Travel

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Queensland

They're all at your doorstep.

Boasting countless national parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites, rugged coastline, untouched bushland and rainforests—even the world’s most beautiful beach—Queensland, you could say, is quite the vision.

A vast state that encompasses barren desert and dense tropical forests older than Australia itself, it’s hardly surprising that there’s a lot of beautiful places worth visiting. Those 300+ days of sunshine don’t hurt, either.

Keep this handy for your next visit; these are the most beautiful places to visit in Queensland.

Fairy Pools

Noosa National Park
Find the Sunshine Coast’s famed Fairy Pools along the Coastal Track in Noosa National Park. Wedged between Granite Bay and Hells Gate, these protected natural rock pools are a picturesque place for a swim. Getting there is hardly a chore, either; the entire walk is incredibly easy on the eye with some of Queensland’s most beautiful beaches and lookout points found along this coastal track.

Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Lawn Hill Gorge

Boodjamulla National Park
So beguiling is Lawn Hill Gorge in Boodjamulla National Park, it was featured in a 2018 Superbowl campaign for Tourism Australia, reaffirming that Australia’s backyard really is as breathtaking as everyone says. One of the most iconic vistas along Queensland’s Savannah Way, Lawn Hill Gorge is a literal oasis in the outback.

Kayak along the emerald-hued riverways that snake through this National Park’s soaring red sandstone cliffs or hit the numerous walking trails that take in the cliff edges and surrounding rugged bushland. Two hours from the nearest town, camping is the way to best experience Boojamulla, with a number of excellent camping sites near each corner of the park.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Cobbold Gorge

Gulf Savannah
One of the most beautiful places in outback Queensland, Cobbold Gorge’s landscape is nothing short of other-worldly. Whisper still crystalline waters, soaring 30m sandstone cliffs, and a dedicated nature refuge for some of Australia’s rarest flora and fauna, a visit here feels like stepping back in time—a few million years, actually.

Only accessible in the dry season (April to October) the best way to experience Cobbold Gorge is by guided flat-bottomed boat or SUP, where you’ll get up close to the soaring cliffs which narrow to just a few metres in places. Approximately six hours west of Cairns, stay a night or two in the area. Cobbold Gorge Village and Goldfields Hotel in Forsayth are some of the few ways to stay on the land out here.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Noosa Everglades

Great Sandy National Park, Sunshine Coast
One of only two everglades in the world (here’s looking at you, Florida), Queensland’s Noosa Everglades is a network of pristine waterways and untouched wetlands connecting the Northern Noosa River system. A protected UNESCO Biosphere, these impossibly beautiful canals are lined by ancient tea tree forests, and are home to 40% of Australia’s bird species, so rare wildlife encounters are all part of the magic here.

There are a few local accommodation options both inside and on the outskirts of the everglades, with Boreen Point and Lake Cootharaba popular for their proximity and accessibility to the glades.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Rainbow Beach

Cooloola, Great Sandy National Park
An important location in Indigenous Dreamtime legend, Rainbow Beach’s multicoloured sand cliffs are an icon of Cooloola National Park, known as the southern gateway to World Heritage-Listed Fraser Island.

These towering sand cliffs have been slowly stained by minerals in the land over millions of years, with its striking red, yellow, white-hued stripes visible right along the peninsula, as far south as Double Island Point. 4WD is transport of choice along this expansive stretch of sand; get yourself a permit and you can cruise the 70-odd km from Noosa all the way to Rainbow.

Rainbow Beach also boasts one of Australia’s longest surf breaks, making it a hot contender for one of the most beautiful locations in Queensland to ride a wave, too.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Big Red

Birdsville, Diamantina
Iconic red dirt, blood-red sunsets and barren desert as far as the eye can see; the view from the top of Big Red is hard to beat. The first of 1,140 sand dunes in the Simpson Desert, the sheer scale of this single dune will take your breath away. At 40 metres high, scaling the sand dune that is ‘Big Red’ is best done in four wheels – a 4WD is a must this far west.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Lake MacKenzie

Fraser Island
A sapphire-hued lake encased by white silica sand on an island off the east coast of Australia… sounds pretty idyllic. Lake Mackenzie on Fraser Island is exactly that.

There’s a lot to see on Fraser, and there are a handful of excellent camping grounds dotted the length of the east coast, but Lake MacKenzie

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Tallebudgera Creek

South Burleigh Headland, Southern Gold Coast
Like most areas on the Gold Coast, Tallebudgera Creek is a genetically blessed spit just south of Burleigh National Park on the Southern Gold Coast.

The water here is insanely clear and, favourably still, protected from the large swells often found along the Gold Coast’s beaches. Drop a towel along the creek’s edges dotted with mangroves and golden sandy inlets that come and go with the tides.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Whitehaven Beach

Whitsunday Island
Given that Whitehaven has been named the world’s best beach multiple times over, it would be remiss to not include this tropical titan. Seven kilometres of pure white, 100% silica sand lapped by lapis and bottle-green-hued water… it’s achingly beautiful.

This genetically blessed beach happens to be just as pretty from above as it is on the ground; walk to the top of Whitsunday Island’s Hill Inlet to be rewarded with one of the most iconic Australian views going. It’s postcard-perfect.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Lady Elliot Island

Bundaberg region, Southern Great Barrier Reef
A bucket-list destination for any budding diver, Lady Elliot Island is as beautiful as it is unique, thanks to its eco-certified practices, achingly beautiful sandy cays, and rating as one of the top five destinations in the world to swim with manta rays.

Residing on the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, this remote island off the coast of Bundaberg is classed a ‘Green Zone’ by GBRMA due to its environmental and ecological significance and is a haven for some of the Great Barrier Reef’s most iconic (and endangered species).

Snorkel or dive the 20-odd coral reefs just off the island’s shoreline, where you can swim alongside dozens of resident ocean giants, the manta rays. With an average 30m visibility in the water year-round, Lady Elliot is the yardstick for diving experiences in Queensland.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Thorsborne Trail

Hinchinbrook Island National Park
Rugged mountains, misty peaks, wild forests, waterfalls and sandy beaches, the 4-day hiking odyssey that is the Thorsborne Trail covers some of Queensland’s most breathtaking scenery.

With only 40 people allowed access to the island at any one time, this really is like having a slice of paradise all to yourself. Mulligan Falls, Ramsay Bay, Zoe Falls, George Point – the list goes on and on – the point being that this uninhabited part of the world hides a wealth of beautiful locations. And you’d be completely mad not to add it to your bucket list.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Point Lookout, Gorge Walk

Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island)
Don’t let its humble distance befool you; Minjerribah’s 1.2km boardwalk steals the most breathtaking views on the island. Hugging the cliff edges on the easternmost point past Cylinder Beach, the track follows the headland around to Point Lookout.

Here, take incomparable views out across the Pacific Ocean and along Main Beach and dense bushland. Between June – November, Gorge Walk is the perfect vantage point to spot migrating humpback whales who frequent the warm Queensland waters in their thousands each year.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Blue Pearl Bay, Hayman Island

Whitsundays
Hidden behind a rocky inlet on the tropical paradise that is Hayman Island, Blue Pearl Bay is easily one of the most beautiful places in Queensland. Probably on Earth.

The bay’s soaring cliffs protect this tiny little coral cay from the brunt of tropical storms, making it a haven for the region’s wildlife both above and below land. Drop a towel on the beach and BYO your snorkel gear, because the water is clear as glass – and the water’s warm as a bath.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Devil’s Thumb

Daintree National Park, Port Douglas
A monster granite formation jutting out of the Daintree National Park, Devil’s Thumb is the highest elevation along Devils’ Thumb/Manjal Jimalji trail. At 1190m tall, it can take almost 5 hours to reach the summit, but with much effort reaps many rewards—the views of Cape Tribulation, Port Douglas and Cape Grafton are completely unrivalled.

Photo: Tourism & Events Queensland

Windin Falls

Wooroonooran National Park, Atherton Tablelands
Like something straight out of Jurassic Park, Windin Falls wins for best views out across the Wet tropics World Heritage Area of the Atherton Tablelands. And that’s saying something in a region bursting with waterfalls.

You can access the falls via the Old Cairns Tracks, which, after approx. 90 minutes one way, will spit you out at the very top of Windin Falls. What awaits you is a view so big, so mesmerising, it’s best to stay well away from the falls’ edge. Anyone with a thing for heights might want to skip this one.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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