The Queensland capital of Brisbane is perfectly positioned for day trips of every kind.
By Katrina Lobley
Want to get out of town for the day? Brisbane is surrounded by fascinating destinations to discover. Take your pick of coastal cities, island getaways and hinterland mountains topped with lush forests.
The glitzy Gold Coast, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Brisbane, attracts plenty of pint-sized thrillseekers who have asked their parents to take them to one or more of its theme parks. But it's not just kids who will enjoy the attractions at Warner Bros Movie World, Sea World, Wet’n’Wild, or Dreamworld and neighbouring Whitewater World. A different type of thrill is available at the Australian Outback Spectacular, an Australiana-themed dinner and show experience. Want to see how Surfers Paradise got its name? Sign up for a surf lesson along the iconic beachfront with Get Wet Surf School before relaxing at one of the Gold Coast's best day spas or restaurants.
Redcliffe, a coastal city between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, has one big musical claim to fame: it’s where the Gibb brothers, of Bee Gees fame, spent part of their childhood in the 1950s and signed their first music contract. The city pays homage to the stars with Bee Gees Way, a 70-metre (230-foot) long multimedia walkway that's free and open day and night. The walkway runs between Sutton Street and the waterfront Redcliffe Parade (stroll along the promenade to enjoy views of Moreton Island). Redcliffe is also a spectacular seafood destination. Head to the Moreton Bay Boat Club for casual fare or Tempest for seafood that sizzles on a teppanyaki grill. For something more adventurous, hire a boat or jet ski from Boab Boats for a day cruising the waters of Moreton Bay. If it’s humpback migration season (June to November), hop onto a whale watching cruise to spot the curious whales.
Moreton Island is a favourite day trip for Queenslanders, but don't rule out an overnight adventure. Those who love four-wheel driving can ferry their vehicles to the island and explore the bush and beach tracks. Those who prefer modern comforts can head to Tangalooma Island Resort, which offers a variety of activities, including hand-feeding wild bottlenose dolphins at dusk. Snorkelling or diving the partially-submerged Tangalooma Wrecks that lie just offshore is also popular. The island is home to an interior desert with soaring sand dunes offering a hefty dose of adrenaline-inducing activity. Sign up to toboggan the steep dunes, if you dare.
For a beach holiday that's all about the simple things, head to Bribie Island, located between Redcliffe and the Sunshine Coast. Bribie is the only Moreton Bay island you can drive to (shuttles operate from Brisbane Airport, or take a bus from Caboolture train station). Pumicestone Passage, which runs between the island and the mainland, is home to dugongs (similar to manatees) that come to feed on the seagrass, as well as dolphins and turtles. Ferryman Cruises offers a range of passage tours while G'day Adventure Tours can take you on a 4WD adventure to spot wildlife before heading inland through forests and wetlands only accessible by 4WD. For surf action, head to the ocean beaches at Woorim.
North Stradbroke Island
Loved for its laid-back lifestyle and aquatic adventures, North Stradbroke Island is the perfect day trip or weekend getaway. ‘Straddie,’ as the locals call it, is home to some stunning beaches - don’t miss Cylinder Beach and Frenchman’s Beach - as well as freshwater lakes you can reach on foot. The island, accessed via ferry from Cleveland in Brisbane's southern suburbs, also offers incredible whale watching opportunities from late May to early October. The humpback whales migrate so close to shore that all you need is a pair of binoculars to watch them swim by; a walk along the headlands is a great place to start your search. Continue your nature discovery from the glamping tents at Adder Rock, where you’ll have a chance to spot resident kangaroos, koalas and kookaburras.
If photogenic mountains are your thing, head to the Scenic Rim in the Gold Coast hinterland. Known as Australia's Green Cauldron, these lush mountains were once a volcanic hotspot. Choose from over a dozen trails that take you to breathtaking lookouts, rock pools and rainforest gorges. Prefer to see the Scenic Rim from the air? Gold Coast-based Hot Air offers hot air balloon rides over the region.