10 Best small towns to visit in Queensland
The second-largest state in Australia and the biggest Eastern Australian state, Queensland is seven times the size of Great Britain. Housing five of Australia's eleven World Natural Heritage areas among its nine best small towns to visit, there is the Scenic Rim you can access from Canungra in a heartbeat.
It is practically against the law, at least in our view, not to visit the Wet Tropics of the Daintree National Park from Port Douglas and see the colorful coral bursts of life with fish and turtles at the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Wonders of the World here, or when in Palm Cove!
This little town, like a perpetual ray of sunshine, spreads good vibes with its peaceful beach ambiance. Whether on a city escape or on a once-in-a-lifetime trip prowling through sights in Australia, you can stop for a deep breath, relax, and really recharge. Offering an idyllic base to the load of exciting experiences in Whitsunday Region, some of the country's best natural beauty is right here, in the charming resort town, with its pristine beaches, a sun-seeker's paradise, like Boathaven Beach and Whitehaven Beach, where locals and tourists happily frolic against the views!
A sightseeing boat ride is a great jumping-off point from the Port of Airlie along and away from its white buildings stark against the waters, only to return later for the laidback downtown feel. Airlie's esplanade is a greatly strollable affair, along with the most popular Coral Sea Marina, where you can amble around for days overlooking the turquoise waters! You can catch more sunny vibes at the Airlie Beach Lagoon and seek shade along the Honeyeater Lookout Trail, the most popular coastal walk with sweeping views of the waterscape! From mingling with the local crowds along the shoreline to a Whitsunday Islands getaway, you will discover a unique slice of Queensland like no other!
Bowen, an unmissable town, is a real crown jewel along the beautiful peninsula jutting out into the iconic Horseshoe Bay. Boasting great access from the heartland to its idyllic beach spread, Bowen's calm, azure waters are ideal for canoeing and paddle boarding. From Sunset Point to Horseshoe Bay Beach, the scenery is so spectacular here that if all went quiet, you would hear just the "awes" and sighs of wonder from a pleasure release! Tracing eastward, there is also the Flagstaff Hill Lookout and the popular Dog-Off-Leash Beach, while the secluded Murray’s Bay, perfect for a couple's retreat, is excellent for fishing.
Bowen's two granite outcrops are a world-sought site with a sandy stretch in between for a loungeable spot with Instagrammable views and nearby waters for snorkeling. The town is also home to a "Big Pineapple Kitsch," one of Australia’s ridiculously oversized fruit structures; in this case, a Big Bowen Mango. Speaking of, Bowen is renowned for this juicy, vitamin-C power fruit with mango trees and abundant amounts of it in fresh form at stalls, smoothie joints, and in dishes at local restaurants!
Nestled in the foothills of Lamington National Park, in the "Valley of the Owls," the town with the country's largest softwood timber mill, circa 20th century, has flourished into a developing business hub. Canungra, the main service center for part of the Scenic Rim region, is thriving in tourism thanks to its rich array of attractions that appeal to local families on a getaway from the city. Its farmstays, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and vineyards welcome international travelers alike, en route to Lamington National Park and the mountain resorts of Binna Burra and O’Reilly’s township.
There is so much to do in this community of only 1,200 near the picturesque Canungra Creek, like a burgeoning wine scene and state-of-the-art equine facilities. On a pitstop, you can stretch your legs via a long bushwalk through the lush rainforest at Lamington National Park, or just relax at Moriarty Park, watching junior and senior soccer, rugby league, and cricket games. Among the small town businesses, there is a bakery, a popular Bean In Café, and the nearby O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard with a great selection of aged wines and vineyard strolls to the Mountview Alpaca Farm with fleecy babies you can pet and feed!
With no other town like this Sunshine Coast Hinterland gem, you don't have to take our word for it but experience it yourself, and you'll be preaching Maleny in no time! Appealing to foodies from near and far, it is the place to be for prime local produce served in any style, like a modern Asian fusion at Spicers Retreat's Tamarind restaurant with sumptuous meals and intimate cooking classes for tips to whip up magical dishes back home!
With bucolic vibes and, naturally, a booming dairy economy, you can't leave the famous Maleny Dairies without froth on your chin, from yogurt, milk, or ice cream on a hot summer's day, while it is winter back home! Maleny Cheese lets you in on cheesemaking secrets, tastings, and premium cheese to haul away. After culinary exploits, you'll be ready to strip the outdoors on a hike through Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, a dip at the Baroon Pocket Dam, and onto the beautiful Maleny Botanic Gardens to, well, spread a picnic.
Another town in the heart of the hinterland, just five miles away from the highlighted foodie's paradise above, Montville welcomes you with more outdoorsy ventures. From the Mary Cairncross Reserve for hiking to the scenic Gardeners Falls for swimming, adventuring to the stunning McCarthy's Lookout gets you a real eye feast! You don't even have to work hard to get the best views on a stroll through Montville's Flame Hill Vineyards, with wine tastings to follow! Now, to say that this Sunshine Coast town, tucked within horticulture, is lush would be an understatement.
Home to the shining jewel of Kondalilla National Park, its natural wonders are brilliant one over the next! From a 90-meter waterfall to rockpools and babbling brooks, this verdant rainforest park is an all-season nature escape. For lunch, you can either take a quick drive to Maleny or stay put at the Spicers Clovelly Estate's Long Apron restaurant, utilizing fresh, seasonal produce from the property and surrounding area. After a contemporary European cuisine with vibrant tastes to remember, try to save room for another fudgy desert just down the road at Fudgyboombahs!
The Sunshine Coast is famous for its beaches, and Noosa, one of the best towns to holiday in Queensland, packs the best of them! Alluring in every season, from summertime surfing to strolls in the moody weather views, there are plenty of things to do away from the beachy pleasures. Noosa National Park is an unmissable Queensland attraction with its large Koala population! The escape to the Kabi Kabi country, Noosa, a spectacular tapestry of nature, is home to a number of villages you can explore on a bike.
Prepped with pristine beaches hosting several surfing events, Noosa is the best place for newbies to hang their first ten and plop along the sands in between tries or in victorious exhaustion. From the waterways to the untouched national parks and wide-open beaches in the clear, salty air, you can retreat to a waterfront resort or glamp under the stars for a real wild treat. Despite a slower pace downtown, you can get whatever the heart desires while staying late into the lively night along Hastings St. with its inventive restaurant scene.
Just half an hour north of Cairns, Palm Cove is a dreamy tropical North Queensland escape. Dubbed the "spa capital of Australia," the laid-back luxury is discerning in boutique shops and award-winning restaurants, as well as many day spas to indulge in R&R after nature treks. The wildlife freaks can head straight for Rainforestation Nature Park, join Hartley's Crocodile Adventures, or take a family stroll through the Kuranda Koala Gardens. No trip to Palm Cove is valid without scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef and a local market prowl on the first Sunday of the month from April to December. Palm Cove jetty is abundant with Spanish mackerel, cod, whiting, stripeys, and flathead to up your catch over an evening barbecue along the sands.
Home to some 2,000 easy-going locals, you can explore the tiny beachside village in flip-flops, on a bike, or even barefoot, with joints for fresh seafood along the way. From its 500-year-old melaleuca tree-lined central esplanade to an alluring beach spread, richly bathed under the sun and low on crowds, the nearby Double Island is just a paddle boat or kayak ride away! Facing a spectacular tourist demand, the dreamy town with swimmable ocean views takes on the challenge with a wide array of welcoming boutique hotels and resorts for luxury at small-town prices, like the charming colonial beachside Reef House from 1958.
Port Douglas offers the state's best adventures in one small town, including a long beach with supreme swimming, sweeping vistas, and striking sunsets after outback adventures! The beautiful fishing village attracts hordes with a vibrant maritime culture along the Coral Sea, surrounded by the Great Barrier Reef. Whether you are soaking in a lagoon pool or lounging along the soft sands under the palm fringe of the Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas is also your ultimate getaway into the bountiful Daintree National Park!
Port Douglas blends an authentic slice of Australia with a tropical escape to commune with nature and seek quaint cultural pursuits. In between snorkeling with sea turtles and beach volleyball, the guilt-free seafood stalls will keep you coming for more freshly prepared seafood! The world’s oldest living rainforest can take a few days to explore its local fauna and flora, so save easygoing pursuits like the Sunday market for an appropriate day. You can wander between the colorful artisan and fresh produce stalls on your hunt for a waterside dinner like Melaleuca, with its traditional Down Under feast.
Rainbow Beach is a coastal town of unreplicable beauty, looking over the ripples of colorful ancient sand dunes into the waters. With K'gari, or Fraser Island, just off shore and Cooloola National Park at its back door, it is a real paradise for all the adventurous sightseers, one of a handful of towns that can boast such diversity of the country's stunning landscapes in one place. From the spectacular park to the Cooloola coastline along the Cooloola Great Walk, you can unwind at the unprecedented beach set. With the subtropical rainforest fringing the dunes, Carlo Sandblow is a massive batch of golden sand to play with and sink your feet into. You can sink your teeth over dinner at a waterside resort or pack a picnic for the rainbow hues of the seaside beach cliffs.
Full of idyllic outdoors, the iconic Wolf Rock is the most sought-after adventurous dive in the world amid four volcanic pinnacles, with a marine sanctuary for the critically endangered gray nurse sharks below. You can paddle all the way around the coastal headland to Double Island Point with its 19th-century lighthouse and hike the summit to the lighthouse built in 1884, which operates on solar power. From Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours to Epic Ocean Adventures, there's an outfitter for every taste, including family fun of learning to surf or kayak with dolphins, as well as the Rainbow Beach Horse Rides along the unspoilt coast. Rainbow Beach is your ticket to both the underwater and the skies with Rainbow Beach Helicopters.
Yeppoon is a real stunner along the gorgeous Capricorn Coast, with something for everyone wrapped in small-town charm and served up with a tropical vibe! Whether you are on a shopping spree along the chic boutiques along the food-centric promenade with unique restaurants or are in for the lovely beaches, you can enjoy low crowds. Yeppoon is your dream retreat, sans the resort vibe, to dig your toes in the soft sands, sink your teeth in seafood delicacies waterfront, and enjoy the sun and sea for days with unobscured views!
The blue waters sparkle under the ample sunshine in the balmy weather that will only get you moving from Yeppoon Main Beach to take a refreshing dip, visit a nearby food stall, or walk to immerse yourself in the natural public pool, Yeppoon Lagoon. The wonderful Appleton Park appeals to families with shady spots and trails for skating and playing amid coastal beauty all around. Great Keppel Island is just a hop away for a day excursion that will keep you coming back to this, one of Queensland's most beautiful islands, for more of its stunning fringe of 17 beaches.
Australia's state of Queensland is your ultimate ticket to the jewel-toned waters, golden sand dunes, and white-sand beaches. Home to state parks housing rainforests like the world's oldest Daintree and the technicolor underwater world of the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland has a slice of paradise for everyone!
Magic abounds in Queensland, most concentrated among its small towns scene, where local culture blends intimately with native fauna and flora, while off-shore islands dot the aqua waters in the Whitsundays.
By Alisa Mala November 11th 2023