When we think of Australia, images of an impressive array of wildlife, rugged cliffs, and red earth come to mind. With some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, plus seemingly endless beaches, rainforests, and national parks, It’s no wonder that Australia remains a popular travel destination for adventurous spirits seeking out fun, new experiences.
However, if you are on a student abroad program at Queensland University or studying abroad in another Australian city —Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, or elsewhere— and want to experience the Australian landscape and ecosystem firsthand, here are eight top-day trips from Brisbane that you won't want to miss.
Try snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef
Unless you live under a rock, we're sure you've heard of the Great Barrier Reef – it’s a must-visit while studying abroad in Queensland! The reef is the world's most extensive coral reef system and is home to over 1,500 species of fish. It also happens to be the only living structure visible from space!
The best way to experience this natural wonder is by taking a day trip out there. You'll get some time on land with plenty of activities like snorkeling or scuba diving, or even taking an underwater tour and having some fun exploring the ocean floor and floating around above it. If you love being underwater but don't want much contact with other humans after spending all day in class at university or college, this may be perfect for you.
How to get there from Cairnes: The easiest way to get there from Cairnes is by plane or boat – both take about 45 minutes to an hour. The drive from Townsville takes about 4 hours and 21 minutes by car, with stops if you want to take pictures at any of the scenic viewpoints or see some koalas.
Best time to go: The best time to go is during the summer (December–February) when water temperatures are warmer, and there are fewer crowds of tourists.
Ride a hot air balloon in the Atherton Tablelands
The Atherton Tablelands are located in the far north of Queensland, and it's a region known for its stunning scenery. Additionally, the area is home to several hot air ballooning companies, making it an ideal place to try this unique and exciting activity.
Hot air ballooning is popular with visitors to the region, so there are plenty of companies offering tours. You can choose from morning or afternoon rides when booking your ticket. If you want more time exploring Atherton Tablelands after landing, opt for an afternoon tour that takes off around 10am. If you're planning on heading back down south after taking off, consider booking a flight that begins at 7am or earlier.
How to get there from Cairnes: Getting there from Cairnes is a 3.5-hour drive, or if you’re studying in Townsville, it’s about a 5-hour drive.
Best time to go: The ballooning season is between September and April, but it may vary depending on weather conditions, so check before booking tickets!
Take impressive selfies at Wallaman Falls
This waterfall is one of the most popular in Queensland. Wallaman Falls is found within Girringun National Park, which is filled with beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes, and gorgeous views. The falls are located at the end of a leisurely walk that winds through rainforests filled with fruits, vegetables, and herbs used for medicine by Aboriginal people.
Once you reach the waterfall's base, you can take photos from above or swim in its pools. There are also many places nearby where you can stop for lunch or even spend a night if you want to make a weekend out of it.
Many walking tracks go around and through the area — but if walking isn't your thing, why not relax by swimming at one of their plunge pools? Or if neither of those options appeals, just enjoy some fresh air as you take in the beautiful scenery all around!
The main attraction here is this colossal waterfall itself — it's nearly 100 meters high! However, there are other sights to explore, such as lookout points where visitors can sit down and enjoy views overlooking both sides of Wallaman Falls and beyond!
How to get there from Cairnes: To get to the falls, you’ll need to drive about 2 hours from Townsville or 3 hours 45 min from Cairns.
Best time to go: The best time to go is during the wet season between November and April when temperatures are warm but not yet too hot, between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Hike through Springbrook National Park
Springbrook National Park is a great place to visit when you need to peaceful getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life. This beautiful park is located in the Gold Coast Hinterland, making it a quick trip away from campus.
Springbrook National Park features many waterfalls and beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. You can also go on hikes through the park that take you through eucalyptus forests and rainforests with over 100 native plants!
You'll see plenty of wildlife here, too – including kangaroos!
How to get there from Brisbane: Getting there from Brisbane takes about an hour and 20 minutes—perfect if you want something quick but are on a budget! To make the most of your day trip without breaking the bank or spending hours getting lost on mountain roads, or both, head over during weekdays when crowds tend to be smaller.
Best time to go: The best time of year to visit Springbrook National Park depends on what kind of weather you're hoping for: if you're looking for warm temperatures and sunny skies, then head there between December and March. If your preference is cooler weather with intermittent showers throughout the day, then plan your trip from June through August. If cold days don't bother you, then come between February through April or September through November.
Admire the views at Lamington National Park
Lamington National Park is a beautiful national park in the Gold Coast hinterland. It's known for its diversity of plant life, which includes many rare species, including orchids and grass trees. You can hike through the rainforest and see waterfalls, explore caves or stay overnight in one of the park's cabins. There are even some impressive lookouts that offer great views of the area!
How to get there from Brisbane: Lamington National Park has two main entrances near Canungra, just under an hour and a half from Brisbane. There’s also another entrance at Binna Burra, about 2 hours from Brisbane.
Best time to go: The best time to go is between September and November, when you'll have better chances of seeing wildlife such as koalas. If you're going during the winter months, then be sure to dress warmly because it gets very cold at night!
Adventure around Fraser Island
If you've ever wanted to explore one of the largest sand islands in the world, you're in luck. Fraser Island is located off the coast of Queensland and features beautiful beaches. These rainforests go right up to the sand, endless stretches of beach, and plenty of opportunities for adventure. It's home to various animals and plants—including dingoes—and is a popular tourist destination thanks to its natural beauty.
Fraser Island offers many different activities for travelers: a train ride through several towns along the coastline, sandboarding down a dune at Mount Montague, swimming at Wanggoolba Creek, and canoeing on Lake McKenzie.
If you're looking for an affordable day trip from Brisbane that offers all this plus more, head over to Fraser Island!
How to get there from Brisbane: Fly into Hervey Bay Airport from Brisbane, a 50-minute flight. Take Highway 1 south along Great Sandy Strait to relax on Rainbow Beach. You can also camp overnight at Orchid Beach Camping Ground.
Best time to go: Year-round, depending on what you prefer. In the spring and autumn time, you'll get cooler temperatures around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're looking to do outdoor activities the best time to go is from December to February when the sun is out.
Explore wildlife in the Daintree Rainforest
The Daintree Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in Australia, and it’s home to many unique plant and animal species. It’s also a great day trip option for students who want to learn more about the natural environment of Queensland.
The Daintree Rainforest is one of only two places in Australia where you can spot a komodo dragon, the world's largest lizard – the other is the Australia Zoo. It also contains more than 1,500 species of flowering plants!
The best way to explore this stunning landscape is on foot or by kayak, depending on what you're willing to do. You can hike through lush green forests and swim in waterfalls along crystal clear creeks where you may come across freshwater crocodiles, so stay alert!. If you’re looking for something more relaxing but still adventurous, take a kayaking tour through beautiful waterways that wind around mangroves and up against cliffs with breathtaking views.
How to get there from Cairnes: The Daintree Rainforest is near Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation. Drive north on Bruce Highway until you reach Mossman. Then take Kennedy Highway (Atherton Hwy) until Daintree Village. The drive will take about 2 hours and 20 minutes total, depending on traffic conditions.
Best time to go: December through March because this is when the rainy season ends, so it might be less humid than other seasons.
Enjoy a picnic on the Sunflower Route
The Sunflower Route is a great day trip from Brisbane, and it's easy to get to. It's an excellent way to get out of the city and into some countryside to see what Australian farms are like. There are many things to do on this route, including picnicking at one of its many parks or visiting its national parks. The Sunflower Route begins at Victoria Point on Moreton Bay and ends in Toogoolawah.
How to get there from Brisbane: It takes about three hours by car (but note that public transport options are limited). If driving yourself isn't an option (maybe your school doesn't allow it), consider taking advantage of one of many tour companies offering guided tours along this scenic route!
Best time to go: TThe best time to visit this region is between January and March when everything looks lush green with sunflowers blooming everywhere!
Get to know your new backyard
Whether you’re reading this post during your study abroad or before, we hope these day trip ideas have helped you plan a semester abroad in Queensland. It’s such a beautiful place, from the beaches to the mountains and everything in-between. There are so many reasons to study there (especially if you love nature), so we hope that some of these day trips will inspire you to get out and explore!