With this first travel article, let me take you to 4 of the most popular and beautiful places on the coast of Queensland that all have one thing in common : they’re islands. If you’re looking for more “off the beaten tracks” places in Australia, don’t worry, there will be another article coming for you very soon, but meanwhile come have a look why these places are so popular. Trust me, it’s for a very good reason… Let’s go!
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Magnetic Island – the koala paradise
Magnetic Island is located in North Queensland, off the coast of Townsville, the biggest city between Cairns and Sunshine Coast. But don’t expect too much about Townsville: apart from a nice esplanade and the view from the top of Castle Hill (the huge red rock in middle of the town), there’s not much to do in here and the city center looks like a ghost town after 9pm. The main reason to go there remains the ferry to Magnetic Island.
After around half an hour of crossing, a few options will await you to explore the island : public transport, renting a bike or… renting a Barbie car. Yes, a very pink little car that will definitely not go unnoticed! I personally chose to take the bus ; the clothes I had that day didn’t agree with the pink colour…
The last bus stop is at Horseshoe Bay, where a path starts on the right side of the beach and leads you to lovely coves and amazing lookouts on the East side of the island. Just be careful : it’s quite a long walk so be sure to have a few hours in front of you and carry enough water as there’s no tap on the way. But it’s worth it: just have a look at these pictures…
This hike ends at the bus stop “The Forts”, and that’s where the Forts walk begins : the absolute must-see track of Magnetic Island.
On your way you’ll have an amazing 360° view from the top of the bunkers (remains of World War II), but the main reason to do this short walk is because that’s where you will most likely see koalas. Actually, with almost a thousand of them living on the island, you would be very unlucky to not spot at least one of these cuties! The kind of meeting that you will never forget…
Whitsunday Islands – swim, sail and fly!
300kms down the coast after Townsville, welcome to Airlie Beach, a great city to party with lots of other backpackers, and the gate to the Whitsunday Islands. This collection of 74 islands (with only 17 inhabited) is one of the most beautiful places you could visit in the country. And there’s so many ways to explore them!
Doing the scenic flight over the Whitsundays belongs to my best Australian memories. It costs around 200$ for one hour but I’m 100% sure that you won’t regret spending that money! The plane will first take you over the many islands with a view on Whitehaven Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on earth. And the best is yet to come : the second part of the flight will bring you over the Great Barrier Reef and its unbelievable colours. Icing on the cake : that’s where the world famous Heart Reef is located!
All kind of options are available, from the fast boats for one-day tours to the slow sailing ships cruising for 2 or 3 days. All of them will take you to Whitehaven Beach (where the sand made of 98% pure silica is supposed to be one of the purest in the world), but if you opt for the cruise you will also see amazing sunsets on the ocean, snorkel over the Great Barrier Reef with hundreds of colourful fishes and between April and October you might see whales next to your boat… Maybe these pictures will help you deciding?
If you’re broke, unless becoming friends with locals and hoping that they’ll invite you on their boat, your only option to discover the Whitsunday Islands is by foot. From Shute Harbour, a nice walk will lead you to some good lookouts and to a beach made only of dead corals (and called… Coral Beach). Still pretty cool isn’t it?
Fraser Island – sand, sand and more sand!
Closer to Brisbane, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. You can access it through two ways : Hervey Bay in the North (I can’t tell you anything about it as I haven’t been there) and Rainbow Beach in the South. You can choose to explore it on your own but you will absolutely need a 4 wheel drive and the fees to get to the island are quite high as it’s a national park. So in my opinion doing a 2 or 3 days tour is a good option; I did one with Pippies and really loved it.
Before going to the island, don’t forget to walk on the nice beaches and sand dunes of Rainbow Beach ; at sunset the colours are really lovely and you might understand why it’s called like that. Not far from there, every morning in the village of Tin Can Bay you can feed wild dolphins directly on the shore. Another cool experience that you won’t be able to do in many other places…
Once on Fraser Island, you will be spoilt for choice: start with some sightseeing at Lake McKenzie and its crystal clear water, refresh yourself in the Champagne Pools, take pictures of the Maheno shipwreck and enjoy the thrills of sandboarding!
Just be careful about the dingos ; there’s a lot of these kind of wild dogs on the island, but you won’t risk much… if you don’t forget to carry a dingo stick with you!
North Stradbroke Island – day touring on Straddie from Brissie
Australians love to shorten names : brekkie for breakfast, arvo for afternoon, Macca’s for… well have a guess and tell me what you think it stands for in the comments! They even do it with the proper nouns : so if you’re around Brissie (Brisbane) for a few days, going to Straddie will be a really nice excursion, like many locals do on a sunny weekend. Don’t miss the Gorge Walk starting from Point Lookout, it’s really beautiful!
It’s also the home of a very diverse fauna: whales and dolphins not far from the shore, wallabies and kangaroos jumping next to the road, colourful birds… Finally, when you’re taking the ferry back to Cleveland (accessible by train from Brisbane city center), try to do it at sunset : standing at the front of the boat and watching the sun slowly go down over the horizon is the perfect way to end the day…
Now if you were hesitating about travelling to Australia, I hope this article will give you the desire to do it… And if you’re already there, don’t forget to visit the islands from Queensland!