The Great Escape: 4 Days in Brisbane, Gold Coast & Sunshine Coast

Stressed? Burnt out? Bogged down in the winter blues? Prescribe yourself an extra long weekend in Queensland. In four days, I got the dose of sunshine, blue skies and blessed humidity that I’ve been missing in chilly, drizzly Melbourne.

Before last weekend, I’d never considered squeezing in time in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast in one trip. When friends from Melbourne asked my opinion (did they though?) of their plans to visit all three regions in one mini break, I said that it sounded like a lot of driving.

It’s funny how lazy we get when it comes to local travel.

I’m eating my words. I spent four days in Queensland last week and visited Brisbane and both coasts back to back. It was easy and totally doable in a short break, not to mention an overload of South East Queensland’s natural beauty.

You could fly into Coolangatta airport and spend a day or two enjoying the Gold Coast before driving or getting the train from Robina to Brisbane. Spend a day or two in Brisbane and then drive to the Sunshine Coast – either fly out of Maroochydore airport, although it might be cheaper to return to Brisbane and fly out from there.

image-of-gold-coast-broadwater
Labrador Broadwater on the Gold Coast

I took advantage of the AFL Grand Final public holiday on Friday and took a day of annual leave on Monday to make up an extra long weekend. As it happened, Brisbane had a public holiday on Monday – a belated Queen’s Birthday holiday. Or a belated labour day holiday. No one was sure which public holiday had moved to October, but no one was complaining.

Annual leave magic. Four day weekend and a fortnight of four-day work weeks. Wooooohoooo!

4 Days in Brisbane Gold Coast & Sunshine Coast

Returning to childhood haunts on the Gold Coast

I have so many happy childhood memories from the Gold Coast, particularly from  this chilled out lagoon in Labrador. It was at this lagoon that I caught my first ever fish, a huge flathead that my Nanna and I cooked for dinner. Some say I’m a natural fisherwoman, others say that the lagoon is actually a no fishing zone and the poor fish had their guards down.

In my defence, we saw the strict “no fishing” sign the day after our fishy feast.

Image of Gold Coast Lagoon
Ian Dipple Lagoon, Gold Coast
Image of Gold Coast Lagoon
Ian Dipple Lagoon, Gold Coast

Fast forward fourteen years, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the water is bluer and cleaner looking than I’ve ever seen before. A flock of pelicans have also moved in, clearly having caught wind of the unsuspecting fish in the lagoon. Despite finding birds bone-chillingly creepy, I enjoyed watching them swoop in over the lagoon and bob around in the water.

Image of Gold Coast Lagoon
The lagoon is in fine form!

Labrador is about a ten minute-drive from Surfers Paradise yet has managed to stay a sleepy beachside suburb. Before we returned to Brisbane, we walked along the Broadwater and had lunch at Marine Sushi. All sushi train plates are just $2.99. I was too busy in my sushi frenzy to take a photo – if that’s not a seal of approval, I don’t know what is. 

Image of Gold Coast Lagoon
Surfers Paradise skyline & the Ian Dipple Lagoon

A bright and early start for the Eumundi Markets

Our family bundled into the car at 6:15 sharp 6:45am, bound for the Eumundi Markets in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Not to be confused with the Gold Coast an hour south of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is a smattering of beach towns along the coast about 1-2 hours north of Brisbane.

Getting on the road early was essential – it saved us from being stuck in the notorious school holiday traffic.

Eumundi Markets Sunshine Coast

The Eumundi Markets is the biggest art and craft market in Australia, with more than 600 stalls winding along the terraced market grounds in the township of Eumundi.

Eumundi Markets Sunshine Coast

One of my favourite things about Queensland is the open-air markets. From the Davies Park Farmers Markets that I used to visit every weekend before I moved, to the quirky Kuranda Markets just outside Cairns to the sprawling Eumundi Markets, there’s nothing like doing a bit of light shopping beneath a canopy of trees.

My sister and I bought almost-matching bracelets from a jewellery designer and everyone in my family went a little nuts for fresh mandarine juice – I’m not sure how I’m ever going to go back to plain old orange.

Mandarin Juice at the Eumundi Markets Sunshine Coast

Crushing on Noosa National Park

I haven’t been to Noosa, the largest (and most touristy) beach town on the Sunshine Coast in at least ten years. It’s drop dead gorgeous, so when I saw that the Eumundi Markets is only 15 minutes inland from Noosa Heads, I made my case. My family very kindly humoured my Noosa whim and were also pretty patient when my navigation skills made the 15-minute trip take more than 20 minutes through clogged up backroads.

Noosa National Park Sunshine Coast

We bypassed overcrowded Hastings Street and Main Beach, in favour of Noosa National Park. None of us wore exercise gear, so we just wandered a little way along the first path we found, which led us down to the water. I could have sat and stared at Laguna Bay and the Glasshouse Mountains all day and I’d love to go back and walk the Coastal Track this summer.

humpback whale from Noosa National Park Sunshine Coast

When we arrived we saw a humpback whale briefly in the distance, before it disappeared. When I was editing my photos later, I found another humpback in this photo! (It’s in the top left corner). Humpback whales can be spotted up and down the Southeast Queensland coast from June to November, it’s a shame that I won’t be back in Queensland in time for another whale watching tour this year.

Discovering Brisbane’s new kids on the block

Brisbane is growing up fast. Every time I come home, I like to visit a few new bars and cafes that have popped up while I’ve been away. On Sunday, my sister and I went into Fortitude Valley to check out the recently-opened Bakery Lane and Brisbane’s first laneway precinct, Winn Lane.

Street Art in Winn Lane Brisbane
Street Art outside Winn Lane, Fortitude Valley

Unfortunately, at 3pm on a Sunday most of the retail stores were closed and both laneways were pretty quiet. I would have loved to poke around Sunday Social in Winn Lane and a cool homewares store in Bakery Lane. We had a drink at APO in Bakery Lane and went to Winn Lane for a burger at Ben’s Burgers, a much-hyped up American-style burger shop.

Bakery Lane Brisbane

Bakery Lane is super cute, and I can imagine it would be gorgeous after dark with people spilling out of the bars that open out into the tiny plaza. Unfortunately, it’s closed off at night and is more of a morning destination. This being the case, I’d love to see a cafe in Bakery Lane, as well as slightly more hangover-friendly opening hours from the retailers – it is in the Valley, after all!

Brisbane Laneways Bakery Lane Fortitude Valley

On my last day in Brisbane, I had brunch with my best friend from high school at The Brass Barrel, a new cafe in Rosalie. I had the broccoli & corn fritters with maple bacon, poached egg and charred corn salsa, which I would 10/10 order again. I didn’t make it to my favourite Rosalie haunts on this trip, Moga and Gelateria Cremona, but it’s not long until my next visit.

Image of Brass Barrel Cafe Rosalie Brisbane

Next time, I also want to try Madame Wu’s and Sazerac Bar in the city and Ginger’s Diner in Paddington.

A picnic with a view in South D’Aguilar National Park

Brisbane is surrounded by mountains and national parks. The rainforest walks on Mt Glorious are some of my favourites, but as far as scenic picnic spots go, Jolly’s Lookout in South D’Aguilar National Park takes the cake.

Jolly Lookout South D'Aguilar National Park Brisbane

It’s only a twenty-minute drive from the middle of Brisbane up into the mountains. The picnic site was fairly busy when we went around lunch time on Sunday but we lucked out and got the best picnic table at the lookout.

Seeing familiar places with fresh eyes on a Brisbane city photography walk

On my last morning in Brisbane, Dad and I got up early and went on a photography walk in the city. We parked in West End, just behind GoMA, and made our way across the controversial Kurilpa Bridge towards the city.

GoMA Gallery of Modern Art Brisbane Southbank
Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA)

I have to admit, this view of this end of the Brisbane CBD is not the most attractive one.

Brisbane CityLove locks on Kurilpa Bridge Brisbane

The further we got towards the city, the better view we had of Southbank behind us. Once in the city, we walked along George Street until we reached Reddacliff Place.

Reddacliff Place Brisbane City
Sculptures in Redacliff Place, Brisbane
Brisbane City

The city was sleepy at 8:00am on a public holiday. I appreciated how calm it felt – I’m not sure if the streets of Melbourne ever feel this calm. We crossed the river again, this time across the Kurilpa Bridge. The sun emerged from behind the clouds and seemed to shine on Southbank.

Southbank Brisbane
Southbank, Brisbane

The pretty Southbank waterfront is such a contrast to the part of the Brisbane city directly opposite. We spent a little while photographing the old arch from a long-gone bridge, the new Brisbane sign along the water and my favourite Brisbane subject, the pink bougainvillaeas adorning the arbour, a walkway that weaves through Southbank. I’ll be posting more photos and notes on this Brisbane photography walk as well as a few others soon!

Southbank pink bouganvilleas Brisbane
Pink bougainvillaeas flowering in Southbank

Meeting the new baby!

Last but not least, unsolicited photos of our new puppy!

Casper

Our beautiful dog Dash passed away this year, which was the reason for an emergency 24-hour trip home in May. It was a really sad time, so it was bittersweet to return home to meet the newest member of the family – a fluffy ball of unconditional love called Casper.

Our other dog, Heidi, has found having a puppy around takes a bit of getting used to…but secretly enjoys the company.

Since I moved to Melbourne last year, I’ve rarely been home for more than 48 hours. It’s hard to spend quality time with my friends and family in such a short time, so I was super excited to have four full days at home. I was able to spend time with my parents, brother and sister, as well as my grandparents and not one, but two friends! My parents run their own business, so they were able to rearrange their schedules to have Friday off with me. They did an amazing job of planning a variety of ways to enjoy the great outdoors up and down the Southeast Queensland coastline.

Verdict: Most successful trip home to date.

Have you been to any of these spots in Brisbane, the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast? Where should I check out when I return in January? Tell me in the comments!