With waterholes and rock climbing cliffs on Brisbane’s doorstep — and mountains and the ocean less than a 2 hour drive away — there’s no shortage of adventurous outdoor activities near Queensland’s capital city where you can get your blood pumping and fire off a few choice photos.
The best thing? Most of them are free — you just have to chip in some fuel money to get there.
1. Hike Up A Mountain
Did you know there’s a huge outdoor playground near Brisbane? The Scenic Rim region is home to dozens of mountains where you can get 360° views, uncover waterfalls, trek through lush rainforest, and traverse razorback ridges.
Mt Maroon offers up an unparalleled 360-degree panoramic view of the Scenic Rim region; you can get your heart pumping with steep inclines and exposure on the challenging Mt Barney massif, or get a spectacular sunrise lookout (and maybe even a cheeky Brisbane CBD skyline view) from Mt Cordeaux.
Ok so adventure #1 was actually 6 adventures, how’s that bang for your buck?
2. Swim In A Wild Waterhole
There’s heaps of wild swimming near Brisbane.
If you have a 4WD, you can venture to the Upper Portals via the Cleared Ridge carpark or if you haven’t got time to drive too far — check out the Cedar Creek Falls waterhole in D’Aguilar National Park, it’s really close to Brisbane.
3. Walk Under Waterfalls At Springbrook National Park
Fancy a stroll under a picturesque waterfall? Look no further than Springbrook National Park. You can take your pick of waterfalls to walk under including Twin Falls, Rainbow Falls and Blackfellow Falls — located on the Twin Falls and Warrie Circuits. You can access them from the Canyon Lookout or Tallanbanna Picnic Area carparks.
4. Go Stand Up Paddleboarding On Enoggera Reservoir
If you’re looking for some stand up paddleboarding action close to Brisbane, look no further than the Enoggera Reservoir, which is located at Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre – a mere 12km from the CBD. You can hire paddleboards (or single or double kayaks) for $20 for one hour, or $30 for two hours.
5. Escape To Stradbroke Island
Did you know that North Stradbroke Island is only a short ferry ride away from the Brisbane suburb of Cleveland?
Park up at the Toondah Harbour at Cleveland, book your ticket and hop on the ferry. The ferry takes you to Dunwich, where a local public bus meets you and takes you up to Point Lookout. From here you can enjoy the views, grab some fish and chips, find a spot in the sand for some downtime, and go for a dip in the ocean. There’s even camping available all over the island!
6. Visit Noosa’s Seaside Caves
If the ocean is calling you and your Instagram’s looking a little dull, then Noosa National Park is the place for you.
Here’s you can find caves with ocean views — and then go for a dip in the nearby idyllic Fairy Pools (remember to check tide times before you venture out).
7. Wander Through Moody Rainforest In Lamington National Park
Only a 90 minute drive from Brisbane is the lush, moody rainforest of Lamington National Park. Here you’ll find dozens of opportunities for a nature fix.
The Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park offers up waterfall and creekside views on the 17.4km Coomera Circuit, or you can venture out to spectacular lookouts on the Dave’s Creek Circuit.
Serious hikers can even hike along the 21km Border Track from the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park, camp at the Green Mountains section, and return the way they came back to the car via beautiful groves of ancient Antarctic Beech trees, vertigo inducing lookouts and the sights and sounds of local wildlife.
If you don’t mind driving another 30 minutes — head over to the Green Mountains side of Lamington National Park. The best hikes in the park are the Tooloona (17.4km return) and Albert River (21.8km return) circuits — heaven for waterfall and tree lovers. Don’t forget to look out for the ancient Antarctic Beech trees which are unique to this area.
8. Get A Banger View
It’s pretty easy to get a great mountain filled view near Brisbane.
If you’re after a drive-up view, head up to the Governor’s Chair Lookout at Spicer’s Gap or Canyon Lookout at Springbrook National Park. The latter offers up a view of three waterfalls and is best suited for a wet weather day when there’s mist about and the waterfalls are pumping.
If you can handle a short walk, wander up to Moonlight Crag in the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park or the top of Moran’s Falls. The latter two are both west facing so they are perfection at sunset.
Or you can hike up to Yellow Pinch lookout in Mt Barney National Park for a banger view of the eastern face of Mt Barney. The best views are offered up at sunrise when the sun lights up the massif.
9. Pitch Your Tent
There’s no shortage of camping opportunities near Brisbane.
If you’re after a rainforest escape, head to the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park and camp next to the O’Reilly’s Guesthouse.
Looking for more solitude for your campsite? Then try the Waterfall Creek Reserve next to Mt May.
Want to camp amongst boulders? Then Girraween National Park is your go-to spot.
Or you can camp in the shadow of Mt Barney at bush camps beside Cronan Creek — and then tackle the mountain.
10. Kayak Down The Noosa River
If you’re looking for some exercise in a relaxing setting, look no further than the Noosa Everglades. Yes, the Everglades aren’t just in Florida — they’re in Queensland too!
If you don’t have your own kayak (not many of us do!) never fear, you can easily hire a kayak from Boreen Point on the shores of Lake Cootharaba.
From Boreen Point, kayak across the lake, up Noosa River to Harry’s Hut, and then return the way you came. If you want to take a more relaxed pace, you can arrange to be picked up at Harry’s Hut and driven back to your starting point.
11. Get Your Feet Wet In Northbrook Gorge
For a slice of refreshing adventure near Brisbane, Northbrook Gorge is just the ticket, especially in the sweaty summer months.
You’ll have to get your feet wet during this adventure to one of D’Aguilar National Park’s hidden gems. The hike to Northbrook Gorge has several cooling swims as you wind your way down the creek.
Make sure you wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet and bring a dry bag for your valuables.
12. Walk Among The Treetops At Lamington National Park
Here’s how you can get a bird’s eye view of the rainforest. Head along to the Green Mountains (O’Reilly’s) section of Lamington National Park and take the popular Treetop Walk.
The Treetop Walk allows you to wander along suspension bridges nestled in the treetops 15 metres above the forest floor. It’s suitable for all ages and abilities.
If you’re not scared of heights, you can also go to the observation deck suspended 30 metres above the ground in a strangler fig. From here, you can look out to the mountains and valleys of the Scenic Rim region.
The start of the Treetop Walk is located near the O’Reilly’s Guesthouse.
13. Check Out Glowworms At Natural Arch
Did you know that you can see glowworms in the Gold Coast Hinterland?
Natural Arch (also called Natural Bridge) is a basalt cave featuring a picturesque waterfall in Springbrook National Park, and you can get there via an easy 1km walk. The iconic natural setting is one of the posterchilds of the Gold Coast Hinterland.
After dark, the glowworms come out in the cave.
Heads up, swimming isn’t allowed at the waterhole to protect the fragile ecosystem.
14. Watch The Sunrise (Or Sunset) From Mt Ngungun
At the end of every weekend, you’re sure to see photos filling your Instagram of the sunrise or sunset from one of the many Glasshouse Mountains.
Mt Ngungun is a popular sunrise or sunset viewing spot owing to the relatively easy graded track leading up the mountain.
Allow about 30 minutes for the hike up depending on your fitness levels. Don’t forget your head torch!
15. Explore The Bushranger’s Caves On Mt Wagawn
If you’re into caves and don’t mind bushbashing, then you can take the 3km return walk up to the Bushranger’s Caves of Mt Wagawn in Lamington National Park.
This hidden gem features a labyrinth of caves and views out to Wollumbin/Mt Warning. More adventurous souls can also bush bash their way up to the summit of Mt Wagawn and onto the graded track system in Lamington National Park.
Beware of snakes and other creepy crawlies such as ticks in the long grass leading to the caves.
16. Go Rockclimbing At Kangaroo Point
If you want to get climbing on real rock then the popular Kangaroo Point cliffs are an awesome option. Did you know that Brisbane is one of the only places in the world where you can go outdoor rock climbing while getting a view of the city centre?
The 20m cliffs offer routes of varying levels of difficulty.
If you don’t have the skills or gear Riverlife offers rockclimbing sessions at the crag. Prices start from $49 including gear hire. Riverlife also offers up the chance to hire a kayak and paddle down the Brisbane River.
17. Get A Brisbane Skyline View From Mt Coot-tha
If you’re after a view of the Brisbane skyline from another vantage point, then take a hike up Mt Coot-tha. Or you can drive to the top but where’s the fun in that?
The aptly named Summit Track starts from the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area and will lead you up to Mt Coot-tha’s popular lookout point. The return hike is 3.8km. Get there early on the weekend as the carpark fills up quickly.
18. Hike A Historical Track In The Tallebudgera Valley
The Cream Track used to be a rough track hewn to support packhorse transport of cream from Springbrook Mountain to Mudgeeraba over a century ago. These days, the historical track is a hiking trail leading from Tallebudgera Valley to Springbrook Mountain, near the top of Goomoolahra Falls. The 5km track can be started in either direction, but does include very steep sections.
If you hike the track from the Tallebudgera Valley and back, make sure you take a detour to Gorge Falls on your way back. Gorge Falls is located about a 20 minute rockhop down Tallebudgera Creek.
You’ll need to arrange an online permit before hiking the Cream Track as some sections pass through private property. The permit is free and you can get it in just a few minutes.
19. Scramble Over Granite Boulders In Girraween National Park
This one takes a little more effort to get to from Brisbane — with a 3 hour drive — but it’s still possible as a day trip.
Leave Brisbane early headed towards Stanthorpe. Girraween National Park is nature’s playground with its unique granite landscape. Scramble up The Pyramid or Mt Norman, or take a more relaxed hike to Turtle Rock, the Sphinx or Castle Rock.
If you can’t face a 6 hour round trip in a day then you can camp in the park at the Castle Rock campground.
Time your visit to Girraween National Park over the mid-summer months and you’ll see fields of vibrant sunflowers in bloom on the drive.
20. Hike To A Plane Crash In D’aguilar National Park
For a hike with a difference, venture out to the Mt Glorious section of D’Aguilar National Park to the wreck of a Piper Comanche aircraft.
It’s about a 3-4 hour round trip hike to the wreck, which crashed in 1977.
You’ll need some navigational abilities to do to the hike though as the track is not graded and sporadically marked with tape.
After your hike, you can take a rest with a picnic at Maiala carpark — or even venture down to Greenes Falls, stop for a coffee at the popular Mt Glorious café or check out the views from Jolly’s Lookout by returning to Brisbane via Mt Nebo Road.
21. Venture Out To The Base Of Towering Waterfalls
Brisbanites are spoilt for choice when it comes to getting a view of towering waterfalls.
You can take the short hike to the base of Queen Mary Falls in Main Range National Park or Purling Brook Falls in Springbrook National Park. For more adventure, rockhop to the base of Larapinta Falls in a remote section of Lamington National Park.