The sun is out. The air is still cool. It’s early morning in Brisbane and the city is just waking up. This is the best time to head out of the city before everyone hits the road to work or elsewhere. The surroundings are already waiting for you to explore. And the idyllic capital of Queensland surely has plenty of opportunities for you, from sporty activities, relaxing islands to great little towns in the hinterland to have coffee and kick back. Here are some of my favourite things to do right on the doorstep of this beautiful city.
This day trip guide may get you booking your next weekend trip even before you finish the article. Rest assured, it will be worth it. Read on and find out what the beauty of Brisbane and its surrounds has on offer for you!
#1 Go Hanggliding
Sky’s the limit on your first Brisbane day trip adventure. If you’ve ever wondered how it feels to be a bird soaring through the sky, this is your chance to experience all that and South East Queensland Hanggliding is the key to that fly high dream of yours.
You can experience flying through tandem hanggliding or paragliding with an expert. So the choice is yours if you want to actually soar like a bird or hang like a koala with the parachute above your head. Both require no training but some wind and fingers crossed, a beautiful day to enjoy the endless views over the hinterland, beaches and ocean.
I recommend if you have never been up in the air, opt for a scenic cruise to get a feel of flying. I will surely never forget the feeling of running off Rosins Lookout, located in the Gold Coast hinterland, until my feet just hit the air and I was about to fly up the hilly hinterland looking down on the houses getting smaller and smaller and acres of property, farm land, green forests and the occasional street inbetween. A little while later, the Gold Coast skyline was in sight, and since the day was so very clear, the ocean was visible in the distance too. Your safety is the highest priority at SEQ Hanggliding, so don’t worry, even if you feel a bit queasy. It’s totally normal on your first flight.
If you are hooked after this first flight, you can also go for 2-day training course or a full 9-day course of paragliding or hanggliding. Practice takes place on flat ground and small hills before you can scale up and take off on a higher flight from Mt. Tamborine or alike.
#2 Eat Your Way Around The Gold Coast
I love food tours! I try to join one in almost every city I travel to. Actually, I was a little surprised that Queenslands beautiful Gold Coast had not only golden beaches to offer but a pretty great food tour as well. While Australia is not especially known for its food like for example the Italians for their exceptional pizza and pasta dishes, food and wine is something very social in Australia and has a growing reputation internationally after Tourism Australia launched a special campaign called Restaurant Australia, promoting culinary experiences you can have in Australia to the world.
And really, with the Gold Coasts’ exceptional restaurants it certainly makes sense to tour around and let your inner foodie get full and happy. I had an indulging afternoon of gourmet food and wine tasting with Gold Coast Food and Wine Tours in Burleigh Heads and still rave about it.
If you are into exploring new restaurant hotspots, love sampling on deserts and don’t shy away from a great coffee or cocktail, this tour will more than satisfy your craving for amazing food.
The 4-hour ‘Burleigh Heads by Twilight’ walking tour takes you through the beachside boutique village of Burleigh Heads (or alternatively choose a tour through Broadbeach or Surfers Paradise) and includes various stops at different restaurants, deli shops and cafés. All of the tours are entire walking tours, so you can (hopefully) walk off some of the food between the stops. My favourite stops were the newly opened Stones Throw, the South American street food place called Fiery Deli and the sensational Golosi Food Emporium!
If you are looking for an eclectic mix of new venues, local favourites and a special introduction to unique food and drinks while meeting some lovely people from around the world, one of the walking tours is exactly the right thing.
Premium tours will be launching in autumn 2017. Then you can taste the wines, cheeses and deserts from Mount Tamborine, where rainforest meets hinterland and local artisans are producing fresh and flavourful food.
#3 Spot Koalas At Noosa National Park & Swim In Crystal Clear Waters
What would you say about a trip to Australia without seeing a cute and cuddly koala? Well, they might be slow and sleepy but if you have a good eye, you will find them. Head to Noosa National Park and go koala spotting! Word is that koalas are mostly spotted on the treetops close to the day-use areas and by the walking trails.
Other than the koalas, Noosa National Park is also a safe refuge for other wildlife like the ground parrot, wallum froglet, lace monitors, honeyeaters, and the glossy black-cockatoo.
Besides wildlife spotting, you can also take a dip or even go for a surf or stand up paddle at one of the many beaches or coves in and nearby the national park. Worth spending a full day or weekend here!
#4 Visit The Charming Hinterland Towns Of Montville & Maleny
If it’s a dull day in Brisbane it might be a good day on the coast or the hinterland! Or a moody one. Either way, it makes for a wonderful trip to the charming towns of Montville and Maleny.
Montville is a bit of a whimsical town that offers an eccentric shopping experience. Antiques, stunning jewellery and other unique finds can be bought in the small shops along the main street. Products of handblown glass art can be found in Illume Creations while Clockshop Montville offers cuckoo clocks, modern timepieces, and German gift items. Yes, truly, cuckoo clocks from Germany!
Another must-see in Montville is The Chapel, a charming little chapel that’s built to hold weddings. Besides it being very picturesque, what makes it truly unique is how it was built. Olden-time stonemasonry was used to hold the sandstone together. The pews and other fixtures were all hand-carved by Obi Valley Woodworks.
Off to another scenic town that is Maleny. There’s no doubt why Maleny is a frequented hinterland town by travellers from all over the globe. A few of Maleny’s top attractions are Maleny Dairies that offers farm and milk factory tours, Pallet Life Gallery and Café, as well as Maleny Village Artisan Market for homemade goodies, vintage wares, and so much more.
Feed your sweet tooth with some of the most amazing ice cream at Colin James Fine Foods. If you’re up for a killer view of the Glass House Mountains, the Sunshine Coast, and its surrounding, head over to Howells Knob Lookout. Or if you’re up for some chill time, you can go swimming, canoeing, and fishing at Lake Baroon.
#5 Have A Picnic Or Go Rock Climbing In The Glasshouse Mountains
You’ll find quite a few places around here to enjoy great panoramic views of the Glasshouse Mountains. I suggest having a picnic along the Glass House Mountains Lookout Circuit or at Mount Ngungun near Beerwah.
If you feel more active, rock climbing in the Glasshouse Mountains truly is an adventurous one. It’s a thrilling experience and you gotta be very careful of loose stones and falling rocks. Best to try with a guide if you don’t know the area or have friend who do.
The locally known climb to Mount Beerwah summit route involves steep climbs and a high fitness level for your part. The Mount Tibrogargan summit route requires rock scrambling skills. Check out one of the few local experts that can help you get started on your climbing adventure.
#6 Devour On The Best Local Food At The Eumundi Markets
One of my favourite markets nearby Brisbane are the Eumundi Markets, set in the cute town of Eumundi just around the corner from Noosa, making it a perfect morning stop before heading on for a day at the beach.
Besides beautiful locally made arts and crafts, homewares, skincare, fashion and jewellery, the market boasts with an amazing variety of food. From Thai to churros, Greek souvlaki, Paella and great coffee, you can go on a little food tour yourself here, sampling on many different things. A few of the must-tries are the gourmet Calamari, Tibetan Momos, the French Crêpes stuffed with the most delicious fillings and the vegan Hempburger.
In season, you cannot go past the freshly picked strawberries which are handpicked from the strawberry farms nearby. They also have strawberry jams with some nice twists. For your fill of different beverages, try out Eumundi Coffee, get a fresh juice, Noosa cane juice and so many other choices.
#7 Explore All Around Mount Tamborine
There is so much to see and do around Mount Tamborine. Where do I even start? This 28 square km large plateau located in the Scenic Rim has everything for everyone no matter if you’re interest is in art, enjoy having a beer or glass of wine, love gallery shopping, fancy relaxing at the spa, learn a new skill by attending a course or workshops, go on a little adventure, explore the food scene… yes, Mount Tamborine has it all.
Just a few of the top attractions to visit are the thrilling Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk where you walk high up through the canopies, the underground Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Caves, riding a hot air balloon over the Scenic Rim and the Tamborine Mountain Distillery where high-quality liqueurs, schnaps, vodkas are skilfully created.
Refuel with a bite or two at Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard and Winery right around the corner of the Glowworm Cave, hit the idyllic Eden Restaurant, have a coffee at Café on Alpine at Birchgrove Nursery, treat yourself to some mouthwatering fudge at Granny Macs Fudge Store & Café and then fall sleep in a tree house at Pethers Rainforest Retreat.
Check out the stunning local art at The Arthur Hamblin Art Gallery, Hilltop on Tamborine known for its contemporary artwork and The Art Gallery Studio Retreat. When you’re up for a shopping hunt, head over to the Gallery Walk for everything fashion, jewellery, artwork and antiques.
#8 Go Diving At Tangalooma Wrecks On Moreton Island And Visit The Dolphins
Exploring a shipwreck may be just a dream for everyone of us, because we surely all have watched Titanic! If you always had that notion to snorkel or dive around a sunken shipwreck which is not too far or too deep for an amateur, well then, welcome to Tangalooma Wreck of Moreton Island! This is a cool exception as the wreck is only metres away from the seashore and you can snorkel or dive in from the shore.
What’s more is that it’s not just one shipwreck but indeed over 15 sunken ships that are spread around a 450 metres distance. The shipwrecks themselves are a must-see and amazing to explore! Adding to that are the colourful fish and corals anchoring the boats. On a good day, visibility can be super clear so snorkelling and diving beginners will surely have a sight to behold. Pro divers can explore up to 10 metres deep. If you have your own diving gear, you can also easily explore the shipwrecks at your own time. And if you don’t, no worries, there are many diving and snorkeling tours that you can book before you arrive.
You should know that you’re not the only visitors in Tangalooma. Come sunset and wild bottlenose dolphins drop by to showcase their playful personalities. I’m not talking about just seeing them from a distance but you can actually be in the water with them. Hand feeding these energetic flippered animals is one of the best experiences you can have in Tangalooma. And if shipwreck diving and dolphin feeding are still not cutting it for you, check out the Tangalooma Island Resort website for all the other activities that are on offer!
#9 Have A Wine Tasting At Sirromet Winery
Located 818 metres above sea level on the Granite Belt Region of Queensland is the picturesque Sirromet Winery. Its 800 national and international awards are more than enough to prove the quality of their wine and service.
Sirromet Winery promises a different experience every time you open up a new bottle of wine from their collection. Sirromet Winery offers different tours and tastings. I have done and loved the Winery Tour and Tasting lasting for 1.5 hrs for only $20. This includes behind-the-scene workings of a winery and the process of making wine. The tour ends with a private tasting of 8 Sirromet wines. Relax on the timber deck of the Tuscan Terrace afterwards while feasting on delectable breads, snacks, salads, light meals as well as housemade pasta and pizza fresh out of the wood fired oven. Yum!
#10 Cruise, Surf, Kayak And Sunbake On North Stradbroke Island
Time to hit one of Queenslands islands, lovingly dubbed as Straddie. North Stradbroke Island is a little paradise close to the city. The tranquil turquoise waters, the stunning flora and fauna will leave you in awe. If you want to explore the big blue around the island, Captain Silver Cruises offers a deluxe day cruise on a 41-feet catamaran. If you want to explore at your own pace, you can hire kayaks to go on the water.
North Stradbroke’s waters are also perfect for surfing, depending on seaon. Even if you have zero experience, you can definitely learn with North Stradbroke Island Surf School. It’s not just the waters that are fit for surfing, the sand will give you a good time. Surfing on the sand dunes offer a great experience that you shouldn’t miss.
After all those activities, unwind on the white sandy beaches. Strip down to your bikini, kick off your shoes and just lay as you soak in the sun and work on that tan.
#11 Go Wet And Wild At Springbrook National Park
Springbrook National Park is a green haven amidst a modern world. It is rich in wildlife, unique plants, birds, and best of all, lots of waterfalls. There are three waterfalls that you can explore – Purling Brook Falls, possibly one of the best ones around here, the Twin Falls and the Goomoolahra Falls.
#12 Have A Coffee With City Views At Woody Point And Stop By In Redcliffe & Scarborough
Want to know the locals’ pick when it comes to coffee outside Brisbane City? Head to Watersun Café at Belvedere Hotel in to see for yourself, or should I say taste for yourself. Whatever time of the day, Watersun Café at Belvedere Hotel is perfect for a light meal too. Their coffee is great plus you have a stunning view of Moreton Bay and all the way to the Brisbane skyline.
The sunset view from this spot is pretty spectacular too. After your cup of joy, hang out at the quaint seaside villages of Redcliffe and Scarborough. If you want to beat the heat, Redcliffe Parade has the Settlement Cove Lagoon perfect for a cool dip.
There’s also the Bee Gees Way, a memory lane for this legendary band exhibiting their phenomenal career. While the three brothers lived on the Redcliffe Peninsular in the 1950’s, this is where they performed for the first time. There are different beaches, museums, and markets such as the Redcliffe Jetty Markets that you can drop by in the Redcliffe area.
#13 Watch The Sunset Or Go Kite-Surfing At Wellington Point
Among the many activities that you can do in Wellington Point, kite-surfing seems to be the favourite of the crowd. Kite-surfing here happens all throughout the year. Winds blowing from the north, west, southwest, and northwest makes for a great conditions. Kitesurfing is done best on the western portion of Wellington Point and during high tide.
Wellington Point is also one of the best places to see the sunset. You’ll be in awe when the sun paints the color in shades of yellow, orange and red. After the sunset, head for dinner at one of the restaurants along the main road.
#14 Go Stand-Up Paddle Boarding In Raby Bay, Cleveland
Truly more laidback than kite-surfing at Wellington Point and still nearby is stand-up paddle boarding. The best destination closest to Brisbane is Raby Bay. You can enjoy your paddle boarding with glorious views of the islands nearby and the boats cruising to and from the jetties.
Keep your eyes open for turtles, dolphins, and eagles. If you already know how to balance a stand-up paddle board, you can instantly rent a paddle and board for $25 an hour.
If you need lessons first, this will set you back $69. There is usually a coffee van parked around here on the weekends, so you can get your dose of caffeine afterward. Or head to the Old Cleveland Lighthouse to hang out and get a coffee at the Lighthouse Restaurant instead.
#15 Surf The Waves Of Burleigh Heads
Burleigh Heads is the place to go to if you want to ride the waves. If you don’t know a thing about surfing, head over to Godfathers of the Ocean Surf School to get your first lessons and you’ll be on the water in no time.
An hour and a half surfing lesson for adults cost A$45 including the board and a rashie or wetsuit if the weather’s too cold.
#16 Visit Samford And Mount Nebo
When you love to bask on anything quaint with a cozy country feel, the place to go to is Samford. A a picture-perfect town set on a valley filled with cafés, markets, museums, craft shops, pubs and more. There are 13 historical spots on the Samford Valley Heritage Trail, something you must not miss if you are a bit of a history buff. After your exploration at Samford, go on with your trip to Mount Nebo.
Mount Nebo is a small village characteristic to the surrounding rainforest and bushes. You can stop and drop by the Walkabout Creek Visitor Center in The Gap for more information about the place. Get the inside scope from the rangers and a map and head off. Your Brisbane day trip to Mount Nebo must include seeing the Abu Badd Rolling Stone, the Mount Nebo mosaics, and the Mount Nebo viewpoint.
#17 Hike Or SUP In D’Aguilar National Park
With the Walkabout Creek as your starting point, drive up among the eucalyptus forests and you’ll end up on the south side of D’Aguilar National Park, named as Brisbane Forest Park before. There are picnic tables set amidst the tall trees.
This is also an amazing place for a round of SUP, if you own one yourself as there are no rentals around here. Definitely one of my favourite places close to Brisbane to have a paddle.
#18 Get cuddly At Australia Zoo
Think of 5 things that remind you of Australia. Surely, koalas are on that list. Cuddling a koala is a common thing to do at Australia Zoo. Don’t miss this unique experience! The day pass for adults costs A$59.
But Koalas is not all you get to see here, Australia Zoo is also home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, so you’ll get to see crocs in all shapes and sizes as well as other native Australian animals and other mammals from around the globe.
Alternatively, try Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary located in Fig Tree Pocket, a suburb of Brisbane. It’s definitely smaller than Australia Zoo with less animals and shows but if you are especially into koalas and kangaroos, this may be for you, I really loved spending half a day here.
#19 Go Whale Watching
Did you always want to get up close and personal with the magnificent humpback whales as they breach, blow, and play just on plain sight? Get on board one of whale watching catamarans and keep your eyes out for any movement on the horizon. You’ll be in for a good time watching those large gentle creatures and then enjoy a gourmet lunch with guaranteed window seats. Brisbane Whale Watching donates a proportion of the proceeds to ongoing whale research.
#20 Walk The Tree Tops Of Lamington National Park
There’s always something intriguing about experiencing things that you normally wouldn’t a regular day. Aside from hanggliding with a birdseye perspecitve, how about being as high as the treetops? At Lamington National Park, you have the opportunity to experience that on their Tree Top Walk.
There are 9 suspension bridges in total and the highest one takes you 16 metres off the ground. The viewing deck perched on a fig tree is even over 30 metres from the ground. If you want to see birds during your walk, the best time to go is early morning or during the late afternoon. Did I mention the Tree Top Walk is free? Yes, it’s absolutely free.
#21 Go On A Hot Air Balloon Ride With Champagne Breakfast
There is not a single doubt that you will not forget about this day trip. Ever.
Riding in a hot air balloon is an unforgettable experience. From the moment you arrive and the balloon is pumped up with hot air to the moment you take off and suddenly ride above the tree tops looking down as everything is getting smaller. A hot air balloon ride is definitely a one-of-a-kind experience that you should add to your things to do in Brisbane. And afterwards? As you come down in the early hours, it’s time for a breakfast – with champagne obviously!
Prices for the ride start at $280 for adults. This includes return coach transfers in an air-conditioned car with wifi, a full hot breakfast including champagne as well as a visit to O’Reilly’s Grand Homestead and Vineyard. Be aware, pick up tends to be in the early hours of the morning. It surely is worth it though!