Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and is the 3rd biggest city in Australia. The city has a mix of incredible old buildings, sleek skyscrapers, stunning bridges, grassy parks, wonderful shopping, and a beautiful river.
I recommend staying somewhere in the Central Business District (CBD) or the South Bank area as mostly everything will be accessible from there. It is pretty easy to get around Brisbane with buses, trains, and ferries helping you commute through most parts of the city. However, I do recommend renting a car if you can as it really makes seeing the sights that much easier. Parking isn’t an issue in Brisbane and you will find public car parks in most areas of the city as well as at all major tourist attractions, however they definitely can be pricey if not booked ahead. Secure Parking and Wilson Parking are two websites where you can find highly discounted parking rates to prebook.
In the CBD you can browse the heritage arcades, the elegant former Treasury Building – which is now home to a casino, view the customs house, and join a free guided tour of the Brisbane City Hall. It may not be quite as impressive as Big Ben, but the clock tower on Brisbane’s City Hall is nearly as tall (around 90 meters). The Museum of Brisbane is within the City Hall and offers tickets to go up to a viewing platform at the top of the Clock Tower. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance. They do book up in advance so I highly recommend stopping by to get tickets before wandering around the city.
One of my favorite places in Brisbane is the South Bank Parklands. It is a tourist hotspot and frequently popular for its Instagram-worthy pictures but the beauty truly makes you fall in love with this inner city oasis. South Bank stretches along the Brisbane River with views of the city skyline. There are a number of interesting attractions including Streets Beach (Australia’s only inner city man-made beach), a walkway lined with pretty flowers, a miniature rainforest, a Nepalese peace pagoda, and a giant ferris wheel. It is such an amazing contrast between the CBD on one side of the river and the very chilled South Bank Parklands on the other. South Bank is also where you will find the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), home to many incredible shows such as musicals, ballet, theater, etc. South Bank Parklands is a wonderful place to enjoy lunch either as a picnic or at many of the incredible restaurants around.
Speaking about food, Brisbane is home to a variety of different options. There are food choices to fit every single budget and there is a vast selection of food from different cultures available. For fine dining, Eagle Street is a beautiful riverside area to visit. It is located in the heart of the CBD and is known for its upper class dining and drinking. One of my favorite budget-friendly food options is the Eat Street Northshore. The markets are open Fridays-Sundays and have just about everything you could possibly be craving. There are over 70 pop-up food stalls creating delicious dishes from all over the world. The first time I visited I wandered around for about an hour before deciding on what I wanted to eat. The choices seemed endless! You can reach the Eat Street markets by taking a ferry to Northshore Hamilton.
Now onto the ferries. One of the best views of Brisbane is from the river and taking one of the many ferries available you will be able to capture the beautiful skyline. If you are using public transportation within Brisbane, I recommend purchasing a Go Card. It is a reloadable tap-up card you can use for busses, ferries, trains and trams. It takes the hassle out of figuring out each fare. There is however a red CityHopper ferry that stops at numerous points throughout the city center and is FREE! No tickets are required, but you may have to wait a bit as they only run every 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can choose to do a Brisbane River Cruise from South Bank which will give you some great photo ops.
Another exquisite viewpoint of the skyline would be at Kangaroo Point. It is especially charming at sunset. I love visiting in the evening as it is beautiful looking at all the skyscrapers lit up. You also get to view the iconic Story Bridge lit up at night. Sydney of course has the Harbour Bridge while Brisbane has the Story Bridge. The bridge is an iconic structure in the city. A great way to get a bird’s eye view of the Brisbane River and the skyscrapers is to do the Story Bridge Climb.
One of the main reasons I recommend renting a car is you because you cannot visit Brisbane without going to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It is about a 15-20 minute drive from the city. With over 130 cuddly koalas, it’s Australia’s largest koala sanctuary. Lone Pine encourages you to not only view the animals, but to also meet them. You are able to go behind the scenes with a keeper on a Working with Wildlife tour, or hold a koala as you learn about these much-loved Aussie animals. Many tourists love this experience as holding a koala is only legal in three Australian states, Queensland being one of them. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a great place to go to see Koala’s up close munching on Eucalyptus leaves, or even better you can hand feed a Kangaroo! The Kangaroos are kept in a really large enclosure so there is a lot of space for them to hop around, and they will eat right out of your hands. When I first moved to Australia I bought an annual pass to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and every visit was just as exciting.
My last recommendation for Brisbane is to venture outside of the city for a day or weekend getaway. Although Brisbane isn’t known for their beaches, there are several beautiful islands easily accessible by boat that make you can feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical paradise. Stradbroke Island is about an hour away and has some of the most breathtaking views I have ever witnessed. There are beautiful hiking trails and oceanside walks where you get to enjoy the views year-round. You can even have a picnic and lookout for dolphins and whales depending on the time of year. Another beautiful spot is Moreton Island, which is one of the world’s largest sand islands. It is about an hour and a half away by ferry. Moreton Island is home to 15 sunken shipwrecks which create spectacular snorkeling sites with colorful fish and marine life.
No matter how long you stay in Brisbane, you are such to have an incredible trip.