With all those wide strips of sand framing South East Queensland, it’s easy to forget that Brisbane is also an easy drive away from mountains in the north, south and west.

Whether you’re seeking a short scenic trip or a weekend-long adventure, the surrounding mountains offer everything from grassy hills and lush swimming holes, to verdant forests and challenging, vertical rock faces.

Here’s our guide to exploring this undulating wonderland.

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Best mountain to picnic: Mount Glorious
If you don’t have a whole day but you’re keen for a quick nature escape, Mount Glorious is an easy one-hour drive away. Head west from the CBD along Musgrave and then Waterworks Roads and you’ll be surrounded by the bush in 20 minutes.

Drive it as a circuit up through Mount Nebo, on to Mount Glorious and then back down through Samford Valley. The Mount Nebo leg has a bunch of great lookouts where you can get out and stretch your legs.

After the scenic drive, Maiala Picnic Area, at the top of Mount Glorious, is a top spot to enjoy a packed lunch. The grassy hill is well resourced with barbeques, bathrooms and plenty of shady places to lay out your picnic blanket. It’s also the starting point for several walks through the surrounding rainforest.

Best mountain to swim: Mount Mee
Once the weather warms up, the mountains to the north-west of the city make for a great alternative to the beach for a weekend swim. If there’s been a few days in a row of solid rain, head for Rocky Hole at Mount Mee – it’s a little tricky to get to, but worth the drive if you prefer a more secluded swimming spot.

Once you’re out of the city, take the D’Aguilar Highway (R85) at Caboolture heading toward The Gantry Day Use Area in D’Aguilar National Park. Just past The Gantry, take the first turn on the right, Neurum Creek Road. A four-wheel drive is recommended for this portion of the track, particularly after rain.

Then, from the signed car park, it’s a short walk into a gorge and the secluded Rocky Hole. It’s surrounded by rock platforms, caves and dry bushland. The granite shelves keep the water sheltered, with fresh water flowing from waterfalls after rain. There are no amenities or facilities, but this of course helps keep it from being overrun, which only adds to its appeal.

If you’re concerned about not having access to a four-wheel drive, check out Northbrook Gorges at Mount Glorious.

Best mountain for views: Springbrook
Springbrook is perhaps best known for its rainforest walks and waterfalls, but it also boasts some of the most spectacular views in South East Queensland.

For the killer spots, head for the top of the Springbrook Plateau section – there’s a concentration of short walks and stunning lookouts.

Wunburra Lookout, Purling Brook Falls Lookout, Canyon Lookout and Goomoolahra Falls Lookout are all fantastic. As the name suggests, though, the pick is Best of All Lookout – a 600-metre walk through clusters of 2000-year-old Antarctic beech trees leading to a rocky outcrop with extraordinary views to the south-east.

Please note that the Purling Brook Falls circuit is temporarily closed due to flooding.

Best mountain for families: Tamborine Mountain
If you need a mountain for all occasions, Tamborine is for you.

There are bushwalks and brilliant views of the Gold Coast and Scenic Rim, but Tamborine Mountain also has a couple of handsome high streets with craft and gift shops, boutiques, antique stores and unfussy eateries. There’s also a bunch of honour boxes scattered across the plateau where you’ll find fresh produce such as rhubarb and avocado.

Most shops open from 10am to 4pm, so there’s plenty of time to make the trek from Brisbane that morning and tie it in with a bushwalk or some lunch. Try and do it on a Sunday so you can visit the Mount Tamborine Markets, and stop in at Granny Macs on the way home for locally made treats.

Best mountain for a food-focussed day trip: Blackall Range
If food is more your tip, head north towards the Blackall Range towns of Maleny and Montville. Both are an easy drive up the Bruce Highway and then on to Steve Irwin Way (although the back route via Dayboro and Mount Mee is an absolutely stunning drive, if you have a bit more time on your hands).

If you’re there in time for breakfast, Monica’s and Shotgun Espresso in Maleny, and Little May Espresso in the more tourist-oriented Montville all offer fresh, seasonal food that is lovingly prepared. After breakfast, head over to Maleny Dairies – keep an eye on its website to see if it’s running tours, on which you’ll see the process behind their award-winning products. Either way, you can still pick up something for takeaway and glimpse the animals out back.

Grab lunch and an afternoon drink at the award-winning Brouhaha Brewery. The region is showcased on a menu that features meat from Maleny Wagyu, dairy from Maleny Dairies and breads from Ten Acre. While there, taste your way through the seasonal beer offerings or try something a bit funkier from the limited releases. Just be sure to check the Brouhaha website to see if you need to book.

A food tour through Maleny and Montville wouldn’t be complete without dinner at The Long Apron. Spicers Clovelly Estate’s star restaurant offers elevated modern Australian food cut through with Euro influences. It’s also won awards for its classy wine list that features a neat collection of vintage champagnes – just in case you want to stay the night.

This article was originally published on 31 July 2020. It has been updated to reflect new information and remove out-of-date details.