Visitors to Brisbane are spoiled for choice when it comes to day-trips. In less than two hours, an exciting destination awaits in every direction. Here are just a few ideas of what to do heading north, east, south and west from Queensland’s capital.
Head North – Sunshine Coast
Think white sandy beaches and gentle surf. Think a little bit farmland – sugar cane and pineapples. Mix in a little bit artsy boutique and chic dining in sidewalk cafes or old Queenslanders. Add a touch of rainforest, and you have the Sunshine Coast. An easy 90-minute drive north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is where chilly “southerners” from Melbourne and Sydney come to warm up in winter, and where Brisbanites head to cool down in summer.
Hastings Street on Main Beach is the heart of town. Here, resort-wear boutiques sell that must-have kaftan or to-die-for jewelled sandals to well-heeled customers. Breezy cafes serve colourful salads made from avocadoes straight from the trees. Koalas gaze lazily down on walkers in Noosa National Park, a stroll away up on the point. Here, walking trails afford spectacular vistas of the ocean. Crowds too much? Nip over to Sunshine Beach. It’s a five-minute car ride from Hastings Street but a five-decade trip back in time. This is Noosa before it got style-cred. A wide, unspoilt beach, Sunshine Beach has loads of sunbathing and surfing room, yet the coffee is 21st century.
Noosa’s fresh produce and funky artisans are renowned. It is no surprise that Noosa Farmers’ Market is No. 1 market in Australia, according to review website, TripAdvisor. The famous Eumundi Markets in the small farming town of that name ranked number 4, loved for their huge array of jewellery, homewares, fresh-baked bread, and more.
Up in Noosa’s hinterland is a cute chain of mountaintop villages with stunning views back down to the coast. Pick up fresh peaches and macadamias at the roadside honesty stalls, call in for crafts in Montville and Maleny, and rest at Mary Cairncross Park, where the volcanic Glasshouse Mountains rise from the plain at your feet.
Life is not all food and lazing on the Sunshine Coast, unless you want it to be. Kayak, kite-board, 4WD, cruise the Everglades, rock-climb, sail, fish, scuba-dive – it’s all here. Watch crocs feed at Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, or get kissed by a seal at Underwater World aquarium. Take the kids to the go-kart track or the maze. The Big Pineapple has had a makeover, great for little children.
Head East – Moreton and North Stradbroke Islands
Not even all Brisbane-dwellers know about Moreton Island. It’s that well-kept a secret. A 75-minute ferry ride from the city on a high-speed catamaran, this sand island is 98% National Park. It is a land of endless beaches, clear blue water, and the only roads are sand. In fact, the island’s sand dunes are one of its main attractions for four-wheel-drivers and sand-boarders.
Shipwrecks lend an air of mystery to the beaches on Moreton, and make great snorkelling. Hikers love the bushland trails. After all, it’s not every hiking track that offers whale-, manta-, turtle- and dugong-spotting opportunities. The dolphins of Monkey Mia in Western Australia are world-famous, yet closer to home, wild dolphins come to be hand-fed at Moreton’s Tangalooma resort.
Moreton is almost entirely unpeopled. If you like your island getaways a little more developed, North Stradbroke Island is the answer. Like Moreton Island, it is a paradise of sand, beaches and bushland, but it has three small townships with cycling tracks, a golf course, an art gallery, a museum and Aboriginal cultural tours. Thirty kilometres south-east of Brisbane by ferry, North Straddie is much loved by surfers, swimmers and divers.
Head South – the Gold Coast
A 90-minute drive south down the freeway from Brisbane brings visitors to what may be the greatest tourist playground in the world. The Gold Coast is famous for its theme parks (but you knew that). Warner Bros movie World, Dreamworld, Sea World and Wet ‘n’ Wild are the big drawcards, but don’t overlook the charms of smaller places like Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary. Thousands of rainbow lorikeets have been descending for generations now on delighted visitors (literally, on their heads and shoulders) to feed every afternoon.
Sun, sea and sand is what the Gold Coast means to everyone, but it is hemmed in by a lush volcanic mountain range worth exploring. A quick 20-minute spin in the car north-west from Surfers Paradise has you climbing the slopes of towering Tamborine Mountain. This is the place to shop in craftsy villages, and take in fab views of the Gold Coast skyline. The Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk traverses the rainforest canopy, past rockpools and butterflies, and cantilevers out 30 metres above the treetops.
Head West – Toowoomba
History is still living in Brisbane’s inland farming districts. Head west through the beautiful Queenslander architecture of Ipswich, up the Great Dividing Range to the gracious city of Toowoomba. If we held a competition for ‘most scenic picnic spot’, Toowoomba’s Picnic Point could take first prize. Perched on the very edge of the plateau, this beautiful parkland of lawns and trees has drop-dead views to the coast. It is graced with beautifully kept flowers, and so is much of Toowoomba. It is not called the Garden City for nothing. As well as hosting a Carnival of Flowers in spring, the city has a formal rose garden and a Japanese garden. What makes Toowoomba so appealing is that its history is not fossilised. A self-guided walking tour takes visitors past the town’s many lovely old Queenslanders, which are still lived in. The Art Deco Empire Theatre still stages live performances, and blacksmithing, silversmithing and even millinery are still carried out at the Cobb & Co coaching museum.
Greyhound Coaches runs a number of daily services to Toowoomba from Brisbane.
All four points on the compass bring you to a great day-trip getaway from Brisbane, all within 100km, and each one unique. The journey is easy; the challenge is selecting a direction!