The countdown is on for our wedding in September. With friends flying over from the UK a week before our special day, we started thinking about the perfect itinerary for one week in South East Queensland. It’ll be a bit cooler then, around 18 degrees celsius on average which will actually be warm for our British friends. Summer of course is the hottest time of year from December to February but if you visit up to two months either side (October to April) it will generally be 20 degrees or more.
All the places listed below are places that we’ve visited ourselves and would recommend to others.
Sunshine Coast (2 days)
Our wedding is on one of the many beautiful beaches along the coastline in Caloundra at the Sunshine Coast. You could easily spend a few nights at the Sunshine Coast and some beach names to get you started are Moffat’s Beach, King’s Beach and Bulcock Beach. At Moffat’s check out the Moffat Beach Brewing Company with craft beers and beach views. At King’s Beach have a drink on the deck at the Mets Surf Club, especially on a Sunday afternoon if you enjoy live music. There are markets in the streets of Bulcock Beach on a Sunday too with international food, live music and stalls selling all kinds of things. Most of the permanent shops next to the markets are open too and during our recent visit in May I popped into one of the op shops and found a nice dress for $8.
You can book your accommodation on all the usual websites like Booking.com but a local tip would be to check out Stayz or Caloundra Holiday Centre websites if it’s particularly busy or you’d like more options to consider. We stayed at an AirBnB at the Centrepoint Apartments, Bulcock Beach. You can walk to the beaches either side along the coastline and as a guide it only takes about 15 minutes walk to King’s Beach. Seeing as though we were going to be out and about for most of the weekend, we chose an AirBnB occupied by the owners for a total of $80 for the night. It had a balcony facing the Glasshouse Mountains which was perfect for a glass of wine as we watched the sunset.
Other places you have to visit at the Sunshine Coast include Maleny, The Wharf at Mooloolaba and Australia Zoo. Maleny has a similar vibe to Byron Bay with a main street lined with cafes, unique shops and beautiful art for you to admire. If you’re travelling with your partner and looking for somewhere romantic to stay, an option is the Treetops in nearby Montville. The Wharf at Mooloolaba is where you’ll find Underwater World if you’re interested in seeing and learning about our marine life. Have you ever come eye to eye with a shark before? Or kissed a seal? How about getting so close to a whale you can see the barnacles on their body? Don’t worry, you won’t find whales at Underwater World but you can join a whale watching tour starting from there. Best time of year to see them is July to November. Whale watching tours are also popular in Hervey Bay and I saw quite a few whales there! They swam underneath and around the boat and it is such a breathtaking experience. If you’re a fan of Steve Irwin or want to see our crocodiles and other Australian wildlife, you have to visit Australia Zoo. And if you’re looking for an iconic pub nearby for lunch try the Ettamogah Pub.
Gold Coast (2 days)
More beaches with white sand and clear blue water. There are so many options it’s hard to know where to start. Surfer’s Paradise has a good mix of beach and shops, restaurants and bars along Cavill Ave. For that reason and the odd birthday occasion it’s where we almost always choose to stay at the Gold Coast. There are lots of accommodation options and over the past few months we’ve stayed at BreakFree Peninsula and Surfer’s Century. Prices are reasonable and the views from the balcony are complementary to a few drinks and snacks in the fresh sea air. The apartments are not modern but they’re spacious. They’re also walking distance to the Northcliffe Surf Club which like Mets Surf Club is right on the beach and the food is so good we’ve been there twice for breakfast and lunch.
For a more laid back vibe than Surfer’s Paradise, consider Burleigh. There are less tourists and with a big park right on the beach you’ve got grass or sand picnic spot options for your fish and chips. It’s also a great spot to see the sweeping coastline views.
Believe it or not there’s more to the Gold Coast than just the beaches. If you’re into theme parks, do some research on MovieWorld, DreamWorld and SeaWorld. They’re expensive to enter so depending on your budget and time you might need to choose between them. It’s been a few years for me but DreamWorld would be my pick. Why? Because from memory it’s bigger than the others and there are lots of thrill rides for the thrill seekers among us. For water theme parks WetnWild is the best and you could easily spend a whole day there. Expect a good old fashioned wedgie from the tall, steep, speed slides. In fact you might want to invest in some bike pants or boy leg bikini bottoms.
If you walk past a tourist information desk you’ll see advertising for Dracula’s cabaret show and dinner. The food is good but unfortunately the jokes are outdated and cringe-worthy. So, unless you’re into that kind of thing, spend your money elsewhere or better still, spend more time at the beach for free!
Byron Bay (2 days)
Not technically in Queensland, Byron Bay is only a 2 hour drive from Brisbane across the border into NSW. We were there in May and easily filled two nights and three days. We chose to stay at AirBnB accommodation called Quambi’s Cottage in Suffolk Park. It’s outside Byron and the benefits of staying there are cheaper accommodation and the hidden gems that are Suffolk Park Bakery, the nearby dog beach and Pizza Paradise italian restaurant.
A must see in Byron Bay is the lighthouse. Give yourself enough time to walk up the hill so you can see the dolphins swimming in the water below. You’ll save parking fees too. For other things to do in Byron Bay we took the advice of an ex-local and drove half an hour to Killen Falls. Don’t let the name put you off, having now experienced it ourselves we also recommend it. But it’s not as simple as driving to the location. You’ll need some physical agility to walk through the bush, down the hill and over the rocks until you reach the cave. It’s 100% worth it to be able to stand there underneath the waterfall and watch the water flow over the edge and into the water in front of you. As it got closer to midday more people arrived with their picnics for lunch and dogs for a swim.
On the way back from Killen Falls, stop in at Newrybar. It’s a small town that feels like you’ve stepped back in time in Australia. There are homewares and clothing shops and a couple of food options. We had a look around but used it as a toilet break before continuing on to the Bangalow Markets. Tip: have a $2 coin ready to pay for parking at the markets. Our prized purchases for the day were an old Phil Collins vinyl record for $5 and four handmade soaps for $10.
For a drink with a view we really enjoyed The Pass Cafe overlooking the iconic Pass Beach and surf break. The day we were there we discovered an extremely talented musician from Perth called Michael Dunstan. It was a nice way to spend the afternoon, sitting on the balcony sipping a Sofi spritz and taking in the acoustics and views. For a pub with more history and central location, grab a spot outside the Great Northern pub on the main street in Byron Bay.
Look out for famous Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth while you’re in Byron. We spotted him in a surf clothing store! And if you aren’t sick of our beautiful beaches yet, spend some time down on the beach or on the grass by the beach for more live music and sometimes even face painting, hair braiding and fire twirling.
Brisbane (1 day)
Brisbane has come a long way since we’ve been living and working in London. But first, a few old favourite places to go in Brisbane are South Bank for its man made beach, Jade Buddha for the view of the Story Bridge, The Bowery for quality cocktails and the Powerhouse for free comedy on a Friday coincidently called ‘Knockoff’. Depending on your route, take the CityCat ferry to get to the Powerhouse to experience the view of Brisbane from the river. For more time on the river check out RiverLife for kayaking especially their Friday night paddle and prawns or Saturday night paddle and BBQ.
Now onto the new places and apologies in advance for their close location to one another in and around Fortitude Valley. Or you could see that as a good thing to save on transport costs. In fact, all the places I’m about to mention are walking distance from one another starting with the Triffid in Newstead. This place is for you if you like live music, beer gardens and good food without shelling out all your hard earned dollars. Hump day (Wednesday) at the Triffid has the best burger deal in Brisbane that we’ve found so far. Two burgers, two chips and two schooners of beer for a grand total of $25. They taste good and there’s free live music from 6pm.
If you’re into craft beer, go for a wander around to the Green Beacon Brewery in Teneriffe. We really like this place for its open layout, friendly vibe, changing food truck options and because they allow dogs inside. Dogs always make me happy! Good beer is the bonus!
For more food options try Welcome to Bowen Hills for a multiplier of at least three food trucks. You won’t have to wait long for a drink with a bar so big it’s got more than 60 beers on tap. They’ve got a few games there too including giant jenga, giant connect four and giant pick up sticks. Always a hit with kids big and small. Check out their Facebook page for events you might be interested in. This weekend the Bavarian Beerhaus opens next door and they have 10c chicken wings to celebrate!
An absolute must that trumps all other food options though in Brisbane is Eat Street. Caveat: it is the only new place in Brisbane I’ve mentioned that you can’t walk to. Well, you could but it will take you a while. Options are driving, uber or public transport. It costs about two bucks to get in and you can have almost any kind of cuisine you can think of, including dessert. It’s a bit overwhelming so make sure you go there with an appetite. There’s drinks too of course and shops and entertainment to keep you busy. Or, you can grab a seat and settle in to soak up the atmosphere. Dogs welcome.
So, if you’re like me and you like your holidays filled with beaches, dogs, live music and good food and drinks, hopefully you get a few tips out of this for your own adventure in South East Queensland.