The best day trips from the Gold Coast
Had your fill of the Burleigh breakers and Gelato Messina? Besides being the gateway to a great tan, the Gold Coast is also the perfect base for day trips.
Swap your dancing shoes for your comfiest driving kicks and hit the road to these outlying destinations, which will have you back at the coast in time for happy hour.
An easy hour north of the Gold Coast brings you to ‘Brissie’. There’s no denying the sunshine state capital has truly come into its own, with a bounty of bars, on-trend eateries and an endless supply of places to give your plastic a workout.
Queen Street Mall has long been the city’s heart and it hasn’t missed a beat keeping up with the times. A shiny flagship H&M now takes residence in the shopping strip, along with Zara, Forever 21, and the Wintergarden’s surplus of edgy boutiques.
If you still have room for extra baggage, venture uptown to upmarket James Street at the crosshairs of Newstead and Fortitude Valley.
Permanent style icon James Street recently welcomed mega brands Pottery Barn and West Elm to the neighbourhood, while nearby Bakery Lane is lifting the Valley’s game one gooey, gourmet brownie at a time.
Southern Queensland Country
Toowoomba, Brisbane’s country cousin, is about two hours’ drive from the Goldie. While ‘the woomb’ is the end goal for most – its street-art laneways and coffee nooks hard to resist – the far-reaching region it belongs to has plenty more to offer.
Whatever the season, you can (and should) swirl and sip your way along the Granite Belt wine region. Here, big name producers sit alongside boutique growers and apples go straight from paddock to pie-dish. Sutton’s Farm, we salute you.
There are dozens of cellar doors to knock on, with drops well beyond your standard Shiraz. Keep an eye out for the Strange Bird badge for alternative varietals and add a little a Malbec from Summit Estate Wines or Sylvaner from Ballandean Estate Wines to your vino vocabulary.
Gold Coast Hinterland
The Gold Coast Hinterland exists in perfect contrast to the bikini-clad bods and mega clubs lining the coastal beaches, sweet-talking visitors to forgo fish and chips in favour of Devonshire Tea.
Draped with lush rainforest, the hinterland is an ideal place to sneaker up and take a walk to see where the green meets the gold.
Both Lamington and Springbrook National Parks offer ample opportunity to get up-close-and-personal with nature, with the latter home to one of Instagram’s local stars: the Natural Bridge (think a G-rated version of Jon Snow and Ygritte’s love grotto).
Wind your way up Lamington National Park Road for waterfall spotting and tree-top strolling at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, or settle in at the base of the mount at O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards, where you can pair a free wine tasting with a gourmet homestead picnic – tartan rug included!
Unlike the hinterland, the Scenic Rim isn’t often found on your typical tourist itinerary. The Gold Coast’s big backyard offers a heady dose of country charm just a few clicks inland, with close-knit townships stretching from Tamborine Mountain to Aratula.
The Scenic Rim is just the place if you’re looking to get off the grid… but not too far off.
Set your playlist to shuffle and weave the country roads hugged by the Great Dividing Range, calling in for a coldie at Fortitude Brewing Co. or a classic pub lunch at a true-blue Queensland local (Boonah and Beaudesert have the lion’s share).
If you’re road tripping on a Sunday, there are tonnes of regional markets that show off the best local produce, including olives, avos, delicious dairy, and a pantry’s worth of preserves.
North Stradbroke Island
Straddie (noun): local-speak for North Stradbroke Island, the natural playground for Southeast Queenslanders with sand-blown cliffs and serious surf.
Catching the ferry from Cleveland (just over an hour up the motorway from the Gold Coast) delivers you to the tiny island township of Dunwich.
If you haven’t brought your own set of wheels, jump on a bus and roll on to Point Lookout, but not before fueling up with a smoothie or slice of something sweet from Island Fruit Barn – 10 minutes’ walk from the ferry terminal.
Taking an easy hike along the North Gorge Walk at Point Lookout is a must, as is a double scoop from Oceanic Gelato just across the road.
South Stradbroke Island
The lesser-known South Straddie is actually more accessible from the Gold Coast than its sibling, with water taxis departing from a handful of mainland marinas including Runaway Bay, Sanctuary Cove and Main Beach.
South Stradbroke is a great place to set up camp – literally – but offers secluded alcoves and surf beaches aplenty for day-trippers.
It may not boast the amenities of its northern twin, but South Stradbroke definitely caters to the adventurous, with sea kayaking, windsurfing, jet skiing and all manner of on-the-water activities.
You can take in some pretty spectacular views of the coast spinning around the sand island on a four-wheel-drive buggy too!
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