Australia is one of the world’s best known backpacking destinations. Backpack travelers to Queensland can expect to be greeted by a relaxed lifestyle, friendly people, great weather and an abundance of natural attractions.

Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, would have to be one of the most user-friendly cities for backpackers. There are many backpacker hostels, loads of entertainment venues and easy access to the attractions of South East Queensland. Many travelers wind up spending an extended period living, working and touring in and around Queensland’s River City.

Backpacker zones
Generally backpacker accommodation is to be found in the city heart and the inner city suburbs of Fortitude Valley, New Farm, Woolloongabba, Roma Street and West End.

Where to eat
Good quality budget restaurants are to be found in the Valley’s China Town Mall and Brunswick Street Mall as well as on Boundary Street and Hargrave Road at West End.

Get out and about
A great introduction to Brisbane is a barbecue and trying your skills at abseiling down the cliffs at Kangaroo Point. It certainly guarantees a different way of seeing the city! A day trip to Brisbane Forest Park offers great bushwalking just 30 minutes from the city centre.

Don’t miss a trip down the Brisbane River on the City Cat. Have a swim in the middle of the city at Kodak Beach at South Bank Parklands. Keep an ear open for details of the regular suburban street festivals including New Farm, West End, Paddington and the Spring Hill Fair.

Take a tour of the famous XXXX Brewery at Milton – it’s free and you get to sample the liquid amber if you survive the tour!

Spend the day at Redcliffe 30 minutes north of the city – find a beautiful quiet calm water beach to lie on or hire a dinghy and go fishing. Catch the barge to Moreton Island for a few days camping, swimming and depending on the time of year check out either a game of footy or cricket match at the famous Gabba Ground at Woolloongabba.

Out on the town
Groovy bars and pubs to put on the agenda include The Tongue and Groove, Cru Bar, The GPO, the Empire Hotel, The Storey Bridge Hotel, The Victory Hotel and the Transcontinental Hotel opposite the Transit Centre in Roma Street. Gay venues include the Wickham Hotel on Wickham Street.

Check out Manly
Another popular place to stay for a while is the vibrant bayside suburb of Manly. Manly is a 30 minute train ride east of the city and offers access via ferry and barge to Moreton and Stradbroke Islands. The Moreton Bay Lodge is the local backpacker accommodation located in Manly Harbour Village. The village precinct is the heart of Manly and not surprisingly the emphasis is on the water. Some 2,000 boats operate out of the harbour.

Water-skiing, sailing, diving and game fishing are all possible or take a stroll along the waterside boardwalk or enjoy great bush-walking along the green belt hugging the coast. Restaurants and cafes all enjoy sea views and the local fish markets boast some of the freshest fish and chips anywhere. Backpackers also have access to day and extended camping trips to Moreton and Stradbroke Islands – great surfing, swimming and fishing.

Work
Casual work can be found fairly readily so long as you’re not fussy about what it is that earns you the dollars to allow you to see and experience the region’s best spots. Why not aim to get work as a leaner, a deck hand on a fishing trawler, or the ever reliable hospitality field, waiting tables, bar work or kitchen hand? The Sunshine Coast & Bundaberg regions offer seasonal fruit picking and farm work if you decide to extend your stay in those regions.

Break away
If you’ve got a few days try these getaways, all within a day’s drive of Brisbane:

  • World Heritage listed Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island
  • Hervey Bay for Whale Watching between August and October
  • The Sunshine Coast – Caloundra, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba & Bribie Island offer budget accommodation, national parks and fantastic surfing beaches
  • Bundaberg for a budget introductory diving course and camping on Lady Musgrave Island – a dazzling coral cay
  • The Bunya Mountains for bushwalking and total solitude
  • The Gold Coast for great night life, surfing and & camping in National Parks
  • The Southern Downs and Toowoomba for great National Parks, wineries and a taste of real Australian heritage

FURTHER AFIELD
Queensland’s regional and rural towns and cities offer the chance to extend your stay, see more of the state and work along the way. Here’s a few suggestions of great backpacker destinations throughout the state.

Cairns and surrounds
Many hostels and other forms of budget accommodation make it easy to experience the Great Barrier Reef and the region’s World Heritage rainforests. Ellis Beach Caravan Park north of Cairns offers one of the best coastal caravan parks you’ll ever find. Don’t miss the world heritage listed Daintree rainforest. Lizard Island is breathtakingly beautiful and renowned as one of the world’s best diving spots – and it’s not out of reach – camping is permitted.

Cooktown, about five hours drive north of Cairns, is well worth a couple of days. You can join an Aboriginal bush tucker tour, explore the nearby Trevethan waterfalls or soak up the local history. Seasonal work can be found on farms south of Cairns at Innisfail, Tully and Ingham.

Townsville and Magnetic Island
Great beaches, spectacular reef and rainforest and a relaxed pace are trademarks of the Townsville region. Townsville is a sunny harbour city and home to the world’s largest living reef aquarium. You can also try your luck at the Breakwater Casino or catch the water taxi to Magnetic Island. Magnetic offers a number of budget accommodation options. Hire a mini moke and explore the island or find a quiet sandy cove to have a swim. Diving at Kelso Reef is brilliant – you can also learn to dive in Townsville. Spend a few days in the pristine Paluma rainforest or exploring the old mining town of Charters Towers.

Airlie Beach and Whitsunday Islands in North Queensland are very popular destinations offering a variety of very good backpacker accommodation, cheap eateries and buzzing nightlife. Day trips or extended stays on the islands are reasonably inexpensive. Camping or budget cabins are available on Hook Island.

The most popular activities are diving and spending a few days crewing a sailing yacht around the islands. Sailing is one of the best ways of seeing the Whitsundays and the tariff includes accommodation, linen and meals.

Accommodation in Airlie is plentiful and of a great standard – suggested are Magnums, Koala Backpackers, and the award winning Beaches Backpackers. Airlie is action central with tandem skydiving, paraflying and bungy jumping among the adventure pursuits on offer. Most can be booked through your hostel.

Outback
The Matilda Highway is one of the best inland routes to experience Queensland’s vast landscape, its characters, outback pubs, history and also gain an understanding of life on the land. Features include The Stockman’s Hall of Fame at LongreachWinton – the birthplace of Waltzing Matilda and Lark Quarry Environmental Park where you can see and learn about ancient dinosaur remains. Public transport is virtually non-existent so the best option is to either pool your money to buy a car or join an outback safari tour.

– By Jane Hodges

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