Sunday, 12 March 2017

Work up a sweat in the Sunshine State: 101 guide to Queensland's best finishing lines

Cairns Airport Adventure Festival
Clock this! In Queensland, where adventure is arguably a 'state of being', Mother Nature herself has thrown down the gauntlet, inspiring some of the world's best finishing lines on land and sea.

Think idyllic multi-sport challenges across iconic World Heritage-listed rainforest and reef – 'the' reef, that is; aka the Great Barrier Reef, only the world's biggest, visible from outer space. Wide, sun-kissed beaches. Sand dunes, salt flats and majestic Outback plains. Let's face it: where else can you lap ancient turtles or leave emus in your dust?

So, if adventure is your middle name – and travelling light means compression tights, runners and a GoPro – Queensland has your (race bib) number.


There's no question Tropical North Queensland has become something of a superhero on the world's IRONMAN calendar, stepping onto the podium to host the Cairns Airport IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship, as part of the Cairns Airport Adventure Festival (4-11 June 2017) in a three-year deal to 2018.

Hailed by organisers as one of the 'most picturesque' events in the global IRONMAN suite – boasting the most spectacular cycle course on the planet, hugging the coastline along the Captain Cook Highway – the event draws one in five competitors from overseas. Of little surprise, the win-win opportunity of competing in, on and around one of the world's greatest natural wonders ranks high among their reasons for taking up the challenge. A destination like no other, where two World Heritage-listed icons meet – the Great Barrier Reef and Wet Tropics rainforest (including the awe-inspiring jungles of the Daintree; home to the world's highest concentration of plants once munched by dinosaurs).

If you live to run like Forrest Gump, Tropical Journeys Great Barrier Reef Marathon Festival (11-12 November 2017) offers a smorgasbord of challenges: 2.3km, 5km, 10km, 21.095km half marathon, 42.195km marathon and even a mammoth 74km ultra marathon. Staged in Port Douglas, all races start on Four Mile Beach (a favourite beach Frisbee haunt of A-lister Matthew McConaughey during filming of Fool's Gold). The marathon courses test competitors up steep inclines, undulating terrain and a creek crossing along World Heritage-listed rainforest trails. Olympic marathon champion Steve Moneghetti describes it as 'the world's best adventure course'.

For mermaids with extra kick, check out the Great Barrier Reef Swim at Heron Island (4-7 November 2017) or the Great Adventures Green Island Ocean Swim (27 August 2017), offering a unique opportunity to dive into the real-life set of Finding Nemo.

2017 UCI Mountain Bike
World Championships
Tropical North Queensland has also earned its stripes as a global mountain bike Nirvana. In 2016, Cairns hosted a UCI Mountain Bike World Cup leg ahead of the Rio Olympic Games. Cranking it up a notch in 2017, the destination is gearing up to host the grand finale of the Union Cycliste Internationale's (UCI's) season of major mountain bike events – the 2017 UCI Mountain Bike World Championships Cairns (5-10 September 2017). Staged at Smithfield Mountain Bike Park, itself the highest profile rainforest trail system in the world, the pinnacle event is tipped to unleash the most daring and gnarly World Championship mountain bike course the world has ever seen. Destination: extreme adventure!


Sure, it's best known as a drool-factor destination – home to 74 island wonders – where people come to flop and drop in Paradise. But the pristine white beaches and turquoise waters of the Whitsundays (part of the Great Barrier Reef) also give rise to some serious carb-loading events.

Be sure to pack a selfie stick for the annual Hamilton Island Endurance series, including the Great Whitehaven Beach Run (18 June 2017); Hamilton Island Triathlon (11 November 2017); and Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim (12 November 2017).

Did you know? Whitehaven Beach holds the title as Australia's most photographed beach and helped the Whitsundays last year become the second most instagrammable holiday destination on the planet (according to the UK edition of Cosmopolitan magazine). The island-packed idyll also bagged 'Best Destination in Australia' at the 2016 Golden Backpack Awards, took out fourth spot on Conde Nast Traveler's 2016 Readers' Choice Award for 'Top 20 Islands in the World' and is tipped to nab a spot on the hotly-contested Monopoly Australia Edition (to be announced May 2017).


Big brother, Tropical North Queensland, may have the IRONMAN Asia-Pacific Championship, but the Sunshine Coast's Mooloolaba Beach, which last year hosted the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship, will again draw the world's best to Mooloolaba for the IRONMAN 70.3 Sunshine Coast (10 September 2017).
Mooloolaba Triathlon Festival
The Sunshine Coast region is also famous for the Mooloolaba Triathlon Festival (10-12 March 2017), the Noosa Ultimate Sports Festival (27-28 May 2017) and the standout Noosa Triathlon Multi Sport Festival (1-5 November 2017), which stakes its claim as the largest Olympic distance triathlon in the world and the biggest multi-sport festival of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Blessed with an average 300 days of sunshine a year and described by travel bible Lonely Planet as 'a swanky resort town with a stunning natural landscape of crystalline beaches and tropical rainforests', could there be anywhere better to aim for a Personal Best?

For cycling enthusiasts, new kid on the block, the Velothon Sunshine Coast (13-16 July 2017), delivers another big tick for the region, landing the first Velothon Series event in the Southern Hemisphere. Billed as 'the ultimate winter cycling escape to the sun', expect the best elements of the European-style race transplanted into the perfect riding climate of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. On your bike! This epic UCI-sanctioned event (a one or three-day Velo challenge), is expected to draw thousands of competitors to the best new cycling gig on the planet!


Queensland's sporting golden child and tourism mecca, the Gold Coast – venue for the 2018 Commonwealth Games – has long turned heads as home to the Gold Coast Airport Marathon (1-2 July 2017). This event is pitted as Australia's premier road race, boasting one of the fastest, flattest – and most beautiful – courses in the world, hugging Gold Coast surf beaches and Broadwater. It is also the first marathon in Australia to hold an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Road Race Gold Label, placing it in esteemed company of the ilk of marathons in New York, Boston, London, Tokyo Berlin and Chicago. Attracting more than 27,000 participants, it also includes the Wheelchair Marathon, ASICS Half Marathon, Wheelchair 15km, Southern Cross University 10km Run, Suncorp Bank 5.7km Challenge, and Junior Dash 4km and 2km races.
Gold Coast Airport Marathon
Plus, don't miss cheering on the world's best triathletes when they descend on the Gold Coast for a leg of the ITU World Triathlon Series – the Jewel ITU World Triathlon Gold Coast (8-9 April 2017) – beginning their campaign toward the 2018 ITU World Championship and Commonwealth Games. What's more, Age Group triathletes can experience the ITU course over this exciting event weekend in the Jewel Gold Coast Triathlon – Luke Harrop Memorial.


Smack bang in the Simpson Desert – the world's largest sand dune desert – the Big Red Run (24-29 June 2017) is an endurance course like no other. It is Australia's only 250km desert race, over sand dunes, open gibber plains, clay flats and salt lakes.

Closer to civilisation, though still very much 'outback' in Queensland's north-west, the town of Julia Creek is famous for staging Australia's toughest sprint triathlon. Holding true to its name, the Julia Creek Dirt n Dust Festival (7-9 April 2017) means contending with mud, dust, heat and flies. Clocking up more than two decades, the annual festival also includes Australia's only annual bog snorkelling championship.

Still got energy to burn? Check out Tourism and Events Queensland's It's Live! in Queensland calendar, showcasing Australia's best live events in the best destinations.

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