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Luxury Travel

Australia: Larger than Life

How do you see all that Australia has to offer on one trip, when it’s so vast? Visit Queensland – it’s got rainforest, ocean, outback and city, all in one handy state.

Words by Ally Ware

Australia is big. Really big. It’s about 32 times bigger than the United Kingdom and has a wealth of incredible landscapes, cultures and wildlife to boot. So when you start planning your next trip there you wouldn’t be the first person to think you’ll need to spend months in the country to see it all.
If you plan to see the whole country, then months would be ideal. But if time only allows for weeks then may I suggest visiting Queensland? The state offers travellers the rare opportunity to explore the bustling cities, beautiful beaches, colourful reefs, tropical rainforests and the red sands of the outback – all within a relatively short trip. I had a week spare for my adventure,
determined to take in as much as I could of this beautiful location and immerse myself in the country in a short space of time, taking advantage of the relatively close proximity of Queensland’s varied landscapes. Certainly not enough time, we’d absolutely encourage you to take at least two to three weeks to explore properly.

Phase one: Beach

Starting on the Gold Coast, spend the day soaking up the wide sandy beaches of Surfers Paradise. For a literal breath of fresh air after a long flight, watch experienced surfers working the waves, friends strolling with coffees and fitness enthusiasts enjoying the expansive boardwalk – it’s the perfect showcase for the laid-back lifestyle Australia is so famous for. In the evening head to one of the many bars and restaurants to enjoy local cuisine. Take your pick from fresh fish and seafood, or try a kangaroo steak if you’re feeling adventurous! A short flight or a 19-hour drive up the coast takes you to Mission Beach. This off-the-beaten track town boasts palm-fringed beaches, relaxed cafes, opportunities to spot wild Cassowaries and also provides a gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

A day trip to the Reef is sure to inspire you to protect this incredible spot, watching the soft corals flowing with the current of the ocean, as tiny glittering fish reflect the sunlight onto their larger, more colourful counterparts. Be sure to book with a sustainably-certified operator and the on-board team will make sure you’re fully briefed to swim safely on the reef, causing no damage and taking with you only memories.

Phase two: Rainforest

From Mission Beach we drive inland, towards the Atherton Tablelands. En route, we stop at Paronella Park to marvel at the Spanish-inspired buildings, the vintage hydroelectric generator and waterfalls. Created by José Paronella between 1929 and 1935, it’s a beautiful pleasure garden and reception centre built for the enjoyment of the public. From here head to the Mamu Tropical Skywalk, half an hour away, and spend an hour climbing on cantilevered boardwalks among the rainforest canopies, exploring the rainforest from a new perspective and even spotting some creepy crawlies along the way! 

Climb the Observation Tower for impressive views over the Atherton Tablelands, though take a deep breath and steel yourself before climbing back down! For a real rainforest experience, check into Rose Gums Wilderness Retreat for the night. Each of the treehouse rooms has a veranda set on stilts that looks out over the rainforest canopy – enjoy a drink on your deck as you watch the sunset over the valley and listen to the forest come alive at night. A real must when visiting the Atherton Tablelands is to get out on a wildlife tour. Be sure to book with a passionate wildlife expert, such as James at FNQ Nature Tours, and you could spot platypus, Boyd’s forest dragons,  an abundance of bird life and even tree kangaroos. They’re all there – you’ve just got to know where to look. 

At the Mamu Tropical Skywalk, climb on cantilevered boardwalks among the rainforest canopies, exploring the rainforest from a new perspective

Phase three: Outback

For your first taste of the Australian Outback set off on the three-and-a-half-hour drive inland towards Talaroo Hot Springs. The further you drive, the sparser the trees become and the redder the earth appears. This is where things get really wild. As you drive you may see a mob of wallabies hopping among the trees, almost keeping pace with the car – or you may even see snakes basking in the sunshine on the road-side. Arriving at Talaroo Hot Springs is like stepping onto another planet. Set in the heart of Gulf Savannah country, Talaroo’s surreal landscape of pools and terraces, vivid colours and diverse formations unite one of outback Queensland’s most extraordinary geological wonders with the Aboriginal hospitality of the Ewamian people. Learn about the history, people and culture on a walking tour of Talaroo, which even includes the chance to soak your feet in one of the hot springs.

Make your way to the Undara Volcanic National Park for another out-of-this-world experience, watching iconic Australian wildlife, such as kangaroos, colourful cockatoos, lorikeets and other truly wild creatures, in their natural environment. Take a guided tour through the Undara Lava Tubes – an underground cave system formed by lava – learning all about the incredible environmental, geological and historical features of the region. Enjoy a big sky sunset as you sip sparkling wine and cheese while your Savannah guide unlocks the secrets of this timeless land. At dusk, make your way to the entrance of a lava tube for a nature experience you’ll never forget! Thousands of tiny insect-eating microbats emerge from the darkness to find food, which in turn attract pythons and brown tree snakes that hang down from the trees, striking out at the bats for dinner.

Enjoy a big sky sunset as you sip sparkling wine and cheese while your Savannah guide unlocks the secret of this timeless land.

Phase four: City

As the rugged wilderness of the outback fades in the rear-view mirror, the landscape becomes greener and you begin to breathe the fresh ocean air you’ll know the excitement of your trip isn’t over yet. Arrive in Cairns and check into an ocean-front hotel, absorbing the striking views before heading out for a stroll along the esplanade. Perhaps stop for a refreshing swim at the open-air pool, sip a cocktail at a bar overlooking the ocean or pick up an ice cream from one of the many gelaterias.
Finally, see out the week with an afternoon of adventure! Cairns is home to a host of adventurous activities, but for my entry-level adventure I went river-tubing. Lying back on a huge inflatable doughnut to float down the river, I watched as the sunlight came through the canopy creating beautiful dappled light and let the enormity of everything I’d seen over the past week sink in. Just remember to sit up for the ‘rapids’!

Feeling inspired?

Our team are on hand to help you tailor-make your own perfect Australia holiday

This is a feature from Issue 17 of Charitable Traveller.