In this week celebrating Australia, and all there is to see and do, we continue our plans to “Learn Our Country”, travel the continent, go deeper. We have the whole continent to ourselves.
And today we focus on Queensland.
Queensland is both complementary and contrasty to our way of life; our way of thinking.
There is the coastal, beach, tropical-fruit-and-sundowner culture, for sure — but the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree Rainforest and the buzzy coastal Gold Coast add a twist which, with its more humid climate, make Queensland somewhere different.
But, at the end of a direct flight of less than six hours, we land in Brisbane.
It’s a modern, busy city — but it’s a lush one, too. I’m looking down from a high rooftop in Brisbane’s city centre, at a river edged by parks. Ferries leave white wakes on the choc milk water.
From Brisbane City Botanic Gardens to the Colmslie Beach Reserve, this is a lush city.
And this is the result of an opportunity born of disaster. As you might remember, in 2011, the Brisbane River flooded 22,000 homes and 7600 businesses across 94 suburbs. Infrastructure, transport systems, waterways, parks and community areas were drowned. And since then, Brisbane City Council (and more than $440 million and three years of recovery work) has seen parks, wharves, jetties and pools built.
On my list …
Day out. Theming a day in Brisbane can be driving by getting a ferry ticket. From Eagle Street Pier ferry terminal to North Quay, South Quay and more than 20 other terminals, there is plenty to explore just by catching the river ferries. CityCats (short for catamarans) buzz up and down the river — the best way for us to explore the city. And it you get confused, just stay on the CityCat, do a complete loop, and end up where you started.
Artsy. South Bank is at the heart of the cultural life of Brisbane. And at the heart of that are South Bank’s Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art; Henderson Gallery, Institute of Modern Art in up and coming Fortitude Valley. A CityCat ride away, at New Farm Park, Brisbane Powerhouse hosts shows and festivals.
Foody. Brissie does well in the dining stakes. Very well. Old favourite restaurants have survived; hot new ones like Coppa, Will & Flow, Felons Barrel Hall and Boom Boom Room Izakaya have been added.
Day trip. Visit Moreton Island, one of the world’s biggest sand islands, with beaches, lagoons, and walk trails.
Quay. River Quay, South Bank, is good for for riverfront dining, with River Quay Fish, Stokehouse, Aquitaine, Popolo and The Jetty.
Wharves. New life has been breathed into Howard Smith Wharves, tucked under the Story Bridge. Mr Percival’s, an overwater bar, is popular with locals. The wharves were originally built in the 1930s, to give locals work during the depression. Between the 1960s and the recent refurbishment, they were largely abandoned, but are now heritage listed.
BYRON BAY & NOOSA
They are two big drawcards — two iconic Queensland spots, each with a very different personality.
Byron Bay is an hour south of Brisbane; Noosa two hours north. They both have good beaches, and Byron Bay’s Hinterland and Noosa National Park each have interesting landscapes. They offer similar attitudes and experiences.
Noosa has a Florida Keys feel, everglades, Eumundi markets, Australia Zoo.
Byron Bay has a lighthouse, cape, bars, weekend markets and nearby Nimbin.
Creativity, community, cool and sea culture were stuck into a blender and poured into Byron Bay’s DNA when it was created. And it is an authentic mix. It is what some other places closer to home want to be.
GREAT BARRIER REEF
It’s called “Great” Barrier Reef for a reason. Covering 344,000sqkm, it’s bigger than Italy. Day trip out on boats from Cairns or Port Douglas. And it’s a full day. Quicksilver takes guests out to a pontoon at Agincourt Reef (with lunch and all the trimmings), and there are plenty of others to chose from. My tip is to look for a company with guided snorkelling tours and oceanwalker helmet diving.
Life is lived outdoors all year; there’s a holiday feel. And because Cairns hasn’t got any natural beach, they made their own. The 4800sqm Esplanade Lagoon saltwater pool is the heart of the city and surrounded by boardwalks and tropical parkland with banyan trees.
Head to dinner at Prawn Star, once a prawn trawler, now a floating restaurant serving seafood. And prawns. Add in a drive out to Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
Insiders in Port Douglas tourism describe it as a “high-end resort hub”, but to me it that old, classic Queensland charm doesn’t hide far under the surface. Walk Macrossan Street on a warm evening and pick from more than 60 restaurants and cafes. Locals like the al fresco seafood at 2Fish, homemade gnocchi at Salsa Bar and Grill and the smoothie bowl at Betty’s Bohemian Beach Café. I’ll be happy with fish and chips on the wharf. Classic.
The Daintree Rainforest is a sort of real-life Jurassic Park. The 1200sqkm between Mossman Gorge and Bloomfield River is 180 million years old — many millions of years older than the Amazon. There are many unique plants and animals in what is one of the planet’s most complex ecosystems. Start at the Daintree Discovery Centre, in Cow Bay, north of Port Douglas, with its 23m canopy tower, 10m aerial walkway and elevated rainforest boardwalks.
Give yourself something to look forward to and plan your incredible trip today. Visit australia.com
There are holiday ideas, trips and itineraries.
You’ll find planning tools and information on everything from road trips to marine life.