Best-kept secrets: Escape the crowds in Queensland

Caloundra is routinely passed over for Mooloolaba or Noosa but  isn’t likely to stay a secret for much longer.

Caloundra is routinely passed over for Mooloolaba or Noosa but isn’t likely to stay a secret for much longer. Photo: Getty


Remember the simple beach holidays of your childhood? Here’s the chance to indulge your nostalgia by taking a break at one of these unspoilt coastal towns.

These are all spots the locals would probably rather keep to themselves, so shhhh, don’t tell a soul!


A shoes-optional kind of place where from June to October humpbacks can be spotted from the cliffs while pods of dolphins, sea turtles and graceful manta rays are commonly sighted all year-round.

All the island’s beaches are noteworthy: South Gorge, bookended by cliffs has crystalline water with perfect snorkelling; the protected cove of Cylinder Beach is ideal for swimming or learning to surf; Home Beach is for walking your furred friend; and Deadman’s has rock pools to explore.

Do: Join locals for sunset viewing with a beer at the old-school surf club.


A giant mango marks the Bruce Highway turn-off to this historic Whitsunday coastal town, the oldest in north Queensland.

Apart from being home to the Bowen mango (now called “Kensington Pride”), Bowen’s other claim to fame is its appearance in the Baz Luhrmann movie Australia (and the reason for the tongue-in-cheek “Bowenwood” sign painted on the water reservoir on the hill).

There are eight beaches in Bowen, include the Caribbean-esque Horseshoe Bay with rewarding snorkelling just off the sand.

Do: Sign up for free to be a passenger on one of the North QLD Yacht Club boats that race at twilight every Saturday.


The first rule about Woodgate – you don’t talk about Woodgate.

But despite this decree, word is slowly leaking out about this sleepy coastal settlement.

It’s bush meets beach with 16 kilometres of pristine coastline shaded by she-oaks, calm ocean sheltered by Fraser Island and bordered by national park on three sides.

Accommodation includes 1950s beach shacks mixed with with more modern – albeit still modest – holiday rentals, often with a cheeky kangaroo grazing on the lawn.

If the idea of reading books, swimming off uncrowded beaches, and catching and cooking your own dinner appeals, you’ll be happy to become one of the secret-keepers.

Do: Have a game of bingo or trivia and dinner with water views at the bowlo.


The beach town that’s routinely passed over for Mooloolaba or Noosa isn’t likely to stay a secret for much longer, but for now it’s all cheerful, bucket-and-spade-style resorts and some of the Sunshine Coast’s most lovely and least crowded beaches.

There’s the emerald-hued Bulcock Beach, sheltered by the tip of Bribie Island, family-friendly King’s and the long stretches of surf beaches like Dicky and Moffat.

If you’re up for a walk or a bike ride, take the 25-kilometre coastal path from Golden Beach to Kawana and find one all to yourself.

Do: Eat fish and chips on the boardwalk at Bulcock Beach.


Not given to hyperbolic self-promotion, Bargara on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef flies under holiday-makers’ radars despite its small-town friendliness and some pretty special beaches.

Dive into the waves for a swim guarded by Queensland’s finest at the serene Kelly’s Beach or snorkel the Basin, a large, rock-walled tidal lagoon.

At Mon Repos beach, you can watch turtles who return every year to lay their eggs or, a few months later, witness the hatchlings breaking out and hurrying towards the safety of the sea – November to March is best.

Do: Have a game of pool and a Bargara Brewing’s Thirsty Turtle lager at the Bargara Beach Hotel.

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