Tropical Queensland: Active Oz from Sea to Summit
The recipe: Mix the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest sand island, Australia?s most popular beach, and the country?s most scenic coastline; then, throw in rainforests, coral islands, and vast stretches of Outback, sprinkled with fauna as diverse and odd-looking as the duck-billed platypus, echidna, tree kangaroo, and green possum. The result: Australia?s most alluring state, Queensland. Months can be spent exploring all it has to offer, but if you're needing to trim this massive state down into a few, digestible adventures, focus your attention on Queensland's tropical face.
The bustling Queensland city of Cairns provides access to the Great Barrier Reef, which rightfully defines paradise for all snorkelers and scuba divers. Day-long outings and multi-day excursions to the outer reef system are easily arranged, and the beautiful Bunker and Capricorn Island groups along the southern portion of the reef should not be missed. Sailors, meanwhile, should make the pilgrimage further south to the Whitsunday Islands, where the coral reef's beauty combines with some of the world's best trade winds.
Only the rainforest's flora is vibrant enough to compete with the fluorescent colors of the reef's corals. Thirty-eight miles from Cairns, red king parrots flutter atop the green gum trees that flank Mount Bartle Frere, Queensland's highest peak. The Atherton Tableland has a dizzying number of mountain bike and hiking trails throughout its lush forests. Crater lakes dot its flatlands, and the Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit includes what many describe as the perfect waterfall.
Queensland's capital, Brisbane, offers additional aquatic distractions. Aptly-named Surfer's Paradise lies to the south. The Gold Coast?the crown jewel of the Pacific and the beach in Australia?and neighboring Sunshine Coast are further north. The sand dunes, beaches, and cliffs of Fraser Island, a World Heritage site that lies off the Queensland coast, are held in place by a densely rooted rainforest, with trunks that sometimes grow up to ten feet in diameter. Options in Queensland are as vast as its size, which says a lot considering the state's twice the size of Texas. Calculate the time you have, how you'd like to spend it (cycling, scuba diving, hiking, sunbathing), and then plan accordingly?whichever impulse, tropical Queensland will accommodate.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication