While Brisbane tends to get stuck in the shadow of Sydney and Melbourne, those who visit the city can’t stop raving about it. 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 Brisbane.
How to Get Around
Although you can make many of these day trips with public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. With your own four wheels, you control your time and schedule; depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out to be cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the lowest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can get the best possible car for your budget.
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries! We’ve listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
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. In addition, since it’s the second-largest sand island in the world, you can expect plenty of gorgeous beaches to sunbathe on, swim from, 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 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.
Book Tour to North Stradbroke Island
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. You may want to spend part of your day just sunbathing on its lovely white sand beaches and paddling about in the water. Moreton Island is also great for those looking for activities out in its pristine waters. Kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and snorkeling are all great ways to pass the time. As for land-based activities, there’s quad biking, cycling, and sandboarding. Many visitors, however, say the highlight is hand-feeding the wild dolphins that come in close to shore at Tangalooma Island Resort during the early evening.
Getting there: There are daily ferries that make the 75-minute journey from Brisbane to Moreton Island. Keep in mind that there is no public transportation on the island and that 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 in which 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. However, many visitors will be most excited by the activities that give them 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.
4. Noosa Heads
If you’re looking for a fun seaside town to visit, 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 Heads 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 that 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 2.5 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. After that, you can head down to Cavill Avenue, the heart of 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 just over 90 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, including 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 just over an hour. However, you’ll have trouble reaching many of the lookouts from the villages. 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 World War II bunkers on the island, which sets Bribie Island apart. As you explore, 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 two hours. However, to 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 activity to start with is the forest walk to the tranquil Curtis Falls. Next, head over to the Rainforest SkyWalk, which goes through the treetop canopy of the rain forest. 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, it’s best if you visit on a guided tour.
Book Tour to Tamborine Mountain
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. Thanks to their artsy vibes, two of the most popular towns are Montville and Maleny. In each you’ll find inviting cafés, boutiques, and plenty of arts and crafts shops. Both feature plenty of great country scenery with stunning views of the Glass House Mountains. There are also nice local nature walks such as those 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 Site. Visits focus on special landmarks within the primeval rain forest, 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 easily seen 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.
Book Tour to Springbrook National Park
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 for the dense rain forest 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 to impress mates. To see the forest from a fresh perspective, head to the O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walk and explore the 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 two hours 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 farmers market, some time at local cafés, 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 just under two 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 to chill out in one of the local cafés or make the most of the sand beaches. Restless types will find kayaks, pedal boats, and stand-up paddleboards for rent, while others will be content with swimming, sunbathing, and a picnic or a 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 two hours. From there, it’s a 10-minute ferry ride to the 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, which hugs 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 2.5 hours away.
15. Samford and Mount Nebo
Last but not least, we have the delightful combination of Samford and Mount Nebo, to the northwest of Brisbane. Here you’ll find hilly countryside covered in forests and 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 rain forests. Afterwards, head into the village of Samford for some food and fun. Get some lunch at a local café or geek out at the Harry Potter–themed Store of Requirement shop. You can then head over to the local Samford Museum or 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 and even though they are only a 30-minute drive away, the only way to visit Samford and Mount Nebo from Brisbane is by car.
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 nearby.
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