9 DREAMY QUEENSLAND HOLIDAY DESTINATIONS
From the warm beaches of the Gold Coast in South East Queensland to the one-million-year-old rainforest in Far North Queensland, here are the best Queensland holiday destinations.
Queensland is home to over 1900 islands, five world heritage sites, unique creatures and natural wonders found nowhere else. So, how do you decide where to go on your next trip? In this guide, we’re going to share the dreamiest destinations in Queensland, how to get there, and the best places to stay.
- The best ways to travel around Queensland
- Queensland Holiday Destinations
- Gold Coast Beaches and Hinterland
- Toowoomba and Southern Queensland Country
- Brisbane City
- Sunshine Coast Beaches and Hinterland
- K’Gari and the Fraser Coast Region
- The Southern Great Barrier Reef
- Outback Queensland
- The Whitsunday Islands and Central Great Barrier Reef
- Tropical North Queensland and the Northern Great Barrier Reef
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The best ways to travel around Queensland
For each Queensland holiday destination on our list, we’ve included the best ways to get there. But what if you want to visit multiple locations in the sunshine state?
Hiring a car is one of the most convenient ways to travel around Queensland. Many travellers opt to rent a motorhome for the bonus of having accommodation with their transportation. There are just a few things you need to know before driving in Australia.
The other popular land options are by bus or train. Bus travel is cheaper than train for long-distance trips. However, Queensland Rail offers bucket list-worthy experiences such as the Spirit of Queensland.
Queensland Holiday Destinations
Gold Coast Beaches and Hinterland
Glitzy Gold Coast is South East Queensland’s favourite recreation destination, with endless stretches of sandy beaches, waterfront dining options, scenic waterfalls, and family theme parks such as Sea World and Movie World.
Where to stay on the Gold Coast:
- Surfers Paradise: Have easy access to tourist attractions and stunning beaches within the humming hub of the Gold Coast.
- Broadbeach: Discover your bliss in this low-key Gold Coast suburb ideal for families or couples who still want the convenience of the G: link.
- The Hinterland: Escape reality with a rainforest retreat in the Gold Coast Hinterland and spend your days exploring world heritage listed Gondwana Rainforests in Springbrook and Lamington National Park.
How to get to the Gold Coast:
- Train: Gold Coast train services run from Brisbane’s CBD and domestic and international airports to Helensvale Station. From there, you can transfer to a bus or the Gold Coast Light Rail (G: link) to reach your final destination.
- Plane: Domestic and international flights arrive at Coolangatta Airport, which is 30 kilometres south of Surfers Paradise. From the airport, there are taxis, shuttles, and bus services to take you to your Gold Coast accommodation.
Toowoomba and Southern Queensland Country
Journey to Southern Queensland Country for fresh foodie delights and flower festivals in the garden city of Toowoomba, apple picking and winery tours within the Granite Belt region, and walking trails that traverse diverse landscapes.
Where to stay in Southern Queensland:
- Toowoomba: Choose Toowoomba City for a family-friendly holiday or base to explore more of Southern Queensland Country.
- Bunya Mountains: Relax in rustic cabins or feel closer to nature while camping in the Bunya Mountains National Park.
- Stanthorpe: Nestle up in front of a log fire while sipping wine inside a charming country cottage.
How to get to Toowoomba:
- Car: The 90-minute drive from Brisbane to Toowoomba will take you past the farmlands of the Lockyer Valley and up the remarkable Great Dividing Range. From here it’s another 90 minutes north to the Bunya Mountains or one hour and 45 minutes south to Stanthorpe.
- Bus: Both Greyhound and Murrays have daily services from Brisbane to Toowoomba. To reach Stanthorpe from Brisbane, Crisps Coaches operate from Monday to Friday.
- Train: The Westlander departs Brisbane every Tuesday and Thursday, taking approximately four hours to reach Toowoomba.
- Plane: Toowoomba Wellcamp Airport has direct flights to Sydney, Townsville, and Western Queensland. Alternatively, you can fly to Brisbane and then transfer to a bus or train.
Queensland’s capital and largest city is an urban playground with a dash of class. Go kayaking on the Brisbane River, shop local produce at the West End farmers’ markets, picnic at one of two botanic gardens, spot koalas and kangaroos on an inner-city hike, and sip craft brews with iconic views.
Where to stay in Brisbane:
- South Brisbane or South Bank: Situate yourself within five minutes’ walking distance of art galleries, museums, parklands, Brisbane CBD, and the eclectic suburb of West End.
- Fortitude Valley: Pick from mid-range to luxury hotels close to cafes, fine dining restaurants, and Brisbane’s nightclub scene.
See more of the best areas to stay in Brisbane on a short visit.
How to get to Brisbane:
- Train: The Brisbane XPT train runs daily from Sydney, taking approximately 14 hours.
- Plane: Brisbane has both a domestic and an international airport with flights to every state of Australia.
Sunshine Coast Beaches and Hinterland
A couple of hours north of Brisbane is the beloved Sunshine Coast with 100 kilometres of beautiful beaches, high-adrenaline water sports, local surfing spots, and the boutique shopping streets of Noosa. Venture inland to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland for mountain towns, art galleries, national parks, and invigorating hiking trails. You’ll never run out of things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
Where to stay on the Sunshine Coast
- Maleny: Sleep in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland at a working farm, rainforest retreat, or cosy cottage within walking distance from Maleny’s main street and attractions.
- Caloundra: Plan the perfect family getaway with a beachside apartment close to casual restaurants and cafes.
- Noosa Heads: Treat yourself to luxury resort accommodation on stylish Hastings Street.
See our top accommodation picks for the Sunshine Coast beaches.
How to get to the Sunshine Coast:
- Car: Driving from Brisbane, it takes just under two hours to reach Noosa and 1.5 hours to reach Caloundra or Maleny.
- Plane: Mudjimba is home to Sunshine Coast’s commercial airport with arrivals from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. From the airport, there are taxis, shuttles, rideshare services, and public transportation options to take you to your final destination.
K’Gari and the Fraser Coast Region
Another hour along the Queensland Coast you’ll find K’Gari (Fraser Island), the world’s largest sand island at 123 km long. Popular activities on K’Gari include four-wheel driving along 75 Mile Beach, floating down the crystal clear waters of Eli Creek, and walking along the soft white silica sand of Lake McKenzie. The combination of natural wonders makes this a world heritage area.
Where to stay in the Fraser Coast Region:
- K’Gari (Fraser Island): Camp on the island like locals or upgrade yourself to more comfortable quarters with a selection of two-to-four-star hotels.
- Hervey Bay: Stay on the mainland in soothing Hervey Bay in a safari tent, motel, or aparthotel.
How to get to K’Gari (Fraser Island):
K’gari can only be explored with a 4WD.
- Car: If you want to self-drive, there are car ferries that leave from Inskip (close to Rainbow Beach) and River Heads (near Hervey Bay).
- Tour: Fraser Explorer Tours offers a great full day out that begins at 7.30 am. You’ll visit Wanggoolba Creek boardwalk, Lake McKenzie for a swim, Seventy-Five Mile Beach, Eli Creek, Maheno Shipwreck, and the coloured sands of The Pinnacles before heading home.
The Southern Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef has the world’s largest collection of coral reefs with over 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of molluscs. This World Heritage Listed reef spans over 3000 kilometres, with the Southern Great Barrier Reef from Bundaberg to the Capricorn Coast. Book a boat trip from chilled out Yeppoon, snorkel right off the beach on Great Keppel Island, or stay in a Marine National Park on Heron Island.
Where to Stay in the Southern Great Barrier Reef
- Yeppoon: Enjoy beachfront accommodation with the bonus of being 30 minutes away from the Great Barrier Reef and the nearest airport, in either direction.
- Great Keppel Island: Personalise your holiday with boutique accommodation options from cabins to glamping. Nature lovers will appreciate the rugged walking trails and pristine beaches on their doorstep.
How to get to Rockhampton
The Southern Great Barrier Reef region is the coastal fringe of Keppel Bay, which makes Rockhampton the nearest largest city.
- Car: Driving from Brisbane to Rockhampton takes around 7.5 hours with another 30 minutes to reach Yeppoon. This is a popular road trip, with many holiday makers stopping at other Queensland holiday destinations like Hervey Bay.
- Train: A journey on the Spirit of Queensland from Brisbane to Rockhampton lasts eight hours. From Rockhampton to Yeppoon and other towns along the Capricorn Coast, the are bus services.
- Plane: Rockhampton Airport receives flights from Brisbane, Mackay, Townsville and Cairns.
The Queensland outback makes up 65% of the state, with the region’s major towns of Charleville and Birdsville in the south and Mount Isa in the north. At the heart of Queensland’s outback is Long Reach, home to the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame & Outback Heritage Centre, nearby arid national parks and awe-inspiring gorges such as Carnarvon Gorge.
Where to stay in Outback Queensland
- Longreach: Gaze up at the starry sky from the patio of your luxury tent and rest in comfort in preparation for the next day’s adventure.
- Carnarvon Gorge: Find your accommodation style, from budget to bougie, within the wilderness of Carnarvon Gorge.
How to get to Outback Queensland
- Car: From Brisbane, it’s an eight-hour drive to Carnarvon Gorge and an additional seven hours to Longreach. Plan an outback road trip by looping back through Charleville (with a visit to Riversleigh, one of the most significant fossil sites in the world), Roma, and Toowoomba to Brisbane.
- Train: The Spirit of the Outback departs Rockhampton and arrives in Longreach after 15 hours. To connect with Carnarvon Gorge, you can get off at the Emerald stop and rent a car.
- Plane: Brisbane has direct flights to both Longreach and Emerald.
The Whitsunday Islands and Central Great Barrier Reef
Central Great Barrier Reef starts south of Mackay, and connects all the way up to the fourth-most populated Queensland city of Townsville, with the treasured Whitsunday Islands at its heart. The Whitsunday Islands is made up of 74 tropical islands, including Whitsunday Island with the famed white sands of Whitehaven Beach.
Townsville holds its own with one of the world’s top 10 dives to the SS Yongola wreck, sandy beaches and coral sea snorkeling off Magnetic Island, and epic waterfalls to visit on a day trip.
Where to stay near Central Great Barrier Reef
- Hamilton Island: Skip the land and sea connections by flying to Hamilton Island with the largest range of accommodation options available in The Whitsunday Islands.
- Charter a yacht: Fall asleep to the sound of the ocean on your own motor cruiser, catamaran, or sailing yacht. The Whitsundays is one of the few sailing grounds in the world which does not require bareboat charterers to have a boating license.
- Townsville: Revel in inner-city living with a waterfront apartment or opt for more affordable accommodation within walking distance of major attractions, bus and ferry terminals.
How to get to the Central Great Barrier Reef
- Car: Driving from Brisbane, it takes over 12.5 hours to Airlie Beach and another 3.5 hours to Townsville.
- Train: The Spirit of Queensland stops in Proserpine and Townsville. From Prosperine, you can arrange for land and sea transfers to your chosen Whitsunday destination.
- Plane: You can fly directly to Hamilton Island Airport from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Alternatively, fly to Prosperine, which is a thirty-minute drive to Airlie Beach. Townsville’s domestic airport receives flights from the most popular Australian destinations.
Tropical North Queensland and the Northern Great Barrier Reef
Experience two World Heritage Sites in Tropical North Queensland – the northern section of the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics of Queensland, the oldest continuously surviving tropical rainforests. Surround yourself with fair dinkum friendly locals in the laid back city of Cairns, visit up to 24 lush waterfalls, meet the turtles and marine life on Fitzroy Island, and take a day trip to the Atherton Tablelands.
The scenic drive from Cairns to Cape Tribulation in Far North Queensland is especially spectacular. The must-see stops are Palm Cove, Port Douglas and Four Mile Beach, Mossman Gorge, and the Daintree National Park.
See the nine best day trips from Cairns and nearby Tropical North Queensland.
Where to Stay in Tropical North Queensland
- Cairns: Base yourself in the Cairns CBD if you have kids or are on a budget. Otherwise, you may want a romantic getaway in Palm Cove or luxurious resorts in Port Douglas.
- Cape Tribulation: Slumber in a treehouse villa, elegant chalet, or budget-friendly room with Daintree River views.
Read our guide on where to stay in Tropical North Queensland.
How to get to Tropical North Queensland
- Car: Driving from Brisbane, it takes over 19 hours to Cairns and almost 22 hours to the Daintree Rainforest.
- Train: The entire journey from Brisbane to Cairns on The Spirit of Queensland last over twenty-four hours.
- Plane: Cairns receives flights from popular Australian destinations and international cities in New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan.
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