A dose of Vitamin D and sea is the ultimate weekend restorative, and something the Sunshine State has in ample supply. Here, the best weekends away in Queensland for your hit list.
Never heard of Bunya Mountains? You are probably not alone, but once you look into this slice of pristine nature you are going to wonder why it was not at the top of your bucket list for weekends away before now.
Located on the Great Dividing Range equal distance from Kingaroy and Dalby, a driving time of just three hours from Brisbane makes it easily accessible.
Once there, you are going to find endless natural wonders to explore. The landscape is blanketed with sub-tropical rainforest, eucalypt forests and woodlands teeming with soaring bunya pines.
Add to this wildlife everywhere you look, from 215 different species of birds to cute swamp wallabies and red-necked pademelons, and you are starting to get the picture.
There are lots of holiday rentals to choose from off Bunya Mountains Road; once settled in, strike out on bushwalks (rise early to see the surrounds covered in an ethereal early morning mist) and, if you have timed it right, to browse the markets that spring up on the last Saturday of every month.
Heading north out of Brisbane, it takes three hours to reach the gracious rural town of Stanthorpe. And it’s perfectly proportioned for exploring, sitting within the state’s majestic and fascinating Granite Belt.
The town itself is characterised by its grand heritage buildings, which line the main street, while its surrounding countryside is renowned for its produce and wineries (there are more than 50).
During summer, you can expect endless sunshine and warm nights, but it is the cool winter temperatures that surprise those from interstate who assume everywhere in Queensland is warm all the time: Stanthorpe has been anointed as the coldest town in Queensland, and the occasional light dusting of snow is not unheard of.
While there, visit its wineries, eat at its restaurants, many of which champion local produce, and spend time in the expansive landscape of Girraween National Park, with its quizzical giant balancing boulders and native fauna (such as the short-beaked echidna).
Bribie Island might be the smallest of the three major sand islands in the Moreton Bay region, but this doesn’t result in any compromise on its attractions or sights.
There are plenty of holiday rentals and resort rooms available on the island or for something a little more basic you can always pitch a tent behind the dunes at Ocean Beach for absolute water frontage.
Then, get into the island groove by beach hopping, learning to surf, taking to the water to spot dolphin and turtles or kicking back with a beach read and/or a poolside cocktail.
OK, so Cobbold Gorge is a tad more than five hours’ drive from Cairns, but the time you invest in getting there will be well worth it when you view the stunning outback landscape and take to the eerily still waters that meander through its deep chasms.
Book into one of the comfortable cabins with en suites on site, indulge in a spot of stand-up paddleboarding or get a bird’s-eye view of the gorge and its ruggedly dramatic surroundings on a helicopter flight.
Queensland’s largest inland country town might just be its most surprising, boasting as it does a thriving cafe culture and street art scene that would leave capital cities for dead.
The best way to approach a stay here is to spend a few days in town – may we suggest booking into the conveniently located Quest Toowoomba or Oaks Toowoomba Hotel – sampling the cosmopolitan vibe, and then heading an easy 20 kilometres out of town to Mount View Homestead for a station stay on a 263-hectare working cattle stud and grain growing property.
And, if you are planning ahead, opt to visit town during the colourful and fragrant annual Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers in September.
The fact that Cairns is well serviced with flights from most capital cities means this far-flung city of some 150,000 people in Tropical North Queensland is easily doable for a weekend or short break. The lure here is the sunshine, the sparkling waters that look out over the Great Barrier Reef and the coastal chic lifestyle.
But there are still some off-the-beaten-track discoveries to be made on a visit here, including the delightfully named Fairy Falls. This picturesque waterfall is ensconced in thick rainforest a 20 minute drive from the city; it takes roughly 30 minutes to walk there and back but on the return journey you can stop for a spot of wild swimming and forest bathing in the equally lovely Crystal Cascades.
North Stradbroke Island
Any exploration of short breaks in Queensland was always going to include a number of islands, and while the ones in the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays grab most people’s attention, North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah) offers the kind of casual, unaffected feel that most people are looking for, with the bonus of being an easy trip from Brisbane.
This really is the sort of getaway where you can do as little as possible, visiting the beach on a daily basis and sitting under the stars at night with a cold beer and a couple dozen fresh prawns from the Prawn Shack.
Top it off by staying in one of Minjerribah Camping’s glamping tents and you have the very definition of an Australian coastal escape.
The capital of Queensland deserves recognition as an increasingly desirable weekend getaway thanks to its expanding roster of cool destination hotels – to tell the truth, we all want to stay at The Calile Hotel – award-winning dining options and buzzing hip hoods such as Fortitude Valley and New Farm.
If you haven’t been to Brissie in a while, make sure to head to Howard Smith Wharves with its diverse eating and drinking establishments, the open-air market precinct of Eat Street Northshore and Fish Lane in South Brisbane for street art and food.
Nature doesn’t come much more pure than at Lamington National Park, in the southeast of the state within the aptly named Scenic Rim.
Part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest area, which boasts the most extensive stretches of subtropical rainforest in the world, an escape here involves immersing yourself in the lush, close vegetation and indulging in nature.
Take the Treetop Walk, with its 500 metres of steel walkway tucked into the canopy some 20 to 30 metres above the ground, learn about the wildlife on a guided bird walk and, at the end of the day, settle into the famed O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat.