Australia’s second largest state is a nature lover’s paradise. In a size that’s nearly two and half times larger than Texas you’ll find over 200 national parks in this veritable outdoor playground. Home to diverse species from the brolga bird (one of Queensland’s largest birds) to over 1000 species unique to the region, it’s no surprise visitors can’t get enough of the Sunshine State. Coming from Canada, I love to explore the great outdoors in Queensland. Here are some of my favourite places.
The Great Barrier Reef
Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef and one of the seven natural wonders of the world. UNESCO listed the Great Barrier Reef as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
The waters of the Reef are teeming with marine life and are comprised of over 3000 individual reef systems, coral cays and hundreds of tropical islands. Its stunning natural beauty has made it a remarkably popular tourist destination. Visitors can enjoy many different activities like snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, whale watching, cruising, and swimming with the dolphins.
There are hundreds of operators and over a thousand vessels and aircraft licensed to operate in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park so getting access to the activity of your choosing is easy.
A thrilling way to see the Reef is to take to the sky.
Try hot air ballooning from Cairns to Port Douglas. They launch at dawn and you will gently float over the Atherton Tablelands. GBR Helicopter Group offers a flight of a life time too or try: ‘Cairns Heli Scenic’ which departs daily from Cairns City Heliport to take you to relax on Green Island. Then explore the reef and then on to a pontoon adventure for an afternoon of swimming, snorkelling and coral viewing.
The earliest known name of the island was ‘K’gari’, which means ‘paradise’ in the Butchulla language. And although an overused term, paradise does seem appropriate for Fraser Island, which is the largest sand island in the world (at 1840 km²).
The island has over 120 kilometres of beaches, fresh water lakes and ancient rainforests and a multitude of wildlife including 325 species of birds and several species of wallaby. You can also see Australia’s purest population of dingo and a unique species of tortoise found in some of the freshwater lakes.
Fraser Island’s white beaches, magnificent coloured sand cliffs, and 100 freshwater lakes makes it a place of exceptional beauty.
The island is also a place where rainforests are found growing in the sand dunes. The sand cliffs are part of the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world. These dunes provide a record of climatic and sea level changes over the last 700,000 years.
The Great Sandy Strait divides the island from the mainland. It contains a wetland that includes many species of ferns, sea-grass and mangroves. The wetland is an important habitat for thousands of migratory shorebirds and endangered species of dugongs, turtles, and Illidge’s ant-blue butterflies.
The Scenic Rim part of the Great Dividing Range, straddling the border between south-eastern Queensland and the north-eastern New South Wales.
Scenic Rim area contains six World Heritage listed National Parks. The ranges include the Little Liverpool Range, Main Range, Mistake Ranges, McPherson Ranges, Teviot Range and Tweed Range.
The Scenic Rim has always attracted naturalists, artists and trekkers interested in studying and enjoying the area’s natural history and beauty so it’s appropriate that Queensland’s first National Park was declared here in 1908.
The Scenic Rim is mostly volcanic in origin, deriving from prehistoric volcanic activities. This volcanic activity that led to the creation of the mountain ranges has also contributed to the areas rich flora and fauna. The climate and the region’s rich basalt soils make it perfect for rainforests to thrive.
The Scenic Rim is a vast area and a great place for birdwatchers as it is an important bird habitat that supports populations of endangered Eastern Bristlebirds, Black-breasted Button-quails, Scrub-birds, Lyrebird, Paradise Riflebirds and Australian Longrunners.
The Wet Tropics of Queensland
The terrain here is rugged and The Great Dividing Range encompasses some coastal ranges, highlands and escarpments that dominate the landscape. 16 different types of rainforests have been identified within the park.
For those who want to get off the beaten track there’s a vast network of walking trails, from short strolls to day walks. The adventurous can even take overnight hiking or take a canoe to the area. Many find contentment in simply absorbing the grandeur in stillness by listening to the symphony of ancient forest sounds.
This World Heritage also area includes Australia’s highest waterfall, Wallaman Falls and 13 major river systems. From the rugged peaks of Bartle Frere one can look over the rainforest escarpment to see the Great Barrier Reef. From the breathtaking beauty of the Daintree to the thundering roar of the Tully Gorge, the whole area is laced with walking trails, scenic drives and waterways just waiting to be discovered.
The ancient canopy is alive with the calls and songs of some of the world’s rarest birds, while the underbrush is alive with shy, wide-eyed melomys fossick, one of the 13 Australian mammal species found only here.
From the macro to the micro, from waterfall to wet lands, from the crocodile to the cicada, everything inhabiting this rich landscape is entrancing.
There’s a wide range of accommodation found in the park ranging from backpacker digs to high-end luxury. Sleep under the stars and you’ll really begin to appreciate the awesome magic of Mother Nature.