Surrounded by rainforests, beaches, mountains, and quaint country towns, Brisbane is an ideal base for exploring all that Queensland has to offer. As you get to know this diverse state, you will also encounter the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have lived across the continent now known as Australia for over 60,000 years. Brisbane itself is located on the lands of the Yuggera people. To the north, the traditional custodians are the Waka Waka and Gubbi Gubbi peoples, while to the south you'll find yourself on Bundjalung Country.
Whether you're stopping by on your way to the Great Barrier Reef or spending some time to get to know the city, don't miss these top day trips from Brisbane.
Ipswich: Historic Buildings and Great Food
This settlement was founded in the early 1800s as a coal mining town. It is home to some of Queensland's oldest and best-preserved heritage buildings and is the location of a modern foodie renaissance. In the part of Brisbane Street known as Top of Town (between Ellenborough and Waghorn Streets), you'll find vintage stores, fashion and homewares boutiques, and quirky cafes. We recommend Rafter & Rose for coffee and cakes and Fourthchild for something more substantial.
Getting There: Less than an hour south-west of Brisbane, Ipswich can be reached by car or train.
Lamington National Park: Ancient Landscapes
This popular national park covers a section of the Gondwana Rainforests in the Gold Coast hinterland. This is a World Heritage Area that protects the remnants of the ancient landscape that once covered Australia. The mountains are known as Woonoongoora in the Yugambeh language and have spiritual significance to local First Nations groups.
The park is located on the southern edge of the Scenic Rim—a chain of mountains running inland from the coast—and offers camping, picnic areas, lookouts, and hiking trails.
Getting There: Around an hour and a half south of Brisbane, you'll need a car for your trip to Lamington National Park. The roads in the park can be narrow and winding, so be sure to drive carefully.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye out for rare flora and fauna like the spotted-tailed quoll and Albert's lyrebird, as well as ancient Antarctic beech trees and hoop pines.
Lockyer Valley: Farms, Museums, and Wineries
The rolling hills of the Lockyer Valley rise between Ipswich and the regional city of Toowoomba. This is a traditional farming region, packed with chances to sample the local produce and experience quirky country attractions. You can visit a lavender farm, learn about organic and sustainable farming, eat at a retro garage, check out the Queensland Transport Museum, and finish your day out at Preston Peak Wines.
Getting There: Public transport connections are available, including via the Brisbane to Toowoomba bus and the train to Rosewood. If you'd rather drive, the Lockyer Valley is an hour and a half west of Brisbane.
Travel Tip: If you've got a few days spare in your itinerary, take the chance to immerse yourself in the agricultural lifestyle of the Lockyer Valley at a local farm stay like the one at Fordsdale Farmstay.
Caloundra: Gateway to the Sunshine Coast
Brisbane is sandwiched between two iconic Aussie vacation destinations, with the Sunshine Coast to the north and the Gold Coast to the south. Caloundra is the gateway to the Sunshine Coast. This relaxed beach town has a family-friendly atmosphere thanks to the many protected beaches along Pumicestone Passage that offer respite from the East Coast's notoriously wild surf. In the hinterland, the picturesque Glass House Mountains dominate the landscape.
Getting There: Caloundra is located just an hour and a half's drive from Brisbane. You can also take the train to Landsborough and change onto a bus to Caloundra. The public transport trip will take around two hours.
Shorncliffe: A Quiet Seaside Suburb
The bayside suburbs of Shorncliffe, Sandgate and Brighton in Brisbane's north-east make a refreshing escape from the city. Here, life moves at a slower pace, whether you're watching the sunrise, grabbing a coffee from a local cafe or sharing fish and chips on the waterfront. The heritage houses that line the waterfront make for a pleasant stroll, while Shorncliffe pier is one of the city's most iconic landscapes.
Getting There: It'll take you 40 minutes to reach Shorncliffe by car or 50 minutes on the train from Brisbane.
Travel Tip: The protected water of the bay are ideal for paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. Contact Surf Connect for all the details.
Moreton Island: Hiking, Snorkeling, and Swimming
Moreton is a sand island known for its beaches, hiking trails, sand dunes, snorkeling, diving, and plentiful wildlife. Most of the island is covered by a national park, but beachside camping is available, as well as more traditional accommodation options.
There is plenty to do and see within walking distance of Tangalooma Resort, where the ferry from Brisbane drops off passengers, but if you want to venture further afield you will need to book a tour or bring your own car on the ferry.
Getting There: The pedestrian ferry journey to Tangalooma Resort takes 75 minutes, with multiple departures daily from the Holt Street Wharf.
Travel Tip: The Traditional Custodians of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) are the Quandamooka people and there are many cultural sites on the island, including shell middens and a stone quarry. If you come across one of these sites, be careful not to disturb it.
Dayboro: The Ideal Roadtrip Destination
The town of Dayboro is another quaint road trip destination. With a population of only around 2,000 people, it punches well above its weight thanks to venues like the Dayboro Art Gallery, Ocean View Estates winery and restaurant, and the nearby Mount Mee. The mountain's main attraction is Dahmongah Lookout Park, with views over the Glass House Mountains, Caloundra, and Moreton Bay.
Getting There: Northwest of Brisbane, Dayboro can be reached by car from Brisbane in just under an hour.
The Gold Coast: A Glitzy Resort City
The Gold Coast stands out as Australia's most traditional resort city, with theme parks, nightlife, and high-rise hotels on the beach. With 35 miles of beaches (including the famous stretch at Surfer's Paradise and local favorite Burleigh Heads), the Gold Coast is a great place to take some surfing lessons, go snorkeling, or even try skydiving.
Refuel at Elk Espresso or Bam Bam Bakehouse before shopping for a new swimsuit at Pacific Fair or browsing the weekend markets. If you've got a few days to spare, you can stay at the luxurious Palazzo Versace (yes, that Versace) or boutique gem the Island.
Getting There: The Gold Coast is an hour's drive south of Brisbane and can also be reached by train in around the same amount of time.
Springbrook National Park: Rainforest, Waterfalls, and More
Springbrook National Park is located in the Gold Coast hinterland. Like Lamington National Park, Springbrook is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. The main attraction is the Natural Bridge, where water pours through a hole in the roof of the cave. At night, especially between December and March, sparkling glowworms light up the cave.
Getting There: Springbrook is just under two hours' drive south of Brisbane.
Travel Tip: Lucky visitors may encounter pademelons (a type of rainforest wallaby) on the way to the Best of All lookout.
Tambourine Mountain: Marvel at the Glowworms
At Tambourine Mountain, you can see glow worms all year round in an artificial cave. This area is packed with adventurous activities for families, including the Tambourine Rainforest Skywalk, Botanic Gardens, Thunderbird Park, and the Treetop Challenge. There are plenty of waterfalls and hiking trails on the mountain itself, which is mostly a part of a national park. Start with the Curtis Falls and Cedar Creek Falls walks. There are plenty of accommodation options in town, ranging from camping to boutique hotels.
Getting There: Tambourine Mountain is an hour's drive south of Brisbane.
North Stradbroke Island: Watersports and Whale Watching
Arguably Brisbane's most popular day-trip destination, North Stradbroke Island is the world’s second-largest sand island. (The largest, Fraser Island, can be found further north in Queensland.) Stradbroke has something for everyone, with SUPing, surfing, snorkeling, fishing, and hiking, as well as whale watching between June and October. Buses and taxis are in service on the island, which also has lots of accommodation options.
Getting There: Ferries and water taxis regularly depart from Cleveland (40 minutes by car or train from Brisbane city center) and take around 50 minutes to reach North Stradbroke Island.
Travel Tip: The island is known as Straddie for short, or Minjerribah to the Traditional Custodians, the Quandamooka people.
Coochiemudlo Island: Relax by the Beach
Coochiemudlo Island is protected from the open sea by North Stradbroke Island on its eastern side, with deserted beaches and calm waters for SUPing, kayaking, and fishing. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to spot dolphins, dugongs, turtles, and whales from the shore. The permanent population is only around 700 people and you can easily get around on foot, although boat and bicycle hire is available.
Getting There: This little island paradise is not far away, just a 10-minute ferry ride from Victoria Coast south-west of Brisbane.
Travel Tip: If you're traveling on a budget, you can pack a picnic and make the most of the free barbecue areas. There are no grocery stores on the island, but you can also dine in at the beach kiosk, cafe, or hotel restaurant.
Byron Bay: Surf, Shop, and Party
Initially developing as a hippie and surfer hub during the 1960s and '70s, today Byron is one of Australia's hottest beach destinations with world-famous hotels, restaurants, and boutiques. Of course, the real drawcard is the beaches, known for their incredible surf and postcard-perfect settings. Head to Main Beach to be in the center of the action or Wategos for a bit more solitude.
Getting There: Byron is a two-hour drive south of Brisbane or around three hours on the bus.
Travel Tip: Keep an eye out for humpback whales between June and November and beware of the crowds in late December and early January.