The Gold Coast is no stranger to natural splendours and kooky country villages waiting at the end of spectacular scenic drives, but not all road trip destinations are made equal. After all, a road trip can just as easily be a disaster as it is the perfect chance for some much-need R n R (we’re looking at you forced childhood road trips!).
Luckily, we’ve totally got your back with six stunning road trip options that’ll turn your weekday frown upside down. All you have to do is pack the car!
Beach driving is only the beginning when it comes to the many adventures to be had on Fraser Island with a set of (4WD) wheels. A few hours drive from the Coast (so think of this as a three or four-day'er type scenario) via Hervey Bay, Fraser Island is home to the Maheno Ship Wreck (taking a picture next to it is a must), the naturally bubbly Champagne Pools, the vibrantly-coloured Pinnacles and the iconic Lake McKenzie, which boasts the same silica sand as Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays. Yep, you heard that right guys: a tropical paradise without those exxy resort fees. Don’t forget to have a cheeky float down Eli Creek, the largest freshwater steam on the east coast of the island and a popular spot for picnics. Just don’t forget to keep your food locked away from the dingoes; they’re not as cute and cuddly as they look.
The Lockyer Valley is probably best known as Australia’s salad bowl—it's home to some of the most fertile soil in Australia—but it also boasts some epic natural beauty and a winery or two well worth the visit. Start your journey with a stop at Cunningham’s Crest Lookout and be treated to breathtaking views across Laidley Plains. Now it’s time to sample the local vino at Preston Peak Winery, which also has some truly stunning views of the valley below so you can marvel while you sip. Finally, head on over to Murphy’s Creek Escape and pitch a tent to watch the sunset over true blue Aussie countryside with a homemade platter in hand. Ah, what a time to be alive.
The Scenic Rim
Any list of road trips near the Gold Coast wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Scenic Rim, beyond the Gold Coast Hinterland. This massive area covers everything from lush rainforests, waterfalls worth chasing and eco-glamping that would make Melbourneites eat their heart out. Start with a romp through gorgeous Lamington National Park to set the tone for the rest of the trip, before heading on over to the O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for a mouth-watering lunch that totally ruins all those calories you just worked off. Next, hop on over to Tamborine Mountain to indulge your spiritual side with a shopping spree amongst many of the town’s bohemian shops and cafes. Finally, make your way to Ketchup’s Bank Glamping, via quaint Boonah, for a back-to-your-roots candlelit dinner while you watch the sunset over rolling plains—all from the private sanctuary of your very own safari-tent-come-glamping-heaven. Sign us the heck up!
North Stradbroke Island
If hitting the beach and getting your hike on sounds more like your thing than heading inland, North Stradbroke Island is basically heaven and it’s only a 60-minute or so drive away from the Gold Coast to the ferry launch point. Highlights of island life include the stunning North Gorge Walk, a 1.2km track that winds around Straddie’s North Gorge Headland and offers spectacular views over the ocean, the tea-stained Brown Lake and Point Lookout, which serves as an excellent spot to watch the yearly humpback whale migration now that winter has finally rolled around. The more adventurous weekend-wanderers amongst us might also want to take a shot at sand-boarding or go for a bike ride along the crisp white stretches of Straddie’s many beaches. Whatever mode of adventure takes your fancy just make sure that you stop in at the iconic Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel for a beer and parmy to top off your trip.
Montville & The Sunshine Coast Hinterlands
With a population of under 1,000 people, Montville is a perfectly quaint gateway to the gorgeous Sunshine Coast Hinterlands area. Combining European-style stores selling a variety of hand-crafted goods with natural splendour aplenty, Montville more than deserves its reputation as the creative soul of the region. Start your day with brunch at one of many of Montville’s premier cafes, before donning your activewear for a hike through Kondalila National Park—home to a gushing waterfall and rock pools perfect for dipping your feet into. Then, hop in your car and head south to Baroon Pocket Dam, a Canadian-esque lake tucked between Montville and Maleny that will low-key blow your mind. You guys, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland isn't messing around when it comes to natural beauty.
The Noosa Hinterlands
Affectionately referred to as 'the other hinterlands' the Noosa Hinterlands stretch from Doonan to Eumundi and boy does it house more than a few local gems. Highlights include Mount Cooroora, a hike definitely not for the faint of heart, Berkelouw Books, where you’ll be encouraged to lay back under a towering tree with your latest literary find, and the tranquil Noosa Botanic Gardens, one of the locals’ best kept secrets. For the foodies among you, the Noosa Hinterlands is basically the result of the Sunshine Coast’s thriving foodie culture moving north and running into contact with down-to-earth country folk. The results are not to be missed.
If nature is calling, Angourie is answering! The shy sibling of nearby Yamba, Angourie is located along the Clarence Coast of northern NSW. A National Surfing Reserve since 2007, Angourie is a pristine environment protected by the Yuraygir National Park. Surfers gather from all around to visit this slice of paradise, but if surfing isn’t your thing, you can easily lose hours to wandering the rugged coast, spotting pods of dolphins or whales or jumping in for a quick dip. When hunger strikes, steer yourself towards Cafe Angourie’s locally-sourced meals or Barbarescue’s scrumptious Italian fare. Can’t decide? Toss a coin, you’ll be satisfied whichever way it lands.
Need more weekend travel inspiration closer to home? Check out the best bush walks on the Gold Coast.
Image credit: Antoine Beauvillan