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Queensland self drive 1 week itinerary – from the Gold Coast to the Sunshine Coast

If you are planning on visiting Australia’s sunshine state you might be wondering where to start. From Cape York to Coolangatta and everything in between, there is a lot to see and do when planning your Queensland road trip itinerary. In this article we focus on a South East Queensland road trip including the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, and the Gold Coast. So here is our South East Queensland 1 week road trip itinerary to help you create your own memorable trip.

queensland self drive itinerary

Queensland road trip itinerary- renting a car

We recommend starting your South East Queensland road trip at the Gold Coast. From here you can easily rent a car. Having your own car is the best way to explore Queensland as it gives you a lot of flexibility, and believe us you will want to stop the car to take photographs a lot!

When renting a car in Australia it is best going for the full insurance option. Yes it might cost you a bit more money, but in our opinion when renting a car it is better to be safe than sorry. I also know someone who hired a car without full insurance in Australia and failed to note a small bump on their original inventory, and they were charged with a hefty bill when they returned it.

Manual and automatic cars are both readily available in Australia, so more often than not you do get to choose, although automatics tend to be slightly more expensive. When choosing your car size don’t forget that Australia has some pretty big roads, so we don’t recommend getting a really small car. Get something in the middle that has a bit of power, as there are times when the highway speed limit goes up to 110kms per hour.

South East Queensland self drive itinerary – where to start

As mentioned above, the best place to start your South East Queensland self drive itinerary is the Gold Coast. Located close to the New South Wales Border, it is the perfect place to start. Getting to the Gold Coast is relatively easy especially if you are flying from another destination in Australia. The Gold Coast airport is the 6th busiest in Australia and has a number of daily flights.

Queensland 1 week road trip itinerary in a nutshell

Day 1Gold Coast
Day 2Gold Coast Hinterland
Day 3Brisbane
Day 4Brisbane
Day 5Bribie Island
Day 6Sunshine Coast
Day 7Sunshine Coast/ Drive back to Brisbane to return the car

South East Queensland road trip- the details

Days 1-2 The Gold Coast and Gold Coast Hinterland

As mentioned above the best place to start your South East Queensland itinerary is at the Gold Coast. With sunshine, white sandy beaches and an incredible nightlife it really is a great place to start. We recommend taking one day to enjoy the beaches of Surfers Paradise or Broadbeach, and taking the second day to explore the Gold Coast Hinterland. You can read more about things to do at the Gold Coast here, but for an overview you can have a look at the below.

Gold Coast- Things to do

Spend some time at Surfers Paradise

One of the tourist highlights at the Gold Coast has to be Surfers Paradise. It is the perfect place to go for shopping, dining, and of course surfing. Here you can also visit the Gold Coast’s tallest building Q1 for 360 degree views of the Gold Coast.

Feed the Lorikeets at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary

At Currumbin you can become acquainted with some Aussie wildlife such as the Rainbow Lorikeets who will happily feed out of your hands. You can also feed the Kangaroos who will often rip the food bag straight from your hand and hop off!

Visit one of the theme parks the Gold Coast is famous for 

The Gold Coast is famous for being the home to some of Australia’s best theme parks. You have Dreamworld, which is a theme park designed for thrill seekers who love rides. Movie World, which is a Warner Bros themed park with a mix of rides and film studios. And you also have Wet n Wild, a theme park totally dedicated to water slides.

Explore the Gold Coast Hinterland 

The Gold Coast isn’t all beaches. If you venture out into the hinterland you will find rainforests and magical treetop walks waiting to be explored.

Where to stay at the Gold Coast

You have a number of accommodation options at the Gold Coast to fit every budget. We stayed at Q1, and this included underground car parking. If you request a higher floor you get a fantastic view of the beach. The good thing with Q1 is that you are booking an apartment which includes a lounge and kitchen facility for you to use. There are also a number of hotels at the Gold Coast if you prefer.

Days 3-4 Brisbane

Getting to Brisbane from the Gold Coast usually only takes around 1 hour, but this obviously depends on traffic. Brisbane is often overlooked for other big cities in Australia, but we definitely think it is worth exploring. Brisbane has some great coffee shops, places for alfresco dining, and some beautiful parks to enjoy the sunshine. If you are spending longer in Brisbane here is an article to help you plan your trip, but in the meantime here are the best things to do in the city.

Brisbane – Things to do

Feed a Kangaroo at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

If you have ever wanted to get up close and personal with a roo, or watch Koala chew some Eucalyptus, then Lone Pine is for you. Here you can learn all about the unique Australian Wildlife which is a must on any trip to the country.

Climb the Story Bridge

This is probably for the daredevils among you and is one of the best ways to get some bird’s eye views over Brisbane. If heights aren’t your thing, you can still get some spectacular views from the nearby Kangaroo Point Cliffs, and the good thing is you can keep your feet firmly planted on the ground.

South Bank Parklands & The Cultural Precinct

Located on the banks of the Brisbane River are the South Bank Parklands. Sprawled out over 17 hectares of prime riverside land you will find this inner city oasis. The Parklands are a great place to have a BBQ or even better go for a swim. There is a public swimming facility which resembles a beach with the stunning Central Business District (CBD) as a backdrop.

If you are feeling a little bit more cultural then also located in South Bank is Brisbane’s cultural precinct. Here you can visit the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), The Queensland Museum and Science Centre, The State Library, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). The Queensland Art Gallery is certainly worth a visit especially as a lot of the art work has a focus on Australia, Asia, and the Pacific. It is also a great place to see some Indigenous Art which is an important part of Australian history.

Mount Coot-tha Botanical Gardens

The gardens showcase a range of diverse themes, from the serene Japanese Garden to the Australian scrubland ready to explore. The gardens are a great place to sit and relax so bring a picnic rug if you can.

Mount Coot-tha Lookout

If you want some amazing views over Brisbane the Mount Coot-tha Lookout is a great place to go. Mount Coot-tha itself is a national park and there are a ton of walking trails and BBQ spots that you will discover as you make your way to the lookout at the top.

Ride the CityCat

Brisbane is a river city so a ride on the CityCat is a must. The cool thing is this is part of the Brisbane public transport network so you can sail down the river with the wind in your hair, and get to where you want to go to.

New Farm Park

New Farm is one of our favourite parks in the whole of Brisbane. It is a heritage listed public park and is also one of the grandest and oldest parks in the city. The park covers 15 hectares and sits just along the Brisbane River. We recommend taking the Ferry from South Bank to New Farm Park particularly as it is a beautiful trip that takes you right under the Story Bridge.

Eagle Street

Eagle street is another riverside area in Brisbane perfect for exploring on foot. It is located in the heart of the CBD but is also known for its upper class dining and drinking. It is the perfect place to go to sip drinks by the river as well as enjoying a more expensive meal.

XXXX Brewery Tour

Right, so beer in Australia is a pretty big deal. And each state is quite competitive in producing their own local beer. Queensland’s contribution is XXXX (said 4 X). The tour is a great way to get to grips with how it is made, as well as how to pour a perfect beer. On top of that you do get to do some tasting which is always a bonus.

Where to stay in Brisbane

Ideally you want to stay somewhere central such as the CBD or even in the South Bank area. If you have a car make sure your accommodation comes with parking.

Day 5 – Bribie Island & Sunshine Coast

Bribie Island is located about an hour from Brisbane, and makes a great place to stop off as you make your way further into the Sunshine Coast. The island is accessible by bridge, and is a great place to go to experience some true Australian beauty that isn’t totally overcrowded with tourists.

Bribie Island – Things to do

Visit the beaches

Bribie is paradise to beach lovers, and the island consists of several kilometres of beautiful beach.

Go fishing

A must in Bribie Island is to hire a boat and go fishing for the afternoon. Even if you don’t catch anything (or don’t want to) it still makes for a fun afternoon.

Days 5 – 7 Sunshine Coast

The final stop on our South East Queensland 1 week road trip is the Sunshine Coast. After spending the day at Bribie Island we recommend spending the evening in the Sunshine Coast. Caloundra and Noosa are two of the more popular places to stay, and will act as a great base, before driving back to Brisbane on Day 7 to return the car.

Sunshine Coast – Things to do

Noosa National Park

Noosa National Park is absolutely stunning and really should be explored as part of your South East Queensland 1 week road trip. There are a number of coastal walks you can do and it is a great opportunity to really experience the flora and fauna Australia has to offer.

Australia Zoo

Made famous by Steve Irwin, Australia Zoo is a great place to go to see some of Australia’s wildlife up close and personal. I’m not usually a zoo fan, but one good thing about Australia Zoo is that they donate a lot of money and resources towards conservation projects.

Hit the Beach

There are so many beautiful beaches at the Sunshine Coast, and some absolute must visits are Noosa, Caloundra, Maroochydore, and Dicky Beach. Dicky Beach tends to be the quieter of the bunch so it is a great place to go to relax.

Explore the Glasshouse Mountains

The distinguishable Glass House Mountains are seen from the highway as you drive towards the Sunshine Coast from Brisbane. They form part of the Glass House Mountains National Park. You can drive through with many places to stop along the way.

Where to stay on the Sunshine Coast

Like the Gold Coast you can rent a self contained apartment on the Sunshine Coast, which includes a kitchen and lounge as well as separate bedrooms. Caloundra and Noosa are really popular with holiday goers and there are a lot of restaurants and cafes in these areas.

Ending your South East Queensland Road Trip

Our South East Queensland Road Trip itinerary ends in Brisbane. The reason being because Brisbane is such a big city. If you are planning on flying elsewhere in Australia or further abroad then this is where the airport is. Additionally there are far more transport links from Brisbane than the Sunshine Coast. If you are planning on driving further afield though, then there is no need to head back to Brisbane, just keep exploring!

Queensland road trip itinerary – a recap

Hopefully this article will help you plan your own Queensland self drive itinerary. Queensland is such a big place and there is so much more to see, so if you have the time do consider driving further north after you have visited the sights of South East Queensland. This one week itinerary is one of our favourites and if you do make the trip please let us know how you found it in the comments.

Queensland 1 week road trip

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  • Anisa
    February 9, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    I haven’t been to this part of Austalia yet. I agree that having your car is the best way to explore. I know I would want to make a lot of stops to take photos.

    • Lizzie
      February 9, 2019 at 3:01 pm

      We highly recommend it. It is actually where I am from originally so I am probably a little bit biased!

  • Katherine
    February 9, 2019 at 3:41 pm

    I can’t believe that 4X does a brewery tour! I also may have partaken in a few anti-4X jokes in my time. My beer racism aside, Queensland is gorgeous and I wish I’d visited more before I moved away! Great itinerary!

    • Lizzie
      February 9, 2019 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks so much! It is crazy how nasty things can turn when you insult beer! Good old Australia.

  • Clazz
    February 10, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    Queensland is one of the best places for a road trip! I absolutely love the Sunshine Coast. 🙂 Great guide to Brisbane too – although there’s also the free City Hopper ferry, which is better to get around the main places than the City Cat. Love this itinerary!

    • Lizzie
      February 10, 2019 at 4:31 pm

      I’ll have to try the City Hopper next time! Thanks for the tip. x