The Gold Coast is great, but beyond its boundaries is so much more to discover. Load up the car and take off on an adventure. Here’s our pick of 10 must-do day trips.
Natural Bridge, Springbrook National Park
Pack a picnic and get lost in the Gold Coast’s beautiful hinterland with a day trip to the Natural Bridge at Springbrook National Park. Formed long ago by the force of a waterfall over an erosive basalt cave, the bridge is easily accessible along a one kilometre subtropical circuit from the Nerang-Murwillumbah Rd car park. Descend through ancient Gondwana rainforest to the Natural Bridge rock arch, home to a colony of protected glow worms.
O’Reilly’s Tree Top Walkway, Lamington National Park
Marvel at the surrounding rainforest of flowering and fruiting trees covered in vines as you make your way across the Tree Top Walkway, a suspension bridge 180m in length and about 15m above the ground. There are even two observation decks to take in the views and spot the birds and animals that inhabit the tree tops, with the highest being 30m above the ground. The walkway, located about one-and-a-half hours from the Gold Coast, is free of charge and there are no age or height restrictions, but guidance of youngsters is recommended during the climbing aspect of the activity. Afterwards, enjoy a bite to eat at the tea house overlooking the escarpment.
Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, Mt Tamborine
Another rainforest walking experience is the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk at Mt Tamborine, tucked away in the hinterland about 45 minutes from Surfers Paradise. The one-and-a-half kilometre walk includes the Skywalk Bridge, the 40m Skywalk Cantilever and the Cedar Creek Viewing Platform, joined by a winding pathway along the canopy floor. The walk takes about 45 minutes at a leisurely pace; afterwards, make the most of all Mt Tamborine has to offer, including its art galleries, breweries, gardens, markets, wineries and more.
Escape to the city for the day and while away the hours lunching along the banks of the Brisbane River, relaxing in the family-friendly Southbank Parklands or shopping up a storm at the popular Queen Street Mall. Those keen for a leisurely stroll should check out the Brisbane Riverway, while adventurers might like to kayak or stand-up paddle board down the river, abseil or rock climb the Kangaroo Point Cliffs or see the sights from the top of the Story Bridge. Come dinner time, Brisbane also offers plenty of rooftop bars and live music venues.
Keen to work off some of those beachside cocktails with a sunrise climb through nature? Head to Mount Warning at Murwillumbah, located between the Gold Coast and Byron Bay, and clamber to the top of the mountain for some seriously spectacular views. The climb ends with a challenging rock scramble before reaching the summit, the perfect place to picnic before heading back down. After you’ve conquered the 8.8km, five-hour return trek through the rainforest, head into the charming township of Murwillumbah for a well-earned breakfast and a look through the Tweed River Art Gallery.
A stay on the Gold Coast would not be complete without a day trip to everybody’s favourite little beach town, Byron Bay, located just over an hour’s drive from Surfers Paradise in New South Wales.
Hire a surfboard and explore the iconic coastline, wander the town centre and soak up its laidback, barefoot hippy vibe, head to the Byron Bay Markets on the first Sunday of every month, or put on your runners and do the headland walk to Wategos Bay.
There’s no shortage of fun to be had on the Sunshine Coast, acclaimed for its laidback lifestyle, pristine beaches and hinterland and seaside markets. One market not to miss is the Eumundi Market, with its ethos ‘Make it, bake it, grow it or sew it’, ensuring plenty of fresh local produce, specialty fare and original creations to be found. If it’s pampering you’re in need of, the Sunshine Coast boasts a blissful selection of day spas, while its beautiful mountain scenery and rainforest walks will also refresh the soul.
Australia Zoo, Beerwah
Take the kids on an ultimate wildlife adventure to Australia Zoo, a fun day out full of amazing animal encounters. Hand-feed some hungry wombats, pose for a photo with a majestic bird of prey, get up close and personal with a giant giraffe, ride a camel, pat a zebra, cuddle a koala, come face-to-face with a two-tonne rhino – the options are endless and you can even visit the zoo’s new wildlife hospital and adopt an animal through the Adopt an Animal program, which plays a vital role in the zoo’s ongoing fight for wildlife conservation.
North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island, or Straddie as it’s known to locals, is famous for its scenic headlands, excellent surf and stretches of white sandy beaches. It’s also perfect for day trippers. Catch a passenger ferry from Cleveland, which takes about 25 minutes, and once on the island explore its three little townships offering a relaxed village atmosphere and mix of cafes and restaurants. You can go whale watching from Point Lookout, take a dip in one of the island’s freshwater lakes, or, and this is a must, see the best views of the island from The Gorge Walk.
Head to Mullumbimby, which promotes itself as The Biggest Little Town in Australia, and spend the day soaking up its hinterland serenity. The drive takes just over an hour, heading south from Surfer’s Paradise. Once there, take the walking trail through Brunswick Valley Heritage Park and enjoy a picnic at the edge of the river. Afterwards, visit Crystal Castle to wander its lush gardens and marvel amazing crystals from all corners of the globe.