Off the beaten track: Queensland’s best holiday destinations

You might think you already know the best holiday destinations in Queensland, but sometimes what makes a destination special is discovering the places only a local would know.

Here, we picked the brains of two BOQ locals to shed some new light on two popular Queensland holiday destinations – Cairns and Hervey Bay.


Mack Smith, owner manager of BOQ Cairns, shares his hometown must-dos.

If you’re a first-timer

Naturally, the Great Barrier Reef is Cairns’ big drawcard. Mack recommends booking a day trip with a local operator to get close to the reef. 'Green Island and Fitzroy Island, the two closer islands, are really popular for families who want to go to the reef, especially if you have little kids.' 

If you’re a returning visitor

Head to Undara Lava Tubes for a fascinating insight into the area’s volcanic origins. Warning: it’s a bit of a drive – almost four hours west of Cairns – but worth it. 'Not many people know about them, but they’re one of the longest lava tube cave systems in the world,' he says.

Sustainable tips 

Frankland Islands Reef Cruises, which is eco-certified and committed to protecting the reef, is the only operator with a permit to tour the protected Frankland Islands, allowing you to see the Reef from a less touristy perspective. 'It doesn’t get a whole bunch of companies taking boats onto the reef around it,' says Mack. 

Planning to snorkel while visiting the reef? Take your trip to the next level of sustainability by signing up for the citizen scientist program ReefSearch. You’ll spend 10 minutes of your snorkel recording sightings of key species, coral health and rubbish – too easy!

The top five

Best coffee: Billy’s Café 

Best dining experience: It’s all about seafood in Cairns, Mack says. He recommends Cairns Aquarium, which will fascinate younger members of the family. 'It’s got the largest saltwater tank in a restaurant in the whole of Australia. So there’s lots of fish to look at while you’re eating,' Mack explains.

Best view: Mt Alexandra lookout, on the drive to Cape Tribulation, which overlooks the Daintree National Park and the Low Isles of the Reef. Or check out Barron Falls in Kuranda – 'especially in the wet season when it’s flowing really hard'.

Best beach: Ellis Beach. 'There are lovely little cabins to stay in right on the beachfront,' Mack says.

Best walk: Smith track and Douglas track through the Barron Gorge National Park will delight fitter folks. 'For families, Lake Eacham has a nature walk that goes around the entire lake, which is a really nice walk.'

Don’t leave town without: It’s a little bit cliché, but Rusty’s Markets is definitely a must-do for all tourists,' says Mack. Located on Grafton St and open Friday through Sunday, Rusty’s Markets is a Cairns institution, and all the locals – including Mack’s BOQ colleagues – buy their fruit and vegies there. 'All the farmers from the Tablelands come down every weekend to open their stalls. It’s lovely,' he says.

Hervey Bay

We asked BOQ Hervey Bay owner manager Wade Lineburg to reveal some insider tips on his hometown.

If you’re a first-timer

You can’t go past World Heritage-listed K’Gari (Fraser Island), the largest sand island in the world, Wade says. 'The whale-watching season from August to November is amazing, with amazing sunset and day tours of the bay the rest of the year round.'

If you’re a returning visitor 

Reefworld Aquarium will fascinate families, while the town of Maryborough, about half an hour away, has a lot of heritage sites with incredible stories behind them, Wade says. 'Queen’s Park (established in 1860) has something for everyone, from murals to a kids’ skate park and playgrounds.'

Sustainable tips

If you’re here to spot some gigantic marine mammals, Whale Watch Hervey Bay is eco-certified and operates a boat with minimal impact on the environment. On K’Gari, Kingfisher Bay Resort is dedicated to low-impact tourism, and runs a Junior Eco Rangers Program during school holidays to teach kids about protecting the environment. 

The top five 

Best coffee: Bean Beat.

Best dining experience: Café Balaena. 'It has an amazing menu and overlooks the harbour.'

Best view: Waddy Point, at the northern end of K’Gari.

Best beach: It’s hard to pick a winner, given Hervey Bay boasts around 12km of beautiful calm-water beaches to swim at, but Torquay Beach is one of Wade’s favourites – and the nearby retail outlets are worth checking out too, he says.

Best walk: Fraser Island Great Walk. 'It’s 90km and takes six to eight days to complete.' But if that’s too strenuous for your fitness level, there are plenty of more-sedate strolls in town: 'For family-style walks, try the area at Seafront Oval in Pialba where the waterpark and all-abilities playground and skate parks are located,' Wade says.

Don’t leave town without: taking a stroll along Hervey Bay Esplanade. 'It’s a stunning 17km paved and concrete walkway that goes the full length of our north-facing coastline.'

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