If you plan a trip to the East Coast of Australia, you will likely have Brisbane on your itinerary. Located halfway between Sydney and the Whitsundays Islands, Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and the gateway to several attractions and day explorations, from coastal places of the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast to national parks, mountains, and inland day drives. Here are our picks for the best day trips from Brisbane.
How to Plan Your Day Trips from Brisbane
Day trips are lots of fun. And Queensland has almost the perfect weather for day trips. However, you must plan your day trip properly to cross off all the top spots in your itinerary. Brisbane offers an excellent public transportation network. Thus, some day trips to coastal destinations can be easily made by train or bus. Hiring a car is best if you plan to visit more places inland and go hiking in the national parks. What is the most convenient way in terms of your budget and your time? What works best for you, your itinerary, and the activities you plan to engage in? Also, consider the distance. Is it manageable, or would the drive exhaust you?
Wondering where to stay from Brisbane to the Gold Coast Area? Check out our complete guide:
12 Best day trips from Brisbane
Many trips from Brisbane allow you to discover this impressive subtropical region and its natural attractions. Having visited Brisbane and explored its surroundings by car and public transport, I listed some of the best day drives from Brisbane worth adding to your trip. Some can be done by public transportation, whereas some are best suited for self-driving trips.
Trek at the Glass House Mountains
A trek at the Glass House Mountain will be an opportunity to get your muscles to work and take you to some of the most picturesque panoramic views you will ever see. You could also go on s stroll or upgrade the adventure and test your rock scrambling skills. The best routes include walking around the base of Mt. Tibrogragan and to the top of Mt. Ngungun. It is a beautiful, safe, and exciting place for all adventure seekers. This trip is best on a self-drive from Brisbane, as a car will give you more flexibility to explore the area.
Spend a day at Mount Tamborine
Another incredible drive is from Brisbane to Mount Tamborine. Get a drink at a relaxing hinterland café at Mount Tamborine and chase one of the majestic waterfalls in the area, or watch paragliders take off the hills into the deep lush valley. A must-go is Curtis Falls, surrounded by lush forests that would satisfy your adventurous soul. You can also choose to visit the Mount Tamborine Botanic Garden, which, among others, features a lake with lilies, ducks, and a charming bridge.
Go hiking in the Lamington National Park
If you prefer to dive into the ancient forest, Brisbane’s surrounding area offers some gorgeous places for hiking. The Lamington National Park features beautiful hiking trails, picturesque villages, and historic sites. The nearby Binna Burra section of the Lamington National Park is a paradise with 24+ walking trails and awe-inspiring vistas. If you are adventurous, the 5-hour return walks through the world’s oldest subtropical rainforests to the summit of Mount Warning is the right thing for you.
Go for a walk in Burleigh Heads National Park
Along the magnificent beaches, you will come across the coastal suburb of Burleigh Heads. It is well known for its incredible scenic lookouts, beaches, and attractive fresh markets. Head to the beach and relax on the sand or dip in the protected waters of Tallebudgera Creek. In Burleigh Heads, you will also find great campgrounds at the Tallebudgera Creek Tourist Park. It offers luxurious waterfront villas or budget accommodations depending on your needs. You can get there by train and bus from Brisbane.
Visit the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
The Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is the best wildlife park to feed wild lorikeets and witness entertaining Aboriginal performances. It is well known for the Free-Flight bird show, where the audience can see the incredible birds flying freely against the sanctuary’s natural environment. It also has many adventurous activities like the TreeTops Challenge High Ropes Course. This wildlife park on the Gold Coast gets very busy, and I recommend going there early in the morning to avoid long queues.
See wildlife at the Australia Zoo
If you love wildlife, you must plan a day trip from Brisbane to the Australia Zoo in Beerwah, the largest zoo in Australia. The Australia Zoo is enormous; you will need at least 6 hours to visit it all, so plan a whole day. This zoo offers the largest natural environment for all Australian native animals, from kangaroos, Koalas, Wombats, and the entire world, with various educational shows. The highlight is the crocodiles show, presented every day. Moreover, you can take the opportunity to visit the Wildlife Warriors Hospital, one of the largest wildlife hospitals in Australia. It’s located just next door to Australia Zoo. They proudly rescue and save thousands of sick and injured native animals annually. You can get to Beerwah by train, and you need to catch a taxi from there. So booking a transfer in Brisbane may be convenient.
Take a Dip at the Northern Gold Coast Beaches
Home to some fantastic beaches, the beaches at the Northern Gold Coast are great spots for a day trip. Dubbed as the surfer’s paradise, you will discover many beaches in the area which would satisfy your “at the beach day”. Broadbeach, Mermaid Beach, and Surfers Paradise are some of the best beaches on the Northern Gold Coast. The Northern Gold Coast also features water and theme parks that attract families with kids. There are also beautiful walking trails and coastal and natural attractions for nature lovers.
Spend a day in Byron Bay
You cannot leave Brisbane without stopping by Byron Bay. This little village known among locals as the “sons of flowers village” is a haven for surfers, nature lovers, and those who want to get away from the city buzz. The beaches in Byron Bay and the waves are superb, and the hinterland is a top location for keen hikers.
Byron Bay is about 200 km south of Brisbane. You can access it through the Greyhound buses, which operate daily. This trip is ideal as a day road trip from Brisbane since hiring a car will immerse you in all the bay offers – including a detour drive to Ballina for more beautiful beaches.
Visit Coolangatta on The Gold Coast
At the end of Queensland’s Gold Coast, you will find the marvellous Coolangatta. Once there, stroll along the impressive promenade and look back at the Surfers Paradise’s silhouette in the distance. Off the coast of Coolangatta Beach, enjoy watching spectacular surf at Kirra Beach.
On its southern end, you can visit Rainbow Bay Beach, the gateway to Snapper Rocks, another excellent surfing place. If you are looking for shady swimming spots, you will find one amidst the lush greenery of Greenmount. Lastly, you must check out some of the beautiful festivals held here. Consider staying longer, so you can also go on day trips from Coolangatta.
Go on a self-drive trip to Mooloolaba
Mooloolaba is probably one of the best beaches you could visit in Queensland. It features crystal clear waters, white sand, fun swimming, sports and many beach activities. A trip to Mooloolaba is best for a half-day trip from the afternoon to the evening. You can indulge in delicious coffee from several cafes while strolling along the beach and enjoying the sweet sea breeze and sunset. You can try body surfing or go on a river cruise tour.
Mooloolaba is perfect for a half-day drive from Brisbane to walk on the beach, dine out and enjoy a stunning sunset. Mooloolaba also offers excellent facilities for BBQ and beach parties. The Loo with a View of Public Toilets is just off the busy Esplanade. A toilet complex offering showers, and toilets, has developed into a natural gathering point for locals.
Take in the beauty of Noosa
A dazzling sunshine, peaceful beach days, calm waves, natural national parks, and a variety of mouth-watering dishes, Noosa is undoubtedly a place to be. The love for the environment expressed by the locals in the area reflects how beautiful the area is. It is also home to fun and exciting events like the Noosa Triathlon, Noosa Open Studios (a niche art event), and NOOSA alive, a performing arts festival. If you go on a day trip, do the coastal walk in the Noosa National Park and enjoy strolling along shops, boutiques and fine restaurants on Hastings Street. Truly, Noosa is a destination for all travellers and shouldn’t be missed. Noosa is quite a drive from Brisbane. I’d suggest leaving early on a long day trip by bus (it takes 2.5 hours) or by car. Or if you plan to stay overnight, you may consider a 3-day road trip.
Explore Moreton Island on a boat tour
If you want to see more of Brisbane”s surroundings, Moreton Bay makes for a great island day trip. Catch the 75 min ferry at South East Brisbane to all four islands that form Moreton Bay. The best way to explore the bay is by boat or kayak. I went on a half-day kayaking adventure and loved it. This allows you to cross over, border the inlets and smaller islands, and marvel at the beautiful mangroves. Stop at Stradbroke island for sandboarding or a stroll on its huge dunes. There is no public transportation, so the best way to explore the island is to go on a guided tour.
More ideas for day trips in Brisbane
There are more fun and unusual day trips that you can undertake in Brisbane. Depending on your taste, consider a day trip to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary as one of the top places to see native Australian animals. If you love untouched nature and peaceful beaches besides Noosa on the Sunshine Coast, another place worth visiting on a half-day trip is Caloundra, a pretty small coastal town, the perfect relaxed day drive from Brisbane. Or you can also add it to your day trip to the Australia Zoo.
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First published in 2017, last updated in Jan 2023
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