A strong contender for the title of Australia’s crowning jewel, Queensland offers a pretty package when it comes to sun, sand, and sea. That being said, the Gold Coast holds more than just an expansive 7,000km of beach-dotted coastline and coral reefs. And, to help you find things to do in Queensland, we’re taking you off the beaten path in search of lesser known, but no less exciting destinations for your next weekend break.
From scenic national parks and hidden lagoons to outback observatories offering uninterrupted vistas of the night sky, here are five Queensland destinations worth a visit.
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Walk amid the ancient bunya pines in the Bunya Mountains National Park (and stop for a wine tasting too)
Bunya Mountains National Park, with its mountainous terrain and ample wildlife, is primed for days of outdoor adventure. There’s a great deal of things to do here, with numerous nature trails charting a path through this scenic slice of wilderness, and the largest stand of ancient bunya pines in the world to explore. There’s plenty of animals to spot too, with more than 30 rare and threatened species – including chocolate wattled bats, paradise riflebirds and yellow-throated scrubwrens – calling the park home.
Top off your trip with a visit to the South Burnett wine region – just a 45-minute drive away – where a designated wine trail takes you to several wineries (including Queensland’s biggest vineyard, Clovely Estate) and cellars in the area, where you can sample local Chardonnay, Sangiovese and Shiraz.
Explore ancient volcanic cave systems at Undara Volcanic National Park
Discover Australia’s rich geological history at Undara Volcanic National Park, where more than 164 ancient volcanos, cones, craters and volcanic vents are clustered. Home to some of the oldest lava tubes on Earth – the result of a volcanic eruption that occurred 190,000 years ago – the park offers one of the more fascinating things to do in Queensland: guided tours through these meandering underground cave systems.
Undara isn’t just a geological haven, it’s also home to an abundance of wildlife, including wallabies, kangaroos and microbats. Head out on a guided wilderness tour to learn more about the local fauna and flora, before winding off your day with some outback hospitality – think railway train carriage rooms or camping in the savannah – at the park’s lodge.
Unlock the secrets of the night sky in Charleville
While natural scenery abounds in the Outback, some of its most striking sights can only be found when you look up. The sleepy town of Charleville is home to the Cosmos Centre, an observatory open to the public which offers stargazing experiences led by expert guides. Peer into a telescope for a closer look at our solar system, the Milky Way – and the universe beyond. Tours are available for both day-time star viewing and night-time observatory.
If you’re on the hunt for more things to do in the area, we recommend rounding off your star-gazing getaway with a stay at the Evening Star Tourist Caravan Park, where you can enjoy the evening sky without light pollution, spot stars through the on-site telescope, and listen to stories about the history, landscape and indigenous people of the region around the campfire.
Learn about Australia’s mining and fossil history at Mount Isa
Visiting a mining town probably wouldn’t be your first choice when searching for things to do in Queensland – but hear us out. A visit to Mount Isa offers a holiday that mixes educational experiences with nature-led activities, and promises an itinerary of back-to-back adventures for the whole family. Delve into the town’s mining history on the Hard Times Mine underground tour, or swap minerals for fossils and visit the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre to learn about the evolutionary history of Australia’s wildlife.
When not exploring the region’s rich paleontological and mining history, visit the Outback Park and Public Range for a cool-off at the man-made Lake Moondarra, dubbed the ‘oasis of the Outback’. The vegetation-fringed lake is home to a wide range of birdlife and is a popular spot for swimming, boating, sailing, and canoeing.
Scenic trail walks and canoeing in Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park
A land of contrasts, Boodjamulla National Park is a dense swathe of vegetation set among rust-coloured sandstone ranges. The source of this outback oasis, the spring-fed waterway of Lawn Hill Gorge, is renowned for its emerald-hued waters. It is a popular spot for cooling off, with plenty of water-centric things to do, from taking a dip to canoeing. Days here can be spent visiting the waterfalls that dot the gorge, or braving the heat for a scenic hike. The park is also home to the fossil-rich Riversleigh World Heritage Site, where you’ll find the fossils of giant snakes, miniature koalas, and meat-eating kangaroos.
Make Adels Grove, located just 10 minutes’ drive from Boodjamulla, your base for the duration of your stay. Accommodation is available in either furnished river tents or rooms.