presents

The Queensland Bucket List

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

#20 - A day trip to Fitzroy Island

Where is it? 30km from Cairns, QLD

With a reputation as more of a place for locals than visitors, Fitzroy Island provides a solid all-around island destination with plenty of activities that is also quite accessible from Cairns. Offering opportunities for hiking, kayaking, dining and touring the island's turtle hospital, the island dramatically juts out of the water - it’s a true rock island as opposed to the more common coral cays that dot the nearby area. It’s far larger than its green counterpart nearby, and comes complete with not only tropical rainforest but additional spectacles in the way of dense woodlands and stony coasts that are a joy to explore. Of particular note is the island’s standout Nudey Beach which has recently been dubbed one of Australia’s best - while it’s small in size, it’s also big on scenery, and offers a wonderful rainforest-meets-reef backdrop on which to laze and snorkel.

The island’s larger size and additional distance from Cairns also means that the population of snorkellers is far less dense than on Green Island, making it easier to get that feeling of escapism that marine exploration is intended to provide. Fitzroy Island has a great variety of walking tracks to keep visitors occupied on land as well, with its main Summit Walk that takes you on a path through the forestry, leading up to the island's lighthouse and providing a great outlook. After you've finished exploring, Fitzroy Island's Foxy's Bar makes for a great place to kick back with a drink and soak in stunning reef views. Getting there can be achieved with operators Fitzroy Island Resort and Raging Thunder, who provide great value day trips departing from Cairns. Image credit: Fitzroy Island Resort View Experience

#19 - Visit Hartley's Crocodile Adventures

Where is it? 15 minutes drive from Palm Cove, QLD

Tracing its origins back to the 1960's and beyond, Hartley's Crocodile Adventures was the first place in Australia to breed crocodiles in captivity, with its work on crocodile conservation and management attracting worldwide interest. Reopened at a brand new site in 2002 with a design based on visitor expectations and preferences and now ranks as the only wildlife park in Australia to be bordered by World Heritage listed forest. The park takes conservation values very seriously, including caring for the crocodiles themselves as the creatures’ often-misunderstood tendencies bely their importance to local ecology. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the humble Aussie crocodile, there are few better places in all of Australia to do so, as staff are informative yet also entertaining and aim to provide background information coupled with a dose of humour.

Today, the attraction stands as an award-winning example of ecotourism that features over 2,100 metres of boardwalks and pathways that allow visitors to discover five distinct habitat zones throughout. Visitors can also board a “Crocodile Cruise” on a special boat which shows off the crocs in closer proximity, along with demonstrations of the mighty creatures’ power as they’re fed. Designed to blend seamlessly into the landscape, the attraction sits 40 minutes north of Cairns and 25 minutes south of Port Douglas - or a shorter 15 minute drive from Palm Cove - and ranks as the best place to see a mixture of the signature crocodiles combined with other local wildlife such as cassowaries, reptiles and more, in the region. Image credit: Hartley's Crocodile Adventures View Experience

#18 - Moreton Island & the Tangalooma Wrecks

Where is it? 25km off the coast of Brisbane, QLD

Only a couple of Australia’s capitals can boast a tropical island getaway just offshore, and Brisbane has several of these within easy reach - the most accessible and obvious of which is Moreton Island which lies just 25 kilometres away from the city and serves as something of a lovely little resort-escape hub for Brisbane residents. Accessible via scenic boat trips of around 1 hour that cross the wildlife-rich stretch of Moreton Bay, Moreton Island offers wonderful entertainment both in and out of the water including ATV/Quad Bike rides, kayaking, sand tobogganing, feeding dolphins and even simply soaking up some sunshine laying on the sand.

Its most famous feature, however, is its collection of 15 shipwrecks which lie just offshore - the handful of deliberately-sunk vessels have become a haven for aquatic creatures over the years and now serve as a top snorkelling spot for all ages. Guided snorkelling tours are thus immensely popular in this area, as the wrecks are famed not only for their own interesting hulls but also for the mixture of tropical fish, wobbegong sharks, and coral varieties that call them home. It’s a highly accessible slice of reef life that can be had within an easy day trip, which can augmented by a range of activities available at the island's popular Tangalooma Island Resort - most famously the chance to hand-feed dolphins. If you've been looking to enjoy some snorkelling without a massive time or financial commitment, Moreton Island serves as an easy to recommend alternative to the bigger boys further north. Image credit: Paul Giggle via Tourism QLD View Experiences

#17 - Go Bungee Jumping with AJ Hackett

Where is it? 30km from Cairns, QLD

A long-time iconic name in the world of adventure activities, AJ Hackett began life in New Zealand in the mid-1980's as a result of one man's love for thrill-inducing sports. Ever since that point, they've bought the unmatchable rush of bungee jumping to multiple spots around the world - and this includes Australia, with Queensland's Cairns deriving much of its reputation as an adventure hub from AJ Hackett choosing it as their base of operations.

Nowadays, adventurous travellers can take the plunge from a 50m-high platform choosing from 16 different jump types - a veritable menu of adrenaline that consists of such bowel-loosening styles as the Backward Elevator, Titanic, Fruit Bat and even a BMX which lets you ride an actual bike off the edge! The bungee tower has long since become an essential visit for adrenaline seekers visiting the tropics, and sits around 20 minutes' drive outside of Cairns city with hotel pickups provided for those without their own vehicle. Those with a slightly lower level of daring can also opt for the Minjin Swing experience – a mildly less intense option that's designed to be experienced with a friend or two along for the ride (or is that drop?). Image credit: AJ Hackett Bungy View Experience

#16 - Dive the Yongala Wreck

Where is it? 9km south-east of Townsville, QLD

Widely regarded as Australia's best dive, the wreck of the SS Yongala located off Townsville's coast has long been an immensely popular diving site for enthusiasts from all over the world. Located in waters teeming with a large range of sea life, ranging from graceful marble rays to the occasional Whale shark and everything in between - including resident Queensland Gropers weighing up to 500kg - it's a dazzling display of the ocean at work. The cruise to the wreck involves around a two and a half hour boat trip from Magnetic Island with operator Adrenalin Dive offering monthly liveaboards and day tours from Townsville and Magnetic Island. Some divers choose to instead drive to the nearby town of Ayr further down the coast before heading to the launch point of Alva Beach in order to minimise journey time by sea.

Once under the water, it's easy to see why the dive is so popular; although it sank over 100 years ago and has been periodically battered by cyclonic weather, the Yongala is still in remarkably good condition given its open ocean location. It now serves as an artificial reef with a fully fledged Ecosystem in its own right, with many of the characteristic colours of the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef on display. Coral encrusts the hull of the ship, with both soft and hard corals contributing their individual hues to the proceedings, while fish are numerous and range from clown fish all the way up to immense Maori Wrasse, giant trevally and many other species. The wreck also hosts numerous species of reptiles and invertebrates from seasnakes and turtles, to macro-type shrimps and nudibranchs. Fully protected under the Historical Shipwreck Act and Marine Park Act, penetration of the wreck is prohibited. Various parts of the ship are still clearly recognisable and make for some great exploration opportunities; rudder, forward and aft masts, steam engine, dining room and more. Image credit: Adrenalin Snorkel and Dive View Experience

#15 - Go whale watching at Hervey Bay

Where is it? Hervey Bay, QLD

While options for whale watching in Queensland are numerous, Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast remains possibly the most famous whale watching destination in the entire country in large part thanks to its large, sheltered hub of Platypus Bay. Between the months of July and November each year, Hervey Bay serves as a popular resting ground for the gentle ocean giants as they take time to relax and nurse their newly-born calves. Unlike other destinations throughout the country where the majority of the whales are simply passing through, their idle and playful nature whilst in Hervey Bay means you’ll not only have a higher chance of encountering greater numbers, but a chance to see them performing some of their most recognisable antics such as breaching, whale slaps and more.

With numbers of humpbacks steadily recovering, it’s not uncommon for the region to witness over 7,000 of the whales paying a visit each year. As a result of these increasingly high numbers using Hervey Bay as a pit stop, a wide range of options now exist for visitors and locals alike to head out on the water and get up close with the whales. Several tour operators such as Freedom Whale Watch, Tasman Venture and Whalesong offer a mixture of both full and half day whale watching cruise itineraries to take guests out from the hub of Hervey Bay Marina for a session of aquatic encounters with parent-and-child pairings of whales making for a touching sight. Image credit: Darren Jew via Tourism QLD View Experience

#14 - Dive with Manta Rays at Lady Elliot Island

Where is it? Southern Great Barrier Reef, QLD

If you're looking for a travel destination that encapsulates everything a trip to experience the wonders of the Great Barrier Reef is all about - highlighted by truly world-class diving experiences - then it's hard to look past Queensland's highly-acclaimed Lady Elliot Island. As the southernmost island on the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Elliot Island has plenty going for it in terms of physical beauty, however there’s one factor in particular that helps set it apart from its neighbours: this is a spot that's internationally-renowned for the quality of its diving experiences, with international body PADI recognising the Island as one of the ‘Top 5 Places in the world to scuba dive with manta rays’. This is no small feat, given some of the more famous international destinations it's put up against.

The island was heavily featured in David Attenborough’s excellent recent documentary on the Great Barrier Reef for this very reason, as the enormous yet graceful and non-aggressive rays can be found in abundance between the months of May and August. The rays gather at scattered coral “bommies” off Lady Elliot (read: clusters of coral) to use them as an improvised “cleaning station”, as smaller fish pick off plankton and other organisms from the rays leaving them spotless as a result. Those looking to see the mantas up close can join the island’s experienced dive staff for a personally-escorted dive trip to one of 20 available sites around the island, and witness the mantas and an array of other marine life along with some great visibility characteristic of the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Image credit: Lady Elliot Island View Experience

#13 - Witness the Australian Outback Spectacular

Where is it? Gold Coast, QLD

Intended as a way to encapsulate the spirit of Australian outback pioneering and our country's relationship with both its livestock and landscape, the Australian Outback Spectacular is an extravaganza that mixes together stunt riding, music and song, Australian folklore, and tributes to various significant points in Australian history. Established on the Gold Coast in 2006, it soon became one of the region's most popular tourist attractions with its 1000-seat arena playing host to countless guests from both locally and abroad ever since. The show periodically undergoes theme changes to keep things fresh, each of which showcase a different slice of Australia’s past and geography, with previous shows covering the involvement of horses in World War I, Australian horse racing legend Phar Lap, the Snowy Mountains and the High Country, and the Australian Outback itself.

The show offers a traditional Aussie dinner - including food, wine and beer - along with a mixture of animal and human stars including dozens of horses, sheep, dogs, chickens and cattle that display a marvellous mixture of both talent and training. Production values are impressively high, while service is remarkably efficient given the scale and quantity of customers who attend each evening. Add in the latest in lighting and sound technology, and you've got a veritable feast for the eyes that every visitor to the Gold Coast should experience at least once - and one that comes with an intermingled dose of Aussie “larrikin” humour. Image credit: Village Roadshow View Experience

#12 - Wildlife at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Where is it? Brisbane, QLD

Long one of Brisbane's most popular attractions, the excellent Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary sits just to the west of Brisbane's CBD and can be reached in either short order by car, or via a more leisurely cruise route on the water taking in views of the city along the way. As the world's first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine plays host to 130 koalas as well as a myriad of other Aussie animals and places an emphasis on hands-on interaction wherever possible. Visitors are able to hold koalas (an act limited to Queensland), hand-feed kangaroos in a spacious enclosure, and even get up close with the rare Platypus all within expansive natural settings.

The sanctuary's motto is: "The earth is not only for humans", and it shows with the great quality of the wildlife facilities that makes for a refreshing change from a more typical zoo. Its shows are likewise excellent, with both a Sheepdog display multiple times daily and its free-flight bird show a particular highlight, with the swift and skilled aerial predators swooping at high speeds to catch food tossed in the air. Add in a reasonable price of entry and friendly and enthusiastic staff, and - if you've got overseas travellers visiting in particular - paying a visit to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a must on any Brisbane itinerary. Image credit: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary View Experience

#11 - Burleigh Heads Beach & Headland Walk

Where is it? Gold Coast, QLD

Upcoming and trendy yet not yet overdeveloped - and inherently naturally beautiful - of all of the beaches for which the Gold Coast is famous, few strike such a great balance between scenery, convenience, surfing conditions and facilities as Burleigh Heads. It’s simply an excellent all-rounder with something to appeal to everyone, regardless of if you’re keen to actually go in the water, or simply enjoy a wonderful atmosphere and environment. The beach has long been renowned for its excellent surfing, and serves as the site multiple annual international surfing events as a result - however, the average beachgoer still has plenty to take away from a visit here as well.

Bordered by an expansive grassed area, the parkland before the beach offers plenty of shade, barbecue and picnic facilities as well as play areas for the kids, while its network of chic restaurants and cafes is ever-growing and offer great diversity of dining regardless of if you’re looking to simply grab snacks and a coffee, or a full-blown lunch nearby. The beach offers great swimming conditions, is kept wonderfully clean and well-maintained, and is long and wide enough to find yourself a spot even during busy season. A visit here is not complete without taking part in its National Park walk, which winds its way along the point and around to neighbouring Tallebudgeera (gorgeous in its own right); you’ll get some great coastal scenery, encounter bush turkeys and other bird life, and plenty of greenery along the way. If there’s a beach elsewhere in Australia that checks as many boxes as well as Burleigh does, we’d like to know about it. Image credit: Destination Gold Coast 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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