Discover the best day trips close to Brisbane with beautiful beaches like North Stradbroke Island and country destinations like Maleny. Whether you want to escape Brisbane for a morning or a day, a quality day trip really can be as rejuvenating as a holiday. We have incorporated all the best road trip structures like DIY road trip itineraries and more organised day tours and the best thing about South East Queensland is that there is something to interest everyone. From the stunning coastline to tropical rainforests and mountain highs this really is a place of plenty.
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North Stradbroke Island
While it seems a world away, North Stradbroke Island (Australia’s second-largest sand island), is more accessible than you think! Leave the car at Cleveland (3 Emmett Drive -look for the white and blue tower) and catch a passenger ferry across to the Island. Tickets at the time of publishing are under $20 for an adult and just over $10 for a child (this is for a return ticket). Buses meet the ferries on North Stradbroke Island and can easily take you anywhere (they take cash only).
Things to do on North Stradbroke Island
If you are following the above instructions then our suggested itinerary would be to take the bus directly to Point Lookout. From here, you are within walking distance of Main Beach for swims, and you can walk along the very scenic Gorge Walk (this is a must-do!).
Point Lookout offers a range of cafes and gelato shops and you and your kids will love sitting admiring the spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean while you indulge.
Kangaroos are known to frequent this area (not rarely but often) just adding to the majesty of this spot. Add to this the incredible close sightings of dolphins, whales, manta rays and other marine life, and you will plan another visit before you leave.
If you prefer to have a beach day, then stop off at Cylinder Beach and spend the whole day here instead.
Read a detailed review of North Stradbroke Island with kids
Springbrook National Park
Around 90 minutes drive from Brisbane, Springbrook National Park may as well be on a different planet. Featuring trees estimated to be over 3000 years old, wind down the car windows and you are breathing the air of an ancient Gondwana Rainforest. Springbrook National Park is located on the Gold Coast Hinterland between Lamington National Park and Burleigh Heads.
Things to do at Springbrook National Park
Springbrook National Park features many different bushwalks for all levels of walkers (and ages) with distances ranging from 30 metres to over 50 kilometres. What makes Springbrook National Park so popular is the diversity of fauna on the walking trails and this is definitely a day trip destination that you can return to for different experiences.
From incredible waterfalls you will find on the Twin Falls Circuit to breathtaking lookouts such as Wunburra Lookout, this is a place you will remember. It would also be remiss of us not to mention the famous Natural Bridge Circuit, well known for its nocturnal glow worms in the warmer months.
Read a detailed review of Springbrook National Park
For many reasons, Tamborine Mountain (also known as Mt Tamborine) is the perfect day trip destination from Brisbane. It offers a nice balance between a mountain lifestyle (bushwalks and natural swimming holes) and a village atmosphere (hot chocolates and cheese factories). Located in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Tamborine Mountain is also a scenic drive, meaning the holiday begins when you start climbing the mountain.
Things to do at Tamborine Mountain
Cedar Creek Rockpools should be part of any itinerary when heading to Mount Tamborine with your family. The best way to enjoy the rock pools is after rains to ensure clear running water; make a morning of it with the onsite BBQ facilities and an easy walk down to the central swimming hole.
The village of Mount Tamborine is a great place to visit and offers several different points of interest for the whole family.
If you are happy to spend some money, then head to the Tamborine Glow Worms caves, engaging the younger kids with a man-made glow worm cave offering a solid educational experience and a wow factor. The Tamborine Mountain Skywalk is another popular activity, offering the chance to wander above the tree canopy and to experience the thrill of a long-span cantilever (think of a wobbly draw bridge over the trees).
Aside from these main attractions, there are loads of small interesting shops, bushwalks with numerous waterfalls, botanic gardens, lookouts, treetop challenges and thunderbird digging to be had. The food options would require a whole article, but safe to say you won’t go hungry at Tamborine Mountain.
Read a detailed review of Tamborine Mountain
Noosa National Park
Best known for its pristine beaches, Noosa also offers an incredible “where the forest meets the sea” type experience via the protected Noosa National Park. There are several different access points to the National Park, especially on busy days, but most people head to the main area is at the end of Park Road in Noosa Heads.
Things to do at Noosa National Park
Noosa National Park is a known koala habitat so before you head off, let the kids know! It’s a great way to add some interest to the walk and spotting koalas is more challenging than you think! This is a picnic-worthy destination so we recommend you pack a backpack and portable esky to find a place along your travels to relax and have some lunch!
A range of walks are on offer, inland, coastal and some with incredible views. The coastal track is pram and wheelchair-accessible making for one of the more popular tracks. When you finish your walk and lunch, stop by Noosa Heads or Sunshine Beach on your way home for a swim between the flags- the perfect day!
Read a guide to walking in Noosa National Park
Undoubtedly Bribie Island is no longer a secret destination, but it is nowhere near as popular as the Gold or Sunshine Coasts. Around an hour or so from Brisbane, once you cross the bridge to Bribie, you can choose between the calm waters of the Pumicestone Passage or the fun of the surfside looking out to Moreton Bay.
Things to do on Bribie Island
Swimming is by far the most popular activity to undertake on Bribie Island. The calm side of the Pumicestone Passage is perfect for little kids and the opposite surf side (just a short drive away) offers all the waves of the sunshine and gold coasts but without the crowds. If you are lucky enough to own a 4wd, you can also do off-road driving up the beach, where there is another inland lagoon for swimming. The Bribie Island Butterfly House is another fun activity idea if you want a break from the water. The fish and chips abound at Bribie so support the local shops and grab some early dinner before heading home.
Read more about Bribie Island
The Scenic Rim
There are many reasons why the Scenic Rim made Lonely Planets 2021 Top 10 Regions of the World, from the range of activities on offer to the farm-to-table food experiences and all the scenic wonders in between. If you haven’t been before, think countryside mixed with mountain views, mixed with family fun galore!
Things to do on the Scenic Rim
We can’t list them all, but our favourite activity to do when at the Scenic Rim is visiting Mount View Alpaca Farm. Spending time with alpacas is one of the most heart-lifting experiences (for all ages) and being located next to a winery means it works for adults too.
Lamington National Park and O’Reilly’s are only a stone’s throw away (with all their own unique things to do) and there is a range of regular markets, open farms and small towns with places to pick fruit and bask in sunflowers. Magic! (We have linked to the Scenic Rim Council website below and recommend you check out their events calendar before you plan a trip).
Read more about the Scenic Rim
Leaving from Pinkenba Daily, Tangalooma Island Resort offers day-trippers the chance to experience island life for a day!
Things to do on Moreton Island
Moreton Island is Australia’s third-largest sand island, close to Brisbane! All Day Cruises include return transfers, resort access, lunch vouchers and free activities. Your kids will likely enjoy the kookaburra feeding, dolphin talks and sporting activities, and a range of other resort activities. You can also pay extra to participate in activities like snorkelling the Tangalooma wrecks, quad biking through the dunes and the chance to feed some bottlenose dolphins before you depart for the day.
Read more about the day cruise to Moreton Island
Just over an hour from Brisbane up in the mountain air, Maleny is where the little village atmosphere meets country living. The drive is scenic regardless of the weather, and there are plenty of places to stop along the way to admire the impressive Glass House Mountains and bask in the great outdoors.
Things to do at Maleny
One of the best things about Maleny is the fresh air of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, so make sure you make the most of it with a bushwalk at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. Their free educational centre is hands-on and interactive for kids, and the bushwalk has a true rainforest vibe that will stop whining from the drive up. We also love the Maleny Botanic Gardens and Maleny Bird World which in our opinion, is well worth the cost and is always a highlight of any trip here. The cafes along the main street will allow you to support the local businesses before you drive home.
Read a list of things to do with kids in Maleny
Other popular day trip destinations
Gold Coast Hinterland: We covered this by a few examples above but there is a lot we didn’t say about things to do in this picturesque part of our state. So close to Brisbane (and Gold Coast beaches), lots of walking trails, yummy cafes and our favourite waterfalls! The biggest decision you will have it deciding where to spend your time but some of our recommendations include visits to Lamington National Park, head to one of the waterfalls in Springbrook or even book into a 2-3 hour horse riding adventure in Numinbah Valley.
Fraser Island: We didn’t add this one to the main list because, in our opinion, this is a significant road trip destination from Brisbane, it takes several hours to get there, and then you need to time the tides and probably won’t get to relax and enjoy all that is on offer. Add this one to your holiday bucket list to enjoy the white sandy beaches, freshwater lakes and champagne pools of the world’s biggest sand islands! You can skip the need for a 4wd by staying at Kingfisher Bay Resort and taking some full-day tours, taking the 4wd and camp, or staying in one of the many houses on offer.
Burleigh Heads: From the surrounding patrolled beaches to the coastal walk through Burleigh Head national park, this day trip destination is very popular for families with kids of all ages. Finish the day with fish and chips overlooking the headland and see if the kids can spot migrating humpback whales. You could also spend part of your day enjoying the quiet waters of Tallebudgera Creek or head into Surfers Paradise for some shopping.
Theme Parks: The usual attractions like Sea World, Dreamworld and Wet’n’Wild and Aussie World can be added to this list, but smaller places like the Ginger Factory, Tropical Fruit World and Bellingham Maze are worth checking out.
Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries: Days out amongst wildlife always bring the best memories, and some local favourites include Australia Zoo, David Fleays Wildlife Park, Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and Wildlife HQ.
Samford/Dayboro: Located in the Moreton Bay Region, Samford and Dayboro would be a day trip if you lived on the Southside of Brisbane. What we like about it is that it has a heap of outdoor activities like the rockpools at Cedar Creek and Edward Allison Park but it also offers fun activities like the Harry Potter Store of Requirement, Lyell Deer Sanctuary and Trevena Glen Farm.
Currimundi Lake: Some would argue this is only a lake- why is it on the list?! If you have ever been to Currumundi Lake you would understand why this is a whole day experience. Currumundi Lake offers year-round swimming in an inlet that heads out to the ocean. Take the inflatables and kayaks and these will get put to good use! There is a cafe onsite.
Currumbin Creek: Currumbin Creek makes the list, albeit towards the end, because it is after all, just a creek, but not any old creek! This fantastic free-flowing freshwater creek offers something for families with kids of all ages. From the rockpools’ shallows to the deeper pools’ depths, an entire well-spent day can be had here. There is a cafe across the road.
Ipswich: Fast becoming the family-friendly capital of South East Queensland (you heard us), the amount of playgrounds and cool places to visit with kids ensure we had to add Ipswich to the list. Other exciting places include Queens Park with the Ipswich Nature Centre, The Workshops Rail Museum and the Ipswich Art Gallery.