Brisbane is a great city to both live and visit. It’s casual and laid back but there are options here for culture, great foodie experiences and more. It doesn’t have to hurt your pocket either, if you’re visiting the city make sure you also see our top ideas for free things to do in Brisbane.
The sub-tropical climate you’ll find in Brisbane is ideal, it doesn’t hit the scorching highs in summer that some parts of the country do but winter is mostly spent in shorts and t-shirts with plenty of beach visits all year around.
The city has it’s own surf patrolled (man made) beach and plenty of parks and attractions but as with any city after a day or two, or a solid 9-5 week, you’re probably going to want to get outside and explore further afield so we’ve put together a list of our 25 best options for day trips from Brisbane. You’ll find plenty of variety here to suit everyone – couples, friends, families and singles.
Our recommendations for day trips from Brisbane
1. Glasshouse Mountains
The Glasshouse mountains are at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast only an hour from the city. This distinctive National Park includes 12 distinctive peaks that are the remnant cores of 26 million year old volcanos that once towered above the region.
Some of the peaks have paths you can walk up easily such as Wild Horse Mountain where this photo was taken from, other’s require climbing expertise and equipment for those we prefer the walking trails that circumnavigate them from below. There are a few cafes in the area, our pick is the Lookout Cafe for its gorgeous outlook, then just carry on a few hundred meters further up the mountain for the lookout park with incredible views, walking trails and wildlife.
2. Lamington National Park
Heading south of Brisbane to the Gold Coast we are often drawn to the beauty of the Lamington National Park. There are 2 sections to this park which are accessed in very different ways so make sure you are headed to the right part. The Green Mountain section is our favorite and commonly known as O’Reillys for the family that originally settled here and a man that carried out an inspiring rescue against the odds when a passenger plane crashed in the area back in 1937.
Today you’ll find a variety of walks many suitable for the whole family in pristine rain forest and some great destinations on these walks such as the Elabana Falls shown above. There’s car parking, BBQ’s, plenty of picnic space and a shop and cafe here. If you’re looking for something longer than a day trip there’s a variety of accommodation right at the park entrance from camping to luxe apartments with private outdoor spa’s. We’ve stayed here a couple of times and if you’re interested this article will give you an idea of whats available and some of the other activities.
If you love Australian wildlife this is a sure spot to see pademelons, a small species in the wallaby and kangaroo family and the bird life is extensive, we’ve seen a huge variety here including the elusive Alberts Lyrebird and rainbow pitta.
3. North Stradbroke Island
Just a 25 minute ferry trip across Moreton Bay is North Stradbroke Island, a laid back island paradise right on the door stop of the city. There’s a lot to love about a day trip to ‘Straddie’ as it’s known locally but for us it’s a tie between the wildlife, scenery and fabulous beaches. There’s also a couple of good cafes popped up on the island recently.
You can take a car across on the car ferry but you’ll have just a much fun jumping on the bus that meets the boat and heading up to Point Lookout. This is where you’ll find stunning surf beaches, the gorge walk, lookouts and more amazing beaches. If you visit in the ‘winter’ you can watch the whales passing on their annual migration, pods of dolphins playing in the surf and sea turtles feeding in the gorge. There’s also a big mob of kangaroos and you’ll usually spot at least some of those. Surfing and beach days are popular on the island all year round. We met one young Kiwi visitor who was so impressed after having dolphins join her on her wave while body surfing that she was making an impromptu decision to turn her day trip into an overnight stay hoping to repeat the experience again the next day.
4. Moreton Island
Moreton Island is sometimes referred to as Tangalooma after the major resort on the island. While there is plenty to see and do out here on the island if you wanted to stay a few days it’s also a fantastic day trip. The boat runs out here from Brisbane in the morning and after a short stop you can rejoin it during the ‘winter’ months to head out whale watching. Early in the trip we spotted turtles, dolphins and off the coast of Morton Island is where I saw my very first dugong. The whales are in transit from Antarctica to the Great Barrier Reef but they still show a natural curiosity in checking out boats so the sightings were good.
We had lunch on the boat then when you get back to there island there’s time to explore. There are wrecks offshore that have formed into reefs and provide a home for a good variety of sea life, you can hire a kayak to take a look if you don’t want to snorkel or dive. You can also hire cycles with sand tires or head out sand tobogganing. As a day visitor we were able to use the resort facilities and we stayed on into the evening taking the last boat back to see the great sunset and the other special attractions of Tangalooma, the visiting dolphins.
Early in the evening a pod of wild dolphins come into shore and under a special licence you are able to feed them here. The history of this goes back a long way and led to Nari, one of the dolphins a decade or so back being able to be rescued, healed and returned to his pod after he was badly mauled by a shark (you can read more about Nari in the article below). Care is taken to ensure they are given locally caught fish and that what they receive only makes up only a small portion of their daily diet so they eat and play naturally the rest of the time. Not every dolphin in the pod comes in, and those that do don’t come in every day, trained staff supervise every encounter to ensure it is done in a safe way and of course you must not touch the dolphin.
5. Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary
While I’ll highlight many spots to encounter Australia’s wildlife in their natural setting near Brisbane in other sections of this post, visitors may want to include a wildlife sanctuary during their time in Brisbane to see a variety of the Australian animals and for the educational aspect.
For that we’d recommend either Currumbin or the nearby David Fleay Wildlife Park . These two have a strong conservation focus, they prioritise local wildlife over exotics their priority is animal welfare, conservation and education.