Queensland, which occupies the northeastern portion of the Australian island-continent, certainly ranks as one of Down Under’s topnotch backpacking regions.
In addition to its famous beaches, surfing waves, and developed tourist attractions—well on display on the renowned Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast—the state boasts an incredible diversity of landscapes and Australia’s largest concentration of national parks.
From desert to rainforest, from reef to eucalyptus woodland, and from the surfboard to the dance club, backpackers could do much worse than to spend a few weeks—or months—savoring Queensland’s multivariate charms.
The spectrum of Queensland’s natural ecosystems and landscapes rivals that of any other state in Australia. The country’s largest tropical rainforests drape the slopes of the northeastern Great Dividing Range, and showcase a host of unique vegetation with ancient roots in the now-vanished super-continent of Gondwana—which once joined together South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, India, and the Arabian Peninsula. Such is the beauty and ecological distinction of these rainforests that they’ve been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Wet Tropics of Queensland. Biggest of all is the Daintree Rainforest along Cape Tribulation. Another Wet Tropics landmark is the impressive Barron Gorge – centerpiece, like the Daintree, of its own national park – in which the Barron River debouches off the Atherton Tablelands amid lush forest.
Contrast those dark, fern- and vine-laden mountain rainforests with the blank vastness of the Simpson Desert, which sprawls across nearly 70,000 square miles in southwestern Queensland and adjoining Northern Territory and South Australia. Simpson Desert National Park is a premier backpacking destination in Queensland, and most notably features some of the Simpson’s enormous sand dunes—including 130-foot-high “Big Red.”
For the Adventurer
There are yet more world-class adventure destinations: the Cape York Peninsula, for example, which occupies the far northern tip of Queensland’s horn, jutting northward from the Wet Tropics heritage site into the Gulf of Carpentaria. This is a remote mosaic of rainforest, tropical savanna, and crocodile-roamed riverine swamp rich in both Aboriginal culture and wilderness. Off the coast, in the Coral Sea, perhaps Australia’s most well-known natural landmark—the Great Barrier Reef—stretches for 1,600 miles from the Torres Strait southward to Lady Elliot Island, constituting the world’s biggest coral reef. Just southward is Queensland’s biggest island, Fraser Island, a swath of sand dunes, mangrove swamps, lakes, heathland, and woods ripe for backpackers to explore.
Queensland is well-endowed with backpacker accommodations: In addition to a host of camping opportunities, there’s a nice distribution of hostels, from the Daintree Rainforest fringe at Cape Tribulation to the bustling heart of Cairns and Brisbane.
For the Party Animal
If you’re looking for a convivial party atmosphere, sun-splashed beaches to lounge on, a host of theme parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and some of the world’s premier surfing, the Gold Coast is a fine choice. As with the rest of Queensland, you’ll also be within easy distance of wilder wonders, too, like Springbook, Tamborine Mountain, and Springbrook national parks.
Grab your surfboard, your hiking boots, your tent, and whatever else you may need, and dive into Queensland: It’ll be a holiday you won’t soon forget.