These destinations around Brisbane are great for kids
10 Best Brisbane Family & Kids Day Trips
Whether it is the weekend or school holidays, many parents want to find a place to take their kids for a whole day of fun. Luckily, there are plenty of places in and around businesses that are packed with enough attractions to make a day of it. Here are the 10 best places in or near Brisbane.
What makes a great family day trip destination? Well, first of all, it shouldn't be too far away from the city, and none of the places listed are much beyond an hour from the centre of the city, and of course, will be closer if you live on that side of city.
There are lots of great family days out in and around Brisbane
There should also be a range of activities to do, especially free or cheap activities. Though also have places that you have to pay for, often round out the experience. Ideally, there should be one thing a harassed parent can just let their kids do while they sit and relax.
Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens
If you are looking for a place to take the kids for at least half a day or longer, then the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens is a great option. During school holidays, there are lots of kids activities, including guided walks through the park and kids cooking classes that use fresh and healthy ingredients for the park. There are also often events on with music and other entertainment.
There are also self-guided walks, such as the Children's Trail, but there are other ones that are suitable for adults and older kids, such as Aboriginal Plant Trail, White Arrow Trail and Plant Communities Trail.
Of course, the joy of the gardens is that you can just let your kids explore. The design of the gardens means that there are lots of little hidden trails with twists and turns, so they will never know what will be around the next corner. Don't forget to visit places like the lookout with views of the city or the National Freedom Wall.
It is worth visiting the National Freedom Wall when you visit the Brisbane Botanic Gardens
If things are getting hot, you can head into the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. It is free to visit the exhibitions and there is a small free theatre with space-related movies. There are also shows in the planetarium itself, which are ticketed.
Let your kids learn more about space while you relax in the air conditioning at the Sir Thomas Planetarium in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens
There is only one place to eat at the gardens, which is the Botanic Gardens Cafe, but there are plenty of picnic benches and shady trees to enjoy a picnic. The best spots are under a tree by the Lagoon, in the Japanese Garden or with a view at the lookout.
Kids having fun in the Japanese Gardens in Brisbane Botanic Gardens
While no one from Redcliffe will admit they are part of Brisbane, it is officially part of the Greater Brisbane area, and one of the best seaside day trips with the best beaches south of the Sunshine Coast and North of the Gold Coast.
Redcliffe has the best beaches in the greater Brisbane area
The main reason families go to Redcliffe is swimming. Thiats can include at Settlement Cove artificial lagoon on the seafront or Suttons Beach. People also swim from off the jetty, but we shouldn't encourage this.
Settlement Cove Lagoon is a great place to take your kids for a swim
The other thing that makes Redcliffe a great place to visit are the places to eat. I won't try to suggest or review any, as they keep changing, but look for the main ones along Redcliffe Parade, and the slightly cheaper ones in the arcades and along Sutton Street.
There is also a lot to see in Redcliffe, including sculptors on the beachfront, Bee Gee Way (which is interesting for people old enough to remember that the Bee Gees who grew up in Redcliffe), the Redcliffe Museum and Redcliffe Art Gallery.
The biggest attraction and perhaps the biggest hassle, are the Redcliffe Markets on Sundays. While Redcliffe is busy on weekends, Sundays are really taken over by visitors. But the markets are lots of fun to visit if you are prepared to brave the traffic.
South Bank, Cultural Precinct & Kangaroo Point Cliffs
Brisbane was established as a working harbour. In fact, the reason it became the capital, when Queensland became its own state over its rival Ipswich, was the ability to ships to dock right in the centre of town. But in the 1980s, the last vestiges of this history disappeared and what was the remaining working docks area was transformed into what is now called South Bank, one of Brisbane's great assets enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
South Bank and the Cultural Prescient is popular with both locals and tourists
The key area is the official South Bank Precinct, which includes the parklands as well as shopping and restaurant streets, with the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) at one end, which indicates the start of the Cultural Precinct, where you have two art galleries, a museum and the State Library. We must remember that there is more at the other end of South Bank with the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
Getting there is easy. Parking is convenient with car parks under South Bank, QPAC and the Museum, but remember it is usually better to book your carpark online in advance. Of course, when it is busy, you can also arrive by bus, train or ferry with a direct service to South Bank from just about every point in the Greater Brisbane Area, and even from as far afield as the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
There is plenty of parking under South Bank and the Cultural Precinct
Often the place to start on your day trip to South Bank is with a bit of culture. About every 3 months, the galleries and museums change their exhibitions and most are interactive and kid-friendly. GoMA has specific areas for kids exhibitions and often includes information aimed at kids to explain the art. During school holidays, The Queensland Museum usually has a paid exhibition on that is aimed at children. You will also find lots of kids activities on during the school holidays as well.
South Bank is a fun place to walk through, with the rainforest and various trails. The biggest attraction for many families, especially in summer, is Street's Beach. This artificial beach is a great way to cool down in the heat of the day. Nearby you will find plenty of takeaway style food outlets. You can also self cater with many barbecues, but sometimes finding a free one can be difficult.
For entertainment, there is a movie theatre nearby, but South Bank often hosts a range of free and paid events. QPAC also has plenty of shows on during the holidays aimed at kids, and there are often shows aimed at kids all year round.
If you need something more, then you can head up to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. This is a nice walk with great views of Brisbane. You can follow the Art and the River Art Trail. But if art if not your thing, then Riverlife hosts a number of activities, including kayak tours and abseiling, which is suitable for children from 8 and older.
North Stradbroke Island
North Stradboke Island is just a quick ferry trip across Moreton Bay. While much of the island is national park, it also has a number of established communities, making it an easy day trip away from the city.
The first and most important question is whether to take your car or not. For a day trip, it costs at least $80 one way to take a standard car. This is no problem for a multiday trip, but for a single day, it seems a bit excessive. The bus is convenient, but you will be able to see less sights if you are dependent on the bus.
Taking your car over to North Stradbroke Island means you can visit more places in one day
The fun starts the moment you get on the ferry. Keep an eye out for sea life. It is very common to spot sea turtles, but you may see dolphins and if you are lucky, dugongs. During whale migration season, which is from late autumn to spring, you may see some majestic humpback whales.
Spot dolphins, whales, sea turtles and other wildlife on North Stradbroke Island and on the ferry over there
The key attractions are on the far side of the island. The bus (and the road) ends at Main Beach, which is a nice beach for walking, and fun if you like swimming in beach break. From there, you have the gorges walk, which makes North Stradbroke different from the other islands in the area, which are all sand. Last but not least is Cylinder Beach, which has a great natural breakwater, making the beach great for kids while providing a nice surf break.
The Gorges Walk is a lovely short walk worth doing along the shoreline of North Stradbroke Island
The other two main attractions are the lakes. Brown lake is close enough to walk to, but at 10 kms return, not an easy stroll. Meanwhile, Blue Lake requires a 20 km return trip from Dunwich, and there is an additional 5 km return walk from the road to the lake. If you don't want the expense of taking your car to visit these attractions, consider taking bicycles or hiring them from Dunwich.
Speaking of hiring, there are several places in Dunwich that rent out bicycles, scooters, kayaks and standup paddle boards. For watercraft, you need to consider the conditions in Moreton Bay. Going for a paddle on a calm day is a lot of fun.
Last, but not least, there are plenty of places to eat on the Island. You can find multiple cafes, restaurants and takeaways across the island, with Point Lookout at Main Beach being the place for the nicest cafes and restaurants. Despite being a popular destination, Cylinder Beach has fewer places to eat, but you can always drive to Amity Point or Dunwich as well.
While the thought of a whole day with your kids in the city centre of Brisbane doesn't necessarily sound like a great way to spend the day, there are actually a lot of activities and attractions that come together in the city. While it could end up a little tiring for the little ones, it can still be a lot of fun with a bit of planning and there are parks to sit and relax in as well.
There is also art in the city. The Brisbane Museum, as already mentioned, sometimes has art exhibitions, and the QUT campus as a lovely little Art Museum and sometimes Old Government House also has art exhibitions. But maybe the most interesting is a walking tour of street art in the city.
Old Government House is one of many attractions at QUT in the city
If you are looking for something more fun and active, then there are a number of places running activities for kids in the city. The Fox in a Box escape rooms are a fun way to lock your kids up in prison so you can relax while they figure out the kid-friendly puzzles to escape.
Lock your kids in an escape room at Fox in Box while you relax and they try to escape
For a bit of learning fun, consider taking the kids to The Cube at QUT. This digital interactive learning environment features 2 floors of interactive screens (and you thought taking the kids out would mean they would get away from touch screens). Check out what is on to get the best activities for your kids ages and interests. Explore the reef, walk with dinosaurs, have fun with physics or play retro games at The Cube.
You can also join some walking tours of the city. One example is the Haunted Brisbane Ghost Tour, which is good if you are staying on into the evening. While it is about ghosts, it is not particularly scary, and is a fun way to learn about Brisbane's history.
Take the kids on a ghost tour so that they can learn more about Brisbane history
For lunch, there are a wide range of restaurants, cafes, takeaways and food halls. For parents wanting to find somewhere a little quieter to enjoy a meal, consider heading to the Botanic Gardens. There is a café in the gardens, and markets operate on Sundays where you can buy food from food trucks. But maybe the best option is to grab some takeaway food and have a picnic in the park. The QUT campus is the closest place for this.
Getting into the city isn't a hassle either. There are plenty of buses, as well as trains to Central and Roma Street Stations. You can even take the ferry into the city, which is an adventure in itself for young kids who might not have taken the ferry. Parking is easy too. Weekend parking is cheap, and during weekdays there can still be parking discounts. Remember, book online in advance for the best discounts.
I am not sure what happened with Mt Tamborine. It had become so popular that it also began to get expensive, and people stopped going. Yet for families, it can be a great day trip from the city, only a little over an hour's drive from the city centre, and less for people living on Brisbane's south side. There is a lot of free fun things to do with kids on the mountain, as well as a few paid attractions you can visit as well.
The main attraction is often Cedar Creek Falls. Even on a weekday, you have to get here early to get a convenient car park spot, though most people are happy to park along the main road and walk down to the falls. It features a great swimming hole under the little falls, with some little rock pools further down the creek.
There are also many short rainforest walks in the mountains. My favourite is Palm Grove Circuit and one of the easiest is Curtiss Falls Track, which leads to a lovely waterfall. There is also the famous Skywalk if you are happy to pay for the entrance tickets.
Mt Tamborine Skywalk is a great place for your kids to experience rainforest at tree top height
Another great free attraction in the mountains is the botanic gardens. While they do employ some staff to work on the gardens, most of the work is done by local volunteers. For kids, the Sooty Owl Creekside Trail, with lots of cool little artworks and installations, is the most fun.
Kids love the Sooty Owl Trail in the Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens
There are also a number of paid attractions. I have already mentioned the Skywalk but you can also visit the Glow Worm Caves, which has an artificial cave where the glow worms are managed, so that they will be glowing during the day. Thunderbird Park has a lot of attractions for young and old, including the Tree Top Challenge, mini-golf, laser skirmish, and the chance for kids to go fossicking for dinosaur eggs.
There is a lot of places to eat in Mt Tamborine. Generally, people will head to gallery walk, but there are restaurants dotted around the mountain. When it comes to good, you can get a cheap burger through to an expensive meal. But you can also self-cater, including stopping into the local IGA or Foodworks to pick up food for a barbecue or picnic.
The Gallery Walk is a great spot to find cafes, takeaways, fudge, ice cream and shops
So the main reason you go to Bribie Island is the beach. Woorim Beach is only partly sheltered by Moreton Island, so you get lots of waves, while Bongaree faces Pumicestone Passage, and is calm and great for little kids. There is also Red Beach, which is accessible from several points, and is great for walking. In fact, you can do the 8 km walk from Bongaree to Woorim along this beach. Then either walk 5 kms back along the road or take the bus.
For the active, you can hire kayaks, standup paddleboards, motorboats and barbecue boats, and explore the Pumicestone Passage. Another popular activity on the island is fishing. You can fish off the jetty at Bongaree and Red Beach is a great spot for beach fishing. Then if you hire a boat, you can fish from the boat along Pumicestone Passage.
There are plenty of places to eat on Bribie Island. There are some nice cafes in Woorim and Bongaree, and this is my preferred option. Woorim has a lovely Surf Club and it is good to get there early for lunch, so you can grab a seat with a view of the ocean. One of the great institutions of Bribie Island is Scoopy's Ice Creamery, which might have been great when you were a kid, but maybe a little outdated for modern tastes.
The pubs seem a bit old fashioned as well, so I like heading to the family-friendly Sandstone Point Hotel on the other side of Pumicestone Passage (you can even kayak across to the pub if you want to). The meals in the hotel are great, but for a lazy day quick bite, go to the Oyster Shed on the hotel's grounds for great quality fish 'n' chips and other seafood.
For people who are not familiar with Chermside beyond its famous (or is it infamous) Westfield Shopping Centre, the idea of spending a day in this suburb might seem a little strange. But the attractions here are both varied and numerous.
Chermside is more than just the Westfield and a pretty good suburban destination
The Westfield itself is a pretty good destination. You have a movie theatre, video game arcade, bowling and laser tag. Plus it offers lots of different places to eat. With multiple food courts and some really nice restaurants, you won't go hungry. You can even pick up food from Coles or Woolworths and eat it in the food court if you really want to save a bit of money.
Part of Westfield, but outside, is iFly, and indoor skydiving centre. This is an activity suitable for all ages and you can just go with your kids or organise a whole group to fly in their vertical wind tunnel.
Outside of the Westfield is the 7th Brigade Park. Grab some sausages from the supermarket or takeaway from the food courts and enjoy the barbecue and picnic areas. The huge climbing fort is a lot of fun for the younger kids, and if you have bicycles, it is a 10 km ride from Chermside to Virginia Station and back.
The 7th Brigade Park in Chermside is good for barbecues, kids play area, sports facilities, walking and cycling
If you still need things to do, you can also go to the Chermside Aquatic Centre with its heated pool and water park. In the evenings they organise activities like movie nights as well.
If you are maybe hot and tired from the park and you don't want to go back into the noisy and crowded Westfield for air-conditioning, there is also the great Chermside library, where you can get your kids into books by reading a little yourself.
Chermside Library can be a quiet airconditioned place to relax between other activities
If this hasn't filled your entire day yet, there are also nearby attractions. Most notably is Raven Street Reserve and the Downfall Creek Bushland Centre, where you can take the kids on a short through this reserve, or follow the trails to link up an 8 km walk through the Chermside Hills Reserves.
I have been trying to decide whether to include the Lockyer Valley in my list of destinations, as while there is a lot to do in the valley for people of all ages, they are often spread out. However, perhaps the way to think about is that you go there for one feature destination or activity, then stop in to some other places on the way home, making for a complete day out.
The Lockyer Valley has farms and other attractions for families
The main feature activities for the area are farm-based. The Lockyer Valley has a number of different farms dotted across the valley you can visit. 9Dorf farms which runs tours about their poultry and fish farming practices, and of course, you can buy farm-fresh fish, eggs and chickens. It is great to also visit the Awassi Cheesery where they make cheese and other products from the milk of the awassi sheep breed, which are famous for their milk. Or you can be more active and get on horses at Fordsdale Horseback Adventures.
Your kids can get up close and personal with farm animals in the Lockyer Valley
If your tour or activity didn't include lunch, then there are cafes and restaurants across the valley. Some, like The Barn, in isolated areas, but others in various little village areas, such as Forest Hill. Food can range from country classics to modern café and restaurant-style meals.
Find some country style hospitality in place like The Barn in the Lockyer Valley
Gatton is also nice to stop in, and both visitors and locals love the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre. Other than being an airconditioned escape from a hot summer's day, there is an art gallery, transportation museum, library and café. Behind the centre is Lake Apex, which is a great place for a picnic, barbecue or just a lakeside walk.
Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre in the Lockyer Valley can be a nice airconditioned oasis on a hot day
There are other places for your kids to see and experience a bit of history. For example, Scotty's Garage features a wide range of restored cars, including a few in the process of being restored. There is also the Laidley Heritage Trail that is worth following.
Take the kids to see some automotive history inside Scotty's Garage in the Lockyer Valley
Overall, the Lockyer Valley requires a little planning, so that you can go from one attraction to another, maybe pick up some fresh produce from a farm, enjoy a meal, and keep the kids entertained for a day.
Less than an hours drive west of Brisbane is Ipswich. While Brisbanites like to snobbily make fun of this city, it is in fact an interesting place to visit, especially for kids with quite a lot to do close to the centre of Ipswich. Just a note, while you can take the train easily to Ipswich, all the attractions are generally spread out enough that you really want to take a car, unless you and your kids love walking around suburban streets.
Ipswich is typical of many of the towns that grew across the countryside in Australia. Made rich from wool and coal, the only reason why it is not the capital of Queensland is that the river was not reliable means of transportation, as it would drop to levels too low allows boats to make it up to Ipswich all the time. But you can see the wealth of cities like this, with wide well-planned streets and lots of 19th-century buildings. Just walking down the main street of Ipswich is like a trip to a country town.
When the first line was built to Queensland, it stopped in Ipswich, not Brisbane, as Ipswich had the money. As part of its rich rail history, Ipswich features the great Workshops Rail Museum. This is a popular place for families.
There is also the Queensland Pioneer Steam Railway. Take a ride on a historic steam train in beautifully restored carriages. Check their timetables for different trips which range from a short trip to a full day out. Trains depart from Swanbank Train Station in Ipswich.
Image of the Workshops Railway Museum courtesy of Dbromage @ Wikimedia
Speaking of rail, Ipswich is known for its rail trails. But one that people often overlook the rail trails within Ipswich itself. Check out the remains of the historic railway near the Riverlink Shopping Centre, or walk or cycle the Brassall Bikeway that starts in North Ipswich, and if you go far enough, links to the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. Just head along for a short distance to see some historic installations celebrating Ipswich's rail history.
Beyond the rail-related attractions, Ipswich Art Gallery is the most visited regional art gallery in Queensland and features a dedicated children's gallery. It is located in the old town hall of Ipswich.
There are also parks worth visiting as well. Queens Park, which includes a Japanese Garden, and the Ipswich Nature Centre, where you can see both farm and Australian native animals.
Image of Nerima Gardens Boardwalk courtesy of Ipswich City Council
Another park area to visit is the Robelle Domain Parklands and the Orion Lagoon. Explore these natural surrounds with your kids, cool off for free in the lagoon, or stay until after dark to watch the light and sound show.
Image of Orion Lagoon courtesy of Ipswich City Council
Eating is also great in Ipswich. When people can't afford to open a trendy café in Brisbane, they head to Ipswich. In other words, less chain restaurants and more cool places. Failing that, just take your kids to Riverlink Shopping Centre where you can sit in airconditioned comfort while they munch or McDonald's or KFC.