vacation tips for Canada
Australia
travel tips for Canada

Queensland

A bushie and a bushranger are perfectly acceptable terms, respectively, for someone who lives in the wilderness (or the bush) and someone who is an outlaw, usually living in the bush. (See Ned Kelly in the Victoria page.)

Queensland, the north eastern state of Australia, started out (surprise surprise) as a penal colony in 1824, and by 1859 was a colony separate from New South Wales. But when you visit Queensland, it's the size that you have to marvel at. 1.72 million sq. km (666,798 sq. mi.)! And no one really lives there. All kidding aside, about 3.8 million people live in Queensland, but the population density is about 2 people per sq. km whereas New South Wales is about 8 per sq. km.

Queensland is a warm state because about 75% of it is above the Tropic of Capricorn, officially making Queensland mostly in the tropics.

Brisbane

Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is the largest most northern city in Australia. Until 1988, it was considered a bush league town until 1982's Commonwealth Games and Expo 88, which boosted development. Brisbane is now Australia's fastest growing city. About 45% of Queensland's population lives in Brisbane.

Visitors to Brisbane like to start with City Hall for the view from the bell tower. An odd place to check out is St. John's Cathedral. According to the church's web site, "we are still building the last Gothic-style cathedral in the world to be completed." They have been doing this since 1901. They are simultaneously maintaining a heritage site and completing the cathedral. The Botanic Gardens in the south of the city are a must for garden lovers. For animal lovers the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a half-day trip near Brisbane. For beer lovers, take a brewery tour at the XXXX (pronounced 4-X) Ale House and explore the 125 year history of an Australian beer icon.

The Gold Coast

Australia's Gold Coast is a surfer, sunbather and beach lover's paradise. This is a touristy area with Disney-esque theme parks, but has some of the most famous beaches in the world, including Burleigh Heads, The Spit and Main Beach, and Surfers Paradise. The Gold Coast is a good place to warn you about some Australian hazards. The surf is rough and the life guards put up signs for a reason. Read them and wear sun screen.

The Sunshine Coast

Australia's Sunshine Coast starts with the dramatic Glass House Mountains, which are cores of extinct volcanoes making for fantastic scenic drives. Noosa in Queensland has no high rise buildings and native forest, which is a nice relief to the glitter of the Gold Coast.

As you proceed further north you come to the Fraser Coast with Fraser Island, the longest - 120 km (75 mi.) - sand island in the world. There is much to do on the island, but you ad advised to swim in the lakes, not the ocean. Undertow and sharks. Say no more.

Hervey Bay is the nearby town and has the honour of having humpback whales seemingly vacation in Hervey Bay during the July - November period. Whale watching tours are available.

The Capricorn Coast is the area through which the Tropic of Capricorn passes, heralding the shift from subtropics to full on tropics. Rockhampton rests on top of the Tropic, about 40 km (25 mi.) inland. The small city boasts art, cultural and garden tourist sites -- and crocodile farm.

The Great Barrier Reef

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is great not just in the terrific sense, but in its size. Starting just south of the Tropic, it runs 2000 km (1243 mi.) north almost to Papua New Guinea. A reef is a collection of living corals on top of the skeletons of the corals that went before them. Original European explorers to Australia who were sailing wooden ships feared reefs as much, if not more, than scurvy and pirates. Falling on coral is bad, not only for the coral, but more so for the person falling. Coral spines will cause rather dramatic inflammation and if you bump into the variety of stinging jelly fish and other creatures you will not enjoy your Queensland Australia vacation. If however you travel all the way to Queensland and don't take a tour by a competent guide, you will be mocked.

Mackay and Whitsunday Islands

Mackay is a good a town as any to discuss cyclones, the southern hemisphere's equivalent for hurricanes. The entire area is susceptible to cyclones and travelling by any means can be dangerous. Check official forecasts. Pay attention to road reports. As there is only one coastal highway, its condition is central to your planning. The Whitsunday Islands covers about 2700 sq. km (1042 sq. mi.) and includes 74 islands located in the Great Barrier Reef. The sailing is terrific because the seas are calm and the Great Barrier Reef provides shelter from the swells of the Coral Sea. Captain James Cook discovered the islands and learned about the reef the hard way. The Whitsundays are a significant tourist destination.

Townsville

Townsville is the 4th largest city in Queensland with over 100,000 people and growing. Access to the Great Barrier Reef is great via boat tours. The Townsville Museum gives you a glimpse into the past. The Townsville RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) museum preserves the military aviation history of north Queensland.

 

Personal Story about Townsville

In 1988, a cyclone hit the coast near Townsville, specifically Ayr Queensland. My travelling companion and I decided that, after two days with nothing open in Townsville but the Pub, we decided to head further north to Mission Beach to try to escape the after effects of the cyclone. At Mission Beach we discovered the YHA Hostel, The Treehouse, which is, oddly enough, in a tree and for good reason. Being in the rain forest, the hostel's height avoids unwanted visitors - reptile or mammal. The weather was still unsettled and we explored beaches and looked for the invisible cassowaries, which, from their pictures, remind you why there's a theory that dinosaurs evolved into birds. After too short a time, we started driving back. One after effect of a cyclone is flooding. The coastal highway had huge amounts of water on it and we pushed ahead knowing that to not get back to Townsville meant missing a plane back to Sydney. However the water on the road was so high that it covered the hood of our car. Naturally the car stalled and, remarkably, restarted twice - underwater.

It's important to check road reports. The only way we made it back alive was to follow trucks (in Australia they're called lorries.) We tuned our car radio into a crackling station and were told that the coastal highway was closed between Townsville and Ingham. Where were we at the time? You guessed it: half way between Townsville and Ingham.

We returned a very wet rental car (hire car is the term in Australia) to the agency and thanked the powers beyond for taking mercy on two stupid tourists.

 
Cairns

Cairns is pronounced Cans, similar to the way anglo North Americans mispronounce the French city of Cannes. Cairns is the beginning of the far north of Queensland and has rainforest to the north, tablelands to the west, and the Great Barrier Reef to the east. Cairns is serviced by an international airport and thus makes the remote north accessible. Check out the Cairns Museum, which covers early Aboriginal history through World War II. All manner of water sports are available in Cairns. If you need to stay up late, Cairns night life will keep you hopping. Check local papers to find what you would like to do.

Port Douglas

Compared to Cairns, Port Douglas is a sleepy town, but a relaxed local after Cairns might be a good idea. Check out Ben Cropp's Shipwreck Museum in the Pier Marketplace. It has a large collection of historic shipwreck relics including relics of the HMS Pandora, the ship sent to the Pacific to pursue the Bounty.

Cooktown

Named after the ever-present explorer Captain Cook, Cooktown's claim to fame is Joseph Banks, a naturalist on the Endeavour who documented new plant species and one interesting mammal that the natives called a gangaroo and Banks wrote down as Kangaru.

Cape York Peninsula

The drive from Cooktown to Bamaga is a 4 wheel drive affair. And not easy. In Cairns you will find people who will guide you. Alternatively you can fly in. You are truly past any population centres. The key parts on the way are Lakefield National Park and Rokeby National Park.

Queensland Outback

Most of the action for Queensland seems to be on the coast, but once you are west of The Great Dividing Range. The area is known for mining towns and Aboriginal history, some of it quite bloody.

Did you know that Qantas stands for Queensland & Northern Territory Aerial Service? Winton Queensland was the place where the company was registered in 1920.

For sure a Queensland trip will be full of surprises.