Make no mistake: Brisbane should be on your Australia list.
Brisbane is Queensland’s capital city which manages to find the perfect balance between visit worthy buzzing destination and a place with such an easy going charm that only a city of this size can offer. If you’re in search of world class dining, dreamy beach excursions, boutique shopping, snobby coffee, riverbank walks, great museums and cocktails worth inquiring about the recipe – you’re in the right place. Let’s not forget the koala sanctuaries and rain forests, which are also nearby.
48 hours just isn’t enough in this blossoming, and hip city known affectionately as Brissy (briz-e), but it’s certainly a good start. This Brisbane travel guide has everything you need to make sure you know how to get around, where to eat, what to do and how to spend your free time.
The journey between Brisbane Airport (BNE) and the city of Brisbane is short and sweet, just about any way you choose. You can walk to the domestic terminal to take the BDVL train, which takes less than 40 minutes door to door to popular stops like South Bank. This is by far the most cost efficient option to get from Brisbane Airport into the city.
Alternatively, Uber works very well in Brisbane and places like Fortitude Valley or South Bank are less than a 30 minute ride and will run you roughly A$30-35, which equates to roughly £15 or $20USD. If you’re on a budget, the train is pretty easy, but for not a whole lot more (especially if travelling with someone else) the Uber option puts you right on the doorstep of your hotel or Airbnb.
The most obvious choice for Brisbane visitors tends to be South Bank or Downtown, two central areas long known for excellent dining, great shopping and charming riverbank walks. If that’s your aim, the Emporium and the W Brisbane are two very solid choices on the higher end, but thanks to Brisbane being a smaller city, they’re not ridiculously expensive either.
If you’re more interested in areas similar to Soho or the West Village in New York, Fortitude Valley is quickly on the rise as one of the most dynamic neighbourhoods as the city grows up, with a far more local feel. Without any hesitation, the best option in the area is the magnificent new Calile Hotel. The property is an urban resort, thanks to a world class pool, gym and spa facilities. Often found for under $200USD per night, it’s a steal. The bar and restaurant are so good, they draw locals in – and it was honestly quite hard to leave the place!
For any Airbnb fans, you’re also in total luck in Brisbane. The city is crawling with excellent Airbnb listings, including many Airbnb Plus options. You can easily find places under $100 per night for a non shared accommodation in great locations.
Breakfast and Coffee
One of the best things about Australia, is that there’s more fantastic food and coffee per capita than any other place on earth. It’s a bold claim, but it’s true. In fact, you may even notice that your favourite coffee shop in another part of the world was founded by Aussies.
The good news: the good places are so common that the bad ones just struggle to survive. If you’re not getting free breakfast included with your hotel, or even if you are, spots like: Nodo, NewBliss Cafe and Hellenika at The Calile are all excellent options if you’re in Fortitude Valley. If you’re more central, Coffee Anthology, The Gunshop Cafe, Coffee Iconic, Felix For Goodness and Morning After are all super choices too.
Put some comfy shoes on and see the beauty of Brisbane’s South Bank and botanical gardens. The city is wonderfully designed for people to walk, jog, cycle or rent Lime Scooters (which are great fun) and enjoy the views all along the Brisbane River.
If you start in the botanical gardens you can then take the path along the river and across the Goodwill Bridge, which is an excellent crossing as it’s for pedestrians only. Once on the other side, you’ll find beautiful pathways, gardens, markets, river views, man-made urban beaches, picnic areas, a community garden and so much more. It’s easy to spend a few hours here basking in the gorgeous sunshine. Just be warned: it’s subtropical here, it may get sticky : )
Shopping anywhere in Australia is fun, because you’ll find so many quality shops and boutiques that you just won’t see anywhere else in the world. Brisbane is no exception. Who doesn’t love a unique and independent store?
To kick things off right, you must head to James Street in Fortitude Valley, where you’ll find a modern, hip neighbourhood full of boutiques and local designers selling everything from fashion, art, jewellery, food and much more. It’s definitely the kind of place you’ll be returning to. The street is so hip, it even has its own website.
For more main stream shops, department stores and high end designers you’ll find everywhere, head to Queen Street Mall in Central Brisbane and explore the surrounding nearby streets. Chances are, you won’t be able to leave empty handed and that’s especially true if you happen to be there during the change of season sales.
If you happen to be in Brissy (as the locals call it) on the weekend, the city’s markets are great fun. The Riverside Markets in the Botanical Gardens and the Collective Markets on the Southbank both offer a range of stalls with plenty of good gift ideas. It’s a fairly steady mix of unique gifts, but with the inevitable tourist tat thrown in from stall to stall. Just be sure to check which days they are open.
Before we go further, we need to give Lime a quick mention, because in Brisbane particularly, it’s a highly amusing and fun way to zip around. If you don’t know, Lime are electric scooters that you can rent in cities all over the world and fortunately, Brisbane is one of them. With easy riverside pathways, it’s a great way to move around safely, but also squeeze extra bits in due to the time saved.
Limes are simple and convenient to use, so just download the app on your phone, top up the credit and follow the instructions to unlock the scooter. You’ll be off in no time. They are scattered around the city as you can pick up and drop them off anywhere that’s a safe location. If you use Lime promo code RNYXRQI, you’ll get your first unlock free.
48 hours just may not be enough to sample all the deliciousness Brisbane has to offer, but it’ll be a darn good start if you plan ahead. Hellenika at The Calile serves up wonderful homestyle Greek food in an extremely desirable -Palm Springs esque – setting. If you go, the Eggplant Moussaka or the Bougatsa for dessert are absolute musts.
For inventive chef curated food in the Fortitude Valley Area, Gerard’s Bistro has beautifully plated, fresh dishes with a twist on Middle Eastern x French flavours. If you love Japanese, or anything Asian fusion, Hôntô is another guaranteed winner of a dinner spot with a sleek interior and an inventive Japanese menu. It might just be the perfect date spot, but it’s also amazing for a low key solo meal.
For more excellent choices in the Central and Southbank areas, try Stokehouse Q or Bacchus for fine dining, Julius Pizzeria if you’re craving a good slice, or Urbane Restaurant which has incredible tasting menus including a healthy focus on vegetarian options. And for a post dinner cocktail or some casual tapas, Alba Bar & Deli is a must, spinning classic hip hop with high end mixology. What’s not to like?
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
If you’ve come all the way to Australia and are keen to see some animals, this is a great place to go, whether you have kids with you or not. I mean really, who doesn’t want to cuddle a koala?
Only 12km from Brisbane CBD, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is in fact the first and largest Koala Sanctuary in the world. You’ll be able to add the classic photos to your album holding a koala, feeding kangaroos, and seeing plenty of other semi terrifying Australian wildlife. If you love animals it’s hard to beat this for a fun and easy few hours out, adult tickets are A$42 and children A$25.
If you’re heading to Brisbane, chances are high you’ve heard all about the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coasts, which tempt you to the beach with name alone. If you’re driving from Brisbane it will take you just over an hour outside of rush hour if you rent a car, or an Uber will set you back anywhere from A$120-250.
Otherwise the far more practical option is to train from Central Brisbane’s Roma Street station or Brisbane Airport, which takes between 1.5 to 2.5 hours and can range from A$15-40 – it’s best to use Google Maps for finding the best routes and times. If that sounds like too much of a grind, there are also some good shuttle bus options using Link Transfers, starting from A$30 one way.
Some spectacular Queensland beaches to aim for: Coolangatta Beach, Surfers Paradise Beach, Currumbin Beach, Noosa Heads Main Beach, Sutton’s Beach, Burleigh Heads, Woorim Beach, or if you have more time heading up to Whitsundays is definitely worth the trip, it’s truly stunning. There are also good hotel options on the coasts if you fancy spending a few days near the beach.
Springbrook National Park
This national park is another day trip that is totally worth it. About a 90 minute drive from Brisbane CBD, Springbrook National Park is part of the World Heritage listed Gondwana Rainforest and will fill your day with waterfalls, rock pools, flora and fauna, beautiful walks and more picture worthy views than you can count.
To make the most out of the day, hiring a guide will help take you to all the best spots without any stress, just be sure to take plenty of refreshments with you. Airbnb Experiences is a good place to find guides running small boutique tours which will pick you up from your hotel, or a central meeting point.
You know where to get your coffee, you know the must eat restaurants and you’ve had a wonderful couple days zipping around the best neighbourhoods both new and old. In case it’s not already clear, Brisbane is a city that really should be added to any Australia trip.
With so much attention going to Sydney and Melbourne, and so many tourists being directed there, it’s amazing to spend a couple days taking in a thriving smaller city, which is only growing in all things delicious, fun or worth buying!