Glitzy high-rise skylines give way to rainforest and stretches of secluded sands backed by national parks on this tropical part of the Southern Queensland coastline.
Combining the Sunshine and Fraser Coasts, Australia's Nature Coast is where the focus begins to shift to the country's unparalleled natural beauty. Tranquil mainland towns buzz with travellers venturing idyllic islands offshore – including the largest sand island in the world. The surrounding waters are rich in marine life, from whales that can be spotted along the coastline to turtles and manta rays that are best seen from underwater.
Australia's Nature Coast holiday highlights
Charming Noosa has popular beaches and a vibrant café culture. Noosa Heads is where you’ll find the main beach, as well as chic Hastings Street. At the end of the street is Noosa National Park, where trails run through rainforests and along the coastline. Five minutes’ drive away, Noosaville is a family favourite, with a village atmosphere and riverfront park. Wider afield, the lovely Sunshine Coast hinterland attracts visitors with its charming villages, historic towns and Jurassic Park-like Glass House Mountains.
Unique Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, with World Heritage status protecting its ancient rainforests, crystal lakes and ecosystems. 4x4 vehicles travel along 75 Mile Beach to attractions including the Maheno shipwreck and Eli Creek. Head inland for a bumpy ride to the rainforest to try to spot wild dingoes. Over 100 lakes include beautiful Lake McKenzie with its sparkling blue waters and the glorious deep green Lake Wabby. Fraser Island is reached by ferry from Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay.
Hervey Bay is best known as a departure point for Fraser Island, but also offers easy access to Lady Elliot Island. But it has plenty to offer visitors, with outdoor eateries, and an 8-mile pathway along the foreshore that’s perfect for cycling. Fraser Island shelters Hervey Bay from the ocean surf, so the waters here are ideal for family-friendly swimming and watersports from sailing to diving. And from July to November humpback whales travel along the Queensland coastline, stopping in the calm waters here to nurse their young.
Four hours’ drive north of Brisbane, the historic sugar cane city of Bundaberg lies on the Burnett River at the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. Attractions in the city include lush botanic gardens and the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, which produces a dark rum known locally as ‘Bundy’ and offers tours. A short drive away is the Mon Repos Regional Park. There are some lovely walking and cycling tracks here but the biggest draw is from November to March, when visitors can see nesting and hatching turtles on the beach at night.
Rainbow Beach is an entry point to the Great Sandy National Park and the southern gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. This idyllic coastal town at the base of the Inskip Peninsula is best known for its colourful sand cliffs – from where it gets its name – and the easy access it offers by vehicular ferry to Fraser Island. It’s a low-key area, attracting campers and fishermen alongside backpackers and travellers who just want to chill out before heading to Fraser Island.