A Guide To Brisbane

Brisbane is an afterthought for most travelers coming to Australia. The ugly duckling of the big cities, derided by locals as being nothing more than an overgrown small town and ignored by tourists for more cultured destinations like Sydney and Melbourne. I’ll admit the only reason I visited Brisbane is because I did the hop-on/hop-off greyhound from Cairns to Sydney and it was on the route. Otherwise I wouldn’t have visited.

So does Brisbane deserve its lackluster reputation? Is it a city that warrants time in your travel itinerary?

To be blunt, Brisbane exudes generic blandness; there’s nothing in this town that’s unique or daring. I’d only recommend adding it to your travel plans if you happen to be driving through it. One day is more than enough time to see everything.

If you happen to find yourself in Brisbane start by exploring the CBD area. It’s small, compact and easy to cover on foot. The main attraction is Queen Street Mall, which has a nice selection of stores and restaurants. Then head over to the South Bank and walk along its promenade, lay on the grassy lawns and enjoy the city skyline towering over the brown and muddied waters of the Brisbane River. Another worthy attraction is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is the world’s largest koala reserve (great family trip).


How To Get There

By Plane: Brisbane has its own international airport (Brisbane Airport) which is 15-20 minutes drive (13km) from Brisbane CBD. Airport transfers are available by train or bus to the city.

By Road: Brisbane is a 2 hour drive south  of Noose  and 1 .5 hour north of Gold Coast on the popular East Coast tour of Queensland most backpackers follow. You can choose to drive this route with a car or camper. There’s also a hop-on / hop-off greyhound option that operates between major cities like Sydney and Brisbane to Cairns with stops at many popular destinations like Noosa, Byron Bay and others. Those tickets are valid for three months from purchase.

To view the map of the greyhound route click here. For more details on purchasing a greyhound ticket click here.

Distances Road kms Drive hrs
Noosa 160 2
Gold Coast 90 1.2
Sydney 940 12
Melbourne 1710 19
Cairns 1760 19


Best Time To Visit

Brisbane, while not technically located in the monsoonal tropics, still displays some similar weather patterns. It gets hot and humid during the summer months ( December through February) , the shoulder months offer pleasant weather (March-April and September-Octobers) while the winter months are tolerably cool.


Where To Stay

This is a compact city with main attractions located within a 2km mile radius of CBD. Brisbane has accommodations that fit a wide range of budgets from 5 star hotels to huge backpacker complexes. As long as you don’t stray to far away from CBD you should be fine.


How To Get Around

Given the size of CBD there’s little need to use the public transportation as you explore downtown by foot. For attractions outside of CBD (example the Lone Koala Sanctuary)  you’ll need the public transport. Like Melbourne and Sydney, Brisbane has a Public Transport Card called “Go” which you can purchase and top up with credit. But unless you plan to stay in Brisbane a while (and why would do that ??) I don’t recommend that you purchase it and just pay the fare on the bus. There are also ferries that transport you around the city via the river. Brisbane does offer a free Inner City Ferry with limited stops at tourist destinations.

Brisbane City Map
Brisbane City Map

Top Attractions

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:  One of the top rated attractions in the city, and the largest koala sanctuary in the world. It has kangaroos, platypuses, Tasmanian devils,  dingos, wombats,  sheep,  goats,  sheep dogs, bats,  cockatoos, lorikeets, emus and koalas. Admission is not cheap though, prices are as follows:

  • 36 AUD for an adult
  • 22 AUD for a child (3 to 13)
  • 26 AUD for a student (14 -17 or with ID)
  • There’s family pack of 85 AUD for a family (2 adults and 3 children) and
  • Kids under 3 are free.

Gallery Of Modern Art (GOMA): If you like modern art then GOMA is the place to visit. This gallery has a range of great permanent and transient exhibits. The art on display is suitable for all ages.

Story Bridge Adventure Climb: The Story Bridge is one of only three bridges in the world that you can climb. You have the option to do the climb early in the morning to see the sunrise, during the day or in the evening during sunset. The Adventure climb offers views of the city while traffic passes beneath you. Feeling adventurous? You can do a 30m abseil down the anchor pier after you’ve enjoyed the Story Bridge climb.

Brisbane River: This waterway runs through the middle of the city. You can take the City Cat Ride or the City Hopper (free) up or down the river and enjoy the view of the passing city skyline.

South Bank: This is nice promenade with several attractions including an art district, the Wheel of Brisbane, a public pool called “The Beach”, restaurants and good viewing area where you can relax on lawns soak in sun and city views.


Top Day Trips

Springbrook National Park: This is supposed to be a good day trip option to view the Springbrook National Park ,which offers beautiful waterfalls, dramatic escarpments, forests and cute cafes.

Moreton island: A 75 minute boat ride from Brisbane, Moreton Island offers beaches and tall sand dunes, crystal clear lakes and lagoons, shipwrecks teeming with marine life, and a resort offering kid friendly activities.

North Stradbroke Island: Like Moreton, Stradbroke Island is accessible from Brisbane by ferry. It has scenic walking trails, beautiful beaches and in the North Gorge Headlands you can spot whales in the ocean (June to November) and turtles and manta rays can be seen in the gorges clear waters.

Noosa: This town is only a 2 hour drive from Brisbane. Noosa is known as the Hamptons of the East Coast. Walk down Hastings street, which has wide selection of designer shops, alfresco dining and excellent coffee shops. Noosa also has excellent beaches for swimming and surfing.

Mt Tamborine: There’s plenty to fill a day in beautiful Mt Tamborine – rainforest walks, arts and crafts shopping, tea and cake in cosy cafes, a treetop jaunt on the Skywalk, and a traditional Polish lunch with views.

Related Videos

This is a video from one day spent in Brisbane that should give you an idea of what the city has to offer.

Ready To Book Your Trip To Australia?

Use Skyscanner to search thousands of flights for the best deals.

Agoda is a great site to find discounted rooms around the world.

Viator has biggest selection of excursions from group tours to day activities.

Australia Travel Videos

Recommended Travel Gear

Related Posts

Crash Course In Aussie Lingo

Known as "Aussie Strine", Australian slang is almost a language unto itself. It's a colorful and descriptive way of speaking that I…

Australia Travel Basics

Below is a primer on Australia covering Visa Requirements, Accommodation, Food and Transportation.

10 Things About Australia

Australia is easily one of the most fascinating places I've visited. I spent three months traveling through it and I feel like I've only…

A Guide To Queensland

Queensland, the second largest state in Australia and the third most populous, was easily my favorite part of this country. It's blessed…

Australia Itinerary

One of the goals of my of destinations section is to always have a two week itinerary for the country that I am reviewing. Doing it for…

24 Hours In Melbourne

24 hours is the perfect amount of time to get a taste of what Melbourne has to offer. This is a city that's brimming with great options for…

Your Survival Guide To The Australian Open

This year I was lucky enough to attend the first three days of the Australian Open in Melbourne. The first two days I entered with ground…

Guide To Great Ocean Road

The Great Ocean Road is one of the world's most scenic road trips. It's been voted as one of Australia’s top 10 destination experiences in…

What To Expect On A Liveaboard In The Great Barrier Reef

Diving in the Great Barrier Reef has always been on my bucket list. It was an incredible experience that totally lived up to my…

24 Hours In Sydney

So you've finally made it to Sydney and you only have a day to see the town. First question I have is .... how's that possible? You don't…

Guide To The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains is one of the most popular day trips from Sydney. It's made up of 7 separate national parks, covering 10,000 square kms…

Everything You Need To Know About Myki

Melbourne has a wonderful public transportation system. To get around the city (and surrounding suburbs) there's really no need to rent a…