A Local’s Guide to Brisbane

Brisbane City at night
Brisbane City at night

I have written travel blogs about places around the world, so I thought it was about time that I wrote about my beautiful hometown – Brisbane in Queensland, Australia! I have lived here my entire life. Hopefully, I have some helpful hints for prospective visitors. This has proven surprisingly difficult to write, as I feel like there is so much I could include. Lonely Planet recently named Brisbane “Australia’s hippest city“, so hopefully Brisbane will continue to grow as a popular destination for travellers. It is not just a “big country town” anymore!

Accommodation

Being a Brisbane native, I do not have any first-hand experience in staying in any accommodation in this city. However, click here to see Brisbane’s highest rated hotels on TripAdvisor. There is also a general vicinity that I would recommend. Brisbane is a walkable city, which makes it practical to choose any hotel location within the CBD itself. The CBD is located in the middle of two prominent tourist hubs, South Bank and Fortitude Valley, making it a more preferable choice than either of the other two.

Sight-seeing and Activities

Onboard the Wheel of Brisbane
Onboard the Wheel of Brisbane

Fortunately for travellers, Brisbane has pleasant weather for most of the year and has many outdoor spaces to take advantage of this. The most well-known spot would definitely be South Bank, just across the river from the CBD. It hosts a fun mix of restaurants, shops, parklands and even an artificial beach! Once at South Bank, it is impossible to miss the Wheel of Brisbane – Brisbane’s humble version of the London Eye. It is quite overpriced, but nonetheless, it provides good views over the CBD and surrounding areas. South Bank is also considered Brisbane’s cultural hub, as it is home to the Queensland Performing Arts CentreArt Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art and Museum. With stunning views of the CBD, this is a must-visit spot for any traveller.

Garden at Roma Street Parkland
Garden at Roma Street Parkland

Another outdoor area worth a visit is the Roma Street Parkland in the CBD. It is particularly picturesque in Spring. There are also other beautiful open spaces within the confines of the CBD, including the City Botanic Gardens and ANZAC Square. Some more popular destinations for tourists in the CBD include City Hall and King George Square. They are right next to each other. Inside City Hall is the Museum of Brisbane, from which it is now possible to go up to the top of the bell tower in City Hall. I spontaneously tried to do this once, but I went in the middle of the day and it was booked out until late in the afternoon – so I suggest going early!

View from Mt Coot-tha
View from Mt Coot-tha

Outside of the CBD, a great place to visit is Mt Coot-tha. It has a lookout with the best views of Brisbane and also has some delicious food options, including the fantastic Summit restaurant. If you can find a way there, I would definitely recommend this as a must-see destination for all tourists. Another one high on my list of recommendations is the Story Bridge Climb. As one of only four other bridges in the world that can be climbed, this is an experience of which visitors of Brisbane should aim to take advantage. I have personally done it and absolutely loved it. Do it at dusk if possible and watch the city slowly light up over the river with the sunset in the background! Another way to enjoy the Brisbane River is to kayak along it, which you can do through Riverlife at Kangaroo Point.

Kayaking along the Brisbane River
Kayaking along the Brisbane River
Enjoying a Gold Coast beach
Enjoying a Gold Coast beach

A huge benefit of coming to Brisbane is that there are so many incredible day trips available. Most of these make use of Queensland’s magnificent coastal landscapes. Of course, the world-renown Gold Coast is only about an hour’s drive away and would probably warrant a whole blog post in itself. There is also the Sunshine Coast, just a slightly longer drive away in the opposite direction and offers a more relaxed beach atmosphere. Some scenic islands close to Brisbane include Stradbroke IslandMoreton Island and heritage-listed Fraser Island. These suggestions are only the tip of the iceberg for what Southeast Queensland has to offer!

Wining and Dining

Dining at Kabuki
Dining at Kabuki

While Brisbane is not as well known for its food as Sydney or Melbourne, there are still many delicious options available for all budgets. My favourite area to dine in Brisbane is along Eagle Street Pier. Not only does it have restaurants and bars to cater to all tastes, but it has a magnificent view of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. And, no matter what day of the week you go, there is always a fantastic atmosphere. If you choose to venture a bit off Eagle Street Pier, there are also other great, high quality restaurants nearby. Some of my recommendations for lunch or dinner are Malt and Kabuki. For high tea, the Stamford Plaza is always a safe bet for scrumptious food and water views.

High Tea at Stamford Plaza
High Tea at Stamford Plaza

South Bank is another great area to dine. There are plenty of options that sometimes make it difficult to choose! If in need of a chocolate fix, you cannot go past Max Brenner or San Churro. Another popular area to grab a bite to eat is West End. It is bursting with trendy little cafes, including some popular favourites like Lock ‘n’ Load and The Three Monkeys. I personally would never feel safe walking around West End by myself at night (it is definitely not one of my favourite suburbs), but it is a good option for brunch with friends. If you are willing to venture just out of the CBD and over to the other side of the Brisbane River (which is easily possible by CityCat, as I talk about further down), Oxford Street in Bulimba is a wonderful option.

Having been to casinos around Australia and across the world, I can safely say that Brisbane’s Treasury Casino, located in the CBD, is underwhelming. It is small and does not have a very energetic vibe. However, it can be a nice spot to grab a cheap meal. One of its several restaurants, Fat Noodle, offers main meals for less than $20 or you can enjoy the buffet at my personal favourite, Market Buffet, for $35-$50.

Shopping

In the CBD, shopping revolves around two main streets. The Queen Street Mall is considered to be the heart of shopping in Brisbane. Here you will find most major Australian retailers, as well as an abundance of food outlets, souvenir shops, and boutiques. The other main street is Edward Street, which runs perpendicular to Queen Street. It is home to the high-end retailers in Brisbane, such as HermèsLouis Vuitton and Gucci.

There is one main destination for outlet shopping, that being Direct Factory Outlet (DFO) Brisbane Airport. If I ever want something cheap, this is the first place I go! Its location near Brisbane Airport is very handy for travellers. There is another DFO in Jindalee, but it is not as convenient and has less shops. Another option is Trade Secret, which claims to sell big brands at heavily discounted prices. It has several locations throughout Brisbane, with the closest one to the CBD being in Fortitude Valley. However, it can be a bit hit-and-miss in terms of the discounts and the range of quality items available.

Nightlife

Night out at Birdees
Night out at Birdees

Without a doubt, the centre of Brisbane’s nightlife is next to the city in Fortitude Valley – or ‘the Valley’, as locals refer to it. It comprises of two main streets, Wickham Street and Ann Street, which run parallel with each other. There are many nightclubs and bars in this area for all different tastes in music.  For those people who love techno and house music, The Met and Family prove to be very popular night clubs. However, both carry quite hefty cover charges. My personal picks are Press Club and Birdees, as they play pop music and have a fun vibe. The most glamorous venue in the area is Cloudland, which is the perfect destination for a classy night out for cocktails with friends.

Night out at Friday's
Night out at Friday’s

However, overall, I am not a huge fan of the Valley and I much prefer to go out for drinks in the city. As I have already mentioned, Eagle Street Pier is a superb location for a great meal – but it is also home to some of Brisbane’s best bars (in my opinion!). Friday’s is my absolute favourite place to go out at night in Brisbane. Its uninterrupted view of the Story Bridge, great atmosphere and delicious cocktails always make for a fun time. And yes, it is best to go there on a Friday! Another top pick is Jade Buddha/Shadow Lounge, which has a more relaxed vibe and has great Happy Hour deals on Friday evenings. If it is cheap drinks that you are after, there is also the Port Office Hotel, that offers $4 cocktails during its Happy Hour on Fridays. It is only a short walk from Eagle Street Pier.

Transportation

Getting around Brisbane is made relatively easy with its public transport system. Buses, trains and ferries (or CityCats, as they are often called) are managed by Translink. They service a huge area, including the greater Brisbane region, Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast. A ‘Go Card’ is a prepaid card that is used by most locals, but it is also possible to purchase paper fares on most services. Use Translink’s journey planner to find out how to get to where you need to go. Just be aware that Brisbane’s public transport is amongst the most expensive in the world. However, the journey planner should give you an idea of cost. Fortunately for travellers, Translink operates a free City Loop bus that services places such as Queen Street Mall, Eagle Street Pier and the City Botantic Gardens. Other forms of transportation, such as taxis and tourist buses, are also readily available throughout Brisbane.

Beautiful Brisbane!
Beautiful Brisbane!
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