Whether it’s a chance encounter with a dugong, or a run-in with a giant mud crab in a Chinese street market, Queensland is full of unexpected experiences.
The Gold Coast’s stunning string of squeaky-clean white sand beaches needs no introduction. From the family-friendly Rainbow Bay at the state’s border to Main Beach further north, the Gold Coast offers some of the best beaches in the world.
Sunshine Beach can be found at the far end of the koala-stuffed Noosa National Park. Natural and unpretentious, this is a great spot for sunbathing and is away from the crowds that can be found at the more touristy Main Beach.
Arguably Australia’s most picturesque beach is Whitehaven on the Whitsundays. The fine white sand and turquoise water make Whitehaven a desirable place to sit and soak up the sun. However, the best time to visit this stunning locale is the Aussie winter, when the venomous box jellyfish are not in the waters.
Do secret beaches still exist? Yes. Australia’s 30,000km of coastline harbours 10,685 beaches, and tourists have not found them all yet.
A short trip across Moreton Bay from Brisbane will land you at Cylinder Beach, a patrolled beach located on North Stradbroke Island. Heading north you’ll find Boulder Bay, on Moreton Island. As its name suggests, it is a boulder-strewn vignette set against a backdrop of blue water.
Woodgate Beach on Fraser Island can provide you with an opportunity to encounter whales, dugongs and turtles while you are in the surf. Woodgate is unique amongst Fraser Island beaches as it is protected from strong currents.
One of the centres of Australia’s surfing universe is the Gold Coast. Virtually all of the 35 beaches stretching for roughly 30km along the coast have their own break. However, there are four legendary point breaks. Snapper Rocks’ ‘Superbank’ is a perennial favourite, formed by a man-made sandbank. The Spit is a good choice for moderate surfers, Surfers Paradise beach is good for all levels, and advanced surfers should test their mettle at Narrowneck.
One of the northernmost surf beaches in Queensland is Springs Beach, just south of the tiny town of Agnes Water. It has safe swimming, great breaks, and postcard-perfect scenery.
The 74 Whitsunday Islands belong to the world’s greatest archipelagos for sailing, swimming, diving, fishing, hiking and much more, all within an hour’s boat-ride of the Great Barrier Reef.
Heading south, devotees of unspoiled nature will want to stop off at Fraser Island. The world’s largest sand island is home to native fauna and its strait is a favourite passage for migrating whales. The island has lookouts, the ‘quicksand’ Champagne Pools, coloured sands, lakes, eucalypt forests and beaches that stretch for 50km or more. The beach is so well known for four-wheel-driving that the beaches have speed limits.
Up in the hills behind the Gold Coast is Springbrook National Park, one of the few national parks with its own glow-worm grotto, complete with a waterfall tumbling into a pool through an eroded hole in the rock above.
Brisbane’s once predominantly Anglo-Saxon flavour has burgeoned into a medley of cultural hot-spots.
For a fabulous Greek meal, you cannot go past the West End of the inner city. If it’s prosciutto or gelato you want, head to the Italian community in New Farm. Every weekend, the Casa Italia Community Centre serves home-style pork scallopini with a glass of Chianti to passing diners. If you’re in the mood for fresh jellyfish, purple yams or sugar cane, the Chinese community in Sunnybank 16 km south of the city is the place to go.
Moorooka is a ‘little Africa’ of restaurants and stores selling African groceries, beauty products, furniture and more. Run by immigrants from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and other east African nations, the stores attract shoppers from all over town.
Even a tourist mega-centre like the Gold Coast has it secrets. A ride in a hot-air balloon will allow glide along silently as you to take in the Coast’s jungle of skyscrapers, the sea, the Tweed River and the mysterious hinterland.
For those looking for a high-octane activity, why not try out jet boating? Other activities include zorbing, bungee or reverse-bungee jumping, a ride in a tiger moth, WRX rally cars, jet-skiing, scuba diving, heli-tours and go-karting.
Not every tourist realises that one of the simplest secrets of the Gold Coast is right under their noses – a picnic by the beach. Most beaches are backed by a strip of grass with room to lay a blanket, coin-operated barbecues, and playgrounds for the kids all with a wonderful view of the Pacific.