Craving time with your sweetheart but can’t crack the budget? Or maybe your credit card is still flatlining from Christmas. We get it. Which is why, in the spirit of Saint V, we’ve rustled up 21 romantic, fun and affordable (or free!) Valentine’s Day ideas that also work a treat for date night or a memorable day out.
Photos: Tourism and Events Queensland, except where noted
#1. Breakfast in bed
Spoiling your love starts at sunrise. Brew the coffee, flip a few pancakes (or pile up the bakery-bought pastries), and head back to bed!
#2. Snuggle up and watch the sunset
It’s the best free entertainment around: watching the sun melt into the horizon with your love. Top spots to take in Queensland’s golden hour include historic Redcliffe Jetty, Burleigh Hill on the Gold Coast, along Caloundra’s coastal boardwalk, and atop Castle Hill in Townsville. One of the best places to see the sunset in Brisbane is undoubtedly the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, directly facing the CBD skyline. Adventurous souls can also try abseiling down the cliff face here! Or head to the top of Mount Coot-tha for soul-stirring views across the city.
#3. Cruising together
Don your captain’s hat and ply the waters of the Brisbane or Nerang River with GoBoat Australia — no boating licence required! Their adorable Danish-designed electric picnic boats are easy to drive, perfect for a picnic, and priced from just $99/hour. When it comes to cruising the Noosa River, you could hire a boat or organise a private charter. But we love the Sunset Cruise with Noosa Ferry (from $31/pp). It’s BYO (or you can purchase drinks and nibbles on board) and you’ll glide past some of Noosa’s best sights as the river is dipped in a golden glow.
#4. Picnic in the park
Shake out a blanket, unpack a feast, and enjoy a classic picnic in the park. Brisbane’s New Farm Park is a fave for its river views and proximity to New Farm Deli where you can stock up on gourmet cheeses, nibbles and treats. Not keen on self-catering? Try Pop Up Event Co in Brisbane/Gold Coast, Mt Tamborine Picnics, or Hello Picnic in Townsville.
#5. Flick through old photos
This one couldn’t be simpler (or sweeter). Open a bottle of wine, dust off the old albums (virtual or leather-bound) and take a trip down memory lane.
#6. Catch a free outdoor movie
Fresh air. Stars above. And the two of you cosied up on a beanbag or blanket enjoying food-truck snacks and a big-screen movie. What could be better? For Valentine’s Day 2024, you’ll have a choice of free alfresco flicks. Movies Under the Stars on the Gold Coast is screening 50 First Dates at Southport’s Broadwater Parklands while Moonlight Cinema Brisbane has a Week of Romance starring 10 Things I Hate About You, How to Lose A Guy in Ten Days, Anyone But You, and The Notebook and more.
#7. Try something new
Have you ever wanted that Ghost moment around a pottery wheel? Maybe you dream of whipping up an impressive Pad Thai at home? Or perhaps even pictured yourselves locked in a passionate tango? Now’s the time to give it a go! Whether it’s a paint-and-sip session, a cooking class, or dance lessons, trying something new has a way of making sparks fly. And there are plenty of budget options too. Learn a few rumba moves online, traverse a new walking trail, or whip up that souffle you’ve always wanted to try.
#8. Chase a waterfall
Whether you’re admiring the mist or splashing around in the rock pools below, there’s something magical about a waterfall. No entry fee required. For some of the best waterfalls in Queensland, roam the heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest of Springbrook National Park (home to the Purling Brook Falls and Twin Falls to name a few) or cool off in the Kondalilla Falls or Gardeners Falls near Maleny/Montville or Mount Tamborine’s Cedar Creek Falls. For more of that rock pool vibe, see the Currumbin Rock Pools or Samford’s Cedar Creek.
Chasing waterfalls further north? Don’t miss the picture-perfect Millaa Milla Falls in the Atherton Tablelands and the Josephine Falls near Cairns. With a breathtaking drop of 268 metres, the GOAT of Queensland waterfalls, Wallaman Falls, can be found in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area near Townsville. And yep, you can swim here too!
#9. Get thee to a gallery
What’s not to love about a free hit of culture (and aircon) in one of the state’s many gorgeous galleries? QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art) makes an iconic starting point — did you know they host weddings in their breathtaking Watermall space? Just picture it … Sneaker freaks should head to HOTA (Home of the Arts) on the Gold Coast and check out Sneakers Unboxed: Studio to Street for a fascinating walk through history and a choice display of kicks.
#10. Escape to an island
Island vibes anyone? Even if you can’t plump for an overnight stay, you can still enjoy a day trip of sun, sand, and adventures on some of Queensland’s most beautiful islands. For the best islands close to Brisbane, set sail for Mulgumpin/Moreton Island and catch the Minjerribah/North Stradbroke Island passenger ferry for $21 return pp then hop aboard the island bus to explore.
While further up the coast, Kingfisher Bay Resort on K’gari Fraser Island offers an excellent Day Away package including ferry transfers, lunch at The Sand Bar, use of all resort facilities and pools, and more for just $99/pp. Or hop over to Great Keppel Island in the Southern Great Barrier Reef from $50/pp. Off the Cairns coast you could be heading to Nudey Beach or sinking a coldie at Foxy’s Beachfront Café & Bar on Fitzroy Island in under an hour, with transfers from $90/pp. And Townsville locals know it’s only a 20-minute skim across the water (and only about $40/pp) to enjoy glorious ‘Maggie’ Magnetic Island.
#11. Have a movie night at home
You don’t have to leave the house for a memorable date night — or movie. Scroll your streaming services for a favourite film or a new-release blockbuster, chill the Drumsticks, pass the popcorn, and enjoy. Just remember: phones go on silent!
#12. Take a hike
Lace up your boots and explore the state’s endless map of super-scenic walking trails, experiencing the ancient landscapes, rainforest and ocean vistas we’re lucky enough to have in our backyard. Some of our faves that won’t raise too much of a sweat include Mary Cairncross Park in Maleny, the Burleigh Head Oceanview and Rainforest Circuit, and the Tallebudgera Creek Walking Trail at the David Fleay Wildlife Park (check out their incredible wedding venue while you’re there). Active couples will love taking on some of the more challenging trails, including the 10.8 km Coastal Walk through Noosa National Park, the 28-km Conway Circuit in The Whitsundays, the 54-km Gold Coast Hinterland Great Walk or the 87-km Carnarvon Great Walk. All glorious.
#13. Start your engines for a Sunday drive
Okay, so Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday this year but you can still plan a weekend escape to the country (or maybe wrangle the day off for a sneaky mid-week spin?). Jump in the car and head to the spectacular Scenic Rim region, around an hour south of Brisbane at the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. From Tamborine Mountain and Kalbar to Beechmont and Boonah, the region’s charming townships and breathtaking vistas will have you planning a return visit pronto. And if you happen to see a few possible wedding locales along the way, what’s the harm?
#14. Soak with your sweetheart
Feeling frazzled? Soak your way back to wellness with a shared experience that won’t totally blow the budget. Soak Bathhouse (Gold Coast and West End) invites you to drift between indoor and outdoor communal mineral baths, hot spas, a cold plunge pool, steam room and traditional dry cedar sauna or treat yourselves to a massage or private infrared sauna. Their couple-perfect Sip & Soak packages start at just $69 for 90 minutes. Or head to the lush Currumbin Valley and The Bathhouse (part of Ground at Currumbin), where all manner of mineral-enriched, hot-and-cold soaks and plunges await from just $35/hour. Add brunch or lunch at Ground’s Pasture & Co for a truly restorative day out.
#15. Enjoy long walks on the beach …
Surely, the best date nights start with a romantic stroll along the ocean shore. And, lucky for you, Queensland isn’t exactly short on pretty stretches of sand. Look to all the usual suspects (aka: some of the best beaches in Australia) along the Gold, Sunshine, and Capricorn coasts. Channel your inner child fossicking through the rockpools of Caloundra’s Kings Beach. Or squeak through the Noosa Main Beach sand before heading to one of their sublime oceanfront restaurants. Or, for something completely different, try the low-tide sea walk from Wellington Point (in Brisbane’s Bayside region) over to King Island.
#16. Cook your way into their heart
Fan the flames at home whipping up a favourite meal, a sentimental dish, or a fancy new recipe. After all, you should never underestimate the power of a classic roast chicken (just ask Harry & Megs).
#17. Meander around a market
Wander hand-in-hand through Queensland’s best markets, stocking up on farm-fresh seasonal produce, browsing artisan-made treasures, and sipping on a coffee or fresh-pressed juice. Try the Jan Powers Farmers Markets, Sunday Noosa Farmers Market, Eumundi Markets, or the charming Kuranda Original Rainforest Markets. On Brisbane’s riverfront, the Collective Markets at South Bank offers a treasure-trove of artisan and vintage shopping, food and live music. After dark, some of our favourite Queensland night markets take on a magical feel that’s perfect for date night. Foodies can follow their nose to Brisbane’s Eat Street Northshore or the vibrant Miami Marketta or Surfers Paradise Beachfront Markets on the Gold Coast.
#18. Explore the Noosa Everglades
As one of only two Everglades ecosystems on earth (the other is in Florida, USA), the Noosa Everglades make for a very special romantic adventure. Around 40 minutes from Noosa Heads, explore this unique 60-km stretch of pristine narrow waterways and vibrant flora and fauna on a guided or self-guided kayak or boat tour.
#19. Unwind with a massage/spa day
A relaxing shoulder rub or massage is a thoughtful way to help your significant other unwind. Step it up by running a bubble bath, popping on face masks and leaning into a DIY spa day.
#20. Find a festival
Just days after Valentine’s you can join the celebrations at Stanthorpe’s Apple & Grape Harvest Festival (23 Feb – 03 March 2024). Even if you can’t book The Banchetto Italiano (Long Lunch) for $110 pp, there’s plenty of free fun including grape crushing, parades, an apple pie competition, markets, and live music plus gourmet food and award-winning local wine, beer and cider. Cheers! Or, save the date for the Kalbar Sunflower Festival (19-21 April, 2024).
#21. Put down your devices
You’ll be surprised what can happen when you simply switch off for the night.