Gladstone has an industrial side, but there are plenty of appealing options for the savvy visitor, from impressive lookouts to nearby beaches and beautiful botanic gardens. But it's what’s around the Central Queensland city that will really excite you. This is the gateway to the southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef, a section of the world-famous attraction that’s far less known and traversed than areas to its north.Here, away from the crowds, you’ll feel like an intrepid explorer, searching out coral cays, deepwater lagoons and secluded beaches. Snorkel with manta rays and turtles at Heron Island; bush walk in the Eurimbula National Park rain forest; float in the vast turquoise lagoon of Lady Musgrave Island. Captain Cook made his first landing in Queensland in 1770, and you can walk in his footsteps in what is now the coastal town of Seventeen Seventy. With so many options to choose from, this part of the country may well be one of Australia’s best-kept secrets.