While it tends to get stuck in the shadow of Sydney and Melbourne, those who visit Brisbane can’t stop raving about the city. You can see most of the main attractions of Brisbane in a day but the great thing about the city is that it gives you access to many of the best places to visit in Queensland. You’ll be amazed at the places that are just a short trip from Brisbane. From islands and national parks, to cozy country towns, here are the best day trips from Brisbanel.
Note on How to Get Around
Although many of the day trips mentioned below can be done by public transport, for more flexibility and independence consider renting a car for the day. Your own 4 wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than using other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we have listed the best tour for each day trip (if available) for you below.
1. North Stradbroke Island
There’s no doubt that one of the most popular Brisbane day trips is to the island known as “Straddie”. North Stradbroke Island sits across Moreton Bay from Brisbane and is fantastic if you’re seeking beaches, wildlife, and spectacular views. To get your bearings, take a walk along the North Gorge Walk which runs along the coast at Point Lookout. It’s in this part of the island that you’re most likely to spot local marine life, particularly dolphins and sea turtles, plus humpback whales during their winter migration. But as the second-largest sand island in the world, you can also expect plenty of gorgeous beaches to sunbathe on, swim, and surf at, including Cylinder Beach right by Point Lookout.
Getting there: Regular ferries depart for North Stradbroke Island from the town of Cleveland, taking 45 minutes. Getting to the ferry though can take a little over an hour by train and bus. Alternatively, you can take a guided tour and not have to worry about finding your own way there.
2. Moreton Island
Another one of the most popular day tours from Brisbane is the gorgeous Moreton Island which is full of nature and wildlife. Most of the island is a protected national park, making it perfect for those seeking some time in the great outdoors. With lovely white sand beaches you may want to spend part of your day just sunbathing and paddling about in the water. Moreton Island is also great for those looking for activities out in its pristine waters. Kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and snorkeling all great ways to pass the time. As for land-based activities, there’s quad biking, cycling, and sandboarding that can be enjoyed. Many though say the highlight is hand-feeding wild dolphins which come in close to shore at Tangalooma Island Resort during the early evening.
Getting there: There are daily ferries that make this 75 minute journey from Brisbane to Moreton Island. Keep in mind that there is no public transportation on the island and the only way to get around is by 4WD. If you’re looking to visit without a car, it’s best to go with an organized tour.
3. Australia Zoo
Many travelers can’t wait to see Australian wildlife on their trip, and for that Australia Zoo is one of the best places to visit from Brisbane. This interactive zoo was created by the family of famous Australian wildlife personality Steve Irwin and is one of Queensland’s most popular attractions. Within its sprawling grounds you can see creatures from across Australia and beyond its borders, from koalas and kangaroos, to tigers and rhinos. There are also a variety of daily animal shows where visitors can see birds of prey in action and crocodiles being fed, all the while learning more about the animals and the conservation work done to support them. But many will be most excited by the chance to get up close and personal with the animals, like hand-feeding kangaroos and cuddling a koala.
Getting there: Since you can’t reach Australia Zoo easily with public transport, the best way to get there without a car is on an organized tour.
If you’re looking for a fun seaside town to visit then look no further than Noosa Heads. This town up on the Sunshine Coast is one of the best things to see in Queensland outside of Brisbane thanks to its relaxed vibe and beautiful coastal scenery. Noosa is the sort of place that has something for everyone. The shops and boutiques that line Hastings Street in the center of town are great for retail therapy, while one street over is the seafront promenade by Noosa Heads Main Beach. Up the coast you’ll find Noosa Heads National Park, home to walking trails which go through eucalyptus forests, including the picturesque Coastal Walk. These walks can take you to some really pretty spots, including the Fairy Pools and Hell’s Gates. Finish up with a relaxing cruise down the Noosa River.
Getting there: The fastest way to reach Noosa Heads from Brisbane is by bus. The trip takes around 2 ½ hours. If you don’t want to be restricted by bus timetables you can go with a guided tour.
5. Surfers Paradise
After Brisbane, the next major destination in Queensland is the Gold Coast, at the heart of which is Surfers Paradise. One of the best side trips from Brisbane, Surfers Paradise is the resort heart of the Gold Coast with rows of high-rise towers clinging to its long, straight beachfront. Most visitors head straight for Surfers Paradise Beach to enjoy its fantastic sand and surf. Next, head down to Cavill Avenue, the heart of Surfers’ shopping and nightlife. To see what the Gold Coast looks like from above, head up to the SkyPoint Observation Deck. There are also quirky, family-friendly museums in town like Ripley’s Believe It or Not! and the Gold Coast Wax Museum, but it’s the Infinity Attraction and its special effects that really impress.
Getting there: There aren’t too many easy train trips from Brisbane, but there are regular trains connecting Brisbane with Surfers Paradise. The trip takes around 1 hour 40 minutes and connects through Helensvale.
6. Glass House Mountains
For proof that it’s not just the coast in Queensland that’s stunning, you need only look to the Glass House Mountains. These majestic craggy mountains, sixteen in total, can be found in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. The peaks were once the cores of volcanoes and now are simply iconic features of this sublime landscape. It makes sense that one of the most popular things to do around the Glass House Mountains is seek out the best viewpoints which include the Glass House Mountains Lookout. Reaching many of the viewpoints requires following the many walking trails that crisscross the area. Other popular outdoor activities in the mountains include horseback riding and abseiling.
Getting there: There are regular trains that travel out from Brisbane to the Beerburrum and Glass House Mountains stations, taking about 1 hour 10 minutes. However, you’ll have trouble reaching many of the lookouts from the villages there. You really need a car to fully explore the area.
7. Bribie Island
Since Brisbane is by the coast, the fact that there are other islands to visit like Bribie Island shouldn’t be too surprising. Bribie Island is the smallest of the sand islands in Moreton Bay and is actually connected to the mainland, meaning you don’t have to take a boat to get there. Traveling around the island you’ll experience a range of environments from surf beaches to mangroves and wetlands. Interestingly, you’ll also find old WWII bunkers on the island which sets Bribie Island apart. As you explore the island, keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife like emus, goannas, and kangaroos, as well as dugongs and turtles along the shores. It’s important to understand that most of the island is a national park and lacks roads, meaning you’ll need a 4WD and a vehicle access permit.
Getting there: To get from Brisbane to Bribie Island, take a train to Caboolture and then a bus onto the island. There are regular departures and the trip should take around 2 hours. However, to actually explore the island fully you’ll want to take a 4WD tour.
8. Scenic Rim and Tamborine Mountain
When it comes to spellbinding nature, Tamborine Mountain and the Scenic Rim region can’t be beat. It’s hard to believe the variety of natural attractions found here. From the town of Mount Tamborine, the easiest place to start is with the forest walk to the tranquil Curtis Falls. Next, head over to the Rainforest SkyWalk which goes through the treetop canopy of the rainforest. Continuing away from the town you’ll come to the Cedar Creek Falls and the perfect little swimming hole found at the bottom of the cascades. Finally, on the other side of town you’ll find the incredible Glow Worm Caves, where you can see the magical light of countless glow worms inside these man-made caves.
Getting there: As there isn’t really any viable public transport to get from Brisbane to Tamborine Mountain, your only option is to take a guided tour.
9. Sunshine Coast Hinterland
Visitors pay plenty of attention to the coast around Brisbane, but there’s just as much to be found inland as the Sunshine Coast hinterland proves. The countryside is adored for its rolling hills and the relaxed country towns that are hidden among them. Two of the most popular towns are Montville and Maleny thanks to their artsy vibes. In each you’ll find inviting cafes, boutiques, and plenty of arts and crafts shops. Both feature plenty of great country scenery with stunning views out to the Glass House Mountains. But there’s also nice local nature walks as well such as at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve and Kondalilla National Park.
Getting there: Unfortunately towns like Montville and Maleny aren’t accessible by public transport, so renting a car is really your only option.
10. Springbrook National Park
Australia is home to many ancient landscapes, Springbrook National Park being one of the most beautiful and impressive. This protected national park in the Gold Coast hinterland is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, a UNESCO world heritage-listed site. Visits focus on special landmarks within the primeval rainforest, one of which is the Natural Bridge, where a waterfall flows into its cave. Other waterfalls in the area include Twin Falls and Rainbow Falls which can both be seen easily from Canyon Lookout. For sweeping views across the landscape head for the appropriately named Best of All Lookout on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. While many of these spots are along the edge of the national park, you’ll also find many more at the end of walking trails that head deep into the forest.
Getting there: As you can’t reach the national park with public transport, it’s best if you visit on a guided tour.
11. Lamington National Park
So expansive are the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia that Springbrook National Park isn’t the only national park within its borders. Another is Lamington National Park, known just as much for its beautiful wildlife as the dense rainforest in which it’s found. While it’s possible to find the little pademelons and bandicoots that live in the undergrowth, Lamington National Park is best known for its bowerbirds. These birds are particularly interesting as they build little arches from sticks and arches to impress mates. To see the forest from a fresh perspective, head to the O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk and explore forest canopy with its network of walkways and suspension bridges.
Getting there: You’ll need your own vehicle to reach this national park which lies around 2 hours drive from Brisbane.
To experience what country life is like in this part of Australia it’s best to head for the inland city of Toowoomba. Brisbane may not always feel like a big city, but compared to Toowoomba it feels like a metropolis. Sometimes known as the “Garden City”, Toowoomba is home to several pretty parks and gardens, including Queens Park and Laurel Bank Park. However, it’s the Japanese Gardens within the University of Southern Queensland that may come as the biggest surprise. To delve into the city’s colonial past, head over to the Cobb+Co Museum, with its in-depth exhibits on local history and collection of old-fashioned horse drawn vehicles. Making the most of a visit to Toowoomba also requires a trip to the farmer’s market, some time at local cafes, and a bit of wandering to hunt down the burgeoning street art scene.
Getting there: Regular buses go from Brisbane to Toowoomba, with the trip lasting around 1 ¾ hours.
13. Coochiemudlo Island
Maybe a little less well-known than other islands, Coochiemudlo is nevertheless another great island to pop over to for the day. ‘Coochie’, as locals call it, is a really small island located just off the coast from Victoria Point. While there are roads on the island, you shouldn’t need a vehicle to get around. The main things to do are; chill out in one of the local cafes, or make the most of the sand beaches. Restless types will find kayaks, pedal boats, and stand-up paddle boards for rent, while others will be content with swimming, sunbathing, and a picnic or barbecue. If a simple day of fun in the sun is all you’re after, Coochiemudlo Island is a great pick.
Getting there: There are various combinations of buses that will get you from Brisbane to Victoria Point, most of which take around 2 hours. From there it’s a 10 minute ferry ride over to Coochiemudlo Island.
14. Granite Belt Wine Trail
Although there are much more famous wine regions in Australia, one of the best to visit from Brisbane is the Granite Belt. Hugging the border with New South Wales, the most popular way to explore this region is to take the Granite Belt Wine Trail that goes from Cottonvale to Stanthorpe. This is actually the highest elevation wine region in the country and as such produces mostly cool climate wines. However, it’s also home to alternative variety wines, grape types that are rarely grown in Australia. It’s these factors that make the Granite Belt quite unique among Australian wine regions and irresistible to wine connoisseurs. The hard part is deciding which of the many wineries to visit for taste-testing.
Getting there: To visit the Granite Belt from Brisbane, driving is really your only option as it’s more than 2 ½ hours away.
15. Samford and Mount Nebo
Last but not least we have the delightful combination of Samford and Mount Nebo. Located out to the northwest of Brisbane, here you’ll find hilly countryside covered in forests and watched over by several impressive mountains. Start by heading up to Mount Nebo, making sure to stop at Jolly’s Lookout along the way for the views. Once at Mount Nebo you have your pick of bushwalks that will take you through gorgeous rainforests. Afterwards, head into the village of Samford for some food and fun. Get some lunch at a local cafe or geek out at the Harry Potter themed Store of Requirement shop. You can then head over to the local Samford Museum, the Slab Hut Art and Craft Gallery, or find more hiking trails over at the Samford Valley Rail Trail.
Getting there: Because of their regional location, the only way to visit Samford and Mount Nebo from Brisbane is by car, even though they’re only a 30 minute drive away.
Those are some of the best places you can visit from Brisbane on a day trip. Clearly it’s worth allowing a little extra time in your itinerary while you’re there, given how many awesome places are closeby.