5 Awesome Weekend Trips in Queensland, Australia

There’s a whole lot of nature on Brisbane's doorstep
There’s a whole lot of nature on Brisbane's doorstep | © Veni / Getty Images
Photo of Tom Smith
1 April 2021

Brisbane may not be brimming with city beaches and scenic bushwalks, but there’s a whole lot of great outdoors right on its doorstep. Check out these five weekend trips, all of which are within easy reach of the Queensland capital.

Gold Coast

There are lush swimming holes in Lamington National Park | © Robbie Goodall / Getty Images

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  • Just an hour’s drive down the M1 from Brisbane, the Goldie offers a smorgasbord of things to see and do on a day trip. The 57km (about 35mi) of golden coastline represent the Gold Coast’s most obvious attraction; Rainbow Bay and Currumbin Creek are great places for a dip and surfers will love the world-class breaks at Snapper Rocks and the Superbank. Kids and kids at heart should make a beeline to the Gold Coast’s raft of amusement parks, specifically Dreamworld, Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild. Head inland for some of Queensland’s most Instagram-worthy terrain, including the lush swimming holes in the Springbrook and Lamington National Parks, the serene Mount Tamborine and the web of walking trails around the Scenic Rim.

    Haven Currumbin

    Map View
    Courtesy of Danielle / Airbnb

    Stay within 100m of one the best beaches on the Gold Coast at this two-bed apartment. The soothing neutral colour palette, bespoke furniture and vintage surfing artworks create a stylish setting, and the open-plan living room and kitchen open out onto a sunny balcony. If you have surfboards or sport equipment in tow, there’s storage space and covered parking, and you can make use of two beach cruiser bikes and helmets. Other essentials include beach towels and unlimited Wi-Fi, and there are board games and Netflix on the smart TV to entertain you in the evenings. It’s perfect for families, as Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and the TreeTop Challenge ropes course are just over the road.

    North Stradbroke Island

    This large sand island is famous for its snow-white beaches | © bru_greg / Getty Images

    ‘Straddie’, as the locals call it, is just a ferry trip from Cleveland in the south of Brisbane, but feels like a tropical island that’s a world away from the Queensland capital. This large sand island is famous for its snow-white beaches, which double as some of the best fishing spots in the state, as well as its abundance of native Australian wildlife: you’ll bump into kangaroos on the North Gorge Walk and koalas around Dulwich and Amity Point. Straddie is also dotted with inland freshwater lakes, such as the tea-tree stained Brown Lake, and offers a stack of great nautical activities such as kayaking, snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing.

    Boolarong architect-designed beach house

    Map View
    Courtesy of Judy / Airbnb

    This six-guest house is the most unique rental on Straddie. Contemporary, minimalist and design-led, it has spectacular views over Point Lookout towards Moreton Island, and is surrounded by gum trees frequented by koalas. The large open-plan kitchen and veranda with Miele cooktop, Smeg stove, dishwasher and Weber barbecue is the perfect setting for group dinners and DIY sundowners, though there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance, too. The beach is a short drive away. There’s no Wi-Fi and the house is surrounded by extensive bush walking tracks, so you can completely immerse yourself in the island’s natural landscapes.

    Sunshine Coast

    The tracks around the headland in the Noosa National Park are jaw-dropping | © T. M. Yusof / Alamy Stock Photo

    With Caloundra just an hour and a quarter from the middle of Brisbane and Noosa Heads another half hour up the road, the Sunshine Coast is within easy day trip range of the capital. This pristine stretch of coastline is blessed with warm water and warmer sunshine 12 months a year, inviting visitors to dive into one of the many underwater experiences available. And it’s not just about the beaches: the impressive Glass House Mountains provide a stunning backdrop to the region, not to mention the network of leafy bushwalks to explore – the tracks around the headland in the Noosa National Park are jaw-dropping.

    Little Red Barn in the Noosa hinterland

    Homestay, Cottages
    Map View
    Courtesy of Mel / Airbnb

    After a day out on the spectacular hiking trails of Noosa National Park (a 20-minute drive away), head back to cool off in the heated plunge pool, or cosy up by the fire, at this converted barn. The luxurious hilltop house also has an al fresco cast-iron bathtub where you can soak while keeping an eye out for the kangaroos that sometimes visit the grounds. A huge veranda, complete with a dining table, outdoor sofas and views over the hinterland, runs the length of the building, while inside you’ll find a huge farmhouse-style kitchen and three bedrooms with exposed beams and either queen- or king-size beds.

    Australia Zoo

    There’s a range of animal encounters and feeding experiences on offer at Australia Zoo | © richard sowersby / Alamy Stock Photo

    The home of the crocodile hunter is one of the best ecotourism experiences that the Sunshine Coast has to offer. Located only an hour north of Brisbane, Australia Zoo was founded by Steve Irwin’s parents in 1970, and Irwin’s legacy has lived on, thanks to wife Terri and kids Bob and Bindi, since the Croc Hunter’s untimely death in 2006. This zoo has sustainability and conservation at its core, providing a home to a thousand animals on this large site nestled in the scenic Sunshine Coast hinterland. There’s a range of animal encounters and feeding experiences on offer – you can snap a selfie with everything from lemurs and meerkats to cheetahs and giraffes – and don’t miss the legendary crocodile feeding show.

    The Loft House in the Glass House Mountains

    Map View
    Courtesy of Richard / Airbnb

    Perfect for families and groups, this four-bedroom house can comfortably sleep up to 10. It’s only a few minutes’ drive from Australia Zoo, and the private pool which is surrounded by lush greenery and barbecue facilities mean there’s plenty more to do back at base. The beaches of the Sunshine Coast are a 20-minute drive away and kids will love toasting s’mores over the firepit in the evenings. There’s a spacious dining area out on the deck and plenty of comfy spots to relax with a book, including a Balinese daybed and a hammock.

    Moreton Island

    The Tangalooma Wrecks are one of the best snorkelling sites in the state | © DarrenTierney / Getty Images

    This coastal paradise just north of Straddie is a well-trodden day trip from Brisbane, offering heaps of aquatic adventures. The postcard image of Moreton Island is the Tangalooma Wrecks, a set of 15 ships rusting in crystal-clear water that offers one of the best snorkelling sites in the state. There’s the chance to hand-feed dolphins at the Tangalooma Island Resort, or watch whales crawl their way up the humpback highway during winter. Hop behind the wheel of a four-wheel drive and tackle trails on the beach or through the bush, or get the adrenaline pumping with some sand dune tobogganing. That’s an awful lot to squeeze into a cheeky day trip!

    The Jetty at Cowan Cowan

    Map View
    Courtesy of Tony / Airbnb

    Walk right off your private deck and onto the sand at this relaxing two-bedroom beach house. It was built during World War II, making it a fitting setting for history buffs keen to explore the Tangalooma Wrecks while on the island. It’s also one of the most eco-friendly options around, relying completely on solar power and collected rainwater, so if you’d prefer to have creature comforts such as hairdryers and air conditioning, this may not be the stay for you. There are still plenty of mod cons, however, including a fridge and washing machine. There’s no Wi-Fi, but when you can spend your days swimming in the surf and your evenings barbecuing or relaxing around a firepit, who needs it?

    Sofia Vyas contributed additional reporting to this article.

    These recommendations were updated on April 1, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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