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40 Great Day Trip Destinations in South East Queensland

Home > Brisbane > Day Trips | Escape the City | Family | Lists | Long Weekend
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published December 21st 2019
Lots to see and do in South East Queensland
A great day trip is an opportunity to get away from the city and suburbs, and have an adventure. This is a list of the many of the best destinations. Some are trips in and of themselves and some are stops of a great day trip. All are worth visiting.

Escape with friends and families to these many destinations around South East Queensland
Escape with friends and families to these many destinations around South East Queensland


1. Bribie Island

There are many islands in Moreton Bay, with the easiest to get to being Bribie Island as you can drive over the bridge. There is a lot to do on this island, including swimming at Woorim, hiring kayaks, stand-up paddleboards or boats to explore Pumicestone Passage at Bongaree. There are lots of beaches to explore as well. The dog-friendly Red Beach can be accessed at several points or you can walk the 8kms from Bongaree to Woorim. If you have a 4WD, you can drive up Woorim Beach to visit the old WWII forts. Don't forget to visit the Bribie Island Seaside Museum or go to the various Sunday markets.

Bongaree on Bribie Island is a great place to walk, swim, fish or hire boats and kayaks
Bongaree on Bribie Island is a great place to walk, swim, fish or hire boats and kayaks


2. Glass House Mountains

The Glass House Mountains are an iconic destination 1-hour drive from Brisbane at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast. Which means, if you are driving north, this is a great place to stop. The Glass House Mountains Lookout and the Glass House Mountains Cafe both have great views of the formations, with the former being a good spot for a picnic or a barbecue and the latter being a great place for tea, coffee, cake or a meal. While at the mountains consider walking up one of several hills. Easier ones include Ngungun, Beerburrum and Wild Horse Mountain.

The Glass House Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland
The Glass House Mountains in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland


3. Mt Tamborine

One of the great escapes in South East Queensland is Mt Tamborine. With beautiful lush rainforests, a number of short hikes, a botanic gardens, a swimming hole, and various tourist attractions that include the Glow Worms Cave, Skywalk, Treetop Challenge and more. When it comes to food and drink, there are some great restaurants and cafes on the mountain, many wineries, multiple breweries and a distillery. For shoppers, the gallery walk is a fun place to browse.

4. Maleny

The lovely little town of Maleny has quickly become gentrified while also managing to maintain a lot of its traditional charm. The town itself has a wide array of shops, cafes and restaurants that range from great country meat pies, through to organic cafes serving delicious locally-produced foods. Nearby, you can visit the Maleny Cheese Factory and dairy farms. Also in the area are attractions such as Gardener's Falls, Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World.

Walking through Maleny
Walking through Maleny


5. Montville

Montville is Maleny's more upmarket cousin. This is where you go for quieter streets, more expensive dining and the best wineries. Visit the Clock Shop or various chocolate and candy shops. Don't forget to enjoy a great meal with a view at restaurants such as Flame Hill Winery, which is also one of the best places to enjoy some wine sampling.

6. Australia Zoo

Australia Zoo has quickly become one of the best and most famous zoos in Australia, not least because it was founded by the Irwins, made internationally known by Steve Irwin and has maintained a high profile because of his children. The zoo is a day trip in itself and its proximity to the Glass House Mountains means if you arrive early, you will still have time to see this attraction. International visitors often feel that there is not enough Australian animals, but locals love this zoo.

7. Redcliffe


You don't have to go far from the heart of Brisbane to find great seaside attractions. Redcliffe is a great location to visit, though on weekends it can get really busy. The restaurants on Redcliffe Parade attract plenty of patrons from Friday night through to Sunday evening. Suttons Beach is a popular spot for swimmers, though people with young kids will head to the Settlers Lagoon. Another attractions include Bee Gee Way celebrating the origin of the internationally successful band the Bee Gees in Redcliffe. Don't forget to pop into the Redcliffe Museum or just go for a walk along the beach, either up to Scarborough or back towards Margate.

The iconic Redcliffe Jetty
The iconic Redcliffe Jetty


8. North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah)

North Stradbroke Island is the ultimate cheap escape from Brisbane. Take the car or passenger ferry over the island where there are many things to do. Most people will jump on the bus to Point Lookout where you can do the gorges walk. There are plenty of places to swim, with the best beach being cylinder beach. Other natural attractions include Brown Lake, which you can comfortably walk to from Dunwich, or the Blue Lake, which you need a car or bicycle to get to. The food on the Island is also great, with numerous cafes and restaurants to choose from. Don't forget to visit the Salt Water Murris Quandamooka Aboriginal Art Gallery and The North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum.

One of the ferries to North Stradbroke Island
One of the ferries to North Stradbroke Island


9. Ipswich

Brisbanites unfairly look down on the town of Ipswich. Historically there has been a long rivalry between Brisbane and its western neighbour, with Brisbane only becoming the capital of Queensland because of the port, while Ipswich was making more money thanks to coal and wool in the 19th century. Ipswich is a great example of rich country towns of its era, with wide well-planned streets and beautiful historic buildings. The modern visitor to Ipswich can admire the buildings, walk along the riverfront, visit the botanic gardens, visit the Workshops Rail Museum, stroll along a rail trail. But what people in Brisbane don't realise, or won't admit, is that Ipswich has become home to many cool new cafes, restaurants and bars that can't afford to set up in Brisbane. Even a quick wander around the heart of Ipswich will give you a chance to discover a few places you will want to return to.

10. Toowoomba

There was a time when country towns in Australia had better economies than the cities, but in Toowoomba, that is still the case. With a diversified economy, a newly expanded airport, great historical buildings, a country heart and a city head, Toowoomba is an amazing place to visit. Highlights include the Cobb Co Museum, Japanese Gardens, Picnic Point Lookout and Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, to name a few. The food scene is also amazing with lots of great restaurants, so you don't have to just eat country-style cooking if you don't want to. Also, as many plant nurseries are based on Toowoomba, a visit to this town is a great opportunity to pick up some plants. The active person can't go to Toowoomba without a quick hike up Table Top Mountain.

11.The Head Scenic Drive

The road from Boonah to Killarney goes over The Head via Spring Creek Road. This wonderful scenic route heads up over the Great Dividing Range through the rich rainforest and then descends on the other side through beautiful farmland. The narrow road prompts drivers to take their time and people always slow down when passing. There are several spots to stop on the drive, include Teviot Falls, Queen Mary Falls, Daggs Falls and Browns Falls. You can do short hikes at Queen Mary and Browns Falls. There are also additional sites of interest marked by signs. Other than the picnic and barbecue spots, there are two other places to stop for food on the drive, which are Spring Creek Mountain Cafe & Cottages which has a upmarket restaurant that books out on weekends, and The Falls Cafe, which focuses on great country cafe cuisine. Of course don't forget that the end of the journey is Killarney which has its own charms and places to eat.

Queen Mary Falls is one stop on The Head Scenic Drive
Queen Mary Falls is one stop on The Head Scenic Drive


12. Cunningham's Gap

To get over the mountains to the west, the easiest way is via Cunningham's Gap. This is actually a destination in itself with several walks from easy strolls to longer and more challenging hikes. Walks include the short stroll to Fassifern Valley Lookout, while hikers will enjoy heading up Mount Mitchell, Mt Cordeaux or going further out to Bare Rock with its iconic views of the scenic rim.

13. Mt Nebo & Mt Glorious

These two mountains are best discussed together as while they are separate peaks, the area is more like a single mountain. Lying on Brisbane's doorstep you can escape the city and delve into the rainforest very quickly. The main attractions on these mountains are lookouts, walks, cafes, and of course the mountain air, which goes without saying. Jolly's Lookout is the most famous lookout, but Camp Mountain is also a great place to stop, especially if you plan to have a picnic or barbecue. The most popular cafe at Mt Nebo is Cafe in the Mountains and my favourite at Mt Glorious is Elm Haus Cafe. While there are many walks in the mountains, a couple of easy ones worth doing are Mt Nebo Lookout and Greene Falls Circuit.

14. Aratula

This is one of those, blink and you will miss it, towns. But it can be a nice place to stop on the way through to somewhere else. The Aratula Cafe and Bakery is now the best cafe in town. Wander the streets and you will not only see a few historic buildings but plenty of antique stores where you can buy a bit of Queensland history.

Aratula is a stop worth making on a drive towards the Scenic Rim
Aratula is a stop worth making on a drive towards the Scenic Rim


15. Noosa

Noosa lies at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast and both locals and visitors generally think of it as a separate destination, partly because it has a different attitude and feel, but mostly because the Noosa Heads National Park separates it from the rest of the Sunshine Coast Beaches. There are lots of attractions at Noosa, including the already mentioned Noosa Heads National Park, with its beautiful coastal walk, beaches including Main Beach and Tea Tree Bay for swimming, and many places to hire kayaks or stand-up paddleboards in Noosaville. You can also go on a cruise up to the Noosa Everglades. There are lots of cool cafes around Noosa, as well as some other more formal dining options.

16. Caloundra

Caloundra manages to be a major tourist destination while never quite feeling busy. Stretching from Golden Beach and Pumicestone Passage in the south up to Dicky Beach in the North, it also includes Kings Beach and Shelly Beach. The coastal walk here is well worth doing, as is swimming at any of the beaches. One highlight is hiring kayaks and crossing Passage to Bribie Island, then walking the short distance across the island at its northern point. I really like the relaxed cafes and takeaways at various spots on the beach, with my preference being grabbing some food and enjoying in at the waterfront. There are also a number of touristy shops in Caloundra to round out the experience.

The boardwalk at Caloundra make for a great coastal walk
The boardwalk at Caloundra make for a great coastal walk


17. Springbrook National Park

Springbrook National Park stands out from the other national parks in the area for its amazing views. The road leads up to the top of the ridge, so once you park your car it can just be a short stroll at most for the views down the valley. The main walk here is the 17 km Warrie Circuit, but you just walk a fair distance along the clifftop to see different views including the top of Purlinig Brook Falls. The main natural attraction is Natural Bridge, which is a cave through which a stream flows via a small waterfall. At night the cave lights up with glow worms.

18. O'Reilly's

Famous for its hikes, O'Reilly's (or more formally, the Green Mountains Section of Lamington National Park) does a lot to accommodate all types of visitors. Eat the at Mountain Cafe while enjoying the view, feed the birds, learn about the History of the Stinson plane crash and see a replica of the plane, get into the tree tops with the Tree Top Walk, have a barbecue or join an adventure activity group suitable for all ages. You can also do some walks with the easiest being Python Rock and the best non-challenging one for waterfalls being the Box Forest Circuit.

19. Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre & Enoggera Reservoir

You don't have to go far on a day trip to escape the city and the first place to stop would be Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre at the Enoggera Reservoir. The little zoo here is the best place to see platypuses in South East Queensland, the cafe is a great place to relax and the food is okay and it overlooks the zoo. Of course, you can also swim and paddle at the lake, hire kayaks, stand-up paddleboards and mountain bikes or go hiking on short or longer trails through the bushland surrounding the reservoir.

Enoggera Reservoir is a way to escape the city without leaving Brisbane
Enoggera Reservoir is a way to escape the city without leaving Brisbane


20. Moreton Island (Mulgumpin)

Moreton Island is one of the most touristy orientated islands on Moreton Bay. It is also one of the most expensive just to get to. The return ferry costs nearly $60 and once there, there are few facilities for daytrippers now that Tangalooma Resort has stopped issuing day passes. For this reason, most people sign up for a tour which can range from $100 to $160 and can include lunch, 4WD transfers, sandboarding, see through kayak hire and more.

21. Coochiemudlo Island

This little island accessible by ferry from Victoria Point, the main activity here is relaxing at the beach, but you can also hire kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, aquabikes and pedal boats. It takes about 2 hours to kayak around the island. Other attractions include golf, fishing or visit the Train Farm.

22. Byron Bay

Byron Bay is just 2 hours drive south of Brisbane and is one of the best day trips from Brisbane. Anyone who went to Byron "back in the day" complains about how the whole experience has changed as the tourists have flocked here and the vibe has become more commercial. Even so, Byron still has a great vibe that neither tourists or money has been able to kill. While you are there, enjoy the beaches, take a walkout to the headland and the lighthouse, go visit the Crystal Castle, visit nearby national parks and farms, or just relax in a cafe or beachfront and absorb the atmosphere.

23. Burleigh Heads

One of the best parts of the Gold Coast is Burleigh Heads. Here is a spot that suits everyone, with a great beach that is partly protected by the headland, or, if you want more protected waters, you can swim at Tallebudgera Creek at Echo Beach. The Burleigh Heads National Park has a great 3 km walking circuit and views of the beaches to the north, the south and out over the water. Burleigh Heads also has a great number of cool cafes and trendy restaurants. Whether you want some takeaway fish and chips to enjoy on the beach or want to indulge yourself and the well regarded Fish House restaurant, you will the type of food that you enjoy here.

Burleigh Beach with Burleigh Heads National Park in the background
Burleigh Beach with Burleigh Heads National Park in the background


24. South Stradbroke Island

South Stradbroke Island is often overlooked as a place to visit. If you don't have a private boat, then you need to take the Coran Cove Resort Ferry for $50. Part of the package includes access to the resort, including the pool. If you have a group and want to avoid the resort, then you can take a water taxi with up to 6 people for $80. There is a kiosk on the island and various walking tracks. Ultimately, whether you want to hang out at the resort or be a beach bum for a day, it is all about relaxing.

25. Surfers Paradise

Love it or hate it, few people go to Surfers Paradise on the Gold Coast and not have some of the reaction to South East Queensland's tourist hub. Maybe it is very commercial and Friday and Saturday night attracts too many people getting drunk, but it is hard to argue with the energy of the place. You can just go and sit on the beach or go for a swim, but there are also numerous ways to spend a lot of money, including head up Q1, Australia's tallest building with the opportunity to walk on the outside of the building, do indoor skydiving, visit Ripley's Believe it or Not, go to the wax museum and much more. You can hire bikes and scooters from various places, book a tour or adventure activity from numerous vendors, and just pack as much into your day as possible. Food though ranges from really cheap aimed at backpackers through to overpriced and dull. My advice is that you can't go wrong with fish and chips enjoyed on the sands.

26. Baroon Pocket Dam

Between the towns of Maleny and Montville on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is the Baroon Pocket Dam. You can come in from the north or Montville side, or the south or Maleny side. The Maleny area has the best picnic and barbecue and with a short walking path, while the Montville side gives you access to the dam wall and walks to Obi Obi Gorge, Narrows Lookout and Baroon Pocket Lookout. It is actually the southern end of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk, so you can walk for days from here. There is also Secret on the Lake for breakfast, coffee, cake, high tea, and lunch. Lunches at this cafe start $15 for a light meal and go up to $28 for the full meals.

Picnic and barbecue area at the southern end of Baroon Pocket Dam
Picnic and barbecue area at the southern end of Baroon Pocket Dam


27. Brisbane CBD

There are plenty of people in South East Queensland who don't often go into the city centre. But a city day trip can be well worth the cost and hassle of getting there. Driving on weekends is good with many places offering $5 all-day parking, and if you don't want to drive you can park at Chermside in the north or Mt Gravatt in the south and take the bus in. If you are coming from the west then you can park at many places along the Ipswich line and take the train. Things to do in the city include, head to the Queensland Art Gallery, Goma or the QUT Art Gallery for your art fix, go to the Queensland Museum or Brisbane Museum, walk about the City Botanic Gardens, South Bank, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, or Roma Street Parklands, walk, cycle or eScoot the riverfront, kayak the river, climb the story bridge or abseil down the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, follow history or art trails, see a show at QPAC, see free music at South Bank or Queen Street Mall, go shopping and well the list goes on. On weekdays lookout out for great lunch specials and on weekends choose from fast food in the food courts to the best restaurants in Brisbane at the Eagle Street Pier.

28. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

There are plenty of zoos in South East Queensland with the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary being the best for people who want to really see koalas. While you can drive or take the bus there, the best way is to take the Lone Pine cruise from South Bank up to the zoo, spend the day there and then cruise back.

The best way to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is via the tour boat
The best way to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is via the tour boat


29. St Helena Island

St Helena Island can only be gotten to by your own boat or with a tour. But to view the historic sites on the island you must join a tour. Back in the prison colony days, the worst prisoners were often sent to Brisbane from NSW, and the worst prisoners in Brisbane were then sent to St Helena Island. When the penal colony on the island was closed no further development took place, meaning the ruins remain untouched and worth visiting. Tours leave from Hamilton or Fort Lytton on the Brisbane river and include performances and some tours include lunch while others require that you bring your own.

30. Mooloolaba

If there is a tourist centre on the Sunshine Coast, then it has to be Mooloolaba. Along with Mooloolaba Beach, there is also the Mooloolaba Fish Markets and Sea Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium. Just over the Mooloolah River is the Point Cartwright Lighthouse.

31. Sandgate & Shornfcliffe

Sandgate has a great village feel with a well-defined town centre as well as access to beaches, parks and nature reserves. Sandgate has become the go-to destination in the area with lots of great restaurants and bars. The seaside at Sandgate is best used for walking because the water is shallow. At low tide, people walk out onto the mudflats. There is a small swimming beach at Shorncliffe if you want to have a dip. You can fish from the beaches or Shorncliffe Pier. There are several areas of beautiful nature beyond the beach, including Curlew Park, Dowse Lagoon, Deagon Wetlands and Peace Park.

Walking from Sandgate to Shorncliffe along the shore front
Walking from Sandgate to Shorncliffe along the shore front


32. Samford Valley

The Samford Valley is a little country village that time (or developers) forgot and is only 40 minutes drive from the city centre and still has the charms of towns further away. Attractions include the Samford Museum, Rail Trails and Cedar Creek where you can swim. There are lots of great cafes as well as arts and craft shops. Let's not forget the Samford Conservation Park if you want a walk in the hills. There are also farm attractions such as Trevena Glen Farm. Ultimately it is a quick trip to the countryside from Brisbane.

33. Mary Cairncross Reserve

This beautiful pocket of old-growth rainforest that somehow survived the extensive logging in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is now a wonderful and accessible nature reserve just outside of the town of Maleny. A stop here means you can walk along well-maintained paths through the reserve, visit the information and education centre to learn more about the plants and animals found in the area, have coffee, a snack or a meal at the cafe, and enjoy great views of the Glass House Mountains. There is also a playground and barbecue areas if you want to spend more time here.

Mary Cairncross Nature Reserve is a family friendly pocket of old growth rainforest
Mary Cairncross Nature Reserve is a family friendly pocket of old growth rainforest


34. Moogerah

Lake Moogerah is a complete day trip for some people and a stop for others. The main attraction of this lake is boating and water skiing. Of course, you can also kayak and canoe on the lake and there are some for hire, fish (with a permit) and swim. There is a hike up Mt Edwards as well as a short easy walk to the lookout just behind the Lake Moogerah Cafe.

Chilling and enjoying the view at Lake Moogerah
Chilling and enjoying the view at Lake Moogerah


35. Gold Coast's Theme Parks

There are numerous theme parks on the Gold Coast and many international visitors come to the Gold Coast specifically to visit these. The short summary is Dreamworld has the best rides, Movie World has the best shows and Seaworld is best for younger kids and older parents. But all of them cater to all ages and interests. Many visitors buy multi-park tickets which will include places like Wet'n'Wild and other less famous attractions. Locals can get great deals by looking for multi-entry passes that let them come back over several months.

36. Warwick

This town lies just over Cunninghams Gap on the Cunningham Highway. The town features great country hospitality and food, as well as a historic building trail where you can see well-preserved churches, cottages, railway stations and schools. Don't forget to pop into the Warwick and District Historical Museum. Keep an eye out for events being held at the beautiful Abbey of the Roses.

37. Coolangatta

Coolangatta is the Gold Coast's second tourist centre. This more family-friendly destination still provides a lot to see and do. Obviously, you can swim at Coolangatta Beach, but don't forget Rainbow Bay, which is a lovely sheltered spot a short stroll from Coolangatta. This area is a great for coastal walks, including heading around the headlands at Snapper Rocks or walking along the beach at Kirra. Look for bicycle hire and ride along the shore front and boardwalk all the way up to Tugun. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes here, though not as trendy as those at Burleigh Beach, they are not as commercial as the ones at Surfers Paradise.

Coolangatta is the family friendly relaxed alternative to Surfers Paradise
Coolangatta is the family friendly relaxed alternative to Surfers Paradise


38. Stanthorpe, Applethorpe and the Granite Belt

These towns don't really stand out as attractions, but they have incredible produce. When passing through look for little shops and roadside stalls selling locally grown fruits and vegetables. But the best attraction of this region is the wonderful wines. While other regions in South East Queensland produce good wines, the Granite Belt is home to some really great ones.

39. Tenterfield


If there is a town in Australia that is the most Australian it could possibly be, then it would have to be Tenterfield, about 2 and a half hours south-west of Brisbane. This is the town where the idea of Australia forming into a single country from separate colonies was first put forward publicly. It was also where Peter Allen, the guy who wrote and performed the song "I still call Australia home" was born. It is also a country town that was rich in the 19th century, fell on hard times later as the economy shifted and has recently gentrified itself to become a great tourist attraction. Highlights of the town include the Tenterfield Saddlery, Railway Museum and historic locations around the town. Eat in various cafes and restaurants around town, do a farm visit and enjoy the beauty of various nearby national parks, including Boonoo Boonoo and Bald Rock.

Tenterfield seen from Mt McKenzie Lookout
Tenterfield seen from Mt McKenzie Lookout


40. Binna Burra

At the time of writing this article, the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park is closed because of bushfire damage. But as this article will stay online long after it has reopened, so it is worth mentioning. Less commercial than O'Reilly's, the main attractions here are the walks. For short ones, do the caves circuit, head down to the Gwongoorool
(pool)
for a swim, or do the short walk to the Bellbird Lookout. Don't forget to enjoy Lamingtons with your view of the Lamington National Park at the Lamington Tea House.

But wait, there is more

40 places big and small barely manages to cover everything you can do in this region and I haven't included many places that I would normally include in hiking lists. So, gentle reader, should you feel I have left off your favourite place, don't feel aggrieved by omission, simply add it to the comments below so that others can enjoy it as well.
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Why? South East Queensland has many places to visit and a lot to do
Your Comment
Awesome comprehensive list Roy! I grew up in Queensland and was starting to think I'd been to all your recommended destinations, but there are a few newies there for a visit.
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|4173) 339 days ago
Many of the places listed in this article are in the countryside and are impacted by fires and drought. Yes, you should check the fire risk before visiting any of them, but other than that, this is the best time to visit and support country areas affected by these disasters. By visiting and spending money in their communities you are providing much needed help to their economies.
by Roy Chambers (score: 2|977) 343 days ago
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