My initial impression of Brisbane was admittedly poor. The CBD itself was busy enough and it was nowhere near as sleepy as I had found Canberra, however, the city just seemed to be missing something. Although perhaps I set my expectations too high after 7 months in flamboyant Sydney and having already been charmed by Melbourne’s cultural scene, Brisbane is a definite tough nut to crack. Even locals have taken to referring to it as “the most boring city in Australia”. Saying this, if you have a visit lined up all hope is not lost! With a bit of extra effort there is still plenty to keep you busy – and even better, I have done the research so you don’t have to.
1 – SOUTH BANK
South Bank is the gold mine of Brisbane. One thing the Queensland capital lacks is easy beach access and the manmade Street Beach tackles this head on. Featuring kids pools, real sand, rainforest trails and (most importantly) Eat Street – South Bank is the place to be. There is even an outside cinema to check out! With the Wheel Of Brisbane and Queensland Museum just round the corner, the area has everything you need on a day out.
2 – MORETON ISLAND
Moreton Island is the 3rd largest sandbank island in the world (with Fraser Island taking 1st place). There are numerous tours and activities on the island to be found on TripAdvisor and GetYourGuide. I, however, opted for a day cruise through Tangalooma Resort. This package included a snorkelling tour of the wrecks, a $20 voucher redeemable for food, access to resort facilities and the opportunity to hand feed wild dolphins. At $199, this was easily my biggest splurge whilst staying in Brisbane – which actually meant my budget wouldn’t allow a trip to Lone Pine Sanctuary. I cannot express enough how worth it the experience was though, and I would encourage anyone in the area to prioritise this trip. The dolphins were incredible and the snorkelling tour far surpassed my expectations. The whole day was made even better by use of VIP facilities which gave you access to lockers, showers and coffee! Moreton Island truly is paradise; capturing that South Pacific Island vibe only 75 minutes off of Queensland’s coastline.
3 – LONE PINE SANCTUARY
To cuddle koalas and hand feed kangaroos head to Lone Pine Sanctuary, expect an entrance fee of $37.80 per adult and extra for an encounter. If you aren’t as fussed to hold a koala, Daisy Hill Koala Centre offers free entry and plenty of the cuties to see. As stated above, Moreton Island and a random trip to hospital ruined my carefully planned budget – meaning I missed out on a visit to the sanctuary. Luckily, I got to meet a joey staying out in country New South Wales over Christmas and saw wild koalas in Victoria; so I can vouch that you want to meet one of these guys!
4 – STORY BRIDGE
Although maybe you should visit Story Bridge before you see the Harbour Bridge, it is an iconic landmark in Brisbane. To spice things up a bit, if you have a deeper pocket, why not splash some cash on a bridge climb! Time it at sunrise or sunset to capture the best views. Alternatively, have a stroll across or take in the bridge from the water for free with a City Hopper ferry.
5 – CITY HOPPER
GetYourGuide and TripAdvisor will have your head reeling from the amount of river cruises advertised, and if you are keen for a more luxurious experience then great – book! However, if your budget is a little tighter like myself, City Hopper offers free ferry rides between 8:00am and 12:30am at night. It is basic but hey you get the same views! Its also a great way to save your legs and/or purse when exploring the CBD.
6 – RIVERLIFE ACTIVITY CENTRE
At the base of Kangaroo Point Cliffs, Riverlife Activity Centre is where to head for a bit of adventure. Go kayaking, rock climbing, abseiling, play laser tag or even take a Segway tour of Brisbane’s CBD. Prices start from around $29 and do get higher for more select activities (such as Deluxe Dining Tours). As Kangaroo Point Cliffs are bound to be on your itinerary in order to snap that perfect pic of the city skyline, it is worth dropping by at the centre to see what catches your eye.
6 – GOLD COAST
This could be cheating but just over 2 hours away on public transport lays the Instagram famous Gold Coast. Grab a GoCard for cheaper fares and you have yourself a day trip! Check out Surfers Paradise and Sky Point Observation Deck, or head to one of the many theme parks for a more family friendly option. A concrete playground built from a jungle of skyscrapers, be prepared to witness the chaos that is tourism firsthand – the Gold Coast is a guilty pleasure that you cannot miss.
7 – QUEEN STREET
Shopping central, Queen Street is the go-to for a bit of retail therapy. Pick up souvenirs or update your wardrobe to better suit Queensland summers – there is plenty for everyone. The Brisbane shopping scene really is elite. It is also conveniently located a short stroll from Central Station.
8 – MOUNT COOT-THA
A spontaneous addition to my itinerary, Mount Coot-tha transpired to be a highlight of my trip to Brisbane. I’d recommend starting a visit at Mount Coot-tha lookout, which is home to not only a viewing platform but a café and restaurant. I opted for the more casual dining and brunched overlooking the skyline at Kuta Café. There are also bottles of champagne on offer so if you are looking for a romantic meal or drink definitely head over to take in the views in style. After brunch, I headed out on the Slaughter Falls Walk (one of the numerous bushwalks). Blessed by the recent showers, the forest was gorgeous and green! The bushwalk itself is low grade and, although it does have steps, is reasonably accessible. There is are an abundance of lizards and native birds to spot, which I managed to catch on camera as they seemed quite used to people. I completed the walk alone and felt comfortable doing so, however, as always I would recommend taking necessary precautions and ensuring someone is aware of your whereabouts. The icing on the cake here is the free bus network around the National Park! Make sure to check routes out online before you go.
In my opinion, whilst Brisbane’s attractions don’t ‘jump out’ at you in the way the tourist hubs of Sydney and Melbourne do, they are definitely just as memorable. Sat writing this, on my final day of my 2 weeks in Brisbane, I would highly recommend a visit. Although seemingly still finding its feet and identity as a city, it is certainly one to watch out for – with lots being invested in universities and housing. I think in 5 years (or even less) the tourist scene will be even different again as Brisbane’s economy grows. The location of the city is ideal for day trips to famous destinations and landmarks such as: The Sunshine Coast, The Gold Coast, Glasshouse Mountains and Stradbroke Island. The greenery is additionally unbeatable by drier southern states. Don’t rule out Queensland’s capital in your adventures Down Under.