Best of the best things to do in 2019

If the latest stats are anything to go off, it seems 2019 will be the year of luxury, escapism and getting back to nature.

Also trending is the ‘plandid’ photo – you know, those “candid shots” that were actually planned. You’ve seen them all over Instagram and yes, they’ll stick around in 2019 as well.

So, turn your 18 annual leave days into 46 with this helpful guide, get your cameras ready and make it your goal to tick off this list of the hottest things to do in Queensland in 2019.

P.S. The Great Barrier Reef should already be on your must-do list, so here are the others that should make the cut:

Swim with gentle giants

Minke Whales Tropical North Queensland | things to do in 2018

When humpback whales need a break from the cold waters of Antartica, they head straight to Queensland. The 5,000km journey brings them to the east coast of Australia and you can see them as they make their way north. For a bucket-list worthy experience, head out from the Sunshine Coast with Sunreef Mooloolaba and swim with these gentle giants.

If you want to see dwarfe Minke Whales, go on an expedition with Mike Ball in Tropical North Queensland. You’ll cruise to the only known Minke Whale aggregation site in the world; Ribbons Reef where you can also dive in and join the party.

Where else to see whales:

Minke Whales: Port Douglas, Tropical North Queensland

Humpback Whales: Stradbroke Island, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Hervey Bay, Fraser Coast, Keppel Island Group, The Whitsundays.

Be the Richard Branson of your crew and rent your own island

Pumpkin Island_@MarkFitz | things to do in 2018

Photo by @_markfitz

Ball out and rent your own island for less than $2,000 a night!

Pumpkin Island is just a hop-skip and jump (well, ferry ride) from Yeppoon, and within 45 minutes you could be chillin’-like-a-villain in a hammock. And when you’re not relaxing, explore the island’s hidden beaches and lookouts, or grab an inflatable swan, kayak or SUP and get in the water. Best of all, everything on the island is FREE to use! #winning

Set sail

Sailing The Whitsundays | things to do in 2018

Photo by @reubennutt

If The Whitsunday Islands are on your 2019 travel list, make sure you do it in style with your own private bareboat. There are literally 74 islands to explore, so you’re cheating yourself out of an adventure if you only stay on one. So, be the captain of your luxury water home and steer a course to the most instagrammable spots in The Whitsundays, including the iconic Whitehaven Beach.

Plus, sunrises and sunsets look better on the water #justsaying.

Adventure past the tip of Australia

Kazu Pearl Farm Friday Island Torres Strait | Things to do in 2018

Drive journeys don’t get more epic than the ultimate road trip to Cape York and the tip of Australia. It’s a 4WDer’s dream challenge and the journey is just as amazing as the destination.

Most people reach the tip and that’s cool. But, real adventurists know that a day trip across to the Torres Strait is the cherry on top.

Drive to Sesia, park the car and catch a short 1-hour ferry across to Thursday Island in the Torres Strait. Spend the day exploring one of the most remote places in Queensland and home to one of the oldest Indigenous cultures. Visit an operating pearl farm on Friday Island or tour the neighbouring islands with a private charter.

Join the frenzy

Sharks at Horn Amphitheatre, Osprey Reef | Things to do in 2018

Nothing makes your heart race faster than being in the water with a frenzy of sharks. So, if you’re after a thrill this year, swimming with sharks should be at the top of your list.

Live aboard the Spirit of Freedom for four nights and explore some of the best dive sites in Tropical North Queensland, including North Horn at the tip of Osprey Reef. This spot is known for hosting a mass congregation of grey reef and silvertip sharks. And, if you think diving with these bad boys couldn’t get any scarier, there’s even a night dive included in the trip.

Watch the sunrise with Queensland locals

Wallabies on the beach Cape Hillsborough | Things to do in 2018

Head to Casuarina Beach and watch a sunrise (or two) with our cute Queensland locals at Casuarina Beach. These wallabies love to fossick for seaweed and sea pods on the beach and their favourite meal of the day is breakfast. You’ll find this bucket-list experience just 45 minutes north of Mackay, in Cape Hillsborough National Park.

Cape Hillsborough is a natural wonderland with so much to explore and see, including spotting platypus in the wild at Eungella National Park. So, book out a long weekend and head to the Mackay region.

Head to the Outback for the most remote concert on the planet

Birdsville Big Red Bash Outback Queensland | things to do in 2018

The flight to Birdsville is anything but ordinary and boring. In fact, the plane is more like an air bus. It leaves Brisbane and then makes multiple stops at Toowoomba, Charleville, Quilpie and Windorah to drop off passengers. Six hours later, it concludes its journey in the tiny township of Birdsville. The plane trip is half the fun and you can get a series of awesome wing shots with the changing plains and landscapes of each outback town.

The drive to Birdsville is a 4-day trip along Warrego Way and with so much to see, your road trip is one that rewards with instagrammable days and star-studded nights.

Yes, getting to Birdsville is a mission, but the Big Red Bash is the most remote concert on the planet and offers bragging rights, incredible photo opportunities and the best camping experience imaginable.

Nudey (not) by Nature: Escape to Fitzroy Island

Nudey Beach Fitzroy Island | things to do in 2018

Fitzroy Island is just a 45-minute ferry cruise from Cairns and is the perfect island escape for you and your Instagram followers.

With just one resort, two restaurants, a general store and a hire hut, you’ll get to appreciate the simplicity of nature and find yourself discovering beaches and its National Park instead of being hooked up to WiFi.

And, if you search far enough, you’ll even be able to capture your version of that token Nudey Beach photo you’ve seen all over your newsfeed. Remember, it’s only nudey by name so keep your clothes on.

Hunt for dinner

Cooya Beach Tropical North Queensland | Things to do in 2018

Zip on your reef boots, pick up a spear and follow your Indigenous guide into the mangroves along the coastline of Cooya Beach. Here you’ll hunt for mud crabs, fish and shellfish in the traditional way that the Kuku Yalanji people perfected over centuries of hunting and gathering for their families.

If you’ve ever wanted to know how to survive off the land, this is where you’ll learn the basics. You can even trade ocean for bush and learn gathering skills in the Daintree Rainforest.

See a turtle up close

Green turtle hatchling on beach | things to do in 2018

Witness the crucial stages of the marine turtle life cycle from nesting to hatching.

Make your way to the Mon Repos Centre in Bundaberg from November to January to watch mummy turtles crawl up the beach to lay up to 125 eggs in the warm sand. And, then return between late January and late March to watch turtle hatchlings break through the sand and make their way to the ocean for the very first time.

Where else to see turtles:

You can also swim with mature turtles on the Southern Great Barrier Reef in the protected reefs surrounding Heron Island, Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Island.

Float above the Gold Coast

Gold Coast Hot Air Balloon | things to do in 2018

Photo by @kate_duffy

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away…

See the Gold Coast from the sky and be surrounded by colourful hot air balloons as you float above the rolling hills of the hinterland. Departing in the early hours of the morning, you’ll be in the air with enough time to watch the sunrise breakthrough.

So, bring your camera because there’ll be lots of photo-worthy moments to capture. And, when you’re not taking photos, dine on a hot breakfast and enjoy a glass of champagne.

Take a hike

Mount-Ngungun | things to do 2018

If this is your year to get outdoors, lace up your hiking boots and trek to the top of Mount Ngungun to watch the sunset over the Glass House Mountains. Although the climb is gradual, it does get really steep at times, but keep those legs moving because you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Sunshine Coast hinterland once you reach the top.

Looking for more of a challenge? Try the seven-day hike along the Thorsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island. This trail is arguably the best hiking test for adventurers because it’s a true wilderness walk that stretches across 32km of checkered terrain and bush land. And, while the vegetation changes constantly, the views from the vantage points are always stunning.

Ditch the hotel for something a little quirky

Harrington Glen | 7 quirky accommodation options in Southern Queensland Country

Relive your childhood dreams and rent a treehouse in the Sunshine Coast. However, this one might be a little bigger and more luxurious than the one you had (or wanted) as a child.

Secrets on the Lake have 10 tree houses set across 45 acres of lush hinterland and overlooking Lake Baroon, and each treehouse is connected by an elevated hand carved treetop walkway system.

If height isn’t your thing and you’re looking for something a little quirkier, why not stay in a train? Yes, you read that right. You can stay overnight at the Harrington Glen Estate and Winery in a vintage Victorian train carriage that is decked out with two bedrooms and a darling kitchenette.

And, when you’re not admiring the property views, head down to the winery to taste the estate’s local wine.

Live like a king in this beachside mansion

Alinghi Beach House | things to do in 2018

If 2019 is your year of luxury, ditch the camp tent, blow up mattress and cold outdoor showers for this mansion-of-a-beach-house on the Southern Great Barrier Reef.

With ocean views overlooking your own private beach at Honeymoon Bay, this mini castle puts other holiday houses to shame. Complete with 3 king bedrooms, ensuite bathrooms and a 30m swimming pool, you can sleep up to 10 of your mates here.

Witness a natural phenomenon


This year, make like Sir David Attenborough and get up close to a natural phenomenon during the wet season in Tropical North Queensland. Visit the Undara Lava Tubes at night and watch a food chain ecosystem in action. The cycle starts with innocent insects which attract bats which ultimately attract green pythons.

That’s right, you’ll stand under all the action and watch the snakes launch themselves at swooping bats who are preoccupied chasing insects to realise that they are being hunted as well. It’s a surreal experience that has appeared in the Australian Geographic.

Roll up your sleeves

Shandonvale Station | things to do in 2018

Swap your snapback for an Akubra and head to the outback to learn about Queensland’s backbone; working stations. While most farm stays are ideal for children, Shandonvale Station has something for all ages. From firing rifles to herding sheep via buggy and cattle via chopper, you get to experience the daily operations of their working station.

Out here you’ll learn to respect the true meaning behind “paddock to plate” and, if you can stomach it, you can even get a hands-on experience of humanely harvesting an animal and preparing it for the table. This option isn’t for everyone, but it’s extremely educational and will give you a deeper understanding of where your meat comes from.

After your stay at Shandonvale you’ll leave with your own bush stories, calluses on your hands and a new appreciation for hard work.

Watch a cultural theatrical performance

Spirits of the red sand | things to do in 2018

Spirits of the Red Sand is an interactive 2.5-hour dinner and show hosted in Beenleigh. You’ll watch a dramatic theatrical production and learn about the effects that the British settlers had on Aboriginal people and their way of life in the 19th Century. As you walk through the different sets, you’ll follow the journey and story of three Aboriginal brothers.

The performances are powerful, thought-provoking and told through the eyes of the only surviving brother, Jarrah.

Whilst the story component may jerk some tears, the performance ends with an Australian dinner and dessert buffet feast for both performers and guests to enjoy.

Indulge on the Gold Coast

Bam-Bam-Bakery | things to do in 2018

Get your foodie flat lay fix and eat your way around the Gold Coast. From rooftop bars to five-star restaurants, the food and beverage scene here is definitely worth the short walk from the beach.

So, dust the sand off your feet and enjoy everything from the five-kitchen mecca at the Collective in Palm Beach to the fresh pastry from Bam Bam Bakehouse in Mermaid Beach to a sunset bevvy at the Justin Lane rooftop bar in Burleigh Heads. You name it, the Gold Coast has it.

What’s first on your 2019 must-do list?