THE NEXT BIG THINGS

We’re here to help you find a new favourite place for a Queens­land hol­i­day

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - COVER STORY - NATASHA DRAGUN

Done Noosa and Fraser? Seen Hamil­ton, Hay­man and Heron? Here are some ex­cit­ing al­ter­na­tive Queens­land des­ti­na­tions that should be on your radar for 2018 and be­yond.

RAIN­BOW BEACH

Many peo­ple pass through Rain­bow Beach on their way to Fraser Is­land, but this idyl­lic coastal ham­let – think Noosa in the 1970s – more than war­rants an ex­tended stay.

Your first stop should be Carlo sand blow, a moon­scape dune mass cov­er­ing more than 15ha and over­look­ing tow­er­ing blushed sand cliffs that leave no ques­tion as to how the town got its name. Views from the top, over Dou­ble Is­land Point and Tin Can Bay, are blind­ing, as is the rush you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence as you jet­ti­son down the sand blow on a to­bog­gan.

Less high-oc­tane but equally mem­o­rable are new horserid­ing tours held on the beach once a month un­der a full moon, and the Cooloola Great Walk, launched this month and tak­ing you from Noosa to Rain­bow Beach over five days.

MARY VAL­LEY

Hav­ing been off the rails since 2012, the Mary Val­ley Rat­tler – a clas­sic steam train dat­ing to 1880 – will re­sume its course this year, open­ing up the post­card-per­fect land­scapes of the Mary Val­ley once again.

A 35-minute drive west of Noosa, the coun­try­side here, of­ten re­ferred to as Queens­land’s “food bowl”, is dot­ted with tiny time-for­got towns like Da­gun, Amamoor and Im­bil, all of which are on the train’s 40km itin­er­ary from Gympie.

There’s talk of the jour­neys hav­ing a culi­nary fo­cus to show­case lo­cal pro­duce, from honey and man­goes to ba­nanas and gin­ger.

You’ll want to walk it all off on a trek through one of the re­gion’s tow­er­ing hoop pine forests, where rivers are made for platy­pus spot­ting.

LONG IS­LAND

One of the lesser-known land­falls in the Whit­sun­days, Long Is­land is, as its name sug­gests, quite lengthy.

Span­ning nine kilo­me­tres yet only 400m at its widest point, Long is al­most en­tirely na­tional park­land, ringed by 13km of hik­ing trails that take you through dense trop­i­cal for­est and past ex­pan­sive co­ral fring­ing reefs that are just beg­ging to be snorkelled.

There’s only one place to stay, and Palm Bay Re­sort is a world away from its $1000-a-night neigh­bours in the Co­ral Sea. There are no de­gus­ta­tion din­ners or 24/7 but­ler ser­vices here, but in­stead, a com­mu­nal kitchen which al­lows for self-cater­ing.

Thank­fully, there is an on-site bar, so all you need to do is BYO food or or­der ahead from Whit­sun­day Pro­vi­sion­ing, which de­liv­ers to the is­land. This is for trav­ellers who have done Hamil­ton, can’t wait for Day­dream to re­open and can’t af­ford Hay­man (if it re­opens).

MIS­SION BEACH

A quiet string of vil­lages on the Cas­sowary Coast be­tween Townsville and Cairns, Mis­sion has been on the cusp of be­ing the “next big thing” for years. A cou­ple of cy­clonic set­backs have kept the crowds away, but the lo­cals here know how to get back up and are once again daz­zling vis­i­tors with ac­tiv­i­ties that show­case the re­gion’s boun­ti­ful nat­u­ral as­sets.

This stretch of Trop­i­cal North Queens­land’s coast is the clos­est main­land point to the Great Bar­rier Reef, so it comes as no sur­prise that days here re­volve around the wa­ter. You can raft the Tully River or – as of last year – at­tend the Aquatic Fes­ti­val (Oc­to­ber 13), a cel­e­bra­tion of the town’s set­ting, where the rain­for­est meets the sea.

You can also join new dive tours on the scout­ing the Outer Reef God­dess, Great Bar­rier Reef, Beaver Cay and Eddy Reef, or cruise around Bedarra – the is­land’s epony­mous re­sort has ear­marked Mis­sion for its next round of lux­ury vil­las.

STAN­THORPE

Thought all Aus­tralian wine came from down south? Think again.

Queens­land’s Gran­ite Belt is home to more than 45 winer­ies, and Stan­thorpe is at the heart of the boozy in­dus­try.

About 200km south­west of Bris­bane, the state’s cold­est win­ter town has the per­fect cli­mate for grow­ing ev­ery­thing from cher­ries and ap­ples to olives and grapes.

For some­thing ad­ven­tur­ous, fol­low the Strange Bird wine trail, cov­er­ing some of the more un­usual va­ri­etals pro­duced here in­clud­ing viog­nier, mourve­dre and tem­pranillo. Be sure to stop at Sym­phony Hill, where vint­ner Mike Hayes was last year named Aus­tralian Wine­maker of the Year, be­com­ing the first Queens­lan­der to take out the Aus­tralian So­ci­ety of Viti­cul­ture and Oenol­ogy gong.

Noth­ing goes bet­ter with Hayes’s

CY­CLONIC SET­BACKS HAVE KEPT THE CROWDS AWAY, BUT MIS­SION BEACH LO­CALS ARE AGAIN DAZ­ZLING VIS­I­TORS

TOOWOOMBA’S HIP CAFES, BREW­ERIES AND LANEWAY RES­TAU­RANTS WOULDN’T BE OUT OF PLACE IN MEL­BOURNE

2015 Re­serve Nero D’Avola than a Snow­storm (triple brie) from Stan­thorpe Cheese, where ar­ti­san moulds are pro­duced by a herd of Jersey cows.

THE SA­VAN­NAH WAY

There are plenty of epic road trips across Queens­land, rang­ing from the Great Trop­i­cal Drive to the Bor­der Range Loop. One of the most un­der­rated, for no rea­son we can un­der­stand, is Sa­van­nah Way, a 1100km jaunt ex­tend­ing west from Cairns in the Trop­i­cal North to Lawn Hill in the re­mote north­west high­lands (then through North­ern Ter­ri­tory and on to Broome, Western Aus­tralia, if you have the steam).

The full 3700km route passes through 15 na­tional parks and five World Her­itage sites; on the Queens­land side you’ll drive through fields of sugar cane, past vast cat­tle ranches and UNESCO rain­for­est while tak­ing in the state’s ge­o­log­i­cal won­ders – not the least of them be­ing opal and gold mines – and habi­tats that at­tract birds (and twitch­ers) in droves. This is the new must-do Cape trip.

TOOWOOMBA

The al­leged birth­place of the lam­ing­ton and home­town of ac­tor Ge­of­frey Rush, the coun­try’s sec­ond­largest re­gional city’s lat­est claim to fame is its trans­for­ma­tion into one of Aus­tralia’s largest out­door gal­leries.

About 120km west of Bris­bane on the edge of the Great Di­vid­ing Range, Toowoomba hosted the First Coat fes­ti­val from 2014 to 2017, invit­ing artists to dec­o­rate walls across town. There are now more than 50 largescale al­fresco mu­rals as a re­sult.

Also boost­ing street cred is the Wal­ton Stores precinct, where his­toric build­ings have been trans­formed into hip cafes, brew­eries and laneway res­tau­rants that wouldn’t be out of place in Mel­bourne.

MOOLOOLABA

Its beaches are among the best in Aus­tralia, yet Mooloolaba is of­ten over­shad­owed by its flashy Sun­shine Coast neigh­bour, Noosa. All that’s about to change, not in the least thanks to a sea­sonal at­trac­tion here that is larger than life.

Mooloolaba is one of the few places in the coun­try, in­deed the world, where you can swim with hump­back whales, with oper­a­tor Sun­reef tak­ing small groups out to sea dur­ing the mam­mals’ an­nual mi­gra­tion.

Back on land, the OK has been given to de­velop more than 6000sq m of new park­land on the fore­shore. Also, $100 mil­lion is now be­ing spent on the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of the wharf with fresh res­tau­rants and shops, and this month ground breaks on a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar ho­tel com­plex with a huge re­tail com­po­nent. It’s easy to see why this town is be­com­ing an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar port for cruise ships, a num­ber of which of­fer whale swims among their shore ex­cur­sions.

CANUNGRA

Just 35km from the Gold Coast, but a world away in pace, Canungra’s ex­cel­lent wines are a good rea­son to make a bee­line for the hin­ter­land.

At the fam­ily owned O’Reilly’s Canungra Val­ley Vine­yards you can sip sparkling semil­lon or a fresh verdelho and then am­ble back to your re­treat amid the rain­for­est, while nearby you’ll find Mount Nathan, Witches Falls and Mount Tam­borine winer­ies, among oth­ers.

If you overindulge there are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to re­pent in the Scenic Rim’s World Her­itage-listed Lam­ing­ton Na­tional Park or along Canungra Creek, known for its plen­ti­ful platy­puses as well as the south­ern boo­book, a species of na­tive owl that led to the town’s in­dige­nous name, Caningera (“small owl”).

WIN­TON

Win­ton is pre­par­ing to make some noise, with the beloved Waltz­ing Matilda Cen­tre re­open­ing this month af­ter be­ing de­stroyed by fire in 2015.

Known as the home of di­nosaurs and birth­place of Qan­tas, Win­ton is also where Banjo Paterson’s pop­u­lar poem, Waltz­ing Matilda, was first per­formed, a fact that will be cel­e­brated at this year’s in­au­gu­ral Way Out West Fest (April 19-22), co­in­cid­ing with the cen­tre’s launch. Jes­sica Mauboy, John Wil­liamson and The Liv­ing End will be among per­form­ers that will make the 1500km pilgrimage here, per­form­ing along­side en­ter­tain­ment in­clud­ing bush po­etry and desert races.

COOKTOWN

A small place with a big his­tory, Cooktown is billed as the “gate­way to wilder­ness” – from here, se­ri­ous fish­ing fa­nat­ics and those with a 4WD head north to ex­plore the wilds of the Cape York Penin­sula.

But there are plenty of rea­sons to linger in the coastal vil­lage named af­ter Cap­tain James Cook, who landed here in 1770, es­tab­lish­ing Aus­tralia’s first non-in­dige­nous set­tle­ment. Hav­ing struck a reef in his ship, the En­deav­our, Cook and his crew spent 48 days on shore re­pair­ing the dam­age: a 48-day event in 2020 will mark the 250th an­niver­sary.

If you can’t wait un­til then, the an­nual Dis­cov­ery Fes­ti­val (June 1517) pays homage to the land­ing as well as the re­gion’s tra­di­tional landown­ers through a cor­ro­boree un­der the stars.

De­spite Cook’s omi­nous ar­rival, cruise ships are be­com­ing a com­mon sight in town, with many vis­i­tors ar­riv­ing by boat rather than by land from Cairns.

LADY MUS­GRAVE

The year 2018 has been des­ig­nated the third In­ter­na­tional Year of the Reef, and the best way to find out why is with your head un­der wa­ter that sur­rounds Lady Mus­grave Is­land.

A speck of co­ral off the shore of Bund­aberg, the is­land is set on 1215ha of liv­ing reef, with a pro­tected la­goon where you’ll find your­self mask-tofin with trop­i­cal fish, man­tas, and green, hawks­bill and log­ger­head tur­tles. Get here aboard the newly re­launched Dis­cov­ery, which cruises to a pon­toon in the Lady Mus­grave la­goon where you can snorkel or scuba one of the 17 world-class dive sites that sur­round it.

If you don’t want to leave, make the most of the is­land’s camp­grounds, just steps from the sand where tur­tles come to nest each year.

MOUNT MUL­LI­GAN

It may be the site of Queens­land’s worst min­ing dis­as­ter al­most a cen­tury ago, but the ghost town of Mount Mul­li­gan is en­joy­ing a re­nais­sance of sorts thanks to the planned mid-year re­open­ing of Mount Mul­li­gan Sta­tion.

A sa­cred in­dige­nous site, the 36,000ha work­ing cat­tle sta­tion is be­ing trans­formed with the ad­di­tion of a luxe 12-cabin re­sort, sit­ting along­side ex­ist­ing camp­ing fa­cil­i­ties. Days here are spent horse rid­ing around the prop­erty’s bil­l­abong, quad-biking, gold fos­sick­ing and bird watch­ing. He­li­copter tours also of­fer a spec­tac­u­lar view of Mul­li­gan’s 18km­long sand­stone ridge, which hap­pens to be 10 times larger than Ayers Rock.

PIC­TURES: TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENS­LAND, MI­GRA­TION ME­DIA UN­DER­WA­TER IMAG­ING

As the clos­est main­land point to the Great Bar­rier Reef, days at Mis­sion Beach re­volve around the wa­ter (main pic­ture); en­joy spec­tac­u­lar na­ture trails at Canungra Val­ley; and get up close to whales with Sun­reef Mooloolaba.

PIC­TURE: TOURISM AND EVENTS QUEENS­LAND

Cruise to a pon­toon in the Lady Mus­grave la­goon where you can snorkel or scuba one of 17 world-class dive sites that sur­round it.

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