OUR TRAVEL EXPERTS SHARE THEIR BEST KEPT LOCAL SECRETS:
SOUTH EAST QLD
Pictured: View across Glasshouse mountains from Maleny
SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND
The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast have long been popular holiday spots for both interstate and international visitors alike, but there is far more to experience in South East Queensland than tropical weather and picture perfect beaches.
As any local will tell you, venturing just a few hours in almost any direction from Brisbane will take you off the beaten track to numerous spots of natural beauty. We asked a few of our Queensland Travel Experts where they've been visiting whilst under state lockdown, for a COVIDsafe getaway - they're too good not to share!
We know that when the borders finally open up to the rest of the country, Queensland will be top of many southerners' lists to get some vitamin D and take a dip - why not add some of these places to the list too?
Queenslanders: better get in a visit in now before the crowds come back!
Get in touch with us and let one of our Travel Experts to plan and book your next local COVIDsafe getaway. Be it a weekend away or regional road trip - we've got you covered!
Less than 2 hours drive from Brisbane and just inland from the beautiful Sunshine Coast beaches is a tranquil paradise hidden up in the clouds. The Blackall Ranges are a stunning mishmash of rolling green hills, dairy pastures, lush rainforest and good old Aussie bush - you might even be fooled into thinking you’re somewhere as exotic as Costa Rica. With views east out to the coast, and west over the Glasshouse Mountains, the drive itself is worth a trip.
Marina Wood, our Customer Experience manager, recommends a leisurely stroll through the quaint towns of Maleny and Montville, stopping to admire the artisan wares and sample local delicacies, especially cheese!
For those who like to stay active, Kondalilla Falls is a lovely circuit to walk, and the rainforest trail at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is home to stunning strangler figs, countless birds and even a few cheeky platypuses if you’re lucky enough to spot them. The cafe and viewing platform at the reserve offer the best views of the Glasshouse Mountains and shouldn’t be missed!
Where to Eat & Drink: The Edge Restaurant or Mountain View Cafe for killer views, The Barrel @ Clouds Vineyard to sample a variety of South East Queensland’s beers & wines. Foodies absolutely must visit The Long Apron for an innovative, fine dining, gastronomic journey.
Where to Stay: For a cosy B&B experience, Clouds Retreats offer 3 properties catering to all different tastes. And for boutique luxury, splurge on a stay at either Spicers Clovelly or Spicers Tamarind.
Pictured: Strangler Fig in Mary Cairncross Reserve
Stanthorpe & The Granite Belt
The heart of Queensland's wine region, and only 2.5 hours drive west of Brisbane, the Granite Belt region is particularly popular during winter months where locals can enjoy the freezing tempartures by cosy fireplaces, rugged up in their winter woolies, dreaming of a chance for snow flurries!*Disclaimer: snowfalls are rare - it is still QLD!
James Sewell, one of our Brisbane based Travel Managers, says the #1 reason to visit is the "Wineries Wineries Wineries... Stanthorpe has loads of them (and a couple of breweries), a perfect way to pass an afternoon sampling! Obviously, unless you have someone who is willing to be the designated driver, take a tour as they are not walking distance from one another." Cycling is another popular way to take the picturesque 32km trip from Stanthorpe to Ballandean, to get in some exercise and fresh country air.
Only twenty minutes from Stanthorpe, James suggests taking a detour to Girraween National Park (pictured) for loads of cool walks with massive granite boulders precariously balanced either on top of one another or on top of "The Pyramid".
Where to eat & drink: Granite Belt Brewery - Offers a three course lunch or dinner Friday to Monday including a complimentary drink on arrival, and has great food and beers/wines! Also worth a visit is the Stanthorpe Cheese Factory for a tasting of the local delights.
Where to Stay: James loved his stay at the Granite Belt Retreat, with individual cabins and wood fires - perfect for a winter's evening. And if you're taking your pooch along for the ride, Allure Stanthorpe offers luxury dog-friendly accommodation, complete with matching doggy/owner bath robes!
Noosa to Peregian Beach
An oldie but a goodie, Noosa has long been a favourite destination for many people, both locally and from interstate. Brisbane based Travel Manager Conor Ford loves the relaxed atmosphere, but also the fact that there is so much on offer all within walking distance of the ‘main drag’ Hastings Street: shopping, cafes, bars and restaurants, as well as the beach and the National Park. To get away from the tourists, Conor (pictured) advises hiking the full length of the national park trail, from Noosa right around to Sunshine Beach, where you might be fortunate enough to spot whales if it’s the right time of year.
Heading further south from Sunshine Beach is the lesser known Peregian Beach. One of FCBT’s most senior managers, Paul Cotto, prefers the sleepy town of Peregian which is a local secret. It offers “everything you want in a relaxed getaway - stunning beach, lovely walks, great cafes, even a french patisserie and still only a 15 min drive out of Noosa” if you want to get out and about.
In Noosa, Conor likes to head to Light Years at Noosa Junction, for "brilliant service, amazing cocktails and delicious asian-fusion food", or El Capitano Pizzeria and Bar for the best pizzas and great atmosphere off Hastings Street.
Where to Stay: "You can't beat Peppers" for the perfect stay in Noosa, according to Conor, the quality of the rooms, the goregous pool and the location are spot on.
For low key Peregian Beach, a local B&B is the way to go.
North Stradbroke Island
Another local favourite of south east Queenslanders is North Stradbroke Island, or Minjerribah as it’s traditionally known. Accessible by a short ferry from Cleveland (30 mins south of Brisbane’s CBD), you can visit just for the day from Brisbane or a longer break, and either take advantage of the island bus to get around, or take your own car over for a little more freedom.
Sarah Brown, manager of our Eagle Street branch, looks forward to her holidays on family-friendly “Straddie” with her tribe every year, and it’s her ideal vacation spot. “Laid-back with very little traffic. There’s nothing much to do but go to the beach, the bowls club, or the local pub - just relax” - the antidote for busy city life!
Sarah suggests you can go 4WDing on the beach for some fun, go fishing, or visit the freshwater Brown Lake (named due to the tinged waters from native tea trees) which is a great spot to take the family swimming and for a picnic. Not to be missed is Point Lookout and the gorge walk, where you can witness whales and turtles, and where the local friendly dolphins sometimes swim past when you're taking a dip at the beach.
Where to Eat & Drink: Oceanic Gelati & Coffee Bar is Sarah’s go-to favourite, keeping the kids happy and getting her daily caffeine hit. The Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel & Bistro is another crowd pleaser, with quintessential pub fare out in the beer garden, where you can still enjoy a great view of the beach.
Where to Stay: There are a number of apartments you can book, but Sarah prefers to rent a house for more space for the family to spread out. Camping and glamping are also available around the island for those wanting to get closer to nature.
Pictured: Sarah and her children