Cairns - Great Barrier Reef - Daintree Rainforest - Brisbane - Fraser Island - Noosa
Queensland is known as the ‘Sunshine State’. It’s Australia’s second largest state and features a varied landscape including tropical rainforest, farming land, and a coastline dominated by long golden beaches and the Great Barrier Reef.
At a glance:
- Fly Brisbane – Cairns (2.25 hours)
- Fly Cairns – Brisbane (2.25 hours)
- Drive Brisbane – Fraser Island (4 – 4.5 hours + 50 mins ferry ride from Hervey Bay)
- Drive Fraser Island – Noosa (2 hours + 50 mins ferry ride)
- Drive Noosa – Brisbane (2 hours)
Take an early flight from Brisbane to the tropical city of Cairns - gateway to the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef.
Walk along the Cairns Esplanade and stop at an alfresco café for lunch, then take a refreshing dip in the lagoon before heading out to the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park. Built on Aboriginal land in a beautiful rainforest setting just 15 minutes from Cairns.
You can learn about local Aboriginal history and culture here, watch dances and Didgeridoo demonstrations, try boomerang throwing, and discover Aboriginal medicine and bushtucker foods.
Dine out at one of the beautiful restaurants in Palm Cove 30 minutes drive north of Cairns. After dinner head to the sophisticated bars along Cairns Esplanade or lively clubs on Spence and Lake Streets.
- Discover the vibrant tropical city of Cairns, which serves as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
- Cool off in the man-made lagoon on the Esplanade.
- Indulge in a helicopter flight or private trip to one of the many islands on the Reef.
- Gain an insight in to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
Today it’s time to see the Great Barrier Reef. The trip to the outer reef takes about two hours. Go snorkelling or diving, ride glass-bottomed boats, or take a spectacular scenic flight. The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonder, and immersing yourself in the warm water among the amazing coral formations and colourful fish is an extraordinary experience.
You could stay overnight or longer on one of the many Great Barrier Reef islands. One of these is Green Island, where you can go snorkelling or scuba diving, laze on white sand beaches, indulge in a day spa, take a scenic helicopter flight, go parasailing, see the world’s largest captive crocodile and walk underwater with a seawalker helmet.
- Jump aboard a cruise to the outer reef, or go for a scenic helicopter flight and witness the magnitude of the Great Barrier Reef.
- Join a dive trip to the outer reef and see amazing coral formations and colourful fish.
- Take a day trip from Cairns to Green Island, a small coral cay surrounded by white sandy beaches and sapphire blue waters.
- Walk underwater with a seawalker helmet from Green Island. No swimming or diving experience required.
As well as the Reef, Tropical North Queensland is also known for its rainforests. One of the best is the Daintree. A tour from Cairns could include a wildlife cruise along the Daintree River, tropical fruit tasting, a stroll through World heritage-listed rainforest, and a swim in the dramatic Mossman Gorge.
Another option would be a day tour to Kuranda – a ‘village in the rainforest’. Attractions here include Kuranda’s craft market, rainforest walks, and the Skyrail – a gondola that travels above the rainforest canopy.
See koalas at the Kuranda Koala Gardens, the largest collection of free flying birds in Australia at Birdworld and Australia’s largest butterfly flight aviary and exhibit at Butterfly Sanctuary.
Travel back to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. This spectacular journey offers panoramic views of dense rainforest, steep ravines and gorges, and picturesque waterfalls.
- Join a guided tour to the World heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest.
- Visit the Kuranda markets to pick up local art and natural beauty products.
- Glide above the rainforest on the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway.
- See rainforest butterflies including the electric blue Ulysses at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary.
- Ride the Kuranda Scenic Railway for great views of dense rainforest, steep ravines, waterfalls and gorges.
Fly back to Brisbane today. The capital of Queensland offers a laid-back lifestyle and convict-built heritage buildings. Take in the panoramic city views from Mount Coot-tha Lookout, and take a stroll through the South Bank Parklands.
Other Brisbane attractions include the Queensland Art Gallery, with its associated Gallery of Modern Art, and the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary. There are around 130 koalas here, as well as other Australian marsupials and birds. Return to the city by boat along the Brisbane River.
- Explore Brisbane’s Cultural Centre where you will find the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art.
- Enjoy lunch or dinner by the river at Southbank or cool off with a swim in the lagoon at man-made Streets beach.
- Have your photo taken with a Koala at Lone Pine Koala sanctuary.
- For great views over Brisbane go to Mount Coot-tha Lookout or climb the Story Bridge.
Days Five & Six
You could travel south today to explore the rainforest at Lamington National Park and the stunning beaches of the Gold Coast. Or, you could head north on a two-day tour of World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
Here you’ll find long white beaches flanked by strikingly coloured sand cliffs, over 100 freshwater lakes ringed by sand, ancient rainforests, crystal-clear creeks and mangrove swamps.
There are 47 other species of mammals on Fraser Island, including dingos, swamp wallabies and sugar gliders. The wide variety of habitat also supports 70 species of reptile – including huge lace monitors. More than 354 species of birds have been sighted here too.
Dolphins, dugongs, turtles and giant rays are common, while from July to November you can easily spot migrating humpback whales.
Two island resorts offer a range of accommodation options, from budget to luxury. Stay the second night back on the mainland in Noosa.
- Hire a 4WD or join a 4WD tour of Fraser Island the largest sand island in the world (vehicle access permits are required for all vehicles entering the island).
- Try beach fishing from 75 Mile Beach.
- Spot Humpback whales off the beach between July and November.
- Join a tour of the islands top attractions.
- Take a guided or self-guided walk of the island.
Spend the morning lazing on Noosa Beach, it’s a wonderful long stretch of sand. Or, climb aboard a boat and go fishing for giant snapper, Spanish mackerel, tuna, or even marlin and sailfish.
On your way back to Brisbane stop off at Noosa National Park, which features spectacular coastal scenery and is home to lots of koalas. Several walking tracks take visitors through open forest, paperbark swamps, heathland, and rainforests.
- Swim or surf from Noosa Beach.
- Explore the chic boutiques and cafes along Hastings Street in Noosa Village.
- Follow one of the many walking tracks through Noosa National Park, don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for koalas.
- Take an eco-cruise along Noosa River through the everglades.