Brisbane is the gateway to some of the most amazing tourist destinations in Australia.
As a student there, you’re spoiled for choice, with stunning beaches, island adventures, theme parks, ancient forests and quaint country towns all within one to two hours of the city. If you’re studying in Brisbane, here are eight destinations to explore on your weekends and semester breaks.
North Stradbroke Island
Distance from Brisbane: 56km (40-minute drive + 25-minute ferry ride)
‘North Straddie’, as it is known by locals, is just south of Moreton Island and another popular spot for day trips or a weekend escape. North Straddie offers everything you may expect from a quintessential Australian holiday – pristine beaches, plenty of wildlife experiences, water sports and camping spots. The island also offers a great opportunity to learn about the local First Nations’ history and spot some of Australia’s magnifiecent wildlife. Home to The University of Queensland’s Moreton Bay Research Centre, researchers come from all over the world to study the area’s whales. Quandamooka Coast also offers a cultural experience to learn about land care, foraging and more.
Distance from Brisbane: 57km (20-minute drive + 75-minute ferry ride)
From picturesque countryside to postcard-perfect island views, Moreton Island has it all! A boat ride from Brisbane will have you scaling Moreton’s famous sand dunes in no time. This island is one for adventure-seekers, with snorkelling around the shipwrecks, kayaking, dolphin feeding and quad biking along the dunes. Feel like doing nothing at all? Then the tranquil Blue Lagoon awaits.
Glass House Mountains
Distance from Brisbane: 67km (1-hour drive)
The Glass House Mountains are just an hour from the city but truly feel a world away. The iconic peaks feature a range of hiking trails with incredible views. Back on ground level, there are plenty of cafés to refuel (a pie from CJ’s Pastries is a must!) and if you didn’t spot any wildlife on the walking trails, you can get your fix at Australia Zoo.
Distance from Brisbane: 77km (1-hour drive)
One of the most popular destinations in Australia, the Gold Coast is a year-round holiday spot for local and international tourists alike. An hour south by car or an hour-and-a-half by train, the Gold Coast is ideal for a group weekend away because there’s something for everyone: whether you prefer laying on the beach, spending a day at one of the many theme parks, or soaking up the nightlife.
Montville and Maleny
Distance from Brisbane: 92-98km (1.5-hour drive)
The Sunshine Coast’s hinterland is dotted with scenic little towns, Maleny and Montville being two wonderful options for a weekend getaway. Rent a cottage with your friends and spend your morning sipping coffee at iconic spots like Poets Cafe or Monica’s, and your afternoon hiking in Kondalilla National Park – making sure to cool off with a swim in the rock pools underneath the area’s waterfalls – or admiring the view of the Glass House Mountains as you explore the Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World.
Lamington National Park
Distance from Brisbane: 108km (1.5-hour drive)
World Heritage-listed Lamington National Park is two hours from Brisbane and one for nature lovers. The park is located within Queensland’s Scenic Rim, a region famous for its stunning lakes, rainforests and country towns. From camping sites to luxury cabins, all surrounded by lush ancient forests, it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind.
Distance from Brisbane: 148km (2-hour drive)
Located on Queensland’s world-famous Sunshine Coast, Noosa is the perfect place to relax and unwind during the semester break. Imagine swimming in crystal clear water (Noosa Heads Main Beach is a must-visit), kayaking along a river through the dense, green forest, and hiking to secluded beaches to go dolphin-spotting (we recommend one of Noosa National Park’s many walks). Noosa is recognised by UNESCO with Biosphere Reserve status, recognising the local community’s sustainable management of the region’s land, water and wildlife, so you’re sure to see some unique Australian flora and fauna.
Distance from Brisbane: 164km (2-hour drive)
Byron Bay is one of the most iconic destinations on the east coast, and just a two-hour drive over the border into New South Wales. Attracting celebrities, creatives and holiday-makers to its iconic beaches, luxe resorts and cool foodie scene, this buzzing beachside town is well worth a long weekend stay. While the iconic Wategoes, Main and Clarkes beaches beckon, the surrounding hinterland is just as beautiful. The villages of Newrybar (with the must-visit Harvest restaurant) and Bangalow are worthy stops to add to your itinerary.
Images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland and Destination NSW.