With its warm climate, blue skies and vibrant sunshine year round, Brisbane is an ideal base for exploring everything southeast Queensland has to offer. Drive an hour or two north, south or west and you’ll find a haven of rainforests, pristine beaches, lakes, rivers and wineries – an ideal way to while away a day.
1. Moreton Island
Take a ferry over to Moreton Island for a day of diving, snorkelling, swimming and trekking through nature. The Tangalooma ship wrecks provide a shallow haven for snorkelling beginners and reach depths of up to 10 metres for experienced divers, or experience the thrill of flying down one of the giant sand dunes on a waxed sand board. Ferries and barges run daily through peak season and take about 75 minutes.
2. North Stradbroke Island
Take a passenger ferry or water taxi to this picturesque island, located off Cleveland. Day trips to North Stradbroke, or ‘Straddie,’ are a local Brisbane institution, and with the island’s scenic headlands, vibrant surf, tea-stained lakes and village-like atmosphere, it’s easy to see why. Swim at a pristine beach or two, enjoy fresh, local seafood at one of the many relaxed cafes and relax on the vast stretches of white sand – all about an hour’s drive and 30 minute ferry trip from Brisbane.
3. Samford Valley
Just a short drive from Brisbane, Samford is a charming town offering a quaint country atmosphere. Rolling green hills, fresh air and wide open spaces are a highlight of the region, which boasts a main strip filled with cafes, boutiques and shops selling fresh local produce. History-lovers will enjoy the Samford Valley Heritage Trail – a walking tour through 13 sites including the Samford Museum, Slab Hut Art and Craft Gallery, and John Scott Park.
4. Monville and Melany
Head to Montville in the Sunshine Coast hinterland for crisp mountain air, quaint village shops, art galleries and cafes with panoramic views to the ocean. The nearby picturesque Mary Cairncross Reserve is an ideal spot for a picnic or take a short drive to Kondalilla Falls and hike through the rainforest to a waterfall and lagoon. The small town of Maleny also resides nearby offering a creative mix of cafes, spas, shops and galleries.
5. Mount Tamborine
Nestled in the picturesque Scenic Rim amid rainforests, creeks and wildlife, Mount Tamborine offers an ambient mountain village atmosphere about 1.5 hours from Brisbane. Meander through the dense forests of Tamborine National Park, or take a walk along the Skywalk, wander down Main Street and the nearby Gallery Walk for cafes, fudge shops and art and craft stores, and visit the famous cheese shop and distillery.
6. Springbrook National Park
In the Gold Coast hinterland, about 45 minutes from the beaches lies Springbrook National Park, a forest wilderness formed by the eruption of an ancient volcano. Many of the stunning walks, waterfalls and lookouts are child-friendly, with the ‘Best of All Lookout’ aptly named and boasting vistas to Mt Warning, Murwillumbah and Brunswick Heads in New South Wales. There are also glow worm caves for night adventures, picnic spots, the Natural Bridge and plentiful wildlife to see.
At the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, and therefore closer to Brisbane, sits Caloundra, a scenic coastal spot with a laid-back atmosphere. Highlights of this picturesque region include Kings Beach – ideal for families with its calm waters, vast stretch of sand and adjoining time-lapse fountain and play area, as well as a fully-fenced saltwater pool and an eclectic mix of cafes and fantastic fish and chips shops. The coastal paths and boardwalks allow for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, while the western side offers vistas of the majestic Glass House Mountains.
Nestled in Granite Belt wine country, Stanthorpe is a scenic town known for its cooler climate (a haven in Queensland’s humid summers) and award-winning wineries. Take in the clean air and expanding horizons and enjoy fresh local produce such as gourmet preserves, fruit and vegetables, vinegars and oils, at one of the local restaurants, followed by cellar-door hopping or beer tasting at the local brewery. For the adventurous there’s also the beauty of Girraween National Park, or a 34km bike trail through quiet country roads, farms and cafes.
On the northern end of the Sunshine Coast lies Noosa, surrounded by beaches, a river and pristine national parks. This scenic region offers an array of things to do including swimming, surfing, shopping along the upmarket Hasting St, hiking the oceanfront cliffs of Noosa National Park, kayaking the Noosa River, or fine outdoor dining in the many local restaurants. For those seeking a little more solitude, try the neighbouring Sunshine Beach – the locals’ best kept secret.
10. Eumundi Markets
Every Wednesday and Saturday morning, rain, hail or shine, the artisan Eumundi Markets enliven the quaint township with hundreds of stalls offering food, jewellery, art, crafts and clothing. The diverse mix of products, massages and handmade offerings entices hoards of locals and tourists alike, while the food market with its fresh local produce, coffee, baked breads, laksa, calamari, thai and paella is worth the 1.5 hour drive from Brisbane on its own.
Feature image courtesy of Getty.