It’s easy to get settled in the nest of the Gold Coast. With great places to eat and drink, bountiful nature to get amongst, and a rousing creative scene, you’d be forgiven for developing a stubborn commitment to never leave.
But before you go dousing your roadmaps in lighter fluid and trading in the SUV for a moped, let’s talk about life beyond the boundaries of the GC. We’ll start with a riverside city of botanical gardens and state galleries, potter our way through country pubs and glowworm caves, and wind up in a small town famous for its cannabis festival.
This selection of Gold Coast day trips should see the wettest of blankets hunting down their old Polaroid and throwing pesto and halloumi sandwiches into a cooler bag.
If You're North Of The Border...
Once looked upon as a confused and culture lacking wasteland, Brisbane has come along in leaps and bounds on the reputation front. Stunning hotels, world class restaurants, amazing bars and a growing laneway scene all set around the banks of the Brisbane River. With Queensland’s flawless tropical climate making it a year-round city, Sydney and Melbourne might need to watch their back. Want to know more? All you have to do is head here.
Lamington National Park And The Scenic Rim
Any list of day trips from the Gold Coast wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Scenic Rim. Located only an hour’s drive west, this massive area covers everything from lush rainforests and waterfalls to vineyards and antique stores. Start with a walk or hike through the gorgeous Lamington National Park before heading on over to the O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for a mouth-watering picnic lunch, then go in hunt of some country shopping. We've planned out your entire itinerary here.
Okay, so this is hardly a day trip as it’s technically on the Gold Coast. But how could we bypass an opportunity to mention a town with a wineries, rainforest strolls and a cheesery, all in the one spot? Throw in some crystal shops, waterfalls, a distillery, a brewery, a few slices of fudge and one of the region’s only castles and you have yourself a very wonderful day trip indeed. Plan out your entire trip with our handy guide right here.
North Stradbroke Island
You may remember us naming ‘South Straddie’ on our list of the Gold Coast’s best beaches. Well a little further north you’ll find, surprise surprise, ‘North Straddie’. This island is more of a day trip than its paddle-across brother, with a passenger ferry available from Cleveland that takes around 25 minutes. Once across you will find a hoard of charming bed and breakfasts and dining options, as well as plenty of things to do such as whale watching and gallery hopping. Although completely manageable as a day trip, you should probably throw caution to the wind and make a whole weekend of it.
If the tank is looking a little empty and you don't want to go far, just head for Currumbin Valley, a sleepy region a mere stones throw from the Gold Coast skyscrapers yet packed with things to see and do. Stop for brunch, chase some waterfalls, squeeze in a bit of shopping and before you know it, the sun will be setting and you'll have filled an entire day. Don't believe us? Have a read of our ideal itinerary here.
If You're South Of The Border...
Isn’t it strange how we all just go about our business, completely ignoring the fact that we have this lawless hippie town nearby rolling spliffs and selling hash cookies like it’s Woodstock? Nimbin is a place you need to see to believe, and its audacious attitude is hard not to enjoy. Being the respectful, law abiding citizen that you are, this day trip should be taken in the comfort of a conservative, windows up sedan with a stash of aforementioned halloumi pesto sandwiches packed and ready. If you’re a little crazy around the edges, you best get out, walk around, and chat to strangers at every chance you get.
Originals of the Byron Bay Shire will talk sadly of days when bongo drums and grassy knolls reined supreme, and not a Sportsgirl or sushi bar was in sight. Yes, on first glance things have changed dramatically in Byron since the good old days, but the heart of the town has not been punctured. Head along to the Byron Bay Markets on the 1st Sunday of every month if you’re not completely convinced, then do the headland walk to Wategos Bay to really understand why this place is still loved. And we need not mention a little abode known as The Farm. If you need more ideas, here’s 48 hours worth.
Welcome to Cuteville: postcode 2484, population 8523. Home of the Tweed Valley Banana Festival, a few great pubs and a whole lot of character, Murwillumbah is the kind of town you will immediately fall in love with. And quickly make plans to relocate to. It sits at the foot of Mount Warning, which offers a stunning sunrise climb and jaw-dropping views. Round this day trip out with coffee and a weekend breakfast in the old Queenslander of Mavis’s Kitchen.
Looking to head further afield? These are the best places to visit in Queensland.
Image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland, Brooke Darling, Shutterstock