Get away from the city to the best of South East Queensland
Escaping Brisbane Brisbane is a fairly monotonous city surrounded by a wealth of great attractions and destinations. Here are some of the best escapes, from day trips through to long weekends, and includes independent trips through to tours.
Escape from the city for a day trip or longer in South East Queensland
Here are many great ideas for an escape from Brisbane, with the emphasis on at least an overnight stay, though many of the escapes are also great day trips as well. If I have missed out any of your favourite escapes in the region, let me know. There are so many destinations that are only a few hours drive from Brisbane, so I am sure to have forgotten a few.
Don't just go for a day, stay overnight and enjoy your South East Queensland escape from the city
The obvious ones are the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, where Brisbanites often go for a coastal escape. In the high season, finding a vacant room can be difficult but in the low season, you can find plenty of places to stay from as little as $60 for a motel room on one of the quieter beaches. So it makes sense to stay longer.
Don't just go to the coast for the day, why not stay overnight and make it a coast weekend
Mt Tamborine used to be the go-to escape destination for many people. With a combination of tourist attractions like the Skywalk and the glowworms, as well multiple wineries, breweries and a distillery, many great restaurants and let's not forget the shopping, it is a great place to spend a day. Then for nature lovers, there are multiple short rainforest walks and the great Cedar Creek Falls swimming hole. If you need some adventure, there is the Tree Top Walk, so why not make a weekend of it or plan a midweek break.
I have often visited Lamington National Park for a day trip with a focus on hiking. But the two main sections, Green Mountains (commonly called O'Reilly's) and Binna Burra, have multiple different hikes, meaning an overnight stay is well worth it as you can spend several days doing a variety of hikes as well as seeing other attractions. There is, of course, luxury accommodation at both Binna Burra Sky Lodge and O'Reilly's Mountain Retreat. Binna Burra also offers camping and glamping as well, while at O'Reilly's there is National Parks run camping site. If you can't find a vacancy or are looking for somewhere a bit cheaper, there is plenty of nearby accommodation where you can stay that are only a short drive away.
Both O'Reilly's and Binna Burra are great day trips and weekends away
Lockyer Valley lies only an hour from Brisbane. Too often I have just driven through this area on the highway, with maybe a quick stop for coffee or food. But there are plenty of attractions in the area, including history, food and farm visits. You have the options to stays that include farm stays, camping, motels and of course, renting luxury cabins or houses suitable for groups of friends or large families.
When it comes to a town that manages to both capture the essence of a country town and also be more modern sophistication, Toowoomba is one of the great country towns in Queensland. A lot of times people go to Toowoomba for the flower festival but it is still both a great day trip and overnight destination. Being on the edge of the Great Dividing Range means you can get great views from Picnic Point Lookout, but there are numerous other parks as well, including the Botanic Gardens and the Japanese Garden. It is also a good place for history, including the Cobb Co Museum, the Railway Museum and also doing the Russell Street Historical Walk. Then, of course, you can pop into a country pub or two for lunch and dinner during your day trip or overnight stay.
From Brisbane, it is easy to do day trips to islands, including the easy to get to Bribie Island (just drive over the bridge or take a bus), North Stradbroke Island, South Stradbroke Island, Coochiemudlo Island and Moreton Island, but some of these are great overnight destinations as well. North Stradbroke has enough to do with the gorges walk, Brown and Blue Lakes, the museum and art gallery, as well as various beaches, especially Cylinder Beach, that you can easily spend a night on the island. Another reason to stay longer is that the last ferry usually leaves around 6 pm.
There are a number of great destinations that most people in Brisbane wouldn't go for just a day trip, as they are a bit too far. The one that comes to many people's minds is Byron Bay. There are still many people trying to live the laidback lifestyle there amongst the tourists and movie stars, and you will have a chance to find a bit of everything there and with a bit of luck, get a chance for a selfie with someone famous.
Another great destination that is across the border is Tenterfield. Put Peter Allen's Tenterfield Saddler on your playlist and make the drive there. The town is a great historical destination with, of course, the Tenterfield Saddlery, where Peter Allen's father used to work, the railway museum, various historical buildings and of course, the fact that it was in Tenterfield that the first call to unify Australia as one country was made. Nearby are great national parks, including Boonoo Boonoo, Bald Rock and Girraween.
Out west are places like Stanthorpe and Killarney. A great road trip takes you over The Head Road, along the Waterfall Drive through Killarney to Stanthorpe, where you will find the best wine-growing region of South East Queensland. I would recommend staying overnight in Stanthorpe after sampling the wines, then pick up some fruit from the local fruit shops and head back via Warwick and Cunningham's Gap.
Up north is Noosa. Now, of course, I have already mentioned The Sunshine Coast, but no true Noosa Local will every admit that Noosa is part of the Sunshine Coast. In fact, it has its own special feel and is just on 2 hours drive from Brisbane, so is one of the closer places that always makes you feel like it is worth staying overnight. Accommodation near the beach or river can be a bit pricey but there is plenty to do, including hiking Noosa Heads National Park, kayaking or standup paddleboarding on the Noosa River, taking a river tour up to the Noosa Everglades or cycling around the area.
Walk along the coast and cliffs at the Noosa Heads National Park
Further north, there is the Bunya Mountains. This is a great all-round destination. Walking from one end of the Bunya Mountains National Park to the other is 20 kms, though you can do lots of shorter walks and at the southern end there is a more tourist-friendly town. So camp in one of 3 campgrounds or stay in a cabin in Dandabah and enjoy an area that is both unique and accessible.
Don't forget to try the Bunya Nuts in the Bunya Mountains National Park
There are also a number of tour options, and in fact, every destination already mentioned has a tour, so I will focus on the places or experiences that are best done with tour group. There are lots of different styles of tours, from big bus tours, through to private groups that go where you want to go, when you want to go.
The most obvious ones are winery tours. Unless you have a friend who doesn't want to drink at all and is happy to drive you, then a winery tour can be the way to go. Tours go to places near and far, including Mt Cotton as the nearest through to other great wine districts, including the Maleny and Montville area, along with Mt Tamborine and the Granite Belt wine area.
Sampling wine is always better when someone else is driving
These days, people tend to look for food and wine tours. If you are looking for tours that focus on farms and local produce, then the Lockyer Valley or the Sunshine Coast Hinterland do stand out. Many of these tours also include destinations where you can shop for farm-fresh or local produce.
Jump on a food and wine discovery tour from Brisbane
A good island tour is worth doing. Moreton Island is often best visited by tour, as it will include ferry, activities and transportation around the island in the package. St Helena Island is really only somewhere you can visit on a tour if you don't have your own boat (and even then, you are not allowed into the historic areas of the island). If you have more time, then a Fraser Island tour needs at least 4 days but should be on everyone's bucket list.