Megan McCormick travels to Queensland, Australia’s second largest state whose 3000 mile coastline borders the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest living organism. She begins her journey at Surfers’ Paradise on the Gold Coast. Surfers were originally attracted by the beautiful deserted beaches and gigantic waves, but unfortunately they were followed by the big developers eager to exploit 70 kilometres of idyllic coastline.
From here, Megan heads north by bus to Noosa – another surfers’ mecca but one which has avoided the scourge of the developers. It’s also renowned for it’s fabulous cuisine, and Megan meets a local chef called Gary Flynn, who combines produce form Queensland with Thai food to make innovative dishes unique to Noosa. She then continues her journey along the Bruce Highway to Harvey Bay, from where she catches the ferry to Fraser Island.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sandbar. There are about 70 fresh water lakes on the island, which are the only place you can go swimming, as the sea has strong currents and is infested with tiger sharks. Fraser is also home to a great deal of wildlife. Megan takes a 4WD tour of the island with a ranger, and catches sight of a group of dingoes, which roam free on the island.
It’s a 10 hour drive from Fraser Island to Airlie Beach and the Whitsunday Islands, known as ‘the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’. Megan spends 2 days on board the Matador, an 80 ft long yacht which holds up to 20 passengers and 4 crew. She then goes diving in Blue Pearl Bay on Hayman Island, where the coral is beautiful and varied. It isn’t deeper than 30ft and there are hundreds of very friendly Sergeant Major Fish. One of the hidden dangers of north Queensland are the crocodiles which lurk in rivers and creeks. Megan meets the Barefooted Bushman, a local man who has lived with the crocodiles for 26 years, and he teaches her how to ensure you don’t loose a limb if you should encounter one.
Megan heads north to the Magnetic Islands. The islands are so called because when Captain Cook sailed by his compass went crazy and he blamed it on magnetic fields that he believed were in the granite rocks. Here, she goes diving on the wreck of the Yongola, a passenger and general cargo ship that was hit by a cyclone in 1911, sending all 121 passengers and crew to a watery grave. Over the years the coral has grown and totally covered the ship. It has become home to an array of flora and fauna.
After arriving in Cairns, Megan hooks up with a marine biologist who teaches her all about coral. The Great Barrier reef is actually a huge living organism, and each piece of colourful coral is in fact a tiny animal also known as a polyp. The reef is now a marine park and activities are strictly controlled to protect it from pollution or damage. Nonetheless, many people come to Cairns for the fantastic diving on the outer reef, and Megan’s no exception.
From Cairns Megan flies to the northern most tip of Australia to Thursday Island, the capital of the Torres Strait islands. For nearly a hundred years Thursday Island was the centre of the Japanese pearl trade, and a great many divers lost their lives seeking pearls here. Megan meets the last surviving diver, and learns a little about how oysters produce these precious gems.
Megan travels back onto the mainland of the Cape York Peninsula, where she joins a hunt for wild boar. Over 200 years ago, Captain Cook let pigs loose on the mainland and islands so that shipwrecked sailors would not starve. Generations later, the pigs have become wild boar that roam the land killing and eating the indigenous creatures & nowadays they are hunted to keep their numbers down.
The final leg of her journey takes Megan back out to the Great Barrier Reef. She flies to Lizard Island, a luxury resort close to one of the reef’s most amazing dive sites, the Cod Hole. It’s a fantastic dive experience with which to end her trip to Queensland, on the very top tip of the continent of Australia.
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