I still remember the views from the airplane window as we ascended over Cairns. The turquoise Great Barrier Reef on my left and the lush Kuranda National Park to my right had me mesmerized, and by the time we climbed above the clouds, my nerves disappeared. I could see my best friend squished at the front of the plane, and before I could grab his attention, the airplane door swung open, and he jumped out. It’s worth mentioning that he had a parachute and instructor attached to his back, but watching my best friend of 19 years fall out of an airplane snapped me back to reality.
“Oh, we really are skydiving,” I thought to myself.
One by one, the people in front of me crawled to the edge of the door and jumped out of the plane. My instructor and I awkwardly shuffled to the front of the plane until our legs hung over the edge, and he asked me if I was ready to go.
“Yes, let’s do it!”
Before I had a moment to contemplate what happens next, we jumped out of the plane and began to free fall from 15,000 ft. / 4,500 m over Cairns. The rush of falling toward the incredible Cairns landscape is etched permanently in my mind, and it is a breathtaking testament to the wonder Queensland has to offer.
Queensland, the Sunshine State, is a treasure trove of geographical wonders, adventure, and relaxation. From hiking through prehistoric rainforests to floating through the vibrant urban Brisbane city centre, Queensland is bustling with limitless opportunities for tailor-made travel.
1. Exploring Brisbane, Australia’s fastest growing city.
Brisbane is an excellent starting point for any Australia vacation. The bustling Queensland capital is not only a gateway to Cairns, the Great Barrier Reef, and Daintree National Park, but its airport also offers 21 direct international destinations, connecting you to the rest of the world as well. Brisbane has a wide variety of incredible experiences, no matter your interests. Foodies can indulge in the Eat Street Northshore open-air market, adventurers can kayak down Brisbane River, and creatives can experience Brisbane’s art scene at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
2. Seeing wildlife at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
A cruise up Brisbane River to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, is an excellent way for you to discover the beauty of the city’s skyline and riverbanks and come face-to-face with some iconic Australian wildlife.
Listen to the informative commentary from your guide as you glide through Brisbane’s historic city centre and jot down potential evening destinations before arriving at the sanctuary. Spend your afternoon alongside over 130 koalas, hand-feeding kangaroos, and witnessing the incredible birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other wild animals that call the sanctuary home. Learn about the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary’s efforts to protect and conserve local wildlife by inspiring others to live in balance with the environment.
3. Snorkelling and diving the Great Barrier Reef.
There are many ways to explore the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s most extensive coral reef system, including catamaran and sailing tours. However, snorkelling or scuba diving are two of the best—and most intimate—ways to come face-to-face with this incredible living structure.
There are several snorkelling and diving tours at the Great Barrier Reef for you to choose from, regardless of your skill level. Immerse yourself with 1,500 species of fish and 400 different types of coral spanning 2,300 km / 1,430 mi along Queensland’s eastern coastline. The ability to explore this expansive natural wonder from Cairns also gives you plenty of opportunity to add additional nearby land or sea tours to your itinerary. The Great Barrier Reef is visible from space, but swimming inches from this vibrant underwater landscape is a special Queensland experience you should take advantage of.
4. Going on a rainforest adventure in Daintree National Park.
Queensland’s natural beauty extends beyond its living, breathing coastline, with the Daintree National Park offering you limitless jungle experiences. Embark on a tour down the Daintree River and witness prehistoric life as you float along the ancient mangrove forest with estuarine crocodiles swimming beneath you. Listen to a symphony of over 430 bird species singing from the jungle canopy as you head to the quaint Daintree Rainforest Village for lunch.
Immerse yourself in the ancient rainforest by hiking the countless trails across the park. Endemic species you’re sure to run into include the electric blue Ulysses butterfly, spotted-tail quoll, and the Boyd’s forest dragon. Walking beneath the 135-million-year-old rainforest canopy is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers and thrill seekers alike who will discover that Daintree National Park is more than just a destination; it’s an immersion into the ancient beauty of Tropical North Queensland.
5. Sailing the Low Isles near Port Douglas.
The Low Isles is a beautiful coral cay just off the coast of Port Douglas that offers a serene diving and snorkelling experience on the Great Barrier Reef. Sail to the secluded and pristine white sandy beaches of these protected coral cay islands for an incredible island experience where you will soon discover that the journey is just as enchanting as the destination.
Embrace the wind in your hair and the rocking of the boat as you approach the Low Isles, building anticipation for the underwater adventures that await you. Immerse yourself in the kaleidoscope of colours beneath the crystal-clear waters as you swim with playful sea turtles and clownfish on a guided snorkel tour. Those interested in staying dry can still discover this underwater ecosystem from a glass-bottom boat before enjoying a meal on the coconut palm-scattered beaches of the islands.
6. Relaxing in Port Douglas.
The quaint coastal town of Port Douglas offers a rejuvenating experience for those looking to relax. Aptly referred to as the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef, Port Douglas is an excellent home base for you to explore the surrounding sites while having full access to the beautiful Four Mile Beach and several lively cafes and bars. You will quickly recognize the seamless blend of Queensland culture, nature, and leisure once you wake up in Port Douglas.
Take an evening stroll along Macrossan Street, the heart of Port Douglas, and enjoy the boutiques, art galleries, open-air markets, and street performers before indulging in a fresh seafood dinner caught directly from the Coral Sea. End your day with a glass of locally produced wine as you watch the sunset from one of the many surrounding beaches, embracing the holistic experience that you can only find in Port Douglas.
Get the latest travel trends & hear about the best deals on vacations around the world.
If you’re a Globetrotter, these are the newsletters for you!