Easy daytrips and roadtrips from sunny Brisbane, Queensland
The sunshine state, the smart state – whatever you want to call it, you can’t deny that Queensland is a beautiful state filled with spectacular, unique scenery. You can be driving down a winding road with leafy green rainforest surrounding you, and 10 minutes later you can be at a long stretch of white sandy beach with nothing but turquoise blue water views.
I moved to Brisbane from Sydney 6 years ago to be with my now husband then boyfriend and for a job within the sales team, and later the product team of an airline.
I had visited Queensland a few times before my move, but moving there took a bit of adjusting. Shops closed early on Sundays, I found choices for eating out and clubbing limited in comparison to Sydney, and, umm there was no 24 hour Kmart?! (This has since changed and there are a lot of restaurants that have opened up in different districts of Brisbane as well as cool laneways within the city!)
The fast paced lifestyle I was accustomed to in Sydney was a big contrast to the relaxed vibes of Brissy. I found myself doing a lot of day trips with my other half and friends to pass our time, as well as to take advantage of the close vicinity of some of the most beautiful beaches the country had to offer. I was living in one of the places where Aussies spent their holidays, how cool was that?
If you live in, or are using Brisbane as a base to travel around Queensland, I’ve compiled a list of all the day trips you can do from the city . Most require a car, however Queensland has a good public transport system (I’m a big fan of public transport!) so I’ve listed some which I have used as another option.
Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach and surrounds
Unleash your inner child by visiting one of the many amusement parks on the Gold Coast. Wet and Wild, Sea World, Movie World and Dreamworld are all within 10 km driving distance of each other so if you have time you can probably fit in two theme parks in one day. Avoid visiting during summer school holidays as this is when it gets really busy and you’ll spend most of your time queueing for rides.
Some people may tell you to avoid Surfers Paradise because of its reputation. Thanks in part to the city hosting the infamous “schoolies week”, akin to Cancun, Fort Lauderdale and Ocean City for American spring breakers, it has certainly earned its label but in my opinion is still worth a visit for the golden sands of Main Beach and to soak up the vibrant atmosphere. Stroll down Cavill Avenue for a spot of surfie gear shopping and look out for the iconic Meter Maids who help motorists avoid parking fines in the form of gold bikini wearing ladies.
If you want to escape the crowds of Surfers, drive to nearby Broadbeach where there are several beach fronts that are less populated by bronzed bods. Its also home to the 5 star (but very outdated) Jupiters Casino if you’re feeling lucky.
If you want to let your hair down, Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach and Southport have a good selection of bars and clubs to choose from. Just make sure you arrive before the lockout which is a new law that will be introduced to the state from 1 July, 2016.
The whale watching season is one of the best times to visit the Gold Coast. If getting up close to a humpback whale is on your bucket list, there are a few companies that offer tours to see the majestic animals. I booked a tour with Whales in Paradise – prices start from $99 per adult, however I purchased my tickets through Groupon where I received buy one get one free discounted tickets. You can subscribe to other discounted websites like Scoopon, to check if they also offer deals during the off seasons.
The Gold Coast is also known as the glitter strip for many reasons. Embrace the glitz and glamour and pay a visit to the Versace Palazzo Hotel for a martini, a scrumptious seafood lunch or if you have the time and dosh, stay overnight in one of the suites and relax in one of their stylish poolside cabanas.
Public transport to the Surfers Paradise and surrounds: From Brisbane, take the Airport train to either Nerang (for Surfers Paradise, Broadbeach, Southport) Coomera (for Sea World & Dreamworld) or Helensvale (for Movie World & Wet n Wild).
Gold Coast Hinterlands
If you don’t like getting sand in awkward places, you can still cool off in the Gold Coast without visiting a beach. Cedar Creek Falls and Curtis Falls are two popular natural pools that you can take a dip in during summer. Try to visit after a decent rainfall as we visited Cedar Creek Falls in Autumn when water levels were pretty low and it was more of a trickle than a fall.
A unique swimming hole (that I never got to visit, but have seen many instagrams of!) is the heart shaped pools of Killarney Glen. It’s popular with locals and I highly recommend a visit soon as there are talks of it closing down due to concerns regarding safety and trespassing.
The Gallery Walk precinct has a good range of boutique stores to pick up some arts and gifts if you want souvenirs. Stop by Witches Chase Cheese for a cheese platter made from the Scenic Rims local dairy farms, and wash it down with a beverage from Fortitude Brewing Company next door.
Situated north of Brisbane is the picturesque Sunshine Coast. With landscapes varying from tropical rainforests, mountainous terrains, waterfalls and golden beaches, the Sunshine Coast is a nature lovers paradise.
Make a foodie trip to beautiful Maleny in the Sunshine Coast where you can sample the local grape at Maleny winery and the artisan gelatos and sorbets at Colin James Fine Foods. The latter gourmet cafe also has an impressive walk in fromagerie as well as a dining area serving some simple but delicious sandwiches and salads. On the weekend, the Maleny RSL Hall is converted into a town market where you can pick up some handmade arts and crafts, homemade jams and fresh local produce.
Less than 10 minutes away from Maleny town centre is the popular swimming hole, Gardners Falls. Take a refreshing dip in the shallow area of the falls, or if you’re looking for some adrenalin further downstream there are ropes to swing off into the blue green pools below the waterfall.
Make sure you also make a stop by one of the lookouts overlooking the Glasshouse Mountains.
Another top pick for a foodie trip, Noosa is teeming with plenty of award winning restaurants, gourmet cafes and food stores. If you prefer to eat outdoors, the Farmers Markets held on Sundays is also a great way to spend the morning. The football club is transformed into a foodie paradise where you can purchase local produce, fresh juices and other organic goodies.
Stop by and soak up the grown up chic vibe of Hastings street which offers plenty of stylish shopping options.
Mooloolaba & Maroochydore
One of my favourite places to take visitors on weekend trips to Brisbane was Mooloolaba. The esplanade has plenty of restaurants, bars and boutique shops with views of the vast Coral Sea. The boardwalk is also a good place to stroll down and take in the seabreeze and vibes. A drive up further north will take you to the pristine beaches of Maroochydore.
If you haven’t heard of Steve Irwin, then crikey, you should find some clips of his show to watch his bold personality before visiting Australia Zoo to truly appreciate the crocodile hunters legacy. The Irwin family still run the zoo and sometimes make special appearances. You can walk amongst the kangaroos and feed them by hand if you want to get up close and personal, or hold a koala (for a fee).
The famous labelled ‘hippie’ town of Oz, Byron Bay is the epitome of laidback chill located in northern NSW.
The drive from Brisbane is around 2 hours with no traffic but I have found that some areas get really bottlenecked so I would say its more like a 2.5 – 3 hour drive. Although a day trip is possible, there are plenty of things to do and see in Byron so I suggest making it a weekend trip if you have the time to get the most of your visit.
One of my highlights would have to be the walking trail that takes you along the coast of Cape Byron to the lighthouse, passing the most easterly point of Australia. Its an easy-medium walk with paved paths and a few inclines, and its absolutely worth getting up early for the view. If its whale season, you might be fortunate to spot a few breaching in the distance.
If you’re lucky enough to be in Byron during Splendour by the Grass (usually held late July/early August), you can catch some amazing performers at the 3 day music festival. Tickets are usually snapped up quickly, but look out for the side shows where you can get closer to the artists as venues tend to be more intimate.
On the way back from Byron, stop by the coastal town of Ballina and one of its many beaches.
Probably the shortest trip out of all my recommendations of daytrips from Brisbane, the Moreton Bay region is only a 45 minute drive from the city centre. Mainland beaches like Suttons Beach and Godwin Beach are all very accessible, but they are basic compared to the beaches of Stradbroke and Bribie Islands. (Moreton Island is another popular island in the region but I never had the opportunity to visit so have omitted this from my post although you can find more information about it here.)
Stradbroke & Bribie Islands
Find a local fish and chip shop or bring a picnic and set up camp at one of the many parks next to the idyllic beaches located on Stradbroke and Bribie islands. Stradbroke Island, otherwise known as ‘Straddie‘ to locals has some pretty amazing beaches and vantage points overlooking said beaches. Bribie Island which is connected to the mainland by a bridge, is a pretty popular site for fishermen so bring your own line and rod and try to catch some lunch! Barbecue sites are stationed at many of the different parks alongside the beaches.
Public transport to Moreton Bay islands: For a visit to Stradbroke Island, catch a train to Cleveland station and make you way to the jetty by one of the buses that service the port. From the port, you can choose from one of the several ferry companies. I went with a ferry company called Stradbroke Flyer which were reliable and on time. If you are travelling without your vehicle to Stradbroke, the ferry ride only takes 25 minutes. To get around Stradbroke Island, there are buses that take you around several stops around the island or you can hire bicycles on the cheap per hour. To visit Bribie Island by public transport, take the train to Caboolture station. Buses depart from Caboolture station to Bribie island – more information on timetables can be found on the Translink website.
Tweed Heads is also located in northern NSW and offers plenty of activities for the daytripper. The winding Tweed River lined with mangroves makes it perfect for catching mud crabs and other seafood.
For this reason, I booked a tour with a local company, Catch a Crab that offered visits to their on site oyster farm, catch ghost shrimp/yabbies and the opportunity to catch mudcrabs (note: you don’t actually catch them as such, the company puts cages the night prior into the mangroves and you will just help with retrieving them on board). A delicious seafood lunch is then offered after you alight from the cruise and is served next to the river banks of the Tweed.
Tweed Heads is also not short of beautiful beaches so you can spend your day surfing, paddleboarding or simply getting your tan on.