Queensland is the largest and most northerly of Australia's eastern States. Comprising nearly 2 million square kilometres, it is nearly as big as Western Europe, yet it has a population of only 2.2 million people, of whom less than one million live in its south eastern, ocean side capital, Brisbane.
This State comprises a quarter of Australia's mainland and it is packed with natural attractions. There are over 1,000 kilometres of superb beaches, fine rainforest clad mountains, some sweeping down to the ocean, then there are the Spinifex plains of the Outback, old crater lakes in the Great Dividing Range, spectacular waterfalls galore in the mountain forests, the fabled Great Barrier Reef, with over 1,000 kilometres of glorious off shore islands (many with exclusive resorts on them) amid the myriad coral reefs, the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, the tropical north and Far North, the world's only all sand island, plus over 300 national parks and wilderness areas.
Add to this the extensive sugar cane plantations, the myriad prosperous farms, the colourful tropical vegetation spilling over everywhere and, industrially, the bauxite, copper, gold, lead, silver, zinc and coal mines and the superb prawn and barramundi fishing and you have a state as diverse as anywhere on earth.
At its northern most tip, is the very rugged Cape York Peninsula, poking 700 kilometres out into the Torres Strait. This is truly harsh four wheel drive country, inhabited only by a small number of Aboriginal people and an occasional white person here or there, who prefers the solitude of living alone. Here, cassowaries roam the bush. They are wild and can kill a man who gets too close to their mate or nest, so they should never be approached. Here too kangaroos and giant lizards are best left alone.
Tully, in the north east, is the wettest town in Queensland, with an average rainfall of 4,500mm, while Birdsville in the Outback south west is the driest with only 150mm per annum in a good year. The old goldfields of the Palmer River area out of Cooktown and inland at Charters Towers are popular with tourists wanting to know about the beginnings of Australia's white population two hundred years ago. The coal fields are relatively new, but now produce in excess of 25 million tonnes a year. At Gladstone, on the coast in the north, there is also a huge aluminium plant, so this is truly a State full of diversity, variety and interest.
An hour's drive north from the mighty Tweed River, which forms the State's southern boundary, one reaches this sunny capital, but from the Tweed all the way to Brisbane is a 75 kilometre Oceanside strip known as the Gold Coast, which is fairly heavily populated by retirees and holiday accommodation, since the beaches are so good and the weather is near perfect all year round.
Sited at the mouth of the Brisbane River, this city has many delightful old buildings, including the old Treasury (now a casino) and City Hall, both built in extravagant Italian Renaissance style, plus Parliament House, built in French Renaissance style. Brisbane's oldest home, Newstead House, now owned by the National Trust, nestles on the river bank at Breakfast Creek and there's a vane-less 1828 windmill, which is something of a surprise, right in the city. Convict built, it was the fledgling colony's first commercial building, as those early settlers needed flour to bake their bread. Pilgrims' Chapel is Queensland's oldest church, built in 1850 of local sandstone on simple Gothic lines.
For culture vultures there is, of course, the State Art Gallery, the Art Museums, the Queensland Museum and for those who remember the wars, the Anzac Memorial. Earlystreet Historical Village at 75 McIlwraith Avenue in Norman Park, east of the city centre, has a fine collection of old Queensland buildings. In some of the older suburbs around the central city, a number of grand old sprawling timber homes, built high on stilts for coolness, can be seen. They are known as Queenslanders.
MT COOT-THA BOTANIC GARDENS began as fruit and vegetable gardens in 1828, supplying food to the penal settlement. Seeds from the gardens were given free to settlers. A superintendent was appointed in 1855 and many of the botanic specimens to be seen in the gardens today were planted by him. There is a curator's cottage, almost a century old, a 400m mangrove boardwalk and a mini rainforest among the many ponds and delightful areas, but the huge glass domes contain the most exotic plants. THE COSMIC SKYDOME (Planetarium) can also be found here and it's very popular. There are some delightful walks to be enjoyed in the forest park.
On the river bank, facing the skyscrapers of the CBD, is SOUTH BANK parklands. This was the site of the highly successful 1988 World Expo. When it was dismantled, the land was set aside to be developed for the residents of Brisbane and its visitors. Today, one can glide around the manmade canals in colourful boats, visit a mini rainforest or the butterfly house, lunch in one of its many restaurants or cafes, or enjoy the cheery Sunday markets and street theatre. River cruises are a good idea and here the elegant three tier paddleboat 'KOOKABURRA QUEEN', or the more racily shaped CITY CAT are very popular. The Kookaburra Queen cruises gracefully up and down stream, while passengers enjoy a commentary and something to eat or drink if they wish, while the City Cat zigzags back and forth to a variety of pickup points, as it is actually a very modern ferry boat. Three other attractions are the AUSTRALIAN WOOLSHED in Ferny Hills, the ALMA PARK ZOO at Kallangur and the LONE PINE SANCTUARY, all 15-20 minutes drive from the city. At the Woolshed, people can watch shearing demonstrations and see sheep dogs at work; they can pet koalas, enjoy a picnic or eat in the restaurant. At Lone Pine, which can also be reached by river, there are numerous koalas and many visitors like to be photographed holding one. There are also kangaroos, possums, Tasmanian Devils, emus, wombats and many other varieties of native fauna. Here there is a well respected breeding program and they will also take care of injured koalas. At Alma Park Zoo there are plenty of koalas to pet, or they can take a walk through the kangaroo enclosure. There is also a wide range of other animals, both native and imported to enjoy, including, deer, water buffalo, camels, emus, dingoes and monkeys.
There are many day and half day coach trips to be enjoyed in and out of Brisbane and visitors can also cruise Moreton Bay, or go out to the offshore island's for a day or more.
THE GOLD COAST
The 75 kilometre strip of coast from the Tweed River on the New South Wales border to Brisbane, is known as the Gold Coast, It is a very popular holiday destination with southern State residents and particularly with Japanese people. The excellent Pacific Highway continues northwards from New South Wales to Brisbane and beyond. Along that stretch are many towns such as SURFERS' PARADISE, one running into another and most have numerous signs in Japanese and often some Japanese staff. High rise apartments abound and many of them are for short or long term rental. Scores of canals have been cut in from the sea with many offshoots and this has ensured that thousands more people have been able to buy property with their own jetty into the waterway and thus direct access to the ocean for their boat.
Developed in the last 30 years or so as a holidaymakers hedonistic paradise, the Gold Coast is packed with made made attractions, probably the most famous of which are the world class theme parks - MOVIEWORLD, SEA WORLD and DREAMWORLD. Movieworld is owned and operated by Warner Brothers and contains working film studios. It promotes itself as Hollywood on the Gold Coast. Visitors can take rides around the lots as well as enjoying a 3D theatre, meet many famous characters on the streets, Batman, Bugs Bunny, Tweetie Pie, Sylvester, Bonnie and Clyde - you never know who is going to come down the road, as you stroll around the Disneyesque streets. There's lots of street theatre too, so be prepared for the unexpected. There are multiple events going on all day long here.
At the long established, 25 hectare (over 60 acres) Sea World, its relatively new Dolphin Cove is the largest dolphin habitat ever created in a marine park. It consists of seven pools containing over 30 million litres of water and here one can watch the dolphins perform their tricks. There are also water-skiing displays, heart stopping rides, a volcano that erupts regularly, a scenic cable train, under water displays through plate glass windows and much more. Again, it's an all action place, beloved by children and parents alike.
At Dreamworld you think you are in Disneyland, USA. It has totally the same feel about it, but without the Disney characters. Old world buildings, a paddle boat, scores of exciting rides and adventures, staff dressed in period or movie style costumes and again, something happening all the time among very colourful sets and neatly landscaped gardens. There is a white tiger breeding colony on an island and these majestic creatures can be seen at certain times of the day. There is also an extensive koala breeding program and many more animals to pet or touch.
CURRUMBIN SANCTUARY is a long established, purely Australian attraction. It is primarily a long established bird park, where all the colourful parrots fly in from the huge old trees at certain times of the day to be fed. This is a very colourful phenomenon and should not be missed. There are many other animals here too, plus a train that takes passengers around the grounds to see the various exhibits, be they the mini rainforest, the creatures of the dark display, or any of the other myriad exhibits or activities. The shady, open air restaurant is a good spot to relax too. Then there are boat trips out to STRADBROKE ISLAND, boat cruises around the canals to see the homes of the rich and famous, coaches trips up into the hinterland and JUPITERS CASINO, where the evening stage shows are of world class. SHANGRI LA, GRAY LINE and AUSTRALIAN PACIFIC coach lines offer day and half day tours around and out of the Gold Coast and its hinterland, while other Gold Coast attractions include WET'N'WILD water park, with grand pools and slides and Ron and Valerie Taylor's SHARK EXPO, on The Spit at Main Beach.
For those who love luxury, or who aspire to rub shoulders with the wealthy, there's the elegant SANCTUARY COVE - a five star residential development, where some of the most superb homes can be seen, along with a tightly packed marina of very expensive boats, fabled seafood and other restaurants and world class golfing greens. The HYATT REGENCY hotel at Sanctuary Cove is one of the most prestigious on the Gold Coast, but of course there are many more in the area.
There is plenty of accommodation available on the Gold Coast, from five star hotels, through motels, apartments and units, to backpacker hostels and caravan parks with powered RV sites and luxury family cabins for daily rental.
GOLD COAST HINTERLAND
An hour's leisurely drive to the west of the Gold Coast, away from the coastal area, on the slopes of the GREAT DIVIDING RANGE that runs the length of Australia from north to south, is the GOLD COAST HINTERLAND. Here cool mountain villages provide an enormous contrast to the razzle dazzle of the busy, sun drenched coastal strip. The charms of the mountains are the unspoilt forests, some of which is rainforest and the pretty villages perched high, with a view down to the coast on most days. MT TAMBORINE is the most famous of these villages and it has a very pretty setting, with magnificent views coastwards. Here one can visit the HOUSE OF CUCKOO CLOCKS, stay in a spacious A-frame cottage with breathtaking views from your balcony at the POLISH PLACE, which also has a great little restaurant specialising in Polish food and a small Polish Museum; visit one of the many art galleries, or eat sumptuous Continental food in one of the scores of mountain restaurants. Visitors can also browse in the PINES BOOK GALLERY, taste the local wines at MT TAMBORINE VINEYARDS; fossick for ancient volcanic thunder eggs at THUNDERBIRD PARK (this mountain is an extinct volcano), shop in the DUTCH CLOG WORKSHOP, buy some goodies from the old ovens in the TAMBORINE MOUNTAIN BAKERY, or stay awhile in one of the many welcoming guest houses on a bed and breakfast basis. There are several especially good places in which to stay, if looking for a bush experience and these are either in accommodation (at a variety of prices) in unique THUNDERBIRD PARK on Mt Tamborine, or at BINNA BURRA LODGE in the LAMINGTON NATIONAL PARK, where there are walks across suspension bridges among the tree canopies and tame parrots galore always waiting for a feed from guests. Everyone has their own stone cottage (of varying sizes), but join other guests in the restaurant for main meals. Then there is O'REILLY'S GUESTHOUSE, also in Lamington National Park, at Canungra, where Arctic beech trees in the rainforests are reckoned to be over a thousand years old and waterfalls thunder in the hidden bushland. Here again one will find all the visitor comforts and good food. YANDOONYA is a beef cattle property at Canungra that offers good accommodation in a Host Farm environment.
For those who haven't a lot of time to spare, but who would really love to sample native flora and fauna in our forests, there are several very experienced small tour companies offering day tours of the Hinterland and of the BORDER RANGES NATIONAL PARK and these small group tours have full commentaries, air conditioned four wheel drive vehicles and plenty to eat and drink throughout the day. All of them are well worth taking at around $100 per head for the entire day, from 8am to 6pm.
THE DARLING DOWNS & TOOWOOMBA
Many people approach Queensland via the Newell or New England Highways and by doing so they will approach Brisbane via the pretty, rolling DARLING DOWNS. This is relaxed, prosperous farming country, particularly for pigs. The bacon, ham and similar smallgoods that come from this area are legendary in Australia. Approaching via the Newell Highway one reaches Goondiwindi with its 'wedding cake' historic pub and this means that the vehicle has crossed into Queensland. When approaching via the New England Highway one arrives in Warwick. Whichever of these is reached, it is a good idea to continue on to a very lovely township known as TOOWOOMBA, where the gardens are multi award winning and the views from the city are nothing short of sensational. But do stay awhile, as there are six magnificent national parks in this area and plenty of first rate bed and breakfast accommodation in and around the townships, particularly Toowoomba. However, Heritage B&Bs of the Darling Downs also offer a well above average Heritage home welcome and real sense of style for those who are interested. And, as may be expected in such an area, Host Farms have over a dozen properties where discerning guests are given a warm welcome on a bed and breakfast basis. TOOWOOMBA, an hour and a half or so's drive west of Brisbane, is a sparkling university city, very proud of its 150 city parks and gardens, which they celebrate annually with a Carnival of Flowers. This takes place during the last full week in each September. The best views out over the Lockyer Valley are to be seen from Picnic Point. Toowoomba is also renown for its many award winning restaurants and its fine art galleries and antique shops. There are a number of fine old buildings in this elegant city and it is interesting to note that Australia's largest collection of horse drawn vehicles is housed in the city's COBB & CO MUSEUM. Toowoomba also has a racecourse and an excellent golf club.
At JONDARYN there is the long established JONDARYN WOOLSHED, 150 years old, where shearing demonstrations, blacksmithing and many more old pastoral pursuits can be viewed daily. They also have a restaurant and accommodation of varying standards to suit all pockets. At OAKEY on the eastern downs there is the MUSEUM OF AUSTRALIAN ARMY FLYING and in ACLAND the ACLAND COAL MINING MUSEUM.
DALBY has one of Queensland's busiest livestock markets and the State's largest grain receiving centre. Anyone who is interested can visit the cattle saleyards. Other nearby attractions include Lake Broadwater, historic Jimbour House and the Bunya Mountains National Park.
THE SUNSHINE COAST
An hour's drive north of Brisbane via the Bruce Highway will have you at the southern end of the SUNSHINE COAST. (This is the other holiday playground for Brisbane residents, besides the Gold Coast to the south). It is also very popular with tourists, particularly caravanners, the older of which drive up from the southern States in their thousands each winter and spend the months of October to May in a more congenial climate. CALOUNDRA looks out over Pumice stone Passage and is protected by popular BRIBIE ISLAND, off shore, so it is the ideal Mecca for water sports lovers and anglers and offers all the amenities most wanted by the average holidaymaker. NOOSA for centuries languished as a quiet backwater, a well kept secret with those who enjoyed a quiet, unspoilt holiday in superb natural surroundings, until a decade or so ago. Now it is a very switched on and colourful seaside resort, packed with upmarket accommodation and hundreds of ocean facing apartments owned by doctors and other professional people. The nearby national park is quite beautiful and the beaches are still very good here. There are plenty of smart restaurants in which to linger over a splendid meal too. Those who enjoy a tranquil river cruise may like to take one aboard the EVERGLADES EXPRESS, where all the majesty of the Everglades and their native flora and fauna will be revelled. It departs from Cooloola Cruises wharf on Gympie Terrace at Noosaville each morning and afternoon. On the Sunshine Coast there are a number of manmade tourist attractions that are very popular. One is the fairytale looking BLI BLI CASTLE at Bli Bli, where all the rooms tell a different fairy story or medieval legend. Another is THE BIG PINEAPPLE on the highway at Nambour, where one can tour a pineapple plantation, learn all about there cultivation and buy and eat this nutritious fruit. Next door is the MACADAMIA FARM where you can do the same thing with macadamia nuts. Then there's the GINGER FACTORY at Yandina, where you can learn how ginger is grown, eat and buy ginger produce and watch it being processed.
At Pacific Paradise there is the award winning NOSTALGIA TOWN, where rides can be taken on an old sugar cane train, visitors can travel aboard Albert's Incredible Time Machine, enjoy a snack or a picnic, wander around the old buildings and souvenir shop, drive the minicars, putt around the graveyard, pilot the miniature remote controlled boats on the pond, or smile at the cross-eyed barber's shop quartet.
UNDERWATER WORLD at MOOLOOLABA should be
on the 'must see' list and here one can walk through a long Perspex tunnel
underwater as sharks, stingrays and other denizens of the deep cruise slowly
overhead and around one's sides. There are seal shows here and many other
displays, so don't expect to walk in and race out quickly.
Steve Irwin's AUSTRALIA ZOO, made famous in his popular wildlife television series "Crocodile Hunter", can be found at BEERWAH and here you can watch the wild caught crocodiles as they launch their strike from the waters edge, pet a giant tortoise, wrap a giant python or two around your neck, feed the otters and kangaroos, or cuddle a koala. There are over 550 animals and 10 shows a day with the highlight of the day at 1.30pm.Open every day except Christmas day.
The brilliantly COLOURED SANDS of TEEWAH are another Sunshine Coast attraction, as is the wreck of the old 'CHERRY VENTURE', half buried in the sands at COOLOOLA. Then there are the four wheel drive adventure tours in this area, including those visiting the world's largest sand island - FRASER ISLAND, famed for its glorious, unspoilt beaches, beloved of four wheel drive vehicle owners. There are still pockets of pristine rainforest on the island and dingoes, our beautiful native wild dogs, can often be seen hoping for a feed (but please do not attempt to feed them as they are wild animals). This island has a Wilderness Heritage listing and must be treated with the respect that listing demands. Numerous tour companies offer a 10 hour, all day experience of this unique island in air conditioned four wheel drive vehicles, including beach runs and lunch for about $120 per head, but anyone may take a ferry across to the island from a number of onshore seaside townships if they wish to do so. There is also a holiday resort on the island.
Away from all the coastal towns and beaches, Queensland offers a different perspective to travellers. For instance, there is MT ISA, stated in the Guinness Book of Records to be the world's largest city, covering some 41,000 square kilometres. This is about the same size as Switzerland and twice the size of Israel. People of more than 50 different nationalities live here and the population at the last count was just over 25,000. It is a town that grew around a gigantic commercial venture - the mighty Mount Isa Mines. It is Australia's largest mine and extends to a depth of 1,100 metres (around 3,500ft). Work is currently in progress to extend it downwards to the 34th level and lower - a distance of 1,800 - 2,000 metres below the surface. Here, copper, lead, zinc and silver are mined and at the Hilton Mine, 20 kilometres north of town, they have discovered one of the world's premium ore deposits. Mine tours, outback tours, Aboriginal cultural tours and city tours are all available. Then there's the fabled RIVERSLEIGH FOSSIL DISPLAY, as seen a number of times in television documentaries, the Aboriginal KALKADOON TRIBAL CENTRE and the SCHOOL OF THE AIR to visit. The Clock Tower, the Mining Display, the National Trust Tent House, and Buchanan Park Racetrack are also worth inspecting. This is a popular area with gem fossickers. East of Mt. Isa, CLONCURRY's old copper mines make great photographic studies. There's also an Afghan cemetery, the old assay laboratory, the cattle saleyards, the MacIntyre Museum, the powerhouse and the Great Australian Mine to investigate.
CHARTERS TOWERS is a grand old gold town and had a population of over 30,000 at the turn of the century, when mining there was at its peak. It even had its own Stock Exchange then and many of these old buildings have been thoughtfully preserved for posterity. The town is regarded by the National Trust as a Living Museum.
Set in rolling scenic pastoral country and some of its attractions include the old CHOWEY BRIDGE, bottle trees around COALSTOUN LAKES, the old open cut MAGNETITE MINE and their annual week long ROSE FESTIVAL. The BLUFF RANGE within MT WALSH NATIONAL PARK is quite rugged and spectacular. Then there are the YOWAH OPAL FIELDS, renown for the quality of their boulder opal. In August each year, Cunnamulla holds its FESTIVAL OF OPALS, when for three days there is a lot of festive activity to be enjoyed. Another interesting feature of the area is the ARTESIAN MUD SPRINGS that provide the Yowah opal fields with their bore water - Nature's safety valve. There are many farm properties in this area offering good accommodation for visitors and the wildflower displays in Spring are quite spectacular. Other gem fields to be found in outback Queensland are the sapphire fields at ANAKIE and more boulder opal at QUILPIE.
CARNARVON GORGE in CARNARVON NATIONAL PARK also deserves a mention, for its majestic beauty. It takes time to explore the wonder of this area, its Aboriginal art, its moss gardens, waterfalls, canyons and rainforests, so it is a good idea to spend a couple of nights at the excellent OASIS LODGE in the Gorge, with its comfortable accommodation, tasty meals and wide variety of activities available daily.
GREAT BARRIER REEF
Australia's magnificent Great Barrier Reef is a chain of unspoilt islands and coral reefs, stretching for 2,000 kilometres from north to south, 40-60 kilometres off shore, down the north east continental shelf of Australia. The reefs are populated with brilliantly coloured fish and all forms of marine life. There are giant clams, turtles, big game fish, sharks, manta rays and much more to be seen in this underwater wonderland, beloved of scuba divers from all over the world. Access is by one of the tour boats, a hired boat, by aircraft, or in one's own vessel. However, it is wise to remember that in this part of Australia there is just the Wet and the Dry season, so it makes sense to avoid the period of monsoonal downpours, great humidity and occasional cyclones, which occur between November and April each year.
As can be imagined, because of its idyllic and semi-tropical setting, the Great Barrier Reef offers a number of island resorts, for those who want to linger longer than a day trip. These vary tremendously from islands that only offer national park campgrounds for people who bring in their own tents, to those with medium priced family resorts and others that are frankly upmarket and exclusive. All can be reached by the resorts' transfer boats or aircraft, by inter island ferries or water taxis, or by one's own boat. Most guest accommodation is not equipped with telephones or television sets, although they are likely to have ceiling fans and refrigerators. Here are the most popular of them:
Heron Island Resort is at the southern end of the Reef. Heron Island is pure coral, so guests walk straight from the beach to the reef edge, where the waters are teeming with all kinds of aquatic life. At high tide, the reef becomes a swimming pool in Paradise and at all times the beaches are also out of this world. There is accommodation to suit all budgets and the lovely Pandanus lounge has wall to wall windows, for sitting indoors but feeling you are outside. Giant turtles lay their eggs on this island and right by the water's edge is a giant chessboard, with pieces almost knee high. The forest areas are home to thousands of Noddy Terns and almost every tree is laden with their ramshackle nests. The sunset cheese and wine cruises are popular, as are those for divers in the afternoons. In the evening, Baillie's bar becomes a popular gathering point for guests. By day, there are reef fishing expeditions, tennis, dive tuition, island walks and trips across to Wilson's Island, for a barbecue lunch. The suites are all beautifully equipped and self contained, while the Lodge offers budget priced accommodation in rooms that sleep four people.
Bedarra Island Resort been designed to totally harmonise with the natural surroundings, to create an environment of peace and privacy for a maximum of 32 guests, accommodated in 16 self contained, cathedral ceilings, spacious villas of polished Australian timbers. Here they operate a cashless society, because all the beautifully prepared meals, using the freshest produce are included in the overall tariff. And what's more, all the wines and alcoholic beverages are included too! There is a fresh water swimming pool for those who prefer it and delightful walks amid the tropical rainforest. There is also a guest lounge with 24 hour bar service, a grand piano, a floodlit tennis court, a spa and plenty of water sports gear. This is a resort for adults, not children.
Captain Cook saw and named this island in 1770, but he could not have imagined the palm fringed, beachside resort that can be found there today. Dunk Island Resort rooms have balconies or veranda's, private bathrooms and refrigerators, but there are four standards to suit all pockets. Double family rooms are available and there is a child minding service. All the meals, prepared by a gourmet chef, are included in the tariff. Children's meals are served in the restaurant annex and the following are just some of the facilities available - TV and video room, bar, lounge, hair dressing salon, tennis, paddle skis, horse riding, golf, archery, cricket, all the water sports, badminton, volleyball, a pool table, clay pigeon shooting, plus daytime and evening entertainment etc.
Claimed to be the 'jewel in the reef', Lizard Island is at the northern most end of the reef, being 250 kilometres north of Cairns. As far as is known, Captain James Cook was the first white man to step ashore on this island. It was inhabited then by shy monitor lizards and that is how it got its name. The island has a designated national park and some of the finest and most secluded beaches in the world. Twenty acres have been used to accommodate a hundred or so guests in 32 suites plus the Lodge at Lizard Island resort. There is a general shop, a club lounge and bar and the dining room, with its expansive views across to Prince Charles Island. All meals are included in the tariff, all food is flown in daily or plucked fresh from the sea and picnic hampers can be prepared for anyone who gives advance notice of their request. Guests can swim, laze, go boating, try their hand at archery, explore the national park, visit the giant clam gardens, play tennis or take a quiet snooze. The clear emerald waters around the island are acknowledged to provide some of the finest game fishing in the world, particularly black marlin.
One of the budget priced island resorts (costing two thirds less than the most exclusive), Hinchinbrook Island offers a number of secluded, but luxurious and spacious tree houses, set among lush rainforests and palm trees, with splendid ocean views. A maximum of 50 guests at any one time can stay here. The island has cloud capped mountains, gorges, valleys and waterfalls to explore and plenty of bird life to enjoy. In fact, it is the world's largest island national park. The tariff covers all meals, which are an epicure's delight and, not surprisingly, the resort has won many awards over the past decade.
TOWNSVILLE is an important city in north Queensland. It was first settled by white men in 1864. During World War II it was a garrison city, where 30, 000 Americans, Australians and other allied service personnel were stationed, while fighting the war in the Pacific. It is still a strategic centre and home to Australia's largest defence establishment. As might be imagined, it has a city museum, a maritime museum, an RAAF museum, a military museum and a tropical museum! There are plenty of well preserved historic buildings around town too.
One of the city's biggest attractions is the GREAT BARRIER REEF WONDERLAND, which houses the largest live coral reef aquarium in the world. It is over two storeys high and visitors can wander through Perspex walled passages under the water and view all the marine life above and around them. It also includes an Omnimax theatre - the ultimate wrap-around experience. Then there's the BILLABONG SANCTUARY, a spectacular wildlife park, set in 10 hectares of rainforest and native eucalypts. National parks surround this city and its famous landmark, CASTLE HILL, which rears up behind the township. There are many tour companies operating out of Townsville, as well as diving expeditions, as this is truly great diving territory. Big game fishing boats can be chartered from here and several cruise boats offer three, four to seven day reef cruises.
Then there's MELVILLE'S AUSSIE TAVERN & PIONEER FARM, 20 minutes south of town, the FLINDERS MALL MARKET, art galleries galore, a CIVIC THEATRE and DANCE NORTH, a resident Aboriginal dance troupe. The PORT OF TOWNSVILLE holds an interest for many, as does the INSTITUTE OF MARINE SCIENCE. Perhaps Townsville's most famous attraction is its 'almost suburb' - MAGNETIC ISLAND, with its koala sanctuary, its prolific bird life (over 100 species), its pristine beaches and its dramatic shoreline. It has a historic forts lookout, wonderful views from the hillocks, majestic hoop pines and glorious wetlands. Camping is permitted on the island, as long as a permit has been obtained from the national park HQ at the Great Barrier Reef Wonderland. There are also a number of good holiday resorts and self contained apartments on the island. One can access it by ferry and rent a moke to travel around there, if required.
ROCKHAMPTON and MACKAY are two other seaside resort towns to the south of Townsville and these too have a number of attractions that are popular with holiday makers.
FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND
The major city in far north of Queensland is CAIRNS and, because it has an International airport and is tropical, it is beloved of backpackers. There are a string of backpacker hostels along the waterfront and these are very popular with young overseas tourists. There is plenty of other accommodation, of course, from such big hotels as the Sheraton and Hilton, to pubs, motels and a plethora of self contained apartments. There are tourist parks on the outskirts of town and good ones they are too, but if you want one on a beach, you'll have to drive half an hour further north to beautiful ELLIS BEACH or idyllic PALM COVE.
Cairns is enormously popular with Japanese tourists, who fly directly in from Japan and there are hotels, cruise boats, shops and even an offshore island with a major resort hotel and underwater aquarium owned by Japanese companies. Cairns is sited on Trinity Inlet, bordered by mangrove swamps, so it has no city beaches, which comes as a surprise to many visitors. However, half an hour's drive (or coach trip) north of the city the finest beaches begin and stretch northwards for hundreds of kilometres. Cairns has a large number of big game fishing boats for charter, as well as large cruise boats visiting the reef. It has a tropical lifestyle, with palm trees and bougainvillea to be seen everywhere. The wharf is a tourist hub, with its busy shops, restaurants and cruise boats. There are also good art galleries, a couple of which show and sell only Aboriginal art. A popular day trip is by historic old train to KURANDA on the Atherton Tableland. This is a really unusual and worthwhile way to spend a day. Set in a rainforest, Kuranda has a great butterfly farm, Bird world, Juanna Aboriginal Dance Theatre, a quaint village atmosphere and crafts markets, a wildlife sanctuary, Barron River boat trips and a railway station that has to be seen to be believed, as it is almost invisible under all the staghorn and elk ferns and has a really old world snack bar too. For those who want to stay awhile, the KURANDA RAINFOREST RESORT is great, with two storey A frame, family log cabins on stilts in the rainforest, the prettiest swimming complex set among all the tree ferns on a secluded hilltop, a great restaurant with grand piano, plenty of sporting facilities and much more. Cairns is also the jumping off point for a day trip to Green Island.
Where there is an underwater aquarium - walk down the stairs and view the reef and its marine life through the glass walls. The island has some excellent beaches, a Melanesian culture display, plus a Japanese resort run on Japanese lines. There are also many day trips available from Cairns, to Chillagoe, the crater lakes, Cape Tribulation and more.
NORTH OF CAIRNS
Take the beach road north from Cairns, passing Ellis Beach, with its beachside tourist parks to Palm Cove. Here is the prettiest village, all pastels and vibrant colours, a magnificent beach with off shore islands and some of Australia's finest beachside resort hotels (such as the Ramada Reef Resort, the Novotel, the Reef Retreat and Reef House), numerous apartments and a tourist park.
Keep going and you'll reach PORT DOUGLAS, with its fabled Nine Mile Beach, its SHERATON MIRAGE five star beachside resort hotel, with a free form swimming pool that goes on almost for ever - and across the road a world class golf course. There's a Radisson resort with a magnificent pool in Port Douglas and a number of other four star establishments, as well as guest houses, motels, caravan parks and apartments to let. The HABITAT is a wonderful butterfly house of splendid proportions, then there's a SHIPWRECK MUSEUM, the MIRAGE upmarket shopping complex at the wharf and QUICKSILVER CONNECTION, offering all day cruises out on the reef aboard their mighty catamarans, with a buffet lunch, scuba diving, snorkelling and glass bottomed semi submersible boat cruising, to view the wonders of the reef. Don't miss it.
Further north is MOSSMAN, with its superb MOSSMAN GORGE NATIONAL PARK, its avenue of splendid rain trees and its delightful little old church, with splendid stained glass windows. There is a fun suspension bridge to negotiate over the gorge and often there are big goannas (giant lizards) lazing in the sun near the car park.
Still continuing northwards you will arrive at DAINTREE, a small township on the banks of the Daintree River, with an old chain ferry ploughing back and forth across it. There are a number of river cruises available, to see the rainforests, water birds and crocodiles lazing on the banks. From here one can take a minibus tour to CAPE TRIBULATION, or along the BLOOMFIELD TRACK, crossing many fords, viewing Aboriginal rock art and experiencing unspoilt rainforest that sweeps down to the ocean.
Further north still one eventually arrives at COOKTOWN, where Captain James Cook landed in the late 18th century to repair his ship. This is a lovely little town, with a historic cemetery, the Captain James Cook University, leisurely wagon rides available around town and of course the inevitable museum. There was a gold rush nearby in the 19th century, centred on the Palmer River, with much trouble between the white and Chinese miners. There was also tin mining in the area, but today Cooktown makes its money from the tourists that find it so fascinating.
Near Daintree and Cape Tribulation is the luxurious RADISSON TREETOPS RESORT. Just out of Daintree are several other top notch rainforest hideaways - these include P&O's SILKY OAKS LODGE (where all the cabins are on stilts deep in the forest overlooking the river); DAINTREE WILDERNESS LODGE, where there are boardwalks through the rainforest to each cabin and the glass roofs make lying in bed a pleasure and the five star DAINTREE ECO LODGE, which is the last word in superior accommodation, created in total harmony with its environment. Thirty five kilometres south of Cooktown is MUNGUMBY LODGE BUSH RETREAT and here one can either stay in the high set timber homestead, or in one of the tropical cabins. It offers a good look at life in a remote part of this country, while still enjoying home comforts.
From Cooktown to BAMAGA on the top most tip of this country, this region is known as Cape York. It is covered in extremely rugged bushland, recommended for four wheel drive vehicles only and then providing they are carrying enough spares, food and water to get out of any difficulty and certainly not between late October and the end of April, which is The Wet season. This is a graded not a bitumen road and it is often very potholed or washed out. On reaching BAMAGA one can see across the Torres Strait to Thursday Island. Half way up this track to Bamaga another track to leads westwards to WEIPA, originally a mission outpost, but for decades now it has been a bauxite shipping port. This is great barramundi and king prawn fishing territory.