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Day trips out of the Gold Coast in sunny Queensland are plentiful. We are spoilt for choice with quirky little surfing hotspots, family seaside villages on ocean estuaries, the lush green cauldron, mountain vistas, thundering waterfalls, heritage-listed rainforests, farmgate produce and vineyards. Here are seven of the best:
Cudgera Creek, Hastings Point
With more than 37 km of unspoilt coastline, quiet estuaries, charming villages and a subtropical climate, the Tweed Coast is a comfortable day drive from the Gold Coast just across the NSW/Qld border.
After you cross the Tweed River you take the Tweed Coast Road exit off the highway at Chinderah and head in a southerly direction towards Cudgen and Kingscliff. Along the way the countryside is dotted with farmlands with roadside stalls, so don’t forget to stop and sample some of the farm fresh produce.
Kingscliff is the largest of the Tweed Coast villages and not only provides beach and estuary access for swimming, surfing, fishing and water sports, but features fantastic sidewalk cafes and restaurants, boutiques and gift shops, beachfront Surf Club and Bowls Club and the newly renovated Kingscliff Pub.
The next village you come across is Cabarita beach which is renowned for its surfing and hosts many surfing events during the year and has fabulous walking and cycling tracks.
Drive a very small distance to Hastings Point with the wonderful Cudgera Creek estuary providing an ideal place to swim, snorkel, stand-up paddle board or to kayak.
A mere couple of kilometres away is Pottsville, a quiet village situated on the banks of Mooball Creek with pristine beaches, a safe swimming creek, great fishing and ample walking tracks in the Environmental Gardens.
Last but not least on the coastal road, is Wooyung, a quiet beachside location popular with surfers and fisherman or just a secluded location for a beach break.
From Wooyung the road takes a sharp right hand turn snaking it’s way through farmlands of sugar cane and banana trees. It rejoins the highway and you can either travel further down the NSW coastline to Brunswick Heads or Byron Bay; or alternatively drive via Mooball, the Buringbar Ranges to Murwillumbah and back to Tweed Heads.
A 73km round-trip circling the imposing Mt Warning and Wollumbin National Park, which is recognised as part of the Gondwana Rainforest of Australia. The drive not only takes you through scenic countryside, quaint villages and world heritage-listed rainforests, but leads you to the remnant of a volcano – Mt Warning.
From the Qld/NSW border travel to the country town of Murwillumbah and head south west via Kyogle Road to the small villages of Byangum and Uki.
The village of Uki has an organic-alternative vibe with the beautifully restored old Norco Butter Factory accommodating art studios, funky bric-a-brac stores and an antique shop.
You can detour off Kyogle Road to Mt Warning which stands at a very impressive height of 1157m above sea level and it can be seen from almost every location in the Tweed. If you are adventurous and fit you can try climbing the 4.4km distance, with a challenging final rock scramble,to the summit of the mountain.
Only a short drive off the Kyogle Road is the Clarrie Hall Dam which has an impressive steep spillway. Built on Doon Doon Creek, a tributary of the Tweed River, Clarrie Hall Dam provides storage for Tweed Shire’s water supply.
Further along Kyogle Road you can access Crams Farm which is at the other end of Clarrie Hall Dam and is accessed from Doon Doon Road. Crams Farm, as the name suggests was once a dairy farm owned by the Cram family with the old farmhouse, timber mill and the Doon Doon Hall still remaining.
After leaving Crams Farm you can take the Byrill Creek Road at the backside of Mt Warning and enjoyed the drive along a single laned gravel road which winds its way through the rainforest and rural farmlands, crossing the creek in several places. This country road eventually leads to the historic village of Tyalgum.
Tyalgum has blossomed into a vibrant village with lovingly restored quaint old buildings transformed into cottage cafes, gift shops and art galleries. A fabulous place to stop for lunch or high tea at Flutterbies Cottage or try a counter lunch at the Tyalgum Pub.
Now that you have almost completed the Mt Warning circuit return to the Gold Coast via Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads.
40 Kms drive, give or take a few kilometers, from the Gold Coast is the plateau called Tamborine Mountain which is part of the Scenic Rim, the name given to a group of mountains in South East Queensland.
Tamborine Mountain consists of a vast areas of rainforested national park with abundant birdlife and a variety of flora, one of which is the oldest national park in Queensland, Witches Falls National Park. Walking tracks are provided in six sections of Tamborine National Park.
While you are visiting there are heaps of places of interest and things to do including:
For a change of scenery and a cooler change during Gold Coast’s warm sticky summer days, Springbrook mountain and plateau is only 32 Kms from the Gold Coast. Spectacular waterfalls, lush rainforest, ancient trees, impressive views, exceptional ecological importance and natural beauty makes this a worthwhile day trip whilst visiting the Gold Coast.
Springbrook is part of the world heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest and is made up mainly of National Park. The drive up is via a winding road, which is one lane in some parts, will reward you with glimpses of breathtaking views back over the skyline of the Gold Coast.
Along the way there are many lookouts with panoramic views, quaint little cafes and teahouses to stop for some refreshments, parks with picnic and BBQ facilities and walking trails to suit all levels of fitness. Explore these forest habitats with nine different walks and encounter the diverse wildlife – such as the the elusive and unique Albert’s Lyrebird.
The 100m high Purling Brook Falls cascades down a rocky escarpment into the deep canyon below. There are several walks available at Purling Brook Falls, starting with the short 100m walk to the lookout, the more challenging 4km circuit walk or the 6km Waringa Pools walk.
Best of Views Lookout offers majestic panoramic views to the south over the Tweed Valley and Tweed Coastline and breathtaking views of Mount Warning.
From Canyon Lookout you can take in the superb views of Twin and Rainbow Falls, the sheer walls of The Canyon and the ocean beyond.
Don’t forget to stop by The Old Teahouse Gallery on the way back down the mountain for a sumptuous Devonshire tea and a browse in the gallery.
Around 40 Kms from the Gold Coast in the glorious Gold Coast Hinterland is the scenically abundant Numinbah Valley. The valley is trapped between the Springbrook Plateau to the east and the Lamington Plateau to the west and is broadly underdeveloped apart from a small township.
Numinbah valley covers 116 km² and mainly consists of cleared verdant green grazing land, rocky outcrops, waterfalls, rainforest walks and stunning hinterland scenery. But its major attraction is the Springbrook National Park and the Natural Bridge, where tourists flock every weekend to take in this natural wonder.
Enroute visit Hinze Dam and the spillway across the Nerang River, the Gold Coast’s main water supply. It covers a surface area of 1,500 hectares forming the Advancetown Lake. It is well worth a visit to explore the state-of-the-art Interpretive Centre, cafe, lakeside parks, walking, bike trails and barbecue areas for public use.
You can either visit Natural Bridge by day to see a unique waterfall or after dark to discover the park’s amazing Glow Worms. You can also picnic on the shaded banks of the Nerang River at Forest Park picnic area and have a refreshing swim in the rock pools.
The Nerang-Murwillumbah road runs along the valley floor adjacent to the tree lined banks of the Nerang River and its tributary creeks. Once you cross the border into New South Wales, which is marked by a cattle grate and a sign, you will be blown away by the panoramic views to the south of the Tweed Valley and Mt Warning.
Continuing down the narrow twisting road you come to the charming village of Chillingham on the Rous River.
Driving in an easterly direction through vast cane plantations is the picturesque village of Tumbulgum located on the Tweed River which has views over cane farms and to the foothills of the caldera (Mt Warning). There is a great pub here which provides delicious counter meals in the beer garden and is popular with day trippers.
From Tumbulgum it is only a short drive back to Tweed Heads and the Queensland border.
Approximately three hours (248Kms) drive south-west of the Gold Coast, is the premium food and wine destination town called Stanthorpe which is located in the Granite Belt area. This pretty region is predominantly agricultural with apples and grapes being their main crops.
From the Gold Coast head out to Nerang and take the turnoff to Beaudesert via Canungra and then into Boonah. Follow the signs to join the Cunningham Highway and drive through Warwick to Stanthorpe. Along the way you will pass through the Great Dividing Range at Cunningham’s Gap, some rugged mountain ranges with spectacular lookouts.
The Stanthorpe region boasts around 50 wineries in the surrounding area and this is hugely popular with wine connoisseurs, romantic weekend escapees or girls getaways.
Prior to your departure download a Granite Belt Region map from Granite Belt Wine Country and DIY winery crawl. Or maybe a safer option is to pre-book a wine tour such as Stanthorpe Tours and let them show you around this wine lover’s paradise for the day.
During our fully guided wine tour we visited five wineries and partook in wine tastings at each one, visited a local cheese factory for cheese tastings, stopped for lunch at Happy Valley Homestead Restaurant for a very tasty two-course lunch and Granite Belt Brewery for beer sampling.
Apart from wineries it is highly recommended that you take the 28 Km drive out to Girraween National Park. Girraween, meaning ‘place of flowers’, is a park of massive granite outcrops, large angular tors, and precariously balanced boulders. Spectacular wildflower displays splash colour among the granite in spring.
Although this is a long drive for a day trip it is well worth the effort providing scenic countryside along the way and some great tasting wines and farm fresh produce at the destination.
When you are visiting the Gold Coast a must do is a day trip is to our capital city, Brisbane, which is a mere 87Kms away. Brisbane has undertaken a massive transformation over the past twenty years or so and is now up there with many of the other trendy Australian cities.
The river that snakes its way through the city and the shorelines have been revamped to create green spaces, a cultural precinct, quirky markets, alfresco cafes and restaurants and walking and cycling paths that stretch for kilometres.
All of this is within comfortable walking distance to the heartthrob of the city, its business and shopping centre,world class hotels, botanical gardens, university and the Treasury Casino. You can literally walk to anything on either side of the river by accessing purpose built pedestrian bridges and wide walking pathways.
Starting in Brisbane CBD take the riverwalk along the river through the historical precinct to the beautiful Botanical Gardens and on to the Eagle Street Pier.
Eagle Street Pier also offers some of the finest restaurants in Brisbane with views to die for of the river and the Story Bridge. It also hosts chic arts and crafts markets and a colourful mix of street entertainers every Sunday.
A short walk across the Go Between Bridge over the river brings you to Brisbane Maritime Museum with some interesting exhibits of the Diamantina Frigate, a lighthouse from the mouth of the Brisbane River, a Torres Strait pearling lugger, cannons from the time of the Battle of Trafalgar and a steam tugboat.
Nearby is the entry to the 17 hectares of South Bank Parklands which encompasses the Performing Arts Centre, Museum, Exhibition & Convention Centre, Queensland Art Gallery and the Wheel of Brisbane. Visitors can ride The Wheel of Brisbane, visit the Nepalese Pagoda, which was originally brought to Brisbane for Expo 88, take a dip in Streets Beach and marvel at The Arbour, a bougainvillea clad steel awning that spans 1 km or just stroll through the weekend arts and crafts market stalls.
South Bank is one of Brisbane’s best dining hot spots with an array of cafes, pubs, bars, take-away restaurants and gourmet eateries to suit any taste.
Another great thing to do on the Brisbane River is to catch the City Cat and cruise down the river. The Cat cruises the city main arterial calling in at some of the city’s more interesting and dynamic suburbs. You can disembark at your leisure with most services running every 13 minutes.
There really is so much to do and see in this scenic region of South East Queensland, that it would take you weeks or even months to see it all!
Kathy was a 50 something year old when she started up this blog 6 years ago, but has since turned over another decade and is now in her early 60s. She is married with two adult children and lives on the Tweed Coast of New South Wales, Australia. Kathy enjoys living life to the fullest and loves to keep fit and active by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly. Some of her interests include reading, photography, travelling, cooking and blogging! Kathy works part-time as a freelance writer but her real passion is travelling and photographing brilliant destinations both within Australia and overseas and writing about it.
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Melissa @ All Around OzFebruary 26, 2016
Great day trip ideas. I think we’ve done them all except why have I never been to Tambourine Botanical Gardens? I know what I will be doing next time we are up the Mountain.
budgettraveltalkFebruary 26, 2016
What a beautiful area to explore Kathy. Saved to my Australia Pinterest Board for future reference. :)
kathymarrisFebruary 26, 2016
Thanks Jan. We are spoilt for choice of day trips. Next time you visit I’ll take you for a spin! ??
Jan at retiringNotshy!February 26, 2016
The Tweed Coast is a favourite of ours; Rowan’s Mum lived at Cabarita for many years and we still enjoy an annual trip to Kingscliff. So many beautiful beaches and the hinterland drives are gorgeous too. What a beautiful country we live in.
kathymarrisFebruary 26, 2016
I’ve spent a lot of time and many camping holidays along the Tweed Coast. The beaches don’t come much better than this ??
kathymarrisFebruary 26, 2016
I only stumbled across the Tamborine Mountain Botanical Gardens during a recent visit. They’re very impressive. We are lucky to have so many day trip options from the Gold Coast??
JoFebruary 26, 2016
Gorgeous suggestions Kathy. I look forward to following some when we come over east. What a beautiful area you live in. Have pinned :)
kathymarrisFebruary 27, 2016
There is a bounty of great natural beauty near the Gold Coast. It’s not just about beautiful beaches here. ?
Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)February 27, 2016
Great tips Kathy! We’re here now waiting for the removalists to bring our furniture on Tuesday. We’re living like uni students and sleeping on a mattress at the moment. Very keen to go out and explore this area :)
KathyFebruary 27, 2016
Glad to hear you made it safely to the GC (fur babies and all). You do have a lot of exploring to do! Hopefully we can meet up for a walk and coffee at Burleigh soon ?
seizetheday20March 2, 2016
You’ve covered a lot of my favourite places in this great post Kathy. So many people come to the Gold Coast and think it’s all glitz and theme parks, but the truly beautiful part is the green behind the gold, in my opinion :-)
KathyMarch 3, 2016
I thought I might have Lyndall! We really are spoilt for choice and yes the green behind the gold is the best part of the Gold Coast. :)