Travel

The Best Weekend Getaways in Queensland

It's time to escape the city.

Hinterland hideaways, tropical beaches, far-flung islands, outback adventures and coastal escapes; Queensland is a weekender’s playground. Whether you’re chasing the sun or seeking time in nature, the contrasting landscapes of the sunshine state cater to getaways of every kind.

Sun, sand, and surf, here’s to holidaying on your home turf; these are the best weekend getaways in Queensland.

Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Southern Gold Coast

Distance from Brisbane: 1 hour, 13 minutes by car
Far from the skyscrapers and thronging beaches of Surfers Paradise, the Southern Gold Coast’s enviable location gives it a thriving personality all its own. World-renowned surf beaches, oceanside national parks, award-winning restaurants and a thriving bar scene make it the perfect eat, stay, play weekend getaway in Queensland.

Stretching from Palm Beach all the way down to the New South Wales border, spend a weekend exploring the coastal towns of Palm Beach, Miami, Burleigh, Currumbin, and Coolangatta. Seek out Burleigh Beach, Snapper Rocks, Tallebudgera Creek, and Burleigh National Park; the natural beauty of this place is on another level. Beautiful beaches aside, dining out is practically a hobby here; get caffeinated on GC’s famous café scene – home to some of Australia’s best coffee north of Melbourne – and fill up on incredible local fare everywhere from casual beachside bars to high-end hatted restaurants.

Lamington National Park, Queensland
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Gold Coast Hinterland

Distance from Brisbane: 1 hour, 30 minutes by car
When you need a weekend away from the daily grind, there’s nothing like a visit to Queensland’s Gold Coast Hinterland. Just 30 minutes from the beaches of the Southern Coast it couldn’t be more different. An idyllic hilltop location where Queensland’s infamous humidity evaporates, the ‘green behind the gold’ boasts some of the prettiest vistas in Queensland, as well as some of the oldest landscapes in the world.

Walk under the ancient canopies of World Heritage-Listed Lamington National Park, hike the depths of the Numinbah Valley, and take in the countless (breathtaking) waterfalls and creeks. A day’s trail makes for hungry work; take in the old-world charm of Mount Tambourine, where cafes and local larders line the heritage-listed high street, and where Queensland’s oldest distillery, Tambourine Mountain Distillery, pours award-winning tipples.

A turtle swimming at the Great Barrier Reef, Queensland.
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Great Barrier Reef

Distance from Brisbane: 15 hours, 22 minutes by car (maybe get a flight)
While it’s impossible to fully absorb the sheer size and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef in a weekend, there are dozens of regions to stay and dip your metaphorical toe. Stretching from the steamy tip of Cape York down to the turquoise waters of Bundaberg, the world’s largest coral reef system is made up of extensive national parks, coral cays and tropical islands, each location a kaleidoscope of colour and breathtaking beauty – both above and below sea level.

Perhaps it’s diving or snorkelling the reef that gets your vote. The southern and northern Great Barrier Reef combined are made of over 3,000 individual reefs, where some of the world’s most unique ocean life is found. You can even sleep on an outrigger for maximum diving time, should the mood strike. Maybe it’s the allure of kicking back on an island in the Whitsundays, drink in hand in paradise. Perhaps we’ll never know why this natural wonder is so popular…

Noosa Main Beach
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Noosa


Distance from Brisbane: 1 hour, 55 minutes by car
An easy two-hour drive from Queensland capital, Brisbane, it’s easy to see why city-dwellers hit the highway to the wildly attractive beach town of Noosa. A tropical playground of sun, sea and sand (and one of the best surf spots in the country), with high-end shopping and exquisite dining options, Noosa makes quite the argument for the best weekend getaway. You could choose to while away your stay on the overtly pretty Hastings Beach – a perfectly acceptable way to spend a weekend – but there’s so much more to this coastal town than meets the eye.

Moments from Hastings Beach is Noosa National Park, bursting with coastal walks, rock pools, secret beaches, and even koala sightings. Neighbouring coastal towns of Sunshine Beach, Peregian and Coolum each have their own flavour too, with a handful of cafes and restaurants all centred around incredible beaches. Finally, 20 minutes from town, there’s the majestic Sunshine Coast hinterland; a verdant collection of national parks and sleepy towns, local markets and farm stays, rolling hills and ranges, and lots of artisan cheese.

Marine in Port Douglas, Queensland
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Port Douglas

Distance from Brisbane: 20 hours, 15 minutes by car (probably fly?)
If your ideal weekend getaway involves nothing but balmy days, tropical beaches, and maybe a trip to a tropical rainforest or two, then headway, way north to the pretty village of Port Douglas. An hour’s drive north of Cairns, Port Douglas’s laid-back lifestyle and strong community spirit is a dead-set charmer, drawing visitors from all over thanks to its tropical weather and picturesque backdrop.

Do as little, or as much, as you like up here. The town’s iconic Four Mile Beach is within walking distance from the centre of town and has an impressive trailhead to Flagstaff Hill where the views speak for themselves. It’s also a fantastic base for holidaymakers looking to explore the only place where two of Australia’s World Heritage-listed sites (the Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest) meet. Day trips to the region’s natural beauties Mossman Gorge, Cape Tribulation, Atherton Tablelands, are a must.

Mount Barney, Queensland
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Scenic Rim

Distance from Brisbane: 1 hour, 23 minutes by car
If Queensland’s impeccable coastline doesn’t do it for you, then a weekend getaway to the Scenic Rim might be. Farm stays, historic homestays, camping – even glamping, the Scenic Rim is where you come to embrace the great outdoors. Home to a World Heritage rainforest and six national parks, the region oozes beauty with rolling hills, vast mountain ranges, waterfalls and natural swimming holes, and driving and walking trails as far as the eye can see.

Hit up the local roadside stalls and farm gates for farm-fresh goodies from right across the region. There’s a reason it’s called Australia’s ‘salad bowl’. On your doorstep are dozens of country towns and sleepy villages like Boonah, Canungra, and Kalbar to uncover, and the beautiful Mount Tambourine, Mt Lindesay, Lamington National Park and Mt Barney are just some of the big-ticket beauties to get lost in. A weekend of walks in the fresh air, market hauls and, dare we say, untold cheese boards. This is country living.

Bundaberg, Queensland
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Bundaberg

Distance from Brisbane: 4 hours, 25 minutes by car
The gateway to the extraordinary Southern Great Barrier Reef, the chilled coastal town of Bundaberg on Queensland’s central coast is a drawcard for nature lovers – not least for its famous locals, loggerhead turtles. Home to the largest turtle rookery in the Southern Hemisphere, the region is the epicentre of turtle conservation (read: sightings), with nearby islands Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot popular destinations for wildlife encounters, education, and unparalleled access to the spoils of the reef.

On land, Bundaberg punches well above its weight, boasting burgeoning art and dining scene showcasing the abundance of local produce grown in the region. This little pocket of the sunshine state is also the birthplace of Australia’s iconic Bundaberg Rum; the distillery offering tours and tastings of Queensland’s most famous export. If you know, you know…

Girraween National Park at sunset.
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Girraween National Park

Distance from Brisbane: 3 hours, 12 minutes by car
One of the few places in Queensland that experiences four seasons, visitors flock to Girraween National Park and Southern Queensland Country for charming country townships, award-winning produce, crisp winter nights – even dustings of snow in the depth of winter. Approximately three hours west of Brisbane, the landscape here is the opposite of verdant, sub-tropical rainforests; soaring granite formations and rugged forests dominate the horizon, making a refreshing change of scenery.

Hiking, rock climbing and camping are favourite pastimes in this rocky terrain, Girraween itself boasts more than 30kms of walking tracks and remote camping sites to really get a feel for the place. Its reputation as ‘food and wine country’ is palpable; nearby Stanthorpe, Granite Belt, Ballandean and the Southern Downs have dozens of local cellar doors, boutique breweries and produce stores dotted around the countryside, with wine tours an (unsurprisingly) popular alternative to mountain hikes.

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Travel

Ditch your Phone for ‘Dome Life’ in this Pastoral Paradise Outside Port Macquarie 

A responsible, sustainable travel choice for escaping big city life for a few days.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

The urge to get as far away as possible from the incessant noise and pressures of ‘big city life’ has witnessed increasingly more of us turn to off-grid adventures for our holidays: Booking.com polled travellers at the start of 2023 and 55% of us wanted to spend our holidays ‘off-grid’.  Achieving total disconnection from the unyielding demands of our digitised lives via some kind of off-grid nature time—soft or adventurous—is positioned not only as a holiday but, indeed, a necessity for our mental health. 

Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, an accommodation collection of geodesic domes dotted across a lush rural property in Greater Port Macquarie (a few hours’ drive from Sydney, NSW), offers a travel experience that is truly ‘off-grid’. In the figurative ‘wellness travel’ sense of the word, and literally, they run on their own independent power supply—bolstered by solar—and rely not on the town grid. 

Ten minutes before you arrive at the gates for a stay at Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, your phone goes into ‘SOS ONLY’. Apple Maps gives up, and you’re pushed out of your comfort zone, driving down unsealed roads in the dark, dodging dozens of dozing cows. Then, you must ditch your car altogether and hoist yourself into an open-air, all-terrain 4WD with gargantuan wheels. It’s great fun being driven through muddy gullies in this buggy; you feel like Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park.  As your buggy pulls in front of your personal Nature Dome, it’s not far off that “Welcome…to Jurassic Park” jaw-dropping moment—your futuristic-looking home is completely engulfed by thriving native bushland; beyond the outdoor campfire lie expansive hills and valleys of green farmland, dotted with sheep and trees. You’re almost waiting to see a roaming brachiosaurus glide past, munching on a towering gum tree…instead, a few inquisitive llamas trot past your Dome to check out their new visitor. 

To fully capture the awe of inhabiting a geodesic dome for a few days, a little history of these futuristic-looking spherical structures helps. Consisting of interlocking triangular skeletal struts supported by (often transparent) light walls, geodesic domes were developed in the 20th century by American engineer and architect R. Buckminster Fuller, and were used for arenas. Smaller incarnations have evolved into a ‘future-proof’ form of modern housing: domes are able to withstand harsh elements due to the stability provided by the durable materials of their construction and their large surface area to volume ratio (which helps minimize wind impact and prevents the structure from collapsing). As housing, they’re also hugely energy efficient – their curved shape helps to conserve heat and reduce energy costs, making them less susceptible to temperature changes outside. The ample light let in by their panels further reduces the need for artificial power. 

Due to their low environmental impact, they’re an ideal sustainable travel choice. Of course, Tom’s Creek Nature Domes’ owner-operators, Cardia and Lee Forsyth, know all this, which is why they have set up their one-of-a-kind Nature Domes experience for the modern traveller. It’s also no surprise to learn that owner Lee is an electrical engineer—experienced in renewable energy—and that he designed the whole set-up. As well as the off-grid power supply, rainwater tanks are used, and the outdoor hot tub is heated by a wood fire—your campfire heats up your tub water via a large metal coil. Like most places in regional Australia, the nights get cold – but rather than blast a heater, the Domes provide you with hot water bottles, warm blankets, lush robes and heavy curtains to ward off the chill.

nature domes port macquarie
Photo: Nature Domes

You’ll need to be self-sufficient during your stay at the Domes, bringing your own food. Support local businesses and stock up in the town of Wauchope on your drive-in (and grab some pastries and coffee at Baked Culture while you’re at it). There’s a stovetop, fridge (stocked as per a mini bar), BBQs, lanterns and mozzie coils, and you can even order DIY S’More packs for fireside fun. The interiors of the Domes have a cosy, stylish fit-out, with a modern bathroom (and a proper flushing toilet—none of that drop bush toilet stuff). As there’s no mobile reception, pack a good book or make the most of treasures that lie waiting to be discovered at every turn: a bed chest full of board games, a cupboard crammed with retro DVDs, a stargazing telescope (the skies are ablaze come night time). Many of these activities are ideal for couples, but there’s plenty on offer for solo travellers, such as yoga mats, locally-made face masks and bath bombs for hot tub soaks. 

It’s these thoughtful human touches that reinforce the benefit of making a responsible travel choice by booking local and giving your money to a tourism operator in the Greater Port Macquarie Region, such as Tom’s Creek Nature Domes. The owners are still working on the property following the setbacks of COVID-19, and flooding in the region —a new series of Domes designed with families and groups in mind is under construction, along with an open-air, barn-style dining hall and garden stage. Once ready, the venue will be ideal for wedding celebrations, with wedding parties able to book out the property. They’ve already got one couple—who honeymooned at the Domes—ready and waiting. Just need to train up the llamas for ring-bearer duties! 

An abundance of favourite moments come to mind from my two-night stay at Tom’s Creek: sipping champagne and gourmet picnicking at the top of a hill on a giant swing under a tree, with a bird’s eye view of the entire property (the ‘Mountain Top picnic’ is a must-do activity add on during your stay), lying on a deckchair at night wrapped in a blanket gazing up at starry constellations and eating hot melted marshmallows, to revelling in the joys of travellers before me, scrawled on notes in a jar of wishes left by the telescope (you’re encouraged to write your own to add to the jar). But I’ll leave you with a gratitude journal entry I made while staying there. I will preface this by saying that I don’t actually keep a gratitude journal, but Tom’s Creek Nature Domes is just the kind of place that makes you want to start one. And so, waking up on my second morning at Tom’s —lacking any 4G bars to facilitate my bad habit of a morning Instagram scroll—I finally opened up a notebook and made my first journal entry:

‘I am grateful to wake up after a deep sleep and breathe in the biggest breaths of this clean air, purified by nature and scented with eucalyptus and rain. I am grateful for this steaming hot coffee brewed on a fire. I feel accomplished at having made myself. I am grateful for the skittish sheep that made me laugh as I enjoyed a long nature walk at dawn and the animated billy goats and friendly llamas overlooking my shoulder as I write this: agreeable company for any solo traveller. I’m grateful for total peace, absolute stillness.” 

Off-grid holiday status: unlocked.

Where: Tom’s Creek Nature Domes, Port Macquarie, 2001 Toms Creek Rd
Price: $450 per night, book at the Natura Domes website.

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