The Great Barrier Reef is the longest coral reef in the world and supports an amazing array of colourful tropical fish and coral species. Snorkeling and Scuba diving are extraordinary popular. The reef extends north from Gladstone to beyond Cairns over 1000 km away. The reef is quite a distance offshore, particularly in the south. Not all island resorts have coral reefs. You will most likely have to catch high speed boats to the reef. The highest concentration of resort islands are in the Whitsundays, the most beautiful part of the coast. Access is from Airlie Beach near Mackay.
As well as resort islands, there are inumerable unihabited islands where you can camp but must be totally self sufficient. Contact Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service.
This guide follows the coast from south to north:
(population 55 000) (368km north of Brisbane)
Bundaberg attracts many people looking for fruit and vegetable picking work. Hostels in town specialise in finding harvesting work for travellers.
Bundaberg Backpackers and Travellers Lodge Corner Targo and Crofton Streets. Phone 41522080. $15 a night included transport to/from work.
City Centre Backpackers 216 Bourbong St. Phone 41513501. Dorm $13-$15, double $30.
Federal Backpackers is dirty with poor facilities. 221 Bourbong St. Phone 41533711. Dorm $14-$15.
Getting There and Away
Bundaberg is on the main north-south bus route and train line.
Stewart's Coach Terminal is at 66 Targo St. Phone 41532646. Bus fare to Brisbane is $46.
Sunstate and Flight west operate air services to Bundaberg from Brisbane
and a few other places in Queensland.
Lady Elliot Island (80km northeast of Bundaberg) (Also accessable from Hervey Bay)
This small coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef has excellent diving right off the beach. It is popular among snorkellers and scuba divers. As well as coral and tropical fish there are offshore shipwrecks to view.
Lady Elliot Island Resort Phone 1800 072200. Basic cabins are
$100-$115 per person, motel units $150 per person. Includes breakfast and
dinner. Whitaker Air Charters flys to the island from Bundaberg and Hervey
Bay fro $130 return. Day trips from Bundaberg or Hervey Bay cost $130 and
include flight, lunch, snorkelling gear. Phone Sunstate Travel Centre on
(population 37 000) (534km north of Brisbane)
Gladstone is an industrial port town with boats to Heron Island from the marina.
The tourist information centre is at the marina. Phone 49729922. Open 8.30am to 5pm, 9am weekends.
Gladstone Backpackers Hostel is small and friendly. 12 Rollo St. Phone 49725744. Dorm $15, double $32. Free bike hire. Hostel will pick up from bus stop.
Getting There and away
Most coaches stop at Gladstone. Gladstone is on the rail line. Sunstate and Flight West fly to Gladstone.
Heron Island (72km east of Gladstone)
Heron Island is a tiny island only 1km long.
Heron Island Resort Phone 4978 1488. $158-$224 per person per night. Catamaran from Gladstone return is $150. Diving facilities, dive trips and dive school. Day trips to nearby Wilson Island are $45. http://www.heronisland.com
The town centre has a number of fine buildings from the gold rush period. The Aboriginal Dreamtime Cultural Centre is 6km north on the highway. Rockhampton has a tropical Botanical Gardens established in 1869. North of town is the Cliff Kershaw Australian native plant garden.
Capricorn Information Centre on the highway 3km south of town on the Tropic of Capricorn. Phone 492720855.
Riverside Information Centre Quay St, near corner of Denham St. Phone 49225339. Open 9am to 4.30pm weekdays, 9am to 4pm weekends.
YHA Rockhampton City is spacious and friendly. 60 MacFarlane St. Phone 49275288. Dorm $15, twin $34.
Duthies Leichardt Hotel Corner Denham and Bolsolver Streets. $15 per person.
Criterion Hotel is a grand old building. Quay St. Phone 49221225. Rooms with shared bathroom are $20 single, $30 double.
Qantas/Sunstate (107 East St) and Ansett/Flight West (137 East St) fly to Rockhampton.
Coach services are mainly north-south along the coast. McCafferty's also runs inland to Longreach. McCafferty's coach terminal is just north of the Fitzroy Bridge on Queen Elizabeth Drive. Greyhound Pioneer coach terminal is at the Mobil roadhouse in George St, near the corner of Fitzroy St. Cairns is 16 hours, $100. Brisbane is 11 hours, $67.
Trains run north-south through Rockhampton. Phone 49320453. The railway station is at the east end of George St, 1km southeast of town. Brisbane is $72.
Consider heading west from Rockhampton to the remote Carnarvon Gorge National Park. It is a cooler ferny oasis in the dry outback. Check road conditions after rain.
Great Keppel Island (access from Rosslyn Bay near Rockhampton)
Great Keppel Island, which is 12km offshore, is a continental island. This means it is a mountain jutting out of the sea rather than a coral cay built up by dead coral. Being a continental island it is reasonably large covering 14 sq km and has 18km of beautiful white beaches to explore. Nearby Middle Island has aunderwater observatory of a sunk Taiwanese fishing junk which acts as a hide out for many fish.
GREAT KEPPEL ISLAND INDEX
There are boat hire shops. Sailboards, catamarans, motorboats, snorkelling gear, waterskiing and parasailing are available.
Keppel Reef Scuba Adventures Phone 49395022. Introductory scuba dives ($80), advanced dives ($100) and five day certification courses ($420).
Keppel Tourist Services has daily departures from Rosslyn Bay at 9.15am to Fisherman's Beach on Great Keppel Island at 10am and continues to a pontoon for snorkelling, glass bottom boat viewing and lunch.Phone 49336744. Cost $65-$70.
Daily at 12.15pm there is a cruise from Fisherman's Beach to the underwater observatory at nearby Middle Island. $10.
Great Keppel YHA Hostel Phone 49275288. Dorm $16-$17. Snorkel hire and organised bushwalks and activities. Book in advance. Ask about the three night $79 deal which includes transport to and from Rockhampton.
Keppel Haven has permanent safari tents for $25 per person. Bedding not supplied. Phone 49391907. Basic kitchen, barbeque, fridges. There are also 6 bed self contained cabins for $110 a double and $30 per extra person.
Keppel Kamp Out has organised activities. Twin-share tents are $69 per person (or $49 standby rate) and includes organised activities, three meals, watersports, parties and video nights. Phone 49392131.
Keppel Lodge has four five bed rooms for $90 a double plus $30 per extra person. Phone 49394251. Kitchen, barbeque, large communal lounge.
Great! Keppel Island Resort caters especially for young people. All inclusive for $270 a day for a double. Qantas airways who own the resort offer much cheaper package deals which includes airfare. http://www.fchc.com.au/gk/keppel.htm
If you are cooking your own food bring supplies from the mainland as prices at the island general store are high. There are also a number of bars and bistros on Great Keppel Island that are not too expensive. For example burgers are $5-$7 and small pizzas $10.
Qantas flies between Rockhampton and Great Keppel Island
Ferries to Great Keppel Island depart from Rosslyn Bay boat harbour.
Reefcat leaves Rosslyn Bay at 9.15am and leaves Great Keppel at
4.30pm ($25 return or $70 with island tour). Spirit of Keppel leaves
Rosslyn Bay at 11.30am and 3.30pm and leaves Great Keppel at 2pm and 4.30pm
($25 return). Both ferries are operated by Keppel Tourist Services.
Phone 4933 6744.
Roylen's Cruises runs fast catamarans from Mackay harbour to their pontoon on the outer reef. The pontoon has an underwater observatory and snorkel and dive gear hire. Trips are on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Cost $100. Includes lunch. Phone 4955 3066.
Roylens also runs daily cruises to Brampton Island. $50. Includes smorgasbord lunch at the Brampton Island Resort.
Roylens runs weekend services to Hamilton Island and Lindeman Island ($35 one way or $95 return with lunch)
Larrikin Lodge is a YHA associated hostel. Dorm $14, double/twin $30. Phone 4951 3728. Small pool.
Taylor's Hotel Corner Wood and Alfred Streets. Phone 4957 2802. Single room $20.
Nightclubs include relaxing Sam's Bar, upstairs, Australian Hotel, Saloon Bar 99 Victoria St and Glacier, upstairs, 85 Victoria St.
Mackay 5 Cinemas are at 30 Gordon St.
Getting There and Away
Qantas/Sunstate is at 105 Victoria St. Ansett/Flight West is at the corner of Victoria and Macalister Sts. Brisbane is $327, Cairns $253. Helijet flies between Mackay and Hamilton island for $95 one way, $130 same day return. Sunstate flys to Brampton Island ($80 one way).
The airport is about a $10 taxi fare away from town. Hire car companies have offices at the airport.
Trains from Brisbane to Cairns stop at Mackay. The train station is at Paget, 3km south of town. Brisbane $130, Cairns $102.
Eungulla National Park
This rainforest, 84km west of Mackay, has platypus visible before dawn
and at dusk. The rainforest has been isolated from all other rainforest
fro 30 000 years. There are 5 unique species of animal and plant there.
Brampton Island & Carlisle Island (32km northeast of Mackay)
Brampton and Carlisle Islands are both green mountainous islands which are connected by a sand bank at low tide.
Brampton Island Resort is $140 per person per night twin share. Includes tennis, golf and water sports. Day trippers can hire water sports gear. Phone 13 1415. http://www.bramptonislandresort.com
Carlisle island is uninhabited, but like many uninhabited islands it has a campsite with no facilities. Contact Queensland national Parks and Wildlife Service for camping permits and information. Phone 4959 0410.
BEACH (1,125km north of Brisbane)
Airlie Beach, although a small town, is the main access point for the
many Whitsunday Islands. The whole town is geared for tourists and boating.
Most boats to the islands leave from Shute Harbour 8km east of town. Some
leave from Able Point Marina 1km west of town.
There are numerous privately operated tourist information offices in Airlie Beach along the main road to Shute Harbour. The government run tourist information is on the Bruce Hwy near Proserpine, phone 4945 3711.
The Department of Environment office 3km from Airlie Beach towords Shute Harbour deals with Whitsunday island camping permits. Open weekdays 8am to 5pm, weekend hours vary.
Companies that offer 5 to 7 day diving certificate courses are Oceania Dive (phone 1800 075035), True Blue (phone 1800 635889), Pro-Dive (phone 1800 075035), and Kelly Dive (1800 063454). Costs vary from $250 to $500. Cheaper courses spend more time in the classroom. More expensive courses spend more time diving.
All hotels and hostels have booths at the main bus stop and tout for business. Accomodation outside the centre of town run coutesy buses.
Magnum's Backpackers is a massive party place with tropical garden, two pools, bar, eatery and activities each night. Phone 4946 6266. Dorm $12-$14.
Club 13 Begley has good views from up the hill. It is converted three-bedroom modern apartments, each with 2 bathrooms, kitchen, laundry and some with spa. Beds are $14 per person. Includes breakfast.
Beaches Backpackers is a big converted motel with great party atmosphere, bar and restaurant. Six beds rooms in have their own bathroom, TV and airconditioning. Beds are $14 per person. Pool and kitchen. Phone 4946 6244. Recommended.
Whitsunday Bunkhouse is a basic converted motel. Phone 1800 683566. Dorm $10, double $30. Basic cooking facilities. Phone 1800 683566.
YHA Club Habitat is friendly. It is also a converted motel. Each unit has a bathroom. Beds are $15 per person, twin room $35. Pool, kitchen, lounge. Phone 4946 6312.
Koala Beach Resort has units with own bathroom and airconditioning. $14, double/twin $36. Phone 4946 6001.
YHA - Youth Hostels Australia (Hostelling International) http://www.yha.org.au
Whitsunday Wanderers Shute Harbour, 8km east of Airlie Beach. 4 pools, 2 spas, tennis courts, gardens, bar, restaurant. Melanesian style units are $38-$54 per person. Phone 4946 6446.
Club Crocodile Canonvale, 2km west of Airlie Beach. 2 pools, gym, tennis courts, spa. $55 person. Includes breakfast. Phone 1800 075125.
Several bars have live music most nights.
Two nightclubs are Tricks, above the newsagent, and Stingers above the postoffice.
Airports are at Proserpine on the highway and Ansett's Hamilton Island. Otherwise Airlie Beach aerodrome, 6km towards Shute Harbour, has operators that fly to the islands in light planes. Island Air Taxis flies to Hamilton Island for $45 and Lindeman Island for $55. Phone 4946 9933.
Most Greyhound Pioneer and McCafferty's north-south coaches detour in from the Bruce Hwy to Airlie Beach. The main bus stop is in the carpark between the shops and the beach. Brisbane is 18 hours $103. Cairns is 11 hours $59.
Sampson's runs local buses from Proserpine on the highway, through Airlie Beach to Shute Harbour daily from 6am to 7pm. Sampson's meet all flights at Proserpine airport.
Several rent a car agenices have offices on Shute harbour Road.
For Whitsunday Taxis phone 1800 811388.
Long Island is close to the coast and has lots of rainforest and 13km of walking tracks. The island is 11km long.
Club Crocodile is a modern place on a tropical beach. 2 pools, cafe, restaurant,tennis courts, water sports, disco. Cheap rooms with communal facilities and no airconditioning are $50 a double. Includes transfers. Phone 1800 075125.
Long Island Palm Bay Hideaway This quiet place has Melanesian style cabins with kitchen and bathroom. Double $146-$224. Breakfast $10, lunch $17 and dinner $19. Phone 4946 9233.
Whitsunday Wilderness Lodge is a quiet eco resort. Beachside cabins are $1290 per person per week including transfers and daily guided boat and walking trips. Phone 4946 9777.
Large island covered in rainforest with 450m high peak.
Hook Island Wilderness Resort is basic. Dorm $14, double $55. Restaurant, communal kitchen and bathroom. Phone 4946 9380.
The tiny 1km long daydream Island is close to Shute Harbour.
Daydream Island Travelodge Resort is modern and caters mainly to families. Room from $123 per person include transfers, meals, use of pools, tennis courts, gym, and water sports gear. Phone 1800 075040. http://netlondon.hotelbook.com/static/welcome_26873.html
The daytrippers section at the south end of the island has pool, bar, cafe and water sports gear for hire. The return trip from Shute Harbour is $22.
South Molle Island
Most of this large island is rainforest and long beaches. It has many walking tracks and a 200m high peak. You could spend a day walking around the island. Return ferry trip to Shute Harbour is $22.
South Molle Island Resort is where the boats arrive. It has old motel style rooms, pitch and putt golf course, gym, tennis courts and water sports gear. $310-$370 per person. Includes breakfast and activities. http://www.southmolleisland.com.au
Hamilton Island Resort is a large modern resort complex with high rise towers. The island accomodates 2000 people and is expensive. Airport, 200-boat marina, shops, 9 restaurants, bars, nightclub, minigolf, laundry, helicopter joyrides, parasailing, cruises, scuba diving, squash courts and fauna reserve with koalas, crocodiles and wombats. Prices range from $200 per double up to $1675 for the penthouse overlooking the ocean. Phone 1800 075110. http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au
Day trippers can use all resort facilities. The return ferry trip from Shute Harbour is $36. The airport can be used for island hopping. Ansett flys to Hamilton Island Airport from Brisbane ($322), Cairns ($254), Sydney ($453) and Melbourne ($540).
Rainforest covered island with hills and beaches quite a distance from Shute Harbour.
Hayman Island Resort is exclusive. It faces a big shallow reef that is exposed at low tide. Rooms from $460 to $1500. The resort is owned by Ansett airways. http://www.whitsundays.com/index.html
The rainforest covered island has 20km of walking tracks, a 200m high peak and lots of little beaches in secluded bays.
Club Med Resort Pool, restaurants, bar, golf course, tennis courts and water sports. From $200 plus $50 membership fee. Includes all meals and most activities. Phone 1800 807973. http://www.clubmed.com
Lindeman Island is a long way from Shute Harbour. Day trips by boat
cost $108. Better is to fly. From Airlie Beach it is $55, $65 same day
return. From Mackay it is $95.
(population 13 000) (1,165km north of Brisbane)
The town has no tourist attractions. In season tomato picking work is available. The youth hostels specialise in finding work for itinerent workers and backpackers.
Barnicles Backpackers 16 Gordon St. Dorm $12, double $28. Phone 4786 4400. Crowded and inadequate kitchen.
Trinity's Backpackers 93 Horseshoe Bay Road. Phone 4786 4199. Converted self-contained units for $11 a bed.
Bowen Backpackers 56 Herbert St. Phone 4786 3433. Dorm $13.
Greyhound Pioneer and Mccafferty's coaches stop at Traveland in William St. Phone 4786 2835. Coaches run along the coast and to Airlie Beach (one hour, $21).
North-south trains stop at Bootooloo Siding 3km south of town.
There is a booth in the Flinders St mall open 9am to 5pm weekdays and Saturday, to 12.30pm Sunday. Phone 4721 3660.
Mary Who bookshop on Stanley St has internet access for $5 per half hour.
Great Barrier Reef Wonderland Aquarium This huge tank with coral, tropical fish, sharks and stingrays is townsville's main attraction. Underwater viewing is from a perspex tunnel. Open daily 9am to 5pm. Entry $13, children $6.50.
Nearby is a Omnimax 3D Theatre with fish and reef films ($11.50, children $6) and the Museum of Tropical Queensland ($4, children $2).
Rockhampton has a Botanic Gardens planted in 1878 and the newer Anderson Park botanic garden, 6km southwest of town. Palmetum is a garden 14 southwest of town devoted to palm tree species ranging from rainforest to desert varieties.
Billabong Sanctuary has a variety of Australian wildlife and animal feeding times. It is 17km south of town on the Bruce Hwy. Entry $18, children $9.
Dive schools include Mike Ball Watersports, 252 Walker St, phone 4772 3022. A 5 day course costs $395 with 2 day diving trips or $480 with a three day diving trip staying overnight on their boat. Phone 4772 3022.
Pro-Dive has 5 day courses with 3 days/2 nights out on the reef for $480. Phone 4721 1760.
The wreck of the Yongala, a passenger liner that sank in 1911 losing 122 lives, is a popular dive spot because of the huge number of fish, turtles and stingrays. Mike Ball Watersports and Pro-Dive run trips from $165.
Coral Sea Skydiving Phone 4725 6780. Tandem jumps for $200, freefall courses for $390.
Risky Business has abseiling for $54 and giant flying fox for $79. Phone 4725 4571.
Pure Pleasure Cruises has 5 trips a week to the outer reef. $130, children $65. Includes lunch and snorkelling gear. Scuba gear is extra.
Townsville has two huge youth hostels.
Adventurers Resort YHA at 79 Palmer St is impersonal and has 300 beds and pool. A bed in 4 bed dorm is $14, single $24, double $32. Phone 4721 1522.
Transit Centre Backpackers is conviently located above the bus station. Dorm $14, single $25, double $32. Includes free city tour. 1800 628836.
Smaller hostels are:
Globetrotters Hostel 45 Palmer St. Phone 4771 3242. Pool, kitchen, lounge, laundry. $13, single $26, twin $32.
Civic Guest House 262 Walker St. Phone 4771 5381. Bed in three bed dorm is $14. Bed in 6 bed dorm with own bathroom and airconditioning is $16. Sigle $28, double $32 or $8 with private bathroom and airconditioning. Coutesy bus pickup. Free Friday night barbeque.
Reef Lodge 4 Wickham St. Phone 4721 1112. Dorm $12, single $28, double $32. Most rooms have airconditioning operated by coins in the slot.
Flinders St is the main street and has a number of restaurants.
The casino has $6 dinner.
Ghekko's is staffed by trainee student chefs and caterers. Silver service dinner mains are $9. Open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday, lunch Wednesday to Friday.
Nightlife is centred on Flinders St.
Hard Blues Bar at 237 Flinders St is the main live music venue.
Bank at 169 Flinders St is the city's a classiest nightclub in the city.
Bullwinkle's Cabaret & Bar at the corner of Flinders St East and Wickham St is a popular nightclub.
Townsville 5 Cinema Centre is on the corner of Sturt and Blackwood Streets.
Sheraton Breakwater Casino is on Sir Leslie Theiss Drive.
Qantas/Sunstate and Ansett/Flight West have daily flights to all major cities and rural Queensland. Both airlines have offices on Flinders St Mall. Sunstate flies to Dunk Island for $129. The airport is 5km northwest of town. The Airport Shuttle (phone 4775 5544) is $5 one way, $8 return and will drop off and pickup anywhere downtown. Taxis are around $10.
All long distance coaches operate from the transit centre on Palmer St. Greyhound Pioneer and McCafferty's are the major operators with services north and south along the coast and inland to Mt Isa and the Northern Territory. Brisbane (20 hours, $119), Cairns (6 hours, $37), Mt Isa (12 hours, $81).
Trains operate along the coast through Townsville three times weekly and west to Mt Isa twice weekly. Economy sleeper to Brisbane are $148, 22 hours. Cairns is 7 1/2 hours for $41. The railway station is on Flinders St.
All major car rental agencies are in Townsville. Smaller rental companies include Rent-a-Rocket (phone 4772 1442), Sunrunner Moke Hire (phone 4721 5038) and Townsville car Rentals (4772 1093).
Sunbus has a local bus service. Route maps and timetables are in the Transit Mall near Flinders St Mall tourist information booth.
For Taxis phone Standard White Cabs on 13 1008.
Magnetic Island just off the coast.
Travel west to the Northern Territory passing through Mt Isa.
Travel north to Cairns.
Sunferries operates 10 services a day between its Flinders St East terminal in Townsville and Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island from 6.20am to 7.15pm. The trip takes 20 minutes and costs $7.
Magnetic Island Ferries runs from the breakwater on Sir Leslie Theiss Drive in Townsville to Picnic Bay daily from 6am to 7pm, later some nights. The trip takes 15 minutes and costs $14 return, students $11.
Capricorn Barge Company has a vehicular ferry which run from the south bank of Ross Creek to Arcadia four times weekdays and twice a day at weekends. Cars and up to 6 passengers are $96 return, motorbikes $31 return, walk-on passengers $12 return. Bicycles free.
Magnetic Island Bus Service has 10 to 20 services a day from Picnic Bay through Nelly Bay and Arcadia to Horseshoe Bay and back. They meet all ferries and drop off at all accomodation places. Single fares are $1.50 to $3.50. Daily ticket is $9.
Cars and mopeds are available for hire from and around Picnic Bay Mall. Expect to pay $30 for a moped for a day.
Bicycle hire is available from Picnic Bay esplanade, Foresthaven at Arcadia and Horseshoe Bay waterfront.
The rainforests around Mission Beach make pleasant walks.
Raging Thunder (phone 4031 1466) and R n R (phone 1800 079039) charge $118 for whitewater rafting day trips on the Tully River. These are the same day trips as from Cairns, but $10 cheaper.
Raging Thunder also has sea kayaking day trips for $90.
Sunbird Adventures (phone 4068 8229) has snorkelling for $32 trips and morning sea kayaking.
Jump the Beach (phone 4050 0671) has tandem skydives for $228.
Water sports gear can be hired from Castaways.
The jetty is at Clump Point just north of Mission Beach.
Friendship Cruises has day trips to the reef for $59. It has snorkelling and glass bottom boat rides there.
Quick Cat has day trips to Dunk Island for $22 and full day reef cruise for $122.
MV Lawrence Kavanagh also has day trips to Dunk Island for $22 and a combined Dunk and Bedarra Islands cruise with barbeque lunch for $44.
All three youth hostels have pickups from the two bus stops.
Treehouse at Bingil Bay, 6km north of Mission Beach is YHA associated. Phone 4068 7137. It is a large weatherboard house surrounded by rainforest. Dorm $16, double $40. Pool, bike hire. Good coastal view.
Scotty's Mission Beach House 167 Reid Rd, Wongaling Beach, 5km south of Mission Beach. Phone 4068 8676. Friendly place overlooking the ebach. Dorm $15, double $35. Pool, bar & grill.
Mission Beach Backpackers Lodge 28 Wongaling Beach Road. Phone 4068 8317. Spacious dorm $15, double $32. Pool and garden. Five minute walk to beach.
Getting to and From Mission Beach
McCafferty's coaches stop at Port 'o Call Cafe, Mission Beach. Greyhound Pioneer coaches stop at Mission Beach Resort at Wongaling Beach. Cairns is $15, Toensville $40.
Getting Around Mission Beach
Mission Beach Bus Service runs regularly along the 14km long strip of towns from Bingil Bay to South Mission Beach from 8.30am to 5pm with limited evening services. Maximum fare is $4.
Moke & Moped Hire phone 4068 7783. Scooters are $30 a day.