presents

The Queensland Bucket List

You haven’t truly “done” the best of QLD unless you’ve done these 100 experiences.

#100 - Stroll through Ju Raku En Japanese Garden

Where is it? Toowoomba, QLD

Developed as the result of a sister city relationship with an equivalent in Japan, this gorgeous example of a Japanese garden in Toowoomba is a credit both to the efforts of its gardening staff and that of local authorities to have it established and maintained in the first place. Ju Raku En is a five-hectare oasis of tranquility and floral beauty that exhibits all the characteristic elements of high-quality Japanese gardens; think a careful use of empty space, signature red bridges, ample integration of water, purposefully-placed stones and a smattering of cherry blossom trees and bamboo. Designed by a respected professor from Kyoto, the garden is equally enjoyable for study, meditation or even a simple stroll down the roughly 3km-worth of lovely paths available for a wander.

The garden is also replete with plenty of wildlife - keep your eyes peeled and you’ll spot turtles gliding their way through the pond waters, while ducks and fish add an additional dose of life to the proceedings. Its scenic nature has contributed to making for a popular wedding venue, with plenty of pleasant photo opportunities and backdrops available for posing - it’s particularly striking during autumn as the deciduous trees add an extra splash of changing colour. There’s an idyllic mix of both Japanese and Australian trees and plants on display dotted throughout its dry garden and other areas; an appropriate symbol of the relationship between the two countries. Ju Raku En is located within the grounds of the University of Southern Queensland and open from 7am to 7pm each day. Image credit: Dan Proud via Tourism QLD View Experiences

#99 - Explore the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum

Where is it? Cairns, QLD

A relatively new and yet still criminally underrated attraction in the Cairns region, the Australian Armour & Artillery Museum is host to the largest display of armoured vehicles and artillery in the entire southern hemisphere and an excellent option for those looking for a more laid-back option in the state’s adventure capital. The museum contains 145 collection pieces with a significant focus on the post-WWII era, ranging in size from large tanks all the way down to scale models thereof from a number of countries throughout the world. It’s a staggering collection that is continually expanding, with each item on display - highlighted by iconic Tiger, Sherman T-34 tanks - kept in great condition to boot. The exhibits are wonderfully curated, and offer an incredible wealth of information on the background of each.

Not really into reading? Not a problem, either; the friendly and helpful staff here have a deep knowledge of both the items on display and the history that surrounds each of them. Options also exist to go more active and hands-on during a visit to the museum; there’s a dedicated firing range that allows visitors to try their hand at shooting a rifle or two, or instead hop on board an authentic Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) vehicle for the closest thing you’re likely ever to get to an actual tank ride. Perhaps the best thing about this world-class exhibition is that you don’t need to be a tank enthusiast in order to enjoy visiting - anyone who can appreciate history, and particularly young boys are sure to find this place a hit. Be sure to spare a spot for it on your Cairns itinerary; particularly if the weather turns sour. Image credit: Australian Armour & Artillery Museum View Experience

#98 - Dining & culture at Flames of the Forest

Where is it? Port Douglas, QLD

Blending together a unique mixture of Aboriginal culture, outdoor dining and magical rainforest scenery, Flames of the Forest is a distinct experience outside Port Douglas in the tropical portion of QLD which offers guests a special night of indigenous culture under the canopy of the world's most ancient rainforest. Conducted with an appropriate amount of respect to the Aboriginal culture, Flames of the Forest meshes the spectacular ambience of the rainforest with a combination of storytelling, traditional music and dance with some wonderfully enjoyable food for a highly entertaining evening that makes for a refreshing break from your average sit-down-and-dine vanilla restaurant experience.

Located in a designated “hidden” area of the Port Douglas hills, you'll be taken via hotel pickup (takes roughly 20 minutes from point to point) to an area set under the canopy of the Daintree Rainforest. Flames of the Forest blends stories of the native people with a delightful gastronomical experience – you'll enjoy drinks and canapes before indulging in the comprehensive seven-dish banquet – all amongst a spectacularly-lit forested area that gives a magical aura to the surrounding trees illuminated in a range of dazzling colours. It's an atmosphere that's colourful without being gaudy, and doesn't ruin the otherwise intimate atmosphere of the evening. The evening lasts around 4 hours in total, and upon completion you'll be safely returned to your accommodation without having to monitor your alcohol intake, which is a nice touch. Image credit: Flames of the Forest View Experience

#97 - Try a XXXX off the wood at the Breakfast Creek Hotel

Where is it? Brisbane, QLD

There are few things more Australian than beer, and few things more of a “Queensland” version of that beer than XXXX; it’s an iconic and locally-conceived drop that many Aussies have surely tasted at one point - yet few venues that serve it in such a way as Brisbane’s Breakfast Creek Hotel. Built in the late 1800’s and a longstanding fixture of Brisbane city, the hotel is renowned for serving XXXX “off the wood”; that’s “straight out of a wooden keg” for the uninitiated. While it might seem like a small difference, the impact the serving style has on flavour can’t be understated - it’s a world apart from your now-standard stainless steel kegs and reflects the hotel’s old-world bent to a tee. If you’re looking to partake in such an indulgence, “The Creek” as it’s colloquially known is your only option in all of Queensland in which to do so.

The building itself, meanwhile, remains an attraction in itself, with its mix of French leanings mixed with typically Aussie construction making for a unique backdrop in which to sample a pint or three. It’s a veritable hub of different sub-bars and dining areas contained within, and offers some quality food as well. Those with a hankering for a reasonably-priced steak (or steak roll or pie variants) will be in their element here, which can be enjoyed with some outdoor seating overlooking the water. Recent efforts have been made to modernise and diversify inside more as well, and now those with more of a tongue for spirits, cocktails and rums in particular will be spoiled for choice. There’s a reason it’s still often hard to get a table after all this time - the Breakfast Creek Hotel is an absolute “Brissy” institution and looks to remain so for the foreseeable future. Image credit: Creative Commons View Experience

#96 - Go Go-Karting

Where is it? Various locations, QLD

A favourite of buck’s parties and teenage birthdays alike, go-karting provides the chance for participants to indulge their inner rev-head without some of the dangers (or illegalities) of doing so on the actual road. Queensland’s signature quality weather has made it Australia’s best home state for go-karting experiences, with a number of specially-designed outdoor tracks dotted in and between each of the state’s most popular travel spots as well as at a range of regional locations. It’s a family-friendly motorsport that ages typically around 10 and over are free to participate in, with karts of varying power levels available to cater to the age groups of their drivers. The biggest commercial tracks - such as Big Kart Track on the Sunshine Coast - provide an excellent mix of straight, bends and hairpins to keep things interesting, with a large enough size to provide room even on busy days.

For those locally or travelling throughout Queensland, there are numerous options in major regions for a go-karting experience; the Gold Coast offers Xtreme Karting, Kingston Park Raceway and Slideways as venues; Cairns Kart Hire offers karting in the tropics; the Hervey Bay Go Kart Track is your go-to in the whale capital; and the aforementioned Big Kart Track dominates the scene on the Sunshine Coast. Toowoomba, Gympie, Ipswich, Mackay and Gladstone each all have options for karting fun as well. The karts themselves are designed for safety in mind so concerned parents need not fret - seatbelts and roll bars are the norm, while tracks are required to be kept in tip-top condition. Image credit: Big Kart Track View Experiences

#95 - Explore the Outback at Isa

Where is it? Mt. Isa, QLD

More than just a visitor information centre, the Outback at Isa complex is a true experience and a hub of micro-attractions that combine to sub up the lifestyles and history of this key part of Queensland’s mining economy. Sure, the visitor’s centre is comprehensive in its own right, providing all of the brochures, background and sightseeing info one could want from the friendly and helpful staff, yet it’s the auxilliary exhibits that provide real-life examples of the town’s history and ecology that help set it apart. Chief among these is the Hard Times Mine and its Underground Tour which provides some fascinating, first-hand insight into life working underground. Participants suit up in authentic overalls and mining head lamps, then join a life-long miner to venture under the earth and both see and learn the story on how it was originally created. It’s a testament to the efforts of the local community that showcases the mine’s daily workings and even allows non-miners to go hands-on and try their own hand at drilling.

The centre is also home to the excellent Riversleigh Fossil Centre which exhibits a number of fossils extracted from its nearby fossil fields, with interpretive dioramas and exhibits as well as the chance to inspect the under a microscope. Add in the Mt. Isa Regional Art Gallery which displays some great works from local and regional artists both Indigenous and otherwise, and Outback Park - a landscaped garden offering designed to showcase the flora of the region - and you’ve got a comprehensive summary of this important part of Outback QLD. Capping things off is its great little coffee shop that serves quality refreshments that also does great-value and highly filling breakfasts. Its level of comprehensiveness makes Outback at Isa the essential first-stop destination for anyone visiting Mt. Isa for the first time. Image credit: Mt. Isa Entertainment & Tourism Venues View Experiences

#94 - History at Boggo Road Gaol

Where is it? Brisbane, QLD

One of the most notorious buildings of its kind spanning its opening in 1883 up until its closure 25 years ago, Brisbane’s Boggo Road Gaol is a historically (and somewhat morbidly) fascinating example of cultural heritage at work. A former home to some of the country’s most infamous thugs, the gaol was reinvented to serve as a living museum and an example of “dark tourism” done right. On a visit here, it’s incredible to both see how the penal system of the past used to operate, as well as just how far we’ve come as a society in general since the last man to be executed in Queensland was hanged here back in 1913. In the present day, visitors can explore its grounds via guided historical tours which chronicle the tumultuous history the prison saw take place including escapes, riots, incidents of brutality and simple daily life in such an environment.

Guides here manage to keep the dispensing of such rather heavy topics both entertaining and interesting, showing an obvious passion for their subject matter and taking visitors inside cells to see graffiti and the scrawlings of previous inmates lining the walls. The prison’s truly spooky atmosphere has made it a hotspot for ghost tours as well, with an extra added layer of eeriness when all you’re accompanied by is darkness and torchlight. It’s been kept in an authentic state as well, without being altered to better suit tourists - the cruel and primitive conditions you see are exactly what the prisoners used to get. Easily accessible by public transport, Boggo Road Gaol is an underrated cultural attraction that often goes overlooked by many Brisbane visitors and locals alike and forms an important part of the city’s heritage. Image credit: Creative Commons View Experience

#93 - Attend the Birdsville Races

Where is it? Birdsville, QLD

The ostensible “Melbourne Cup of the Outback”, the annual Birdsville Races draw thousands of attendees from all over the country and elsewhere across the globe to what is a tiny little outback town. Located quite literally “in the middle of nowhere” - you’re looking at a 1,600km (around 2 day) drive from Brisbane as it’s actually closer to Adelaide even though it resides within Queensland’s borders - Birdsville suddenly becomes jumping each September. The event was first held way back in 1882 and lasts for two days, with race horses from a multitude of locations showcasing their speed on its 2000m-long track nestled amongst the Outback sand dunes. There’s 13 races in total held throughout, culminating in the sought-after Birdsville Cup - 1.6km race that rewards an annually-increasing prize purse to the winner.

It’s not all just horse racing, however, as the event is augmented by several nights of live off-track entertainment as well ranging from live music, to auctions, to market stalls and even a boxing exhibition. If you’ve put in the effort to make the trip here, be sure to climb up the towering Big Red signature sand dune in the nearby Simpson Desert - it’s a popular spot for sunset viewing that provides a great outlook. Lastly, carnivores shouldn’t miss the rare chance to try one of the local delicacies: a camel pie, or if you’re feeling more conservative, perhaps stick to a standard kangaroo pie instead. This is a week-long celebration that swells the town’s population from around 100 to over 7,000, emanating the traditional Aussie outback camaraderie of eras past. Your car may hate you for it, but in terms of road trips Queensland doesn’t have much more “bucket list-y” offerings than the Birdsville Races. Image credit: Reichlyn Aguilar via Tourism QLD View Experiences

#92 - Bend your mind at Infinity Attraction

Where is it? Gold Coast, QLD

One of the more unique attractions on this list, Gold Coast attraction Infinity offers a mind-bending journey into a maze-like world that’s probably unlike anything you’ve experienced beforehand. Featuring a combination of optical illusions, dazzling visual effects and the creative use of technology, the attraction is comprised of a series of around 20 multi-sensory environments that demonstrate special effects at their most quirky. There’s also plenty of interactive opportunities to see and touch while attempting to navigate your way through each room, and it serves as a great group activity in terms of teamwork and having fun in the company of others. The attraction excels at making you doubt your own senses at times, with the feeling of being in outer space both strong and enjoyable.

Each room differs quite interestingly from the next - you’ll find yourself attempting to navigate a maze at one point, then in a room that seemingly has no floor in the next. It’s a series of surprises that are spaced out well enough so as not to be overwhelming nor drag on too long; while the experience lasts only around an hour, any more than this would likely be fatiguing as there’s only so many thrills your senses can take. All but the youngest of kids will love their time here (8 years old is the benchmark for minimum recommended age), whether it be navigating the time warp of the Cyclotron or dodging beams in the Laser Zone. If you’re looking for something truly different, Infinity delivers - and ranks as one of the Gold Coast’s best wet-weather attractions to boot. Image credit: Infinity Attraction View Experience

#91 - Natural wonder at Eungella National Park

Where is it? 1 hour outside Mackay, QLD

Up in the mountains around an hour’s drive from Mackay lies this expansive hub of verdant plant and animal life that ranks as one of Queensland’s most diverse national parks. Eungella National Park is a massive, magical slice of greenery and spectacular views spread out over almost 500 square kilometres - a land of towering native trees and subtropical rainforest that offers plenty of opportunities for exploration and tranquility alike. Its high altitude offers a number of wonderful lookouts from which to soak in some spectacular views of the Pioneer Valley, while the more active visitor can take part in a wander along its 22km worth of bush walking tracks for some wonderful escapism and losing oneself amongst untouched nature.

Its walks range all the way from short, 30-minute affairs to multi-day treks, with intrepid adventurers able to conquer the staggering distance of the 56km-long Mackay Highlands Great Walk. Striking perhaps the best balance between effort, time, and views is its Sky Window lookout walk which takes around 2.5 hours return and offers a gorgeous panorama. For wildlife enthusiasts, the park has become most famous for offering the rare chance to see Platypus in the wild - its meandering Broken River comes equipped with a dedicated viewing platform especially for that purpose. Maximise your chances to see the incredibly cute creatures by visiting in the hours around dawn and task; however even without a platypus sighting you’ll often encounter turtles in their stead. Running waterfalls, pristine rockpools for a dip, abundant bird life - Eungella has everything one could want in a national park in spades. Image credit: Tourism QLD View Experience

Home to some of Australia’s most striking coastline and aquatic environments while serving as a haven for warm weather, Queensland balances together sunny skies, family attractions and some incredible natural wonders.

From its signature, sun-soaked coastlines to its south-east travel hotpots and its own touch of the outback to the west, QLD is a chic state that serves as a go-to warm-weather getaway for many of those further south. Much of its key experiences are oriented around the aquatic, with popular hubs such as Cairns, the Gold Coast, and even capital Brisbane all serving as gateways to marine entertainment beyond. Renowned for its laid-back attitude (you’ll see locals wearing shorts during the winter here) and attention to detail regarding family fun, there are numerous experiences that help Queensland stand out.

Queensland is a state that’s proven just as popular for international backpackers and partygoers as it is a magnet for families. Many are drawn to the state due to its balanced climate and numerous natural and man-made attractions, as QLD is versatile without being crowded, and developed in sections without being overly so. Those who love the water in particular will be in their element here, as it’s the home of the likes of the incredible Great Barrier Reef, the gorgeous Whitsunday Islands, and innumerable great coastal getaway spots dotted throughout its coastline and at underrated regional locations.

Perhaps more than any other state, Queensland has grown on the back of travel, and has been developed with the traveller in mind. As a result, it boasts one of the largest quantity of activities and attractions for those who enjoy spending time outdoors; its most popular destinations such as Cairns, the Gold Coast & Sunshine Coast, and even capital Brisbane thrive on providing fun in the sun.

Queensland may not have the international renown of a Sydney or the cosmopolitanism of a Melbourne to fall back on, yet it’s far from a backwater, and its south-east portion is one of the fastest-growing regions in all of Australia.

Unlike some of its southern counterparts, Queensland’s also a state that shines almost as strongly in winter as it does in summer – particularly in the Tropical North region, where the months of June and July qualify as a peak period. Stick further south – to the likes of Brisbane, and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts – and both the spring and autumn seasons are ideal as they’re lacking in humidity but still pleasantly warm enough to swim.

As swimming and the aquatic is one of the main drawcards to most visitors to Queensland, much of timing your travel here thus revolves around water temperature as opposed to the typical air temperature – and given its overall warm climate, anywhere from the likes of Hervey Bay all the way up to Cape York offer viable swimming conditions all-year-round.

In our Ultimate Queensland Bucket List, we highlight 100 of the most essential experiences that we feel best sums up the diverse and incredible highlights of this sunny, family-friendly and aquatically-oriented state. While much of it will be known to locals, we hope to both inspire travellers from afar to visit QLD while also hopefully encouraging residents to get out and explore some more of the best of their own, unadulterated, backyard.

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