For the beachy perfection of the Gold Coast with less commercialism (although they’re working on it), try the resorts of the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. Some of Australia’s best surfing is hiding here. The resort closest to Brisbane, Caloundra, has a beach for every tide.
The northernmost town on the Sunshine Coast, Noosa, used to be a sleepy little settlement, and the weekend haunt of local farmers and fishermen. That was in the 1960s, before the surfers, then the trendsetters from Sydney and Melbourne arrived. However, it’s still very laid back.
Noosa National Park, a sanctuary of rainforest and underpopulated beaches, occupies the dramatic headland that protects Laguna Bay from the sometimes squally South Pacific breezes. Fraser Island (see page 88) is easily reached from here. This whole stretch is home to some of Queensland’s most gorgeous gorgeous coastline.
Beaches such as Maroochydore and Coolum are gems. Inland, the territory is laden with vast plantations of sugar cane, bananas. pineapples and passion fruit. The area is also a centre of production of the prized macadamia nut. Near Nambour, the principal town inland from the Sun-shine Coast.
you can hardly miss a terribly Australian sort of tourist attraction: the monstrously magnified symbol (what Australians call ‘Big Things’). A startling example is the Big Pineapple, an immense fibreglass replica of a pineapple, as tall as a house — the come-on for a whole tourist complex. The valley of the giants also includes a car-toon Aussie boozer, the Big Ettamogah Pub. The Sunshine Highway from Brisbane to Noosa bypasses the Big Pineapple; the pub is accessible from an off-highway Nambour Tourist Drive.
Skyscrapers and watersports on the Gold Coast
The Great Barrier Reef Australia’s biggest and most wonderful sight, the Great -41 Barrier Reef, lies just below the ocean waves. Many mil-lions of minuscule cells multiply relentlessly in fantastic shapes. growing into an infinite variety of forms — and colours from lettuce green to flaming crimson — to create the world’s largest living phenomenon. The reef is home to 400 different types of coral.
It stretches as far as you can see and beyond: more than 2,900km (1,430 miles) of submerged tropical gardens. In among them, the sea is sprinkled with hundreds of paradise islands. The giant reef was proclaimed a marine park by the Australian Government in 1975, and placed on the World Heritage list in 1981, becoming the biggest World Heritage area in existence.
It is now managed by the Great Rainier Reef Marine Park Authority. Seen more intimately through a diver’s mask, the reef is the spectacle of a lifetime, like being inside a boundless tropical fishbowl among the most lurid specimens ever conceived.
The fanciful shapes of the coral, gently waving in the tide, might almost lull you to sleep. But not for long. A blazing blue-and-red fish darts into sight. pursuing a cloud of a thousand minnows
. A sea urchin stalks past on its needles; a giant clam opens its hairy mouth as if sighing with nostalgia for its youth, a century ago. In 1770 Captain Cook was exploring the eastern Australian coast and stumbled upon the Great Barrier Reef: the Endeavour was gored by an unsuspected outcrop of coral. Patching the holes as best they could, the crew managed to sail across the barrier, and the vessel limped onto the beach at what is now Cooktown, where some major repairs had to be improvised.