Take an escape from bustling Brisbane for one of these nearby destinations.
By Leah Dobihal
With its thriving art scene and endless culinary creativity, it's not easy to leave Brisbane behind. But escape for a few days of island relaxation, boutique beach towns, coastal cities or outback adventure. It all lies just hours outside of the city.
Here are the best destinations for your getaway.
Fraser Island, located just over six hours north of Brisbane by car, is not only the world's largest sand island; it's also the perfect place to spot wild dingoes, watch whales jump from the water and explore the sand and sea. It can be visited on a day trip from Hervey Bay or the Sunshine Coast, but there's also something special about camping on the beach. Start your Fraser Island adventure with a trip to some of the island's clearest water; you'll find it at Lake Mackenzie. Next take a drive along the stunning sands of Rainbow Beach and 75 Mile Beach. At sundown, don't miss your chance to spot wild dingoes on a guided walk. If you have more time, consider tackling the six-day Fraser Island Great Walk, which offers ever-changing vistas.
Just a 90-minute drive from Brisbane brings you to one of the most charming stretches of coastline in the country. The Sunshine Coast is equal parts relaxing beach towns and heart-racing adventure. Base yourself in Noosa where you'll find beautiful beaches, seaside eateries and relaxing accommodation. About an hour south you'll find the Glass House Mountains. With craggy cliffs and endless vistas, it's worth a day of exploring. You can even stay nearby at the relaxing Spicers Tamarind Retreat. The Sunshine Coast also boasts an incredible animal encounter- the chance to swim with humpback whales. Slide into the water while holding onto a floating line and watch these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Don't forget to stop by Australia Zoo as you drive from Brisbane; it's the home of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.
Hervey Bay is a coastal Queensland destination, so it's no suprise that its main attractions revolve around the water. The seas surrounding Hervey Bay are known as being some of the best for whale watching in the country, with humpback whales stopping in the calm waters along their migration route. You can see their playful antics on a whale watching cruise. There are plenty of other ways to get out on the water, too. You can hire a boat or jetski, scuba dive at the world class dive site of Wolf Rock or take advantage of the abundant waters on a fishing charter. If you'd rather stay on land, head to the quiet fishing villages of Toogoom and Barrum Heads to explore sandy beaches, rivers, and creeks. In Hervey Bay, stay at Mantra for a room with a view.
Brimming with world-class beaches, amusement parks and nightlife, the Gold Coast is an adventure lover's paradise. Make like a local and hit the surf, Get Wet Surf School operates from Surfers Paradise and will help you catch your first wave. Kids and adults alike will love the thrilling rides at amusement parks like Wet 'n' Wild and Dreamworld, while die-hard adrenaline-seekers can free-fall over the glistening Gold Coast skyline with Gold Coast Skydive. Explore the wild treetops of the hinterland at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat Treetop Walk. After some heart-pumping activity, unwind at one of the Gold Coast's great restaurants, or pop into a local brewhouse. Black Hops is a small brewery with big flavours.
If you're after an Aussie outback road trip, the route from Brisbane to Birdsville is ideal. Located in far south-western Queensland, Birdsville is best known for the annual Birdsville Races, an outback horse race that attracts between 6,000 and 8,000 people to the town of usually 110 residents. Make your first stop the Birdsville Hotel, an iconic pub dating back over 130 years. The front bar carries a decent range of beers, and behind the pub are 27 motel style rooms, providing welcome comfort for those who might have been camping on their drive. Next, head west into the Simpson Desert with Desert Edge Tours, where you'll visit Big Res, a large, red sand dune that blazes as the sun goes down. Before you depart Birdsville, stop by the town's top-notch bakery for breakfast, lunch or dinner.