9 of the best day trips from Brisbane
A quick play around with Google Maps (satellite view) and the city of Brisbane will reveal a few things:
First – a city that’s been built around a winding river that connects restaurants, art precincts, and parklands to roam or relax in.
Second – a bunch of islands you’ve probably never heard of.
But most importantly, a city that has countryside within 40-minutes reach.
It’s safe to say all roads lead to Brisbane, but plenty more lead out of it too – making the River City a launch pad for adventure as much as a city known for it.
If you’re looking to wow your colleagues with weekend-debrief envy, then keep these day trips up your sleeve:
1. Ipswich day trip
A day trip 40 minutes west of the city might not seem like the recipe for adventure on its face. But if it’s been a while between visits to Ipswich, we can guarantee your eyebrows will raise for the right reasons.
Queensland’s historical hometown has transformed in recent years, and now packs cute cafes, a craft brewery and award-winning restaurants into its leafy surrounds.
There are only six traffic lights separating Brisbane’s Kedron to Ipswich’s town centre, which means you can leave Brisbane at 8am and still secure a breakfast table at the popular cafe Rafter & Rose before the 9am local rush.
Make your first stop here for a coffee that’s worthy of cult-city-status along with breakfast in the art deco laneway that rocks some seriously Instagrammable elements like succulents, shabby chic furniture and a glass cabinet with amazing sweets.
Shoppers take note – the Ipswich Antiques Centre is two storeys of fascinating furniture and homewares – with everything from retro tiki mugs to Edwardian-style gossip chairs. A visit to Gemutlich will leave you laden with modern European homewares and cooking supplies, while The Vintage Advantage has your retro clothing needs sorted.
You’ll want to dedicate at least a couple of hours to Queensland’s first park, Queens Park, before leaving town. More than just 26ha of lush lawns and manicured gardens, did you know Queens Park has its own wildlife sanctuary? Oh yes, it’s open six days a week, is completely free and the best way to see resident natives like bilbies, kangaroos, emus and wallabies.
Of course, if you can spare more than just a day, check out this guide to ‘Queensland’s most underrated city’.
2. Boonah day trip
For country feels, make an 86km trip from Brisbane to Boonah, which travels through some serious cattle country, passing through Peaks Crossing south-west of the CBD.
In Boonah, you’ll have the opportunity to fuel your soul with warm hospitality, quaint country architecture and boutique shops.
A self-drive Arts and Wine Trail will sate your foodie cravings, while the array of national parks around it, will help you burn off what you put on.
From Boonah, it’s not far to discover the twin peaks of Mount Mitchell, which are as surreal as the TV show Twin Peaks itself. This national parks graded ‘Level 4’ track is worth the output to get to the top, for the opportunity to stand on the east peak of Mount Mitchell (1175m above sea level).
It’ll take you about four hours return and promises an ever-changing landscape, moving from rainforest to open eucalypt forest, giving hikers a taste of quintessential Australian flora.
It also happens to be part of the Scenic Rim Trail (a luxe hike that walks between Spicers Canopy and Peak Lodge) so you can save yourself a few dollars by doing this hike alone and having lunch at Spicers Peak Lodge on the way home.
After all, you’ll be hungry and want the opportunity to see why this famous Scenic Rim establishment was awarded two hats again in the Australian Good Food Guide Awards.
If you have more time, why not discover Boonah’s culinary heart in this itinerary.
3. Toowoomba day trip
Blow off those big-city cobwebs in return for something much smaller and take a day trip to Toowoomba, 125km west of Brisbane.
Not only is Toowoomba home to great gardening conditions which make growing roses (a mean feat anywhere else in Australia) perfectly achievable, it’s home to some of the oldest houses in the state.
Architecture buffs should make a beeline for the Caledonian Estate for a self-guided walking tour of the streets behind Queens Park which were developed in the 1870s and are packed with early Queenslanders. You’ll find these Caledonian houses have a distinct old world charm not found so readily in Brisbane, with pressed metal gables, Bluestone kerb and iron lace.
If you’re dead keen on early architecture, next time, stay overnight in B&B Wanulla to see inside a historic home.
Aside from satisfying your love for stately homes, you’ll find a food and beverage scene that can equally hold its own against capital city charmers.
For breakfast or lunch worthy of a foodie’s attention, check out Firefly on Russell Street. It’s got a menu that changes to suit the seasons (oh, and did we mention they get all four up here) made by a chef committed to cutting down the food miles between paddock and your plate.
4. Canungra day trip
Cute Canungra sits 30 minutes inland from Nerang, wedged equally between the Gold Coast and Brisbane.
A bit like a suburb caught in a time capsule, you’ll find wide open streets and plenty of country charm.
It’s not all cute bakeries and pubs here (although there’s plenty of that too), a new hive of investment and entrepreneurship has breathed new life into this little town, where you can enjoy a good cup of coffee, buy stylish homewares and pick up antiques, particularly if your house sports a rustic look.
From Canungra, you’ll be in a plum position to explore some of the Scenic Rim’s best wineries – starting with O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard. Take the vineyard up on their picnic rug and basket option to enjoy lunch by the Canungra Creek. You can choose between the picnic basket, breakfast hamper or BBQ pack – all stocked with local treats.
A few glasses later and you’ll realise why Canungra Valley Vineyard is worthy of a place in this list of best wineries and cellar doors.
5. Caloundra day trip
For a beach within reach, Caloundra is our pick from Brisbane.
Marking the start of the Sunshine Coast’s 60km of coastline, a day trip to Caloundra promises untold amounts of sun, surf and sand.
It’s the home of watersports, with endless options when it comes to kayaking, paddle boarding, windsurfing, fishing and jet skiing along the Pumicestone Passage, Currimundi Lake and between the seven beaches that make up the precinct: Golden Beach, Bulcock Beach, Shelly Beach, Moffat Beach, Dicky Beach, Currimundi and Kings Beach.
More than just for fun in the sun, Caloundra is transforming into a creative hive – with plenty of new entrepreneurs taking the reigns of this coastal community.
For a beer to wash down your obligatory fish and chips at the coast, visit Moffat Beach Brewing Co. (formerly known as Blackwater Trading Co), the definition of casual beachside microbrewery. These guys serve up 12 beers on rotation – proving there’s so much more than the beach to love at Caloundra.
6. Shorncliffe day trip
Fish and chips on the pier are what weekends were made for – at least when you live in Brisbane and can get to Shorncliffe in less than 40 minutes.
Get into the bay-side groove with a walk along the pier, which stretches 350m into Bramble Bay in this neighbouring suburb to Sandgate on the Redcliffe Peninsula.
If it’s been a while between visits, you’ll be happy to know a multimillion-dollar rebuild of the famous pier has revamped the structure to include plenty more seats and fish cleaning stations if you’re keen to wet a line.
This pier which dates back to the 1880s remains one of the longest recreational piers in Australia and Brisbane’s largest timber pier – giving it excellent attributes for photography, especially at sunrise or sunset.
For lunch, there’s no shortage of parks to throw down a picnic blanket and dine alfresco on the waterfront.
7. Lamington National Park day trip
For an area so deliciously named, we hate to let you down – there are no actual lamingtons here. Instead, you’ll find rainforest worthy of World Heritage-listed status. This is Gondwana country, folks.
In the Binna Burra section of the park, the walks range from short 30-minute circuits, right through to 8-hour treks – catering to bushwalkers who are as green to hiking as the landscape here.
8. Queen Mary Falls day trip
Located 64km south-west of Boonah, prepare for a drive of car commercial worthiness with steep, windy, view-fuelled guarantees.
The Queen Mary Falls Circuit walk takes just 30 minutes to complete, to wind to the bottom of the falls which drop 40m from top to bottom, cascading into the Condamine River.
The walk is steep (but suitable for kids), but the spoils are worth it. After all, Queen Mary Falls is captured by the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area that recognises the natural values of this landscape.
Or, if you’re short on time because you got caught up at Spring Creek Mountain Cafe and Cottages with their brownies and pies worthy of their own separate blog post, the lookout is just 100m from the carpark.
The waterfall chasing doesn’t need to stop here either – Killarney is home to four other water wonderlands, including the Teviot Falls, Daggs Falls, Browns Falls and Upper Browns Falls, to visit before returning back to Brisbane.