It’s Queensland Week, a week when my adopted home state celebrates its separation from Australia’s first state, New South Wales, on 6 June 1859.
To celebrate, the state’s tourism body, Tourism Queensland, came up with “the ultimate top 10” Queensland “bucket list” experiences. As I’ve spent nearly 20 years – off and on – in the Sunshine State, I wondered how I was going so far. It seems I can’t quite die happy – yet!
1. Discover the largest natural wonder of the world (the Great Barrier Reef). TICK. I’ve dived only once (that was enough, although the older I get the more it appeals to me). But I have snorkelled a bit from those massive boats that take hundreds of people to the Outer Reef every day. And once from a yacht at Opolu Cay, which was a much less crowded and more enjoyable experience. And yes, I’ve flown over Heart Reef (in a helicopter rather than recommended “romantic scenic flight’). I have not yet tried a helmet dive at Green Island but I think I can live with that.
2. Have an ‘Outback Eventure’. I have not attended the suggested events – the Australian Dunny Derby in Winton, the famous Birdsville Races, or the Mt Isa Rodeo – but I count driving the Savannah Way, from Darwin to Cairns (and much of that outback road is through Queensland) last year – as one of the best adventures I’ve ever had. And I’ve had plenty of other Outback experiences (see points 6 & 7).
3. Go back to surfing’s roots. I have boardies, and I once had a surfing lesson at the Sunshine Coast (with a spectacular lack of success). But I’m more than content to sit on a beach or headland and watch those more proficient.
4. Dive with minke whales. For six weeks of the year, during June and July, minke whales come to play in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and live-aboard vessels head out for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to dive and snorkel with these curious and amazing sea creatures. Yes, this can go on the bucket list.
5. Take the plunge. I’m no longer a teenager, or even the mother of one, so I am happy to leave the Gold Coast theme parks to those for whom the “sickening” rides (their words, not mine) at Dreamworld and other theme parks hold thrills. I’ve done it all before, though – anxiously watching to make sure my children didn’t drown at Wet’n’Wild, and gazing through the glass at the polar bears at Sea World. Bungy jumping in Cairns? Not in a million years.
6. Immerse yourself in Australian history. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach – TICK. The Qantas Founders Museum, also at Longreach – TICK (I even walked out the wing!). Retrace the original Cobb & Co. mail route between Longreach and Windorah on a fully-laden stagecoach with Kinnon & Co (not yet, but I could be persuaded). Visit the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs – TICK (it was awesome, in the true sense of the word).
7. Taste-test true blue Queensland drops. “The Bundy bear and the flashing XXXX sign winking out over Brisbane are two of Queensland’s proudest icons.” Yes. I have visited the Bundaberg Rum Distillery (many years ago) but not yet the XXXX brewery in Brisbane. Must rectify that. I can give a tick to “taste testing”, though.
8. Go camping on World-Heritage-listed Fraser Island. OK, so I took the comfortable way out, and stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort! But I’ve been more than once, and would go again anytime. And yes, I’ve dipped in the world’s most beautifully blue freshwater lake, Lake Mackenzie, walked bush tracks, and sand-boarded on the dunes.
9. Climb to record-breaking heights. TICK. I was one of the first people to climb Brisbane’s Story Bridge in a preview of the Bridge Climb before it opened. Wonderful views of the city. But now there’s a way to get even higher (if I dare) with Australia’s tallest external building climb at SkyPoint on the Gold Coast. I could probably do that.
10. Sail the 74 islands of the Whitsundays. I have dodged in and out of some of the 74 islands that make up the Whitsundays, and it was enough to make me want more! And although we didn’t make it as far as the Whitsundays, one of the best holidays I’ve had was sailing from Cairns to Townsville with friends on their yacht a year or so ago. We should clearly have just kept going. Next time.