Despite being the third largest city in Australia, Brisbane sees significantly fewer tourists than its big brothers, Melbourne, and Sydney. Yes, Brisbane isn’t an iconic Australian destination. It doesn’t have awesome surfing beaches, it doesn’t have too many attractions, and it doesn’t ooze with young hip Aussie culture (although every year more and more pockets of goodness are developing in the city).
After living in Brisbane for over 2 years during our time in Australia, we discovered more than a few reasons to recommend it as a stop on your adventure around Australia. See, the thing about Brisbane is that it’s not the city itself that makes a great destination, it’s the sum of all other attractions that surround it.
Brisbane is a delight for outdoor lovers, nature enthusiasts, and those hipsters (or hipster wanna-be’s) who refuse to pay a premium for their habits.
Best Time to Visit Brisbane
Brisbane boasts amazing weather all year around. It’s actually one of the reasons we choose to base ourselves here vs. Melbourne or Sydney. Even in the peak of Australian winter (June – August), daytime temperature in Brisbane rarely falls below 20°C. You can still enjoy the outdoors, and on a sunny day, even the beach.
But to make the most of your time in Brisbane, we suggest that you plan your visit for the shoulder season. The best time is April – June, just as the wet season comes to an end and the daily highs are still hovering around 25-27°C. The alternative is September – October. With warm days and breezy nights, spring in Brisbane is a lovely time of the year filled with festivals, events, and activities.
Avoid visiting Brisbane in the summer (December – February). The heat during this time of the year can be unbearable (think upwards of 30°C), it’s humid and rain is very common, often causing flooding and making it difficult to get excited about going outside, let alone taking advantage of outdoor activities.
Find monthly temperatures and rainfall guides in USA Today’s post on the Best Time to Visit Brisbane.
Top Things to Do in Brisbane
There aren’t a ton of sights and attractions in Brisbane, but there are a few cool spots to check out and activities to take part in. Start your Brisbane tour by visiting the South Bank Parklands. Catch the panoramic views of the city, while riding the Wheel of Brisbane, cool off at the man-made beach, dine at one of the many restaurants along Grey Street, or pop into the Queensland Museum, or the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) located a short walk away in Brisbane’s Cultural Centre.
From South Bank, take a leisurely stroll along the river, cross the Goodwill Bridge, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. You can easily spend a few hours roaming around the gardens and enjoying this shaded oasis that is bound to make you feel like you are miles away from the city.
Those that love outdoor adventures, will enjoy getting active on the Brisbane River that winds through the centre of the city. Head over to Riverlife, located in Kangaroo Point for a slew of adventure activities, ranging from kayaking and stand up paddleboarding to abseiling. The are lots of BBQ spots around Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park, making it a perfect spot for a little sunset picnic overlooking the city.
Mt. Coot-tha, which is a suburb of Brisbane, but also a mountain, located approximately 6 km west of the Brisbane Central Business District, is another great place to take in the beautiful views around Brisbane. There are lots of great walks around Mt Coot-tha, but can also be explored by car as you can easily drive up all the way to the lookout.
The shopaholics visiting Brisbane will be delighted to know that what Brisbane lacks in brand name stores, it makes up in unique shops, awesome street fairs, and markets. Our favourite was always the Young Designers Market in South Bank, but this list of 10 Best Markets in Brisbane by Concrete Playground lists lots of others worth checking out.
Brisbane itself may not be the hub of activity in Australia, but there are some really cool attractions located just outside of Brisbane that are worth a visit, including the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary with over 130 koalas, and Australia Zoo, known as one of the biggest and best wildlife conservation facilities in the entire world.
And if you’ve got a few more days in the area, Brisbane can serve as a great base for exploring many of Queensland’s beautiful destinations. Check out this guide to 22 Brisbane Walks That Will Take Your Breath Away by BuzzFeed to get a glimpse of just a few of the day trip you can embark on from Brisbane, including Lamington National Park, Springbrook National Park, Stradbroke Island, Bribie Island, and Moreton Island, to name just a few.
Here is a more comprehensive list of Brisbane’s top day trips, by Visit Brisbane, that will give you lots of other ideas for day trips in the Greater Brisbane Region.
If you want a local’s perspective on the best things to do in Brisbane, check out this awesome article “Things Brisbane people like to say and 20 (secret) places they like to go” for some great local gems that are worth checking out during your visit.
Where to Stay in Brisbane
If you want to get the most of your visit to Brisbane, we recommend you to stay near the Brisbane CBD or the surrounding areas. The City, South Bank, Paddington, West End, and Fortitude Valley are all good options that will allow you be in close proximity to Brisbane’s main attractions.
Accommodation in Brisbane isn’t cheap. Beds in hostels start at USD $15 for a 10-15 person dorm room with a shared bathroom and go up to $20-30 for a more manageable 4-person room with an en-suite. Budget hotels start at $65-70, and go up from there.
We have never stayed in a hotel in Brisbane, so we’ll rely on others to provide you with a recommendation. Here is a list of the Best Brisbane Hotels by the Telegraph.
Another great alternative for accommodation in Brisbane is Airbnb, where private rooms start at $30 and offer a unique way to experience the city from a more local perspective.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive USD $35 to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
Where to Eat & Drink in Brisbane
There are no shortages of restaurants to check out in Brisbane. We spent 2+ years eating our way through Brisbane and still feel like we have barely scratched the surface.
Let’s start with breakfast. If breakfast is not provided in your hotel, you are in luck, because Brisbane sure knows how to do a good breakfast. Our favourite spot was the Gunshop Cafe in West End (conveniently located just 15 mins from our house), and coincidentally also listed as one of the Top 15 Best Breakfasts of Brisbane by the Courier Mail.
Our preference for lunch in Brisbane has never been a sit-down restaurant. With a plethora of great farmers markets and some awesome food trucks, it felt like there was plenty of other dining alternatives. We often had lunch at the West End Market in Davies Park and loved an opportunity to catch our favourite food trucks, The Bun Mobile, and Chip Tease in various parts of the city.
For dinner, your options range from cheap eats, (pick any from this amazing list of 51 of Brisbane’s Best Cheap Eats put together by The Urban List,) to dining in one of Brisbane’s Top Nine Restaurants, and everything in between. If you are looking for an iconic Australian dining experience and are willing to pay a premium for it, check out Tukka Restaurant in West End and try their menu of native Australian fare with a modern twist. (Yes, they do serve kangaroo, emu, possum and other odd Australian delicacies)
For a great night out in Brisbane, head to either the Fortitude Valley or the City. The valley is a happening spot on a Saturday night while the City is more popular on Fridays and throughout the week. If you want to make sure you hit up the best bars in Brisbane, check out Good Food’s article listing Brisbane’s Top 20 Bars, which gives a good outline of upscale establishments, neighbourhood watering holes, and everything in between.
Alternatively, this article on “Nightlife in Brisbane: where to drink, dance and party” on Visit Brisbane’s website outlines other entertainment options including live music venues, dance clubs, and alternative clubs.
Thanks to great weather, Brisbane boasts a great selection of outdoor patios and rooftop bars that make it all that more enjoyable to go out in the city. The Stock Exchange, or “the Stocky” as the locals refer to it, has always been one of our favourites, but there are many others worth crossing off this list of Rooftop bars in Brisbane.
How Much Time Do You Need in Brisbane
The time that you choose to spend in Brisbane, should really depend on the length of your overall stay in Australia.
You don’t need more than 1-2 days to check out Brisbane itself, but if you want to explore beyond the city’s boundaries, then plan to stay for at least 3-4 days.
For a short stay, use these suggested itineraries as a guide for your visit:
If you are traveling around Australia for a few months, then you may want to consider a longer stay in Brisbane to give you time to explore the city itself and the nearby destinations on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
And when it comes time to continue moving along the coast, consider following this Ultimate Brisbane to Sydney Itinerary, one of our favourite road trips in Australia.
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Have you ever been to Brisbane? What tips and advice would you give to first-time visitors to Queensland’s capital?