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Exploring Outback Queensland

Exploring Outback Queensland

If you’ve never experienced the outback, then autumn is the ideal season to pack your swag, grab your Akubra and join us as we head west across the Great Dividing Range and into Outback Queensland.

That vast expanse of wide brown landscapes and shimmering horizons offers up a pallet of colours from ochre and brown to the pink skies of a blazing sunset. There are the iconic attractions like the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame and Qantas Founders Museum and the welcome return of the Waltzing Matilda Centre – bigger, brighter and more engaging than ever – and of course there are the classic pubs and genuine Aussie characters that make Outback Queensland an experience like no other.

It’s a region that resonates with the origins of some of Australia’s most treasured icons, from our unofficial anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’, to the beginnings of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the birthplace of Qantas. The landscapes are breathtaking, from arid plains and gibber desert to rocky ranges, wide savannah to dry riverbeds that can fill during the wet season and flow with life, and areas that abound with wildlife around the rivers, waterholes and gorges. Spectacular naturals highlights range from the red dunes of Windorah to the emerald waters of Lawn Hill Gorge and the dinosaur trail that traces the prehistoric pathways of creatures from 95 million years past when Outback Queensland was home to an inland sea.

Navigating Outback Queensland

The first thing to note is just how big Outback Queensland is – around half of Queensland or around 832,000km2 that is defined by the State borders on the west and south, the Overlanders Way in the north, and it stretches west of the Great Dividing Range in a line that arcs from Hughenden in the north to Charleville and Cunnamulla in the south. It’s a vast area with big distances between its small communities that make Queensland the most decentralised of all of Australia’s states. Plan plenty of time or set your itinerary to take in one or two of the main sectors of Outback Queensland. Our guide will help focus on what each offers.

The Central West

The Central West is the heart of the outback and the gateway to this great region. It includes the towns of Longreach, Barcaldine and Blackall and out to dinosaur country at Winton. This region is home to some of the legends of Australia’s bush heritage – Waltzing Matilda was penned here, Qantas was ‘born’ here, and the folklore and stories of the bush from the stockmen to shearers were played out here. The main centre is Longreach – home to some of the biggest attractions of the outback.

Longreach

The wide brown landscapes and shimmering horizons surrounding Longreach offer the promise of adventure, while the township’s heritage and attractions give plenty of opportunity to discover what life was like here for the early settlers.

Close to the airport is the outstanding Qantas Founders Museum. Displays turn back the clock to the 1920s and follow the story of the airline from its inception in Winton up to modern day. You can see the original heritage listed Qantas hanger containing DH-50 and DH-61 aircraft. For the best QFM experience, join a guided tour of the resident Boeing 747 and 707 plus the unusual Catalina Flying Boat. Add a 747 Wing Walk or try your hand at ‘flying’ with the Flight Simulator Experience.

Head down Longreach’s long main highway to the Australian Stockman’s Hall Of Fame established in 1988 by legendary outback figures, artist Hugh Sawrey and stockman outfitter RM Williams. The landmark attraction tells the story of outback pioneers from Aboriginal people to the explorers, the overlanders, cattle drovers and early settlers.

You can then relive the age of the pioneers with Kinnon & Co. on one of their colourful outback experiences. Go back in time with the Cobb & Co Stagecoach Experience on an exhilarating gallop along a section of the original Longreach-Windorah mail route. Other experiences include a visit to the Nogo Station, a working station where you can see sheep shearing and enjoy a traditional morning tea. Complete your day with a leisurely sunset cruise down the Thomson River as the red and orange hues of the sun echo the colours of the outback.

Cobb  Co coach ride Kinnon  Company Longreach

Cobb & Co Coach ride at Outback Pioneers neat Longreach, Image by TEQ

Winton and Dinosaurs

Around 180km northwest of Longreach is the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, the historic town of Winton. A.B. ‘Banjo’ Paterson famous national poem and song “Waltzing Matilda” was penned at nearby Dagworth Station and first performed at Winton’s North Gregory Hotel on 6th April 1895. The iconic Waltzing Matilda Centre was destroyed by fire in 2015, however the magnificent new Waltzing Matilda Centre opened with much fanfare in April this year along with a star packed celebration at the Way Out West Festival.

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History is just 24km out of town and has guided tours. Visit the Fossil Preparation Laboratory to learn how dinosaur bones are recovered and how the fossils are carefully prepared to museum quality and get to touch a real dinosaur fossil. The Collection Room’s fossils include “Banjo” – an Australovenator wintonensis, a carnivorous dinosaur around 5m long, and a sauropod, Diamantinasaurus matildae – “Matilda”, a much larger herbivore.

For more of Outback Queensland’s dinosaur history, take the trip out to the Dinosaur Stampede at Lark Quarry Conservation Park, to see the world’s only known record of a dinosaur stampede in preserved footprints. Located some 110km southwest of Winton, in Jump Up country, the Dinosaur Trackways are only accessible on a guided tour.

Winton’s other attractions include the Royal Open Air Theatre, which is the last remaining outdoor cinema in Australia. This year’s Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival is to be held in Winton from 29th June to 7th July featuring Australian films.

Barcaldine & Blackall

The Matilda Highway connects to communities including Ilfracombe and Barcaldine just over 100km to the east of Longreach. Since the late 1800s, this region has been known for its sheep and cattle production. Barcaldine was the site of the Shearers’ Strike of 1891; the historic event is marked by the Tree of Knowledge sculpture, which includes trunk and branches from the original iconic tree.

Blackall is home to the heritage Blackall Woolscour, Australia’s only complete steam-fired woolscour that still operates during shearing season from May to August. See the Jack Howe Memorial Statue and learn about the history of the town. Jack Howe, or ‘Jackie’, still holds the record for hand shearing – an amazing 321 sheep in 7 hours and 40 minutes. When you explore the town look out for the famous ‘Black Stump’ – used by surveyors for their theodolite when mapping the state boundaries back in the 1900s. For a revitalising swim take the plunge in the artesian spa at the Blackall Aquatic Centre.

Blackall Steam powered Woolscour

Blackall Woolscour, Image by TEQ

 

More outback hospitality is on offer at Tambo, the oldest town of the Central West. See the birds and wildlife at Tambo Dam, visit the Tambo Grassland Art Gallery and buy one of the pure wool Tambo Teddies, made right here in Tambo.

Far West

The Far West is Channel Country, home to the Diamantina River and Cooper Creek that flow into Lake Eyre. The endless horizons and dramatic landscapes of the Diamantina and the Munga-Thirri (Simpson Desert) National Parks are part of this region, which is home to the remote communities of Birdsville, Bedourie, Windorah, Jundah, Stonehenge and Boulia – famous for the mysterious Min Min Lights.

Near Windorah take a Nature Drive through the changing landscape to Cooper Creek. If you enjoy fishing then try your luck with the yellowbelly and camp under the stars. Take a trek up the vast red sand dunes around sunset for some breathtaking views to really appreciate the beauty of this incredible part of Australia.

At Jundah enjoy more fishing from the banks of the Thomson River, while out west of Windorah is the ghost town of Betoota, which only comes alive for the annual gymkhana and races.

Still further west is the legendary town of Birdsville, home of the famous Birdsville Hotel. For most of the year the population of this isolated community is just over a hundred, but in early spring the town plays host to some 8,000 visitors who come for the famous Birdsville races. This year’s Birdsville Races are held from 31st August to 1st September. To the south is the Birdsville Track, while to the north is Bedourie, the administrative centre for the Diamantina.

Big Red festival Birdsville  credit TEQ

Big Red Festival - Birdsville, Image by TEQ

Just under 200km north of Bedourie, is the town of Boulia where you may just have an encounter with the mysterious, hovering Min Min Light. Over the last century sightings have been made by locals and visitors and you can learn more about the light at the Min Min Encounter Tourist Centre. At the Stonehouse, discover the history of the region and the early pioneers. The Stonehouse was built in 1880, one of the first buildings constructed in Western Queensland. Today it houses Boulia’s marine reptile fossils, including an adult Icthyosaur skull. The town is the venue for the annual Boulia Camel Races (20th to 22nd July), Australia’s longest camel race.

South West

In Outback Queensland’s South West region are the communities of Charleville, Cunnamulla, Eulo and Thargomindah in the heart of the Great Artesian Basin. Out west of Charleville is the town of Quilpie, famous for its beautiful opals. Visit the museum and learn about the famous Quilpie boulder opal, or try your luck fossicking in the digs at Quilpie or Yowah.

Charleville

The major centre for the South West is the historic town of Charleville with plenty for visitors to see and enjoy. The stars are never more beautiful than in the clear sky of the outback, so head to Charleville’s key attraction, the Cosmos Centre & Observatory for some truly amazing sights in the night sky. Here you can hold a shooting star, learn about the stars and planets, and observe the Milky Way through powerful 12-inch telescopes.

Charleville’s Bilby Experience is another favourite amongst visitors. You can join a night tour and learn about the passionate conservation efforts to save this endangered marsupial. There is local history to discover at the Historic House Museum and at the Royal Flying Doctors Visitor Centre; and visit the famous Hotel Corones – one of Outback Queensland’s iconic and grandest pubs. There’s more to see at the Charleville School of Distance Education or go on a weather station tour. Back in 1922, the first Qantas mail service took off from here on its maiden flight to Cloncurry.

Bush hats Charleville  credit TEQ

Bush hats - Charleville, Image by TEQ

 

The North West

The North West region follows the Overland Way out west from the tropical city of Townsville to Hughenden, Richmond, Julia Creek, Cloncurry, Mt Isa and Camooweal.

Hughenden is the northern starting point of the Dinosaur Trail that includes Richmond as well as Winton in the Far West. It lies on the edge of the former Great Inland Sea that is a rich source of dinosaur and marine reptile fossils from the Cretaceous period. See the collection at The Flinders Discovery Centre including ‘Hughie’ the 7m skeletal model of a Muttaburrasaurus. Next stop on the trail is Richmond and a remarkable collection of marine reptile and dinosaur fossils at Kronosaurus Korner. See Australia’s largest fossilised fish and a giant Kronosaurus queenslandicus, and watch the preparation of fossils in the laboratory.

Cloncurry

Known as the ‘Friendly Heart of the Great North West’ Cloncurry was the birthplace of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Visitors can find out more about the RFDS and see the ‘Radio Gallery’ at the John Flynn Place Museum and Art Gallery. More history can be found at Cloncurry Unearthed – the Visitor Information Centre and Museum that houses a water-bottle belonging to explorer Robert O’Hara Burke, as well as Indigenous artefacts and an extensive collection of minerals and gems; and it’s here too that you can pick up a fossicker’s license.

Cloncurry is host to some major annual outback events starting with the Campdraft in May and the Cloncurry Show in June. Calendar highlights are the Cloncurry Stockman’s Challenge and Campdraft which this year will be held from 11th to 15th July with equestrian, campdraft and rodeo action; and the Curry Merry Muster Festival held over the first weekend in August (3rd to 6th) with a leading rodeo, teddy bears’ picnic, bush poets and street parade.

The mining city of Mt Isa is the largest centre in Outback Queensland, with a population of over 20,000 people. At Outback at Isa visit the Hard Times Mine, where you can descend deep underground on a guided tour to experience how a mine works. Discover some of the city’s pioneering history, or travel further back in time with the Riversleigh Fossil Centre with fossils collected from the Riversleigh fossil fields some 250km to the northnear Boodjamilla (Lawn Hill) NP. The city also plays host to the annual Mt Isa Mines Rotary Rodeo (9th to 12th August 2018).

Scrub Pubs

As you travel through Outback Queensland make a point of visiting some of the iconic pubs that are not only welcome watering holes, they are also home to Australian bush history, anecdotes, folklore and even notoriety. Our national song – Waltzing Matilda – was first performed at Winton’s North Gregory Hotel in 1895 and in World War II a young American pilot, future President Lyndon B Johnson, stayed at the same hotel after a forced landing at Carisbrooke Station.

North of Winton two small but significant scrub pubs capture the essence of the outback. The Blue Heeler at Kynuna is near to Combo Waterhole where the events in Waltzing Matilda transpired, while the Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKinlay was made famous as Mike Dundee’s local in the classic Australian film Crocodile Dundee.

Head south to Charleville home to the grand 1920’s Corones Hotel. Further south the stone built Noccundra Pub and The Eulo Queen, named after its infamous one time owner, are also worth a visit. But perhaps the most famous of all is one of the most remote – the Birdsville Pub – a focus for the annual Birdsville races held each September.

Autumn and winter are the ideal times for visiting the outback, the days might be getting cooler, but the action is heating up with outback events cramming the calendar for autumn and winter. Everything from campdrafts to rodeos, picnic races and musters, festivals and fishing competitions, and the traditional country shows. It’s a great time for discovering the heartland of so much of Australia’s heritage.

Planning on exploring Outback Queensland? We can help with booking accommodation and experiences during your tour. Check out what’s on offer at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/outback-queensland

Blues on Broadbeach Festival

Blues on Broadbeach Festival

The Games may have left town but the party continues on Queensland’s Gold Coast at the annual Blues on Broadbeach Music Festival. The Festival kicks off on Thursday 17th May and rocks on till Sunday 20th May and is expected to attract around 160,000 patrons to see a fabulous line-up of Australian and international Blues acts.

This year’s line-up includes The Robert Cray Band (USA), The Screaming Jets, Ash Grunwald, Backsliders, Lloyd Spiegel, Eileen Jewell (USA), Charlie A’Court (Canada), Southern Avenue (USA), Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds (USA) just to name some. What makes this festival even better – it’s completely free!

However, to show your appreciation for all this fine entertainment, the organisers have teamed up with The Salvation Army and patrons can donate to the Red Shield Appeal at several points about the precinct.

If you love the Blues… if you love the beach… you need to be at Blues on Broadbeach from 17 to 20 May.

If you’re planning a holiday or short break on the Gold Coast then check out the accommodation options at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/gold-coast

Relish Food & Wine Festival – Fraser Coast

Relish Food & Wine Festival – Fraser Coast

The heritage precincts of Maryborough on Queensland’s Fraser Coast, is the setting for the annual Relish Food and Wine Festival to be held Saturday 2nd June.

Relish is a celebration of the Fraser Coast’s fabulous seafood including delicious local scallops plus regional produce, cheeses, macadamias, all enjoyed with award-winning wines and craft beers. Now in its seventh year, Relish offers not only the chance to savour the best of local produce but also gain some new skills watching the master classes and workshops.

This year includes camp over cooking guru, Ranger Nick, who will demonstrate how to cook a great meal with a camp oven on a small fire pit. Kenilworth Dairies will demonstrate how to make delicious dips using yoghurt while 2013 MKR winners Dan and Steph Mulheron will be showing festival crowds how to enjoy the region’s seafood and produce. The festival includes the Relish Long Lunch and guests can join the cruise along the Mary River for the ‘Bubbles on the Boat’.

General entry tickets are available online for $10 or from the Visitor Information Centres in Hervey Bay and Maryborough ahead of the event or $15 at the gate. The cruise lunch and cooking classes are priced separately.

If you’re planning a holiday or short break on the Fraser Coast check out our accommodation offers at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/fraser-coast

Image: Tourism & Events Queensland

Paniyiri Greek Festival – South Brisbane

Paniyiri Greek Festival – South Brisbane

One of Brisbane’s most popular cultural festivals returns to Musgrave Park in South Brisbane over the weekend of 19 and 20 May with the colourful Paniyiri Greek Festival. This will be the 42nd year for Paniyiri which celebrates all things Greek from traditional music and dancing to the appetising flavours of lamb and chicken souvlaki served up with Greek salad; the vine-leaf wrapped dolmades; slices of spanakopita filled with spinach and feta cheese; and desserts including baklava and the ever popular honey puffs.

Paniyiri attracts around 60,000 visitors each year to eat, dance, rejoice, watch the entertainment, explore the stalls, watch the cooking demonstrations and enjoy the fun fair rides. The festival runs from Midday to 10pm Saturday 19th and from 10am to 7pm Sunday 20th May.

If you’re planning a visit to Brisbane and wanting to book accommodation or tours then check out our listings at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/brisbane

Noosa Food & Wine Festival 2018

Noosa Food & Wine Festival 2018

Where better to enjoy tantalising food accompanied by fine wines than at one of Australia’s most appealing coastal holiday destinations – the stylish beach haven of Noosa on Queensland’s glorious Sunshine Coast.

The Noosa Food & Wine Festival offers the ideal combination of good food, fine wine and beach living that makes the perfect recipe for any foodies wanting to escape the city for a few rewarding days of fun and feasting

The festival runs over 4 days from Thursday 17th May to Sunday 20th May and comprises 35 events that features not only great produce but some of Australia’s best chefs with cooking demonstrations as well as master classes on wine and cheese appreciation. Highlight events include The Long Lunch on Hastings Street on 19th May while on the Friday night it’s down on the beach to the Tipis and the Noosa Food & Wine Festival Opening Party.

Other events will be held at some of Noosa’s finest restaurants and there are culinary trails to explore including a Hinterland Trail, Slow Food Noosa Trail and the Noosa Brewery Trail. If food is your passion than give your tastebuds a treat!

If you’re planning a holiday in Noosa or anywhere along the Sunshine Coast then check out the offers at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/sunshine-coast

Image by: Trav Meida

Beef Australia 2018

Beef Australia 2018

It might only be once every 3 years but Beef Australia is a major event when it comes to town in Rockhampton. Held from the 6th-12th of May, the week-long event celebrates all things beef providing a forum for the beef industry to assist trade and export along with seminars, property tours and a symposium. The expo features more than 30 breeds and 4,500 cattle.

As well as the business of the beef industry there is plenty to see, taste and experience including a trade fair, plus a Who’s Who of celebrity chefs including Curtis Stone, Ben O’Donoghue, Jack Stein (Rick’s son), Matt Golinski, Adrian Richardson, Dominique Rizzo amongst others. With social events, entertainment and a kid’s programme, Beef Australia is more than just a trade gathering.

If you are planning a trip to Rockhampton or elsewhere in Central Queensland we can help with accommodation and tours  https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/capricorn-region

Maryborough – Home to the World’s Greatest Pub Crawl

Maryborough’s annual World’s Greatest Pub Fest is on again on Sunday 6th May when literally thousands of oddly attired teams of enthusiastic drinkers will embark on the noble effort of visiting as many of Maryborough’s historic pubs in one – all in the name of charity and winning back its former status.

The World’s Greatest Pub Fest was first held in Maryborough in 2005 with 1,198 participating pub crawlers and continued to set new world records over the next several years, warding off competition from London, New York and Halifax in Canada. In 2013 Maryborough set a new world record of 4,781 pub crawlers only be beaten by Kansas City the following year.

Last year saw enough contestants to win back the world standing however, it seems not enough of them remembered to put in their cards at the end of the afternoon – or perhaps some just stayed at the last pub and forgot. Now national pride is at stake and Maryborough is calling for a winning crowd to restore its prestige of being home to the world’s biggest and greatest pub crawl.

Contestants must first apply for an official Pub Fest Passport, which is not only an entry ticket but also the means of safely getting around by bus as well as your entry for the $1,000 prize draw and the contribution towards the year’s charity. Teams can get around on their own steam with a registered designated driver (Skipper) who’ll be offered free soft drinks at all of the Pub Fest venues.

The heritage city of Maryborough boasts some exceptional colonial architecture and at its peak the city had some 40 pubs, many have survived to form part of the city’s impressive historic streetscapes. It’s the ideal setting for what is a colourful event attracting teams, groups of friends and participants of all ages (over the legal drinking age). Groups are encouraged to develop a team costume with prizes for the best teams under 5 members and over 5 members.

Festivities get off with a bang as the midday cannon fires from the City Hall and the bells of St Paul’s can be heard across the precinct as strange looking teams head off to set a new world record. This year the World’s Greatest Pub Fest is in support of Assistance Dogs Australia.

If you’re looking to holiday on Queensland’s beautiful Fraser Coast then check out the offers and accommodation at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/fraser-coast

Get Hooked in Rocky

Reeling in a big barramundi is one of the great fishing experiences for any angler and the rewards continue when you cook up this prince of fish. Seeking out the estuaries or stocked lakes and dams where barra are found can mean heading off the beaten track and camping, sometimes amongst the mozzies and sand flies in order to get to the big fish.

If you like your creature comforts – good hotels, cafes with great coffee, restaurants and pubs famous for local steaks, and shops close by or you just like the convenience of being in a regional city then you can now enjoy some of the best barra fishing in Queensland in view of Rockhampton’s city centre.

Anglers have been reeling in monster-sized barra of more than a metre in length in some cases from the city reaches of the Fitzroy River that runs through the heart of Rockhampton.

So what’s made Rocky such a paradise for barra fishing?

b2ap3 medium Big-barra-at-Rocky-Image-Capricorn-Enterprise

Reeling in Barra on the Fitzroy River, Rockhampton image: Capricorn Enterprises

Commercial netting of the river ceased back in 2015 and as a net free zone the city stretch of river between the two bridges that span the Fitzroy has seen an increase both in barra numbers and sizes making Rockhampton an ideal spot for barra fishing. Some anglers will fish from tinnies or there are local fishing charter boats that make it a lot easier for anyone wanting a short break fishing weekend. You can even reel in a barra fishing from the riverbank thanks to new land-based fishing platforms giving recreational anglers the chance at catching a big barra.

If you’re thinking about a fishing holiday in Rockhampton then we can help you catch a good deal with accommodation and local attractions at https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/regions/capricorn-region

Worth Noting:

Barramundi fishing has a strict season. Fishing is permitted from midday 1st February to midday 1st November. Very large fines apply for anyone barra fishing during the annual closed season from 1st November to 1st February. Size limits and catch numbers apply. For more details visit the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website at www.daf.qld.gov.au

Lady Elliot Island ~ where the reef begins

Lady Elliot Island ~ where the reef begins

Coming to Southern Queensland but wanting a Great Barrier Reef experience?

Fortunately, if your time is limited and you can’t get to Tropical North Queensland, you can still experience the wonders of this marine treasure including on day trip flights from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was one of the first inclusions on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. One of the seven natural wonders, it stretches for 2,300km along the Queensland coast and comprises around 3,000 separate reefs together with 900 islands – 300 coral cays and 600 continental islands.

It all begins on the tiny coral cay of Lady Elliot Island some 80km northeast of Bundaberg and just north of another World Heritage treasure, Fraser Island. The island is accessible for day excursions by air from mainland points including Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, or better still spend a few days discovering its treasures and staying at the island’s 41 room eco-resort. A trip here is special and the accent is on experiencing the wonder of the reef not on luxury resort holidays. You’ll stay in comfort whether it is in a glamping tent, an eco cabin, a reef unit or an island suite.

Lady-Elliot-aerial-photo

Ariel photo of Lady Elliot Island and the surrounding reefs- Image TEQ

 

There is a strong environmental ethos on the island generating solar energy, desalinating water, ceasing the sale of plastic water bottles and straws and educating visitors about the island’s ecology and the management has a target of 2020 in sight to be 100% sustainable. There is no mobile phone reception but WiFi is available and rather than TV you have the whole of the Milky Way to enjoy at night.

Lady Elliot is one of just a handful of coral cays with a resort and the only one to have an airstrip making it possible for fixed wing light aircraft to reach the island. From the air the green wooded island encircled by white coral shores and brilliant aquamarine shallows looks to have had the airstrip carved through the centre. In fact during Victorian times the island was effectively razed by guano miners. They collected the metre deep of nitrogen rich bird droppings that had built up over 3,500 years. The decade of mining from 1863 had left the island denuded of all but a few pisonia trees until a century later in 1969 local aviator, Don Adams, set about creating the airstrip and revegetating the island. Today it is a protected seabird and turtle rookery with casuarina and pisonia trees covering much of the island.

Coral cays are formed from the gradual build up of broken coral till an island emerges and eventually establishes vegetation. Because it is part of the reef you can step out from your accommodation and be wading in the shallows or snorkelling amongst the corals within moments. These are amongst the most pristine coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef and Lady Elliot is famous for its manta rays – those graceful creatures with their broad wings that glide through the clear waters. Diving and snorkelling amongst the corals with the mantas and turtles and an array of brilliantly coloured fish is an unforgettable experience.

Manta-rays-and-diver-Lady-E-TEQ-image-130110-2

Swimming with Mantarays on Lady Elliot Island - Image TEQ

If it’s your first time on the reef to get acquainted with the island’s marine life it’s worth starting with a guided reef walk and one of the glass-bottom boat tours. It all gets too tempting, however, and you’ll want to hire a snorkel and fins and start discovering or go on one of the dives (only for those staying – no diving for those flying the same day). There are bird watching tours and historical tours or head off to walk around the island – at just 45 hectares you can’t get lost and the walk will take you around 30 minutes.

Come nightfall there is the convivial company at the bar and the challenges of quiz, bingo and games nights while outside there is star-gazing and night glass bottom boat tours – night time is when the reef really comes alive. During turtle season from November to February the island’s shores become the nesting grounds for green and loggerhead turtles. Some turtles travel vast distances to return to these shores to nest. The guided night tours ensure the turtles aren’t disturbed but guests can still experience a wonder of nature, especially in late summer when the hatchlings emerge from their sandy nest and scramble to the edge of the water.

Turtle Hatchling-swims-Lady-Elliot Island Queensland

Turtle Hatchling swimming on Lady Elliot Island - Image TEQ

It’s part of a remarkable encounter with nature at a very special coral cay – the southern anchor of the Great Barrier Reef and just a day trip flight away for visitors to Southern Queensland.

Book your lady elliot accommodation now: https://www.visitqueensland.com.au/lady-elliot-island-eco-resort

DID YOU KNOW?

The magnificent manta rays of Lady Elliot Island now have their own craft beer named after them, Ray XPA brewed by the Bargara Brewing Company. The beer, which has a manta ray on the label is a joint initiative of the brewer based in the Bundaberg Region and Lady Elliot Island as each label also draws attention to Project Manta. The scientific program which began in 2007 continues to monitor manta ray population and behaviour along Australia’s east coast, with a particular focus on locations of high aggregation such as Lady Elliot Island. So, visitors can enjoy a local drop while being encouraged to support research of the Great Barrier Reef and the manta rays.

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Noosa National Park – beachcomber heaven

Noosa National Park – beachcomber heaven

While the shores of Noosa Main Beach never lose their appeal, an alternative to this popular beach spot lies close by further out on the peninsular at Noosa National Park.

It’s worth knowing the car park here can be challenging and quickly fills up so consider walking from Noosa which has parking areas near the river. The walk from Noosa Main Beach is under 10 minutes and well worth the effort with fantastic views back to Noosa and along the way the almost hidden Little Cove before you arrive at the National Park. If you were lucky enough to find a spot then there are picnic tables and barbecues after you’ve explored the walks and beaches.

Keep an eye out for the wildlife near to the entrance of the park as you might just spot a friendly python near the tracks or a koala up in the eucalypts – the wildlife including a fantastic array of birds from honeyeaters to ospreys clearly love the seaside location just as much as humans. The first stop is Boiling Pot Lookout where the surging waves fill the rock pools and you get a great view of the beach and dunes across the estuary at Noosa Northshore.

 

The track rises and winds around the steep banks with glimpses of Tea Tree Beach and the glistening waves appearing through the trees. This is a great beach to make camp for the day with shady spots either set back from the rocky shelf on the western side or from the sandy beach on the eastern side. Find a patch of shade under a pandanus or casuarina tree to claim and take in the view and the fabulously fresh sea air. There are shallow rock pools to explore, sand for building castles, and the sea is calm and inviting or just sit back and watch the board riders picking up the point breaks off to the east.

From the beach the track winds and ascends to Dolphin Point Lookout. It’s well named and with a keen eye you can often spot pods of bottlenose dolphins not too far offshore as they transit around the peninsular. Come the winter migration season of the humpback whales, this is also one of the best spots for watching the pods of mighty whales heading north and then in spring you can see them on their return journey to the feeding waters of Antarctica.

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Image Credit: Paul Manias

Continuing along the Coastal Track, the pathway narrows as it hugs the edge of the high banks above Granite Bay. A separate path leads down to a patch of beach or if you prefer a secluded cove all to yourself and if you’re prepared to scramble down the rugged track then Winch Cove could be your picnic home for the day.

 

The nearby point is definitely worth exploring. Fairy Pools offers up the secrets of crystal clear rock pools that are deep enough to retain fish during the low tides and are home to anenomes, crabs and sea urchins. From Fairy Pools the grassy windswept cliff tops with the occasional pandanus make good viewing points for surveying the waters for more dolphins or just to watch the waves crashing against the rocky shores. Those waves get ever more dramatic just around the corner at Hell’s Gates. It’s a long drop down from the cliff edges here so caution is needed, especially with children, but the view can be spectacular as the waves drive deep into the gorge and send a plume of spray into the air.

 

The Tanglewood Track connects from here with the Coastal Track and to the south is a broad span of white sandy beach backed by bushland. Alexandria Bay isn’t accessible by road and not overlooked by buildings so it offers a real taste of wilderness shoreline, tucked away in the National Park. At the southern end of the beach is another headland and as if to flank Hell’s Gates, another gorge – Devil’s Kitchen – marks this second headland along with Cook’s Monument. The track winds around to the lookout above Sunshine Beach or you could head back to the start of the National Park retracing your steps or following one of several bushland tracks including part of the Tanglewood Track which offers a shortcut back to Granite Bay.

 

There is much to see and enjoy in Noosa National Park, whether it be for a swim at Tea Tree Bay or spending an adventure filled day exploring this special corner of the Sunshine Coast.

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BRISBANE’S STREET ART

BRISBANE’S STREET ART

Brisbane’s art scene has turned to the streets in recent years with some stunning murals appearing on the sides of buildings, empty walls, under bridges, on pavements, cycleways and down laneways. The murals aren’t graffiti but commissioned or permitted street paintings that show some extraordinary talent and imagination. The artistic styles range widely from edgy surrealist imaginings to realist paintings, others with strong symbolic or political statements while yet others choose to be witty commentaries – in fact the styles of paintings are so broad as to defy an all embracing description other than they are public pieces, urban art on display for anyone who seeks them out or encounters them while traversing the inner city.

Face Street art at Coniston St Fortitude ValleyMan leaning against no standing sign street art winn street Fortitude valley

Images: Coniston St Fortitude Valley, Winn St Fortitude Valley

The street art phenomena now enhances locations in the suburbs ringing the city centre, most especially in Fortitude Valley but also in neighbouring New Farm and Spring Hill, across the river in West End and South Brisbane and more in Paddington and Milton. Seeking out the venues provides an entertaining way of exploring some of the corners of the inner city precincts with new pieces appearing all the time that add to Brisbane’s street art culture.

Some businesses around the Valley have had the vision to recognise how embellishing their building with works by gifted muralists can turn their businesses into local landmarks. Tryp Hotel in Constance Street exemplifies how the right street art can help make your business very cool, from the face imprinted across the front of the hotel to the climbing backpacker on one exterior wall and even the mural of a cloudy sky in the glass-sided lift, this hotel attracts visitors who’ve discovered the art.

 Typ Hotel Street Start Fortitude ValleyBuilding being unzipped street art fortitude valley

Images: Tryp Hotel, Fortitude Valley & Gotha Street Fortitude Valley

Image Credit: Paul Manias

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Sunshine Coast ~ Best Beaches

Sunshine Coast ~ Best Beaches

Looking for an autumn escape with long sandy beaches, clear waters and temperatures just made for beachcombing? Queensland’s Sunshine Coast begins just a 40minute drive north of Brisbane Airport and offers some of Australia’s best beaches along a coastline that stretches for over 100km.

There is such a diversity of choice on offer here that you can definitely find your personal ideal of what a beach should be. That might be anything from a colourful and popular surf beach at a popular holiday hub with a great vibe, good waves, lots of cafes and refreshments close by or perhaps you’d prefer just an endless stretch of untamed shores away from the crowds where you could walk seemingly forever. The Sunshine Coast offers each of those options plus great spots for surfers, young families, secluded coves where you can feel like a castaway for a day and river estuaries ideal for getting in some watersports like paddle-boarding and kayaking.

Two of the Sunshine Coast beaches that regularly feature in the top 10 with people’s choice surveys are Mooloolaba Beach in the southern half of the coast and Noosa Main Beach in the northern half. Not only do these both tick the boxes for being fantastic beaches, both are north facing or in the case of Mooloolaba part of this sweeping crescent is north facing and thereby protected from the south-easterly breezes that can whip up the waves. These two beaches along with the also north facing Tea Tree Beach in Noosa National Park, offer generally calm waters and are ideal for young families getting used to the sea.

The view of Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National ParkFamily enjoying a day on the beach at Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National Park

Images: Tea Tree Bay in Noosa National Park

The points or headlands that help protect these beaches ironically provide the breaks that surfboard riders are seeking and in places such as Tea Tree Beach you can enjoy the calm ripples near the shore while watching the board-riders perform on the point breaks further offshore. If you’re a dedicated surfer discovering the Sunshine Coast for the first time then you’ll find excellent point breaks at The Rock at Point Cartwright, Moffat Point near Caloundra and in Noosa National Park at First Point which looks back to Noosa Main Beach, Tea Tree Bay and Granite Bay. For good beach breaks head for Kings Beach at Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Buddina and Alexandra Bay.

Coolum is the start of a long unbroken stretch of beach with beautiful sandy shores that continue to Perigian, Marcus, Castaway, Sunrise and Sunshine Beaches ending at a headland with just over 200 steps to the top and a view that takes in all of the span of the beaches to the south. This stretch of coastline has some of the most exclusive and expensive beach houses in Australia that overlook a coastline that seems to have a constant parade of people out for a walk.

Book your Sunshine Coast Accommodation and Tours

The rocky headland at the southern end of Coolum offers up a few secluded patches of sand cradled by the rocky cliffs. They make good spots for a peaceful day away from the bustle of the main beaches. And if you enjoy natural settings then Noosa National Park is a must with Tea Tree Beach, the rocky boulders of Granite Bay, tiny Winch Cove and for the energetic the walk beyond Hell’s Gates takes you to the spectacular pristine Alexandria Bay.

For those who enjoy watersports including kayaking and paddle-boarding the estuaries and channels of the Sunshine Coast provide an ideal playground starting with the blue waters of Pumicestone Passage – a picturesque channel that divides Bribie Island from the mainland and arcs around to Bulcock Beach at Caloundra. The Maroochy River is also ideal for watersports and perhaps the most popular of all is Noosaville on a stretch of the Noosa River close to the estuary. The parkland riverfront is filled with boatsheds hiring dinghies, pontoons, kayaks and paddle-boards making a colourful scene of water bound activity.

There are a lot more beaches to discover but whichever ones along the beautiful Sunshine Coast you choose remember to only bathe between the flags and use sunscreen. Happy beachcombing.

Family enjoying a day at Mooloolaba Beach

Image: Family Beach day at Mooloolaba Beach

TRAVEL TIP:

To check on whether a beach you’d like to visit is patrolled and when the Life Savers operate then visit www.beachsafe.org.au or download the app. It provides details of the patrol times for each beach and all of the relevant beach conditions for that day from weather and water temperature to how big the surf swell will be, wind speeds, tides and UV index. It’s the perfect companion for beachgoers.

Image Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland

Cooloola Great Walk – a new coastal trek adventure

Cooloola Great Walk – a new coastal trek adventure

One of Queensland’s more accessible wilderness areas is now the focus of a new 5-day, 4-night guided walking adventure. Trekking specialists, Tropical Treks are launching the Cooloola Great Walk experience for groups of up to six trekkers led by an experienced guide.

The 88km walk takes trekkers across the extraordinary Cooloola Sandmass, a vast coastal dune system that dates back 500,000 years. ‘Cooloola’ is from the local Gubbi Gubbi Aboriginal people and translates to the sound of the wind through the trees.

The walk takes in the pristine coastal area from Noosa Northshore, across the Sandmass to Rainbow Beach. Along the way the guide will point out the region’s flora and fauna including the array of wildflowers, ground parrots, feathertailed gliders, koalas and wallabies. During the winter and spring migration seasons, pods of humpback whales can also be spotted just off the coast.

The trek includes all meals and drinks and you can hire you camping kit or bringing your own camping kit and supplies is also an option. The trek uses walkers’ camps where toilets and freshwater is available. The tours commence from Sunday 22 April and are held each fortnight until 23rd September.

Bookings for the 5-day, 4-night guided walking adventure can be made through Tropical Treks. Tropical Treks also offer shorter halfday and full day experiences, book your walk with Tropcial Treks Guided Bushwalks.

Image: Carlo Sandblow - Rueben Nutt

Video: www.thephotobohemian.com