School holidays are approaching, restrictions are easing, and if you’re anything like me, you’re itching to get away with the family. Somewhere new, but not too daunting. Somewhere fun for the kids, but relaxing enough for a bit of ‘you’ time. Somewhere that feels totally different to home, but not too far away. South East Queensland has myriad hidden gems and hot spots perfect for that long weekend away or week long escape, full of activities and experiences that will allow you and your family to do as much, or as little, as you like. Here are some of my top picks for your next family escape.
The Scenic Rim
If you’re Brisbane based, you’ve probably heard about this region quite a bit, but have you ever spent time there? A rural mecca at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and surrounded by national parks, it’s known for its fresh produce, natural attractions, walking trails and farm stays. It’s the ideal family holiday destination. If you’ve got young kids to entertain, there is plenty. From zip lining to mini golf, horse-riding to laser skirmish, and of course, a range of wholesome farm based activities. When it comes to accommodation, you have several options to choose from; Queensland’s Scenic Rim boasts rainforest lodges, family friendly country cottages, and fully catered luxe options like Spicers Scenic Rim, it is perfect no matter how big, or small your family is.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland
Yes, the Sunshine Coast may be best known for its beaches and surf breaks, but the hinterland is like the regions winter wonderland, and when it comes to quality family time, this is where it's at. Think: climbing ancient rock formations, admiring the scenic Glasshouse Mountains and exploring quaint country
bakeries, I mean towns. There is far more to do here than simply sun yourself; you’ll need a long weekend at least, so I recommend basing yourself at Maleny, Montville or Kenilworth.
Spend a day meandering the walking trails of Mount Tibrogargan (the biggest of the Glasshouse Mountains) and admiring the flora and fauna in Beerburrum State Forest. Explore the mainstreets of Montville and Maleny, devouring traditional homemade fudge and checking out quaint boutiques and art galleries as you go. Taste your way through Kenilworth Dairies’ cheese and yogurt collection, before finishing your day at one of the region’s micro breweries or wineries. If you still want more, schedule a trip to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo to learn about native and exotic animals, and make sure you visit their wildlife hospital while you’re there.
The Granite Belt
Here, the air feels fresher, the sky bluer, and the wine, well the wine always tastes good. The Granite Belt is Queensland’s wine region, the state’s fruit bowl and is centered on the town of Stanthorpe in the Darling Downs (technically it also covers the New England region of NSW but we can talk about that state another day).
It’s an ideal place to get lost in over a long weekend, just make sure you pack your appetite because The Granite Belt is known for its gastronomy. From cellar doors to organic dairies, the local farmers around here are passionate about their paddock to plate style grazing. I’m talking about hand-made cheeses, speciality vinegars, chutneys, preserves, jams, olives and more. A region steeped in European culture, with richly diverse produce, this really is a food enthusiast’s ideal destination. If your family is full of budding masterchefs, and into food and cooking, this might be the spot for your next escape.
Gold Coast Hinterland
The Gold Coast needs no introduction, but if you step away from the sand for a day or two and head inland, you will discover the region’s hinterland. Filled with scenic walking trails, waterfalls, prehistoric forests, vineyards, a mountainous coastline to explore and wildlife abound, the Gold Coast Hinterland is Queensland’s Emerald City. Comprising Numinbah Valley, the Tweed, Nimmel and parts of the McPherson Ranges, Tamborine Mountain, and some areas of the Gold Coast, this region is full of family friendly activities and accommodation options. There are fully catered weekend stays, to self contained lodges perfect for a relaxing two week stint.
When it comes to activities, there are plenty. Springbrook National Park will provide hours of exploration, with fantastic walks, caves, rainforest and waterfalls to seek out. Just make sure you pack a picnic lunch to enjoy at some stage. If you're a fit family looking for hiking trails, Toolona Creek Circuit, the shorter Mount Cordeaux trail and for the adventurous, the Stinson Retrace, are my top picks. There are glow worm caves that really need to be seen to be believed, cooking classes and for something a little different, there is even an organic skincare farm and factory! There is also the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk which takes you out to the crystal waters of Cedar Creek. Plus, it’s only 1.5 kilometres so really is great for the whole family.
Ewen Maddock Dam
Not far from the turn off to Caloundra you’ll find this hidden gem. It’s a part of the South East Queensland water grid, crossing Addington Creek, and is a water wonderland just waiting to be explored. There are mountain bike trails, walking tracks, a beautiful boardwalk to stroll along and plenty of space for a picnic lunch, let alone the dam itself. Great for kayaking, swimming and general water fun, this place makes for a great day trip from the Sunshine Coast or Brisbane.
The Gold Coast
The Gold Coast speaks for itself when it comes to the ultimate family holiday location, truly boasting something for every demographic box your family ticks. From surfing to stand up paddleboarding, high end shopping to bargain outlets, fish and chips on the beach to rooftop tapas and fine dining, not to mention the famous theme parks. Boasting 52 kilometers of coastline, bumper to bumper with beaches, it does get tricky choosing exactly where to stay. Below are some of our favourite family friendly beaches to base yourself while holidaying in this paradise:
- Miami Beach - thanks to the patrolled beach, huge kids playground, esplanade (great for sunrise and sunset walks), and factory outlet shopping, this one is an all round favourite.
- Kirra Beach - most often known as a surfing hotspot, this beach is great for both the pros, and amateur surfers out there. The waves in the patrolled section are quite gentle so make for a nice swimming spot, plus, there is a lovely scenic headland to stroll.
- Burleigh Heads - one of the more protected beach breaks, Burleigh is popular for all ages and skill levels, bodyboarding, surfing and, thanks to its huge shady parkland, picnics. (Oh and food - there are some great dining spots here!)
Only a 2.5 hour drive from Brisbane, this magical mountainous setting is the ideal place to get away from the daily grind. Isolated, quiet and calm; the area has no internet service, making it perfect for quality family time. So pack the marshmallows, board games and puzzles, and a bottle or two of red for mum and dad, this is where families go to reconnect. Elevated on average 1,100 meters above sea level, the views are breathtaking and the air is a good five degrees cooler than the surrounding region, so pack your winter woolies! A weekend here will feel like a month long escape from life’s hustle and bustle, something we’re all looking for at this time of year.
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