Brisbane may be a big, bustling metropolis, and an attraction in itself, but when you feel like you’ve seen enough of the city and you where do you go? Weekend Getaways Brisbane have found plenty of places to escape from the city – some practically on the doorstep, some a couple hours’ drive, but all of them worth your time.
The diversity going on here means that there’s something for just about everyone to enjoy as a weekend getaway from Brisbane.
You may just want to catch a ferry from the city itself and hop over to Stradbroke Island – or any one of the other Moreton Bay Islands, for that matter. Or you may want to get some supplies together and head out on a road trip south to the surfing communities strung out near Byron Bay.
If you’re the more adventurous type, there are mountains, hiking galore, and a whole lot more in the Scenic Rim area, which might as well be Brisbane’s back yard. Or you may want your adventure with a hefty side of luxury – in which case, the Whitsundays are calling.
Whatever you’re looking for – wineries, surfing, snorkelling, history, mountains, or just a cooler climate to escape the heat – there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find a spot for you on a trip from Brisbane. And with heaps of places to stay along the way – from glamping to full-blown high-end resorts – you’re going to have no trouble staying comfortable as you go.
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THE GOLD COAST
This aptly named slice of Aussie coastline is certainly worth it. With its sub-tropical climate, sunny days, and incredible surfing beaches, it’s a popular destination for good reason.
How to get to the Gold Coast
There are a number of ways you can get to the Gold Coast.
Flying to the Gold Coast
The airport is located at the Southern end of the Coast near Kirra. If you don’t wish to hire a car you can stay at the lovely nearby beach towns of Kirra, Tugun or Coolangatta although many hotels further on can organise transfers.
Flights are currently servicing the major capitals and normally there are some international flights as well.
Driving to the Gold Coast
It takes about an hour to cruise from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, just over 70 kilometres to the south.
From NSW the A1 becomes the M1 near Byron Bay and passes right past the Gold Coast Airport and on to Brisbane. Exit at Tweed Head/Coolangatta and join the Gold Coast Highway or Currumbin, Palm Beach or the other many exits.
Train to the Gold Coast
It is possible to catch the train from Brisbane to the Gold Coast, in fact, the Airtrain leaves from Brisbane Airport, connects in Brisbane City and goes on to Varisty Lakes with stops connecting to Southport, Main Beach, Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach via the G:link light-rail.
Things to do on the Gold Coast
Half covered by pristine mangroves and ancient forests on the one hand, with beaches and great surf on the other hand, in between, you’ll find amusement parks, animal sanctuaries, skyscrapers, and buzzing nightlife.
If you’re keen on thrills and you’ve got kids with you, you may want to hit up one of the many theme parks in the area.
From Dreamworld – the biggest theme park in the country – and Warner Bros. Movie World to the futuristic Holoverse and Australia’s Sea World, there’s a lot to choose from.
Nature may be more your thing, and there’s no shortage of natural attractions and national parks to explore.
In Springbrook National Park, for example, you can visit the amazing Natural Bridge. Part of Australia’s World Heritage area, this bridge has been formed by the force of a waterfall. Here you can spot all sorts of tropical birds and wildlife.
Elsewhere, the sprawling Lamington National Park boasts the incredible Green Mountains, with waterfalls, lush forests, and breathtaking vistas.
Tallebudgera Creek, with its beautiful beaches and glistening water, is the place for people who like swimming, kayaking, kicking back on the beach, and camping out under the stars.
Back in town, Gold Coast hots up after dark. There are hundreds of restaurants open late into the night, or you could head to Miami Marketta, a local hotspot for street stalls and plenty of bars selling locally brewed beer. If chilling out is more your scene, you can always opt for a spa or wellbeing experience in the city.
Surfers Paradise is the centre of everything, complete with skyscrapers and an amazingly long beach. This is the place to stay if you want to be in arms’ reach of just about everything you need in a Gold Coast getaway.
Highlights of The Gold Coast
- Heading to the beach – a day spent on the sand is not to be missed!
- Going whale watching; hit up a whale-watching centre in Surfers Paradise.
- Making a beeline for the rainforested Gold Coast Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Learning how to surf – it’s Surfers Paradise after all.
- Visit the Theme Parks including Sea World, Dreamworld and Movie World.
- Explore the waterfalls and rainforest of Springbrook National Park
- Catching a live show at Home of the Arts, an outdoor stage for music and performances.
Where to stay on the Gold Coast
As one of Australia’s premier holiday destinations, there is no shortage of places to stay on the Gold Coast.
At the northern end, you will find many big brand luxury hotels such as Sheraton Grand Mirage near Main Beach, the QT Gold Coast -which is also pet-friendly!, Peppers at Broadbeach and The Star Casino.
There is a plethora of self-contained holidays homes and apartments and many such as Meriton Suites Southport and Q1 Resort and Spa at Surfers Paradise have spectacular views and every amenity and facility you would expect of those brands.
For a super relaxed vibe and less traffic and tourists, the southern end of the Gold Coast is where many people head and favourite places to stay of ours include Nirvana by the Sea in Kirra and the super funky Pink Hotel in Coolangatta.
There are also a number of excellent van parks and camping spots to choose from as well.
THE SUNSHINE COAST
Popular as a holiday destination for years, this coastal area runs from Caloundra to upscale Noosa, with mangroves, lakes and the Coral Sea just about everywhere in between.
How to get to the Sunshine Coast
There are two main ways to get to the Sunshine Coast in Australia; drive or fly.
Flying to the Sunshine Coast
The airport is located at Mudjimba which is north of the Maroochy River and roughly in the middle of the coast. If you don’t wish to hire a car you can stay at the lovely nearby beach towns of Mudjima, Maroochydore or Cotton Tree although many hotels further on can organise transfers.
Flights are currently servicing the major capitals as well as new flights that have started to Cairns.
Driving to the Sunshine Coast
If you are coming from the South you simply get on the M1, which passes close to Brisbane airport, and head north. You will see turnoffs for Caloundra & Mooloolaba ( and their neighbouring suburbs, and you can either deviate off the Mooloolaba turnoff to head further north or keep going on the M1 and turnoff at Nambour, Yandina or Eumundi.
One hundred kilometres north of Brisbane (around an hour and a half by car), you’ll find the Sunshine Coast.
Things to do on the Sunshine Coast
At one end, Noosa could be the getaway from Brisbane you were looking for. With its fantastic setting, there are yoga classes on the beaches, cool boutiques to browse around, cafes to chill out at, and a laid-back surfing scene.
It’s all located alongside the Noosa National Park, an area of rugged coastline, including the iconic Noosa Heads, rainforests, and secluded sunbathing spots.
If beaches are your thing, the Sunshine Coast couldn’t get much better. Kings Beach, for example, is one of the best. It’s fun and family-friendly, with protected swimming spots, a saltwater lagoon to swim in, and rockpools to explore, making it perfect if you’ve got kids with you.
For something a bit more out-of-the-way, Mudjimba Beach may be for you. It’s a more hidden away sandy spot. Another option for something a bit more local is Alexander Headland – or “Alex” – as the locals call it.
This is a laid-back kind of place with a string of easygoing beaches, and local spots to eat and drink. It’s also an excellent place to learn to surf. Picnicking and BBQing in the charm of this small town is pretty gorgeous.
If you’re a fan of hiking, never fear. Sunshine Coast isn’t just about chilling out on beaches.
The Kondalilla National Park has some pretty unforgettable walking tracks, one of which runs all the way from the Kondalilla Falls into a spectacular rainforest valley. Mount Coolum National Park plays host to Mount Coolum, dominating the skyline. Try tackling this peak if you like, but go prepared. You’ll be rewarded with some incredible views.
Back in civilisation, you may want to try on a bit of retail therapy. There are plenty of markets to while away some time browsing and buying some hidden gems. The Caloundra Twilight Markets, for example, are a great spot for artisan goods.
Highlights of the Sunshine Coast
- Paying a visit to Australia Zoo and making friends with the local inhabitants!
- Walking the steep path to the summit of Mount Coolum.
- Hire a boat and explore the Noosa River and Everglades
- Walk around the headland from Noosa to Sunshine Beach or return in the Noosa National Park
- Visit the amazing Eumundi markets and also the Yandina and Noosa Farmers Markets
- Explore the beautiful Pumicestone Passage
- Eating your way along the coast, stopping at places like Hinterland Harvest Market.
- Spending the day kicking back with a beachside BBQ at Alexander Headland.
- Booking into a yoga class in Noosa.
Where to stay on the Sunshine Coast
There are thousands of hotels, apartments, Airbnbs and hostels to choose from on the Sunshine Coast and there is always something for all budgets.
Around at Noosaville we love to stay at Skippers Cove with its private beach and affordable price point.
Sunshine Beach is another favourite with La Mer consistently delivering comfort and spectacular views whilst further south at Coolum The Point has a wide range of apartments with amazing views over the headland.
Other favourites of ours include The Duporth on the stunning Maroochy River and Rumba Resort in Caloundra. Twin Waters resort includes both a Novotel and a Sebel and is very popular with families as there is a huge variety of activities. It’s also close to the airport and right next to the beach and the river!
For something a bit different you will find excellent Glamping and Camping at Rivershore Resort, also right on the Maroochy River and full of excellent amenities and facilities.
Twin Waters resort – The Novotel and The Sebel
For a great range of places to stay and unique things to see and do on the Sunshine Coast
THE SCENIC RIM
Practically in Brisbane’s back garden, the Scenic Rim is a region of Queensland received its name for a good reason. It’s an area ringed by a selection of national parks, for one thing – Lamington National Park, Border Ranges National Park and Mount Barney National Park.
There’s also the smaller Mount Chinghee, Sarabah, Mount Nothofagus, Main Range, and Mount Clunie National Parks in and around this epic area. It’s also where you’ll find the famous Moogerah Peaks National Park.
Needless to say, the Scenic Rim is certainly not short of its namesake scenic destinations. It makes for one of the best weekend getaways from Brisbane you could embark on – especially if nature and incredible views are what you’re after.
Yet another national park, Tamborine National Park, is home to the breathtaking Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, where you’ll get to walk among the treetops.
Elsewhere, you may want to take aim at Moogerah Peaks, where you’ll find some great trails for hiking, as well as campgrounds and plenty of opportunities to get out into the Bush. The lakeside setting of Camp Moogerah is a great spot for intrepid weekenders.
If you like your adventures more scenic than outright adventurous, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of wineries and vineyards where you can soak up majestic vistas – and soak up some wine, too!
Mason Wines, or Witches Falls Winery, for instance, are both located at the foot of Mount Tamborine. Kooroomba Vineyard & Lavender Farm – at Mount Alford, near the town of Boonah – is another gorgeous spot for wine and food.
The opportunities for scenic drives and great wine, paired with options to get deep under the rugged skin of this part of Australia – with hiking, camping, waterfall spotting and mountain climbing – make the Scenic Rim one of the most beautiful regions in the whole of Queensland.
Highlights of The Scenic Rim
- Getting a view of the flat interior of the Rim from Mount French National Park Lookout.
- Seeing the Australia of yesteryear at Templin Historic Village.
- Sampling some of the wines on offer at any one of the Scenic Rim’s (many) wineries.
- Strolling among the trees on Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.
- Simply driving through this captivating natural region of Australia.
Where to stay in the Scenic Rim
There is a a good range of places you can stay across the Scenic Rim ranging from 6 star luxury to cheap and cheerful cabins, rooms and motels.
Spicers Peak Lodge is one of the most beautiful luxury lodges in Australia and offers all-inclusive suites in their magnificent mountain top lodge as well as luxury Glamping on their 8000 acre property.
The Old Church B&B near Dugandah is a lovely spot for a short break and is quite close to the wonderful Overflow Estate 1895.
Another coveted spot to stay is the award-winning Ketchup’s Bank Glamping, with luxury tents and private ensuites it is perfect for couples looking for relaxation, isolation and amazing views.
Closer to home Tuckers Retreat is situated on the western side of the Tamborine Mountains and offer adults-only luxury eco tents with barbeques. Some even have hot tubs!
MORETON BAY ISLANDS
Moreton Bay, the glimmering stretch of water off the coast of Brisbane, is home to seemingly countless islands; however, none are quite as beautiful as Moreton Island itself.
This protected sand island located off the southeastern Queensland coast is a national park (well, 95% of it is). With no roads and plenty of natural delights to explore, it’s the perfect getaway from Brisbane.
The third-largest sand island in the world, Moreton Island is the place to come if you’re keen on discovering beaches, fantastic scenery, hitting up some impressive dive spots, or hiking dunes. The scenic credentials here are off the charts.
Whale watching from Cape Morton is one thing you can do here; humpback whales migrate past from June to November. You may also be able to spot dolphins, sharks, and dolphins.
With all that marine life, it’s no wonder that the scuba diving and snorkelling are incredible here. The sea teems with 175 species of fish, 112 different corals, and even a few wrecks to explore.
Of all of that sounds like too much, then just hanging out at the beach is the (understandably most popular) thing to do.
Another of the Moreton Bay islands you may want to check out while you’re in the area is North Stradbroke Island – affectionately called “Straddie” by locals.
Practically in the Brisbane suburbs, but still offering a wealth of adventure, this easy-to-reach slice of paradise is a perfect place to get away from it all.
Stradbroke Island is low key and easygoing, the perfect place to relax and kick-back. Simply hop on a ferry from Brisbane, and you’ll be there in less than an hour. Again, the beaches are the order of the day.
Cylinder Beach is one of the best, with its fine white sand, all day sunshine and gentle surf making it a good spot for families. Point Lookout is the spot to come if you want to see whales in season – no need to step foot on a boat!
There are a couple of hiking opportunities, specifically to Brown Lake (created by rainwater) and Blue Lake – or Karboora (“deep silent pool”). Both are of great cultural significance to native Quandamooka people.
Highlights of North Stradbroke Island
- Strolling along the scenic North Gorge Walk.
- Glimpsing whales on the “Humpback Highway” from Point Lookout.
- Hitting the waves at Cylinder Beach.
- Scuba diving on the reefs off Moreton Island.
- Sand tobogganing on Moreton’s big dunes.
Where to stay on Stradbroke and Moreton Islands
On Straddie, there are a few small resorts in Point Lookout such as Whale Watch resort and Allure. The iconic Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel is very central and is the most upmarket place to stay with stunning north facing views and a great bar and restaurant.
Many people like to book beach houses on both islands and have extended stays, especially in summer.
Northern New South Wales
Just a couple of hours drive south of Brisbane, you’ll be out of Queensland and in a new state entirely – New South Wales. Home to Sydney in the south, there’s much more to this huge state than just its capital.
Particularly in the north, there’s a lot just on Brisbane’s doorstep that makes this area a good choice if you’re looking for a getaway from the city.
Around two hours’ drive from Brisbane is Byron Bay. Growing up from its 1960s surfing scene, it’s been a popular spot ever since.
Beaches, surfing, and scuba diving spots – you couldn’t get much more coastal getaway if you tried. Specifically, there’s the very long Belongil Beach and much longer Tallow Beach, meaning there’ll always be a spot on the sand for you.
Cape Byron is a particularly scenic spot. It’s the most easterly point on the mainland, and home to the Cape Byron Lighthouse, built in 1901. It also marks the most Easterly part of Australia!
Around Byron Bay, you’ll find more scenic places – small surfing towns and lush countryside to explore. Many of the towns have cute cafes and little restaurants and come complete with a laid-back beachy atmosphere.
Further north is Tweed Heads. Come here for wholesome markets, an easygoing cafe scene, and fresh produce from local farms. Set on the Tweed River, it’s home to waterways, parklands, and the sprawling Dreamtime Beach.
This extends right into neighbouring Kingscliff, a sleepy, surf-leaning beach community that offers a fantastic opportunity for beachside escape along the northern New South Wales Coast.
You’ll find plenty of sunshine along with surf spots, cycling routes, and seafood restaurants.
Carry on south and Kingscliff becomes Cabarita. Home to what’s sometimes touted as Australia’s best beach – topping the list for 2020 – Cabarita Beach is certainly long and wide enough to warrant some real attention.
With quiet surfing spots, fantastic dining options, and glamping opportunities, it’s been dubbed a “quintessential Aussie beachscape.”
Highlights of Northern NSW
- Hitting the surf along this famous slice of coastline.
- Looking out across the sea from Byron Cape.
- Tucking into the fresh foodie scene at Tweed Heads.
- Cycling the coast from Kingscliff to Fingal Head, spotting dolphins and whales as you go.
- Glamping at up-and-coming Cabarita Beach.
Where to stay in Northern NSW
There is a very diverse range of accommodation across Northern NSW with some of the best resorts and private accommodation in Australia.
In Cabarita, you will find one of Australia’s most Luxe beachfront boutique hotels, Halcyon House, with its award-winning restaurant Paper Daisy.
In Byron Bay, the newly refurbished Byron at Byron or the expansive beachfront eco-resort Elements of Byron is both stunning 5 star options while a global comeback of funky motels conversions has led to the opening of The Brunswick and The Sails Motel in Brunswick Heads which are both fantastic.
Inland the small country towns and hamlets have a lot to offer. The newly renovated Eltham Hotel is a great spot for a weekend escape as is Bangalow Guesthouse in trendy Bangalow. Think luxury heritage cottages that are perfect for groups and weddings too!
Southern Queensland Country
A 90-minute drive from Brisbane, away from the coast, will bring you to an entirely different section to what is usually thought of when people imagine Southern Queensland – or the East Coast in general.
Specifically, that would be Toowoomba. Set in the Darling Downs region of the state, this is Queensland’s largest inland city. Sitting more than 700 metres above sea level atop the Great Dividing Range, it’s a good spot to come to escape the heat.
Dubbed Queensland’s “Garden City”, Toowoomba has a whopping 150 parks and gardens to explore and discover, as well as colonial history in the form of old buildings and streetscapes. You can learn more about the city’s history at Cobb + Co Museum.
Away from the relatively busy city, you can discover another great getaway in the form of the ancient Bunya Mountains. A vast swathe of wilderness located in a remote part of the Great Dividing Range, it’s about 150 kilometres from the coast and is beautifully pristine.
Around a three-hour drive from Brisbane, it’s a perfect place to escape the heat among the greenery of the rainforest.
The Bunya Mountains is home to the largest collection of Bunya Pines, which grow high above the other canopy. There are also high altitude grasslands to discover, with the peaks of the mountains themselves reaching their apex at Mount Kiangarow (1,100 metres).
Elsewhere, there is the rural town of Stanthorpe. A tiny spot with a population of 5,000 people, it’s surrounded by granite outcrops and is the gateway to two national parks – Girraween and Sundown. That means you’ll have easy access for heading out into the awesome countryside here.
Originally established as a tin miners’ town in the 1870s, today there’s a more foodie heritage to the area. For example, there’s the small matter of the wineries located here, with around 45 to choose from.
The micro-climate here also means plenty of other produce, from apples and pears to figs and olives (depending on the season, of course). Sometimes they even get snow!
Highlights of Southern Queensland Country
- Tackling the peaks of the beautiful Bunya Mountains National Park.
- Four-wheeled driving in Lockyer National Park near Toowoomba.
- Rock climbing in Girraween National Park.
- Discovering the colonial history of Toowoomba.
- Going on a tour of the granite belt wineries around Stanthorpe.
Where to stay in Southern Country Queensland
In Toowoomba, it’s still hard to beat historic Vacy Hall with its beautiful grand features, gorgeous gardens and pet-friendly Gardner’s cottage.
In Stanthorpe, Briar Rose Cottages are very quaint and great in winter with their log fireplaces.
The Cottage in Warwick is a very charming 2 bedroom cottage which offers endless peace and tranquility while there is an incredible secluded cabin in the Bunya Mountains that sleeps 5 and is worth checking out.
Bunya Mountains Cabin