We try to visit Australia at least once a year to spend some quality time with Vid’s nieces! And every time we are there, we try to explore at least one new place since the continent has so much to offer! But, since the first time we went to Queensland, a couple of years ago, we’ve been going back to explore little corners of the state as often as we can – it is one of our favourite states and we can never get enough.
Queensland is huge and it would be no hyperbole to say it is truly the State of endless wonders! But if you have just one week and you want to plan an epic road trip in Queensland to sample lots of different things – the rainforest, vineyards, stunning beaches, hipster hotels, urban cafés, and that incomparable Australian vibe – then here’s what we suggest:
Day 1 Fly to Brisbane & pick up your rental car
Brisbane is well connected to most major cities all around the world. We flew from New Delhi with Malaysia Airlines – an extremely convenient flight which included a short stop over in Kuala Lumpur. I’m not a big fan of airplane food but Malaysia Airlines serves some of the best food in their flights. Do try it out. And if you’re flying Business Class, then you must try their satays or noodle soups. It will transport you to bustling Asian food markets. The service, as in all our previous flights with Malaysia Airlines, was all-smiles and impeccable.
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Coz there is nothing quite like the combination of books, scrumptious meals, and adventures with you; somewhere over the clouds ??? ✨ It’s always such a pleasure to fly @malaysiaairlines because they have THE yummiest food on-board (cue noodle soups and satay ??) but today was exceptional because I was running a temperature and the stewardess looked after me like a family member would – such great service. Kindness makes the world go round! ☺️? Feeling all rested now and super-excited to be going back to Australia for a fun project with @Queensland – can’t wait to take you along ✈️?? ✨ ✨ #bruisedpassports #flugoaway #MalaysiaAirlines #MalaysianHospitality #travel #australia
Renting a car at Brisbane Airport
Once you’re in Brisbane, you can pick your rental car. A quick tip – you can also pick the car on Day 3 as you will be walking to most places in Brisbane. However we would recommend picking the car on Day 1 itself if you’re getting a good weekly rate for the rental and your hotel offers free parking.
As for rental companies, you will find booths for most major companies at Brisbane Airport. We always recommend pre-booking a car using a price comparison website like economybookings to get the best price! This is much cheaper than picking a car upon arriving at the airport.
Accommodation in Brisbane
Brisbane has a variety of accommodation to suit all budgets. There are some great Air BnBs in the area if you’re on a budget. Apartments are also ideal if you want access to a kitchen or you’re travelling with a large family.
If you’re keen on a hotel, The Calile is a favourite of ours. It’s one of the most unique hotels we’ve stayed at. Its pale-pink interior is bound to transport you to California one minute, Morocco the next. Everything from the subdued golden fittings to the vintage mini-bar is so aesthetically pleasing that you will want to photograph your room time and again. Reserve a few hours for the hotel’s now iconic pool and make sure you don’t miss breakfast at all – the fresh produce, gourmet granola, and coffee will ensure you ask for seconds.
Days 2 & 3 Explore Brisbane
Brisbane is truly one of the most exciting cities in Australia. That’s because it’s good at being both laid-back and trendy at the same time. It’s not large or overwhelming. And yet there is no dearth of things to do.
We suggest keeping aside at least 2-3 days to explore Brisbane. Here are some of our favourite things to do in Brisbane:
Take a Walking Tour
On your first morning in Brisbane, take some time to walk around the centre. You could take a free walking tour or a guided tour with Walk Brisbane. Spend the morning introducing yourself to Brisbane’s major landmarks and its exciting art scene. There are so many fascinating museums such as the Gallery of Modern Art but we loved the street art and sculptures that can be seen in little laneways in Brisbane.
Picnic with a view
Brisbane boasts of some epic sunsets. And Kangaroo Point and Mount Coot-tha are two of our favourite places to enjoy them. But if you want to take your sunset experience up a notch, why not picnic to a view of Brisbane’s skyline. You could pick yourself picnic supplies from the supermarket. But if you’re celebrating a special occasion and want a truly memorable experience, you could also book one with the Vintage Picnic Company. Their set-ups seems like they’ve crawled out of pinterest- expect twinkling lights, rustic rugs, picnic baskets, and lots of incredible food. We opted for a grazing platter (yummy!) but you could also opt for a 3 course meal.
Go Kayaking …. at night
For the adventurous souls, we would highly recommend a bout of Night Kayaking at Brisbane River. Riverlife Brisbane organise this unique tour. We have been kayaking before but this was our first time kayaking at night and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I was a bit worried about kayaking in the dark, but their guide was with us every step of the way, so all worries went out of the window. We had a great time and finished it off with a BBQ dinner by the river.
Eat to your heart’s content
There is no dearth of trendy cafés and bars in Brisbane. In fact you will find some of the world’s best coffee and fresh food here. But if there is one culinary experience we recommend it’s Eat Street. It is like nothing you would’ve experienced before – a bustling food market with live music and rides. It is reminiscent of vintage fairs but what makes it stand out is the sheer quality of the food. Everything we tried – from the steamed dumplings and nutella ice-cream to the popcorn and tacos was top notch! Eat Street is open only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Do check it out if you happen to be in Brisbane for the weekend. If you’re there during the week, then Tuckshop time in Woolloongabba is a cute option for brunch.
Day 4 Go for an adventure in the rainforest
Once you’ve enjoyed Brisbane, it is time to drive far away from the city lights, to the rainforest. An easy 3 hour drive will take you to Lamington National Park. The hinterland is one of Australia’s most unique offerings and you have to experience it for yourself.
O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat is one of the very few accommodation options in the area. The rooms here tend to be a bit dated but the atmosphere is unparalleled. From the second you check-in, you are bound to feel at peace. There is a lot to do in the area surrounding O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. You can go for guided bird walks. You could hike to one of the many waterfalls in the area. Or you could just spend your night star-gazing with your family.
Day 5 Enjoy Queensland’s vineyards
Chances are the hikes around the hotel will leave your muscles feeling a bit sore. So take a day to unwind and relax by exploring the neighbouring vineyards. There are plenty of vineyards in the area and you can choose any you want, but O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat offers some great wine-tasting sessions and packed picnics at their Canungra Valley Vineyards. Taste some wines, pick up a bottle if you’d like and spend a slow afternoon eating and drinking under the trees. There’s a nice stream at Canungra Valley Vineyards, that makes for the perfect picnic spot.
Day 6 Drive to the iconic Gold Coast
Once you’re all rested, it’s time to continue the road trip by driving to the iconic Gold Coast to get your beach fix. The drive is only 2 hours long, so you will have all of Day 6 to explore the area as well. From scenic points of view to water parks, there is so much to do in the area, so we would recommend spending at least 2-3 days here.
Accommodation in the Gold Coast area
There is plenty of accommodation to choose from. Avani Broadbeach offers luxurious and spacious apartments with great views of the ocean. If you choose to stay here, make sure you request for an apartment with a view. Hilton Surfers Paradise is also a good choice – they have both hotel rooms and apartments but their apartments have better views of the ocean.
If classic luxury is not your thing and you’re a fan of trendier accommodation, we highly recommend checking out Pink Hotel. It is located in one of Gold Coast’s coolest suburbs, Coolangatta and it’s retro-chic vibe will have you swooning within minutes. From vinyl players and neon signs to pink falls and flamingoes on bathrobes, you’ll find it all here. A hipster gem this!
Days 6&7 Explore, hike, and unwind at the beach
There are so many things to do in this area that even 2 weeks would not be enough. Here are some of our absolute favourites – you can pick and choose a few based on your preferences:
- Let’s start with food (of course!). There are some great cafés and bistros in the area but we would highly recommend dropping by ELK Espresso or MLK Broadbeach for brunch. If you drop by MLK, do try their sumptuous Avocado Toast, Eggs Benedict, and Acai Bowls. Both cafés also serve some of the best coffee you would’ve had, anywhere in the world (that’s a big claim coming from a coffee geek, but it’s true)
- If you’re travelling with kids or friends, then head to Gold Coast’s amusement parks – both Dreamworld and WhiteWater World have dozens of rides, food stalls, and entertainment, enough for a jam-packed day of fun.
- Kids also love the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, where visitors can feed kangaroos and see koalas at close quarters
- If you enjoy hikes or photography, we’d highly recommend heading to Burleigh Heads. The beach is beautiful and really popular with locals. But a short hike will lead you to the Tumgun Viewpoint that offers a stunning view of the ocean.
- If you want to relax at a beach, then Miami and Currumbin Beach are great options. The Currumbin Rock Pools are a bit of a local secret and great on a sunny day!
- You could also hop on a whale-watching cruise with Sea World Cruises if you have an afternoon to spare (and if it’s whale watching season :)). We did this and it must’ve been our lucky day because we saw dozens of whales and dolphins playing in the water.
- For something more romantic, we would recommend booking a sunset yacht cruise with Crystal Blue Yacht Charters. It is an incredible feeling to watch the sun go down over Gold Coast as you sip on champagne. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or in the mood for a splurge, you can also book a private yacht cruise for 2 people.
- If you’re looking for a special place for dinner and enjoy sea-food, then Baskk is a great option. Everything from the cocktail menu to the main courses is an experience in itself. Make sure you dress up and make a night out of it. Its laid-back, it’s chic, and it’s memorable. Baskk is a recent addition to the achingly-cool Coolangatta, but its in a league entirely its own.
Day 8 Return your car and fly back
It’s that dreaded day – time for your day trip to come to an end. Return your car and Brisbane airport and prepare to fly back to your home country. We hope your mind is swimming with images of Queensland’s gorgeous hinterland, golden sunrises, powdery beaches, scenic hikes, and scrumptious meals. Queensland is often described as a living postcard and we hope this short road trip will help you see why!
We’ve tried to include all the details you might need to plan an amazing road trip in Queensland but if you have any questions leave them down below. This is the perfect road trip if you like a bit of adventure, gorgeous drives, and some time at stunning beaches with incredible food all along. We also have some amazing suggestions for other road trips around the world 🙂