Australia's second largest state isn't touted the Sunshine State for no good reason. Home to golden beaches, thrilling surf breaks, iconic reefs, and world-listed rainforests, Queensland is a place that draws visitors yearly like a moth to a flame.
But given its behemoth stature and a history of overtly touristy spots, the real challenge lies in searching for an element of surprise within the state. Experiences that we haven't already read about in dusty paperbacks or via hazy flashbacks from our childhood. The fact that Queensland is enormous in its entirety must mean there's more potential to it than just being a predictable destination. So ready a fresh pair of eyes and a bottle of sunscreen, these are the experiences to make your own.
WALK WITH A STRANGER
Let's talk about Brisbane for a bit. Its street cred sure isn't as glorious as its other sister cities Melbourne or Sydney, albeit being capital of Queensland; but there's more heart and soul to Brissy than just a place lauded for being a business district. The best way to feel this place out? Walk with a Brisbane Greeter. These are passionate volunteers who will take time out of their busy schedule to stroll down historic lanes while laying out insider tidbits that you can't possibly sieve out anywhere else. Thanks to our guide, Blair, we actively seeked out the obscure "blue raven", a hidden piece of art planted in various alleyways by an anonymous artist. Make sure to check out Fish Lane — graffiti central of lively murals, as well as Grey Street, where you should definitely visit Gauge, an Australian eatery serving up inventive grub plied with Asian influences. Dig into plates stacked with sourdough waffles or chestnut tortellini graced with Jerusalem artichoke, mushrooms, and lardo (cured pig fat). Their nutty pour overs are also worth a shot.
Post-meal, walk off the food coma to GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art). While most countries aren't exactly lacking in musuems, Queensland's GoMA proves to be an impressive haven housing the best of historical, modern and contemporary art, alongside a dynamic program of Australian and international exhibitions. Wonder, mystique and light-filled spaces set the perfect premise for capturing provoking photographs or mingling with fellow erudites in just the right kind of silence.
STAY IN A HIPSTER NEIGHBOURHOOD
Putting yourself up in a luxe hotel like the Sofitel or Marriott seems like a natural thing to do, especially if you're part of their fanbase. But whether it be a day or two, base yourself in Fortitude Valley. The street might seem lined with car dealerships but it's a comfortable distance away from the charming James Street — boasting chic restaurants and Australian designer boutiques. While you're in the area, book yourself in at TRYP — a hotel that was founded from an old abandoned building, to which many graffiti artists called their canvas before its restoration. Fun fact: some of the works are still preserved, lending an urban mix of grunge and character to the hotel. Rooms here are furnished with vibrant pops of colour along with neon lights, attracting a clientele of famous street artists and musicians playing in town.
CLIMB UP A BRIDGE
It's adventure time. Story Bridge has a sententious tale behind its origin — the 80-metre steel infrastructure was built during the Great Depression for the sole purpose of creating years of employment. Today, it offers a stunning bird's eye view of Brisbane including its river and surrounding mountain ranges, after you ascend on a thrilling climb perched above a busy highway. You'll get that surge of adrenaline, while working up a sweat all at the same time.
EAT YOUR WAY THROUGH A CARNIVAL
Make sure you arrive ravenous at Eat Street Northshore. Every Friday and Saturday night, the massive food carnival opens its doors to a cargo of gourmet options as well as live acts. Foods descending from every place in the world you can name, they have it. We're talking Hungarian pancakes, escargots, meat skewers on sticks, pan-fried dumplings, hearty burritos, the list goes on...
CATCH A FLIGHT OUT
Your time in Queensland should never be limited to a single destination. If you're hard-pressed for leave days, simply fly out to Hamilton Island for a day or two. This is where we would like to call the "Hawaii of Queensland". Nestled amongst the majestic Whitsunday Islands just off the Queensland coast, whisking yourself away to this idyllic spot can do plenty of R&R for your body and soul. Scoot yourself around in a nifty buggy — whether it be from a beach to a bar — we'll recommend One Tree Hill for cocktails and a serene moment watching the sun go down. If you're not in the mood to head out, you can easily drink in the view from the comforts of luxurious resorts like Qualia and the adults-only Beach Club. It's your call to make — after all, it's your moment in paradise.
HOP ON A HELICOPTER
If there's one experience to take home with you, it's hovering over the natural islands and famous reefs (i.e. Great Barrier Reef and Heart Reef) in none other than the intimate quarters of a helicopter or seaplane. Your very own suave pilot will take you through the exhilirating experience of the cockpit rundown (tip: flirt your way to the co-pilot seat), stunning vistas, shades of blue and to top it all off — a dramatic landing on Whitehaven Beach. A picnic and copious amounts of champagne later, you'll take off feeling like the lead role from a feature film. Let's just say plane rides will never be the same again.