#2: The burbs – Burleigh Heads, Queensland “I escape to Burleigh at any opportunity I can get. To me, it is the capital of the new-era Gold Coast. It has such a positive pull, a real sense of community and a very relaxed atmosphere. Burleigh has been revitalised into a dynamic and contemporary destination, whilst effortlessly paying tribute to its glittering 1960s surf town history.” -Kara Rosenlund, travel, documentary and lifestyle photographer
#3: Coastal haunt – Mooloolaba, Queensland While Marcoola has you covered for the quintessential family holiday on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Mooloolaba is the place for those who like their seaside sojourn with a little glitter on the side. Its esplanade lined with stylish alfresco restaurants and designer boutiques is the perfect complement to the ocean, which sits just a stone’s throw away. Our Sunshine Coast expert Celeste Mitchell shares her perfect day in Mooloolaba. Start your day right with truffle scrambled eggs and a golden latte at CK Coffee Bar, then take a stroll along the esplanade stopping to browse the chic stores including Number Nineteen and Ark & Arrow. Hire a retro cruise from the Hire Hut and cycle along the coast from The Spit to Alexandra Headland. Return to The Spit to buy fresh prawns straight from the trawlers at Mooloolaba Fish Markets; eat them upstairs on the deck with a beer and views over the marina. Spend the afternoon lazing on Mooloolaba Beach, then pop into Pier 33 for a cocktail as the sun goes down and finish the day with dinner at Spice Bar for mouth-watering Asian food.
#3: Alternative capital – Bundaberg, Queensland It might be famous for its rum, turtles and aviation history (the first solo flight between England and Australia was made in 1928 by Bundaberg-born Bert Hinkler, whose house-museum you can visit today), but there’s plenty more brewing in Queensland’s coastal city of Bundaberg. For 10 days in July, Winterfeast food festival takes over the city and its surrounds to showcase the region’s produce through a host of farm-to-gate experiences. And on Friday nights throughout the year, you’ll find an old boat-building shed on the riverbank transformed into a lively food market and craft-beer bar. A labour of love for longtime Bundy residents Greg and Karen Wittkopp, RiverFeast (pictured) was launched two and a half years ago “to give locals and visitors alike a unique eating, drinking and entertainment experience alongside the Burnett River,” says Karen. It brings together everything from Latin American barbecue to dim sum and Hungarian langos (a specialty fried bread with toppings) with local ciders and spirits including, of course, Bundaberg rum.
#5: Outback odysseys – Carnarvon Gorge, Queensland Walking through our country’s many wonderful and varied national parks, it can be easy to miss out on the similarly striking and unique animals for which these preserved spaces are sanctuary. Carnarvon National Park, 400 kilometres west of Gladstone, could be the most spectacular place in Australia to spot wildlife, its subtropical rainforest surrounded by dramatic sandstone bluffs and run through with Carnarvon Gorge, a staggering 600 metres deep at its mouth and one of Queensland’s most dramatic natural sites. To gain a rich understanding of the flora and fauna here, employ the likes of Australian Nature Guides. Head guide Simon Ling will accompany you deep into the gorge and can identify animals by their calls so you can home in on their location. “Carnarvon Gorge is one of Australia’s great ecological refuges. Exploring the tracks and trails beneath Carnarvon’s magnificent cliffs is like hiking back in time to an era when this part of Queensland was much wetter and cooler,” says Simon. “There are plants and animals here that appear out of place, considering the semi-arid landscapes outside the gorge.” His extensive knowledge of Carnarvon’s plants and wildlife, as well as its cultural history, means you won’t just bag a shot of a swamp wallaby, you’ll understand its crucial role in the ecology too. If you can, book yourself on a Night Safari Tour, where Simon will point out greater and yellow-bellied gliders with a flashlight as they soar from tree to tree.
#5: Alternative capital – Townsville, Queensland Dr Madeline Fowler, senior curator of maritime archaeology at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, shares her passion for her work and home in the North Queensland capital. What role does the Museum play in the city of Townsville? : "The Museum of Tropical Queensland, part of the Queensland Museum Network, is embedded in the Townsville community. From behind-the-scenes care of our State heritage objects and coral reef specimens, to celebrating northern Queensland’s unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, to bringing blockbuster international exhibitions to our doorstep, the museum aims to engage the community with our exploration of the past and our local environments." Apart from a visit to the museum, of course, what should we not leave the city without doing?: "Get outdoors! One of the best things about Townsville is how close we are to many wonderful natural and cultural heritage places. From relaxing on Magnetic Island and scuba diving on the historic shipwreck Yongala, to swimming in waterfalls at Paluma Range National Park and scrambling up Castle Hill, there is an adventure for everyone."
#6: Foodie favourite – Stanthorpe, Queensland Queensland and wine are not terms you often see together, with the Sunshine State largely overshadowed by the big names down south. But, Stanthorpe is in fact the home to more than 40 cellar doors, producing over 20 ‘Strange Birds’, Granite Belt wines made from alternative grape varieties like Sylvaner, Nero d’Avola and Petit Verdot (to be classed as an alternative variety it must represent no more than one per cent of the total bearing vines in Australia as defined by Wine Australia). Set off on the self-guided Strange Bird Wine Trail (find the map here) and you can sample the difference yourself, as well as picking up gourmet goodies along the way, from locally grown olives to fresh berries and apples.
#6: Rural town – Warwick, Queensland Warwick, set in a picturesque valley on Queensland’s Southern Downs, is replete with historic homesteads (including the first colonial settlement built over the Great Dividing Range) and sandstone buildings. These days, “a lively social ambience has evolved with an abundance of coffee shops, restaurants, quality wine outlets and diverse shopping experiences,” says Bette Bonney of the Jumpers and Jazz in July festival, who advocates Warwick in winter for “those who enjoy crisp, sunny winter days, quirky colourful festivals and quality jazz.” The festival, first staged in 2004, “has become a magnet for patrons seeking that unique travel experience,” she says; “a feast of jazz, art, quirky yarn bombing (every tree in the CBD is ‘dressed’ for the occasion!), intriguing workshops, amazing food and wine and the expansive RACQ Grand Automobile Display. The huge Markets in the Park finale with free jazz on the last Sunday is a must-do closing event.”
#6: Idyllic island – Lizard Island, Queensland The northernmost resort on the Great Barrier Reef, Lizard Island was named by Captain James Cook when he was navigating the waters here and came ashore to find an island crawling with goannas. The reptiles now share the island, which is over 240 kilometres from Cairns, with an indulgently luxurious resort of 40 suites and villas. From there, guests have the run of 24 private sandy beaches, as well as the aquatic wonderland of the reef. Apart from that, it’s all hanging out on sun lounges soaking up the rays and looking out to an infinite horizon.
#6: Top secret spot – Agnes Waters + 1770, Queensland Where? The town, also known as Seventeen Seventy, is 120 kilometres north of Bundaberg near the Gladstone region’s Agnes Waters. What? Its irresistible name comes thanks to the fact that it is the site of the second landing of Captain Cook and his ship, The Endeavour, in May 1770; the area is known as the birthplace of Queensland. Why? There are coastal rainforests and national parks to explore, uncrowded surf breaks, fishing, diving and abundant wildlife, and the sunsets are the stuff of legend; it is one of the few places on the east coast where you can watch the sun sink over the water.
#6: The burbs – Cottesloe, Western Australia A Indian Ocean alternative to its Bondi big sister, Sculpture by the Sea, Cottesloe is staged on the beach here each March. Founding director David Handley explains why you should visit this Perth suburb for longer:
- Cottesloe is one of Australia’s most stunning beaches with views to the horizon that seem to stretch forever – and Perth has arguably the best sunsets of any major city in the world. The amphitheatre looking onto the beach from under the shade of the pine trees gives you a different perspective of the walk to compare with when you walk along the sand.
- Over 200,000 people come from all across Perth and south-west Western Australia to see the exhibition. Each Friday to Sunday evening Cottesloe Beach becomes Perth’s giant passeggiata with thousands of people wandering among the sculptures on the beach as the sun sets over the Indian Ocean. It is the most extraordinary relaxed community vibe.
- Most people say you should visit two or three times as the sculptures and the atmosphere change at different times of day. My favourite times are to beat the crowds with an early morning wander around the sculptures followed by a swim and then breakfast at John Street Café. Or arrive around 5pm to soak up the atmosphere of the sunset crowds on the sand before heading to Il Lido for drinks and dinner. Make sure you drop into ‘Sculpture Inside’, our exhibition of small indoor works in a large walk-in marquee on the Sea View Golf course across the road from the beach. I am jealous of everyone eating fish and chips under the trees watching the sunset before or after a beer at the Cottesloe Beach Hotel.
#7: Neighbourhood – Fortitude Valley, Queensland “There is so much to love about the Valley. Here you will find people from all walks of life, a burgeoning cafe scene, premier retail precincts like James Street and Emporium, late night feeds and fascinating street art, all within a stone’s throw of the CBD, river and major transport hubs.” So says the team at Tryp, the funky street-art hotel in the thick of the action of this Brisbane neighbourhood. “Fortitude Valley also has some of the best nightlife, with everything from dive bars (RG’s, Ric’s) to whiskey joints (Savile Row), jazz clubs (Press Club), live rock (Zoo, Greaser), premier nightclubs (Family, The Met), quirky bars (Viscosity, Heya), beer gardens (Pig ‘N’ Whistle, The Elephant), rooftop bars (UP on Constance, Eleven) and everything in between.”
#7: Camping spot – Noah Beach, Cape Tribulation, Queensland To really experience where the rainforest meets the sea, the best thing to do is to actually stay within this renowned boundary along the spectacular coastline of Cape Tribulation. The campsite at Noah Beach is just 50 metres from the white sands bordering the Coral Sea, set within the fringes of the Daintree Rainforest eight kilometres south of Cape Tribulation village. From here you can simply walk the stretch of beach with palms and rainforest creepers hanging over the sand; if you’re lucky you may see a cassowary taking a stroll too. Swimming in the sea is probably not the best idea owing to stingers and ravenous crocs; you’re far better off exploring the flora and fauna of the oldest rainforest on the planet at the Daintree Discovery Centre.
#7: Coastal haunt – Marcoola, Queensland Marcool-huh? We’re not surprised if you have never heard of this little Sunshine Coast town located just 10 minutes from Sunshine Coast airport. It has flown under the radar, allowing Noosa and Maroochydore to steal the limelight, and that’s why we love it. Uncrowded beaches, grassy parklands perfect for family barbecues, the Maroochy River at its back door, this little gem is the classic coastal escape where doing very little is the delightful thing to do. There’s a lovely beachside walk that leads to Maroochydore and Mt Coolum National Park is less than 10 minutes’ drive north; walk to its summit for a panoramic view of the coast. When it comes to food, glorious food, we rate Little Boat Espresso for an inventive brunch menu, Marcoola Market (every Friday 4-8pm) where there’s food trucks and relaxing tunes with a great family vibe, and Bulli, a local’s favourite for good pizza.
#9: Idyllic island – Haggerstone Island, Queensland Situated on the Great Barrier Reef, Haggerstone Island is a private haven that indulges your fantasies of being stranded on a tropical island in the middle of nowhere. A labour of love of Roy and Anna Turner, the couple have spent the last 30 years creating a luxury resort constructed from raw, earthy materials, many scavenged from the island itself. The result is a uniquely individual offering of lodges that melt seamlessly into the lush tropical surrounds. The Swiss Family Robinson aesthetic reaches it zenith in the main lodge, with heavy beams, a high thatched roof, and flickering candle light illuminating the pitch-dark nights. Being cast away never looked so good.
#9: Outback odysseys – Longreach and Winton, Queensland Perhaps overlooked for the bucket-list greats of the outback, a visit to the dusty frontier town of Longreach pays rich dividends. While you could spend weeks travelling around the Kimberley, there’s so much to do around Longreach in the space of a weekend. Learn about the origins of our national airline at the Qantas Founders Museum and don’t miss the ode to cowboy life at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame. Just under two hours’ drive north, see the largest collection of Aussie dino fossils in the world at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs, before exploring classic outback town Winton and its new, improved Matilda Centre (reopened on 20 April), the world’s first museum dedicated to a song.
#10: Idyllic island – Thursday Islands The Torres Strait Islands are the stuff of mythology for most Australians, largely because many will only dream of visiting them in their lifetime. Scattered like confetti in the waters of the Torres Strait between Cape York and Papua New Guinea (there are some 274 islands in total), for those who do make the journey, the reward is experiencing an area that is rich in culture and beauty. The sense of time moving at a different speed is something to embrace here; Thursday Island represents the thriving heart of the Torres Strait, but don’t expect this to come with hustle and bustle. Tour the historic sites on the island – Green Hill Fort and its tunnels that now house the Torres Strait Historical Museum, and don’t even think of leaving without seeing the Gab Titui Cultural Centre. And take a boat ride to neighbouring Friday Island.