Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is often called Australia’s most underrated city. With a fantastic art scene, more coffee shops and restaurants you could possibly try, vibrant nightlife and plenty of outdoorsy activities on and along the river (cycling, kayaking, running, swimming…). Brisbane deserves a few days of exploration, if not even longer. And not just the city itself is worth spending some time in, but also the area around Brisbane. There are beaches and isles, wildlife, national parks for hiking, mountains to climb and the fabulous Granite Belt Wine region. My recommendation would be basing yourself in the city, rent a vacation apartment in Brisbane for example, and use it as a jump-off point to explore Southern Queensland and nearby Northern New South Wales.
There is a plethora of things to do around Brisbane, from stunning sights such as the Glow Worm Caves at Tamborine Mountain or the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary which is a must-visit for animal lovers, pristine beaches and small country towns. Thanks to its perfect location between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, there are plenty of awesome places for beach and water fanatics just a short drive away. We have compiled the seven best day trips from Brisbane for beach lovers:
1 Coochiemudlo Island
Coochiemudlo Island is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day – a short ferry ride from Victoria Point, it brings you to a completely different world in only ten minutes! There’s not much to do on the island itself, but that’s the draw of it – it is a place to get away from it all. Pack sunscreen, a picnic and a book and enjoy the tranquil beaches of this tiny island. The return ticket for the ferry is only AU$8.
2 Gold Coast
The Gold Coast is known for its beautiful beaches and especially popular with surfers. Burleigh Heads is known to have one of the best beaches on the Gold Coast, and Mermaid Beach has several trendy cafes that are worth a visit. It only takes about an hour to get there from Brisbane, and you have plenty of beaches to choose from. If you want to get a view over the entire Gold Coast and its gorgeous beaches, head to the Q1 Tower in Surfers Paradise, the highest building in all of Queensland. The views from the Observation Deck (AU$22) are stunning!
Sandgate is a 19th century seaside village that feels like not much has changed here over the past two hundred years, and that’s exactly what makes it so charming. It’s easy to get to from Brisbane, connected to the city via the Queensland Rail City network. There are plenty of cute little cafés along the seafront promenade which invite to while away an afternoon.
4 North Stradbroke Island
North Stradbroke Island is one of the most popular destination for Brisbanites and rightly so – home to the world’s second largest sand island (the largest one is in Fraser Island further up the coast) it has five fantastic beaches and is only a short 20-minute ferry ride from Brisbane.
5 Moreton Island
Speaking of sand islands – Moreton Island is another incredibly beautiful sand island (the 3rd largest in the world) and is an easy ferry ride from Pinkenba. Only 75 minutes from Brisbane, and you’ll feel like you’ve landed in a tropical paradise with picture-perfect beaches and tall sand dunes. You can feed wild dolphins here and dive among ship wrecks, and if you want to see more of the island, rent a quad to or kayak through the island’s lagoons.
6 Bribie Island
Bribie Island north of Brisbane belongs to the sand islands that line the coast near Brisbane (Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island are the other two). It is connected to a mainland by a bridge, making it super easy to get there by car (it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes). Most of the island is uninhabited national park, and In addition to relaxing on the beach, you can go on a fishing trip, or tour the National Park to spot some of Australia’s amazing wildlife such as kangaroos, kookaburras and goannas.
7 Sunshine Coast
A visit to the Sunshine Coast is something you can’t miss if you’re in Brisbane in the summer. Noosa is a favorite with most visitors, and a dip in the crystal clear waters of Sunshine Beach is a must. Noosa is also home to some great restaurants and cafes, but if you’re looking for a more tranquil getaway, head straight to Noosa National Park. The 37-mile stretch of beaches can feel overwhelming for a day trip because there’s so much to see and do – check out Fodor’s Sunshine Coast Travel Guide to plan your day trip in detail.
Photo credit: All images used under Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Coochiemudlo Island by King Tide; (2) Gold Coast by Sunland Group; (3) Sandgate by Luke Chapman; (4) North Stradbroke Island by Brieuc Saffre; (5) Moreton Island by Kasia Wallis; (6) Bribie Island by Bert Knottenbeld; (7) Sunshine Coast by Harald.