I know what you're thinking: Queensland is all about sandy beaches, swim-up bars and island holidays. But trust me on this one - there is another side to Queensland, where the grass really is greener and there's not a pair of budgie smugglers in sight.
Picture a world-class holiday destination. Now, take away the tacky souvenir shops, busloads of backpackers and overpriced postcards. I give you Southern Queensland Country - a soul-nourishing sanctuary where you can ditch the beaten track and carve your own path. Here's how.
Discover a true nature retreat
It's like a scene from one of those relaxation CDs, only this time it's actually happening! You're on top of a mountain watching the clouds float past on a misty morning. The wildlife around you wake to what must be the freshest air south of the equator.
The view rolls on endlessly, the milk in your morning cuppa comes from the cow in the next paddock, the sunrise is serene.
Perhaps the biggest blessing of all - there's no mobile reception. After a few habitual reaches for your phone you realise that rather than connecting aimlessly to that addictive rectangular screen, you can instead connect to the real world.
When we drove back into mobile range and my phone started beeping like a busted alarm, I realised how unnecessary so much of my online communication is... No I don't want to play Farmville with you on Facebook. I don't even know who you are.
Of course, if you desperately need to Instagram an awesome pic of you collecting eggs from the chook pen, there's free wi-fi in the cafe.
Hit the open road
The opening of the so-new-it's-still-shiny Wellcamp Airport means Southern Queensland Country is now a lot easier to get to.
Once you hit the ground, you'll need some wheels – which means it's time to become one with the Great Australian Institution that is the road trip.
Breathtaking scenery rolls by, particularly in the vicinity of the Girraween National Park, where striking boulders and colourful flowers pepper the landscape.
Ditch the GPS in favour of directions given to you by locals. They know every tree, twist and turn of the land, and the cute maps they draw you make for great souvenirs!
Your journey will take you to open roads, tiny towns and, of course, will provide you with the kinds of experiences that only happen when you're on the road with mates.
Get on the local level
We felt the local love everywhere in Southern Queensland Country, from Jackie the enthusiastic Spring Creek waitress who returned on her day off to wish my travel buddy Alfie a happy birthday, to the friendly strangers at the Allora General Store who drove 20 minutes and two dirt roads out of their way to show us a sunflower field.
The locals here are different. The area nurtures the friendliest, most genuine culture I've ever experienced and there's no shortage of people willing to show you around their beautiful patch of earth.
The most local of them all would have to be Louise Brosnan. She's so local she has a road, a bridge and a mountain named after her in Killarney.
Book a seat on her Cambanoora Co. tour and she'll take you four-wheel driving through the rolling hills and rivers of the Condamine Gorge.
For all the amazing sights you'll see, however, it will be the people you meet and the way this place makes you 'feel' that will stay with you the longest.
Fall for the scenery
Spring Creek plunges dramatically over a 40-metre cliff face and the sheer sound of it ignites your spirit. Queen Mary Falls Caravan Park is the perfect base to explore from.
Kick things off with a 10-minute walk to the waterfall - an easy feat, even if you have just stuffed yourself with the famous scones and jam at The Falls Cafe (guilty).
Feed the friendly native birds in the afternoon, then spend a night in a cosy cabin. Better yet, kip under the stars right beside the campfire.
The park offers beautiful spots to partake in some 'actual' camping. Note: 'actual' camping not to be confused with a different type of camping you may also like to try. See below.
Find luxury in unexpected places
When your tent comes with instructions for the air conditioning and spa operation, that's a good indication it's no ordinary tent!
Alure in Stanthorpe offers nothing short of pure bush luxury with their 'glamping' experience. Our 5-star tent came complete with dishwasher, flat-screen TV, four-poster bed and GHD hair straightener – for the bush Barbie in all of us.
An almost meditative feeling washed over us as we stepped inside the canvas kingdom. You can even spend the afternoon soaking up the soothing scenery from the hot bubbling spa. And you should.