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Group taking part in the guided Dreamtime Walk experience
Photograph: Katie Purling/Tourism and Events Queensland

Five natural wonders to explore in Queensland

Vast and diverse, the stunning geography of the Sunshine State has much more than the Great Barrier Reef to explore

Written by
Katrina Lobley

Point your wheels towards Queensland’s ancient rainforests, lava tunnels, dinosaur footprints and rock art – or simply go for a paddle to commune with the birds. These impressive natural wonders are reason enough to plan your next road trip.

Cool off at waterholes near Brisbane.

Carnarvon Gorge is the centrepiece of this awe-inspiring park in central Queensland’s Sandstone Belt (it’s a 4.5-hour drive southwest of Rockhampton). Slide between the main gorge’s towering white sandstone cliffs to discover ferns, cycads, streams and endemic Carnarvon fan palms. Detour into side gorges and explore remnant rainforest and a moss garden. Don’t leave without seeing the Art Gallery of some 2,000 ancient Aboriginal paintings and hand stencils. To cool down after your hiking adventures, strike out for Rock Pool – the Gorge’s only designated swimming hole. Apart from the Carnarvon Gorge section, other roads within the park are unsealed and best explored in a 4WD.

Things get steamy in Far North Queensland. That makes Mossman Gorge, nestled into the World Heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, an appealing proposition year-round. To protect the fragile landscape, visitors park at the Mossman Gorge Centre (77km north of Cairns) and take a shuttle bus into the rainforest. Sign up for a Dreamtime Walk led by local Indigenous guides, go drift-snorkelling to search for turtles and platypus, or explore at your own pace. You might encounter a cassowary in the wild. Whatever you do, don’t forget to pack your togs (Queensland-speak for swimming costume). The best part about visiting the gorge is splashing into the Mossman River’s cool, rushing waters before drying out on the sculptural granite boulders lining its banks.


Photographers and twitchers, limber up for a scenic paddle through the Noosa Everglades. This sprawling network of waterways and wetlands attracts some 44 per cent of Australia’s bird species. Go for a quiet paddle along the 60km tannin-stained waterway known as the River of Mirrors because of the stunning reflections of banksias, ti-trees, melaleucas, waterlilies, clouds and sky. Along the way, tick off species such as cormorants, eagles, pelicans, ducks and, if you’re lucky, a jabiru. Guided kayak tours depart from Boreen Point, half an hour’s drive from Noosa Heads, while boat tours depart from nearby Elanda Point. Both spots are on the shore of Lake Cootharaba, the state’s largest natural saltwater lake.

The Jump-Up is a striking mesa near Winton in outback Queensland that’s home to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum that’s also been named a Dark Sky Sanctuary. Winton is famous for a few things – ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was first performed in a pub here in 1895 – but today it’s known as the Dinosaur Capital of Australia. Head to the museum to see the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils or out towards Opalton to find the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument, where at least 150 two-legged dinosaurs (ranging from chicken- to emu-sized) ran for their lives when charged by a larger dinosaur. Winton is two hours’ drive northwest of Longreach and almost 15 hours’ drive from Brisbane.


Beneath North Queensland’s savannah grasses lies one of the world’s longest lava tube cave systems. The Undara tunnels, once proclaimed by David Attenborough as the Eighth Wonder of the World, formed when a volcano erupted about 190,000 years ago. As lava flowed along a dry riverbed, its top cooled and hardened while molten lava drained away below, creating the tunnels. Vegetation has sprouted where parts of the roof have collapsed, providing access and shelter for rock-wallabies, bats and owls. The road to Undara is sealed from both Cairns and Townsville (the quickest route is from Cairns and takes about four hours). The Undara Experience resort, including its signature historic railway-carriage accommodation, and two walking tracks close over the summer wet season (tours still operate). It’s back to business as usual from late March.

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