The Bureau of Meteorology said a cyclone warning was in place for several coastal and island communities in Queensland state as Tropical Cyclone Hamish moved through the Coral Sea with winds of up to 220kph (135mph).
The cyclone was on the opposite coast to the oil and mining regions of the northwest but Queensland has been battling major floods since December 2008 after a series of storms and cyclones.
Australia is the world's third-biggest sugar exporter and sugar farmers in Queensland, who produce 95 per cent of the crop, are already facing substantial losses. Thousands of cattle also are estimated to have perished in earlier flooding.
Hamish was estimated to be 250 km (155 miles) east of the northern Queensland tourism hub of Cairns early on Saturday, the bureau said in a statement on its website (www.bom.gov.au).
It said damaging wind gusts could be expected in the next 24 to 48 hours but the cyclone was expected to follow the coast south rather than make landfall.