For those who want to explore the road less travelled…
As wanderlust starts to kick back in, more and more Australians are flooding to popular destinations around the state. But if crowded hotspots brimming with tourists aren’t your cup of tea, you’ll need to make a detour off the beaten track. But where to begin?
Whether you’re looking for a day trip, a seaside holiday or a weekend getaway, these 10 unique and undiscovered gems are home to all of the things that will make your next escape an unforgettable one. You may not recognise some of these places, but you’ll be sure to remember them after you discover just how incredible they are.
Tucked away amongst the dense rainforest that lines the tropical north’s coastline is Etty Bay. Just under a 20-minute drive south from Innisfail, this small town is located in the Cassowary Coast Region which is a haven for, you guessed it, cassowaries. If you don’t happen to spot any, you can still take in the gorgeous lush surrounds while going for a swim at the pristine beach that falls as a backdrop to the Etty Bay Road Conservation Park. For a secluded getaway stay at Etty Bay, we’d recommend The Residence and The Old Pottery for accomodation. Or, if you’re a more social type, stay the night at the Etty Bay Caravan Park that sits right on the water’s edge. Grab your picnic lunch and an ice cream from the general store and enjoy a sunny Queensland day looking out at the ocean.
In between Bundaberg and Gladstone you’ll find Seventeen-Seventy or also known as 1770 – a beautiful seaside town named after the year in which the First Fleet arrived. Surrounded by the Coral Sea and Bustard Bay, 1770 is a great place for stand-up paddle boarding, swimming and fishing, as well as whale watching during the months of July through to October. Out of the water there are plenty of walking tracks to explore like the Red Rock Trail, the Paperbark Forest Boardwalk as well as the Bustard Bay lookout. Head just a little further south and you’ll find 1770’s sister town, Agnes Water, which is also a great place to explore. For a quick bite to eat make sure to visit the beloved Getaway Garden Cafe and the 1770 Marina Cafe. And if you’re in search of a delectable seafood dinner, Drift & Wood’s Salmon Fillet with roast capsicum and red onion will have you tantalised.
If you want to see a different side of the Gold Coast, head into its gorgeous hinterland region to discover the ancient beauty of Springbrook National Park. Part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia’s World Heritage Area, Springbrook is full of incredible natural wonders and walking tracks to explore. If you’re looking for tranquillity, head to Natural Bridge; if you enjoy chasing waterfalls, Purling Brook Falls is the place for you; and, for panoramic views, hike up to the aptly named Best of All Lookout. Refuel and rehydrate at the Dancing Waters Cafe or the deer-themed Lost Fawn Cafe, each a great pitstop for hungry hikers. Make the most of your time in Springbrook and stay a couple of nights at the Springbrook Mountain Chalets or the Springbrook Lyrebird Retreat.
Travel back in time to the prehistoric era when visiting the outback town of Winton in central Queensland. Known as the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, Winton is home to the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils, and if you drive 110-kilometres out of town to the Lark Quarry Conservation Park, you’ll find the 3300 footprints that immortalise the world’s only recorded evidence of a dinosaur stampede. Plus, for Australian music lovers, Winton is also home to the birthplace of Banjo Paterson’s Waltzing Matilda which has its own dedicated museum. Or, if you’re wanting to experience the magic behind the song, why not stay the night at the North Gregory Hotel which is rumoured to be the first place the song was ever performed. Visit the Musical Fence and its cafe for a quick bite and some raucous fun or taste test some yummy baked goods at the Balamara Bakery.
For a refreshing, scenic drive through gorgeous countryside and historic towns, head north to the Tablelands Region. Nestled amongst the Danbulla National Park, Gadgarra National Park and the Atherton Tablelands, Yungaburra is the perfect spot to base yourself for a trip to the Waterfall Circuit. Stay at the quaint Yungaburra Bush Cottages while you explore the surrounding lakes, waterfalls and landscapes this region has to offer. Food and produce is also top notch around here with plenty of dairy farms scattered around the area and eateries like Lake Barrine Teahouse, and Whistlestop Cafe to satisfy your tastebuds. Popular sights to see include Zillie Falls, Millaa Millaa Falls, Lake Barrine and the Peterson Creek Walk where you might even be able to spot a platypus if you’re lucky.
Despite being a fairly popular destination for Brisbane locals, Tangalooma is a fantastic holiday spot for anyone who loves the water. Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island is just off the coast of the Queensland capital and offers plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied during their stay. You can explore this magnificent island on land, in the water and in the air. Snorkel through the man-made Tangalooma Wrecks, go kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, drive along the sand dunes in quad bikes, or for the less faint-hearted, you can even try your hand at parasailing! With so many things to do on this picturesque island setting, Tangalooma is a place you’ll never want to leave.
We all know Airlie Beach as the gateway to one of Queensland’s most sought after holiday destinations, The Whitsunday Islands; however if you travel just an hour north to Bowen, you’ll be able to enjoy all the same luxuries without the crowds. Perfectly situated overlooking Horseshoe Bay are two fantastic accommodation options, Whitsunday Sands Resort and Coral Cove Apartments, both making the most of the nearby Rotary Lookout, Coastal Path seaside walking track and the surrounding beaches. Go sailing in the open ocean and come home to a hearty pub meal at the Grand View Hotel or some authentic Chinese cuisine at The Cove Restaurant. Despite being a seaside town, Bowen is known as the ‘salad bowl’ of the north as it boasts plenty of fruit and vegetable crops as well as being home to the Big Mango. So, if a lowkey, beach holiday is what you’re after, make sure to put Bowen on your bucket list.
Want to skip the luxuries and get back to nature? Take a trip out past Roma to Carnarvon Gorge in Central Queensland. One of the most underrated natural wonders in the state, Carnarvon Gorge is home to towering rock formations, picturesque trails and stunning vistas of the sprawling bush landscape. Due to its secluded location, you’ll have to come prepared when it comes to food and supplies, although Takkaraka Bush Resort is a great option to set up camp. If you want something a little less back to basics, you can stay at the Carnarvon Gorge Wilderness Lodge or Wallaroo Outback Retreat. Get out on foot and take in the beauty of the wilderness or take to the air in a helicopter for a different perspective.
The gateway to the Capricorn Coast, Yeppoon is another coastal village that doesn’t get as much love as it deserves. Half an hour from Rockhampton, Yeppoon is the perfect location to explore the best of the southern part of the Great Barrier Reef, Great Keppel Island and Byfield State Forest. Popular spots to visit include Kemp Beach, Turtle Lookout and the Capricorn Caves which are a little farther inland but doable as a day trip nonetheless. If you find yourself at home when you’re out on the water, Yeppoon is a great place for sailing and other water-based activities. Accommodation options such as Salt or Villa Mar Colina offer gorgeous waterfront views and you can wind down in the evening with a delicious meal at Vue Wine Bar & Restaurant or The Waterline Restaurant. It’s the simple things that make Yeppoon such an incredible location for anyone who wants a taste of laid-back seaside living.
If you’re looking for more of a foodie escape than an island getaway, Stanthorpe should be at the top of your list. Located in the Granite Belt region that lies along the Queensland to New South Wales border, this rural centre is unusually cold for the Sunshine State. Surrounded by rich farmland, the area is home to plenty of sheep and cattle farms, vineyards, wineries and orchards known for their apples, grapes and stone fruits. It wouldn’t be a foodie destination without anywhere to sample the goodies and the best places to do so include Jamworks, Jersey Girls Cafe and Ballandean Estate Wines‘ Barrelroom. Some of the best accommodation to stay rugged up and cozy is Alure with their luxury villas and glamping options or the creekside Diamond Vale Cottages. Finish your stay by working off those samples with a walk through the rugged and granite outcrop-filled Girraween National Park that lies to the south of this quaint rural town.
Want to explore more of what Queensland has to offer? We’ve found 8 of the most luxurious seaside hotel stays around the Sunshine State. Or, if you’re planning to pack the car and head off on an adventure, these are 10 must-have travel items you need for your road trip!
We acknowledge the traditional owners of country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.
Featured Image: Windin Falls. Image via Tourism and Events Queensland.