Happy homegrown travels – five hidden Queensland tourism gems to discover

Happy homegrown travels – five hidden Queensland tourism gems to discover

When Queenslanders were first instructed to stay inside earlier this year, it didn’t take us long to pine for the freedom of adventure. Travelling adventures like campfires with loved ones, treks through lush rainforests and taking a dip in faraway lakes – the backyard experiences we almost took for granted became things we yearned for. Those tense months are now (thankfully) in our rear-view mirror and, though the reverberations of the ongoing pandemic continue to ripple around the country, the option of exploring our own backyard is open to us. Whether you’re wanting to take a summer getaway to the coast or prefer to retreat inland, Queensland has so much to offer. To inspire some wanderlust and help give you some ideas as to where on the map you should drop your pin, we’ve rounded up five hidden Queensland tourism gems for you to discover, from disappearing lakes and crystal-clear cascades to ancient landscapes and secluded bat caves.

A little-known sanctuary in the Coral Sea (eight kilometres off the Queensland coast at Cardwell), Hinchinbrook Island offers a picture-perfect wilderness landscape that is just waiting to be explored. The island’s crystal-clear waters and fringing reefs are home to some of Australia’s cutest creatures, including the mighty sea cow aka dugong and a whole lot of green turtles. The largest World Heritage Listed island in the world, Hinchinbrook has been well protected from almost any human development since 1932. This means that camping is the only accommodation option on the island and hiking is the only way to get around – yep, there’s no chance of four-wheel driving here. However, the island’s walking trails – such as the world-famous Thorsborne Trail – are some of the best in Queensland, navigating past impressive waterfalls, across sandy beaches and through vast woodlands.
Cobbold Gorge
Cobbold Gorge is Queensland’s youngest gorge, set amongst a breathtaking ancient landscape. Surrounded by sky-high sandstone cliffs, the gorge occupies an area of about 80 square kilometres in North Queensland (a six-hour drive from Cairns or Townsville). In order to protect this natural wonder, access to Cobbold Gorge is by guided tour only and is open for a limited time between April 1 to October 31 annually. This means you have to book early, as the private tours are some of the most coveted and unforgettable tourist experiences in outback Australia. There are many ways you can explore the sandstone gorge from walking tours, boat cruises and even a scenic helicopter ride. Perhaps the most special though is the one-hour stand-up paddle-board tour through the gorge, which allows you to take in the geological marvel up-close and personal. Beneath your board, you’ll see native fish swimming and beside you, you’ll find 19-metre high cliffs covered in thriving greenery. It doesn’t get much more impressive than this.

Lake Wabby
Located on the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island, Lake Wabby is a disappearing natural wonder that needs to be seen to be believed. We mean the disappearing part literally as the lake’s serene green waters are bordered by a giant sand dune that is slowly descending into the water (one metre each year), and in the next century will completely swallow the lake. The deepest dune lake in the area, Lake Wabby is 11.4 metres to the bottom in some spots, making it a perfect place to dive among the many fish species that call the lake their home. An early morning walk or drive through the steep sand dunes will take you to the lake before it gets too busy. One way to access this hidden gem is from the Lake Wabby Lookout, which has breathtaking views over both the lake and the Coral Sea. This secluded swimming destination is best to check out when the weather’s warm and you can have a quick dip to cool off, so be sure to book ahead if you plan on visiting during the busy summertime season.

Mount Etna Caves National Park
Just a short drive from Rockhampton is where you’ll come across Mount Etna Caves National Park, an area once submerged by a shallow sea. Limestone from ancient coral reefs formed the rugged landscape seen at Mount Eta National Park today, which boasts a terrain of rocky sinkholes and caves. If you’re a fan of little winged creatures, then the bat caves of Mount Etna are for you. The caves at Mount Etna are the roosting site for more than 80 percent of Australia’s population of little bent-wing bats. The park is also one of the few places in Australia supporting a colony of ghost bats – a carnivorous bat that preys on larger species such as birds, reptiles and other mammals (but not humans, don’t worry). Outside of breeding season from December to February, park rangers can lead you into the caves as part of a guided tour.

Fairy Falls
Tropical North Queensland’s hidden waterfall gem is found tucked away in the dense rainforest near popular Cairns waterhole Crystal Cascades. Fairy Falls is as magical as its name suggests, capturing the attention of locals and tourists alike. To find this secret picturesque waterfall, start walking the track just to the left of Crystal Cascades carpark and follow the path along for approximately 15 minutes. When the track forks, be sure to stick to the creek and don’t head uphill. To access the secluded plunge pool, you must first venture into the forest and climb over a few rock faces (so make sure you bring some slip-proof shoes, thongs aren’t exactly the best option). Then have a quick dip, a go on the rope swing and take some pics – this swimming hole is an Instagram hotspot. Just make sure you keep a look out for stinging plants that are found along the track, there are a few warning signs in place to help identify these bad boys.

Image One:  Tourism and Events Queensland
Image Two: Tourism and Events Queensland
Image Three: Tourism and Events Queensland
Image Four: Tourism and Events Queensland
Image Five: Sean Scott/Tourism and Events Queensland


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