A short drive south of Brisbane is the Gold Coast, stretching for about 35 kilometres along the subtropical coast to the New South Wales border. With its many theme parks, entertainment venues, and surf-washed sandy beaches edged with high-rise holiday apartments it is the gateway to instant leisure.
Just north of Brisbane Iies the Sunshine Coast: Caloundra, Maroochydore, and Noosa Heads beckon with kilometres of golden sands and surf.
North of the Sunshine Coast is Hervey Bay, which has long been a popular holiday spot with locals, but in recent times has become the base for a fleet of boats carrying large numbers of visitors to watch whales off nearby Fraser Island.
The largest sand island on Earth and World Heritage Listed, Fraser Island attracts thousands of visitors annually who come to experience the beauty of its sub-tropical rainforests, freshwater lakes, and dunes that rise to heights of around 230 metres; others come for the great beach fishing. At the northern end of the island lies the Great Sandy National Park.
In the hills behind the Sunshine Coast the town of Nambour is surrounded by pineapple farms and is home to `The Big Pineapple’, a tourist attraction set on a pineapple farm. Some of the best scenery in this area is around Maleny, where there are wonderful views over the Glasshouse Mountains — a series of old volcanic plugs that rear over forests and farmlands. Named by Captain Cook in 1770, their strange shapes standing on the horizon were a reminder of the glass furnaces of industrial Yorkshire.
For nature-lovers and bush walkers, it is often a relief to leave the clamour of the coastal resorts and escape to the quiet wilderness of the hinterland’s national parks. Mount Tamborine, close to Brisbane, has some small but delightful parks. One of them, Witches Falls, was Queensland’s first national park in 1908; at that time, forestry officials declared it to be ‘unfit for any other purpose’.
The most popular park in Queensland is Lamington National Park, situated close to the New South Wales border. Edged with escarpments rising to 900 metres, the park protects an outstanding area of undisturbed rainforest on the Lamington Plateau, on the south side of the Scenic Rim — the crescent of mountains lying behind Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The park has the oldest stands of Antarctic Beech trees in the southern Hemisphere.
Another notable park on the border is Springbrook National Park. The Natural Bridge and waterfall, one of the park’s main features, lies close to the Numinbah Valley road; higher up in the park, near the village of Springbrook, the Best Of All Lookout offers aerial-like views over the ranges.
The capital of Queensland, Brisbane is built around the busiest commercial river in Australia, the Brisbane River. One of the best views of the river with a backdrop of the central business district is from a small park at Kangaroo Point. Further upstream there are more good views of the city from the South Bank Parklands, situated on the southern banks of the river. A ‘must’ for visitors to Brisbane, the 16 hectares of parks and tropical gardens feature restaurants and cafes, weekend markets and entertainers and an artificial beach.
Nearby, on the same side of the river, is the Queensland Cultural Centre, which incorporates the performing arts complex, the State Museum, the Museum of Modern Art and the Queensland Art Gallery.