COASTAL QUEENSAug 28, 2001 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line The options are just about endless!
In Australia's far north east corner is the state of Queensland. No, it is not a separate state for gays, nor is it the Queens Land. Yes okay, I agree its a crazy name for a State, but what a state it is. The second biggest in area and the third biggest in population, Queensland has it all - all that is except snow.
One thing you won’t hear in Australia is the question “Do you like Queensland?” - oh no, it is always “which part of Queensland do you like?”, a subtle but important difference. The land of Queens really is the number one holiday destination for Australians and right at the top of the pack for overseas tourists.
There is good reason. Queensland has a huge outback region, the ritzy, boisterous Gold Coast, rainforests, tropical north, subtropical south and an arid desert interior. By Australian standards the population is well spread, with some large inland cities and many along the coast. It is the coast we are going to travel now, from the north to the south.
Queensland is huge, nearly three times the size of Texas, five times Japan and seven times the United Kingdom. There is coastline along the north and east.
If we start in the north west corner at the Northern territory border, we can forget driving the north coast because there are either no roads or roads so remote and dangerous they are certainly not for tourists of any breed. This also stands for the northern end of Cape York peninsula. This whole northern section is for the highly experienced only, and unless you have a death wish join an organised tour from Cairns.
For those reasons, Cairns will be the start of this Queensland coast tour, taking in some twelve hundred miles south to the Queensland capital, Brisbane. Effectively we will only be covering half the Queensland north coast, the northern half being the highly dangerous "Gulf Country" that includes Cape York, pretty much Australia's last frontier.
Cairns, with a resident population of a hundred thousand, has an International Airport and many overseas tourists start their holiday from here. Cairns is the perfect base from which to explore coral reefs, white beaches, fishing, luxury island resorts, white- water rafting , the sensational Mossman Gorge, World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest and Cape Tribulation. To the west is the Atherton Tropical Tablelands and Gulf Savannah with its gold rush history. To the immediate south is the Cassowary Coast together with Mission Beach, and to the east off Cairns are Green , Lizard and Fitzroy Islands . The Great Barrier Reef is very close as are lush rainforests. Not enough to keep you occupied?
Well, there is the Kuranda Scenic Rail west of Cairns with it's bridged ravines, tunnels and waterfalls or you can take a five mile Skyrail ride above Warrivingorld Heritage rainforest - Skyrail is the world’s longest gondola cableway. On every day of the year there are six hundred different tours available.
The central and northern coast of Queensland is tropical, grading to subtropical in the south around Brisbane. Therefore it is warm to hot and humid year round with most rain falling in summer. This is the wettest part of Australia, but it is a very warm, humid rain.
An hour or two's drive south of Cairns is the Innisfail - Tully - Happy Valley area and some places here receive 150 inches of rain a year. The mountain of Bellenden Ker, south-west of Cairns, had a record 12,461 millimetres, about 494 inches, of rain in 2000. The small towns of Happy Valley and Tully average 176 and 166 inches.
Innisfail is a town of 8,000 in the heart of the Cassowary Coast and connects to the Atherton Tablelands in the west with over sixty thousand square miles over of grains, tobacco, potatoes, mangoes, avocado and dairy products. The International deep water port at Mourilyan Harbour is used for sugar handling with ships up to a draught of twenty seven feet being able to enter. As well as sugar there are 228 banana plantations and 180 papaya growers. Other crops include Purple Mangosteen, Taro, Pummelo, Abiu, Star Apple, Carambola, Pepper, Choko, Sapodilla, Longan, Black Persimmon, Jakfruit, Lemon Grass and Turmeric.
Time to move on about 150 miles to Townsville, at 140,000 Australia's largest tropical city, with an average of 320 days of sunshine each year. The world's largest living coral reef aquarium and Billabong Sanctuary wildlife park are tourist "must see's", and maybe even the casino. Fast cat ferries can take you to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef in about 20 minutes.
South of Townsville there are numerous interesting little towns dotted along the coast, all the way down past the Whitsunday Islands to the City of Mackay with 70,000 people.
Natural beauty is the hallmark of this city and surrounding area located halfway between Cairns and Brisbane, six hundred miles each way. In the east the Great Barrier Reef and the west, Eungella National Park, this prosperous centre has thrived on sugar but is not "touristy". Rather it as ideal place to see a rural City without the usual tourist trappings. Not that Mackay is inferior as a destination - it certainly isn't but it is missed by most tourists probably because it does not have an International Airport like Cairns and Brisbane. Magnificent mountains, streams, beaches, islands, gorges and rainforest are all here as in the more popular tourist haunts. Being midway the weather is magnificent all year round. The absence of tourism is a two edge sword - on one hand the area is a little undeveloped, but on the other it is unspoilt.
Now its on to "Rocky", the City of Rockhampton, the Beef Capital with its statues of Santa Gertrudis, Brahman, Braford and Droughtmaster bulls. Old but grand architecture, preserved and/or restored, can be seen in many areas and comprises part of a Heritage Route.
Spend some time on a House Boat, or just do some water skiing, boating, or fishing. The Pilbeam Theatre is said to be a world class theatre venue and there are many art galleries with works from well-known national and international artists, and you can watch weavers, actors, sewers, musicians and artists working at their trade. Some of the best examples of indigenous flora and fauna in Australia can be seen in the botanic gardens.
Nearing Brisbane is the Sunshine Coast, a real mixture of tourism and natural beauty. The Glass House Mountains are absolutely unique and look exactly as their name implies. Then there is the magnificent coast, rolling hills, everglades and Fraser Island. Cooloola National Park is a natural museum and at Gympie you can even fossick for gold.
And then, just an hour or two further south is Brisbane, Queensland's subtropical capital. With a most impressive city skyline, restored sandstone buildings and international hotels in this city with an outdoor lifestyle. With warm to hot summers and mild winters visiting all year round is no problem. As if there isn't enough to do with the Sunshine Coast just north and the thrill a minute Gold Coast in the south, Brisbane itself has a lot to offer. Attractions such as the South Bank Parklands, the Queensland Cultural Centre, many historic sights and heritage trails, museums, galleries, wildlife parks, Casino, and areas of tropical forest.
It would not be difficult to write a book on this southern twelve hundred mile half of the Queensland coast, so of necessity this epistle only gives a brief look at the major places along the way.
But hopefully it will give an idea of somewhere to spend a holiday that gives a wide variety of attractions and a brilliant year round climate. I recommend that anyone contemplating two to three weeks in Australia give some serious thought to this area. Enter Australia at either Brisbane or Cairns, rent a car and leave it at the opposite end - then perhaps fly down to Sydney, or over to Alice Springs - whatever your heart desires.
The options are just about endless!
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