With record numbers of interstate and international arrivals in the past couple of years, Brisbane is fast becoming the Aussie travel destination of choice for many.
The city has more than enough attractions within its perimeter to keep visitors entertained, but for those who are keen to explore further afield, there are a variety of inviting destinations within easy reach. They range from pristine coastal retreats, to rainforest paradises and heritage towns packed with period architecture.
Here are five of the best day trips from Brisbane.
An hour’s drive south of Brisbane on the M1, followed by 15 minutes on a winding mountain road will bring you to the picturesque hinterland region of Mount Tamborine. Choices here for the outdoor enthusiast are varied. There are a number of sections of Tamborine National Park to explore, including The Knoll, MacDonald and Palm Grove — all of which offer a selection of short and long rainforest and bushwalks. If you’d prefer a stroll above, rather than through the rainforest, try the soaring Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.
Head to Gallery Walk in town for a great selection of cafes and arts, craft and gift shops — including three shops selling mouth-watering fudge and other delicious sweet treats. St Bernards Hotel is another tourist drawcard. Built in 1989, the hotel offers stunning views across the Tamborine Valley towards Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast skyline. Stop in for lunch or a quick drink, and say hi to the St Bernard dogs.
For a quiet lunch option away from the busy main street, try the beautiful Birchgrove Nursery.
Mount Tamborine is home to a burgeoning winemaking industry. There are several wineries in the region and wine tours from Brisbane are popular.
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The sublime Sunshine Coast — just 90 minutes’ drive north of the Brisbane CBD — stretches from the beach city of Caloundra all the way to the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park. The beaches are amazing, but there’s much more to the region. The rural hinterland harbours small towns with lots of individual charm and unique attractions. The rustic town of Montville is filled with quaint shops and cafes, and is just over an hour’s drive from the Brisbane CBD. Consider stopping at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve on the way for the stunning vistas towards the Glass House Mountains.
From Montville, you’ll pass rolling green hills and paddocks as you make your way to nearby Maleny. Maple Street — which runs through the centre of town — offers an eclectic selection of boutiques, shops and cafes, and has a relaxed, new-age vibe.
Combining a hinterland visit with an afternoon at the beach is doable, but it involves a fair amount of driving. It’s 81 kilometres from Maleny to cosmopolitan coastal enclave Noosa, through the towns of Mapleton, Nambour and Eumundi.
With so many activities in and around the world-famous Gold Coast, the challenge is choosing how to spend your time. The theme parks en route to the Gold Coast from Brisbane — Movie World, Dreamworld and Wet‘n’Wild, along with Sea World on the Southport Spit (just north of Surfers Paradise), provide plenty of fun and adventure for all ages.
Apart from the thrilling parks, the Gold Coast’s 57 kilometres of white sandy beaches are its biggest attraction. For a 360-degree view of the beaches, ocean and magnificent hinterland, visit the SkyPoint Observation Deck on level 77 of the Gold Coast’s tallest building — Q1. There’s a bar and bistro, and SkyPoint Climb takes the experience to another level!
Leave the high-rises behind and head south to Currumbin Beach, where you’ll discover a 750-metre expanse of white sand. It’s not quite Q1, but climb the steps up Elephant Rock for the lovely beach views. Nestled against the rocky outcrop is the Currumbin Surf Lifesaving Club. Founded in 1919, the club is the perfect place to enjoy a cold drink or a beachfront bite to eat. After lunch, head for the nearby Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
Visitors to any Queensland beach are reminded to stay safe and always swim between the red and yellow flags.
With its close proximity to Moreton Bay, Brisbane offers easy access to unspoilt islands that are packed with wild and marine life. North Stradbroke Island is the largest island, and is accessible by car-ferry or water taxi from the bayside suburb of Cleveland. Both drop passengers at Dunwich. For those visiting without a car, there’s a connecting bus that travels around ‘Straddie’.
One of the most popular spots on the island is Point Lookout. Complete the scenic 1.2-kilometre North Gorge Walk and you may spot humpback whales during their migration season (June to November), or pods of dolphins throughout the year. Cool down with a delicious scoop of gelato from the Oceanic Gelati & Coffee Bar. It’s the perfect post walk reward. There are often kangaroos grazing on the green grass opposite the shops and cafes.
Home Beach and Cylinder Beach — both patrolled by lifeguards — are an easy 15 minute stroll from Point Lookout.
The historic city of Toowoomba is located 90 minutes’ drive west of Brisbane. With its manicured parks and gardens brimming with colour, and well-preserved heritage architecture, Toowoomba offers visitors a taste of the rural Queensland life of yesteryear.
The city occupies a commanding position at the top of the Great Dividing Range — 700 metres above sea level. The cooler temperatures at this height allow for the growing of plants and trees normally associated with colder climates. It gives the city a very English feel.
The 25-hectare Queens Park and Botanic Gardens is the ideal place to stretch the legs after driving up the range, or enjoy a picnic. From autumn to winter (March to August) the impressive array of deciduous trees change colour from green to red to gold. The town celebrates the arrival of spring with the popular Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.
A trove of historical artefacts awaits at the Cobb and Co Museum — including an extensive display of horse-drawn vehicles.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best day trips from Brisbane? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Cover image: Shutterstock. Additional images: Bigstock
Jennifer Johnston is a Brisbane-based freelance writer and blogger inspired by travel, health and wellbeing. She juggles pursuing her passion for writing with raising three rowdy young men, a dog and a couple of goldfish. Jennifer has explored much of the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States (including Hawaii), Canada, New Zealand, Egypt, Israel, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Japan and Fiji. When she’s not writing, you may find Jennifer hiking in some distant part of the world.