8 must-try Queensland experiences

Whether you’re young or old, there’s something for everyone in Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast

Burleigh Heads beach in Gold Coast with Surfers Paradise in the far right.

Photos: Joanna Goh, reporting from Australia
Videos: Philip Ang, reporting from Australia

A little over a month ago, we traveled to Australia's Sunshine State for a behind-the-scenes look at upcoming Toggle web series, The Distance Between, which was wholly set and shot Down Under. But the seven days of filming in Queensland wasn't all spent at work. In addition to the time we spent on set with the actors, we were also whisked off on short jaunts to check out the sights and sounds of its cities: Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.

The Gold Coast needs no introduction. With a coastline that stretches as long as 6,374 kilometres, it’s best known for its white beaches (there are 21 of them alone in this city!) and is the destination for watersport junkies (think: surfing, jetboating, paddle boarding) as it is surrounded by temperate waters year-round. But don’t be too quick to judge the city by its pristine beaches and emerald waters for there’s more to it than just that, and we were given a firsthand experience of what else it had to offer.

From whale-watching in the Pacific Ocean, to exploring the region's wildlife habitats, to embarking on exhilarating four wheel drives down Sunshine Coast’s most picturesque beaches, there's no shortage of adventures to be had in Queensland.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list of one-of-a-kind experiences it has to offer.

WATCH: Fun things to do in Queensland

#1 Go whale watching

Whale watching is an experience like no other, especially since it can only be done in a select few places around the world, one of which is the Gold Coast. This seasonal activity only happens from late June to early November in Australia, during the migration season where whale pods travel toward the warmer waters in the north.

A humpback whale doing a breach in the waters near Sydney, Australia. (Photo: TPG/CLICK PHOTOS)

The Gold Coast is a humpback whale haven and sightings of these huge mammals are pretty much guaranteed. We spotted several pods of whales on our way out to the Pacific Ocean – some stayed far away while a couple cruised closely to our boat. Another even threw us a pickled fin wave a la the royal greeting of whales. Consider it your lucky day if a humpback breaches (i.e. does a backward flip and shows off its underbelly).

Good weather’s pertinent for a smooth cruise so be sure to pray hard for clear skies on the day of the whale-watching tour. For those who get woozy on waters, make sure you take a motion sickness pill before the trip (some operators sell them on board) – you’ll be thankful for it when the waters get rough and nausea hits. The last thing you'll want to do is miss out on the whales because your face was stuck in a barf bag. 

Click here for more information.

#2 Embark on the Great Beach drive

At Rainbow beach with our four-wheel drive.

Beaches are not just for sunbathing and frolickin’. They are also the gateway to Australia’s huge diversity of wildlife on land and sea, and one of the best ways to experience what Mother Nature has to offer would be to embark on the Great Beach drive.

Our customised drive with seasoned tour operator Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours, started and ended in Noosa, a coastal town in the Sunshine Coast where we spent the night. Our entertaining guide-driver, Craig, expertly introduced the flora and fauna of the region, pointing out various birds and sea creatures during our 90km drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach and Honeymoon Bay and back.

At Double Island Point Lighthouse which overlooks Teewah beach, part of the route on the Great Beach drive.

Don’t miss the Double Island Point Lighthouse, which provides the best view of waves crashing into rock cliffs and beaches. If you’re there at the right season, like we were, you may even spot a pod of whales spouting from afar as they travel towards the warmer waters. The breathtaking ocean views are worth the ride and journey even if you’re not a fan of the great outdoors, like this self-professed sun-averse writer.

Word of advice: go with an experienced tour operator instead of driving your own car because it takes skill and years of experience to smoothly maneuver and control a vehicle on the beach without getting stuck in the soft – and wet – sand. You don’t want your fancy ride to end up like the flooded state-of-the-art caravan we spotted on the beach at high tide during our drive back. For those looking for more than just a day tour, you have the option to camp (or glamp!) on the beaches too.

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(Continued on next page: If there was only one market you had to visit...)

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