Hottest school holiday destinations and must-do road trips


When you can't go anywhere else, it's a good thing we live in Queensland.

As the September school holidays get underway, new data from travel giants Expedia has revealed Queenslanders are overwhelmingly opting to explore their own state.

The Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Whitsundays were the top destinations according to Expedia search data, followed by Cairns and Brisbane.

Data also found Brisbane was the best value for last minute hotel bookings, with 15 per cent savings on reservations made within one week of arrival.

The data should offer some encouragement for tourism operators praying for some positive news after months of grim tidings due to coronavirus travel restrictions.

An estimated $10 billion has been wiped from Queensland tourism revenue in the past six months, amid predictions up to a quarter of the state's tourism businesses could go broke.

Gold Coast kids Macie Brindley, 7, Jez Brindley, 12, Kai Brindley, 10, and Asha Brindley, 7, enjoying school holidays at Mooloolaba. Picture: Tara Croser.
Gold Coast kids Macie Brindley, 7, Jez Brindley, 12, Kai Brindley, 10, and Asha Brindley, 7, enjoying school holidays at Mooloolaba. Picture: Tara Croser.


But there has been a silver lining, with some Queensland regions experiencing their best trade in years, particularly the drive markets across the state's southeast.

Expedia's director for the Australian market, Alex Ozdowski, said Queenslanders were becoming increasingly enthusiastic about intrastate travel.

"With international travel still off the cards and restrictions making it harder to venture out of state, the big shift we've seen is a surge in regional travel," he said.

"With Queensland being home to some of Australia's most iconic destinations, it's no surprise Queenslanders are venturing out and exploring their backyard.

"It is also encouraging to see Aussies feel that nationalistic spirit, in supporting local businesses and tourism growth."




1. Sunshine Coast

2. Gold Coast

3. Whitsundays

4. Cairns

5. Brisbane

6. Fraser Coast

7. Port Douglas

8. Townsville


Queensland Tourism Industry Council CEO Daniel Gschwind said destinations within driving distance of the southeast's urban population were reporting strong holiday bookings and pointed to at least one positive to emerge from the coronavirus travel shutdown.

"We're learning to appreciate just how lucky we are to be here in Queensland," he said.

"The grass is not always greener on the other side.

"That could be the lasting legacy for the tourism industry of this whole time, that when you are searching for the world's best tourism experiences, we have them right here."


Macie and Asha Brindley, 7, exploring the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Tara Croser.
Macie and Asha Brindley, 7, exploring the Sunshine Coast. Picture: Tara Croser.

Sunshine Coast accommodation providers are completely sold out or nearing capacity for the first week of the school holidays and upcoming Queens Birthday weekend.

"You won't be able find a single bedroom, not even a bed, not even a sunbed," The Beach Retreat Coolum General Manager Andrew Millum said.

"It's really good news for the Sunny Coast for sure, because we would have had about two or three months of empty rooms, no cleaners, nothing … Now it's mayhem and it's been like that for the last two months.

"We've totally bounced back."

Down the coast at Mooloolaba, the Landmark Resort is at about 80 per cent capacity for the September school holidays.

"We've got a few rooms left for the Queens Birthday weekend, but we're pretty heavily booked," Manager Brett Thompson said.

"Obviously it drops off after the end of the long weekend and then we build up for Christmas but September has been good."

BIG4 Caloundra Holiday Park has just a few "small gaps" available for cabin or site bookings.



TOP QUEENSLAND ROAD TRIPS (from Budget Australia)

Rainbow Beach

Just 150 kilometres from the Sunshine Coast, this laid-back spot offers an idyllic getaway for beachgoers, ecotourists, fishermen, campers and those wishing to step back and truly relax. Inskip Peninsula, 10 minutes north of 'Rainbow', is the closest access point to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island (K'gari).


Just 88 kilometres from Brisbane, elevated in the Blackall Range, Maleny is renowned for its lush hinterlands and scenic spots. Located in dairy country interspersed by rainforest, this spot is sure to please anyone in need of a wholesome Queensland getaway. Check out Maleny and discover the spectacular natural wonders, sensational food and produce and charming places to stay.


Ninety minutes from Brisbane and on the edge of the Great Dividing Range 700 metres above sea level, Toowoomba is known as Queensland's Garden City and right now it's in full bloom as the region celebrates the annual Carnival of Flowers.


History and architecture buffs will love Warwick, a town in southeast Queensland, lying 130 kilometres southwest of Brisbane. Sitting gracefully on the banks of the Condamine River, the historic town features some of the state's finest original sandstone buildings. It is also a great spot to further drive and explore the friendly villages and small towns of the Southern Downs.

Agnes Water

Just over four hours from the Sunshine Coast, this is the starting point of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, famous for its gorgeous reef-fringed tropical islands and award-winning eco resorts.












Originally published as Hottest school holiday destinations and must-do road trips