Australia is one of those places where if you want to get around anywhere, a car is seemingly a must. But growing up and living in Queensland for nearly all my life and not driving for most of it, there's quite a few day trips you can take from Brisbane, that you don't need a car for, and can easily get around using public transport and other methods.
Brisbane is perfectly situated between 2 cities that offer beaches, hikes and more. The best part is that they're reachable completely through public transport - Be sure to to get a Go Card from Translink for easy use of the public transport system. You can get a Go Card at any major station, Night Owl stores, or 7-Eleven's.
1 | A beach day/small hike on The Gold Coast (Burleigh Beach)
If you get on the Gold Coast Express train from any one of the major Brisbane stations (Central, Fortitude Valley, Roma Street) you'll be able to get off at Varsity Lakes station, where you'll catch the 765 Bus straight to Second Avenue, and for the whole day relax at Burleigh Beach. Full route here.
One way, this costs $13.80 AUD ($9.50 USD) and takes 1 hr 50 mins from Central to the beach. You can check out the journey planner here.
- Go for a swim and sun bake
- Have a picnic and watch the sunset on Burleigh Hill
- Hike up Burleigh National Park for a nice view
- Get some smoothies and delicious eats on James Street
- Enjoy a cocktail on Burleigh Pavilion with views of Surfers Paradise
2 | Spend a day at one of the major theme parks
Dreamworld, Movie World, Wet n Wild or Sea World. They're all slightly different but equally fun, and you can get to all of them without a car. In true theme park fashion though, they are quite pricey - so not the most thrifty option. But if you're a theme park person, it could be for you.
- Water slides
- Dolphin Shows
- Patting Sting Rays
- Roller coasters
- Lazer tag
🎢 And a whole lot more!
Again you can take the Gold Coast line from any one of the major stations in Brisbane (Central, Fortitude Valley, Roma Street) and get off at Coomera Station this time. Take one of the TX Buses - for Dreamworld as an example, this would be TX7.
The whole journey one way would be 1 hr 7 mins and cost around $8.30 ($5.70 USD). You can check the other theme park journey's here. Just type the station you're leaving from in Brisbane, and then type the theme park you want to go to.
3 | Spend a day on The Sunshine Coast at Noosa Heads Main Beach
This ones a tough one, it's doable via public transport but takes 3 h 11 mins and costs around $20.40 ($14 USD) one way. That's long and expensive, granted the pay-off is amazing calm beaches and a very relaxed vibe. So before getting into what you can do in Noosa, let's talk about other options for this day trip.
- Car hire might not be an option for you (since you're reading this article) but if it is an option, you can find them from $12 - $25 Australian dollars a day (can google it here), and even if you spend some money on petrol too, that option's going to be way cheaper.
- If you absolutely can't use a car, consider turning the day trip into a weekend trip and get some accommodation up there. There's some nice Airbnb listings to pick from, there's also some other cheap/free accommodation options here. And this way at least for this long journey, you'll maximize your time.
Now for things to do:
- Watch the sunset on Noosa Main Beach.
- Get a delicious burger at the Betty's Burgers, a burger chain that's almost gone all over Australia but started right here in Noosa!
- Go do some light hiking at Noosa National Park.
- While you're on that hike, try stopping by Boiling Pot Lookout and Dolphin Point Lookout, for some scenic views.
- Try your hand at surfing at one of the many surf schools right on the beach.
4 | Explore scenic views and waterfalls at Springbrook National Park
This one's not a thrifty special because the only way to get to Springbrook National Park without a car is with a tour, and they can get pricey. Again the option to rent a car is there at $12 - $25 Australian dollars a day (can google it here).
Tour companies will take you on 4-12 hour trips from $85-$200 ($60-$140 USD) a person - indeed your money will fly away 💸. But there's quite positive responses from travelers who take these tours, so if nature is your thing, this could be a very good option for you.
These tours pick you up and drop you off from/to your hotel door and cover locations and activities like:
- Purling Brook Falls
- Rainbow Falls
- Glow Worm Caves
- Numinbah Valley
- Wildlife exploration from Koala's to Wallabies
- Canyon Lookout with some crazy views
So if you do hire a car, you should absolutely visit these locations as well.
5 | Explore towns, lakes, and beaches on North Stradbroke Island
Getting to the island is quite easy with public transport, take a train from Central, Fortitude Valley, or Roma Street, to Cleveland Station - this would be on the Shorncliffe Line. After you get to Cleveland Station get on the 258 Bus for Toondah Harbour where you'll get off. This takes 1 h 20 mins.
From the Harbour, you'll catch the ferry to Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island, the main town there. The ferry leaves every hour, takes 30 mins to get there and is operated by Flyer, not by Translink (the QLD public transport org) . Full Journey here with costs - Note that Stradbroke is better done over a weekend, but a day trips possible too.
So now we've arrived, what's there to do?
- Without even leaving Dunwich there's beaches all along the coast of the small town, you can check these out first.
- North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum is quite interesting if you're into the historical side.
- Canoeing and Kayaking hire is available at a few spots on the island for a fantastic time.
If you're looking to extend your day trip for a weekend, this means you'll get to see some of the best spots.
- Amity Point has beautiful scenic lookouts, camping, famous beaches and more. You'll see many people in their 4 Wheel Drives gunning it through the sand and fishing as well - about a 1 h 20 mins bus from Dunwich.
- Point Lookout is also similar with great stretches of beach, hiking on the side of cliffs and more - about a 50 min bus from Dunwich.
I hope you've got some more ideas now for your trip to Brisbane! Renting a car definitely helps but sometimes we can't and even though some of these trips can be a bit of a drag with public transport, at least you know they're doable 😊