A fusion of Florida, Las Vegas, and the Caribbean, southern Queensland attracts crowd-lovers and escapists alike. Whether you want to surf or soak in the Pacific Ocean, stroll from cabana to casino with your favorite cocktail, hike through subtropical rain forests, or join seabirds and turtles on a pristine coral isle—it's all here.
Local license plates deem Queensland "The Sunshine State"—a laid-back stretch of beaches and sun where many Australians head for their vacations. The state has actively promoted tourism, and areas such as the Gold Coast, an hour south of Brisbane, and the Sunshine Coast, a roughly equivalent distance north of the capital, have expanded exponentially in recent years, with high-rise hotels, nightclubs, trendy bars and cafés, shopping precincts and beachfront amusements popping up on nearly every block. These thriving coastal strips are the major attraction of southern Queensland for Australians and foreign tourists alike—along with a scattering of islands, notably Fraser Island, off Hervey Bay, and the Mackay-Capricorn islands lying on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland was thrust into the spotlight when Brisbane hosted the Commonwealth Games in 1982. The World Expo ʼ88 and the 2001 Goodwill Games have ensured that it's remained there. Such big-name competitions exposed Brisbane to the wider world and helped to bring the city, along with other provincial capitals, to social and cultural maturity. Queensland is now a vibrant and cosmopolitan place to visit, and Sunshine Staters are far more likely to be city slickers than the "bushie" stereotype of decades past. Still, as with many regions blessed with abundant sunshine, the lifestyle here is relaxed.