Queensland

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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 ’88 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 urbane city slickers than the "bushie" stereotype of decades past. Still, as with many regions blessed with abundant sunshine, the lifestyle here is relaxed.

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The Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands situated within 161 km (100 miles) of each other and around 50 km (31 miles) from Shute Harbour, the...

Brisbane

Founded in 1824 on the banks of the wide, meandering Brisbane River, the former penal colony of Brisbane was for many years regarded as just...

Cairns

Tourism is the lifeblood of Cairns (pronounced Caans ). The city makes a good base for exploring the wild top half of Queensland, and tens...

Hamilton Island

Though it's the most heavily populated and developed island in the Whitsunday group, more than 70% of Hamilton Island has been preserved in...

Port Douglas

Known simply as "Port" to locals, Port Douglas offers almost as broad a range of outdoor adventures as Cairns, but in a more compact, laid-back...

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach's balmy climate and its proximity to the Whitsunday Islands, a resort and water-sports playground, make it hugely popular with...

Townsville

This coastal city has little in the way of sandy beaches or surf, but it does have shady parks, charming colonial buildings, and a boardwalk...

Fraser Island

Fraser Island, at 1,014 square km (391 square miles), is the largest of Queensland's islands and the most unusual. Fraser is the world's largest...

North Coast Islands

...

Mackay–Capricorn Islands

Despite its name, this group of islands lying offshore between Bundaberg and Rockhampton is closer to the southern half of Queensland than it...

Cooktown

Traveling north, Cooktown is the last major settlement on the east coast of the continent, sitting at the edge of a difficult wilderness. Its...

Cape Tribulation

Set dramatically at the base of Mount Sorrow, Cape Tribulation was named by Captain James Cook after a nearby reef snagged the HMS Endeavour...

Palm Cove

A 35-minute drive north of Cairns, Palm Cove is one of Queensland's jewels: an idyllic, albeit pricey, base from which to explore the far north...

Magnetic Island

More than half of Magnetic Island's 52 square km (20 square miles) is national parkland, laced with miles of walking trails and rising to 1...

Noosa

Set along the calm waters of Laguna Bay at the northern tip of the Sunshine Coast, Noosa is one of Australia's most stylish resort areas. Until...

Hayman Island

Hayman Island, in the northern Whitsunday Passage, is the closest of the Whitsunday resort isles to the outer Barrier Reef. The island, a 900...

Mossman

This sleepy sugarcane town of just a couple of thousand residents has shops, a medical center, and gas stations, but most visitors merely pass...

Long Island

Although it's 9 km (5½ miles) long and no more than 2 km (1 mile) wide—around 3,000 acres total—this aptly named island has several walking...

Broadbeach

With clean beaches, great cafés, and trendy nightspots, Broadbeach is one of the most popular areas on the Gold Coast, especially with locals...

Great Keppel Island

Positioned at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef near the Tropic of Capricorn, idyllic Great Keppel Island boasts crystal clear waters...

Montville

This charming mountain village, settled in 1887, is known as the creative heart of the Sunshine Coast, as many artists live here. There are...

Coomera and Oxenford

The biggest draws of these two northern Gold Coast suburbs are their family-oriented theme parks—Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet ...

Daydream Island

The resort on this small, 42-acre island is especially welcoming to day-trippers. Around 30 minutes' boat ride from Shute Harbour Abel Point...

Maroochydore

Maroochydore, at the mouth of the Maroochy River, has been a popular beach resort town for years, and has its fair share of high-rise towers...

Heron Island

Most resort islands lie well inside the shelter of the distant reef, but Heron Island, some 72 km (45 miles) northeast of the mainland port...

Fitzroy Island

This ruggedly picturesque, heavily forested island is 94% national park, with vegetation ranging from rain forest to heath, and an extensive...

Lizard Island

The small, upscale resort on secluded Lizard Island is the farthest north of any Barrier Reef hideaway. At 2,500 acres, virtually all of it...

Orpheus Island

Volcanic in origin, this narrow island—11 km (7 miles) long and 1 km (½ mile) wide, 3,500 acres total—uncoils like a snake in the waters between...

Peregian and Coolum

At the center of the Sunshine Coast, Coolum makes an ideal base for exploring the countryside. It has one of the finest beaches in the region...

Dunk Island

A member of the Family Islands, this 2,397-acre island is divided by a hilly spine that runs its entire length. The eastern side consists mostly...

Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba stretches along a lovely beach and riverbank, both an easy walk from town. The Esplanade has many casual cafés, upscale restaurants...

Caloundra

This unassuming southern seaside town has nine beaches of its own, which include everything from placid wading beaches (King's Beach and Bulcock...

Maleny

The Hinterland village of Maleny is a lively mix of rural life, the arts, wineries, cafés, and cooperative ventures. First settled around 1880...

Yandina, Eumundi, and Cooroy

Yandina and Eumundi, just 12 km (7½ miles) apart, are home to some of the most iconic attractions in the area. Don’t miss the Ginger Factory...

Lady Musgrave Island

This island sits at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Lady Elliot Island and 96 km (60...

Brampton Island

...

Lady Elliot Island

The closest Great Barrier Reef island to Brisbane, Lady Elliot Island is a highly protected coral cay approximately 85 km (53 miles) northeast...

Lindeman Island

...

South Stradbroke Island

White-sand beaches, diverse flora and fauna, and a peaceful interior draw visitors to South Stradbroke Island, which is just 22 km (12 miles...

Bedarra Island

This tiny, 247-acre island has natural springs, dense rain-forest tracts, and eight unspoiled beaches. Cyclone-damaged Bedarra Island Resort...

Hinchinbrook Island

...

Sunshine Beach

...

Brisbane

Founded in 1824 on the banks of the wide, meandering Brisbane River, the former penal colony of Brisbane was for many years regarded as just...

Cairns

Tourism is the lifeblood of Cairns (pronounced Caans ). The city makes a good base for exploring the wild top half of Queensland, and tens...

Port Douglas

Known simply as "Port" to locals, Port Douglas offers almost as broad a range of outdoor adventures as Cairns, but in a more compact, laid-back...

Airlie Beach

Airlie Beach's balmy climate and its proximity to the Whitsunday Islands, a resort and water-sports playground, make it hugely popular with...

Townsville

This coastal city has little in the way of sandy beaches or surf, but it does have shady parks, charming colonial buildings, and a boardwalk...

Cooktown

Traveling north, Cooktown is the last major settlement on the east coast of the continent, sitting at the edge of a difficult wilderness. Its...

Cape Tribulation

Set dramatically at the base of Mount Sorrow, Cape Tribulation was named by Captain James Cook after a nearby reef snagged the HMS Endeavour...

Palm Cove

A 35-minute drive north of Cairns, Palm Cove is one of Queensland's jewels: an idyllic, albeit pricey, base from which to explore the far north...

Noosa

Set along the calm waters of Laguna Bay at the northern tip of the Sunshine Coast, Noosa is one of Australia's most stylish resort areas. Until...

Mossman

This sleepy sugarcane town of just a couple of thousand residents has shops, a medical center, and gas stations, but most visitors merely pass...

Broadbeach

With clean beaches, great cafés, and trendy nightspots, Broadbeach is one of the most popular areas on the Gold Coast, especially with locals...

Coomera and Oxenford

The biggest draws of these two northern Gold Coast suburbs are their family-oriented theme parks—Dreamworld, Warner Bros. Movie World, Wet ...

Maroochydore

Maroochydore, at the mouth of the Maroochy River, has been a popular beach resort town for years, and has its fair share of high-rise towers...

Montville

This charming mountain village, settled in 1887, is known as the creative heart of the Sunshine Coast, as many artists live here. There are...

Caloundra

This unassuming southern seaside town has nine beaches of its own, which include everything from placid wading beaches (King's Beach and Bulcock...

Peregian and Coolum

At the center of the Sunshine Coast, Coolum makes an ideal base for exploring the countryside. It has one of the finest beaches in the region...

Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba stretches along a lovely beach and riverbank, both an easy walk from town. The Esplanade has many casual cafés, upscale restaurants...

Yandina, Eumundi, and Cooroy

Yandina and Eumundi, just 12 km (7½ miles) apart, are home to some of the most iconic attractions in the area. Don’t miss the Ginger Factory...

Maleny

The Hinterland village of Maleny is a lively mix of rural life, the arts, wineries, cafés, and cooperative ventures. First settled around 1880...

Sunshine Beach

...

Great Barrier Reef

A maze of 3,000 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for 2,600 km (1,616 miles), the Great Barrier Reef is among the world's most spectacular...

North of Cairns

The Captain Cook Highway runs from Cairns to Mossman, a relatively civilized stretch known mostly for the resort towns of Palm Cove and Port...

The Gold Coast

Resorts, theme parks, and 300 days of sunshine a year ensure the Gold Coast, the most developed tourist destination and one of the fastest-growing...

Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is a 60-km (37-mile) stretch of white-sand beaches, inlets, lakes, and mountains that begins at the Glass House Mountains...

Sunshine Coast Hinterland

The Sunshine Coast Hinterland, extending from the Glass House Mountains just northwest of Brisbane to Eumundi and Yandina, west of the northern...

Gold Coast Hinterland

No visit to the Gold Coast would be complete without an excursion to the region's verdant hinterland. The natural grandeur of the area lies...

Southern Downs

If the Brisbane cityscape has given you a thirst for pastoral rolling hills—and fabulous wine—you're in luck, because some of Queensland's best...

Southport and Main Beach

South of Southport, look for the turnoff to the Spit, a natural peninsula that stretches 4 km (2½ miles) north, almost to the tip of South Stradbroke...

Glass House Mountains Area

More than 20 million years old, the Glass House Mountains consist of nine conical outcrops—the eroded remnants of volcanoes—that rise dramatically...

The Whitsunday Islands

The Whitsundays are a group of 74 islands situated within 161 km (100 miles) of each other and around 50 km (31 miles) from Shute Harbour, the...

Hamilton Island

Though it's the most heavily populated and developed island in the Whitsunday group, more than 70% of Hamilton Island has been preserved in...

North Coast Islands

...

Fraser Island

Fraser Island, at 1,014 square km (391 square miles), is the largest of Queensland's islands and the most unusual. Fraser is the world's largest...

Mackay–Capricorn Islands

Despite its name, this group of islands lying offshore between Bundaberg and Rockhampton is closer to the southern half of Queensland than it...

Magnetic Island

More than half of Magnetic Island's 52 square km (20 square miles) is national parkland, laced with miles of walking trails and rising to 1...

Hayman Island

Hayman Island, in the northern Whitsunday Passage, is the closest of the Whitsunday resort isles to the outer Barrier Reef. The island, a 900...

Long Island

Although it's 9 km (5½ miles) long and no more than 2 km (1 mile) wide—around 3,000 acres total—this aptly named island has several walking...

Great Keppel Island

Positioned at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef near the Tropic of Capricorn, idyllic Great Keppel Island boasts crystal clear waters...

Daydream Island

The resort on this small, 42-acre island is especially welcoming to day-trippers. Around 30 minutes' boat ride from Shute Harbour Abel Point...

Fitzroy Island

This ruggedly picturesque, heavily forested island is 94% national park, with vegetation ranging from rain forest to heath, and an extensive...

Heron Island

Most resort islands lie well inside the shelter of the distant reef, but Heron Island, some 72 km (45 miles) northeast of the mainland port...

Lizard Island

The small, upscale resort on secluded Lizard Island is the farthest north of any Barrier Reef hideaway. At 2,500 acres, virtually all of it...

Orpheus Island

Volcanic in origin, this narrow island—11 km (7 miles) long and 1 km (½ mile) wide, 3,500 acres total—uncoils like a snake in the waters between...

Dunk Island

A member of the Family Islands, this 2,397-acre island is divided by a hilly spine that runs its entire length. The eastern side consists mostly...

Lady Musgrave Island

This island sits at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Lady Elliot Island and 96 km (60...

Brampton Island

...

Lady Elliot Island

The closest Great Barrier Reef island to Brisbane, Lady Elliot Island is a highly protected coral cay approximately 85 km (53 miles) northeast...

Lindeman Island

...

South Stradbroke Island

White-sand beaches, diverse flora and fauna, and a peaceful interior draw visitors to South Stradbroke Island, which is just 22 km (12 miles...

Bedarra Island

This tiny, 247-acre island has natural springs, dense rain-forest tracts, and eight unspoiled beaches. Cyclone-damaged Bedarra Island Resort...

Hinchinbrook Island

...

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