When the federal government announced a $1.2 billion tourism rescue package last month and a slew of half-price flights starting from April 1, it triggered a pressing problem, 'where to go and what to do?'
For Victorians, the stimulus package will see 50% discounted flights from Melbourne to three Queensland destinations including Gold Coast, Cairns and Sunshine Coast. Travelers departing from Sydney can add the spectacular Whitsundays to these three havens thanks to low-priced flights to Hamilton Island and Proserpine Airports.
So, Australia, clear your diaries, tap into those ticket savings, and let your fingers do the walking. Below is a list of some of the best tours that will lift the hearts of both you and the Queensland destinations ready to welcome you.
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE TO CAIRNS AND GREAT BARRIER REEF
There's no denying it, Cairns is like a foreign country in the winter months. There's the balmy climate, a rainforest that's said to have inspired the hit movie Avatar, and the biggest reef system in the world. Try some of these tour options:
Best for Couples:
We love kids, but everyone needs some grown-up time. Thankfully, Sailaway in Port Douglas (www.sailawayportdouglas.com) has an adult-only half-day sail to the Low Isles that hits the “pick me” button. Think tiny atoll dusted with swaying palms encircled by a fringing reef that jags a hit list of marine creatures in every colour of the rainbow. Add a 1.00pm departure for a late sleep in and this could just top the list. Travellers wanting to upgrade to a full-day out could consider an outer Reef trip on Passions of Paradise (www.passions.com.au) departing from Cairns, or sign up for Hot Air Balloon Cairns (www.hotair.com.au) for a dawn float over the Atherton Tablelands.
Best for Family:
At Rainforestation (www.rainforest.com.au) in Kuranda, kids can tour an Aussie wildlife park then join the Pamagirri Mini Mob to gain an insight into the culture of Australia's First Nation. Costing $45 per child, the experience includes a didgeridoo lesson, a didgeridoo painting session, and a Pamagirri Rainforest Walkabout tour. The experience bumps into the park's Dance Show extending the fun to almost three hours.
For a family trip to the outer Great Barrier Reef, choose Reef Magic Cruises (www.reefmagiccruises.com) where the massive Marine World platform which comes with eagle-eyed lifeguards and a lot of stability for little ones yet to find their sea legs. Not ready for a long boat trip, Big Cat's (https://greenisland.com.au/green-island-tours/) re-engineered glass bottom boat offers massive windows offering little ones big coral views. Elsewise, stick to Terra Firma and visit the marvelous Cairns Aquarium (www.cairnsaquarium.com.au). Here mini Attenboroughs can look into deep reef lagoons, without getting wet.
For Solo Travellers:
It's true. Beer makes better friends. And with HeliTours five-hour Heli Pub Tour (www.helitoursnq.com.au), bets are you'll make them faster than it takes to pour a Great Northern. This breathtaking chopper crawl lobs into four of the finest taprooms in the tropics. Take a sole charter for around $4000, or team up with five friends happy to interrupt hydration time with 60 minutes of flying time.
Down at ground level, see the world's oldest rainforest by joining Daintree Safaris (www.daintreesafari.com) for one of their off-the-beaten-track tours through the Daintree Rainforest. Who knows, you may just get to spot a cantankerous cassowary. Elsewise, crank up the speed with Raging Thunder Tully River Rafting(www.ragingthunder.com.au/tully-river-rafting), and try to spot more spectacular rainforest – between the frothing fun - in the Tully Gorge National Park.
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE TO GOLD COAST
It comes as no surprise that the Gold Coast tops the list as the most intended destination to visit in Queensland this April with 51% Australian respondents putting it first*. Try some of these tours:
Celebrate flying again and shell out A$3700 for a once-in-a-life Go Ballooning's (www.goballooning.com/bookings/) VIP Package to book a charter balloon flight for two, pick up in a pink stretched hummer, champagne and a five-star buffet breakfast at the beachside Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort. For a change of scenery, head inland and go chase waterfalls with Southern Cross 4WD Tours (www.sc4wd.com.au). The half day Natural Springbrook Tour - among several to choose from - ventures into the magical and ancient Gondwana Rainforest.
The Gold Coast may seem like a paradise of ever modern, ever reaching, ever sparkling skyscrapers, however beneath this new city of 600,000 residents, the country has always been home to eight different tribal groups connected by the one Yugembeh language. Take a two-hour walking tour around the iconic Burleigh Headland with Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre (www.jellurgal.com.au) to understand the first history and culture of the region. Alternately, take the story teller's hand and join Spirits of the Red Sand (www.spiritsredsand.com/) located in Beenleigh. This roving theatre show re-enacts a series of true and sometimes gritty events from early settler history.
For the Family:
Got kids? Then a Gold Coast theme park is a no brainer. Try Dreamworld (www.dreamworld.com.au) offers rides for practically every member of the family from the joys of ABC World through to the white knuckle Tail Spin. Even Sea World (www.seaworld.com.au) has upped the thrill level launching Vortex, a colossal new ride that twists, turns and then spirals 18 metres back to sea level in their new Atlantis precinct.
But if super-sized fun is what the family wants, then set sights on whale watching. Both Sea World Cruises (www.seaworldcruises.com.au/whale-watching/ ) and Spirit of the Gold Coast Whale Watching (www.spiritwhalewatching.com.au) are gearing up for the annual humpback migration and a chance to view some of the 20,000 majestic creatures as they breach offshore and in front of a spectacular Gold Coast skyline.
Get back to the Gold Coast's aquatic roots and join a number of small group tours to either kayak, SUP, Surf, Jetboat or Jetski one its many waterways. The most tranquil activity may be a paddle across the Broadwater on a Half Day Dolphin and Stradbroke Island with Australian Kayaking Adventures (www.australiankayakingadventures.com.au), but the crowd favourite could be the Jet Ski Safari Tour (www.jetskisafaris.com.au) a self-drive escape past untamed mangrove estuaries and the sub-tropical shores of south Stradbroke Island.
If a Coldie on the Goldie is right up your holiday alley, choose one of the seven different Hop On Hop Off Brewery Tours (www.hoponbrewerytours.com.au/portfolio_category/gold-coast/) to “study” the local craft beer culture, or head to Granddad Jacks (www.granddadjacks.com/) and for $230 make your own gin as you learn how “one hard assed New Zealander” became the legend behind the Gold Coast's first Craft Distillery.
SYDNEY/MELBOURNE TO SUNSHINE COAST
Roll up the beach towel and spend the savings from the 50% discounted flights on some of these tours:
What do you do when you've done just about everything? You visit Sunreef (www.sunreef.com.au/whales/swim-with-whales) to Swim with the Whales. Grab a rope off the back of the dive boat and take the chance to eyeball whales on a three-hour nature-based experience operated under a strict Code of Conduct that protects both whales and swimmers.
For the Family:
Get off the bitumen and push the family road trip boundaries with a Great Beach Drive Tour (www.greatbeachdrive4wdtours.com). The 4WD tour travels across a pristine sandy highway between Noosa and Rainbow Beach, stopping at the world-famous Coloured Sands. Here, you'll get an insight into how the Gubbi Gubbi people used some of the 40 different shades of sand to create artwork.
Speaking of Gubbi Gubbi people, over at Saltwater Eco Cruise (htwww.saltwaterecotours.com.au) budding sailors of all ages can feel the grit of a 100-year old timber ketch underfoot, as a master storyteller narrates the punchline to a 10,000-year old creation story. The two-hour sailing trip offers laid back fun and dreamy views of the mansions that line one of Mooloolaba's most popular waterways.
For Solo Travellers:
For a dose of calming nature, head to the Noosa Everglades, Australia's only Everglades system and one of only two in the world (the other being in Florida). Take an overnight adventure and paddle over slow-moving waterways and tropical mangroves with Kanu Capers (www.kanukapersaustralia.com) to camp out in the Great Sandy National Park. Both Kanu Capers and Everglades Eco Safari (www.evergladesecosafaris.com.au) also offer half-day tours through this pristine wilderness.
SYDNEY TO WHITSUNDAYS (HAMILTON ISLAND AND PROSERPINE AIRPORTS)
Noted for its calm seas and 74 dreamy island wonders, a trip to the Whitsundays could be just the tonic to get over the 2020 blues.
Nothing says 'love in paradise' more than gentle sail across the Whitsundays Passage. Dip your toe in a wind-swept adventure on Ocean Dynamics' Taste of the Tropics Sunset Dinner Cruise (www.oceandynamics.com.au/whitsundays) or take the day out on the strictly grownups Lady Enid (www.ladyenid.com.au). This 72-foot graceful old girl puts romance back into the sails by offering uninterrupted beauty, lavish meals, and the chance to either swim at Whitehaven Beach or snorkel the fringing reefs around Blue Pearl Bay or Stonehaven.
For that iconic gram of the Whitsundays, starry-eyed Sydneysiders will love the signature Panorama Tour by Air Whitsundays Seaplanes (https://airwhitsunday.com.au). The tour offers a thousand loved-up moments as it circles above Heart Reef, a fairy tale-pretty and heart-shaped natural coral formation, before stopping to snorkel at Hardy Lagoon and picnic on dreamy Whitehaven Beach.
For the Family:
Lure the kids with the lure of Derwent Hunter's Eco Pirate certificate, earned when kids help the captain steer the ship or hoist the sails. Built in 1946, the Derwent Hunter (www.sailingwhitsundays.com/tour-item/derwent-hunter) is a 22m timber Tall Ship and the last Australian vessel built to work by sail. Tours include two snorkelling stops and start from $525 for a family of two adults and three children.
If kids are going through a “wild” phase, then set your sights on the Whitsunday Crocodile Safari (www.crocodilesafari.com.au) to get up close to crocodiles and other native animals in their natural habitat on Proserpine River. The full-day tour includes a barbecue lunch washed down by Billy Tea and fresh cooked damper.
Salty Dog (www.saltydog.com.au) offers one of the best sea-kayaking adventures in Australia including half day, full day or six- day expeditions over the Whitsundays' idyllic playground. But, if the notion of getting “shipwrecked” on Whitehaven Beach's pure white silica sand pushes the adventure buttons, then baton down the hatches for Summertime (www.summertime-whitsundays.com), a charming timber ketch handcrafted in 1945 and carrying enough kayaks on board to allow all 16 passengers to also tackle a blue-water safari. Prices for a two day / 1-night adventure start from $329 in a saloon single.
So there you have it, a very long list of some of Australia's most memorable tours, all ready and waiting to welcome you.
*Tourism and Events Queensland conducted the survey of 1518 Australians aged 18 plus between March 10 – 15 2021 to understand the intended and travel plans for the Easter/April holiday period.
** Note: 50% flights are available from Sydney to Gold Coast, Cairns, Sunshine Coast, Hamilton Island, and Proserpine. While discounted flights from Melbourne include routes to Gold Coast, Cairns, Sunshine Coast.
For the latest information on COVID-19 travel restrictions and advice in Queensland, click here.
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Consumer PR Leader, Tourism and Events Queensland
P: +61 7 3535 5356 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org