Last updated 8 March 2022
A few years ago, I wrote a story for the Upsider.com.au (sadly, the website no longer exists) so here is the story that was published. These are a few of the places I’d recommend you escape to if you’re live locally (like me), or are a visitor to Brissie.
With the recent ‘catastrophic’ weather event we’ve experienced (end of February 2022 at the time of updating this post) in many parts of south east Queensland and further down the east coast – and the ensuing damage and in some cases, devestating losses caused to many, maybe thinking about where to ‘escape’ to in a few months time might be a welcome distraction. Especially as winter time is, in my opionin, one of the best times to visit Brisbane.
Winter in Brisbane is all about warm days filled with sunshine and blue skies.
June 1 heralds Australia’s first official day of winter. For the southern states that means chilly temperatures, uninspiring grey skies, and generally sombre states. In Brisbane, however, it’s a different story. Blue skies, balmy temperatures and plenty of sunshine guarantee good moods.
Headed to Brisbane to get in on the action? Or do you live here and simply want to explore somewhere new?
Below I’ve rounded up four of Brisbane’s best weekend getaways to plan this winter. They’re the spots locals try to keep to themselves – but alas, I’m sharing as I want more people to know some of the fabulous locations we have in our ‘backyard.’
Moreton Island, or simply Moreton as the locals call it, is just 35km from mainland Brisbane. It’s the world’s third-largest sand island and is mostly comprised of National Park.
Access to Moreton is via watercraft or light airplane. The island also has two privately owned airstrips near the pocket-sized townships of Cowan Cowan and Kooringal on its southern tip.
You can also catch a 90-minute ferry to Moreton. It leaves from Brisbane’s Pinkenba wharf and drops passengers at the Tangalooma Island Resort. If you’re staying here, don’t miss its renowned wild dolphin feeding experience. Every evening, Tangalooma Island guests line up on the beach and under the strict supervision of marine instructors, can hand feed the wild dolphins that regularly appear for a short period of time.
With most of its 170 square-kilometre landmass still relatively undeveloped, Moreton is a haven for four-wheel drivers, nature lovers, and families after a safe camping environment. Moreton has no sealed roads – only sandy tracks ideal for adventurous 4WD enthusiasts. Be ready to hold on as some of the trails are a wild ride!
Scuba diving or snorkeling in crystal clear waters is another adventurous activity on offer. Snorkel or scuba around a cluster of submerged wrecks on the eastern side of Moreton Bay. Observe diverse marine life including manta rays, wobbegongs, loggerhead turtles, tropical fish, and coral formations.
Springbrook National Park
For a UNESCO World Heritage-listed experience, head to Springbrook National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland, an hour’s drive from Brisbane CBD.
The park is a remnant of a huge volcano that dominated the region about 23 million years ago, and strolling beneath the canopy of its very dense Gondwana Rainforest is a truly surreal experience.
Springbrook’s 6,558 hectares is packed with natural wonders, including stunning waterfalls, rare vegetation and wildlife. Pademelons (small rainforest wallabies), king parrots, and the distinctively plumed yellow-tailed black cockatoo are frequently seen here.
The park has a few lookouts offering incredible views and forest hiking trails. The dramatic 109-metre high Purling Brook Falls is reached via a short 15-minute walk from the car park. More adventurous hikers can follow the trail down to the base of the waterfall. The return trip is around 90 minutes.
The spectacular Twin Falls are a four-kilometre drive from Purling Brook Falls and are easily reached after a 20-minute walk from the Canyon Lookout.
For a special treat, visit Natural Bridge close to dusk. From Purling Brook Falls, drive 24km to the Natural Bridge car park. Walk one-kilometre through the forest to the naturally formed arched cave. Be greeted by the thunderous sound of thousands of litres of water plummeting into a dark billabong below.
After sunset, the interior of the cave’s rocky ceiling and walls are covered in tiny brilliant blue-green lights, coming from ‘glow worms.’ They’re not actually worms, but the larval stage of a small fly.
This incredible natural phenomenon is only found in Australia and New Zealand. Bring a torch, not to shine on the glow worms, as this can interrupt their feeding and prevent them from glowing, but will help guide you safely back to the carpark in the dark. The warmer, wetter months of the year (December to March) are the recommended times to see the best bioluminescence larvae displays.
Located in the D’aguilar National Park, the Enoggera Reservoir is on Mt Nebo Road only 10km northwest of the city centre in a suburb of Brisbane called The Gap. The nature reserve teeming with native wildlife is easily reached from the CBD by either a 20-minute bus ride or a 10-minute Uber ride.
The main entrance to the Reservoir is along a short track via Walkabout Creek Visitor Centre adjacent the car park. Plenty of grassy areas shaded by tall eucalyptus trees makes it a perfect spot for picnicking with family or friends.
Explore the nature area either on foot or mountain bike by traversing the trails winding around the 36,000-hectare park. Swim, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard around the park’s many inlets.
The park has sheltered pockets of native bushland and is home to many species of native birds including forest kingfishers and waterbirds. One of Australia’s rarest birds, the spectacular Regent Honeyeater, has been sighted here.
North Stradbroke Island (Minjerribah)
With an abundance of natural habitats and wide-open beaches to explore, this wilderness-friendly island known to locals as Straddie, is a favourite of holiday makers.
The traditional owners of North Stradbroke Island, the Quandamooka people, hope Straddie will soon become better known by its Aboriginal name of Minjerribah. (Means Island in the Sun in the local Jandai language.)
Cameron Costello, the CEO of the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation (QYAC), said the name Minjerribah had a “longer timeframe of connection to country”.
“A lot of places I think around the bay are connected by dreaming stories, so we’re really only telling one section of the story if you’re leaving out the names of those places.”
The easiest way to reach Minjerribah (Straddie) is by water taxi or car ferry with your vehicle. Departures are from the bayside suburb of Cleveland, 45 minutes from Brisbane’s CBD. To cross Moreton Bay by water taxi takes 20 minutes, the car ferry around 40 minutes duration, arrives on the western side of the Island at Dunwich. Most visitors make their way to Point Lookout, on the island’s eastern side.
Walking paths along the North Gorge hug the headland and provide breathtaking ocean vistas. Close to the Gorge is Main Beach, a 32km stretch of pristine white sand.
Other popular beaches include Cylinder Beach, which offers gentle swells and is protected by the headline so great for swimming; Adder Rock Beach, well-liked by 4WDers and campers; and Home Beach, liked by dog owners for being off-lead friendly.
Deadman’s and Frenchman’s Beach are ideal for sunset strolls and exploring, but not for swimming. Between Amity Point and Point Lookout is Flinders Beach which is accessible by 4WD only and is known for excellent fishing and camping.
Migrating humpback whales pass by the island between June and November. The clear ocean waters around Straddie make it easy to spot marine life including sea turtles, dolphins and manta rays. More than likely, you’ll meet a couple of friendly kangaroos, freely roaming the island.
Straddie has a handful of casual restaurants. The Straddie Hotel on the headland at Point Lookout offers pub food with stunning ocean views. After lunch, swing by Gelato Tonic near the Gorge for homemade gelato.