Within easy reach of Brisbane are idyllic islands, quaint mountain towns and world-class beaches. Choose your dream day – is it gallery hopping and cheese sampling? Or perhaps koala spotting and whale watching? No matter the adventure, you’ll find it here.
For rainforest trails and quaint village vibes, visit… Tamborine Mountain
An hour’s drive south from Brisbane, Tamborine Mountain feels worlds away from city streets. Get your bearings among the treetops on the 1.5-kilometre Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, going from forest floor to the highest canopies via a 300-metre-long steel walkway.
Feet back on the ground, head to Mount Tamborine’s Gallery Walk, which is dotted with boutiques and cafés (don’t miss Under the Greenwood Tree bookstore and art gallery). Find quality caffeine at Wild Plum Kitchen or go to the source: Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation grows, roasts and serves its coffee. Restock the liquor cabinet with Tamborine Mountain Distillery’s Davidson Plum Gin, Witches Falls Winery’s minimal-intervention wines and Fortitude Brewing Co.’s full-bodied beer.
For white sand beaches and wildlife, visit… Bribie Island
Ninety minutes’ drive north of Brisbane, you’ll find the bridge that connects the mainland with picturesque Bribie Island. Head straight to Woorim Ocean Beach, located at the southern end of a 30-kilometre stretch of untouched white sand, for a dip before wandering over to Little Mike’s for a coffee and a ham-and-cheese toastie.
Trade flip-flops for sneakers and explore eucalypt forest and paperbark wetlands on the 3.8-kilometre Bribie Island Bicentennial Trails, glimpsing birdlife such as rainbow bee-eaters, red-backed wrens and scarlet honeyeaters. Much of Bribie Island is national park, home to kangaroos, emus, goannas and kookaburras, while the Pumicestone Passage – a narrow waterway between Bribie Island and the mainland – is a protected estuary where dugongs, turtles, dolphins, and a host of rare shorebirds thrive.
For off-roading and whale watching, visit… North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah)
Explore a paradise of freshwater lakes, wetlands and white sand fringed by untouched bushland on North Stradbroke Island. To get there, hop on the 25-minute ferry departing Cleveland, a 40-minute drive east of Brisbane. Hire a vehicle from Noosa2Fraser 4WD Beach Hire and make tracks; exhilarating 4WD beach driving is allowed on Flinders and Main beaches (permit required).
Float in Lake Bummiera, gazing into the surrounding gums. Spot snoozing koalas dotted along the North Gorge Walk, a 1.2-kilometre boardwalk that offers some of the best humpback spotting on the east coast between May and early November.
When hunger distracts you from sand dune surfing and shipwreck scuba diving, Straddie (as the locals call it) has city-rivalling cafés like The Blue Room, which serves coffee with a side of whale watching, and a great golf club restaurant, Bistro Seymour (golf optional; “steak sanga” mandatory).
For art, cheese and hatted restaurants, visit… Maleny
Deep in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland dairy country is Maleny, a 1.5 hour car trip north of Brisbane. Maleny has long attracted artists and craftspeople whose work can be seen in galleries (Art on Cairncross has a great line-up) and shops along its buzzy main drag.
At Maleny Cheese, visitors can watch artisans crafting cheddar and triple-cream brie, while Maleny Food Co. produces award-winning gelato and stocks more than 250 cheeses. Compose a picnic and take it to Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve – 55 hectares of remnant subtropical rainforest, a busy ecosystem of bandicoots, pademelons, echidnas and more.
Find fancier fare at The Tamarind, Spicers Tamarind Resort’s hatted restaurant where Thai flavours infuse a pan-Asian menu including caramelised pork with roasted chilli jam, and smoky eggplant salad with soft boiled egg and prawn floss.
For beach days and an urban cool vibe, visit… Caloundra
The gateway to the Sunshine Coast, Caloundra offers six beaches less than 90 minutes from Brisbane. Hop between beaches Bulcock, Kings and Currimundi along a section of the Caloundra Coast Walk. With sparkling sea and the Glass House Mountains rising in the distance, it’s impossible to go wrong.
Beyond beaches, Caloundra is a creative community. Visit the Caloundra Street Fair (every Sunday) and walk the 1.7-kilometre street art trail beginning at the Caloundra Regional Gallery, travelling through Lamkin Lane, down Bulcock Street and onto Williamson Lane. Stop in for a coffee at White Picket Fence, venture into The Pastry Lab for pain au chocolat and be sure to get a scoop of mango gelato at Gelateria Milano.