Australia is a country prone to great adventures. Not only is it just a part of the national psyche, but the land lends itself to active pursuits outside. Australia though is large, hugely untamed and parts of it are still mysterious, even to those lucky enough to call the Land Down Under home. Thanks to this, you can find amazing adventure travel experiences all over the country, but few states can boast the array of activities like the ones found only in Queensland. The second-largest Australian state, Queensland surprised me in nearly every way. It wasn’t the Australia I was used to or had seen before. It was lush, tropical and exciting. It wasn’t just the topography that made it exciting though, while traveling around the state I enjoyed some of the best adventure travel activities I’ve ever experienced. While it wasn’t easy to narrow down the list, here are just a few of the many exhilarating adventure experiences in Queensland that anyone can enjoy.
Scuba Diving On The Great Barrier Reef
One of the primary reasons why I wanted to visit Queensland was to experience the Great Barrier Reef. It’s long been on my own travel bucket list, and even though I’d visited Australia a couple of times before, I never made it to the Reef. Luckily, the years of anticipation were worth it and seeing one of the world’s truly great natural wonders was everything it promised to be and more. I experienced the reef in a few different ways several times throughout my trip, it’s just that big, but my favorite way to enjoy the mighty reef was through a scuba dive. This wasn’t just any scuba dive though, it was my first attempt and I was pretty nervous. I love snorkeling, but the thought of breathing underwater freaked me out to be honest. It was a mental hang-up and I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to shake it. But there I was, at the Great Barrier Reef and I figured if I was going to try it anywhere, that was the place. And I’m so glad I set aside my fears and gave it a chance. I traveled out to the Reef with the company Cruise Whitsundays, and their team of expert divers were all used to first-timers like me and showed more patience than I’ve seen any tour operator show in recent memory. It was thanks to their insistence and instruction that I was able to literally take the plunge, my fears instantly vanishing as soon as I was underwater. I’ve snorkeled all over the world, but the Great Barrier Reef is without a doubt the best I’ve ever seen. The sheer abundance of fish and coral in every color of the rainbow was extraordinary and I could’ve spent hours exploring it to new depths while scuba diving. This is just one of those once in a lifetime experiences that aren’t only nice to do, I think they are important to do.
The beauty of Queensland is easy enough to discover on the ground, but it’s when you’re in the air that its true colors shine. I seem to see more aerial photos online of Queensland than almost any other place, and with good reason. Whether it’s the tropical rainforests or the beautiful coasts, helicopter flights anywhere in the state guarantee an adventure you’ll never forget. My favorite experience though was a helicopter flight over the Whitsundays. An island group off of the central coast of Queensland, the Whitsundays are the stuff tropical dreams are made of. Taking to the air with the company Heli Taxi, I quickly got an idea for why this area is so popular. Small, verdant green islands dotted the landscape as boats scurried across the azure waters. The real treat though came when we flew over Whitehaven Beach and the famous Hill Inlet. As the tide shifts, the white silica sand and turquoise blue waters of the inlet blend seamlessly to create a breathtaking view of swirling waters. Even better than flying over the inlet was landing on adjacent Whitehaven Beach, routinely named one of the best beaches in the world. Helicopter experiences are found throughout Queensland, but this is arguably one of the best.
Located in the beachy community of Surfer’s Paradise along Queensland’s Gold Coast is an adventure experience many may not expect to find – Australia’s highest external building walk. The Q1 Tower was at one time the tallest residential building in the world and while it may have lost that title, it’s still the tallest building in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere and now anyone can climb to the top. The SkyPoint Climb experience takes adventurous climbers from the observation deck of the tower to a special platform at the very top of Q1. 298 stairs guide fearless souls up to the apex of the building, which is 270 meters above sea level. I’m not a huge fan of heights, but the views promised of the Gold Coast kept me going and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. One of the sunniest places in the world, the Gold Coast lived up to its name as I enjoyed a 360-degree view of the ocean, beach and communities that comprise this popular tourist destination. It was exhilarating and the sense of accomplishment was palpable by everyone, no matter their background or level of acrophobia. There’s a lot more to the Gold Coast than just bars and beaches, and this is one of those special adventure experiences everyone should add to their to-do list.
Hot Air Balloon
Granted, nowadays you can find hot air balloon rides just about everywhere, but as I mentioned before seeing Queensland from the air is a special delight. Add to that the calming stillness of floating along in a hot air balloon, and the experience is almost magical. The tough part of course is the 3am wake up call, necessary to get winds and air temperatures that are just right for hot air ballooning. But as with all of my previous hot air balloon experiences, it was well worth it. In Queensland, I tried this experience in Cairns, to get a better view of the Tablelands area known for its rolling hills and sprawling farms and ranches. The morning fog nearly cancelled the entire flight, but we eventually got airborne and that once annoying fog became a key feature of the experience itself. I had forgotten just how quiet hot air ballooning is, and as I stood there in the basket gazing across the beautiful plains I beamed in a way that I hadn’t done in a long time. Down below I watched as kangaroos stopped to gaze up at the strange sight in the sky and in the distance I could see the mountains bordering the forests that define the appearance of Cairns and the surrounding areas. It’s not the beach and it’s not the ancient jungles, but that hot air balloon ride showed me why this area of Queensland in particular is so worth the visit.
Skyrail Forest Cableway
No, going in a cable car is not in itself an adventurous experience. Is it fun? Yes, no doubt there, but the only element of danger is hitting your head as you get in the cars. But this particular operator does include an option for the intrepid traveler that is certainly a hair-rising and adventurous way to see one of the most beautiful rainforests in the world. In addition to the normal cars and even all-glass cars, the Skyrail Cableway also offers something they call the Canopy Glider. Harkening back to the days when fearless souls built the railroad that still traverses this wilderness area, the glider is an open-air gondola that offers amazing views and a one-of-a-kind immersion to the beauty of the rainforest itself. Accompanied by a ranger who explains the sights as you soar more than a thousand feet above the ground below. It’s one thing to be that high in an enclosed car, but it’s an entirely different experience to suddenly have those walls removed with nothing separating you from the landscapes all around.
I’ve done a lot of zip lines all over the world, from the highest, the fastest, the longest – you name it. They’re experiences I enjoy and usually offer great opportunities to see places you’d never get to experience otherwise. I was surprised though to learn that in the barely inhabited wilderness area of Cape Tribulation is one of the most unique zip line tours in the world. Jungle Surfing Canopy Tours take guests on a series of zip lines through the UNESCO World Heritage protected Daintree Rainforest. One of the oldest tropical forests in the world, these jungles look like scenes from Jurassic Park instead of a quiet park in Northern Queensland. So what makes this zip line so unique? The fact it exists at all is fairly phenomenal, building in UNESCO sites isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially in an area without electricity or running water. The entire trail was constructed essentially by hand and done in ways that aren’t only sustainable, but culturally sensitive to the indigenous peoples who call this jungle home. The result is a wild and fun experience that includes easier, slower lines for novice fliers to the final zip line, which is one of the fastest you’ll find anywhere. It’s a great adventure experience and a fantastic way to get into the rainforest and to enjoy its beauty close up.
These are just a few of the many adventure experiences in Queensland; the state offers some of the best ones I’ve found anywhere in the world. If adventure travel isn’t normally your thing, this is the time and place to cast aside those fears and reservations and enjoy Queensland in the way it is best experienced.