There’s no denying that the Gold Coast is a pretty awesome place to study, but there’s plenty more to discover just outside its borders.

The Gold Coast is surrounded by a diverse landscape of ancient rainforests, national parks, cities, islands, and laidback beach towns that are perfect for day trips or an overnight getaway.

Take a well-earned break from the textbooks and explore one of these nearby locations.

Brisbane

gold coast trips


As the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane is a must-visit for every Gold Coast student. There are buses and trains that will take you from the Gold Coast to Brisbane in around an hour, meaning a day trip to the capital couldn’t be easier.

Hop off at Central Station and head to Queen Street Mall. It’s Brisbane’s most popular shopping strip, with lots of local and international brands packed into stores, arcades and department stores.

Nearby Fortitude Valley has a thriving art scene and is renowned for its street art, galleries, live music venues and trendy bars. Or, visit Southbank for water parks, markets, restaurants and picnics by the river.

Soak up some history and culture at Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in South Brisbane, or shop your heart out in West End. Here, you’ll find vintage clothing stores, organic cafés, quirky boutiques and more.

Tamborine Mountain

gold coast trips


Nestled in the Scenic Rim region, the sleepy town of Tamborine Mountain is a popular tourist destination for anyone craving an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Up in the clouds, Tamborine Mountain is a world away from the Gold Coast, with its sprawling subtropical rainforests, charming cottages, wineries and eclectic boutiques.

Head to Gallery Walk for a different shopping experience. This main street is lined with shops selling locally made food, handcrafted gifts, clothing, and much more. Then, take a stroll through one of the many rainforests on the mountain. Curtis Falls is an easy trek, and there’s a waterfall hidden inside.

For Instagram-worthy selfies, head to Hang Gliders Lookout on Main Western Road. This popular spot offers spectacular sweeping views over the entire Scenic Rim – perfect for capturing sunset photos.

Note: there’s no public transport to Tamborine Mountain, so you’ll need to organise your own transport to access this little gem.

Byron Bay

gold coast trips


The bohemian town of Byron Bay lies around two hours away from the Gold Coast in northern NSW and is home to surfers, hippies, artists, and musicians. More of a large village than a town, its iconic surf spots and creative community make it a top tourist destination.

Byron Bay is big on health and wellness, making it the perfect destination to unwind with meditation, yoga, and acai bowls. It’s also a hotspot for local designers, with some of Australia’s most-loved fashion brands originating here.

There are plenty of accommodation options in Byron Bay, from cheap hostels and camping spots to luxe hotels. The town centre is very walkable and offers easy access to Main Beach, cafés, surf shops, pubs, restaurants and shops.

Head to the famous Cape Byron Lighthouse for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Plan ahead and you could also be here for some of Australia’s biggest music festivals, including Bluesfest and Splendour in the Grass.

Springbrook National Park

gold coast trips


For those craving a little adventure, grab your hiking boots and head to Springbrook National Park. About 45 minutes’ drive from the Gold Coast, this park is set amongst a wilderness of ancient volcanic rocks, bushland, mountains, rainforests and thundering waterfalls.

The Natural Bridge is a highlight of this region; it’s an impressive natural rock formation and waterfall with deep green rock pools and a glow worm cave beneath it. There are also several walking tracks throughout the park, along with rare flora and fauna that are native to this area of Queensland.

Springbrook National Park can be reached by car, or you can book a tour.

North Stradbroke Island

gold coast trips


Ditch the city for a weekend and head to paradise on North Stradbroke Island. ‘Straddie’ (as the locals call it) is a tropical oasis of white beaches, crystal waters, freshwater lakes and exotic wildlife. You’ll need to drive or catch the train to the town of Cleveland, where you can reach the island by ferry or water taxi.

There’s plenty to do once you’re there. For an action-packed trip, try scuba diving, whale-watching, swimming, surfing or kayaking, or go on the popular North Gorge Walk for a chance to spot dolphins at the lookout.

Alternatively, go shopping, dine on the beach, visit an art gallery, or sip cocktails while watching a magical sunset.

Camping is best on Straddie, but you’ll also find resorts, apartments, and a hostel.   

All body images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland (except North Stradbroke Island). Byron Bay image courtesy of Jason Charles Hill. Springbrook National Park image courtesy of Matthew Taylor Thomas.