Queensland: Beautiful one day, welcoming visitors the next

Beachfront dining at Nu Nu, at Palm Cove, north of Cairns. Photo: Supplied

Beachfront dining at Nu Nu, at Palm Cove, north of Cairns. Photo: Supplied

Hands up who’s ready? Ready for good food and convivial company? For the healing balm of forest, beach or bush; for shaking off the lethargy and getting back out there to enjoy the man-made and nature-given pleasures of our beautiful country?

The added bonus of doing it in Queensland, of course, is temperate weather with sunny, blue-skied days that stretch right through winter.

If, after the enforced austerity of COVID isolation, the sudden abundance of choice seems overwhelming, relax – we’ve curated a few quintessentially Queensland experiences worthy of your wish list.

  • Important: Australia’s post-coronavirus travel regulations vary by state. See up-to-date details here

1. Kayak in the Everglades

It’s a little-known fact, but Queensland is home to one of only two everglade systems in the world (the other being in Florida, US).

Just north of Noosa, the (alligator-free!) arteries of The Everglades branch off Lake Cootharaba, the state’s largest salt water lake. The best way to explore is by kayak, which can be rented at several places on the lake, or you can join a guided tour.

It’s incredibly relaxing paddling down the tranquil water that reflects the overhanging melaleuca trees that tint it almost black, the sky and the occasional wheeling cormorant or curlew fishing for their supper.

Stay: Habitat EcoCamp is right on the shore of Lake Boreen and has glamping tents and powered campsites. A one-day self guided tour is $99 from Kanu Kapers.

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Everglades minus alligators? Only in Noosa. Photo: Natascha Mirosch

2. Learn to cook in the lush Gold Coast hinterland

French chef Bruno Loubet has cooked with some impressive names in Michelin-starred restaurants in Britain and France, as well as owning his own highly-regarded venues.

Now, he and wife Catherine have made the lush hinterland between Brisbane and the Gold Coast their home, opening Willow Vale Cooking School in August 2019. Classes are limited to just six and start with gathering produce from Willow Vale’s own permaculture gardens and meeting the Loubet’s menagerie, and finish with a sociable shared lunch.

Stay: On the lush, tranquil Mount Tamborine, with views to both the Gold Coast and Brisbane. Witches Falls Cottages are set among the greenery and have their own courtyard gardens and fireplaces.
Cooking classes with lunch cost $195.

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Learning to cook, Gold Coast hinterland style – with Bruno Loubet. Photo: Supplied

3. Day trip to Minjerribah

Just 20 minutes by water taxi or an hour on the car ferry from Brisbane’s bayside, Minjerribah (aka Stradbroke Island) shines in winter.

Explore the rockpools at Deadman’s and Frenchman’s beaches, watch humpback whales fluking and spy hopping from Point Lookout, or walk through the Naree Budjong Djara National Park to the eerily beautiful Karboora (Blue Lake), a place of cultural significance for the Quandamooka people. Of an afternoon, join the locals at the spectacularly situated Main Beach surf club to toast sunset.

Stay: Accommodation includes the Stradbroke Hotel, private houses that can be rented through Airbnb and camping grounds.

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Stradbroke Island is just a hop, skip and a jump from Brisbane, but it feels a world away. Photo: Getty

4. Nightfall Camp

Soothed by a lullaby of creek water trickling over boulders, the crackling of the fire and the night sounds of the bush, this is camping, but not as you might know it. Sleeping under canvas doesn’t usually include twin vintage baths, a queen bed layered with warm, eco-friendly fabrics or an elegant, organic dinner produced from home-grown ingredients.

These four luxurious, well-spaced tents bordering the Lamington National Park in the Scenic Rim offer the perfect chance to commune with nature when you’re not the blow-up mattress type.

Prices, including all meals, drinks and snacks, are $795 per night.

5. Prawns on the beach

Queensland’s biggest prawn trawler fleet operates from The Spit at Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast and several places at the wharf sell their catch.

Take your precious package of sweet Mooloolaba prawns across the road to The Spit’s pretty, calm beach and nab a picnic table under the shade of the casuarina trees or spread a blanket straight onto the fine silver sand to experience the primal pleasure of eating trawler-fresh prawns in situ.

At Mooloolaba you’ll also find one of the Sunshine Coast’s best beaches, bookended by rock pools at one end and the enviably situated surf club at the other. There are loads of accommodation options just across the road from the beach, most with impressive sea views.

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When you’ve had your fill of prawns, head for the sand at Mooloolaba Beach. Photo: Getty

6. Become a gin master

The Brisbane Distillery opened late in 2019 and keeps it hyper-local by sourcing grain from Queensland farms for its gin, and sugar cane for its “Rhum”. Even the Distillery’s labels give a sense of place, featuring a Brisbane icon – the old convict-built mill, the city’s oldest surviving building.

Under master tutelage, gin apprentices can get behind one of 25 stills, and choosing from 130 different botanicals, blend their own one-off gin to take home.

The master distiller’s experience is $189, including your take-home bottle of gin. Boasting rights are free.

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Gin’s the thing at Brisbane Distillery’s master class. Photo: Supplied

7. Spicers Scenic Trail

What glamping is to camping, so is this walk to your typical bushwalk. Queensland’s only member of Great Walks of Australia, Spicers’ small group walks offer, two, five and seven-night experiences and include transportation of luggage, soft beds each night, a hot tub perfect for stargazing and even a private chef.

The guided walk through a rarely seen part of Queensland is graded as moderate and includes traversing Mount Mitchell, with views to rival the Blue Mountains, rainforest, open plains and woodlands.

A two-night trail is $1490 per person, including tented accommodation, food, drinks and porterage.

8. Nu Nu, Palm Cove

As far as locations go, Nu Nu is the stuff of tropical dreams. At the end of Palm Cove’s esplanade, it occupies a grassed area in a fairy-lit grove where a balmy breeze rustles the fronds of the palm trees and the coral sea advances and retreats onto the sand with a hypnotic ‘swish’.

The menu’s pretty dreamy too: A seductive roll call of siren-song dishes with hero ingredients, such as local-line caught reef fish, buttered clams, apple, anchoiade and sunflower. Or Innisfail heart of palm with pickled prawns, melon, shallot, chilli and mint. It’s undeniably sophisticated dining but with the generous heart of the tropics.

If you want to stay the night (or a few), there are plenty of accommodation options right on Williams Esplanade.

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Beachfront dining at Nu Nu, at Palm Cove, north of Cairns. Photo: Supplied

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