48 hours in Gladstone
What comes to mind when you think about Gladstone? If you’re stuck we’d accept “outdoor oasis”, “wilderness wonderland”, and “port-side playground”.
If you’ve never heard of the harbour haven that is the Gladstone Region, we suggest you take a trip ASAP to the central coast of Queensland, approximately 520km north of Brisbane.
It’s all about appreciating the surrounding nature of this small town, which not only sits centre stage on the Southern Great Barrier Reef but is surrounded by national parks and inland waterholes that create endless opportunities for camping and fishing trips.
Get your nature fix with this 48-hour guide to Gladstone.
9am: Say hi to Mr Gladstone
Start your tour of the town with some arts, culture, and a light history lesson at the Gladstone Regional Art Gallery and Museum.
Here stands the statue of four-time Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr William Ewart Gladstone, who the town was named after. The statue was previously perched in the Gladstone Botanic Gardens but was moved to the gallery in 2003 after a modern extension revitalised the space.
10am: Explore the harbour town
Being one of Australia’s largest ports, a visit to Gladstone isn’t complete without a tour of the marina.
Stroll through the Marina Parklands (home to the Harbour Festival every Easter) and admire the boats moored in the harbour.
For an epic photo-op, travel an extra two minutes down Alf Orouke Drive to Spinnaker Park, which looks back to the marina on one side and out to the surrounding islands on the other.
12pm: Lunch by the water
You can’t complete the town’s rite of passage without grabbing a classic pub feed at the Gladstone Yacht Club. Enjoy a bevvy or two on the verandah that overlooks the harbour or take a seat in Salties Bar downstairs, where the water is so close you can almost dunk your feet into it.
Known to the locals as “Yachties”, this historic establishment is also the finish line for the famous Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race that takes place every year over the Easter long weekend.
2pm: Dessert with a view
Treat yourself with an ice-cream after lunch at nearby Gelespresso and a stroll through East Shores Maritime Precinct, the town’s new parkland with a twist.
Playing on a nautical theme, the precinct is complete with large decorative buoys, picnic areas, playgrounds, a waterfall and water park, and plenty of grassy areas for activities.
Permanently docked at the end of East Shores is the HMAS Gladstone II, an ex-Australian Navy Fremantle Class Patrol Boat. Sitting at 42m in length, the boat is open for tours on weekends and it’s worth stepping onboard to learn about Gladstone’s proud maritime history.
There’s one thing you’ll undoubtedly notice when visiting East Shores, and that’s the giant hill that wedges the precinct between water and land.
To the right of the cascading waterfall is a stairway to a scenic heaven, also known as the Auckland Point Lookout. When you reach the top you’ll find a café to quench your thirst and one helluva view.
On one side it’s nothing but water views where you can play I-Spy guessing which island is which (oh, and there’s a map to tell if you were right). In the other direction, you’ll see the CBD completely surrounded by natural attractions.
7pm: Light up your dinner
Make like a local with a visit to The Lightbox Espresso and Wine Bar.
Located at the entrance to the Gladstone Entertainment and Convention Centre, The Lightbox menu and decor is a modern mix of hipster, healthy, and holistic. Think vine-covered courtyards, murals overlooking astroturf, and there’s even an entire wall made out of wine (can you say dream come true?).
Whether it’s an acai bowl for brekkie, a pizza or burger for lunch, or a few cocktails after dinner, Lightbox is your go-to for a fabulous feast.
8am: Get your hike on
Just as the Hollywood sign looks over Los Angeles, the Mount Larcom peak can be seen from all over Gladstone.
The popular hiking trail is a quick 15-minute drive from the centre of town and then approximately a two-hour climb to the peak.
Most of the hike is a moderately steep walking trail until you get close to the top. Then it turns #parkour style and the muscles you forgot you had remind you of their existence.
When you reach the peak, you won’t just be out of breath from the exercise. The view doesn’t disappoint – in fact, it begs for a Facebook 360 video.
1.30pm: Cool down with a swim at the beach
Take a shortcut from Mount Larcom to Tannum Sands via the Bruce Highway and you’ll go from countryside to beachside in less than 45 minutes.
Only 30 minutes south of Gladstone sits Boyne Island and Tannum Sands, twin towns that reside along the coastline and provide the locals with a holiday on home’s doorstep.
Take a stroll down the Tannum Sands Millennium Esplanade and find winding paths through lush parklands, playgrounds, and barbecue areas overlooking the surf.
Local’s tip: Head up the stairs opposite the beach to a small café by the name of Tannum Beach Fish and Chips for one of the best classic beach meals you’ve ever had.
7pm: Dinner at The Dock
One of the latest arrivals to the Gladstone foodie scene, The Dock encapsulates the Queensland coastal lifestyle with its location and casual vibe intertwined with modern decor.
Positioned just outside the entrance to East Shores, this burger joint boasts one of the best vantage points to overlook the harbour. Paying homage to its previous owners (an engineering firm), the old office signage acts as a wall mural surrounded by fairy lights and a veggie patch doubling as a green wall.
Not only offering classics like burgers, fries and a selection of seafood, The Dock’s menu also includes a range of salads, pulled pork nachos and spring lamb herb crust. #drool.
Sitting on its signature deck, take in the view with a bevvy in hand and the breeze gently gliding past your face. Ahh, the serenity!
9am: Explore the Southern Great Barrier Reef
Sitting smack bang in the middle of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Gladstone is the gateway to your island paradise.
Extend your trip to the Gladstone region and venture to:
- Heron Island: Only a short two-hour boat ride away, Heron Island is the ultimate nature adventure, with a seemingly never-ending list of beach and water activities like world-class diving and snorkelling. Here’s an itinerary to get you started.
- Lady Musgrave Island: Step of the boat and into the reef, where there is an underwater oasis waiting to be explored. With a protected lagoon acting as your swimming pool, swim beside the manta rays and turtles that call this island home.
- Agnes Waters/1770: Set up camp along the beach and get to know these surfy twin towns and their laidback vibes. Known for their ideal conditions for surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, they are your go-to for an action-packed getaway.
If you need more convincing, check out this list of Southern Great Barrier Reef island views you can wake up to.