Ahh, beautiful Brisbane. It was the first city that I visited in this great country, and the place that I called home for an unforgettable 8 months. With all of its charm, beauty, and small town feel – its easy to feel right at home here.
Brisbane has everything you could wish for when choosing a place to live, or even just to travel to. Being located in sunny Queensland, the weather here is hard to beat anywhere in the world. Brisbanites are blessed with pristine blue skies for an average of 285 days per year, and an average temperature of 25 degrees C. With all this amazing weather, there is no shortage of outdoor activities and events held all around town to keep you busy.
Where to Stay:
As a fellow backpacker, I am going to assume you are also on a tight budget, and are planning to rest your head in hostels while travelling around Australia. Being a very expensive country to backpack around if you don’t have a camper van, accommodation alone can quickly eat at your travel funds. Here are some of the top hostels in Brissy to choose from:
* (Prices are based on 4-10 bed mixed dorm rooms)
- Xbase Uptown ($23-38AUD): Conveniently located directly across the street from Roma Street Station, this makes a great choice if you are tired after a long journey and just want to drop off your bags. Offering up a lively restaurant and bar on the main floor, this might just be the best party hostel in the city.
- The Yellow Submarine ($16AUD): This dive hostel is one for all you super thrifty backpackers. It’s the cheapest hostel in the city, but for a reason. The rooms are very dated, not much security, and minimal amenities, but all this can be easily overlooked if you aren’t planning on spending much time here during the days. Only go here if you are on a very tight budget.
- BUNK ($30-36AUD): Located in the hip neighbourhood of Fortitude Valley, this would be my personal choice. Like most hostels in OZ, the wifi is not free and have been told is not the best when in your rooms. Bunk offers up modern rooms and bathrooms, a great lobby for socializing, and a massive kitchen to cook up some cheap dinners and possibly impress that cute girl/guy with your cooking skills 😉
- Chill Backpackers ($29-35AUD): Also located in the “hostel district” close to Roma Station, Chill Backpackers is another great choice. Some amenities include a 24 hour check in, laundry, fully equipped kitchen, internet lounge (not free), and an awesome rooftop terrace with a movie room.
How to get around:
Brisbane offers up a world class transit system that will take you anywhere you want to go in a timely matter. The only downside of the system is the price. Compared to some of the most expensive cities in the world to live in (New York, Sydney, Vancouver, etc) Brisbane’s transit system is considerably more expensive.
If you plan on taking buses and trains for more than a day or two, you are going to want to sign up for a Go Card. You can pick up one at any rail station for a minimum of $10. ($5 deposit & $5 credit). Just make sure to tap on and off every time, or you will be charged a ridiculous amount. A 1-Zone trip with the Go Card costs $3.20. Without a Go Card will set you back $4.60 for a 1 way.
If there is more than one of you, and you are planning on travelling across the city, I would highly suggest taking an Uber. There are always heaps of Ubers available all over the city, at any time of day. You can head from Roma Station to Fortitude Valley for around $8-10, assuming it isn’t a holiday or peak timing.
15 Must do’s:
1. Climb the Story Bridge:
Perfect for any level of fitness, this 2 hour epic climb of the Story Bridge, 80m above the Brisbane River, is sure to give you the best and most scenic views of the city. Prices range from $99 – $139 depending on the day of the week and time of the day. The only thing I don’t like about this tour is that they don’t allow you to bring your own camera. They offer a photography service where pictures taken of you will be available for purchase after the climb is finished.
2. Chill at Southbank Parklands:
Located directly across the river from the CBD, in between the Victoria Bridge and the Goodwill Bridge, you will find the bustling Southbank Parklands.
The most popular feature in the park is definitely Streets Beach, a man made beach surrounded by a large refreshing pool. Definitely the best place in the city to relax and catch some rays. The park also has the Wheel of Brisbane, a large modern ferris wheel that gives you stunning views of the CBD and the river. There are also plenty of restaurants, shops, that are just off the riverfront promenade.
3. Hold a Koala and Feed Kangaroos:
If you are in the mood for some serious animal cuteness, head over to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just 20 minutes outside the city by car, or 1 hour by public transportation.
The adult entrance fee is $36, but if you want to cuddle an adorable koala, it is an extra $20. Be prepared to wait in line if you go on a weekend!
The Sanctuary is home to a wide variety of animals native to Australia. You can hand feed kangaroos and wallabies, and see Tasmanian devils, dingos, wombats, platypus, large lizards, huge variety of tropical birds, eagles, owls and much more.
4. Mount Coot-tha Look Out Point:
Without a doubt, the best view overlooking the city, (unless you are in a helicopter) is from the Mt. Coot-Tha Look Out Point. You can get there in only 20 minutes in a car or about an hour by public transportation. There is a restaurant on the top, but I’ve heard from many people is over priced and to put it bluntly well, quite shitty. When you’re done, stop at the beautiful botanical gardens at the bottom of the “mountain” for a nice relaxing walk. If that’s your thing.
5. Explore the Valley:
Just a short walk northeast of the CBD and you will find yourself in the heart of the party scene in Brisbane, and the neighbourhood responsible for the sarcastic nickname “Brisvegas”.
If you are looking to party, this is the place to go to on the weekends. Some cheap nights in the area are:
- Birdies: Student night on Thursdays, and busy all weekend.
- La Ruche: Rad European style beats, and Hospo Industry night on Sundays.
- Heya Bar: Solid all weekend, and Cheap night on Mondays if you’re not burnt out yet.
During the day, there the Valley is still a place worth visiting. You can take a walk along Brunswick Street Mall, or window shop along the expensive James street. There are a few cool little lane ways that are worth checking out, kind of similar to what you would find walking around Melbourne.
6. Experience an NRL game:
In the same way that Canadians are obsessed with ice hockey, and Indians are with cricket, Queenslanders can’t get enough of the National Rugby League. It is similar but distinctly different from Rugby Union, which is played more internationally. If it’s NRL season and you are in Brisbane while their Broncos’ are hosting a game, I highly recommend forking out the dough and catching a game in the 53,000 seat Suncorp Stadium. The stadium was specially designed for rugby matches, and offers no bad seat in the entire stadium. It is arguably the best stadium in the league for spectator viewing and amazing atmosphere.
7. Relax in New Farm Park:
Nothing too exciting here, but if you’re looking for a nice relaxing park, away from the hectic touristy spots like Southbank, then New Farm Park is probably your best choice. Its’ southeastern end sits on the bank of the Brisbane River, offering up a nice cool breeze and plenty of shade provided by massive fig trees. Perfect place for a romantic picnic, or an afternoon with good friends or family.
8. Riverfire at Kangaroo Point Cliffs:
Wrapping up Brisbane Festival with a bang (pun intended), is an epic fireworks display that stretches along the Brisbane River from the Story bridge to Southbank. The show kicks off with a fly by from 5 F18 Super Hornets, of Australias Defence Force. The 30 minute show is choreographed to music which Brisbanites have chosen, that best defines what it is like to live in the city for the past year. 2016’s show was very heavy on David Bowie, which made for an unreal show.
There are plenty of vantage points with massive speakers spread out every 20 meters all over the city, but by far the best view point is from Kangaroo Point. There is something about the view of the Story Bridge to your right, the CBD straight ahead, and the Wheel of Brisbane in Southbank to your left that just can’t be beat, and leaves a perma-smile on my face whenever I am there.
2017’s Riverfire date is set for Saturday, September 30th. So if you are in Brisbane during this date, make sure you head to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs early enough to get the perfect view of the show.
9. Day Trip to North Stradbroke Island:
If you are having some beach withdrawals at this point, I have the perfect solution for you. Hop on a short ferry over to stunning North Straddie for the best day trip Brisbane has to offer. Straddie Island is truly a beach and nature lovers paradise, with plenty to see and do to keep you busy for the day. If you have the time, I recommend staying for at least a couple days, since it is quite a large island, and you might spend your whole day chilling at the beach, which I wouldn’t blame you for.
You get to Straddie via a ferry from Toondah Harbour in the town of Cleveland, about 40 mins drive from the CBD. If you don’t have a vehicle, no worries. There are buses and trains that make getting there a breeze. It is considered a 6 Zone trip though so it might be a bit expensive. Once at the harbour, you can hop on either a water taxi, or a car barge.
It is obviously heaps cheaper to just walk on the ferry compared to paying the approx. $100 per way for taking a vehicle. You definitely don’t need a vehicle to explore Straddie as there are frequent buses that operate on the island. But if you are planning on staying a couple of days it would be nice to have the luxury of getting around the island easily.
10. Afternoon at the Markets:
Brisbane is fortunate enough to be located in a part of the world with such amazing weather, and fresh produce is basically grown in the cities backyard all year round. If you are planning on doing some cooking at your hostel, don’t waste your money at expensive chain stores such as Coles or Woolies. Put the effort into making it out to a farmers market and buy some super fresh, local, often organic fruits and veggies. I’m a big fan of spending my hard earned money on goods from other hard working individuals, rather than massive corporations that just see you as dollar signs. Here are a few in the Brisbane area you can check out:
- Kelvin Grove Village Markets: I was fortunate to live just around the corner from here during my time in Brissy. Open from 6am – 1pm every Saturday, you can browse the 90+ stalls for super fresh produce, coffee, brunch dishes, flowers, clothing, crafts, etc.
- Eagle Farm Markets: Located in the Brisbane Racing Club grounds in Ascot, this market is open from 7am – 12:30pm every Sunday. There is a $2 admission fee due to being on private property, and the extra facilities that are offered such as toilets, atm’s, entertainment, kids activites, and the cleaning crew that keeps the grounds immaculate. Also a great place to stock your fridge with local fruits and veg.
- Milton Markets: Formerly known as the Red Hill Markets, this 120+ stall venue is quickly becoming one of the cities favourite spots on a Sunday morning. Open from 6am – 12pm, they feature a wide variety of local farmers, painters, chefs, bakers, fishmongers, butchers, baristas, juicers and artists.
11. XXXX Brewery Tour:
I can’t think of a more “Queensland” product than Brisbane’s own XXXX Beer. For $32 you can explore this heritage listed site, while learning the entire brewing process, the extensive history of the brand, and how to pour the perfect beer. Then you can kick back and enjoy a few brewery fresh “goldies”! Just leave the car at home 😉
Click Here for a link to book a tour.
12. Australia Zoo:
When you think of an Australian man, chances are you will immediately think of Crocodile Dundee (Paul Hogan), or the legend himself Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter”. If you grew up watching him on tv like myself, crikey! You need to check out the zoo he created with his family.
$59 will get you an adult general admission, or if you plan on going more than once, or $99 gets you an annual pass. Located only an hour north of Brisbane, it makes for an easy, and scenic drive. If you don’t have a car, you can take the Queensland Rail City Train up to Beerwah Station, and hop on the Zoos’ courtesy shuttle.
13. Cruise around on a City Cycle:
By far the cheapest way of seeing the whole city would be to rent a bike at one of the 150 City Cycle Stations located throughout the city.
You can either pay a $5 monthly fee to use the bikes, or sign up for a 24 hour pass for $2. The only catch with this system is that you have to return the bikes to any station within 30 mins. If you fail to do so, your card will be charged extra usage fees which I hear are quite steep. Just keep an eye on the time and you’ll be good to go! Ride Safe 🙂
14. Explore the West End:
Hands down, the hippest suburb in Brisbane and the place I would decide to live in if I ever decided to relocate in Brisbane. The quirky West End is rich in history and culture and is the place to be if you’re looking for an alternative and laid back lifestyle. You will find plenty of cozy cafes and restaurants, great parks to spend the afternoon, markets with organic veggies, and a lively bar and music scene that is always a great time. You will also find hipsters. Heaps of Hipsters.
15. Putt Putt at Vic Park:
Now I may be a bit biased to this one as I worked for the Functions Department at the golf course for 6 months, but Vic Park is honestly a must visit while you’re in the city. The Putt Putt course will set you back $19, which admittedly is a bit expensive, but it is easily the best putt putt course I’ve ever played, and I’ve played quite a few amazing ones. It is open until 10pm, so it is a great option for a fun date, or a night out with buddies. Vic Park also has a bistro with a Michelin star trained chef at the helm, and a brand new pizza kitchen with a wood fired stove imported from Italy, with arguably the best pizza that I’ve ever eaten. Say hi to chef Valentino for me!
Some of my Favourite Restaurants:
Melt Brothers, CBD
Scout Cafe, Petrie Terrace
Plenty, West End
Bens Burgers, Fortitude Valley
SisCo bcl, Spring Hill
Kwan Bros, Fortitude Valley
Pablo, New Farm
I’m sure all of these ideas will keep you busy, whether you decide to tackle all of them or not. Brisbane gets a bad rep from its big brother cities like Sydney or Melbourne because of its small size and “vanilla” nature. But if you put the effort in to exploring everything this city offers, I have no doubt you will end up loving Brisbane just as much as I have come to love it.
Happy travels 🙂