Summer’s Golden Gleam
The Australian obsession with the perfect beach life starts here in Queensland, where sun-drenched coasts, trendy riverside towns, and lush green hinterlands will beckon you to lay back, relax and take root
Australians call Queensland ‘The Sunshine State’ for good reason – with 300 sun-filled days a year, it’s the spiritual home of the Aussie beach holiday, with thousands of swimmable areas dotting its breathtaking coastline. Stretching nearly 7,000 kilometres, Queensland’s coast is only just shy of the distance between New York and Los Angeles! From its southern cosmopolitan shoreline where you’ll find the international playground of the Gold Coast, to the tropical northern extremities of the shimmering Cairns beaches, and the chic and stylish beachside attractions of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, there are countless activities to experience and fabulous towns to explore, all set against a backdrop of brilliant days, balmy nights and a deeply entrenched beach culture.
Diving into the Great Barrier Reef
While many may extol the virtues of her pretty shores, others will argue that the real star of Queensland is actually just off her coast. A visit to this northeastern state simply wouldn’t be complete without a dip into one of the great natural wonders of the world – the Great Barrier Reef, home not just to some of the world’s best diving and snorkelling, but also more than 900 islands some of the best luxury resorts in the country. No matter how many images you’ve seen or stories you’ve heard, nothing compares to a personal encounter with this spectacular miracle of nature. Stretching some 2,300 glittering kilometres up the Queensland coastline, from the town of Bundaberg to virtually the tip of Cape York, the Great Barrier Reef is world-renowned as the only single living structure visible from space. Come November, the entire Great Barrier Reef erupts into life with spawning coral. This usually happens on the weekend after the full moon, and it’s an amazing sight to behold, wherever on the reef you happen to be.
As one of die world’s largest coral reef systems, the Great Barrier Reef is home to thousands of marine species, including dugongs, turtles, dolphins, whales, more than 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of molluscs. Not just restricted to underwater critters, there are also about 200 species of bird dial thrive (and depend) on the reef for survival. Its sheer size means there are virtually dozens of different ways to experience this incredible wonder, with tour operators operating in towns up and down the Queensland coast (including Bundaberg, Airlie Beach, Townsville and Cairns). You can fly overhead and sail directly on top of it, or even sleep on it – yes, sleep on it – if you like.
But snorkelling or diving those clear turquoise depths offers a magic all of its own, giving you an intimate look at the kaleidoscopic colours, unbelievable array of marine life and crystal clear waters which stretch seemingly into infinity. In some parts of the reef you can dive with green turtles or manta rays, while others offer the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with rare dwarf minke whales. Be sure to tick off your scavenger list of the reefs Great 8: giant clams, turtles, down fish, manta ray, potato cod, Maori wrasse, sharks and whales. Fat, friendly potato cod appear every day at the famous Cod Hole, expecting treats from visiting divers. The coral here is arguably some of the reef’s best, too.
Want a truly unique experience? How about a dive into a shipwreck? The historical SS Yongala shipwreck has become the adopted home of hugely colourful marine life, and is definitely something to add on to your bucket list. Get here by boat from Townsville, or through various other day trips available for charter.