Got the extra doona out on the bed already? Turning on the heater every night? Lucky that the perfect destination is waiting. Winter is when Queensland shines. The days are warm but nights are cool and comfortable; whales swim past its coastline; and there are more days of sunshine (and less rain) than any other season.

There is 3000 kilometres of coastline from south to north – so think of Queensland’s holiday destinations as a temperature control system, the further north you go, the warmer you’ll be.

However, you barely need breach the border to enjoy the warmth. The sea off the Gold Coast won’t get below 20 degrees all winter; you can swim in shorts or bikini year-round. Winter is the Gold Coast’s sunniest season – and maximum temperatures won’t dip below 23 degrees. Whale-watching tours operate from the Gold Coast between June and November, when hundreds of humpback whales travel north seeking the warmer water, too.

It’s a good time to learn to surf in a region with more learn-to-surf classes per capita than anywhere else in Australia. There is less wind in winter – so you’ll surf and swim in still, blue waters.

If you’re looking for something cooler, visit the Gold Coast Hinterland where there are three World Heritage national parks side by side, home to the oldest rainforest left on Earth. At night, keep warm beside the fireplace at some of Australia’s oldest eco-lodges.

Winter is also the perfect time to visit Brisbane. This urban metropolis on a river that winds its way through the city centre is full of roof-top bars, alfresco restaurants and outdoor entertainment precincts. Even in the middle of winter, you can sit outside at all the outdoor venues in what you’d wear during summer down south.

Or head east from the city and check out Moreton Island, where you can snorkel the wrecks and feed wild dolphins.

You can swim with whales – not just watch them from the boat – on the Sunshine Coast. Winter is when the region really shines – the average temperature is 22 degrees. Noosa’s iconic Eat & Drink Festival attracts the country’s best chefs, winemakers and brewers in June for three days. There will be long lunches across the region, food trucks with live music and beach events on Noosa Main Beach.

The Whitsundays is the perfect winter escape for southerners. There are 74 islands up here – where you’ll find a marine wilderness to sail away into on your own chartered yacht (the Whitsundays are the best place in the world for yacht charters with waters protected by the Great Barrier Reef, and hundreds of possible anchorages), or on a skippered sailing tour. The inhabited islands are home to some of Australia’s most iconic island resorts, like Hamilton and Hayman islands. You can stay there, or in the laid-back, cosmopolitan town of Airlie Beach. There are scores of operators offering excursions throughout the islands, including to one of the world’s top 10 beaches – Whitehaven Beach – and out to the Great Barrier Reef. There are bars and restaurants on every corner in Airlie Beach, with views over the water and salty local characters come out at happy hour.

Or head further north, to the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef region. Even in winter the temperature doesn’t drop below 27 degrees (by day) and the water stays a pleasant 24 degrees. It has some of the best access to the world’s largest barrier reef, and there are all sorts of charters running daily, including day charters to the outer reef, fishing charters for marlin (it’s the marlin capital of the world) and diving operators. You can also visit offshore islands close to the coast: uninhabited national parks, where you can swim with turtles off the beach.

Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas provide a little something for everyone. Cairns is the departure point for over 50 different activities, from waterfall exploration day tours to white-water rafting and heritage train trips through World Heritage-listed rainforest. It has also got an exciting nightlife and a good selection of hotels.

Just north of Cairns, Palm Cove epitomises the sleepy tropical vibe of North Queensland. Drink a cocktail under a coconut tree and spend your evenings at award-winning restaurants by the sand. Port Douglas slots somewhere in between: it has a bustling nightlife, with a main street full of open-air bars and eateries, but it’s just as much fun to cook a barbecue in a park fringing town and share a sundowner with the locals. 

Take me there

Fly: Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar fly to the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Maroochydore/Sunshine Coast, Whitsunday Coast, Hamilton Island, Cairns and more.

Stay: Viva Holidays is offering special Queensland accommodation deals. On the Gold Coast, stay within the retro chic confines of QT in Surfers Paradise. Brisbane’s best new hotel is Hotel X in Fortitude Valley. Stay in one of Australia’s coolest beach towns at Noosa Blue Resort. In the Whitsundays, the most accessible island resort is the Reef View Hotel. In the heart of Cairns, the Pullman overlooks the Coral Sea.

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