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.
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.
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.
Awe-inspiring Lake McKenzie is possibly one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. It is also one of the world’s least polluted and a swim in the crystal-clear freshwater will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
The lake is a “perched lake,” meaning it sits atop a sand dune where the sand and humus underneath have bonded into a concrete-like base. The lake isn't connected to streams or the ocean, which means all the water is pure rainwater. The sand also acts as a filter keeping the water clear, and makes for an amazing experience when relaxing in the lake.
Fraser Island is home to forty of the world’s eighty perched lakes, and like the many other freshwater lakes on the island, Lake McKenzie relies solely on rain for replenishment.
A popular tourist attraction, Eli Creek features a serene beauty with its crystal clear fresh waters and pearly white sand bottom. With over four million liters of water pouring from its mouth every hour, it is one of Fraser Island’s largest freshwater streams. Along with its beautiful beach location people enjoy visiting Eli Creek for a relaxing float down its pure waters. Its gentle current makes it a safe option for both adults and children. For those not interested in getting wet a scenic boardwalk allows you to walk around the creek on land.
As Eli Creek is located along Seventy-Five Mile Beach, visitors to Eli Creek can enjoy other attractions onsite. Along with off-roading, fishing and sunbathing there’s the onshore Maheno wreck, which was once one of the fastest ships in the world and was used by the Australian Airforce for target practice during WWII. Additionally, the Champagne Pools provide safe saltwater swimming in an enclosed natural rock pool.
Central Station Rainforest, once the central hub for the forestry department on Fraser Island, is a stunning and lush forest located on Wanggoolba Creek of Fraser Island - one of the most scenic areas on the island!
Since the logging industry's departure in the late 1950s, Central Station is a popular picnic and camping spot for tourists with an information center which provides a history of the island and tips on the flora and fauna in the area.
Home to many specifies of plants, Central Station rainforest houses the massive Angiopteris ferns, which has the largest fern fronds in the world. Giant satinay and kauri trees also grow around the forest.
The massive kauris have a soaring trunk and branches only start at the very top; these trees were prized as masts in the days of sailing boats. Satinay trees are regarded as biological marvels since the sand they grow in contain very little nutrients.
This stretch of soft white sand is aptly named Seventy-Five Mile Beach due to the fact that it’s 75 miles (121 kilometers) long. Running along majority of Fraser Island’s east coast, the beach offers a number of experiences, although swimming is not advised due to the high number of tiger sharks. That being said off-roading and fishing are popular pastimes on the beach, as is visiting its many attractions. If you are wanting to swim safely there are the Champagne Pools, natural rock pools that feature frothy Champagne-like bubbles when waves crash over the rocks.
Additionally, Indian Head is a rocky outcrop popular for watching stingrays, fish, turtles, dolphins and sharks in the surf. Visitors can also visit the Maheno Wreck, once one of the world’s fastest ships and used for target practice by the Australian Airforce in WWII.
The rainbow layers of sand that make up The Pinnacles are a spectacular site on the east coast of Fraser Island. They are one of the reasons why Fraser Island has UNESCO World Heritage listing.
Over the last 2 million years sand has been blowing onto the island and formed fascinating geological sites such as the “perched” lakes, the remarkable dunes and these colorful cliffs. The cliffs change in color throughout the day and are particularly startling early morning and sunset when the reds become beautifully vibrant. The Pinnacles get their color from the iron compounds in the silica sands that are blown across the island.
The traditional owners of the land tell a story about a wife running away with the rainbow man and her hunter husband deciding to kill her with a boomerang.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opened in the 1840s and stretching from Gardens Point on the Brisbane River to the grounds of Parliament House, Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens is the oldest green space in the city. The gardens were originally planted in 1825 by convicts who needed to provide food for the penal colony, but three years later the colonial botanist Charles Fraser decided that this would be the perfect spot for conducting plant experiments to see which cash crops could grow well in Australia. Mango, ginger, tamarind and mahogany trees were all planted, and even sugar was produced in the gardens.
Formerly known as the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, the City Botanic Gardens front Alice Street and George Street. Full of rare and unusual flowers and plants including cycads, palms, figs, and bamboo, the gardens stretch for 20 acres and are popular with CBD workers and visitors looking to relax on the lawns and walk by the ornamental ponds.
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.
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.
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.
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.