Lucinda Starr

by Lucinda Starr

posted on November 27, 2023

Want to experience the best of the Sunshine State with a road trip from Brisbane? Situated in the southeastern corner of Australia, Brisbane is the perfect place to begin your next Queensland adventure.

Take it from me – a road trip from Brisbane allows you to experience Queensland’s sparkling coastline, lush hinterland and even world heritage listed attractions. With diverse landscapes on your doorstep and plenty of well-maintained roads to get you there, trust me – there is no shortage of epic road trip destinations to reach from Brisbane.

Whether you’re looking to make a day drive from Brisbane, tackle a multi-day itinerary or just a short break or weekend away, here are 17 of the best road trips from Brisbane that you need to add to your radar.

Choose your route: An overview of the best road trips from Brisbane

The toughest thing about planning a road trip from Brisbane is picking where to go. From stunning beaches to bustling city streets, Brisbane is your gateway to the best attractions of QLD (Australia’s second largest state).

Depending on how much time you have and what you want to see along the way, this quick guide to Brisbane road trips will help you plan your next adventure in the Sunshine State like a pro.

While the below summary doesn’t cover the full article (you’ll have to keep reading for the remaining hidden destinations), here are some of my top picks:

Best day drives from Brisbane: looking for the best places to go near Brisbane by car? These are the top day trips to try from Brisbane:

Best weekend away drives from Brisbane: ready to experience of the best short breaks from Brisbane by road? These weekend getaway spots are perfect 4-day road trip itineraries from Brisbane:

Best longer drives from Brisbane: hitting the road for a 7-day or 10-day road trip from Brisbane? These are some of the best destinations to add to your radar:

Finally, if you want to drive even further, be sure check out our comprehensive Brisbane to Sydney road trip guide.



Gold Coast

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 1 hour’s drive via the M1
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 77.7km
  • Recommended stops: Tackle a walking track at Tamborine National Park, swim in the waterfalls of Cedar Creek Falls, grab a bite at the historic Cangungra Hotel or swim in the clear waters of Currumbin Beach.
  • Best time to visit: A road during spring (September to November) or autumn (March to May) will bring fewer crowds and warm temperatures.
  • Perfect for: Families looking to keep the kids entertained with an easy day trip or quick weekend getaway that doesn’t require hours on the road.

Hit the motorway, and within an hour, you’ll have ventured from Brisbane to the Gold Coast. With over 50km of sandy beaches, it’s not hard to see where the Gold Coast gets its name. From Surfers Paradise to Burleigh Heads, expect a cosmopolitan city and coastal destination known for its incredible surf breaks, thriving nightlife and top notch shopping strips.

Miami beach in the Gold Coast, a 1 hour drive from Brisbane.

Head to the Gold Coast hinterland for lush greenery, abundant rainforests and stunning walking trails. Travelling with kids? The Gold Coast is known as Australia’s theme park capital, with Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild all located in the area.

Whether you spend the day shopping at Pacific Fair (one of Queensland’s largest shopping centres), visit the SkyPoint Observation Deck or try your hand at paddleboarding or kayaking, there’s plenty to keep you busy for a day trip or even a weekend away on the Gold Coast.

Sunshine Coast

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 113km via the M1
  • Recommended stops: Visit the famous Australia Zoo, enjoy a coastal walk at Noosa National Park, swing by the coastal town of Coolum Beach and explore Maroochydore’s city centre.
  • Best time to visit: Spring (September to November) offers warm temperatures, low humidity, lush greenery and blooming native plants.
  • Perfect for: Beach enthusiasts and adventure seekers who are looking for the perfect blend of hiking and surfing.

Looking to beat the crowds, theme parks and high rises of the Gold Coast? Head to the Sunshine Coast, an easy 90 minute drive from Brisbane. Spanning over 60km of coastline, expect white sandy beaches, heritage listed national parks and impressive dining experiences.

Don’t miss the iconic Australia Zoo, founded by Steve Irwin (a.k.a. the crocodile hunter). Boasting over 1,200 animals, this conservation facility offers up close and personal encounters with Sumatran tigers, cuddly koalas and African cheetahs.

From July to October, the Sunshine Coast proves the perfect place to swim with humpback whales as they migrate down the coast. Further inland, the Sunshine Coast hinterland offers opportunities to chase waterfalls (such as Gardner’s Falls near Maleny), take a hike and summit the Glass House Mountains.

Back on the coastline, don’t miss the coastal sand cliffs of Great Sandy National Park (and make sure to enjoy a picnic at Cooloolah Recreation Area while you’re there).

Tip from the author: Looking for an unforgettable 5-day road trip from Brisbane? I highly recommend tackling the Great Beach Drive, covering 380km of rugged coastline from Noosa to Hervey Bay.

Noosa

  • Driving time from Brisbane: around 2 hours
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 156km via the M1
  • Recommended stops: Visit the striking volcanic peaks of the Glass House Mountains, take a swim at Coolum Beach or visit the famous markets at Eumundi.
  • Best time to visit: While summer is the most popular season to visit Noosa, we recommend visiting in the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn for milder temperatures, fewer crowds and lower humidity.
  • Perfect for: Couples and older families looking for an upscale beachside spot to wine, dine and soak in the outdoors on the Sunshine Coast over a long weekend.

Situated on the northern-most point of the Sunshine Coast, Noosa is a relaxed tropical paradise offering upscale dining, luxe accommodation and boutique shopping. The best bit? Noosa is an easy two hour drive from Brisbane, making this the perfect Sunshine Coast spot for your next weekend road trip.

From the hiking trails of Noosa National Park to a dip in the water of Noosa Heads Main Beach, Noosa proves to be one of the best spots to surf, swim and soak in the sun. Fun fact: Noosa was named the 10th World Surfing Reserve in 2019, a testament to the area’s exceptional, world-class waves.

Driving on Noosa Beach.
Driving on Noosa beach – Don’t forget, off-roading is a prohibited use on Turo.

Shopping lovers: head to the renowned Hastings Street, offering an array of cafes, restaurants, bars and premium shopping spots. Plus, take the short 30 minute drive to the famous Eumundi Markets, running every Saturday and Wednesday morning and offers fresh local produce, fashion as well as arts and crafts.

Tip from the author: For a full road trip itinerary, check out our Brisbane to Noosa drive itinerary.

Byron Bay

  • Driving time from Brisbane: roughly 2 hours
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 165km with the M1
  • Recommended stops: Experience the bustling nightlife of Surfers Paradise, explore the border town of Tweed Heads and discover the unique hippie hotspot of Nimbin.
  • Best time to visit: If you’re looking to hike, snorkel and surf, spring (September to November) is an ideal time to visit Byron Bay, which offers mild temperatures and less rainfall.
  • Perfect for: Active couples and foodies looking to experience fresh local produce and exceptional coastal hikes.

From Cape Byron Lighthouse to the sparkling Wategos Beach, there’s so much to soak in with a trip from Brisbane to Byron Bay. Just over two hour’s south of Brisbane, this northern NSW town has been a hippie haven for decades and is now best known for its lush hinterland, pristine beaches and exceptional dining destinations and boutique shops.

Relax and recharge on Tallows Beach (a personal favourite), enjoy an incredible paddock-to-plate meal from Three Blue Ducks’ restaurant at The Farm or visit the iconic Byron Farmers Markets (running every Thursday morning).

As far as Brisbane road trips go, a drive to Byron Bay offers some of the best secluded beaches, top notch dining and stunning natural beauty along Australia’s East Coast.

Bidja’s Ford Mondeo in Brisbane – Why not book a car for your next road trip from Brisbane?

Heading to Byron Bay? Check out our Brisbane to Byron Bay drive guide before you head off.

Scenic Rim

  • Driving time from Brisbane: roughly 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 98.5km via Ipswich Boonah Road and State Route 93
  • Recommended stops: Visit the historic township of Ipswich, explore the lush countryside of the Darling Downs and experience Goomburra Valley, situated at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.
  • Best time to visit: Autumn offers vibrant foliage and warm temperatures, making it a perfect time to visit the Scenic Rim if you plan to hike or camp.
  • Perfect for: Avid hikers who are looking to tackle the incredible national park hikes of the UNESCO world heritage site, Gondwana Rainforest.

It’s hard to believe the Scenic Rim area is just over an hour’s drive from the heart of Brisbane (via National Route 13). From rolling hills to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest as well as six national parks, a day trip to Scenic Rim is a must-see for locals and travellers alike.

Named as one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 regions in the world to visit in 2022, Scenic Rim covers an incredible 4,000 square kilometres at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range.

Make sure to visit Tamborine National Park (Queensland’s oldest national park) along with the neighbouring parks such as Lamington National Park and Borders Ranges National Park.

Tip from the author: Looking to soak in more natural beauty? Head to the nearby Springbrook National Park, brimming with incredible subtropical rainforest, rare plants and protected animals. Once you finish your hike, you’re just a short 50 minute drive to the Southeast Queensland’s iconic Gold Coast hinterland.

Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 12 hours 40 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 1,124km via the Bruce Highway and A1
  • Recommended stops: Take a stroll along the Mackay waterfront, explore Rockhampton (the beef capital of Australia) and don’t miss the bustling coastal town of Noosa.
  • Best time to visit: The dry Season (May to October) is the most popular time to visit Airlie Beach, offering mild temperatures and less rainfall.
  • Perfect for: Ocean lovers and honeymooners looking to experience the coral reefs and marine life of the Great Barrier Reef from The Whitsundays (a magnificent island just off the Queensland coast).

Get ready for one of Australia’s most iconic coastal drives as you head north from Queensland’s capital city to the white sands of Airlie Beach and The Whitsundays. Best experienced over two to three days, this epic road trip will take you from Brisbane to Airlie Beach in tropical north Queensland.

Just over 1,100km, the majority of your drive will happen on the Bruce Highway. While the 13 hour drive can be tackled in one day with multiple drivers, we’d recommend staying in a few spots along the way (such as the Sunshine Coast town of Noosa).

Once you arrive in Airlie Beach, you can take the short 30-minute ferry to The Whitsundays to explore the world heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. As one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions, it’s worth booking accommodation and guided snorkelling tours ahead of time (especially if you plan to travel in peak season).

If you’ve already found yourself in Airlie Beach, you can always rent a car from an Airlie Beach local and start your journey there.

Stanthorpe

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 2 hours 45 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 217km
  • Recommended stops: Take the inland route of swing by Toowoomba, explore the coastal town of Caloundra and experience the picturesque town of Killarney.
  • Best time to visit: Wine lovers, autumn is one of the best seasons to visit Stanthorpe. Not only is it harvest season for the vineyards, but the mild temperatures make for a pleasant weekend away.
  • Perfect for: Wine lovers looking for a foodie destination with stunning national parks to visit along the way.

Planning your next long weekend road trip from Brisbane? Located 220km southwest of Brisbane in Queensland’s Granite belt is Stanthorpe, a stunning country town brimming with wineries, scenic landscapes and abundant fruit orchards.

Wine fans will be treated to an abundant selection of wineries and picturesque vineyards (best explored with a cycling tour). Plus, don’t miss the Truffle Discovery Centre in Stanthorpe to sample this coveted delicacy.

After drinking and dining, make sure to visit the Girraween National Park and check out the iconic rock formation of Balancing Rock (a popular selfie spot in the area).

Fraser Island (K’gari)

  • Driving time from Brisbane: roughly 6 hours
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 360km
  • Recommended stops: Explore the gateway town of Hervey Bay, visit the colourful sands of Rainbow Beach and discover the unique Noosa Everglades ecosystem.
  • Best time to visit: Plan your road trip during the Dry Season (May to October) for mild temperatures and a lower chance of rain.
  • Perfect for: Beach lovers looking to experience one of the most unique coastal ecosystems in Australia.

Want to experience the largest sand island in the world? This is the perfect 4-day road trip from Brisbane.

Situated around six hour’s drive from Brisbane is the world heritage listed site of Fraser Island. Made from ancient sand dunes, Fraser Island stretches over 123 kilometres long (making it just larger than its neighbour sand islands of Stradbroke Island, Moreton Island and Bribie Island).

Maheno Wreck on Fraser Island.

This island is brimming with natural beauty, from untouched beaches to ancient rainforests and of course the iconic 75 Mile Beach (accessible by a four wheel drive car). Here, you’ll find memorable attractions like the bubbly rock pools of Champagne Pool.

While most of this road trip will be along the M1 and then State Route 57, you’ll need to use a car ferry from River Heads to reach Fraser Island.

Moreton Island

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 25 minutes by car, then 75 minutes by ferry
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 25km
  • Best time to visit: Again, the Dry Season (May to October) is the best time to visit, allowing you to explore the island without worrying about rain or hot temperatures.
  • Perfect for: Brisbane locals or travellers looking for an easy day trip filled with water sports and outdoor adventures.

Short on time? As far as day trips go, the journey from Brisbane to Moreton Island is one of the quickest (and best) itineraries to try.

Located just 25km from the shores of Brisbane, you’ll encounter the third largest sand island of Moreton Island. Expect to encounter wildflowers, dolphins at dusk and crystal clear waters.

While the first part of your journey should only take 30 minutes by car, you’ll then need to drive on the Micat car ferry (departing from Holt Street Wharf in Brisbane).

North Stradbroke Island

  • Driving time from Brisbane: roughly 2 hours, including a ferry trip
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 57km
  • Best time to visit: Plan your trip during the Dry Season (May to October) as this is the most popular time to visit North Stradbroke Island.
  • Perfect for: Families looking for a fun-filled day trip on a relaxed beach with white sands and gentle waves.

One of the best holiday destinations near Brisbane and easily accessible from Brisbane’s CBD is North Stradbroke Island. Known to the locals as ‘Straddie’, expect to encounter a relaxed beachside town brimming with marine life, kangaroos and the photogenic cove of Cylinder Beach (a protected white sand beach perfect for families).

After taking a short 45 minute drive to Toondah Harbour on the coast of QLD, take the ferry to reach the island (both cars and passengers are welcome onboard).

Unlike the hustle and bustle of the Gold Coast, North Stradbroke Island offers one of the easiest, serene and most unique road trips from Brisbane.

Glass House Mountains

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 77km
  • Recommended stops: Explore the Sunshine Coast town of Montville, tackle the Trachyte Circuit in the Beerburrum State Forest and soak in the scenery at the Wild Horse Mountain Lookout.
  • Best time to visit: Winter (June to August) offers dry weather and mild temperatures, the perfect conditions for tackling hiking trails or even rock climbing.
  • Perfect for: Hikers and bushwalkers will love the incredible trail options offered across the Glass House Mountains.

From walking trails to watering holes, Glass House Mountains is a must-see Queensland destination for outdoor adventurers.

On the shorter side of road trips from Brisbane, Glass House Mountains is situated on the Sunshine Coast and boasts 11 magnificent peaks. From walkers to trail runners and even mountain bikers, this stunning spot in the Sunshine Coast hinterland offers something for everyone.

Try your hand at the short 1 hour summit to Mt Ngungun or challenge yourself to a rock scrambling adventure along the Yul-yan-man track (a 9km return circuit from Beerburrumn trailhead which should take 3 to 4 hours).

Toowoomba and Darling Downs Region

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 127km
  • Recommended stops: Stretch your legs at the Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens or Glow Worm Caves and visit the historic Lowood Railway Station.
  • Best time to visit: Experience the vivid floral displays of the Carnival of Flowers, running annually in September.
  • Perfect for: Families looking for a lush garden-filled spot to picnic, play in parks and soak in the sunshine.

Discover Toowoomba, Queensland’s largest inland city, and the surrounding Darling Downs Region with a road trip from Brisbane. Head west for 127km and you’ll reach the Garden City of QLD, renowned for its lush gardens and parks.

Whether you take a stroll through Queens Park or Japanese Gardens, enjoy the Laneway Street Art Crawl or visit the Toowoomba Farmers Markets, there’s something for everyone in this welcoming inland town.

Fun fact: did you know the iconic Aussie treat, the Lamington, was reportedly first made in Toowoomba in 1886?

Priyanka’s Mercedes Benz B Class in Brisbane – If you’re choosing a longer drive, I highly recommend choosing a comfy car!

Cairns

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 20 hours
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 1,788km
  • Recommended stops: Spot platypuses at Eungella National Park, visit the Big Mango at Bowen and explore the lush rainforests and stunning beaches of Mission Beach.
  • Best time to visit: Looking for low humidity and a low chance of rainfall? Book your road trip from Brisbane to Cairns during the Dry Season (May to October).
  • Perfect for: Divers and snorkelers looking to experience one of the most renowned coral reefs in the world.

While it might be one of the longest road trips in this guide, making the trip from Brisbane to Cairns is well worth the drive.

Situated in far north Queensland, Cairns is your gateway to both the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest (two must-see natural attractions in Australia).

This 20+ hour drive will take you along the M1 (and later that Bruce Highway A1), with the opportunity to stop at Mission Beach (via Pacific Coast Way), Townsville or even Mackay.

If you’re completing this road trip in reverse, why not rent a car in Cairns on Turo?

Check out our comprehensive Brisbane to Cairns road trip guide here.

Hot tip: why not continue your drive north to Port Douglas? Roughly 67km north, take the scenic drive along Captain Cook Highway to soak in stunning views across the Coral Sea.

Top stop: Between Brisbane and Cairns, a hidden gem that you can’t miss is The FLACKYARD, located in the lush Pioneer Valley. This intimate restaurant is situated within an old church and is run by the Flack family, who create degustation experiences with authentic local produce and Australian native ingredients that they strive to source from First Nations owned and led businesses.

Where to visit beyond Queensland: interstate road trips from Brisbane

Brisbane to Sydney

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 9 hours 31 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 909km
  • Recommended stops: Visit the historic Tacking Point Highlight at Port Macquarie, visit the Big Banana at Coffs Harbour, experience the relaxed coastal town of Yamba and make a pit stop at Ballina or Lennox Head.
  • Best time to visit: Experience Sydney in bloom by visiting during Spring (September to November) for warm temperatures and outdoor events (like the Sculptures by the Sea Exhibition along the coastal walk from Bondi to Bronte).

Want to experience the best of Australia’s east coast? This epic drive from Brisbane to Sydney takes you through the best of QLD and NSW’s coastline. Whether you tackle it in one day or break it up over a 3-day road trip, get ready for stunning cliffside views, quaint coastal towns and epic swim spots along the way.

Brisbane to Canberra

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 12 hours 4 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 1,184km
  • Recommended stops: Visit Tamworth (Australia’s country music capital), enjoy the foodie paradise of Orange and explore the heritage listed buildings of Yass.
  • Best time to visit: Don’t miss Floriade, Australia’s largest flower festival, happening annually in Canberra during September and October.

Get ready for an inland driving route spanning through QLD, NSW and the ACT. From the rolling hills of the Southern Highlands to the vineyards of Orange, expect ever-changing terrain along this drive from Brisbane to the national capital, Canberra.

Top stop: When it comes to the foodie paradise of Orange, you can’t miss Printhie Wines. Highlights include a four course degustation lunch at their restaurant (inspired by the agricultural history of the owners, the Swift family), fresh oysters shucked to order (from a custom built oyster tank, the only one in Australia), and a range of experiences that go beyond the cellar door (including picnics, masterclasses, fly fishing, helicopter tours).

Recommended reading: Why not keep your road trip going with our guide to driving from Canberra to Melbourne?

Brisbane to Melbourne

  • Driving time from Brisbane: roughly 18 hours
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 1,776km
  • Recommended stops: Experience the laid-back coast hinterland at Byron Bay, swing by the foodie hotspot of the Hunter Valley, enjoy the best of the NSW South Coast at Jervis Bay and savour world-class dairy products in Bega.
  • Best time to visit: Visit Melbourne in Spring for mild temperatures and pleasant weather, perfect for exploring Victoria’s capital city.

Best enjoyed over multiple days with stops along the way, the road trip from Brisbane to Melbourne is a true epic. Whether you cut inland through the country towns of NSW and VIC or stick along the scenic coastal route, you’ll be treated to lush rainforests, rugged national parks and incredibly diverse ecosystems along the way.

Brisbane to Adelaide

  • Driving time from Brisbane: 22 hours 10 minutes
  • Driving distance from Brisbane: 2,033km
  • Recommended stops: Experience Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, explore the historic town of Bathurst, enjoy a paddle steamer cruise in Milbura and stop by the wineries of McLaren Vale.
  • Best time to visit: With flowers in full bloom, head to Adelaide in Spring for a lush outdoor experience.

Looking for an unmissable Australian road trip? Curate your perfect itinerary from Brisbane to Adelaide in South Australia, a drive best enjoyed over 7+ days. Tackle the scenic Great Ocean Road, visit the 12 Apostles and weave your way through the Grampians National Park (just to name a few).

Recommended reading: Retrace your steps with our ultimate itinerary to driving from Adelaide to Melbourne.

Final advice for the best road trip from Brisbane

Ultimately, a QLD road trip from Brisbane is a must-try experience. From the Gold Coast to tropical North Queensland, the Sunshine State offers incredible driving roads, scenic national parks and pristine beaches.

Want to secure the perfect ride for your Brisbane road trip? With Turo, you’ll find unique cars you can’t find anywhere else, ready to be delivered to you from a local Turo host. Browse cars on Turo and rent a car in Brisbane from a local host.

Do you want to start your car-sharing business? With Turo, you can sign up online in minutes and start earning income from your spare ride. Find out more and list your car on Turo.

Fabian’s MG3 in Brisbane on Turo


Lucinda Starr

Lucinda Starr

Lucinda is a Sydney-based content specialist and avid road tripper. Having travelled across Asia, North America and the South Pacific, she's experienced everything from glamping in a Yurt in -30 degrees in The Yukon, snorkelling in the open seas of Vanuatu and hiking the rocky alps of Kamikochi in Japan. She's currently planning her next overseas adventure, a toss-up between a classic #EuroSummer or a multi-day trek through Nepal.

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