Things to Do in Queensland
The Great Barrier Reef is Australia's greatest natural treasure, and the world’s largest coral reef. This underwater wonderland stretches for 2,300 km (1,426 miles) from Bundaberg to Australia's northernmost tip. At its closest, it's only 30 km (18.5 miles) away from the Queensland coast.
The Great Barrier Reef encompasses almost 3,000 individual reefs. Their multicoloured beauty is made up of 400 types of living and dead coral polyps, home to around 1,500 species of fish, 4,000 breeds of clams, 500 types of seaweed, 200 species of birds, 1,500 different sponges and half a dozen varieties of turtles.
The Great Barrier Reef is also dotted with around 900 islands, including coral cays such as Green Island and Heron Island, along with the Whitsundays sand islands. Fringing reefs surround the islands, while the outer reef faces away from the mainland and islands and out to sea.
Lapped by the sea 27 km (16.5 miles) from the mainland, Green Island is one of the most popular island day-trip destinations from Cairns. A true coral cay, the island is covered in rainforest and surrounded by coral reefs for snorkeling adventures. The island's luxury resort has a swimming pool for day visitors' use, along with a restaurant, snack kiosk and several bars.
While you're on Green Island you can visit the tropical aquarium, follow the self-guided island walking track, take a short stroll along nature boardwalks leading through the rainforest, and spot turtles swimming in the sea off the island's patrolled beach.
The Great Barrier Reef is the Earth’s largest structure built entirely by living organisms. It runs for over 1,200 miles from its northern to southern tip, and is almost the size of the state of Montana when its various reefs are combined. One of the reefs—the Agincourt Reef—is a distant section along the reef’s northern tip where stunning biodiversity creates one of the most pristine ecosystems found anywhere along the reef.
Known as a type of “Ribbon Reef,” the Agincourt Reef runs parallel to the line with the Continental Shelf. Exotic species such as the Maori wrasse are commonly found along the reef, and sharks, rays—and even whales—can be seen when scuba diving the reef. Even for travelers who are just snorkeling, however, there are sections of the reef only a few feet below the clear, turquoise waters. Here, in the shallow lagoons, thousands of fish inhabit a reef that bursts with vibrancy and color.
Opened in 1891, Kuranda’s Scenic Railway lies some 21 miles of picturesque landscape away from Cairns. This popular attraction passes by the breathtaking Barron Falls and equally impressive Stoney Creek Falls. While some travelers lament the dark tunnels and rocky crags, most agree that the incredible gorges, lush forests and roaring waterfalls make this experience worth the journey.
Friendly staff members and expert guides help to complete the experience by snapping family photos for you and offering a bit of background information about the railway’s history and construction. Their attentive nature and hospitable vibe almost make up for the train’s lack of air-conditioning—particularly noticeable on hot Aussie days.
Visit Queensland’s first national park on Mount Tamborine, in the Gold Coast Hinterland region, to enjoy the natural wonders of eucalypt forests, palm groves, prehistoric volcanic rock outcrops and lush subtropical waterfalls.
Mount Tamborine National Park originated with the protection of the Witches Falls and has since expanded across the Tamborine plateau and surrounding foothills. Popular national park activities include walking the many mapped and marked bush trails, spotting Australian brush-turkeys and listening for the call of the threatened Albert’s lyrebird.
Once you’ve explored the natural wilderness of Mount Tambourine National Park, be sure to indulge in the boutique beers, local wines and specialty crafts from the Tambourine Mountain township, which is known as a luxury getaway destination and hang gliding hotspot.
The sweltering heat of Cairns in northern Queensland is a sweating contradiction to the lush, fertile landscape of the Atherton Tablelands. An easy hour and a half drive inland, the towns of Mareeba and Atherton are an oasis from the heat and bustle of one of Australia’s larger tropical cities.
The Atherton Tablelands cover an area of 32,000 square kilometres and their altitude ranges from 500 to 1280 metres above sea level. The distinctive climatic conditions lend themselves to a diverse and arrestingly photogenic range of natural phenomena. No less than 12 species of birdlife are unique to the tablelands, which encompasses pockets of the forest that once covered it, now protected as National Park. With a high yearly rainfall, waterfalls in the area are abundant and active. Local attractions include platypus watching, boat cruises and hot air ballooning, and the region is famous for its produce markets and wineries.
Brisbane is a city shaped by the river. It is a city of long walks in the summer dusk and riverside picnics on weekends. Bringing natural life to the urban scape, the Brisbane River is the site of many of Brisbane’s best attractions, events and everyday joys.
Popular activities on the Brisbane River include kayaking through the city at night, exploring the river on a CityCat, taking a dining river cruise or catching a local ferry to reach the opposite shore. Climbing the Kangaroo Point Cliffs on the river’s edge is a popular evening activity, and many residents and visitors alike enjoy climbing the famous Story Bridge, dining at South Bank by the water and relaxing with a drink at Eagle Street Pier.
You can also take a walk through the City Botanical Gardens that follow the northern river’s edge, see a live show at the famous Riverstage, look across the urban night from a Gallery of Modern Art ‘Up Late’ event, or read by the river.
Story Bridge is Brisbane’s answer to Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. Iconic in its own right, Story Bridge is a heritage-listed, steel cantilever bridge that allows access between the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane.
Story Bridge was built between 1935 and 1939, and was known as Jubilee Bridge until mid 1940. The main attraction of Story Bridge, as splendid as it is to view from afar, are the bridge climbs which began in 2005. A guided tour takes visitors up the bridge to stunning panoramic views of the city, out to Moreton Bay, and west across the aptly named Scenic Rim as they stand 80 metres above sea level. It’s also possible to abseil down one of the bridge’s pylons and into Captain Burke Park.
More Things to Do in Queensland
Despite its location on the Queensland coast, Cairns doesn’t have any beaches within the city (the closest are just to the north). But you can still enjoy the sun and sand downtown at the Cairns Lagoon. This 50,000-square-foot lagoon is the highlight of the Cairns Esplanade and the perfect place to relax, swim and sunbathe without worrying about the box jellyfish and saltwater crocodiles that sometimes makes appearances in the near-shore waters.
With a maximum depth of only five feet, it’s a safe and welcoming spot for kids, visitors and locals alike, complete with fountains, sunshades, sandy beaches and nearby lawns and tables that are perfect for a midday picnic overlooking Trinity Harbour. The myriad shops and restaurants of the Esplanade surround the lagoon, so it’s easy to enjoy an hour or two by the water amid a day of shopping and sightseeing in the city.
Calm waters, crystal clear visibility and tons of tropical fish make Michaelmas Cay one of the best scuba and snorkeling destinations outside of Cairns. Underwater enthusiasts love the colorful coral found far below the ocean’s surface and the lively birds that fly high overhead. Time spent on a boat isn’t so bad either.
Leopard sharks, sting rays and sea turtles swim among the coral reefs, and since the sandy lagoon is protected from the elements, snorkeling conditions are ideal regardless of the weather nearby.
Australia's first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to over a hundred cute and cuddly koalas, along with other weird and wonderful native Australian animals like wombats, emus, dingos and kangaroos.
Opened in 1927, the sanctuary began as a home to only two koalas, and over the years has grown to its current size. Lone Pine found its fame around the time of WWII, when Americans would visit the park to see these strange and new creatures. Today, the sanctuary is dedicated to the conservation of all native Australian animals, especially the koala, and works under strict regulations of the Queensland National Park and Nature Reserve Office.
The real highlight of the park is that you are able to cuddle a koala! Get the chance to hold a koala and even pose for a photo. No personal cameras are allowed, so to take home the special memory of you and a koala, you will have the chance to purchase a professional photograph from the park.
Four Mile Beach is exactly that – four glorious miles of unimpeded golden sands stretching into the distance.
Lined with palms, with resorts tucked away behind the trees, this is the beach to head to in Port Douglas for safe swimming with the family or long romantic walks hand in hand.
For the best views of Four Mile Beach, make your way to the top of Flagstaff Hill Lookout, on the point at Port Douglas, and take in stunning vistas of the beach stretching off in a gentle curve to the mountains on the horizon.
The Wildlife Habitat Sanctuary gives you the chance to see Australia’s animals up-close in their own habitats. Conservation, sustainability and education are all priorities at this very special wildlife habitat.
Rainforest, wetlands, grassland and nocturnal tours set the scene for superb animal encounters, but perhaps the most popular way to meet the animals is to enjoy Breakfast with the Birds or Lunch with the Lorikeets.
The Koala Habitat is one of the most popular exhibits, with great views of the sleeping marsupials and the chance to step inside and touch and feed the koalas.
Take a behind-the-scenes wildlife tour to learn more about the sanctuary’s breeding programs, rescue center and rehabilitated animals.
Located right across the river from Brisbane’s CBD, the popular Kangaroo Points Cliff Park is the place to head for a sweeping view of Brisbane’s downtown skyline. The cliffs here were formed by mining in the middle of the 19th century, and are now a popular spot for rock climbing and abseiling down their face. Since the park is located right on the river, kayaking is another popular activity for visitors as well as locals, and the BBQ grills and walking tracks make it a perfect family outing. To try your hand at scaling the cliffs, a number of climbing and abseiling companies offer guided lessons on the rocks, and the park is also a popular spot for stops on a city tour. And, while it doesn’t take long to swing by the park and enjoy the manicured grounds, it’s a peaceful, fun, and healthy retreat in the middle of Brisbane’s downtown.
On a hill overlooking Brisbane City, you will find a sprawling garden oasis known as Roma Street Parkland. This subtropical parkland boasts bamboo thickets, sunny picnic patches, calming waterways and meandering paths through botanical bliss.
The happy result is an inner-city retreat that can whisk you into another world, despite being only a few minutes’ walk from the central bustling business district and Brisbane Transit Centre.
Designed and realised by Australian gardening celebrity, the late Colin Campbell of the ABC’s Gardening Australia, Roma Street Parkland was established in 2001 as a horticultural wonderland, using the former goods yard for the adjacent train station. Since opening, the parkland has become a popular outdoor space, hosting entertainment events in the natural amphitheatre at the top of the park, as well as festivals and other recreational events.
Aussie wildlife can be hard to spot at the peak of rainy season. Luckily, there’s the Cairns Wildlife Dome—an all-weather immersion exhibit that puts travelers smack in the middle of a real indoor jungle.
Turtles, snakes and kookaburras wander freely among the forest, and while an up-close look at these small wonders makes for a memorable visit, it’s the Cairns ZOOm that has visitors leaving the dome grinning from ear to ear. The high ropes course consists of more than 50 challenges, including high-flying ziplines that cruise over crocodile-filled waters. Helpful guides offer plenty of educational information, and popular wildlife shows entertain, especially ones involving hand-tamed birds and fuzzy koalas.
Water, sand and sun make for a good combination pretty much anywhere in the world. Put them all together to create a man-made beach right in the middle of Brisbane, and you’ve got the must-visit Streets Beach.
Australia’s only inner-city, manmade beach, this site has a chlorinated lagoon surrounded by sandy beaches and sub-tropical plants that makes for a great spot to head to whether you have kids in tow or not. An extra bonus—this beach-like spot enjoys a view of the city skyscrapers and Brisbane River, which will keep you from forgetting you’re not out on a tropical island somewhere.
Built in 1846 for Scottish settlers Patrick and Catherine Leslie, Newstead House is Brisbane's oldest colonial residence and remains one of its most renowned heritage properties. Set on the banks of the Brisbane River, the historic home is now a house museum, beautifully recreated in late Victorian style.
Visitors can step back in time as they explore Newstead House, admiring the vast collection of period furnishings and marvelling over unique artefacts like a signal cannon, Sir Thomas Brisbane’s pipe and a model of the HMS Beagle ship sailed by Royal Navy captain John Wickham, a former resident. The house also hosts a number of special events and educational programs including the chance to experience Victorian-style cooking, washing and games.
Brisbane’s all-natural lookout point and city escape is Mt Coot-tha, hovering above the city to its west. The views from the lookout are legendary, taking in Brisbane and the undulating Brisbane River, all the way to Moreton Bay and the Glass House Mountains on the horizon. At the foot of the mountain, the lush Brisbane Botanic Gardens provide a vivid touch of green.
The lookout is surrounded by expansive native bush and parkland. Brisbanites flock here on family picnics, or to follow walking tracks to waterfalls and more lookouts. An Aboriginal Art Trail winds past ancient sites, and weekend cyclists come here to follow the winding roads. Come here at night to see the city lights twinkle, for a relaxed lunch at the cafe or more formal dinner at the Summit Restaurant.
A multimedia experience engaging all of the senses, Infinity is a journey through mazes of special effects that create a dream-like atmosphere. Sound fields, lights, music, and visual illusions challenge the mind and stretch the imagination of those who navigate the funhouse.
There are 20 different environments, each with its own unique interactive experience. Ranging from a laser room to a time warp, electron maze, and inter-dimensional space, visitors are treated to a feast for all the senses throughout. The creator of Infinity has an art background, and the innovative and immersive displays on an “electronic canvas” push the boundaries of artistic expression, eliciting powerful emotional responses. Truly a unique experience, Infinity lives up to its name by altering one’s sense of time, space and what is possible.
Things to do near Queensland
- Things to do in Noosa & Sunshine Coast
- Things to do in Cairns & the Tropical North
- Things to do in Brisbane
- Things to do in Port Douglas
- Things to do in Gold Coast
- Things to do in Hervey Bay
- Things to do in Rainbow Beach
- Things to do in Aeroglen
- Things to do in New South Wales
- Things to do in Victoria
- Things to do in South Australia
- Things to do in Byron Bay
- Things to do in Hunter Valley
- Things to do in Northern Territory
- Things to do in Tasmania