Queensland Travel Guide

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Brisbane - This friendly city reminds one of a country town that just got bigger. The development of Brisbane sprawls into the suburbs, but the city itself has been encapsulated in a beautiful setting along the banks of the Brisbane River. Brisbane at night is magical with a lively entertainment life that beckons the visitor. The Cultural Centre, on the south bank of the river, is just a short walk from the Queen Street Mall, and houses the Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Museum and the State Library. Brisbane offers accessibility and ease of travel. On foot visitors can view many interesting and historical buildings in the city centre. Next door to the Performing Arts is the only city centre lagoon in Australia. Here you can swim or lunch by the river at the newly opened South bank Parkland. The Butterfly House at South bank has the finest collection of living butterflies in Australia, all presented in a walk through tropical environment. The Botanic Gardens nestle in the heart of the capital. A river cruise by ferry is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon here.

Queensland Cultural Centre - This superb complex spans two blocks either side of Melbourne St in South Brisbane, just across Victoria Bridge. It houses the Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Museum, the State Library and the Performing Arts Complex. The museum has a dinosaur garden and a worthwhile exhibition on whales, while the art gallery has an impressive permanent Australian collection and plenty of temporary exhibits. There are cafes in the Performing Arts Complex, the gallery and library

Cairns - Recognized internationally to be the place where the World Heritage listed rainforests meet the sea, and spill into the waters at Mission Beach, Cairns surely is a worthwhile place to visit. The Great Barrier Reef enjoys maximum growth and development here. Although the main reef is located some 60 nautical miles offshore, many areas of inner reef can be found fringing the islands and coral cays are plentiful within easy boating distance. The historic Kuranda train takes a 90 minutes trip from Cairns to the rainforest village of Kuranda. The Atherton Tablelands, just above the city of Cairns, are a place to make a cool retreat during the hottest of the Cairns days and offer beautiful scenery. In the Cairns region Bellenden Ker National Park, and the rainforest of Queensland's highest peak, Mt. Bartle Frere are worth a visit. Swimming is an alluring activity on the hottest days in the crater lakes at Eacham and Barrine.

Beaches

Queensland Beaches - Queensland is known for its white-sand beaches. Many of the best beaches are on the Gold Coast, in the state's south, about an hour's drive from Brisbane), and the Sunshine Coast, a 2-hour drive north of Brisbane. Cairns and Port Douglas in the north have their fair share of beaches, but be warned, swimming in their waters can be very hazardous to your health. Deadly box jellyfish, or "stingers," call a halt to all ocean swimming at beaches in the northern third of the country October through May. In Queensland, stingers may be found in all coastal waters north of Gladstone. Most patrolled beaches in these areas have "stinger nets," which aim to keep the little blighters out, but the thimble-sized Irakandji jellyfish is small enough to sneak through the mesh and its sting can be fatal. All patrolled beaches have warning signs and the lifeguards do regular net drags to see if there are any in the water.

Four Mile Beach - Located at Port Douglas, this beach offers a sea that is turquoise, the sun is warm, the palms sway, and the low-rise hotels starting to line this country beach can not spoil the feeling that it is a million miles from anywhere.

Mission Beach - Azure blue water, islands dotting the horizon, and white sand edged by vine forests make this beach a real winner. The bonus is that hardly anyone comes here. Cassowaries (giant emu-like birds) hide out in the rainforest, and the tiny town of Mission Beach makes itself invisible behind the leaves. Visit June through September to avoid marine stingers.

Whitehaven Beach - Situated on Whitsunday Island, this is not a surf beach. The 6km stretch of white silica sand on uninhabited Whitsunday Island is pristine and peaceful. Bring a book, curl up under the rainforest lining its edge, and fantasize that the cruise boat is going to leave without you.

Outdoors

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary - The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to a wide variety of Australian wildlife, including kangaroos, possums, wombats, emus and lyrebirds. The star attractions are the 130 or so koalas. They are undeniably cute, and for a price visitors can be photographed in their embrace. You can also picnic with kangaroos and take a turn feeding them. Just a half-hour bus ride south from the city centre, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is an easy half-day trip. The sanctuary is set in attractive parklands beside the river. Talks are given on the animals at set times throughout the day.

Brisbane Forest Park - The Brisbane Forest Park is a 285 sq km reserve of natural bush land in the D'Aguilar Range. The park starts on the outskirts of Brisbane and stretches for more than 50km to the north and west. It is a great area for bushwalks, cycling, horse riding, camping and scenic drives. The park has its own information centre and Walkabout Creek, a freshwater study centre where visitors can see fish, lizards, pythons and turtles at close quarters. There are a number of good walking trails throughout the park, and you can camp here overnight. You really need your own car to get to the best walking trails, so it is worth driving here, or you can get a bus from Brisbane which stops a short walk from the information centre.

Moving around

Flying is the fastest way to see a lot in such a big state. Beware the "milk run" flights that stop at every tiny town en route, these can chew up time. Qantas and, regional airline, Sunstate Airlines serve most coastal towns from Brisbane, and a few from Cairns. Virgin Blue services Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Mackay, Rockhampton, Gold Coast, and Maroochydore on the Sunshine Coast. Queensland Rail's Traveltrain operates two long-distance trains along the Brisbane-Cairns route, a 32-hour trip aboard The Sunlander or about 8 hours less on the new high-speed Tilt Train. Traveltrain also operates trains to Outback towns.

The Bruce Highway travels along the coast from Brisbane to Cairns. It is mostly a narrow two-lane highway, and the scenery most of the way is eucalyptus bush land, but from Mackay north you will pass through sugar cane fields adding some variety to the trip. Tourism Queensland publishes regional motoring guides. All you are likely to need, however, is a state map from the Royal Automobile Club of Queensland.

In addition to normal city buses, there are Cityxpress services which run between the city centre and the suburbs and Rockets (fast peak-hour commuter buses). The fast Citytrain network has seven lines, and there is an efficient ferry service along and across the Brisbane River. There is a riverside bicycle track from the City Botanic Gardens out to the University of Queensland.

National festival and holidays

Brisbane Festival - Brisbane's major festival of the arts, is held outdoors, over two weeks, in mid-September.

Cockroach Races - Every year on Australia Day (26 January), Kangaroo Point hosts their cockroach races. This is a spectacularly interesting display, and visitors of all ages will find it quite amusing.

Cultural Festivals - There is an array of cultural festivals on offer throughout the year. Look out for the 12-day International Film Festival in August, the Livid Alternative Rock Festival in October, an International Comedy Festival in April, and a Biennial Music Festival every second June (odd years).

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