Australia is on a lot of people’s Bucket List. The three Aussie icons are Sydney in New South Wales, the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, and the Outback, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, in the Northern Territory and a good itinerary can include all three. However, you should not go to the Top End during the Wet Season, November to April which is their summer where you will experience hot, sticky, and heavy tropical rain.
You can now fly from the West Coast into Brisbane, but I usually send clients into Sydney first, then fly them into Queensland, or the Northern Territory depending on the time of year. I don’t advise renting a car as it’s 5,000 miles long!
Brisbane is the capital of the State, at latitude 27. 25 S, and longitude 153.9E This State is usually on the must see list. The most popular attractions are the Australian Zoo, and the Lone Pine Kuala Sanctuary. It's also fun to take a river cruise.
There is a great train journey from Brisbane up to Cairns, in Northern Queensland. It is an overnight journey, and I recommend it highly. It follows a lovely route along the coastline, through cattle country, and pineapple and banana plantations. The Queenslander train only operates once a week.
The Great Barrier Reef which is the world’s largest, running 1,400 miles up the coast, can take over 2 hours to reach it in places. There are 25 islands, and I have visited them all. A spectacular event is in November, when the coral spawns at midnight. Even if you aren’t a swimmer, you can view the reef from a semi-submersible or underwater observatory.
The main areas to visit are the Gold Coast, which is south of Brisbane, and very busy with high rise buildings, wall to wall hotels, condo’s, shopping malls, and great beaches.
The Sunshine Coast is north of Brisbane, with 100 miles of gorgeous beaches, is not as busy as the Gold Coast. Both are good holiday destinations, especially for the Aussies.
The Whitsundays has 74 islands. You have to fly from Brisbane to Hamilton Island. This is a great area to sail, with very safe waters amongst the various islands. The most popular islands are Hayman, Hamilton, and Daydream.
One of the islands I recommend the most is Lizard Island, rated one of the top ten islands in the world. It’s close to an hour’s flight out of Cairns featuring five star luxury - a great location for a honeymoon with only 40 bungalows on the beach.
If you are a diver, then I would recommend Heron Island. You have to fly into Gladstone from Brisbane, and I would take a helicopter out to the island if funds permit since the journey by sea can be very rough. Leave your luggage in Gladstone and just take a small bag with you. This is a fantastic location for seeing turtles, and birds. The tour operators there do an excellent job of reef walks, as well as diving and snorkeling classes.
Cairns in Northern Queensland is a good place to fly into. I put clients in either Palm Cove, 30 minutes north of Cairns, or Port Douglas, 60 minutes north of Cairns.
There must be a hundred different tours available but the ones I would recommend are the Kuranda rail, a wonderful day trip up into the Atherton Tablelands on an old train built 100 years ago to take miners up into the mountains. You go on a gondola thru the rainforest to the Tjapukai Aborginal Settlement which makes the Kuranda/ Skyrail experience the No.1 attraction for the area.
Take an all day tour out to the Barrier Reef to snorkel or dive or another day trip to visit the Daintee Rainforest. There is also some wonderful deep sea fishing in this northern part of the state.
The Gulf Savanah offers the visitor mile upon mile of bushland and wide open spaces, spectacular flora and fauna, changing landscapes, World Heritage fossil fields, historic towns, aboriginal rock art, gemstones and gold. It has some of the best fishing in the world and the natural phenomena of meandering river systems, hot springs, lava tubes and deep gorges full of wildlife.
There is also an option to stay overnight on a boat for the more serious divers or snorkelers and enjoy the reef more thoroughly. The ideal time to go is May to October, when there are no jellyfish in the waters.
There are also 3,5 or 7 day cruises from Cairns up the Northern Coast which is a wonderful way to see a different part of the State. Cooktown and Cape York are best reached by sea although you can do a 4-wheel drive adventure backpacking trip up the peninsula. You can’t do it on your own, and it's not possible during the wet season. There are 9 of the 10 most deadly snakes in the world living here, along with mosquitoes so big they land and refuel! I always wear a fly net over my large brimmed hat and bring extra bug repellant.
Queensland should be on every Australian itinerary. Great golf, restaurants, wonderful flora and colorful birds, with great sightseeing - another wonderful family destination.
Maureen Jones, Premier Aussie Specialist
Maureen Jones is president of All Horizons Travel at 160 Main Street. Members of her staff are experts in business travel, cruises, and all types of leisure.