In Australia, the state of Queensland is referred to as the Sunshine State and its tourism slogan is Beautiful one day, perfect the next.
This should give you a hint of what's to come – and that it is an absolutely beautiful place to explore.
With stunning beaches, lush tropical rainforests, beautiful islands and harsh outback, its landscape is vastly diverse and no matter what sort of traveler you are, you'll find a perfect place to visit.
But don’t be fooled into thinking you can travel to Queensland for a week and see it all. Queensland is huge!
Geographically, it is the second biggest state in Australia, and has a coastline of over 6000 kilometers (3700mi). You could easily spend two months on your Queensland holidays and still not see it all.
First things first: there's no reason solo female travelers can't feel safe when they visit Queensland. Local people are welcoming and friendly, happy to help you out wherever they can.
But like anywhere in the world, be cautious and alert. Note that in the more remote Queensland destinations, public transport is nonexistent or if it does exist, it certainly doesn’t run all night. So do ensure you are familiar with the transport system and its closing times to avoid being stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Like most places in Australia, travel in Queensland can be challenging, mostly due to its sheer size. Outside Brisbane, public transport is poor and scarce. If you're headed to some of the more remote areas, renting a car is ideal because of poor public transport. (Here are some reasonable car rental rates in Brisbane.)
Just remember: this is a huge state, two-and-a-half times the size of Texas, 17% bigger than Alaska and three times the size of France. Driving clear across Queensland is tantamount to driving from London to Russia – that's clear across all Europe.
Generally, visitors undertaking a Queensland trip start off in South East Queensland and choose a few other places from there to explore. Many people do this as a road trip up the coast, while solo travelers might feel more comfortable flying from one place to the next. Queensland has airports in all tourist regions but flying is expensive, although the bus often costs the same. That said, factor in a week at the very least, and even so, you won't see what you should; two weeks will at least net you the highlights.
This is one area where some kind of organized tour might make sense, if only to let someone else take care of transportation, and especially if you're short on time. Take a look at these three well-filled days visiting the Great Barrier Reef or this shorter barrief reef and Kuranda Train combo.
If this is a trip to Queensland for the first time, try to see the following destinations; they're among the safest and easiest places to visit in Queensland if you're on your own.
Brisbane is known as the “River City” and it is the bustling capital of the state of Queensland. The city is in a great spot, right on the Brisbane River (hence the nickname) and the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the Gold Coast in the south and the Sunshine Coast in the north.
There are heaps of great attractions right in the CBD, or Central Business District, and many of them are free.
The famous Streets Beach in the South Bank area of the city has a large man-made beach pool which can get overly crowded with families on weekends and holidays. The Brisbane Wheel is also in the South Bank area, great for panoramic views of the city.
To escape the crowds visit some of Brisbane's fantastic museums and galleries. The Queensland Museum showcases the state's incredible natural history, the Museum of Brisbane is great for learning more about the city and the Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery are perfect for art lovers.
Other great things to do in the city include a hike up Mount Coot-Tha, for more spectacular views over the city and to some of the Queensland islands beyond. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you could always climb to the top of Storey Bridge, one of the world's only three full bridge climbs!
If big cities are not your favourite, you might be surprised that staying in the city is actually perfect for exploring some delightful tropical islands. Both Moreton Island and Stradbroke Island (“straddy” to the locals) are just a short ferry ride away. Both islands are stunning, with white sand and clear blue water. Tangalooma Resort on Moreton Island has plenty of activities or just a day of lounging by the pool.
The beach city of the Gold Coast is only an hours drive south of Brisbane and offers some of the most beautiful and pristine beaches in the world (it is widely known for its surf culture). But there's a lot more to the Gold Coast.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is a fascinating way to learn more about native Australian wildlife (you can get your tickets here). Live shows highlight such Australiana as good old Aussie sheep shearing and a bird show with an amazing wedge-tailed eagle as the star. Volunteers, many of them retirees, are knowledgeable about the animals and always happy to talk about their behaviors.
While the Gold Coast is revered for its beaches, head inland and you will be treated to some of the most beautiful, lush green hinterland you have ever seen. This is where you'll find national parks and plenty of mountains, including Lamington National Park, Mount Tambourine and Springbrook National Park.
Be sure to take a trip to Purling Brook Falls for a great hike and views of a beautiful single drop waterfall, a natural bridge and the magical glow worm caves in the evening. If you're not the hiking type (or even if you are), the Mount Tambourine area also offers excellent winery tours.
On the opposite side of Brisbane, an hour to the north, is the Sunshine Coast and its beautiful beachside communities, similar to but not quite as busy and touristy as the Gold Coast. Think stunning beaches, coastal walks and beachside cafés as well as some glorious hinterland areas.
One of the most popular must-see areas of the Sunshine Coast is Noosa National Park, a wildlife sanctuary. Walking along its nearly 11km coastal route shows off the beautiful scenery of the Noosa headlands with some great viewpoints along the way. After all that exercise, Noosa Heads is a trendy part of the Sunshine Coast and great for grabbing a bite to eat or doing some boutique shopping.
The Glasshouse Mountains are a picturesque landmark area of the Sunshine Coast hinterland and worth a visit if you love the outdoors and would enjoy some easy but rewarding hikes. Another draw of the hinterland area are the farmers' markets − pick up some delicious locally grown produce or handmade items. Among the best known are the Eumundi Markets, Australia's largest arts and crafts markets, which take place every Wednesday and Saturday.
One of the biggest tourist attractions in the area is the world famous Australia Zoo, originally set up by the late, great Steve Irwin and still run by his family today. The zoo has an amazing array of Australian and international wildlife and the Wildlife Warriors show is a must-see if you're up for crocodile feeding in action while lorikeets fly overhead.
The Whitsunday region is one of the most iconic areas in Queensland and if you’ve ever seen a photo of a kayak floating on a crystal clear ocean backed by clear blue skies, chances are that it was taken somewhere around the Whitsundays. The area is full of idyllic tropical islands, pure white sandy beaches and some superb coral reefs full of marine life.
One of the most memorable experiences you could have in the Whitsundays is to take a cruise on a sailboat around the islands and reef. One option is to take a day trip to the best-known areas like Whitehaven Beach but to get the most out of the area, spend a few days cruising.
If being on the water is not really your thing you could experience the reef with a helicopter ride over the heart reef. It is well worth the money for some mind-blowing views of the area that most people will never get the chance to see.
If you are looking for a great spot to stay in the area, Airlie Beach is a perfect gateway to the Whitsundays and many of the excursions you take will depart from the Port of Airlie. It has developed somewhat of a reputation among backpackers for its nightlife so if you prefer something quieter, head a little further north to Bowen.
The far north of the state is an incredible tropical landscape and, if you can handle the humidity, don't miss it on your Queensland itinerary. Most people use Cairns as a base to explore the area's diversity.
The highlight of most people’s North Queensland holidays is, of course, the Great Barrier Reef and it couldn’t be easier to take a once in a lifetime snorkel or scuba dive amongst the coral reef, with so many great tour companies operating out of Cairns.
From Cairns, head a little inland to explore the Tablelands' lush green countryside and take a tour around the famous waterfalls circuit to cool off in some gorgeous natural pools. Or why not take the Skyway Rainforest cable car up the range to the village of Kuranda, famous for its heritage markets.
If you simply want a peaceful place to relax and unwind away from the tourist heavy attractions, the Daintree Rainforest is an area that has to be seen to be believed. With pristine beaches and beautiful rainforest, it’s known as the place where “the rainforest meets the reef” and is the only place on the planet where two world heritage listed sites sit side by side.
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Melissa is the creator and writer for the Thrifty Family Travels website; which details her family’s travels both locally and across the globe. Together they travel the world, experience new cultures, indulge in local delicacies, and explore every corner of our beautiful earth, navigating their way around the world. Thrifty Family Travels hope to inspire other families to travel and to show them all the fantastic places the world has to explore.