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Best Free & Cheap Tourist Secrets in South East Queensland

Home > Brisbane > Family | Free | Fun Things To Do | Lists | Parks
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published December 3rd 2019
These are cool free & cheap attractions in SEQ
There are many free and cheap attractions in South East Queensland worth visiting

Tourist attractions in South East Queensland vary from the expensive paid for tourist traps through to free spots like national parks and beaches. Below is a list of those that fall in between. Some are free, others are entry by a coin donation. All are worth visiting for families and adults.

There are many destinations worth making a trip to see in South East Queensland
There are many destinations worth making a trip to see in South East Queensland


These are mostly places created by hard-working volunteers which may be supported by donations or government help. Often they provide an experience that goes beyond even the expensive paid locations. So if they are asking for a donation then it is money well spent.

O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk & Other Attractions

Many people see O'Reilly's as a great place to visit for hiking, but there is more to O'Reilly's for the visitor than just heading out onto the trail. The highlight is the Tree Top Walk, but there is also the Stinson Plane Replica and Bird Feeding.

O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk
O'Reilly's Tree Top Walk


The Tree Top Walk has been constructed by volunteers, and while you can walk it for free, they ask for a gold coin donation to help with the upkeep and expansion of the walk. The most interesting part of the walk is the viewing platform reached by a ladder that goes up a strangler fig.

Climb up this ladder to the viewing platform
Climb up this ladder to the viewing platform


There is also a small bird zoo, with lots of parrots of rosellas who of course come for the free birdseed. Often the birds will land on anyone in the area who is even eating food, hoping for a share of your snack.

The O'Reilly name goes down in history because of a plane crash that occurred in 1937. It was Bernard O'Reilly, a local farmer, who set out through dense rainforest-covered mountains to locate the wreck and help rescue the survivors.

The replica of the Stinson aircraft that crashed in 1930s
The replica of the Stinson aircraft that crashed in 1930s


Of course, you can also do some walks. A short easy walk to great views is the one to Python Rock. Definitely worth the 3.4 kms to the lookout and back.

Take a short walk to the views at Python Rock
Take a short walk to the views at Python Rock


Of course, if you are prepared to spend more money, there is a flying fox, glow worms, wildlife encounters, segways and various tours you can book at O'Reilly's. But you can easily spend a relaxed half an hour there without paying anything.

For food, there is a cafe and restaurant at O'Reilly's, and you can bring your food to barbecue or picnic in the area as well. But the restaurant has the best views with your meal.

The view from O'Reilly's Mountain Cafe's back deck
The view from O'Reilly's Mountain Cafe's back deck


Daisy Hill Koala Centre

There are several zoos spread across South East Queensland, ranging from expensive places that are still well worth the ticket price, right down to the free Daisy Hill Koala Centre. This great little zoo has a focus on koalas, so if you are looking to see these cute and cuddly tourist drawcards, then head to Daisy Hill Conservation Park.

A koala at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre
A koala at the Daisy Hill Koala Centre


Not only will you have the chance to see koalas, including a treetop viewing platform, there is also the chance to see koalas in the wild in the Conservation Park itself. While wild koalas are rare and hard to spot, there is a good chance you will see a lot of other wildlife here.

A koala in the wild at Daisy Hill Conservation Park
A koala in the wild at Daisy Hill Conservation Park


Next to the Koala Centre is a picnic area and the tree discovery trail. So it can be a wonderful spot to visit for a barbecue, short walk and of course seeing the Koalas.

Picnic Facilities at Daisy Hill Conservation Park
Picnic Facilities at Daisy Hill Conservation Park


Chung Tian Temple

East Asian temples are often well worth visiting for their beautiful architecture and serene surroundings. You don't need to go to pray to Buddha, only relax and enjoy the location. Brisbane has a few Buddhist temples, but the largest, and in many ways, the best, is the Chungtian Temple in Priestdale.

The Chung Tian temple welcomes all visitors
The Chung Tian temple welcomes all visitors


Backing onto to bushland and Daisy Hill Reserve, it makes great use of its natural surrounding. The temple complex includes several halls, a pagoda, and a great vegetarian cafe. You are welcome to enter most of the prayer halls, but it is important to respect those who are praying by remaining silent and not taking photos of those who are there.

The temple is set in a beautiful natural setting
The temple is set in a beautiful natural setting


The Water Drop Cafe has excellent coffee, cake and vegetarian meals. There is now an art gallery promoting Buddhist and Buddhist-inspired art.

Enjoying a pot of tea at the Water Drop Tea House
Enjoying a pot of tea at the Water Drop Tea House


You can also explore the surrounds. The temple area is always expanding, both in terms of buildings and garden areas. Because the temple backs onto bushland you will often see wallabies and other wildlife visiting the grounds as well.

The temple has various courtyards and gardens where you can relax
The temple has various courtyards and gardens where you can relax


Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens

I had visited Mt Tamborine many times before going to the Botanic Gardens. The mountain itself is a great location with hikes, a skywalk, swimming holes, restaurants, cafes, wineries, breweries, cheese factory and much more. The volunteer-run botanic gardens stand up well among all the other attractions on the mountain.

Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens
Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens


This botanic garden makes great use of what is a fairly small area, only 11 hectares, with a variety of different sections. Each section has its own unique feel. You can explore the Japanese garden, walk through the beautifully maintained rainforest, enjoy the roses, then relax by the lakeside. The volunteers have definitely done a lot with little.

Walking through the forest in the Botanic Gardens
Walking through the forest in the Botanic Gardens


Along with the plants, there are also many artworks and installations as part of the gardens. Many of the installations are aimed at kids, making it a fun family destination.

A musical installation in the Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens
A musical installation in the Mt Tamborine Botanic Gardens


Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

This little nature reserve is only 55 hectares, but it is unique on the Sunshine Coast because it is the only pocket of rainforest that wasn't logged, which means it is the only place to really see old growth forest in that area. It has been turned into a great nature reserve with an accompanying education centre. They only ask for a gold coin donation if you visit.

Mary Cairncross Nature Reserve is a pocket of old growth rainforest on the Sunshine Coast
Mary Cairncross Nature Reserve is a pocket of old growth rainforest on the Sunshine Coast


The reserve is just outside of the town of Maleny on the Sunshine Coast. Even for people without a car, you can take the bus from Landsborough and get off at the intersection of Landsborough and Mountain View Roads and walk 20 minutes to the reserve.

There is a 2 km well-maintained walking track through the reserve. There are plenty of places to sit and just relax in the forest. You will see a lot of wildlife here, especially a variety of birds.

There is also an education centre with information, mostly aimed at kids, about the rainforest environment and wildlife. It is definitely worth having a look in here, either before or after visiting the forest tracks.

Also visit the education centre at the reserve
Also visit the education centre at the reserve


There is also a cafe and a viewing deck with views of the Glass House Mountains. Outside of this is a playground and barbecue area for people who want to stay longer and self cater.

You can view the Glass House Mountains from the reserve
You can view the Glass House Mountains from the reserve


Lakes & Dams

There are a wide number of lakes in Brisbane and South East Queensland. Many of them are aimed at attracting more visitors with increased access and facilities.

Lake Enoggera is one of many lakes in South East Queensland
Lake Enoggera is one of many lakes in South East Queensland


Enoggera Reservoir is the most famous and has the most number of facilities and activities for visitors. The Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre includes a zoo, which is one of the cheapest in Brisbane, but which is also the best to see platypuses. You can also swim in the lake and hire kayaks, stand up paddleboards and mountain bikes. With the cafe, you can easily spend much of the day here with family and friends.

Kayaks for hire at Walkabout Creek
Kayaks for hire at Walkabout Creek


Another lake worth visiting in Gold Creek Dam. It has a nice picnic area and toilet facilities, but what makes it interesting is the dam history. Along with its innovated stepped causeway design, there is also old dam equipment on display. It is also possible to hike the 5 kms around the lake.

Along as being a hiking and picnic destination, you can also see a variety of historic items from the dam
Along as being a hiking and picnic destination, you can also see a variety of historic items from the dam


Moogerah is only a little over an hour from Brisbane and is a popular day trip as well as a camping spot. It is one of the best locations for water skiing, but you can also canoe, swim and fish at the dam, as well as do some hiking, including Mt Edwards.

Water skiers on Lake Moogerah
Water skiers on Lake Moogerah


There is also Ewen Maddock Dam north of Brisbane. At this lake, you can kayak, canoe, fish or hike around the reservoir.




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Why? Cool free and cheap attractions in South East Queens
Cost: Many on this list are free, while others only cost a couple of dollars
Your Comment
A good list to put out there for school holidays. I wonder sometimes how parents can afford to take the family for a day out; the major attractions are so expensive and these more family friendly alternatives get little media coverage.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|7763) 23 days ago
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