Brisbane’s a city of brilliant breakfasts and bright blue skies, where you can drive little more than an hour to reach a veritable world away – to ancient rainforests, sleepy mountaintop villages, beautiful beaches and so much more.
So when your weekend appetite wills for more than a plate of eggs on artisan sourdough, you can feast your eyes and quench your thirst for adventure on the best scenic drives from Brisbane.
Here’s our pick of the best.
Go chasing waterfalls at Mount Tamborine
Just an hour’s drive from Brisbane, Tamborine Mountain offers a magical respite from both the buzz of a city and the stifling heat which – in Brisbane anyway – often engulfs it.
Nestled behind the sparkling Gold Coast, this green wonderland is made up of lush rainforests, bitingly cold but oh-so-refreshing swims, wineries, idyllic villages and sweeping views that extend to the coastline.
It’s a place where you should dutifully ignore TLC’s advice and chase waterfalls to your heart’s content; Curtis, Cedar Creek, Witches and Cameron Falls are all jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
Like waterfalls, walking trails are another drawcard of the region, with so many different trails to choose from. Witches Falls was Queensland’s first National Park, proclaimed in 1908, so if you’re not sure where to start, then why not at the very beginning?
Note that you don’t have to settle for just walking through the rainforest floor, either. Instead, you can meander through the rainforest canopy on the impressive Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, or zip 70 metres above the canyon on a Canyon Flyer tour at Thunderbird Park.
If you prefer to sip rather than zip – which is totally understandable – several wineries throughout the mountain provide the opportunity to delight in that perfect drop.
Spring back in time at Springbrook National Park
Drive just an hour-and-a-half from Brisbane to Springbrook National Park and discover a slice of the world as it would’ve looked years before we know it today – like, thousands of years before.
Formed by a volcanic eruption some 23 million years ago, Springbrook makes up a significant chunk of what’s now the World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest. The forests here are said to have once covered the ancient supercontinent of the same name, Gondwana. (You know, where Australia was connected to Madagascar and Antarctica.)
As such, Springbrook is home to some of the oldest plants in Australia, including ancient Antarctic beech trees. If you think you’re getting old, spare a thought for these guys living today; some are up to 2,000 years old!
Abundant in cascading waterfalls, caves, gorges and wildlife, and spectacularly sprawled among staggering cliffs, Springbrook National Park offers all kinds of adventures for all ages and footwear, from short treks that can be completed in minutes and sandals to hikes spanning several days.
Pack your lunch, a swimsuit, and a wide-angle lens and lose yourself to the magnificence of mother nature. Just be sure to stick to the trails to help preserve the area and avoid losing yourself, literally.
Eat and be merry at Mt Glorious and Jolly’s Lookout
If picnicking with panoramic views is up your alley, you can thank Brisbane’s first mayor William Jolly, who apparently deemed a specific mountain ridge in D’Aguilar National Park picnic-perfect and made it a formal lookout.
Today, Jolly’s Lookout offers space and facilities to satisfy even the most serious of picnickers, with barbeques, sheltered and unsheltered picnic tables, and well-maintained amenities. Affording visitors 180-degree views of the valleys below, the lookout is probably one of the best spots in Brisbane to tuck into a sandwich or two. The scenic drive there is nearly as good, just less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane via Mt Nebo Road.
Once you’ve enjoyed a Sunday picnic at Jolly’s, continue your drive to the nearby townships of Mt Glorious and Mt Nebo to stroll one of many bushwalks or enjoy dessert and a cuppa at a quaint country café.
Make for the mountains at Montville and Maleny
Just a 90-minute drive north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland towns of Montville and Maleny ooze country character and charm.
Located on the Blackall Range, these neighbouring villages treat travellers to expansive Glass House Mountain views, crisp mountain air, and the occasional exercise in patience, as cows are known to cross the road wherever they please…
As you climb the mountain range on your drive from Brisbane, you’ll wind past rolling green pastures, dense rainforest, and smatterings of weathered Queenslanders, cafes, bookstores and restaurants selling delicious local produce.
Enjoy a picnic in the exquisite Botanic Gardens at Maleny, fall in love with gorgeous Guernsey cows at Maleny Dairies and discover waterfalls and rock pools along dense rainforest tracks; our pick is Kondalilla Falls Circuit within Kondalilla National Park at Montville.
Throw a line into Lake Moogerah
One peaceful lake and everywhere else you look mountains. That’s the best way to describe the expansive Lake Moogerah, located about an hour’s drive south-west of Brisbane next to Moogerah Peaks National Park.
A popular destination for day-trippers and campers alike, the lake is perfect for boating, water-skiing, canoeing, stand-up paddle-boarding and fishing, though you’ll need a permit to try your luck with a rod.
If you’re after a swim, you’ll find a designated swimming area at AG Muller Park; it’s unsupervised but will keep you from crossing paths with the likes of boats and water-skis.
Several camping grounds are scattered throughout the grassy banks of the lake, should you choose to pitch a tent and extend your stay, as are perfect spots to lay the picnic rug. Fred Haigh Park, just off Moogerah Connection Road, contains free barbeques and sheltered picnic tables.
When you’re finished frolicking in the water, don your hiking boots and explore the rugged grandeur of Moogerah Peaks National Park. Or, travel to nearby townships Boonah and Artula to discover country pubs, antique stores, and better coffee than you can probably contrive at your campsite.
Muscle-up Mount Mitchell
Skipped leg day? Never fear, Mount Mitchell is near! Just over an hour’s drive from Brisbane, this twin-peaked volcanic mountain boasts epic hiking trails and spectacular views.
Like Springbrook, Mount Mitchell is part of the Gondwana Rainforest, and you’ll be treated to the same level of natural magnificence here if you can concentrate on anything other than your burning calves…
Jokes aside, while you will get a great work-out on the grade four Mount Mitchell track, climbing around the West Peak and onto the East Peak is totally worth it for the incredible views. From here, at about 1,175 m, you’ll look out over mounts Maroon, Lindesay, Barney and Ballow.
The trek totals about 10 kilometres and takes around three hours to complete. Don’t forget to your hiking boots and to take water, sunscreen – and plenty of care around cliff edges.
Discover luscious Lamington National Park
Another piece of the Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest and neighbour to Springbrook National Park, Lamington National Park is 20,600 hectares of lush rainforest teeming with rare and vibrant wildlife.
You’ll find this gem about an hour-and-a-half’s drive from Brisbane, and if you love your Sunday scenic drives, waterfalls and walking trails, then you’ve hit the jackpot here. The area has more than 160 kilometres of walking tracks of varying lengths and difficulty, plus about 500 glorious waterfalls.
Ease your way into this natural wonderland with a stroll along the fully sealed Centenary Track, which winds its way through the lush subtropical rainforest for almost 2 kilometres. To up the challenge or, okay yes, to snap a more Insta-worthy shot, take the 4.5 km return track to Morans Falls Lookout and gaze out over the falls.
If you’re not here for walks, waterfalls or wowing views, then you must be here to indulge in a day spa. The Lost World Day Spa at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat has been listed as one of Brisbane’s most extraordinary spa experiences. But better you determine the validity of this statement for yourself, right?
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