Queensland is home to some of the most amazing aquatic and coastal experiences in the world whether you love wildlife, swimming, sailing, kayaking, surfing or just lazing around on the beach all day – the possibilities are endless.
Queensland’s islands and beaches are a true national treasure. Just off the coast is The Great Barrier Reef with some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling as well as incredible island resorts accessible by plane, boat or helicopter from Port Douglas, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, The Whitsundays, Capricorn, Gladstone, Bundaberg, Fraser Coast, Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
You can also catch a wave in Southern Queensland where anyone from a first timer to a pro can enjoy perfect waves year-round in the crystal clear waters of the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast. If adventure is more your style, take a 4x4 tour along the beach highway, or try stand-up paddle boarding, kite surfing or even sand boarding on Moreton or North Stradbroke Islands near Brisbane.
Great Barrier Reef
At approximately 350,000 km2 in size and stretching 2,300 kms (1,400 miles) the Great Barrier Reef is the only living structure on earth that can be seen from outer space.
It is the world’s largest and longest coral reef ecosystem comprising 2,900 coral reefs and 1,050 islands and coral cays. It was the first coral reef to be awarded World Heritage status and is home to an abundance of marine life offering a unique set of experiences and reasons for visitors to return.
Its size means there are dozens of different ways to access this wonder, with tour operators in seven coastal destinations and each with their own unique natural advantages. They are: Cairns, Port Douglas, Townsville, Mackay, The Whitsundays, Capricorn, Gladstone and Bundaberg (Southern Great Barrier Reef).
A visit to the Great Barrier Reef wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the ‘Great Eight’ a list of must-see charismatic mega marine life encounters including: clown fish, giant clams, manta rays, Maori wrasse, potato cods, sharks, turtles and whales.
There are many different ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef from enjoying a day trip and snorkelling or diving; staying on a Great Barrier Reef island; taking a helicopter or seaplane flight over the reef; enjoying a private picnic on a private coral cay or beach; sailing; viewing from a glass bottom boat; spotting turtles or rays from the edge of the shore. Whichever option, the Great Barrier Reef is sure to be a memorable experience.
- Visit The Whitsundays and see the famed Heart Reef from a helicopter or seaplane
- Go under the sea and dive a world renowned dive site like The Cod Hole off Lizard Island, Osprey Reef in the far north, Heron Bommie near Heron Island or the S.S. Yongala off Townsville
- Experience the splendour of the Reef with a Helmut Dive from a moored pontoon
Remote Beach & Coastal
Queensland’s spectacular coastline stretches more than 7400 km (4,600 miles) from the tip of Cape York to Coolangatta near the border of New South Wales. It should come as no surprise that Queensland’s lifestyle also centres on a vast array of coastal activities. Boasting everything from fishing to surfing, boating to diving, beachside dining and indulgent relaxation, the idyllic Queensland lifestyle must be experienced to be believed.
Along the coast, wetlands, rivers and sand island like Fraser Island provide beautiful natural experiences which play an important part in maintaining the health of the delicate marine ecosystem including Australia's Nature Coast spanning the Sunshine Coast and Fraser Coast.
As the official start of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Bundaberg’s glistening coastal water and bountiful marine life are just waiting to be explored. While further north, Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsunday’s is a regular in the Top Ten beach lists of the world.
It is also still possible to find a private stretch of sand at places like Rainbow Beach, Agnes Water, Bingil Bay at Mission Beach or the palm fringed Four Mile Beach in Port Douglas.
- Sink into the pure white silica sands of Whitehaven Beach in The Whitsundays, voted one of the world’s top beaches
- Experience the Great Beach Drive, starting from the Sunshine Coast – a once in a lifetime opportunity to drive some of the world’s most stunning beaches, idyllic national parks and World Heritage listed Fraser Island
- Visit Agnes Water & Town of 1770 in south east Queensland for iconic coastal beach towns and perfect for a surf, peace and quiet and to watch the sunset
- Camp on the beach at Rainbow Beach on Fraser Island
- Take a jet-ski tour to Pelican Banks and Moon Point in Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast
- See kangaroos on the beach at Cape Hillsborough near Mackay
- Explore one or more of the 17 stunning Islands in the Keppel Group on the Capricorn Coast, with remote camping options available
Australia’s Beach Drive, Queensland
Whales – Queensland is the ultimate nursery playground for Humpback Whales and their calves, making an appearance each year from June to September along the coast from the Gold Coast to Australia’s Nature Coast. Their smaller cousins, the Dwarf Minke Whales, also migrate to Cairns and Great Barrier Reef between May and August.
Turtles – with six of the world’s seven turtle species calling the Great Barrier Reef home, Queensland is a hotspot to watch turtles nest and hatchlings emerge from November to March. On Lady Musgrave, Lady Elliot, Heron and Wilson Islands, friendly turtles will often accompany swimmers and snorkellers around these warm waters.
Manta Rays – popular around the Southern Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Island, these graceful and magnificent creatures have a wingspan of up to seven metres (23 feet) and the opportunity to swim beside one of these gentle giants is not one to miss.
Potato Cod – there’s two places in Queensland where it’s possible to see this funnily-named, and questionably handsome fish. The first is at the aptly-named Cod Hole – on Ribbon Reef, on the Outer Great Barrier Reef near Lizard Island and Flinders Reef, just north of Moreton Island.
Wild Dolphins – one of the pure delights of a visit to Moreton Island is the nightly dolphin feeding where a pod of these friendly marine animals swim in close to shore to meet and be hand fed. Just north of the Sunshine Coast at Tin Can Bay, there is also a chance to interact with wild Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins
Shark Diving – there’s a number of opportunities to dive with sharks in Queensland from the popular Double Island Point’s Wolf Rock on the Sunshine Coast, home to grey nurse sharks and to the northern ribbon reefs, home to white tip, black tip and grey reef sharks.
Coral Spawning – once a year, four to six days after the full moon each November, coral spawning explodes along the Great Barrier Reef. Witness thousands of tiny sperm and egg bundles released in what is truly a spectacular display.
Parrot Fish – the beautiful Bluebarred Parrot Fish is the ultimate photo bomber – it’s impossible to take a shot without him sticking his fin in somewhere on the Seawalker experience on Green Island.
Maori Wrasse – this big, beautiful fish, so named after its Maori-warrior like markings on its face love to play and will happily follow like a faithful friend. Found throughout the Great Barrier Reef, they hang out at reef pontoons, around the Whitsunday Islands and popular snorkel and dive sites
Giant Grouper – the aquatic emblem of Queensland, also known as the brindlebass, brown spotted cod or bumblebee grouper. Find this slow swimming species pretty much anywhere there’s a coral reef.
Clownfish – one of the icons of the Great Barrier Reef and a common and colourful sight, they live within the venomous tentacles of anemones hiding away from any potential predators
Giant Clams – crusty on the outside, soft and colourful on the inside these huge molluscs can grow up to 1.5 m in length and weigh up to 250 kgs (550 lbs).
Developed Beach & Coastal
Queensland’s coastal lifestyle doesn’t stop with swimming and surfing. Indulge in fine food and wine while gazing at splendid coastal scenery, dining alfresco, sipping cocktails from an infinity-edge pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean or simply lie in the pristine white sand and bask in splendid sunshine. For the more adventurous, there’s beach four-wheel driving, surf fishing, jet skiing, yachting, whale watching, swimming with dolphins and much more.
Queensland is home to some of the most stunning islands and beaches in the world. Whether it be a love surfing and adventure or just lazing around on the beach all day, the possibilities are endless. The surf and sun draw holidaymakers from around the world to the internationally renowned surfing beaches of the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in the State’s south-east corner, to the palm-fringed calm waters of Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.
A Brisbane icon Streets Beach, Southbank is Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach and it boasts a sparkling lagoon surrounded by white, sandy beaches and sub-tropical plants. It is free to use and is patrolled by qualified lifeguards all year round.
There are countless activities to experience, fabulous towns to explore, all set against a backdrop of warm days, beach culture and a comfortable water temperature.
- Experience the SkyPoint Climb, on the top of the Q1 building in Surfers Paradise and at 270 metres (880 feet) in the air, it is one of Australia's highest external building walks
- Surf the world famous breaks at Snapper Rocks, Burleigh Heads and Kirra on the Gold Coast
- Visit Australia’s only city beach complete with its own surf lifesavers and ‘nippers’ program at Streets Beach, Southbank in Brisbane
- Learn to surf at Rainbow Beach on Fraser Island, with the longest left hand surf break in the world
- Take a walk through Noosa National Park or hike up Mount Coolum on the Sunshine Coast
- Try stand up paddle board yoga in Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast
- Check out Airlie Beach Race week in The Whitsundays in August
Tropical Islands / Locations
From luxury five-star resorts to the back-to-nature simplicity of tented accommodation, Queensland’s Tropical Islands offer a diverse options to suit every type of visitor. There is nowhere else in the world to experience a vast mix of continental, coral and sand islands from the Torres Strait in the north to Moreton Bay in the south.
There are more than 1000 islands along the Queensland coast – 600 islands in the Great Barrier Reef region, 74 of them in The Whitsundays and 360 islands in Moreton Bay. There are three types of islands off the Queensland coast, each offering very different holiday experiences:
- Continental islands – peaks of sunken mountain ranges, such as The Whitsunday Islands and Magnetic Island
- Coral cays – true coral islands composed entirely of fragments from the reef, such as Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave islands
- Sand islands – located south of the Great Barrier Reef such as Fraser (the largest sand island in the world), Stradbroke and Moreton islands.
- Hire a private yacht and sail freely through The Whitsunday Islands
- Toboggan down the world’s largest sand-dunes on Moreton Island, north of Brisbane
- Take a scenic flight over the Great Sandy Straits and land on the Fraser Island beach
- Snorkel right off the beach on Green Island, just north east of Cairns
- Walk straight off the beach and onto the southern Great Barrier Reef at Heron Island
- Walk and kayak the Ngaro Seatrail in The Whitsundays
- Hike the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, north of Townsville
- Swim in the crystal clear freshwater of Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island
- Visit marine research stations on Heron or Orpheus Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef
- Hire a moke and spot koalas on Magnetic Island, a short ferry ride from Townsville
Remote Beach & Coastal
Sun, Surf and Sand
The Great Beach Drive, Sunshine Coast to Fraser Coast
Unforgettable Marine Species
Developed Beach & Coastal