Brisbane, Australia

Your Trip to Brisbane: The Complete Guide

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The northern Australian state of Queensland may be on your itinerary thanks to the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest, but this lively capital city has plenty more to offer visitors.

With everything from wildlife to wine bars, Brisbane is the perfect introduction to the Sunshine State. It is surrounded by idyllic beaches to the north and the south and the aptly named Scenic Rim to the west. Read on for our complete guide to everything you should know before your trip to Australia's third largest city.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: Unlike the northern part of Queensland, Brisbane is relatively dry and warm all year round. Spring (September to November) brings average temperatures of between 59 degrees F to 77 degrees F, as well as the city's biggest annual event, the Brisbane Festival of art and culture.
  • Language: English is the default across Australia, though the country has no official language. Around 18 percent of Brisbane's residents speak a language other than English at home, with Mandarin being the most common.
  • Currency: The national currency is the Australian dollar (AUD). It is generally worth between $0.60 and $0.70 USD. The fluctuations can be significant if you're exchanging cash before your trip, so it may be worth shopping around for the best rate.
  • Getting Around: The main attractions in Brisbane are well-connected to the city, thanks to extensive rail, bus, and ferry routes. The TransLink Go card can be used across the network, but cash fares are also available. In regional Queensland, a car will likely be necessary.
  • Travel Tip: If you're also planning to visit Cairns and the tropical northern region during your time in Queensland, we recommend timing your trip to coincide with the dry season (April to October).

Things to Do

Clustered inside a bend in the river, Brisbane is known for its museums, restaurants, bars, and botanic gardens. Once you've enjoyed everything the city has to offer, there are also tons of islands, national parks and beaches to explore nearby.

  • Visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a 50-acre conservation park just outside the city and meet some of Australia's cutest native animals. For the full experience, take a scenic 75-minute river cruise departing from South Bank at 10 a.m. daily and returning at 3:30 p.m.
  • Cool off at Streets Beach, the huge manmade lagoon in the South Bank parklands, and take in the views of the river and the city skyline. Entry to Streets Beach is free, as is entry to the Boat Pool and Aquativity kids water park nearby.
  • Explore the state's cultural heritage at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). Recent exhibition themes include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural objects, youth environmental activism, and the motorcycle.

Check out our list of things to do and nearby day trips for more details.

What to Eat and Drink

Combining Chinese, Mediterranean, and Indian influences with local beef and seafood, Brisbane's dining scene is diverse and bursting with youthful energy. The state is one of Australia's agricultural powerhouses, so you'll never be far from fresh produce. Don't miss Gerard's Bistro for a Middle Eastern feast and Dan Arnold for an elegant modern Australian degustation.

Brisbane's vibrant nightlife is bolstered by a steady stream of backpackers, as well as bucket-list travelers on their way to the Daintree Rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. The city's gorgeous weather lends itself to rooftop bars and beer gardens, including Felons Brewing and Riverbar.

Most late-night bars and clubs can be found in the entertainment precinct of Fortitude Valley in Brisbane's north-east, alongside the city's top live music venues like the Tivolithe Triffid, and the Zoo.

Explore our full article on the foods to try in Brisbane, as well as the best restaurants and nightlife hotspots.

Where to Stay

Brisbane is a sprawling city of more than two million people, so it's important to select your accommodation location carefully. Most business travelers choose to stay in the city center, while tourists planning on drinking and dining are better off in Fortitude Valley. If museums are more your scene, look for a hotel near the South Bank cultural precinct across the Brisbane River.

There are plenty of excellent options in these neighborhoods, including the Stamford PlazaOvolo the Valley, and the Emporium Hotel. When it comes to Airbnbs, you'll find dozens of modern city apartments available, often with amenities like pools, gyms, and rooftop access.

Getting There

Brisbane is a 10-hour drive north of Sydney and 20 hours south of Cairns, so you will likely arrive to the city via air. (Of course, an East Coast road trip is an incredible experience for those that have the time.) Brisbane Airport is well connected with Asia and Australian capital cities and is a 20-minute taxi or train ride from the city center.

If you're planning on visiting the national parks of the hinterland, it may be worth hiring a car, but otherwise you'll be able to get by using public transport. Plus, you can reach resort destinations on the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast by bus in a couple of hours.

Culture and Customs

The Turrbul and Jagera Aboriginal peoples are the Traditional Custodians of the lands that Brisbane now occupies. The area is known as Meanjin is the Turrbal language. The city was settled by Europeans in 1824 and experienced a huge boom in immigration after World War II. Today it is a modern and cosmopolitan city, including prominent migrant communities with English, New Zealand, Chinese, and Indian heritage.

Like in the rest of Australia, tipping is voluntary in Brisbane and generally only takes place at formal restaurants and other upscale venues. Feel free to tip if you would like to, but it's not expected (between 10 and 20 percent is usually appropriate).

Money-Saving Tips

While Brisbane's dining and accommodation offerings are relatively affordable in comparison to Sydney, it can still pose a challenge for budget-conscious travelers. These ideas will help you make the most of your trip.

  • The free CityHopper ferry service travels between the Sydney Street terminal in New Farm Park and North Quay in the city center seven days a week. You can also ride the City Loop and Spring Hill Loop buses around the city center for free on weekdays.
  • Along with the South Bank parklands, Brisbane is home to many other parks and gardens that can be enjoyed for free. Try New Farm Park, Mt Coot-tha, and Kangaroo Point for unparalleled vistas.
  • If you're keen to get to know the city, you can book a free walking tour with the Brisbane Greeters or to take in the view from the iconic Brisbane clock tower.
  • City Sounds is a concert series that takes place weekly in public spaces throughout the city. Check the gig guide on the Visit Brisbane website.
Article Sources
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  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. "2016 Census QuickStats: Greater Brisbane." Oct. 23, 2017