Great lookouts that can be accessed by car or a short stroll
There are plenty of places in South East Queensland where you can find a view without working hard for it. You just drive up, take a short stroll at the most, and there you have a view. The vistas include valleys, mountains, waterfalls and cities and coast lines.
These lookouts include some local spots in Brisbane, as well as places dotted around the countryside. Some lookout you can just drive up to and maybe even sit in a cafe to enjoy the views. Others require a short walk. If you prefer to put effort into finding great views, check out these hikes to peaks in South East Queensland.
The obvious place in Brisbane to seek out views is the Mt Coot-tha summit. You can drive up , take the bus, or walk up from the base of the mountain. The summit includes the Kuta Cafe, famous for good coffee and infamous for its slow service, as well as the Summit Restaurant, famous for fine dining and marriage proposals. The views of the city and surrounding hills are not too bad either. I particularly like the view at night.
The Summit of Mt Coot-tha is popular with both tourists and locals
In many ways Mt Gravatt, in the suburb of Mt Gravatt, is the poor cousin of Mt Coot-tha. At the time of writing this, the cafe on the summit had partly reopened, with plans to be fully open soon under management of the Hope Foundation. At this stage I am not sure what the opening hours will be. The main appeal of Mt Gravatt are the sunset views of the city. You can drive to the summit or walk up from many different spots, including the neighbouring Toohey Forest.
The summit of Mt Gravatt provides great views over the city
The closest lookout just outside of Brisbane is just a short scenic rainforest drive up Mt Nebo Road from The Gap. This area has great views down the Samford Valley, barbecues and picnic tables with million dollar views. While you can drive here I prefer to walk the 12 km return Thylogale Track from Boombana to the lookout and back. There is also a short rainforest circuit at the lookout as well.
Jollys Lookout has picnic tables and barbecues with views
The must visit lookout not far from Brisbane is the Glass House Mountains. The Glass House Mountains Lookout gives you views of the surrounding volcanic plugs that form the Glass House Mountains. The lookout area includes a short walk, barbecues and covered picnic tables. Of course, you could also enjoy the views with coffee a short drive down the road at the Glass House Mountains Cafe.
Spicers gap is one an interesting bush walking area with lots of history. The main lookout is Governors Chair, named because it was apparently a popular stopping point for various Queensland governors when travelling west through Spicers Gap. You can drive to within 300 metres of the lookout and then walk the rest of the way. The lookout consists of several rocks and boulders that make it the perfect resting spot to enjoy the view. It can also be visited on a hike starting at the Spicers Gap Campground.
Another lookout in the Main Range that is accessed by a a short walk is the Fassifern Valley Lookout at Cunninghams Gap. It is about 600 metres down a bitumen path to the lookout and a total of 1.6 kms to complete the Rainforest Circuit. This is a nice place for a break when driving over the Main Range via Cunninghams Gap.
The view of Lake Moogerah from the Fassifern Valley Lookout
Mt Mee's Somerset Lookout is another lookout that you can easily drive to. You can also hike there on the Somerset Trail. The road to the lookout is a well maintained dirt round, but check for conditions if it has been raining. On the other hand the walk starts at the Gantry Picnic area and is a nice 13 km return walk that passes through dry open forest, gum forest and rainforest. The lookout has views down the valley to Somerset Dam and Lake Wivenhoe.
This is one of the great short walks in South East Queensland and is the most essential stop on the scenic drive from Boonah to Killarney. Queen Mary Falls has two lookouts that are an easy walk from the Picnic Area. Simply follow the Cliffs Walk for a few hundred metres to the first lookout, then if you walk a short distance further and cross the creek above the falls, you will come the second and much better lookout. It is well worth doing the whole 2 km walk that will take you down to the base of the falls and back up. Across the road from Queen Mary Falls is The Falls Cafe.
The view from the second lookout at Queen Mary Falls
This recently reopened lookout in the Mapleton National Park is a popular stop over on the scenic drive from Maleny to Mapleton. The lookout is right besides the car park and has great views of the valley and okay ones of the falls. There is a beautiful picnic area adjoining the lookout but it doesn't see much use because it lack any views. It is also worth doing the 1.2 km Wompoo Circuit there as well.
There are many attractions at Mt Tamborine including a number of views. My favourite lookout is the Knoll Section Picnic Area. This great picnic area is at the start of the Sandy Creek Circuit. But you can simply walk the short distance from the car park to the lookout if you don't want to do the walk. The lookout faces north so you can see prominent features of the area including Flinders Peak near Ipswich.
Springbrook National Park has a whole series of lookouts including the Canyon Lookout and the Purling Brook Falls Lookout. While there are plenty of hiking trails in area including the 17 km Warrie Circuit and the Twin Falls Circuit, a casual visitor can merely stroll along the cliff tops enjoying a range of views down into the valley. On a clear day you can see Surfers Paradise in the distance.
The shortest walk to a lookout at Binna Burra in Lamington National Park is a 2 km return walk to the Bellbird lokout, so the best way to take in the views is to simply sit in the Lamington Teahouse and enjoy a coffee, lunch or Lamington. Out the window you can can see all the way down to the coast.
On the other side of Lamington National Park is the area that is officially known as the Green Mountains Section, but which everyone calls O'Reilly's. There are a number of short walks for views. My favourite is to ascend the viewing platform at the Tree Top Walk for views out over the trees. Though of course, nothing beats food and drink and the views from the back deck of O'Reilly's Mountain Cafe.
Enjoying the view from the back deck of O'Reilly's Mountain Cafe
Not quite in South East Queensland, but still close enough that many people visit it as a day trip, Boonoo Boonoo National Park is just over the border in Northern New South Wales. From the car park it is a short 300 metres to the falls lookout with great views of both the falls and the canyon. Walking back you can take the side path to one of the best swimming holes in the region. Unlike Queensland's National Parks though, there is an $8 per car entry fee for most National Parks in New South Wales.