Image courtesy of Yanguang Lan (on Unsplash)

It’s almost painful to imagine how many people visit Queensland and don’t see much more than high-rise lined beach strips, luxury resorts and theme parks. There’s so much more to see and do.

Known as Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’, the weather isn’t the only aspect of Queensland that lends itself to exploring the outdoors. With thousands of kilometres of coastline, hundreds of rivers, more islands than you could ever count, mountain ranges and tropical rainforests, the place is a veritable smorgasbord of outdoor adventure.

With so many options available telling you about them all could be a full-time job, but here are some of the best ones to help you get that Queensland bucket list started. I obviously couldn’t include everything, so if Townsville is on your radar, here are a bunch of awesome things to do around Townsville

Canyoning at Behana Gorge (Cairns)

Behana Gorge Canyoning Adventure - Queensland - Australia

Image courtesy of Andrew, on flickr

Lots of people visit Behana Gorge for its 6.4-kilometre (return) hike to one of far north Queensland’s best swimming holes. Although the swimming hole is only accessible to the public by foot, this tranquil spot can still get quite busy with tourists at times.

To get away from the crowds and really experience Behana gorge, take a half-day guided canyoning tour. You can still take the hike to get there but if you think the canyoning will be enough physical activity for one day, the guides have access to drive you all the way. Then you’ll abseil, cliff jump, rockslide, swim and snorkel your way down the gorge, taking in spectacular waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical rainforest.

You’ll have the canyon conquered by lunchtime, so thankfully the guides will sort out your lunch for you. While you wait, you’ll have some free time for a swim at a gorgeous, secluded swimming hole, before being transferred back to Cairns.


Need to know

Bookings can be made online via Adrenaline.

Behana Canyoning runs tours all year round (weather dependent). Lunch and refreshments will be provided at the end of your canyoning adventure. The price includes transfers from Cairns, all gear required, and individual instruction from a qualified guide. The minimum age for participants is 8 and the maximum weight for participants is 125kgs. You’ll need a reasonable level of fitness and some swimming ability.

Getting to Queensland

There are obviously many options for your journey to Queensland, but the quickest way is flying. Being Australia’s second-largest state, it’s not surprising there two major international airports – in Cairns and Brisbane – but internal flights can take you to just about any part of Queensland from many of the country’s other capitals. If flying internationally, don’t forget your Australian visa (or working holiday visa, which you’ll probably need if you want to have enough time to take in all these adventures). If you’re planning to hire a car from elsewhere in Australia and road-trip your way through Queensland, keep in mind that a week would be rushing it… It’s seriously big.

Hike the summit of Mount Barney for sunrise (Gold Coast)

Hiking Mount Barney - Queensland - Australia

Image courtesy of Pat Meehan

There are few things more special than taking in a sunrise from a beautiful mountain peak. If you’re up for a challenging two-day hike, Mount Barney (about an hour and a half from the Gold Coast) is where you should be headed. The journey is as incredible as the destination, with dense forests and all kinds of unique birdlife. You’ll camp not too far from the summit and make your final climb in the wee hours (you didn’t want the weight of that bottle of red in your backpack anyway) to experience sunset with views to Lamington National Park, Mount Maroon and Mount Lindsay, and the valleys of the Northern Rivers.

Need to know

Time (hrs/min): 2 days / 4.5hrs each way
Distance: 16km
Grade: Difficult.

Read the full blog post on the Mount Barney summit hike for everything else you’ll need to know.

Ride the only mountain bike trail in the Whitsunday Islands (South Molle Island)

When you think about the Whitsunday Islands, mountain biking probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. Most people don’t stray far from the water’s edge when they island-hop, but South Molle Island is home to the only mountain bike trails in the region – 14 kilometres of them – which make for the perfect way to explore the island’s mountaintop views and lush pockets of rainforest.

The trails are grade 2 so you don’t need to be experienced. You’ll just need a reasonable level of fitness. They’re made up of a mix of fire trails and single track. The best part is that the island’s pristine beaches are waiting for you when you need to cool off and have a break. The snorkelling is pretty awesome there, too.

Need to know

This adventure is obviously achievable without purchasing a tour, but you’ll need to organise your own bikes and catch a water taxi with them from Shute Harbour (Airlie Beach). See TrailForks for more info.

Alternatively, a full-day tour can be booked online via Adrenaline which includes water transport, bikes and helmets, and will also take you for a swim and a snorkel at Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island. Your mountain biking on the tour will be self-guided so you won’t need to worry about sticking with a tour group. The minimum age for tour participants is 14 and the maximum weight for the bikes is 120kg. Closed in shoes, appropriate clothing, and glasses or sunglasses (some form of eye protection) are compulsory.

Hike the 6-day Carnarvon Great Walk (Rockhampton)

Carnarvon Great Walk - Queensland - Australia

Image courtesy of Ian Cochrane (on flickr)

A truly wild experience that will take some planning and preparation, the remote Carnarvon Great Walk is 6 days of rugged gorges, towering sandstone cliffs, Aboriginal rock art, and inspiring views from a plateau known as the ‘roof of Queensland’. Unfortunately, only the first and last days will see you walking through the depths of Carnarvon Gorge, which was once a sacred birthing and burial ground for the traditional owners. The rest of this 87-kilometre circuit walk is just as worthwhile though, if only for the feeling of complete isolation in this ancient place.

Need to know

Time: 6 days
Distance: 87km
Grade: Difficult (Grade 3 – 5)

Queensland Parks has all the info you need to plan your hike on their Carnarvon Great Walk page. Due to heat, the trail is closed from the start of November until the end of February. No guided tours of the full circuit are available so you will have to arrange your own equipment and transport. Don’t hike this trail unless you’re an experienced hiker and definitely don’t go it alone.

Snuba the Great Barrier Reef (Cairns)

Snuba the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland - Australia
What the hell is Snuba? I’m gonna guess that’s what you’re asking, because that’s the first thing I asked when I came across it. Turns out it’s like scuba diving but instead of diving with an oxygen tank on your back, the tank floats above you on the water’s surface and you breathe through a tube that stretches up to it. You’re limited to diving 3 metres down, but you might actually feel less restricted without the tank. It’s a bit like snorkelling but without the inevitable belly full of saltwater. The best part is you don’t need a diving certification, just the half hour or so of instruction you’ll get on the boat.

All hope isn’t lost for the health of the Great Barrier Reef yet. At the very least it’s still worth seeing for now. Snuba seems like the perfect, most accessible way to see it. There are two places near Cairns to Snuba – on Green Island or on the outer reef. Whichever you choose, you’re in for a magical day of exploring one of the seven wonders of the natural world. A must for your Queensland bucket list.

Need to know

Your Green Island Snuba adventure can be booked online via Big Cat Green Island Reef Cruises. If you’d prefer to see the outer reef, you can book online with Reef Magic Cruises.

Snuba participants must be 6 or over, a reasonably good swimmer, and have no major health complications (especially asthma).

Wild swimming at Cedar Creek Falls (Brisbane)

There are few things more awesome things than swimming under a waterfall. Okay, so this one might not be quite as adventurous as everything else in this list, but if you’re visiting Brisbane this is a nice easy way to get out of town and get amongst it. You don’t need to pay for a tour or plan an elaborate adventure. All you need is a car and a few hours of free time. Half an hour’s drive out of Brisbane (near Samford) is the magnificent Cedar Creek, where there’s no shortage of swimming holes with small rock cliffs to jump and slide off. If you rock hop your way upstream for about 20 minutes, you’ll find Cedar Creek Falls. The falls are obviously the most picturesque place for a dip, but you’ll find yourself stopping to get wet plenty of times along the way. This is a must do, even if you’re travelling with kids. It made this Thrifty Family Travels list of best day trips from Brisbane.

Need to know

The creek is off Cedar Creek Road, which is accessed via Mt Samson Road (Google map it). Once at the creek just make sure you walk upstream, and you’ll find the signed Cedar Creek Falls sooner or later. Bring water shoes or some old runners you don’t mind getting wet.

Zipline the Daintree Rainforest canopy (Cape Tribulation)

Jungle Surfing
In the heart of Australia’s largest continuous area of tropical rainforest, someone has had the genius idea of setting up an epic zipline course. It makes for a unique way to explore the ancient Daintree and experience spectacular views all the way to the Great Barrier Reef, all while flying (upside down if you want to) through the lush jungle canopy. With a total of five tree platforms, the ziplines between them vary in length between 39 metres and 95 metres. The final zipline of the day finishes at ground level and features two lines side-by-side so you can race you’re a friend, making for an awesome finish to the tour. Fun and friendly guides will lead the way and ensure your safety for every take-off, landing, and everything in between.

Need to know

Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours can be booked online via Adrenaline.

Tours last around an hour and depart 12 times per day. Transfers from your resort may be available. Participants can be as young as 3 and up to 120kg – basically, as long as they have a harness to fit you, you’re good to go.

Have you been to Queensland? Got it on your bucket list? Got any questions, comments, updates or corrections? Let us know by commenting below.

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