A friend and I are traveling to AU from USA in Feb. Since we only have about 10 days, we're focusing on QLD only, and would like to incorporate rainforest, wildlife, and the reef, without lots of crowds and tourist-trap type venues. Do you have any suggestions?
I'd say platypus spotting in Eungella National Park (there is a daily very small tour (6-8 people) leaving from Mackay - you can even stay camping overnight in the park with this YHA package), and then a flight from Mackay to some other destination for more. Someone else will probably have a better suggestion, but the best I can come up with is to Cairns to do a Cape Tribulation tour (or better: rent a car there and do it yourself), which has crocodile spotting and loads of rainforest stops (though I'll doubt you'll see more than birds as far as wildlife goes for those). Unfortunately that's also quite a busy touristy route, but on the upside, the tourgroups are small as the ferry can't carry large busses.
Don't know anything reefy which isn't touristy.
Boy oh Boy!
10 days for such a long trip! Oh well!
I recommend landing in Cairns as the last post said. Unfortunately with such a limited time you will not be able to visit many non-touristy places that are all close together that I can think of.
Someone else might come up with some though LOL.
Anyway, from Cairns you can visit a few wildlife places heading north from Cairns. You can catch a boat for a day to an outer reef for snorkelling and/or diving or you can visit Green Island which I think has recently been refurbished. It is touristy but nothing like your country with crowds!
From Cairns you can catch the skyrail and head to Kuranda. It is touristy but very nice just the same. There is plenty of wildlife up there to see - butterflies, koalas, kangas etc. and if you continue on to the Tablelands from there you will see the most beautiful creeks, lakes and rainforest to your heart's content.
Must sees would be:-
Crocodile farm at Harley's Creek (north Cairns)
Kuranda - by skyrail or car for local markets, animals etc.
Atherton Tablelands for rainforest, fresh water etc.
Cairns for sightseeing and catching a boat to reef.
Hope this helps.
PS: I'd probably hire a car for a day or two to go to the Atherton Tablelands. There is so much to see up there.
Not sure of your budget, but you may want to at least check out http://www.mungumby.com. I worked there for a couple weeks as a WWOOF'er (willing worker on organic farms). It's just north of Cape Trib and definitley off the tourist track. Lots of hikes, wildlife, etc. Sounds like you'll be in kind of a rush though. I do recommend the Atherton Tablelands as well. Cairns is tourist hub, no way around it, but you can go off to the reef in smaller groups.
focusing on QLD? scuba dive is not bad.
[ Edit: sorry, no promos in the forum please. ]
For the Rainforest bit look into Lamington National Park. Stunning place! 45 minutes from the Gold Coast but a million miles away from the chaos! Binna Burra mountain lodge has an old world feel to it and their are possums and wallabies galore, as well as those bloody turkeys!