So you have four days and three nights and no ideas of what to do with them? Well, get ready, because a short break in Queensland will feel like a two-week holiday thanks to the incredible range of things you can see and do here. We’ve put together a few itineraries of what you can do on your next Queensland trip.
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Where to go for a short break in Queensland?
- Great Barrier Reef Itinerary
- Whitsunday Islands Itinerary
- City to Coast Itinerary
Short breaks to Queensland – The Great Barrier Reef – Itinerary 1
Day 1 – Cairns to Port Douglas
Fly into Cairns in the morning and pick up your hire car. From the airport, you’ll drive an hour north along the coast, and up to the glorious Mossman Gorge. Take a guided walk through the rainforest before cooling off with a swim in the crystal clear waters.
When you’re done, head to Port Douglas and grab a bite in a cute café before spending the afternoon relaxing on Four Mile Beach. When you’ve soaked up enough sun, tour the boutique shops, get changed and enjoy dinner at one of Port Douglas’ celebrated restaurants. Go to bed early, you’ve got a big day ahead of you tomorrow.
Day 2 – Cairns
Drive down to Cairns early morning. From Cairns you can hop onto the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a day-trip that takes you to the Great Dividing Range. This is one of the most unique railway journeys in the world, and if you haven’t gotten your fill of World Heritage-listed rainforests then this is a must-see. This is a full day adventure – trains depart at 9:30am and arrive back in Cairns at 5:30pm.
In the evening, head up to Palm Cove and dine on the beach at Nu Nu restaurant, home to fresh seafood and local produce.
Day 3 – The Great Barrier Reef
Today is Great Barrier Reef day! This day can take the shape of what suits you. There are boat trips that depart multiple times a day, and can offer full or half day experiences. These trips also tend to allow enough time for a couple of dives or snorkels, or a mixture of both. The coral landscape has to be seen to be believed. For those that aren’t super keen on getting in the water, there are glass-bottomed boat tours that can show you the marine life that thrives beneath the surface.
If you only book a half day trip, spend the rest of the day exploring waterfalls near Cairns, like Stoney Creek Falls or Crystal Cascades. When the sun sets, enjoy fresh seafood aboard Prawn Star Cairns, moored at the pier, before enjoying a cocktail or two nearby at Salt House.
Day 4 – Cairns and then home
On your last day, we recommend a slightly slower speed. Stay by the seaside and explore some of the beautiful northern beaches in the morning. Or, if you have lots of time before your flight, take a day trip over to Fitzroy Island, 45 minutes off the coast, and visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre. A great way to round off your northern trip.
Short breaks to Queensland – The Whitsundays – Itinerary 2
Day 1 – Hamilton Island
Fly into Hamilton Island! You won’t find this difficult, as there are direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, and even Brisbane or Cairns if you’re already in-state. There are no cars on the islands, though you should definitely hire a golf buggy. This is a fantastic way to explore the island, and a whole heap of fun.
After you’re settled, spend the rest of your day on the gorgeous Catseye Beach. There are water sports available here, but if you just want to get straight into island life, no one will judge you if you spend the afternoon sunbathing with a book in hand! Head to One Tree Hill for the afternoon – the best spot on the island for sunsets and cocktails.
Day 2 – Whitehaven Beach
Today is island hopping day! There are day cruises that depart to local islands, and you can choose from a whole host of itineraries. The most popular route is to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, where you’ll be greeted by white silica sand and turquoise waters. Generally, the cruises offer lunch and plenty of time to snorkel. The trip out to Whitehaven is a full day, so make sure you pack your sunscreen!
Day 3 – Great Barrier Reef
You can’t very well fly to one of the most coveted spots on the Great Barrier Reef and not take advantage of it. You can choose snorkel-heavy boat trips, diving trips, or glass bottom boat tours.
However, two of the most iconic tours of the region are the Heart Island tour, and Cruise Whitsundays. The first takes you out to the floating pontoon, Heart Island, which is stationed off of Heart Reef – the incredible reef system that is in (you guessed it) the shape of a heart. The second tour offers a great introduction to the reef, from a beginner’s scuba session, to a guided snorkelling safari trip. Both also offer scenic flights so you can see the reef, and in particular Heart Reef in all its glory.
Day 4 – Hamilton Island and then home
With so much to do on Hamilton Island, we recommend that you take advantage of the all the fun activities you can do on your last day in paradise! Play golf, or mini-golf, try your hand at go-karting, play a round of tennis, book in for a spa treatment, or hit the many hiking trails. Make the most of island life before you have to leave!
Short breaks to Queensland – Brisbane and the Gold Coast – Itinerary 3
Day 1 – Brisbane
Kick off your stay in Brisbane by hopping on a City Cat ferry. This is an excellent way to get situated in the city. Hop off at South Bank and walk, or hire a Segway, and tour the Cultural Precinct. Jump off and explore the Queensland Museum, and Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, and wander through the current exhibitions.
For dinner, check out the Howard Smith Wharves precinct, where you’ll find riverfront restaurants and bars complete with delicious food and a great view.
Day 2 – Brisbane
For day two, you’ll be spending another day in Brisbane, but today you’ll be spending the morning in the CBD. Here, you can shop ‘til you drop down Queen Street Mall, where there are over 700 stores along a pedestrian-only shopping street. Once you’ve had your fill of retail therapy, amble down to the City Winery, where you can join their daily winery tours. Learn about how to pair food with wine, or blend your very own bottle!
If you’re still feeling pretty energetic, leave the CBD and visit Riverlife at Kangaroo Point. There is abseiling and rock climbing available at Kangaroo Point cliffs, and kayaking for water sports enthusiasts in Brisbane River. When the sun sets, you can stay on for an evening kayak and enjoy the lights, and then some excellent grub. Or, if you’re visiting on the weekend, and prefer to stick to dry land, head to the Eat Street Markets, where there are live performances and lots of food stalls and mini restaurants serving up some stellar cuisine.
Day 3 – Gold Coast
In the morning head down to the Gold Coast and hit the beach! There are fantastic stretches all along the coast. We recommend Rainbow Bay for surfing, Currumbin Creek if you’re with kids, or Burleigh Heads as a great all-rounder. For lunch, head up to Cafe Dbar at Point Danger for epic views – from June to November, you’ll be in time for the whale migration, so keep your eyes peeled! In the afternoon, visit Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, or go shopping at the iconic Pacific Fair.
During the week, treat yourself to dinner at Restaurant Labart at Burleigh Heads if you’re after an upmarket dining experience, or grab some delicious fish and chips from Red Hot Cod and take it to the shore. On the weekends you can slide by Miami Marketta in the evening where international food vendors cosy up side by side and serve up some of the best food on the coast.
Day 4 – Gold Coast and home
If you’re travelling with your family then you should definitely make time for the themeparks on your last day. If getting into nature is more your speed, we suggest going to Lamington National Park to tackle one of the many hiking trails or to enjoy the lookouts. As part of the Gondwana network of rainforests, this is a phenomenal, World Heritage-listed part of the country, and will help you get back to nature before you have to get back home.
Want to read more?
- Coronavirus travel advice: We keep this page updated with current Australian government requirements and recommendations in addition to airline policy changes.
- The Sunshine Coast: It isn’t the destination you think it is – here’s why
- National Parks in Queensland: 6 of the best parks in the state.
- Queensland’s Best Road Trip: Gold Coast to Cairns