruit. For those more interested in production processes, the Bundaberg Rum Distillery might be your cup of tea, or brew. For those wanting to get up on one of the most spectacular islands and up close with the reef, Lady Elliot Island should be on your list.
Quite the small town with the CBD being located in compact form along the main road next to the beach, Airlie has its own charm. There might not be much exciting going on here, but for relaxing by the manmade lagoon, feasting in cafes and restaurants along the promenade and a trip the nearby Conway National Park, it is a good holiday spot. Especially for those seeking to venture out into the Whitsunday Islands. Those are beautiful in themselves but the perfectly white sand of Whitehaven Beach will surpass your wildest dreams.
Steak. If this is one of your favourite words, this might be your paradise on earth. The capital of steak has lots of exquisite restaurants on offer, cattle farms all around and hosts annual beef award ceremonies. For nonclaustrophobic adventure seekers, the nearby Capricorn Caves will get you under the earth and over mountains of bat poop. It has great acoustics as well.
Fraser Island that is the main attraction for Hervey Bay. But it has so much more on offer. Its own endless beaches with soft, yellow sand invite for great sunsets that turn bright red with the first bush fires of summer. If you crave fast food, apparently it is the capital of it. Consequently, “if you want a heart attack, that’s where you go”, or so I’ve been told.
Rainbow Beach and Noosa
Beaches, beaches, beautiful beaches is what you get here. Noosa beach is among the most beautiful beaches in Queensland, so it should be on your next destination list. Moreover, if you skipped Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach offers another chance for you to explore the world’s largest sand island.
Being the capital of Queensland should in itself be reason enough to visit (I now hear everyone moan with Canberra in their mind. It really can’t be that bad, can it?), but the city itself has so much on offer. Channelling the artiness of Melbourne but the quietness of Wellington, Brisbane has its own array of high rise buildings, modern bridges and fancy museums lining the river, which offers parks and gardens for a retreat from the city noise. Foodies will love this place with its thousands of cafes, bars and restaurants of the most diverse cultural background.
Miami is the image that comes to my mind. (At least the one I’ve seen in films, still need to go) High rise hotel buildings, fancy resorts, palm trees and eager beach goers with a surf boat under one arm are a common sight. The city centre is just a short walk away from the endless beach and offers plenty of shopping opportunities as well as strolls next to artificial canals and rivers. At night the skyline is beautifully lit up, but don’t expect too much nightlife going on here.