Central Queensland is the heartland of the state, with a mix of everything for which Queensland is famous. Beaches that stretch for miles, soaring mountains, dense rainforests and the searing outback, it’s all here to be discovered. The best way to experience central Queensland is to hire a car and explore.
Let’s start up north at Bowen, between Townsville and Airlie Beach. With Gloucester Island nearby, pristine beaches and a very friendly town, Bowen is catching up to its southern and northern neighbours as a tourist destination – and not before time too, as Bowen is Queensland’s oldest coastal town with a sense of history and a contemporary feel.
Moving south, Airlie Beach is the gateway to the Whitsundays, one of the most picturesque island groups in the world. Our island and Boating Experience section has some great options to explore the Whitsundays, but make sure you make time to explore the mainland too. Airlie Beach is an exciting place with so many activities, you could spend a whole week exploring the mainland alone.
From Able Point Marina, take the boardwalk to Airlie beach lagoon – a free water park. From there, stroll into town and pick one of many restaurants and cafes to stop for a bite to eat. On Saturday mornings, visit the Airlie Beach markets, while the Whitsunday Tropical Bird Park has a brilliant display of birds. Undoubtedly, aquatic adventure is the big thing in Airlie – go ocean rafting, kayaking, jet skiing, take a day trip to the reef or one of the islands (many welcome day visitors).
Rockhampton is a fantastic town – on the edge of the outback, yet close to the beach at Yeppon. With a decidedly historic flavour (there are some excellent heritage buildings to explore) Rockhampton is mature, cosmopolitan and yet still down to earth in its hospitality. Explore lush gardens, wander historic Quay Street, visit the Rockhampton Gallery and dine in a wide range of restaurants. Rockhampton is home to the famous Capricorn Caves – above ground caves discovered in 1882, offering tours daily (some by candlelight). Visit the zoo, have a round of golf or take a bush tucker tour through Kershaw Gardens with the local Aborigines.
Gladstone is a booming town, where industry and tourism are alive and the people very welcoming. From fantastic seafood fresh off the wharf, great beaches (be sure to visit Tannum Sands and Turkey Beach, which is a Dugong sanctuary), the botanic gardens and a bustling port (with some excellent restaurants) to the beautiful surrounding countryside you could stay a week and still have lots to explore in the region.
Town of 1770 and Agnes Water have experienced a boom in recent years. ‘Noosa twenty years ago’ is how this beautiful area is being described. With soft sand beaches surrounded by wilderness with great bush walks, the area is unspoilt, relaxed and very laid back. Captain Cook first landed at Round Hill in 1770, where there are two lookouts offering superb views, including one to Bustard Bay lighthouse. Before the area was ‘discovered’ it was known as a great spot for fishing and nothing has changed. A fun tour in an eco-tourism certified LARC (amphibious vehicle) is a must, as is a visit to beautiful Lady Musgrave Island.
We love Bundaberg – a lively town with such a varied array of activities, from the ubiquitous Bundaberg Rum distillery to cultural events at the renowned Playhouse Theatre, the Botanical Gardens with its coal-fired railway, Hinkler House museum (showcasing aviator Bert Hinkler) and coffee shops. Take a night tour and witness the endangered Loggerhead turtles lay their eggs.
Bundaberg is also the most southern access to the Great Barrier Reef, with trips to Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot Islands.