QUEENSLAND
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Queensland, Australia is known as the "sunshine state," an apt nickname for this fabulously varied land of sun-drenched beaches, pristine islands and wild Outback. The Great Barrier Reef, just off the coast, is one of the major attractions here, but don't miss the rainforests in the north, the aboriginal history of towns like Rockhampton or wine regions like Southern Downs and Toowoomba.

Australia's tropical paradise, the vast northeastern region of Queensland is one of the most beautiful areas of "the land down under." From its unspoilt, white-sand beaches, to the wild Outback in the interior, to the majestic Great Barrier Reef along the coast, Queensland offers stunning variety and countless natural wonders waiting to be discovered.

Queensland's main resort is Cairns, one of Australia's most popular travel destinations. While not as picturesque as some of the smaller towns of the region, Cairns makes a convenient base for seeing the rest of Queensland, like the Great Barrier Reef, the lush rainforest of the north, and towns like Kuranda, Montville, Rockhampton and Maleny. Other good bases include the cosmopolitan cities of Brisbane and Townsville.

Australia's Great Barrier Reef runs nearly the entire length of Queensland and is one of the wonders of the natural world. At 1,200 miles, it's the planet's largest structure made by living organisms, a complex creation made of 3,000 individual reefs and more than 900 small islands. Sea turtles, birds and exotic underwater marine life make this "Blue Outback" one of the world's most diverse marine habitats. Naturally, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the world's best scuba diving locations.

Near the reef are a host of visit-able islands, each with a unique landscape and attitude. Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island, stretching 70 miles long. Fifty of those miles are given over to a mammoth surfing beach, but there are also rainforests, lakes and wildlife here. Other interesting islands include Green Island, Fitzroy Island, and Moreton Island, an excellent place for dolphin watching, and there are countless others too numerous to mention here.

In the far northern corner of Queensland you'll find thick, lush rainforests. Dripping with green, these rainforests hide a myriad of trails and of wildlife, and they make ideal hiking destinations.

Inland you can tour wine regions like Toowoomba and Southern Downs, which are fast becoming known for excellent quality and value wines. Wilderness areas like Lamington National Park make great places for exploring the great outdoors, while the wild, vast expanse of the Australian Outback is the untamed home of kangaroos and emus.

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Queensland has a tropical climate, with constant warm weather, high humidity and low rainfall most of the year. The warmest season runs from October or November through April, and temperatures this time of year range from 20?C to 35?C, though rainfall is a relatively high 100mm per month. May through September, the temperatures drop slightly, to 10?C-25?C, with rainfall of less than 50mm per month. Year-round expect sticky humidity at around 70%.

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Flying to Queensland from London will take a solid 24 hours' travel time, and will include at least one layover, usually in Los Angeles or somewhere in Asia. Major Queensland airports are in Brisbane, Townsville and Cairns, though there are smaller regional airports scattered throughout Queensland. In the south-eastern part of the region alone you'll find landing strips in Toowoomba, Caloundra, Dalby, Roma, Cherleville, Maroochydore and other towns.

Once you're in Queensland, you may want to hire a car in order to really explore this vast land. Driving here is easy and straightforward, though distances are long. If you choose to travel by public transportation -- a good idea for long-distance travel -- you can take advantage of the region's ample train, bus and ferry services.

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Queensland, like so much of Australia, is an ideal place for adventurers and outdoors enthusiasts. You can hike through the rainforests of the north, explore the Outback in a 4x4 vehicle, or bush walk through the region's numerous parks and reserves. Surfers will want to check out the waves along Queensland's endless beaches or along the shores of its islands. And of course scuba divers will be in paradise; diving enthusiasts consider scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef the experience of a lifetime.

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