Queensland's Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts admits there was confusion about evacuations during Cyclone Yasi, with many more people going to public shelters than was necessary.
Two residents used a community cabinet meeting in Proserpine on Sunday to complain there was no safe haven in their central Queensland communities from last week's category five storm.
People in low-lying areas were told to evacuate to the homes of family and friends, but in tourist centres like Airlie Beach many people were visitors with nowhere to go.
Mr Roberts said there were two phases of advice - first a warning to people in low-lying areas to move to higher ground as a precaution.
Second, on Wednesday morning, authorities identified areas vulnerable to storm surges and set up evacuation centres where people hadn't yet moved out, he said.
"In those areas where the actual risk was real, evacuation centres were identified," Mr Roberts told ABC Radio on Monday.
He admitted that the large numbers of people who flocked to evacuation centres showed the distinction wasn't clear.
"I think unfortunately there was confusion there," he said.
"But the clear advice was ... those evacuation centres were only for those in the low-lying storm surge areas.
"Certainly a lot of other people, as we saw in Cairns in the shopping centres etcetera, a lot more people went there because they feared the cyclone.
"The safest place, other than for those people who were in the storm surge, high-risk area was in their own home in the smallest or the strongest room of their home."