Here’s how to explore Queensland like an eco-tourist
Like our national anthem croons, our land abounds in nature’s gifts, of beauty rich and rare. With the state home to five of the planet’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, Queenslanders are proud of the impressive diversity of the flora and fauna within our borders, and rightly eager to protect it. You can do the same – sustainable travel in Queensland is far easier than it may seem, we promise.
Becoming an eco-tourist is key; being conservative with water and energy, and mindful of your carbon footprint, as well as choosing eco-certified accommodation is a great start. But so too is eco-awareness; celebrating the unique natural sights and experiences of Queensland by forgoing a trip to the big smoke and instead immersing yourself in the state’s great outdoors. Where to begin? Below you’ll find a guide to Queensland’s must-visit natural wonders.
The natural wonders
Swim the reef
Welcome to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living structure on earth. A visit to the reef is a must-do experience at least once in your life, and can be conveniently done on any budget. Water babies rejoice; there’s snorkelling and diving galore to be enjoyed here for those who prefer any exploration to take place under the sea.
Venture solo or join the likes of Discovery Scuba Dive to get certified before you follow in the footsteps of Sir David Attenborough and venture further afield. You don’t have to get wet if you don’t want to; jump aboard one of the countless vessels designed for seeing the Great Barrier Reef in comfort, from seaplane to chopper, submarine and pontoon.
Hit the road
Considering the Sunshine State’s girth, a road trip is a great way to see some of Queensland’s best natural sights at once. A range of lengthy roads stretch between key destinations. The Pacific Coast Way winding from Cairns to Brisbane is one such bitumen trail, with a number of World Heritage wonders scattered along its 1700-kilometre length, ideal for those with kids in tow.
Those who prefer to take things off-road should spend the week driving the Great Beach Drive instead, which will see you meander the sand dunes of Fraser Island by 4WD. Or head north, for the country’s furthermost tip with a trip to the Cape York Peninsula.
To get there, you’ll drive along a 1200 kilometre stretch of road from Cairns which boasts some of Queensland’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. The Queensland Outback is just as tempting in terms of road trip potential, with the state’s west not just awash with red dirt, but ancient rock formations and freshwater swimming holes.
Take a bushwalk
Prefer to explore by foot? Queensland has you covered. Not only is this method of transport particularly health-conscious, but eco-friendly courtesy of its minimal carbon footprint. Within the state resides countless walking tracks to choose from; scattered amongst the state’s 450 National Parks you’ll find 10 stand-outs, dubbed the Great Walks.
Ideal for the more experienced bushwalker, these tracks will take you far from the big smoke and deep into the Australian bush, from the 150-million year old Wet Tropics rainforest, to the multi-coloured sands of Fraser Island. If you prefer your trek accompanied with a side of luxury, look to Spicers Scenic Rim Trail. Where days are spent on guided walks through the Gondwana Rainforest and nights in luxury safari-style tents.
The lesser-known natural wonders
The Noosa Everglades
Not just a resort town boasting a particularly beautiful beach and neighbouring national park, Noosa is also home to one of only two Everglade environments globally (the other is the famed Everglades National Park in Florida). Drive just 30 minutes out of town and you’ll find the natural wonder amidst the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park. With 65% of the district protected by the national park and nearby Fraser Island, the 60-kilometre stretch of water is one of the world’s most undisturbed natural environments and is best explored by kayak, whether solo or a part of a tour.
As the country’s largest national park island, there are a maximum of 40 people allowed on its shores at any one time, meaning peace and quiet in spades. Hinchinbrook is well-known for its array of mangroves and resident dugong population, which are often best seen by kayak. But it’s hiking trails are also famed; here lies the multi-day Thorsborne Trail which runs for 32-kilometres across mangrove, paperbark, eucalypt and banksia forest.
Introducing Australia’s version of the Grand Canyon, Carnarvon Gorge. Hit the road and 700 kilometres north-west of Brisbane, you’ll discover the national park in the midst of the Central Queensland desert.
Well worth a multi-day stop, there’s no shortage of ways to spend your time; trek the 21-kilometres of walking track winding its way throughout the precinct, boat your way along the waterways, gazing at the sandstone cliffs which form the steep walls of the gorge, and explore the Aboriginal rock art scattered throughout.
The native wonders
While Queensland boasts a bounty of outstanding zoos and animal sanctuaries, there’s nothing that can quite compare to seeing native wildlife in their natural habitat. The Great Barrier Reef overflows with oceanic life, particularly when it comes to sea turtles which are guaranteed to make an appearance when it comes to nesting season, setting up shop in Mon Repos near Bundaberg. Seeing the turtles can be one of the best offerings in terms of sustainable travel in Queensland, courtesy of the number of programs in which you can take part. Manta ray enthusiasts best make their way to the nearby Lady Elliot Island, where you can dive with the 450 mantas who move here during the winter months.
Whales are almost as abundant in Queensland waters; humpback whales make the 10,000 kilometre migration annually to give birth along the Sunshine State’s coastline, with sightings common during this period, especially in Hervey Bay. Off Cooktown is where dwarf minke whales congregate, and where you can swim alongside them if you choose.
Or forgo saltwater creatures for the freshwater; it’s in Mackay’s Eungella National Park that platypus are particularly prevalent. Dawn and dusk is your best chance to spy the Australian icon in person, or instead accompany Rainforest Scuba for a chance to swim alongside them.
Fellow national icon the koala is scattered throughout Australia, but its largest wild colony can be found on the idyllic Magnetic Island, sitting off the coast of Townsville. Those further south are also likely to spot them snoozing amongst the gums of Noosa National Park.
Would you rather get up close and personal with the cassowary? The second heaviest bird in the world and one of the closest living species to the dinosaur is commonly found along the aptly-named Cassowary Coast in Tropical North Queensland. Etty Bay near Innisfail and Mission Beach are two particular hot-spots for the bird, but be warned not to approach; the cassowary can grow up to two metres in height and can be dangerous.