The home of the Great Barrier Reef offers more than just a natural wonder.
The Great Barrier Reef, just off the coast, is Queensland’s main claim to fame. An ancient, expansive underwater ecosystem parallel to the state’s east coast, it’s one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Spanning 1,800 miles of marine expanse and housing thousands of aquatic creatures, it’s even visible in glossy satellite photos taken from outer space. For comparison, the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long… We’ll leave it at that.
But the Great Barrier Reef isn’t the only attraction of this down-under destination. Queensland, Australia is a growing international hotspot for adventure seekers, sophisticated foodies and globetrotters dissatisfied with the status quo.
Read ELYSIAN’s guide to Queensland to maximize your holiday in one of the world’s most beautiful destinations:
WHERE TO STAY
The best way to experience Queensland is enjoy accommodations on one of its many picturesque offshore islands.
1. Peppers Blue on Blue
Located on Magnetic Island, Peppers Blue on Blue Resort overlooks their private marina on the Coral Sea. Not only is it just a few kilometers offshore of Townsville, the “unofficial capitol of North Queensland” that runs adjacent to the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, Magnetic Island is also home to an expansive national park that takes up much of the island. The resort itself includes a day spa and features sun-soaked balconies for each room, affording guests stunning views of the island’s mountainous terrain.
123 Sooning Street, Nelly Bay
Magnetic Island QLD
2. Bedarra Island Resort
If you’re looking for the R&R lovers’ paradise, Bedarra is a prime example of secluded tranquility. With only 10 villas, each spaced out and nestled between the rainforest and the beach, Bedarra Island Resort promises a private getaway tailored exactly to your expectations. Part of the Family Islands National Park, guests can enjoy activities such as rainforest walks and deep sea fishing, but we won’t blame you if you get stuck at the watering hole—the resort offers an well-stocked bar and restaurant (which can provide gourmet picnic hampers for your day on the beach). Oh, and did we mention that guests arrive by private helicopter?
Mission Beach QLD 4852
3. Orpheus Island Lodge
This one’s for the foodies. Upon arrival, guests meet with the chef to discuss dietary preferences, so they may craft three gourmet meals per day around each guest’s individual palate. A selection of Australian wines, beers and soft drinks are included… drinks on Orpheus! Accommodating a maximum of only 28 guests, you have direct access to the Great Barrier Reef right outside your door, as well as access to water sports equipment and a daily Orpheus experience. The peak of your stay at Orpheus will likely be “Dining with the Tides,” a personalized six-course dining experience for two, served on the island’s pier. Our mouths are watering from the flip-side of the equator.
Palm Island QLD 4805
4. Lizard Island Resort
At Lizard Island Resort, your room is flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows, and you have unlimited access to its 24 private beaches. For an experience brimming with decadence, the Dom Pèrignon Retreat is a must. The resort, on an island north of Cairns, partnered with vintage champagne brand Dom Pèrignon to create two unique champagne-filled experiences. For the adventure-seeking vacationers, the Dom Pèrignon Reef Discovery and Private Beach Picnic is the way to go. Partakers suit up—wetsuit up, that is—and take a private charter along a guided snorkel tour of the Great Barrier Reef. A chilled bottle of signature champagne, paired with a selection of lobster and other seafood, awaits snorkelers after their exploration for a picnic on Sunset Beach. For a more relaxed option, Dom Pèrignon’s Dining Under the Stars offers a chance to sip and stargaze.
Cairns QLD 4871
WHERE TO EAT
When you’re ready to hop on a boat (or chopper) back to the mainland, Queensland’s cities have plenty of high-class dining to satisfy the culinary-minded.
Urbane Restaurant in Brisbane City offers a five-in-one dining experience: five venues for drinking and dining, all under one roof and served by one central kitchen. Their menu reflects the evolution and blending of multiple culinary influences, from the selection of ingredients to preparation and presentation. With colorful, beautifully constructed plates featured on both the omnivore and vegetarian menus, you’re sure to be satisfied if the food tastes even half as good as it looks—and considering the slew of awards on Urbane’s resume, we’re sure that each bite will be a delight.
181 Mary St
Brisbane City QLD 4000
2. The Fish House
Slightly south of Brisbane, in Burleigh Heads, is The Fish House: a beautiful, beachfront eatery serving fresh seafood brought in daily from South Australia, Victoria, New Wales and Tasmania. The menu adapts to seasonality and availability, ranging from more conservative options, such as the oven baked Petuna Ocean Trout, served with salad and tahini, to a more adventurous option: the Patagonian Toothfish. (From the sound of the latter, we’d much rather see it plated than in its natural habitat.) Caviar even has a menu of its own, and if you’re not a fish fan, there’s a cheese board to pair with your wine instead. Sold.
50 Goodwin Terrace
Burleigh Heads QLD 4220
3. Wasabi Restaurant & Bar
If you’re looking for Asian fusion in the kangaroo continent, Wasabi Restaurant & Bar is your spot. Wasabi brings Aussie adaptation to Japanese tradition. Their cuisine, featuring ingredients largely sourced from the nearby restaurant-owned farm, Honeysuckle Hill, maximizes crisp taste in a minimalist format, which they call “contemporary sensibility.” While you are welcome to order a la carte, executive chef and co-owner Zeb Gilbert suggests their signature Omakase menu: a seven- or nine-course meal, serving dishes from lightest to heaviest. (Don’t worry, they have the option to add wine pairings to each course, as well.)
2 Quamby Pl
Noosa Sound QLD 4567
4. Noosa Chocolate Factory
Multiple locations in Brisbane City and Maroochydore
Our idea of sensibility also includes sweets: if it’s after dinner, call it dessert; if it’s midday, call it a snack. Whatever you call it, whatever time of the day, chocolate is always a good idea. Noosa Chocolate Factory has multiple locations around Queensland, each offering slightly different variations of signature sweet treats. Dark chocolate slabs, chocolate covered fruit and nuts, specialty hot chocolate—these are just a few of the sumptuous sweets Noosa makes daily for the avid chocolate consumer.
144 Adelaide St
Brisbane City QLD 4000
WHAT TO DO
To balance fine dining with cultural exploration, we suggest following the slightly amended mantra, “Eat hard, play hard.”
1. Forts Walk
For a daytime adventure, consider a hike along Forts Walk on Magnetic Island, where you can climb to the top of WWII fortifications to get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape. Meticulously maintained by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, Forts Walk is one of the most popular walking tracks. While you’ll be dazzled by original WWII fortifications and the spectacular sights, regulars recommend “looking up” as well—so you can fall in love with the dozing koalas in the tree.
Horseshoe Bay QLD 4819
2. Niramaya Villas & Spa
An afternoon at Niramaya Day Spa is sure to relieve the stress of travel. Nestled in a gorgeous rainforest setting, they offer classic treatments such as massages and facials, as well as more intuitive treatments such like OxyGeneo, an exfoliation treatment that infuses vitamins and increases oxygenation of the skin. We suggest you go for gold with the Niramaya Day Spa Gold Pass, which gives you the most accessibility to the spa’s amenities even if you’re not an overnight guest.
1 Bale Dr
Port Douglas QLD 4877
3. Gab Titui Cultural Center
The cultural center is a contemporary art gallery fused with an exhibition of cultural artifacts, such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art. Rotating artifacts include headdresses, wood carvings, lino prints and jewelry made from locally-sourced products, such as seashells and pearls. Supporting more than 100 artists of the region, the Gab Titui Cultural Center strives to create an outlet for ethical sale—so not only can you learn about the island’s indigenous history, you can take a little slice of it home with you.
22 Victoria Parade
Thursday Island QLD 4875
WHERE TO SHOP
We couldn’t send you off to Australia with no hope for retail therapy, so here are a few spots we suggest you try on for size.
1. Original Eumundi Markets
Think Charleston City Market on steroids or Notting Hill in London. The markets are an artisan-addict’s dream: stop by the stalls and shop for a while for anything from massages or aromatherapy to house and garden goods. They also often have performers for your shopping entertainment. Open on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
80 Memorial Dr
Eumundi QLD 4562
2. Queen Street Mall
Queen Street Mall is the home of more upscale vendors. With more than 700 retailers, ranging from Buglari to Target, and hundreds of international and Aussie brands interspersed, it’s inevitable that you’ll find somewhere to swipe your card in this mega-mall.
Brisbane City QLD 4000
3. Winn Lane
Winn Lane is a hole-in-the-wall venue showcasing independent artisans specializing in fashion, hairstyling and food. You can also find Australian-made guitars here: a special souvenir for yourself or your favorite musician.
Fortitude Valley QLD 4006