Queensland provides just about everything that makes Australia so desirable, plus some spectacular exclusives of its own. The sun-soaked state gives you the choice of flashy tourist resorts. Outback mining towns or a modem metropolis; rainforest, desert or apple orchard. But the most amazing attraction of all is Queensland’s offshore wonderland — the longest coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef.
Queensland is one of those typical Australian success stories.It was founded in 1824 as a colony for incorrigible convicts, the ‘worst kind of felons’, for whom not even the rigours of New South Wales were a sufficient deterrent. In an effort to quarantine criminality, free settlers were banned from an 80-km (50-mile) radius.
But adventurers, missionaries and hopeful immigrants couldn’t be held back for long. Queensland’s pastureland attracted many eager squatters, and in 1867 the state joined
the great Australian gold rush with a find of its own. Prosperity for all seemed to be just around the corner. Mining still contributes generously to Queensland’s economy. Above ground, the land is kind to cattle and sheep, and warm-hearted crops like sugar, cotton, pineapples and bananas.
But tourism is poised to become the biggest money-spinner, for Queensland is Australia’s vacation state, welcoming tourists to wild tropical adventure lands in the far north, and the sophistication of the Gold Coast in the south.
The busiest gateways to all of this are the state capital, Brisbane, and the port of Cairns, which has become one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations.
Brisbane As befits a subtropical city with palm trees and back-garden swimming pools, Brisbane has a pace is so relaxed you’d hardly imagine its population is 1.55 million. The skyscrapers, some quite audacious, have gone a long way towards overcoming the ‘country-town’ image, but enough of the old, elegant, low-slung buildings remain as a reminder of former days; some are wonderful filigreed Victorian monu-mcnts, some done up in bright. defiant colours.
In 1859, when Brisbane’s population was all of 7,000, it became the capital of the newly proclaimed colony of Queensland. The colonial treasury contained only 7/2 pence, and within a couple of days even that was stolen. Old habits of the former penal colony seemed to die hard.
The capital’s location, at a bend in the Brisbane River, has made possible some memorable floods over the years. but it sets an attractive stage for Australia’s third-largest city. Spanned by a network of bridges (the first dated 1930), the river continues through the suburbs to the beaches and islands of Moreton Bay. Some of Australia’s most celebrated types of seafood come from here, notably the gargantuan
Australia’s third city Brisbane enjoys a subtropical climate
local mud crabs and the Moreton Bay bug. Despite its name, this creature, related to the lobster, is a gourmet’s joy. Up the hill, on Wickham Terrace, stands an unusual historic building, the Old Windmill, also known as the Old Observatory, built by convicts in 1829.
Design problems foiled the windmill idea; to grind the colony’s grain, the energy of the wind had to be replaced by a convict-powered treadmill. Later, the tower found less strenuous uses as a fire lookout station and a transmitter for early television experiments. King George Square, next to City Hall.
And the nearby Anzac Square are typical of the green open spaces that make the centre of town breathable. Pedestrian-only is the rule in Brisbane’s central Queen Street Mall, flanked by big stores and interspersed with shady refuges and outdoor cafés. This is a place for people-watching. Here, on a fine day, visitors from cooler climes should take a seat to enjoy the warm sun and watch the passers-by.