Need to get out of town for a day? Whether you prefer to kick back by the beach or climb a small mountain, sample wine from the source or chase waterfalls in an ancient rainforest, there’s an easy escape from the Queensland capital to suit every day-trip mood.
If you don’t fancy driving, many great day-trip destinations can be accessed via Brisbane’s extensive train network, with plenty of other connections available via bus and ferry. While there are dozens of spots worthy of spending a day beyond the bright lights of Brisbane, here are half a dozen top options to get you started.
With the heart of the Gold Coast just an hour south of Brisbane (in good traffic, at least), the glitter strip makes for a great change of scenery for city slickers seeking a beachside alternative to buzzy Brisbane. Connected to Brisbane’s train network, the Gold Coast Light Rail terminates at Broadbeach, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants and bars along with the ritzy Pacific Fair shopping centre and a dazzling strip of beach. About 15 minutes’ drive south, you’ll hit hip Burleigh Heads, home to some of the Gold Coast’s best restaurants and bars including the seaside Burleigh Pavilion.
Inland from the Gold Coast, about 1.5 hours south of Brisbane, Springbrook National Park is a spectacular spot to spend a day in nature. Most visitors come to see Natural Bridge, a picturesque rock formation formed by the force of a waterfall over a basalt cave which turns into one of Australia’s best glow worm-spotting destinations after nightfall. Natural Bridge is reached via an easy 1km (0.6mi) walking circuit, but it’s just one of 10 walks in the national park including the popular Twin Falls circuit (4km/2.5mi).
A rural city just 45 minutes southwest of Brisbane, Ipswich offers a taste of country QLD without having to venture far from the capital. Historic homes meet culinary cool in this heritage region, where you can float high above the rolling hills in a hot air balloon and sip Devonshire tea in a 130-year-old country mansion. It’s easy to spend a day working your way around CBD attractions including the Ipswich Antique Centre, Ipswich Art Gallery and the Workshops Rail Museum, but for a special treat, reserve a table for a long lunch at Homage Restaurant in nearby Grandchester.
Forming a natural playground loaded with walking tracks and epic lookouts, the 11 rugged volcanic peaks of the Glass House Mountains lie just an hour north of Brisbane. The area’s traditional Aboriginal owners, the Gubbi Gubbi people, consider this area culturally significant, which has resulted in Glass House Mountains being listed as a landscape of national importance by the QLD and national heritage registers. The mountains are also home to six small towns that are connected via rail and country roads.
The lush green hills of Mount Tamborine set the scene for a fun day of cellar door hopping just an hour south of Brisbane. While most local wines are made from grapes from the nearby Granite Belt region, some wineries also have their own vineyards. You’ll find several cellar doors on the main street of Mount Tamborine, but for the full winery experience, head to Witches Falls or Cedar Creek Estate. Sober up on the enchanting 1.5km-return walk to Curtis Falls afterwards.
When you’re in the mood for a beach day without the razzle dazzle of the Gold Coast, head north instead. Just over an hour from Brisbane, you’ll hit the beaches of Caloundra at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast. It’ll take you nearly another hour to get up to Noosa at the northern end of the coast, but even finer beaches await if you don’t mind a longer drive. If you’re heading up the coast on a Sunday, don’t miss the Caloundra Street Fair on Bulcock St from 8am-1pm; its food trucks make a great lunch option.