THE NEXT BIG THINGS
We’re here to help you find a new favourite place for a Queensland holiday
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.