11 Top-Rated Day Trips from Brisbane
When it comes to day trips from Brisbane, travelers are spoilt for choice. Three of the world's largest sand islands shimmer just offshore, with beautiful blonde beaches and quirky wildlife. In the lush hinterland, nature lovers can explore walking trails through World Heritage-listed wilderness areas, with rainforests, rivers, and breathtaking waterfalls.
Are you an animal lover? Wildlife is a highlight on many of these trips. Kangaroos, koalas, king parrots, pademelons, and a dazzling diversity of birds are just some of the Aussie critters you can see in the national parks, and a visit to Australia Zoo is one of the most popular Brisbane day trips for families.
Add quaint mountain villages; the golden beaches of the laid-back Sunshine Coast; and the glitzy Gold Coast, with its posh boutiques and popular theme parks, and it's easy to see why Brisbane makes a great base for exhilarating Queensland adventures. Discover places to visit around the sunny state capital with our list of the best day trips from Brisbane.
1. Australia Zoo, Beerwah
About a 45-minute drive north of Brisbane, Australia Zoo is a must-see for animal lovers, especially fans of the late Aussie "Wildlife Warrior," Steve Irwin. Australia Zoo continues Steve's work, with a strong focus on conservation and education.
Spread across 110 acres, Australia Zoo is home to a cast of lovable Aussie animals, as well as a host of exotic beauties. Sumatran tigers, elephants, cheetahs, zebras, and rhinos are some of the favorites.
In addition to all the fascinating animal exhibits, the solar-powered Crocoseum hosts popular live shows every day, including crocodile feeding demonstrations and animal shows starring snakes and colorful parrots. With all this entertainment, no wonder a visit here is one of the most popular things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
Animal encounters are a highlight. Book in advance and pay extra for special encounters with your favorite animals, from tigers and koalas to red pandas, cheetahs, meerkats, rhinos, and the Leapin' Lemur Encounter on Bindi's Island. You can also hand-feed kangaroos for the price of a bag of "roo" food.
You should plan on at least a full day here to really make the most of your visit. For an extra fee, you can also add a visit to the animal hospital, with funds supporting its healing work.
Insider's tip: Wear your walking shoes, and be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, refillable water bottle, and rain jacket.
If you'd rather let someone else do the driving, you can hop aboard the air-conditioned Croc Express coach on the Australia Zoo Day Trip, which includes entrance fees, as well as convenient pickup and drop-off directly from your hotel.
Address: Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, Queensland
Official site: http://www.australiazoo.com.au/
2. Surfers Paradise
About two hours' drive south of Brisbane, in the heart of the Gold Coast, Surfers Paradise buzzes day and night. True to its name, this sun-soaked tourist hub is a hot spot for board riders. Surf breaks lap the golden shores, and water sports are one of the top things to do here.
Surfers Paradise Beach is one of the top attractions on the Gold Coast. High-rises and hotels line the sun-soaked sands, and if you feel like a shopping fix, head to the designer boutiques in modern shopping malls a few blocks away. Cavill Avenue is the shopping and entertainment core.
Traveling with the kids? In the surrounding area, popular theme parks like SeaWorld, Warner Bros. Movie World, and Dreamworld lure families looking for an adrenaline adventure. And if wildlife encounters are top on your agenda, you can get up close to your favorite Aussie creatures at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.
More adventures await at SkyPoint, Australia's tallest residential tower. For spectacular bird's-eye views of the coast, zoom up to the SkyPoint Observation Deck or sign up for the heart-pumping SkyPoint Climb.
A rewarding way to sightsee around Surfers Paradise is on the Aquaduck City & River Tour. This one-hour tour takes you on both land and sea in an amphibious vehicle. See the Gold Coast's beautiful beaches from land, then hang on tight as the vehicle transforms into a boat for a relaxing river cruise. Along the way, you'll learn about all the top landmarks and cruise past the splashy mansions of Millionaire's Row.
3. Springbrook National Park
Spectacular Springbrook National Park, about 100 kilometers south of Brisbane, is a wonderland of ravishing natural beauty and ancient flora and fauna. The park forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Gushing waterfalls, cool creeks, rugged volcanic canyons, rainforests, and fragrant eucalyptus trees spark all the senses, and provide the perfect counterpoint to a city-based stay.
Panoramic viewpoints are the best places to visit to soak up the park's beauty. Canyon Lookout reveals views of the entire Gold Coast, and the appropriately-named Best of All Lookout offers jaw-dropping vistas all the way to New South Wales, as well as a glimpse at a stand of ancient Antarctic beech trees.
Hiking is another great way to appreciate the park. The park's hiking trails offer beautiful views over the volcanic gorges and valleys, and range from short 300-meter, cliff-top jaunts fringed by cycads to longer circuit hikes. A favorite is the four-kilometer Twin Falls Circuit overlooking two waterfalls flowing like bridal veils.
Other park highlights are the breathtaking Purling Brook Falls Lookout; a colony of glow worms; and the Natural Bridge, an eroded rock bridge and cave through which a creek and waterfall flow.
Besides hiking, other popular things to do in Springbrook National Park include birding (listen out for the elusive lyrebird), horseback riding, and picnics. On your return trip, try taking an alternative route to soak up as much scenery as possible.
To see all the highlights of this beautiful wilderness in one day, the Springbrook National Park Discovery Full-Day Bushwalking Tour is a great option. An expert guide will take you on nature walks, with visits to the top features of the park, like Purling Brook Falls and Natural Bridge. Lunch and park entrance fees are included.
Official site: http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/springbrook/about.html
4. Moreton Island
About 75 minutes by ferry from downtown Brisbane, Moreton Island is a stressed-out city slicker's dream. The stress detox begins as soon as you say goodbye to the city traffic and step aboard the ferry or private tour boat.
Moreton Island is the world's third largest sand island and one of the most popular island day trips from Brisbane. Its lovely dune-backed freshwater creeks and lagoons, long blonde beaches, and colorful wildflowers lure nature lovers — about 98 percent of the island is protected as a national park.
River to Bay offers a range of themed day trip tours from Brisbane to Moreton Island aboard their sleek high-speed boats.
One of the most popular things to do on Moreton Island is snorkel or dive the 15 shallow-water wrecks, which lie just off the beach. Other highlights include hand-feeding wild dolphins at the Tangalooma Island Resort; gazing out at breathtaking blue-water views from Cape Moreton Lighthouse; quad biking; and plenty of water-based activities, such as whale-watching cruises, sea kayaking, and fishing.
Sandboarding down the soaring dunes, and four-wheel drive adventures, are also popular. You can try these activities on the Moreton Island 4WD Day Trip from Brisbane. This full-day, small-group tour also visits some of the wrecks on a guided snorkeling tour and includes time to bask on the beautiful beaches and enjoy a picnic lunch.
5. Noosa Heads
On the Sunshine Coast, about two hours north of Brisbane, Noosa is a favorite destination for Aussies seeking a relaxing beach escape. Glorious golden beaches, wilderness experiences, and fantastic shopping and dining are some of Noosa's top tourist attractions.
Surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers alike head to Noosa's Main Beach to swim in the blue-green waves of Laguna Bay, and bask on the soft sands. Overlooking this alluring stretch of coast, walking trails thread along the rugged headland in Noosa National Park, with beautiful views of the ocean.
Are shopping and dining top on your to-do list? You can do that here, too. A five-minute stroll from the beach lie a string of fantastic restaurants, cafés, boutiques, and galleries along upscale Hastings Street, and you'll find even more options in Noosaville along the Noosa River.
Other popular activities in the area include paddling along the Noosa Everglades, fishing and boating along the picturesque Noosa River, and shopping for souvenirs and fresh local produce at the popular Noosa Farmers Market.
6. North Stradbroke Island
Affectionately known as "Straddie" by the locals, North Stradbroke Island offers many of the features travelers love about Australia: beautiful beaches, great surf, and quintessential Aussie wildlife. It's the second largest sand island in the world (after K'Gari Fraser Island) and lies about an hour by car and ferry from Brisbane, across the blue waters of Moreton Bay.
A great place to start a tour here is the scenic North Gorge Walk, a seaside trail and boardwalk around the headlands to Point Lookout. This panoramic viewpoint is a fantastic spot to look for marine life, such as dolphins, sharks, turtles, manta rays, and even whales from May through October.
On land, you might also spot some of the island's resident kangaroos and koalas. After hiking, you can cool off with a dip at one of the island's sweeping white-sand beaches or freshwater lakes.
Other popular things to do on North Stradbroke Island include deep-sea fishing, beach and rock fishing, SCUBA diving, snorkeling, sea kayaking, and surfing. Three tiny townships on the island offer restaurants and a sprinkling of historical attractions, if you can tear yourself away from the beach.
The small-group Stradbroke Island Day Trip gives you a taste of most of the island's diverse attractions. You can look for wildlife on land and in the sea, as well as swim, sunbathe, and explore the island's small townships.
7. Lamington National Park and The Scenic Rim
About a two-hour drive from Brisbane, World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park is a haven for nature lovers and birders. The park lies tucked amid the emerald peaks of the Borders Ranges in Queensland's Scenic Rim, a picturesque region of lakes, mountains, rainforests, and charming country towns. Lamington National Park is one of the most popular Scenic Rim day trips from Brisbane.
Luxuriant rainforest punctuated by waterfalls provides the perfect setting for hiking trails and a diversity of fascinating wildlife. The park is famous for its resident bowerbirds, which build elaborate arches adorned with bright blue objects to impress the females. About 190 other bird species also make their home here, including squadrons of brilliantly-hued king parrots and crimson rosellas that alight on anyone who dares to stretch out their arms.
Other wildlife frequently spotted include small marsupials, such as red-necked pademelons and long-nosed bandicoots.
Most visitors take the twisty road up to O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat, a guesthouse, spa, and restaurant. From here, you can explore the park on O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk, a series of suspension bridges and walkways strung through the canopy about 16 meters above the rainforest floor.
If you take the O'Reilly's Lamington National Park and Tree Top Canopy Tour from Brisbane, you can add in beautiful views of the region from Mount Tamborine and a visit to an alpaca farm. This full-day tour includes entrance fees to the park, the canopy walk, an expert guide, and hotel pickup and drop-off. Don't forget to bring a rain jacket — this park is lush for a reason!
Official site: http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/lamington/
8. Tamborine Mountain
Tamborine Mountain, in the Gold Coast Hinterland, offers an appealing balance of nature and culture. Tamborine Mountain also lies in Queensland's Scenic Rim, about an hour's drive from Brisbane and a 45-minute drive from Lamington National Park.
In Tamborine National Park, tranquil rainforests, eucalyptus forests, and waterfalls provide a refreshing dose of subtropical wilderness. Nearby, the town of Mount Tamborine brims with boutiques, craft shops, and art galleries.
You can start your day with a bird's-eye view of the lush rainforest on the 45-minute Rainforest SkyWalk guided canopy tour — listen out for lyrebirds. Afterwards, a short bush walk to Curtis Falls reveals the soothing sounds of these peaceful cascades.
The town of Mount Tamborine is a haven for foodies. Stop here to feast on fresh local produce at one of the town's cafés or tearooms, and top off your day with a cooking class, some gallery gazing, or a pampering spa treatment.
The Mount Tamborine glow worm caves are also a popular side trip, and the Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens is a hit with green thumbs. This attraction-packed region is one of the most popular hinterland day trips from Brisbane.
9. Montville and Maleny
Montville and Maleny offer a refreshing mountain escape in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. These cute villages lie less than a 90-minute drive from Brisbane, and both offer a dose of country charm, cute craft shops and cafés, and a foodie fix.
Maleny is a dairy-farming town with a hippy streak. Cheese, chocolate, and old-time lollies (candy) are some of the tasty treats to sample here. Other popular attractions around Maleny include the farm and factory tour at Maleny Dairies and Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. And if you love wildlife, take time to look for platypus from the Obi Obi Boardwalk.
Montville is made for strolling. Craft shops, art galleries, boutiques, woodworking shops, and other specialty stores provide an excuse to stock up on souvenirs, and the Bavarian and English-style cottages infuse an old-world feel.
Need a nature fix? Save time to stroll the rainforest trails at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, hike to beautiful Kondalilla Falls in Kondalilla National Park, or enjoy a picnic at Baroon Pocket Dam. If you're visiting on a hot day, cool off in the rock pools at Gardners Falls.
Prefer to do your sightseeing in the car? Take a scenic drive along the Blackall Range Tourist Drive, and soak up the views of the Glasshouse Mountains from panoramic viewpoints.
10. Bribie Island
Bribie Island offers an exhilarating 4WD beach adventure about an hour's drive from the city. This is the smallest of the three sand islands off Brisbane and the only one connected by a bridge.
Driving along the surf-washed eastern beaches here is a favorite pastime. Don't have a 4WD? Don't worry. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are not essential to visit the island.
Other top things to do on Bribie Island include kayaking, windsurfing, fishing, and kitesurfing, as well as swimming and sunbathing along the calm, sandy bay on the island's western side.
The Pumicestone Passage separates the island from Caloundra on the mainland, with gorgeous views of the Glasshouse Mountains. It's a popular playground for water sports, such as boating and fishing, as well as wildlife spotting. Dugongs, dolphins, turtles, and seabirds are frequent visitors to these mangrove-fringed waters.
On land, kangaroos, emus, and dingoes live in Bribie Island National Park, and the island is home to more than 350 species of birds. For a brief overview of the island's history, stop by the free Bribie Island Seaside Museum.
11. The Redcliffe Peninsula
Fresh from an extensive rejuvenation project, the Redcliffe Peninsula buzzes with weekend warriors. This scenic peninsula is about a 40-minute drive from Brisbane's CBD, and it's the perfect place to visit for a little relaxation by the sea.
Redcliffe has several claims to fame for Brisbane day trippers. The Bee Gees grew up here, and you can take a relaxing stroll back through their golden years along Bee Gees Way. Dance along to their infectious tunes as you browse their photos and memorabilia along the walkway, and listen to little-known stories about their illustrious career. This is a must-do for music fans.
Redcliffe is also one of the oldest settlements in Brisbane. You can learn a little about its history at the free Redcliffe Museum. Exhibits range from the area's Aboriginal history to stories about the Redcliffe Peninsula's famous residents.
Traveling with kids? Stop by Scarborough Park, which packs in two playgrounds, Pirate's Place and Railway Place, as well as plenty of picnic tables and large trees to climb. On a hot day, kids will also love a dip at Suttons Beach or in the shimmering, turquoise-hued Settlement Cove Lagoon, right on the bayfront.
Adults will also find plenty to love here. Enjoy a relaxing stroll along Woody Point Jetty and the Clontarf-Redcliffe seaside walk. Cast a fishing line; look for whales and dolphins in Moreton Bay; and if you're visiting on a Sunday, shop at the Redcliffe Farmers and Artisans Market (8am to 2pm along Redcliffe Parade).
Planning to take your pooch? The Redcliffe Peninsula is one of the best Brisbane day trips with dogs. You can let them run wild at Kroll Gardens Off-Leash Dog Park or in designated areas at Queens Beach North.
Redcliffe is on the way to the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane, so you can combine a visit here with a trip to Noosa Heads or one of the other top places to go for a day trip north of Brisbane.