Precious, magnificent and ancient in equal measure, Queensland’s diverse landscapes and culture deserve to be experienced in true Aussie style
Queensland, Australia is defined by extraordinary nature. Across the state’s diverse landscapes of rainforest, reef and outback are globally significant ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef, Gondwana Rainforest and World Heritage-listed k’Gari (Fraser Island).
Here you can escape to a secluded sandy cays, walk in the footsteps of the world’s oldest living culture, or journey through ancient rainforests that are home to unique wildlife. It is a place where luxury is found in the simplest pleasures and experiences, captivating the senses.
The beauty of Queensland is that it offers something for every kind of traveller. Whether you’re looking for adventure, beachside bliss or an exclusive retreat, an unforgettable getaway is waiting.
Slow it down in the Whitsundays
The iconic Whitsundays are made up of 74 palm-fringed islands surrounded by the magnificent Great Barrier Reef. There are many ways to explore this picture-perfect paradise, but sailing is a remarkable way to experience its exhilarating beauty. Hopping from one white sand beach to the next, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and mooring to dine in an exclusive retreat is what a sailing vacation here is all about. You don’t even need a sailing licence to do it: Luxury Yachts Whitsundays has a range of stylish vessels for hire as a bareboat option. Ships can be boarded from Coral Sea Marina in Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island.
Alternatively go for a skippered yacht to let someone else do the work – their private charters are bespoke for each guest allowing visitors to enjoy ultimate indulgence.
If a sailing adventure isn’t for you, there are plenty of incredible other ways to see this region. Discover the iconic Heart Reef lagoon through a new day trip, Journey to the Heart. Exclusive to guests of Hamilton Island, the morning starts with a scenic flight over the Whitsundays before landing on a pontoon near Heart Reef where you can spend the day snorkelling the surrounding waters or simply relaxing. Extend your Great Barrier Reef experience with an overnight at Reefsuites, Australia’s first underwater accommodation where you can watch the reef in all its glory. Or for an even more secluded stay, opt for castaway luxury bolthole Elysian Retreat – the first solar powered resort on the Great Barrier Reef, located on Long Island.
The drive of your life
For those with a sense of adventure and a love of the great outdoors, Australia’s Nature Coast Drive is sure to ignite the senses. This 12-day journey takes you from the picturesque Sunshine Coast up through Hervey Bay to the Fraser Coast.
Start your journey in Brisbane before travelling an hour north to the Sunshine Coast. Spend a few days here and hike the magnificent Glass House Mountains – an awe-inspiring collection of 11 ranges that are all linked together in indigenous mythology. For the adventurous looking to immerse themselves in Mother Nature’s spoils, take a two-hour trek at sunrise along the Mount Ngungun hiking trail for stunning 360 views of the sparkling coast and sweeping hinterland.
Spend the afternoon wandering the shops and discover unique work from local artisans in the charming town of Maleny. After a busy afternoon, overnight at Narrow’s Escape Rainforest Retreat in nearby Montville and unwind with a soak in a luxurious bubble bath surrounded by the sounds of the rainforest. Travelling as part of a group? Discover Montville House at Spicers Clovelly Estate, a tranquil French provincial style cottage featuring six bedrooms, each with their own character and design.
Rise early and travel just over an hour north to the stylish seaside town of Noosa. Feel the warmth of the sun as it rises across this coastal stretch. Continue your morning of serenity with a visit to the Noosa Everglades – one of only two everglade systems in the world. Switch off to the sound of birdsong and gently lapping water on a private tour through this labyrinth of waterways. Overnight at HOLA in Eumundi – boutique hotel that celebrates the talent of local artists. For luxurious relaxation, opt for the HOLA suite. Featuring a separate lounge/dining area which leads into the bedroom through fabulous artisan barn doors. There is a full-length balcony, freestanding bath and shower space and decor that truly honours the natural materials – the HOLA Suite epitomises contemporary bohemian chic.
The next morning, experience the freedom and pure exhilaration of driving more than 70 kilometres along white sandy beaches, sandwiched between the azure blues of the Pacific Ocean to your right and the green bushland to your left. Pepper this journey with pit stops along the way to make the most of this natural playground, before you reach Hervey Bay, Australia’s first World Whale Heritage Site. Plan a visit between July and October to spot humpback whales holidaying from their migration north.
Round out your trip with a visit to k’Gari (Fraser Island) – the world’s largest sand island where you can spend the night at Kingfisher Bay Resort. Take your tastebuds on a journey with a Bush Tucker Talk and Taste experience at the resort. Sample native berries bursting with flavour and relish in the refreshing citrus of lemon myrtle as the Resort’s Chef and Ranger explains their origins, demonstrates how to use them and presents them in cooked dishes for you to try. Once you’ve had your fill, sip on a refreshing cocktail at the Sunset Bar and bask in the golden glow of your epic nature-filled week as the sun sets on your Australia Nature Coast Drive.
Tropical North Queensland
A sparkling gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns is a laid-back and welcoming natural playground. Walk barefoot on white sand beaches with not a soul in sight, explore secluded coral cays by helicopter, and dive deep into the Daintree to relax in some of the best luxury resorts.
One of the best ways to experience the breathtaking natural beauty of Cairns is by air. Get away from it all and spend an afternoon taking a helicopter ride with GBR Helicopters or Nautilus Aviation to a deserted sand cay in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Make memories as you sip Champagne and watch the sun sink below the sea on your own private island.
For a change of scene, further inland you can float among clouds as dawn breaks over the Atherton Tablelands on a private hot air balloon ride, complete with bubbles and breakfast when you return to solid ground.
When evening falls, discover fine dining at Cairns’ highly acclaimed restaurant, Tamarind. Inconspicuously hidden away inside the Reef Hotel Casino – but world’s away from the blackjack tables – Tamarind is everything you’d expect from a hatted restaurant; constant and courteous service, crisp linen tablecloths and low lighting, and adventurous Asian-fusion dining options crafted from local produce.
In Tropical North Queensland, there’s no shortage of luxury accommodation across the city, reef, rainforest and outback. In Cairns you can stay at the Crystalbrook property group hotels and resorts – Bailey, Riley, and Flynn. Each hotel has its own distinct personality, but the venues are playful and sophisticated.
At Riley on the Esplanade you can spend the day unwinding by the pool and getting pampered at Eléme Day Spa before finishing the day with a drink at chic rooftop bar, Rocco. And you’ll be indulging with a clear conscience – the hotel offers paperless check-in, recycled wooden room keys and doesn’t use plastic drinking bottles or straws in its restaurants.
For luxury accommodation further north toward the Daintree Rainforest, look no further than Silky Oaks Lodge – one of Tropical North Queensland’s most iconic retreats. Now part of the Bailie Lodges collection of environmentally sustainable properties it reopened in December 2021 after an AU$15m refurbishment. Nestled amongst the treetops in the world’s oldest tropical rainforest – the Daintree Rainforest – forty luxury treehouses styled with contemporary furnishings and featuring local timber offer a peaceful retreat with views of the nearby Mossman River or the rainforest canopy, inviting guests to immerse themselves in the natural theatre of their surrounds.
If total escape is your goal, you should explore the many luxury island resorts on the Great Barrier Reef. A short flight from Cairns, Bedarra, Fitzroy and Lizard Island offer the ultimate in secluded luxury accommodation on the Reef.
Looking to swap the sea for the outback? Mt Mulligan Lodge is a boutique luxury outback lodge located on a private 28,000 hectare heritage site. Just a 35-minute helicopter ride from Cairns, you can take in aerial views of the Daintree Rainforest, lush Atherton Tablelands and the rugged terrain that surrounds the majestic Mount Mulligan itself.
Once you’ve landed, there are plenty of unique experiences on offer. Go cattle mustering, indulge in a seven-course degustation under the stars with matched wines, or enjoy a quiet sundowner from the rustic Sunset Bar, as the setting sun lights up the escarpment. Then retire to your contemporary outback suite complete with a private deck and deep outdoor bathtub.
Cosmopolitan fix with a side of nature
Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, is the main gateway and a cosmopolitan starting point from which to explore the state. Known as “Australia’s nature capital”, here you can explore the city’s most famous resident, the Brisbane River. Soak up the stunning skyline from this watery stretch on an hour-long private chartered cruise with River to Bay.
Those looking for something more high octane can hike or cycle their way to Mt Coot-tha summit, cool off with a dip in a local waterfall, abseil down the iconic Kangaroo Point Cliffs, or kayak down the Brisbane River at night.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, explore the city’s burgeoning collection of restaurants, cafes and rooftop cocktail bars. Opt for James Street which boasts Greek haven Hellenika or for a fine dining experience, Elska is an ambitious degustation-only fine diner where the menu includes powdered crickets, emu crudo and crocodile tail dumpling.
For drinks topped off with iconic views, head to The Emporium’s rooftop bar. At 21 floors high, it provides an unforgettable setting for a magical sunset.
This relaxed city has no shortage of places to rest your head, especially for the design inclined. The urban-cool Calile in Fortitude Valley is the brainchild of local architects Richards and Spence who were inspired by the architecture of other hot-climate cities. They produced what they call an urban resort, characterised by white brick and concrete, geometric shapes, archways and open walkways to catch the cross-breeze. Not far away, the newly opened Hotel X brings five-star luxe to Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. The 146-room destination is designed with a contemporary palette and custom furnishings exhibiting show stopping artwork by the distinguished Justin Nicholas, complemented by amenities designed by notorious high fashion icon Karl Lagerfeld – the brand’s first international hotel collaboration to date.
With Australian borders again open to international travellers, there’s never been a better time to get planning your ultimate Queensland getaway.