So you’re visiting Brisbane and want to experience it like a local? Or perhaps you already live here and are looking for some fresh ideas to entertain a visitor…well look no further, because this is our comprehensive guide to seeing and experiencing Brisbane in all her glory.
If you’ve only got a weekend in Brisbane and you love your food and wine: this post has what we’d recommend you do. If you’ve got a bit longer and you want to see more, read on!
Spending a day in Brisbane
Queensland has an abundance of farmers and artisan markets that sell fresh fruit and veggies, tasty food, and an array of fashion, homewards and craft. Some of the most popular include: Hawthorne Twilight Markets, Eat Street Food Markets, Eagle Farm Markets, West End Markets, Northey St Markets, and Jan Power Markets.
Adored by families and backpackers for years, South Bank is one of Brisbane’s key destinations for great food, a beautiful city view and a little bit of culture too. You can enjoy a bite to eat or a drink at one of the many restaurants and bars (favourites include Tomahawk, French Martini and Next door Kitchen and Bar), take a wander along the river or got to a show at QPAC. And of course if the weather heats up there is always Australia’s favourite man-made beach to cool you down. South Bank also plays home to the Queensland Museum, Queensland Science Centre, Queensland Art Gallery and the acclaimed Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). All of these are free to visit with the exception of visiting exhibitions. Although we hate to say it, if you do visit South Bank and West End, please take care to avoid areas that are dimly lit or isolated for your personal safety, as you would in any city.
Best views of Brisbane
If you’re looking for a fantastic view of the city and wider Brisbane area head up to Mt Cootha lookout. There’s a restaurant up there if you feel like a sit-down meal but our advice is to get a scoop of gelato to eat while you watch the sun go down. Kangaroo Point Cliffs is another popular viewing and picnic spot and offers quite possibly the most romantic view of the river city. The Cliffs are the perfect place for watching the city light up for the night.
Brisbane is actually blessed to have a huge network of bike paths and cycling is becoming increasingly more popular (and accepted) on the roads. If you’re a local, it’s time to dust off that fixie and explore the local parks or even do a ‘river loop’. If you don’t own a bike, borrow a helmet and sign yourself up for the the Brisbane City Council’s CityCycle Scheme. There are CityCycle bikes located around the CBD and areas including Toowong, Newfarm, Teneriffe so the potential for exploration is unlimited – and much cheaper than public transport or driving!
If you’re not up to cycling around our lovely city, then hop on one of the City Cat ferries and ride it end to end. On a sunny day it’s the best way to see the river city. The City Cat also stops at most places you may want to see as a tourist – the CBD, South Bank and New Farm Park.
The best way to see Newfarm Park is to grab a Go Card, jump on a City Cat and cruise along the river until the beautiful fig trees come into view. t’s great for picnics, exercise, lazying about with a loved one or for some simple solitude. Take a wander through the park, see a comedy show at the Powerhouse Museum and if you visit in the summer you can often catch a film at the Moonlight Cinema. Our favourite thing to do though is to order a wine at Watt Restaurant and bar and watch the sun go down. They have live music on Sundays and although they aren’t the cheapest in town, it is a lovely spot to stop before catching the Cat back home.
Moody whiskey bars, chilled out tiki-huts and boutique breweries – Brisbane has a bar or club for everyone. You can dance all night in The Valley (Fortitude Valley), sink a few cold ones with million dollar views at Eagle Street Pier or indulge in cocktails at one of the many small bars around town and the suburbs.
A few our our personal favourites include: Sixes and Sevens on James St, Jungle Bar, Cobbler, Shady Palms Cafe, Statler and Waldorf, Canvas, Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Hoo Ha Bar, Alfred and Constance and of course, gin emporium Dutch Courage.
Australia is well known for it’s unique wildlife so visiting a Zoo or wildlife sanctuary is normally on the top of the list for visitors. In Brisbane you can head to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary to cuddle a Koala and feed some Kangaroos. Departing daily at 10am from South Bank you can take a cruise down the river to the sanctuary, spend 2.5 hours there seeing the animals and the shows, then take the return cruise up the river. Cost: $68. You can also travel by bus and then buy a ticket at the door. Cost $33 plus bus fares.
There is also the world renowned Australia Zoo at Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast. This is a full and exhausting day out but one of the most fun and rewarding activities you can do in the Sunshine State. The Croc Show is not to be missed and the Animal Hospital is worth a visit as well if you have the time and energy after a long day.
Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is another fantastic day out for young and old. This place has a wonderful bird show, some very lazy koalas and you can feed Rainbow lorikeets every afternoon.
Out of the city – day trips
Happy to go a little further afield than stay in Brisbane? We won’t be offended because there really is just so much to do! These are all within a few hours drive from Brissy and are fantastic days out for everyone.
Head North from Brissy and you’ve a whole host of Sunshine Coast beaches to choose from – Noosa and Mooloolaba are our favourites! In contrast to this you’ve also got the charming hinterland towns of Maleny and Montville to explore where you can indulge in tea and cake, some amazing locally sourced produce including Maleny Dairies’ yoghurt and milk and breathtaking views of the Glasshouse Mountains.
Drive south and you can be tan yourself on a Gold Coast beach or do a bushwalk at Tamborine Mountain or Springbrook. After this you can discover your inner hippie in Byron Bay or go antiquing in Bangalow.
If you’ve got time and money to explore a little more of Queensland, you can indulge in a luxurious weekend at Spicer’s on the Scenic Rim – they have amazing food and a top notch spa but it is a pricey weekend indeed.
For those of you who prefer the simpler things in life there is no better destination than beautiful Fraser Island – crystal clear lakes, stunning sunsets and cheeky dingoes (be careful around them) make for a great escape in Mother Nature.
Where to eat and drink
You know we love to eat…but there are too many fantastic restaurants, cafes and bars in Brisbane to list here so we’ve put together our Eat, Drink, Brisbane page just for you.
Nice way to spend a day
Take a train to Fortitude Valley Station. Have a poke around, maybe grab some breakfast then walk up Brunswick Street. This street runs right through to New Farm Park and a City Cat stop and is dotted with restaurants and shops. Too many places to choose for lunch, really! From there you can get a Cat around to the city or South Bank.