It’s hard to pick when it comes to Queensland beach holidays but if you are wondering where to holiday in Queensland, these are my all-time favourites, the places I would jump to return to for a few days or longer.
Where to holiday in Queensland
From Port Douglas to Coolangatta, Queensland is blessed with thousands of kilometres of white sandy beaches flanked by sparkling blue water. Most of the time, the skies are blue too creating that picture-perfect holiday image that looks like it belongs on a postcard. Each destination along the coast offers something different, but you are sure to find plenty of things to do at a Queensland beach away from the sand.
Photo above – Main Beach, Yeppoon, Capricorn Coast
Alamanda Palm Cove is just metres from the beach in Queensland. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Your Top Queensland beach holidays
Start packing! You are in for a fabulous beach holiday in Queensland.
Tropical North Queensland
There are so many reasons I would holiday here, particularly in what we loosely call winter in Queensland. While the southern part of Australia layers up during June, July and August, in Tropical North Queensland, it’s still t-shirt weather most of the time. Try this Great Barrier Reef road trip and you’ll see all the sights.
The beaches between Cairns and Port Douglas are small and relaxed but do swim inside the crocodile-free enclosures. Give yourself a thrill and stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Aventures along the way.
Port Douglas has Four Mile Beach, which is great for beach walking. You’ll see half the town out there every morning! I prefer to swim in the hotel pool in this part of the world where crocodiles are common. There’s plenty of great dining in Port Douglas. Use this list as your guide. I would need to include a dinner at Harrisons by Spencer Patrick in Port Douglas (try the tasting menu) and a stay at Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort Port Douglas. While you are in Port Douglas, head a little further north for a mud-crabbing walkabout on Cooyar Beach. It’s a fun experience and a chance to learn about Indigenous culture.
A long weekend in Palm Cove just north of Cairns is hard to beat. The beach is lined by tall paperbark trees and palm trees. It’s a perfect spot for a morning or afternoon stroll and there’s a jetty where the locals fish. Swimming is best at the hotel pool. The street is lined with interesting shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. Dine at Nick Holloway’s Nu Nu Restaurant (the Puffed Lemon Bread is amazing).
Palm Cove is just a half-hour drive from Cairns so you also have all the attractions there at your fingertips. Rusty’s Markets in Cairns is a great place to stock up on local flavours, some vibrant heliconia flowers and maybe a few more pottery gems. Here is your what to do in Cairns list.
It’s a memorable location for a Queensland beach holiday.
Flying over Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Islands. Photo: Kerry Heaney
There is something about the combination of sand, sky and water here that really tugs my heartstrings. The water is that achingly pretty azure blue, and the sand is almost blindingly white, all backed by a clear blue sky. That’s my ideal day in the Whitsundays, probably viewed from a private boat trip to Whitehaven Beach, long before the multitudes arrive. It’s the beach holiday in Queensland that you probably dream about.
If you need a quick reef fix, take a Great Barrier Reef day flight from Airlie Beach and fly out to Whitehaven, see the real Heart Reef from the air, snorkel in a protected cay on the outer reef and head back in time for dinner. You can do this with Air Whitsunday.
You’ll find the essence of this barefoot luxury at eco-friendly Elysian Retreat where just ten villas line the beachfront. Expect a private and relaxed holiday experience with attentive service, excellent dining and a spa on tap. Use this island as your base to explore the Whitsundays.
South of Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays lies Mackay and a place where wild kangaroos come onto the beach at sunrise at Cape Hillsborough. You can camp here or stay close by and make a pre-sunrise trip to meet the kangaroos. Afterwards, explore the walking trails through the National Park.
Where to holiday in Queensland on Pumpkin Island.
The Capricorn Coast embraces Yeppoon and Great Keppel Island. This area flies under the radar a little bit but hidden beneath the laid-back charm are some real gems and genuine experiences. You will be surprised by the white untouched sandy stretches between Yeppoon and Great Keppel Island that you will discover on this Queensland beach holiday.
Great Keppel Island
Great Keppel Island is slated for redevelopment, but until that eventuates, Great Keppel Island Hideaway is the main accommodation on the island and one of the cheapest island stay experiences around. It’s no-frills with no pool or spa, but the beaches are superb, and you have ready access to some of the Southern Great Barrier Reef’s best diving.
Yeppoon reminds me of the sort of family holidays I used to enjoy as a child and with my children. It’s the sort of place where you can enjoy beach cricket, let the children play in the waterpark and laze around the Yeppoon Lagoon. This giant man-made pool looks as though it belongs at an international resort but offers free entry. Main Beach at Yeppoon is a 1.3km swimming beach suitable for all ages and abilities. The beach has excellent access ramps, toilets, electric BBQs and picnic facilities. Kemp Beach is a wide sandy beach with a rocky outcrop called ‘The Bluff’, which has excellent walking tracks and lookouts where you can often spot turtles and dolphins in the waters below. Kemp Beach has BBQs, picnic tables and toilets. Dogs are permitted at designated times.
Pumpkin Island is another local gem that hosts just small numbers of people in a relaxed, self-catering setting. It’s ideal for people who want to get away from it all and enjoy the island’s natural charms.
While you are in Yeppoon, don’t miss the chance to see big crocodiles up close and personal at Koorana Crocodile Farm. What will really surprise you here is how the handlers (also the farm owners) talk about the crocodiles with affection, like they are old friends.
Turtle swimming on Lady Elliott Island. Photo Tourism and Events Queensland
I like to stay at Bargara where the beach is family-friendly and lined by parks and cafes. You can walk the Esplanade in the morning, swim in the protected Basin (a natural beach pool) on high tide and dine beachfront at night.
I know you are thinking Bundaberg Rum (and I highly recommend a distillery tour), but the food in this region is a real showstopper. There are some outstanding places to eat in Bundaberg where you will find local produce and seafood are menu highlights. Take a tour with Suzy Clarke from Bundy Food Tours to find the latest new gems. This Queensland beach holiday is also about exploring the natural environment with turtle watching at Mon Repos and a trip to Lady Elliot Island, both as easy options.
Carlo Sandblow. Photo: Kerry Heaney
The beaches on K’Gari/Fraser Island are nothing short of amazing. Stay at Kingfisher Bay and venture out on day trips in your own four-wheel drive or take a bus tour. Don’t miss Lake McKenzie.
There are two things that would take me back to Rainbow Beach on the Fraser Coast in a snap. I would start the day with horse riding on the beach. There are few places in the world where you can do this where the beach is edged by World Heritage Listed National Park and this is one of them. Rainbow Beach Horse Rides is a very professional set-up. Even if you are not a proficient rider but just an enthusiast (like me), you will have a comfortable ride as the horses are very well-mannered and wear rainbow-coloured bridles (you have to love that).
The end of the day would see me at Carlo Sandblow watching an incredible sunset. Formed 50,000 years ago by a bolt of lightning, a Carlo Sandblow sunset is a breathtaking way to finish the day at Rainbow Beach. I would get there early and do a little sand hill surfing for fun too.
From Hervey Bay or Fraser Island, you also can go whale watching in the Great Sandy Straits.
Main Beach Noosa Heads. Photo: Kerry Heaney
From the Mary Valley and Gympie down to Caloundra, the Sunshine Coast is one of my favourite coastal regions. It is all accessible to Brisbane for a day trip, although why only spend a day in this beautiful region?
When I’m asked what my favourite Queensland beach holiday spot is, I always say Sunshine Beach. It’s just one beach south of Noosa. I have spent a lot of time here, and this is my pick of the top things to do in Noosa Heads.
For railway buffs, the Mary Valley Rattler is a must-do, but you will also find me at Noosa Heads Distillery tasting their premium gin range.
I’ve spent many holidays on the beach at Mooloolaba and it always delights. Book a stay on the beachfront strip and you can enjoy a very walkable holiday with plenty of restaurants and cafes available. The local seafood here is very fresh so make sure some Mooloolaba prawns are on the menu. Here’s a list of great places to eat and drink.
The laid-back charm of Caloundra is also a great holiday experience, and there are many Caloundra beaches to love. Find a seat on the balcony at Rumba Resort looking out over the Pumicestone Passage, and you may never want to leave. There is a surprisingly funky food scene with a craft brewery, spice cafe, and enviable pizzas. Take the street art trail to discover more of Caloundra’s style and history.
Surfers Paradise Beach. Photo: Kerry Heaney
The Gold Coast is internationally famous for its long pristine white sand beaches. I’ve been to many beaches around the world and the Gold Coast has some of the best. The sand is white and clean, the water refreshingly cool and clear and the surf can be amazing. A note of caution: Always swim between the Life Savers flags unless you are supremely confident about your knowledge of the area and your swimming prowess.
There’s so much to do here as well with some seriously good food. The different beaches have their own personalities, so you can find something to suit your needs and desires. Surfers Paradise is the showy sister in the micro bikini who likes to parade around. Broadbeach is the sister who likes food, a little flutter at the casino and lives for big shows. Miami is where the local sister lives, and she knows all the best places to eat. Burleigh is where the family hangs out on holidays because it’s full of walkable dining and a long stretch of open swimming beach. They like the challenge of power walking up the headland hills too.
Further south, and the beaches keep on coming. There’s Talebudgera Creek which is a perfect spot for small children to enjoy a beach experience, Palm Beach, where I spent my childhood holidays and Currumbin, where the waves are loved by surfboard riders.
Where should you eat on the Gold Coast? Try these cafes for breakfast and brunch and here’s where to eat dinner.
Where to stay? The Gold Coast has some amazing retro motels. I’d also recommend trying something new, like a balloon flight.
Where to holiday in Queensland
I hope these suggestions help you find your perfect Queensland beach holiday. There are plenty of options, so you might have to plan more than a holiday in Queensland!