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10 of the best Brisbane day trips

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Looking for day trips from Brisbane that you can achieve in under three hours (one way)? We’ve got our top 10 list of the best places to visit in a day. From golden beaches to the rainforests of the Gold Coast hinterland, mountains and regional areas full of amazing farm producers, the hardest decision will be which one to do.

International and domestic visitors are starting to learn that Brisbane is a great city to spend some time in, instead of just airport-hopping from here to get to the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns, or other major capital cities. The city has been undergoing a quiet revolution over the past decade, and with Olympics now locked in for 2032, there is much more on the cards.

If you are planning a trip to Brisbane, be sure to spend more than a few days here, and allow time to get to visit all of the wonderful areas and regions mentioned below. You could literally stay here for weeks.

brisbane sign south bank

Gold Coast

Everyone knows the Gold Coast. Every one who visits Queensland from all over the world has the Gold Coast, or the “Goldie” on their list. The Gold Coast starts south of Brisbane (on the southern side of the Albert and Logan Rivers), down to the NSW border and out to the Lamington National Park in the west.

It’s known primarily for a few things; wild nightlife, golden, sandy beaches and theme parks. While these things are huge draw cards to the area, and all things that can easily be done on a day trip, there are also many cultural and unusual things to do on the Gold Coast as well.

It can take as little as 40 minutes to reach the northern towns of the Gold Coast from Brisbane, and 75 minutes, without traffic issues to get to the southern end around Coolangatta. It’s all completely possible as a day trip. Like the Sunshine Coast, our recommendation is to break down the Gold Coast into an activity-based or geography-based itinerary, to make the most out of your time spent here.

Highlights

  • No day trip to the Gold Coast can be done without including the “worlds”; Sea World, Dreamworld, Movie World, Wet’n’Wild. All of these would require one day each to do them properly. You can buy a seven-day pass here.
  • Swim at Main Beach, Surfers Paradise
  • Take a walk, scooter or cycle along the ocean boardwalk
  • Go to the Outback Spectacular, a must-see. Buy tickets here and be quick because they are always sold out well in advance.
  • Take a surfing lesson in front of the towering high-rise skyline
  • Cruise the waterways at sunset on a boat cruise
  • Go whale watching – it’s a beautiful cruise out from Southport Seaway and perfect at sunrise
  • Discover local culture at the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre
  • Walk through the Burleigh headlands
  • Do a small hike through the Springbrook National Park or Lamington National Park
  • Swim in the calm waters of Tallebudgera Creek
  • Feed the lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Vist HOTA – Gold Coast’s home of the arts. While here, enjoy sunset drinks on the level 5 bar and fine dining in Palette Restaurant.
  • Take a cultural foodie tour with Kiff and Culture Tours

Related reading >> Here’s 7 great activities to do on the Gold Coast\

Surfers Paradise skyline at sunset taken from HOTA

Sunshine Coast

In the sunshine state of Queensland, one of the best day trips from Brisbane is to the Sunshine Coast. It covers the area from Caloundra in the south to Noosa in the north and into the hinterland to places like Maleny and Montville. With such a broad area comes a broad range of landscapes; from the golden beaches to the mountains and lush rainforests of the hinterland. There are small communities, some of them are like a step back in time, while on the oceanfront, the urban life is prominent.

Artisanal food production, organic farming and local produce are at the centre of an emerging and burgeoning foodie scene. You won’t have to go too far to find an exceptional cafe, restaurant, wine bar or craft distillery here.

You won’t do all of the Sunshine Coast in one day. We recommend planning to visit parts of the Sunshine Coast, keeping to a specific geographic area.

  • Glasshouse Mountains area
  • Sunshine Coast hinterland – Maleny, Montville, Mapleton, Beerwah, Conondale, Flaxton, Yandina, Landsborough, Nambour, Mooloolah Valley
  • Beach towns – Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Sunshine Beach, Coolum, Noosa, Moffat Beach, Dicky Beach, Kings Beach, Wurtulla, Mudjumba, Shelly Beach, Golden Beach, Marcoola Beach, Peregian Beach.
  • Northern country areas – Pomona, Kin Kin, Cooroy, Gympie

Highlights

  • Eumundi Markets – iconic in this area, they are the must-visit markets and have been since 1979.
  • Take a walk through Noosa National Park for stunning views of the ocean
  • Shop and eat along famous Hastings Street in Noosa
  • Take the car ferry to Noosa North Shore
  • Visit Australia Zoo
  • Climb Mt Coolum before the sun rises and be rewarded with an epic 360 degree view. You’ll need at least two hours to do the climb.
  • Attend the annual Gympie Music Muster. Buy tickets here.
  • Eat and drink yourself silly at the annual Noosa Food and Drink Festival
  • Eat and drink at one of many fabulous cfes, restaurants, bars and craft distilleries, dotted all ovver the Sunshine Coast.
Gin craft distillery nambour

Glasshouse Mountains

On a clear day, the Glasshouse Mountains can be seen easily from Brisbane. If travelling by car, you can get to them in around one hour, but traffic can be bad sometimes on the highway so it’s always best to allow more. The mountains are hugely popular with visitors and locals. The remainder of extinct volcanoes, their peaks announce your arrival into the Sunshine Coast region. Most visitors to the “Glassies” as they are affectionately known come here to walk the tracks. There are some easy walking paths, but many require significant hiking experience and equipment.

Highlights

  • Walk around the base of Mt Tibrogargan
  • Take in the views from the top of Mt Ngungun
  • If you are experienced at hiking and rock scrambling, Yul-yan-man track is a grade 5 walk
  • Swim at Gardners Falls
  • Visit small local communities like Beerwah and Landsborough
  • Do what everyone does when they visit this area and spend a day at Australia Zoo

Scenic Rim

Most people only associate the Scenic Rim with the Gold Coast hinterland and specifically Mt Tamborine, but it is so much more than this. The Scenic Rim regional area is spread across a large area, mainly to the west and south-west of Brisbane. It includes the main towns of Boonah, Beaudesert, Canungra, Mount Tamborine and Kalbar. Most of these locations in the Scenic Rim can be reached from Brisbane in under two hours, many of them under one.

map of scenic rim regions

It also includes some of Queensland’s most spectacular rainforests and national parks including; Lamington, Main Range, Mount Barney and Tamborine. All of these national parks are part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

It is home to some of the state’s best fresh produce, with farmers using the rich soils of the area to produce vegetables and fruit. There are also many animal farmers including sheep, camels, alpacas and cattle.

You’ll find a range of craft distilleries offering gin and beer and some well-known wineries too. It’s also home to some great places to stay including two of the luxurious Spicers Retreats, Binna Burra Lodge and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.

Highlights

  • Mt Tamborine Village – known as the Gallery Walk, this area is the central part of the Mt Tamborine experience. Here you can sip on a wine or craft beer or indulge in one of many different types of homemade fudge. There are arts and crafts stores, local artists’ wares, gourmet providores and even a German cuckoo clock shop.
  • National park walks – while there are many multi-day hikes that are possible across all national parks in the Scenic Rim, there are also many casual ones, taking 30-60 minutes or up to two hours. Most of them are easy walks and can be done without needing any experience.
  • See the glow worms in the caves on Tamborine Mountain at night for a special treat
  • Do a wine tasting at one of the wineries at Mt Tamborine and Overflow Estate, or sample a craft beer or gin.
  • Pat the camels and drink a camel milk coffee at Summerland Camels, or try sheep cheese yoghurt at Towri Cheeses
  • Explore all of the local food producers and farmers during the Scenic Rim Farm Gate trail
  • Buy fresh flowers at Elderflower Farm, stroll through the flower garden or enjoy lunch under the huge trees at the Scenic Rim Farm Shop Cafe
  • Eat at the Kooroomba Vineyard restaurant overlooking the lavender farm, taking home some lavender goodies with you when you leave.

Related reading >> Read our comprehensive guide on the best things to do in the entire Scenic Rim area. It’s too big to do it all in a day, so we’ve given you some sample itineraries plus plenty of information to create your own.

people eeating and having picnics under the big tree at Scenic Rim Farm Shop

Granite Belt

The Granite Belt sits to the southwest of Brisbane, approximately a three-hour drive away. It’s located right near the Queensland border with New South Wales and sits high above sea level. Ranging from 700 metres to 1200 metres above sea level, it brings a unique set of conditions for the wine grapes that are grown extensively in this area. It also means that it’s one of the coldest places in Queensland in winter, making it the perfect area for winter getaways. Occasionally, it even snows here.

The Granite Belt is perfect for a day trip but it’s even better if you have a few days to stay. Stanthorpe is the most well-known town in the region and should be the starting point for any activity here. There are enough wineries, many of them featuring the little-known Strangebrids varieties to keep you occupied all day. But, if you are looking to mix your wine with good food, chocolate, soapmaking, bike riding or even buying a Christmas tree, then the Granite Belt will have you covered.

Highlights

  • Enjoy a picnic under a Christmas tree, Christmas in July or pick out your Christmas tree to take home at the Granite Belt Christmas Farm
  • Do some wine-tasting at one of 50+ wineries in the area
  • If cider or craft beer is your thing, head over to the Granite Belt Brewery.
  • Do a soapmaking course or buy beautiful ready-made soaps and other gifts at Washpool Skin Wellness
  • Eat tasty chocolate and take some home at Heavenly Chocolate
  • Buy jams and other gourmet goodies from Jamworks
  • Eat woodfired pizzas at sunset and great charcuterie boards at Balancing Heart Vineyard
  • Enjoy fine dining at Essen and Varias restaurants
  • Have brunch at Little Larder then buy tasty pastries from Zest
  • Stay in a tiny house or straw house (at Straw B&B) or a huge barn (Kurrajong)
  • Climb to the top of Girraween National Park
  • Do a Vine and Wine lunch with paired wines at Heritage Estate
  • See how Bent Road wines make their wines in ancient vessels called qveri
  • Visit an apple orchard and pick one fresh from the tree
  • Go on a truffle hunt at Folly’s truffle farm
balancing heart vineyard stanthorpe

Lockyer Valley

The Lockyer Valley is a foodie travellers’ paradise. Known as the nation’s salad bowl, a large percentage of food is grown in the black soil of the Lockyer Valley. Located west of Brisbane, and in between the major cities of Toowoomba and Ipswich, it’s an easy day trip from Brisbane to get to all of the main areas.

map of the lockyer valley regional council area

Highlights

  • Check out all the amaxing automobile memoribilia at Scotty’s Garage
  • Eat cheese and drink wine under the avocado trees at Awassi Cheesery
  • Have morning tea at Tins & Trays at Gatton or the Floating Cafe at Grantham
  • Buy smoked smallgoods at Schulte’s Butchers Plainlands
  • Stay at Branell Homestead

Related reading >> We love visiting this area and have written several comprehensive articles about things to do in the Lockyer Valley and the food experiences in the Lockyer Valley.

scottys-garage

Ipswich

Ipswich is not a region that is often thought of when people consider where to go from Brisbane, but it should be for many reasons. Located only 30 minutes from Brisbane, it’s perhaps one of the shortest day trips you can do from Brisbane, allowing you plenty of time to spend in the area.

Highlights

  • Visit the llama farm and walk a llama
  • Drink gin at craft distillery Imbibis at Haigslea
  • Check out the antiques, hire a glamping tent for a special occasion or have a pub meal at the Marburg Hotel
  • Drive a V8 supercar around the Willowbank Race Track
  • Take a hot air balloon flight over Ipswich and its surrounding area
  • Take a ride on the Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway
  • Follow the street art trail
  • Take part in ‘Galvanized’ a heritage festival that takes place annually

Related reading >> Read all about the best things to do in Marburg

main street of marburg

Toowoomba

Toowoomba is one of south-east Queensland’s largest regional centres and is located only 90 minutes drive from Brisbane. It’s known as the city of flowers, with the whole area coming alive with colourful floral beauty each year for its annual festival. Toowoomba also has its own international airport now with Wellcamp Airport located 20 km outside town.

Highlights

  • See the annual carnival of Flowers held every September
  • Cobb and Co Museum – this is where you’ll find the national collection of carriages along with many other treasures of yesteryear
  • Picnic Point – take a picnic or grab a bit to eat from the cafe and take in the views over the plains below
  • Farmers markets – held every Saturday next to the Cobb and Co Museum. Look for the big windmill.
  • Bakers Duck – don’t miss their fabulous french pastries, pies and bread
  • Hike to the top of Tabletop Mountain

Byron Bay

Byron Bay is one of Australia’s best-known towns. Put on the map by hippies and surfers many decades ago, it’s home to one of the best beaches on the northern NSW coast. While still a haven for surfers, it’s also now become the place for hipsters, those seeking wellness and a more casual lifestyle, and at the other end of the spectrum, the rich and famous.

Byron Bay is an easy drive, mostly on the highway, taking approximately two hours from Brisbane. Like many of the places in this article, staying a couple of days can make the visit a lot nicer, but this is still an easy day trip to do. Our recommendation is to go during the week if you can. It becomes very busy on weekends all year round.

Highlights

  • Byron Bay Blues Fest – takes place in April every year. It’s a sellout and tickets sell fast, as does all the accommodation in the area. Book early and fast if you plan to come during this time. Buy tickets here.
  • Splendour in the Grass music festival – another annual music event held in July. The same conditions apply as noted above. Buy tickets here.
  • Visit the Cape Byron Lighthouse at Australia’s most eastern point. A great way to get here is via the Cape Byron walking trail which starts at Clarkes Beach and ends up at the lighthouse. Better still, get here for sunrise if you can. Vehicle access is also possible up to the lighthouse as well.
  • Swim at one of the area’s nine beaches. While all the action – and the people – happens at Main Beach, if you are looking for something a little quieter head to Belongil or Clarke’s. Watego is one of the prettiest sandy strips and is often quite sheltered as well. Tallows, the long strip of white sand that can be seen from the lighthouse is also a beautiful beach and great for surfing too.
  • Walk through the Cumbebin Wetland Sanctuary
  • Whale watching – like many of the towns and beaches along the eastern coast, it’s possible to see the whales as they migrate north for their annual breeding season. Sometimes you can see them clearly from the shore, but getting out into the ocean on a whale-watching tour improves your chances of spotting them.
  • If you have never surfed, take a surfing lesson at one of Australia’s most iconic surf beaches.
  • Visit The Farm Byron Bay and eat at the Three Blue Ducks. The Farm is a working farm, with much of the produce being grown here ending up on diner’s plates at the on-site restaurant. As well as being a fabulous place to eat, drink, hang out and have a picnic, it’s also a space where you can do farm tours and other educational activities. It’s a top spot for kids and it’s dog friendly too. If you can’t eat at the restaurant, be sure to grab some bread and other pastry goodies from Bread Social or a gelato fropm Baylato.

Islands

There are several islands off the coast of Brisbane that are fantastic for a day out including; Moreton Island, South Stradbroke Island and North Stradbroke Island.

South Stradbroke Island is best reached via the Gold Coast, so this might make a day trip difficult or just too long a day. However, once you are there it doesn’t take long to get to the island and there are several tour companies that offer cool kayaking tours that are good fun to do. If you hire a boat you can also get there yourself.

North Stradbroke Island is reached via a short ferry trip from Cleveland in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs. Known locally as “Straddie” and culturally as Minjerribah, it’s a fun, relaxed place to visit for the day. The ferry is both a passenger and vehicle ferry which provides options for you to consider once on the island. There is a bus as well that will take you up to Point Lookout, one of the best spots on the island.

Moreton Island is home to popular resort Tangalooma, where you can feed the wild dolphins, under the supervision of trained marine personnel. The ferry leaves from Pinkenba every day and takaes approximately 75 minutes to reach the island. Moreton Island is well-known for its shipwrecks – great snorkelling – and sand dune tobogganing.

Highlights

  • Camp, fish, swim, kayak, jetski and surf on any of the islands
  • Stay at Couran Cove on South Stradbroke Island
  • In whale breeding season, keep an eye out offshore for the big marine mammals that might surface as they make their way north
  • Walk the short North Gorge Walk on North Stradbroke Island
  • Swim in the brown lake. Aptly named, Brown Lake, this body of water near Dunwich has been permanently stained by the tea tree leaves that fall into it from nearby trees.
  • Go sand duning
  • Snorkel the shipwrecks

There are many tours and activities available on Moreton Island that you can book ahead of time. Some of these are listed below.

Visting Brisbane? Stick around, take your time, explore everything the city has to offer, and then, when you think you’ve had enough, spend time in the regional areas around this great city. There’s plenty to do and you won’t be disappointed.

Photo of Gold Coast at night time

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