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  • Brisbane-skyline-landscape - The night skyline of Brisbane's central business district as seen from Mount Coot-tha.
  • Australia-Brisbane-Stradbroke-Island - An HDR photo of Stradbroke Island at sunset near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
  • Brisbane-skyline - The skyline of Brisbane, Australia, at dusk.
  • RCI-Aus-Brisbane-Paddington-chocolate - Monty's Chocolates in Paddington, Brisbane, offers tastings of some of Australia's best chocolates.
  • Australia-Brisbane-Markets - South Bank Markets in the evening in Brisbane, Australia.
  • Australia-Brisbane-figtree - Closeup of Moreton Bay fig trees, or Australian banyan trees, at Shorncliffe in Brisbane, Australia.
  • Australia-Brisbane-Mature-Eastern-Water-Dragon - A Mature Eastern Water Dragon in the rainforest section of Brisbane Botanic Gardens.
  • Australia-Brisbane-Parklands - Take a tranquil stroll in the South Bank Parklands of Brisbane, Australia.
  • St-John's-Cathedral-Brisbane - Historic St. John's Cathedral in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
  • Australia-Brisbane-Bontanic - Escape from the urban hubbub by visiting the Brisbane Botanical Garden, Brisbane, Queensland.
  • Australia-Brisbane-waterfront - Business district lining the waterfront of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.
  • Story-Bridge-Brisbane-fireworks -  The Story Bridge during the Riverfire fireworks celebration in Brisbane.

Brisbane travel guide: Top things to see & do

our guide

The vibe

Brisbane, a playground for the culturally inclined, is an electric meld of old and new.  Its cluster of colonial structures stand alongside modern skyscrapers stretching along the Brisbane River, earning the city its nickname of "New World City." It's home to 1.5 million people, making it the third largest city in Australia, trailing only Sydney and Melbourne.

Tucked between the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast on the eastern edge of Australia, Brisbane entertains its visitors from the moment they set foot on its cobblestone plazas. Museums, art galleries, churches, cozy parks and iconic landmarks all speak to the city's heritage. 

Brisbane is a city best enjoyed outdoors. The weather is perpetually mild, with the exception of the sometimes sultry summer days in December to February. Brisbane offers more than 200 miles of bike paths, and the main tourist attractions are a koala sanctuary and a beautiful botanical garden at the base of a mountain.

 

Top reasons to go

  • Lots of outdoor activities, from bicycling to beaches
  • Parks, museums, art galleries and colonial structures are all part of the blend of old and new.
An HDR photo of Stradbroke Island at sunset near Brisbane, Queensland.
Lawrence Murray / Creative Commons BYAn HDR photo of Stradbroke Island at sunset near Brisbane, Queensland.

Local interests

Brisbane's layout is simple. Streets that run east and west are named after female British royalty, with north and south streets named after the males. For example, you may choose to meet someone at the corner of Ann Street and Edward Street. You should have no problems finding your way around the symmetrical layout of the city.

You may wind up spending the majority of your time in the City Center, in and around the Queen Street Mall, but be sure to explore the surrounding areas as well. 

Animal sanctuary

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (Jesmond Road, 07-3378-1366), a popular local top attraction, is the world's first and largest koala sanctuary, with more than 130 koalas. Cuddle a koala (they're quite tame), hand feed kangaroos and encounter a large variety of Aussie wildlife, including Tasmanian devils, emus and more.

Landmarks & attractions

  • A 15-minute drive or bus ride from Brisbane, Mount Coot-tha Reserve is a large bush reserve topped by 287-meter (942-foot-tall) Mt Coot-tha, offering panoramic views of the area. On the hillsides you’ll find the Brisbane Botanic Gardens (07-3403-8888), a great spot for picnic lunches; the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (07-3403-2578); walking trails and the eye-popping Mt Coot-tha Lookout. On a clear day you can see the Moreton Bay islands. If all that doesn't satisfy your scientific curiosity, head to the Queensland Sciencentre (South Bank, 07-3840-7555), an interactive science museum, originally designed for children.
  • Queensland Cultural Centre, next to South Bank, includes the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) -- which hosts exhibitions featuring internationally famous artists (such as Warhol and Picasso) as well as many local contemporary artists -- and more. Nearby is the Queensland Conservatorium and the Queensland College of Art. The Cultural Centre has its own busway stop and can be accessed by a large number of different routes.
South Bank Markets in the evening in Brisbane.
Ash Kyd / Creative Commons BYSouth Bank Markets in the evening in Brisbane.

Activities

Outdoor activities

Brisbane is a great city for biking. Brisbane Bicycle (87 Albert St., 07-3229-2433) rents bikes and equipment by the hour or by the day. Other shops let you rent equipment for rock climbing at Kangaroo Point, horseback riding and whitewater rafting.

Shopping

The Queen Street Mall is your best bet for shopping. The Myer Centre offers five stories worth of shops and boutiques. Looking for jewelry? Try Quilpie Opals (68 Queen Street Mall, 07-3221-7369). Souvenir hunting? Get your boomerangs and didgeridoos at Queensland Aboriginal Creations (Little Stanley St., 07-3224-5730). Antiques hunters should try Paddington Antique Centre (167 Latrobe Terrace, 07/3369-8088). The Eagle Street Pier Market is another great spot for accomplishing lots of shopping in a short amount of time.

Nightlife

Brisbane's nightlife has enough variety to suit most tastes. Theater buffs can catch a show at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (corner of Grey and Melbourne, 07-3840-7444). Hear some live music at the Brisbane Jazz Club (1 Annie St., 07-3391-2006). If you just feel the need to cut loose, try Empire (339 Brunswick St., 07-3852-1216) or Fringe Bar (Ann Street, 07-3252-9833). If you're feeling lucky, stop by the Treasury Casino (Queen Street, 07-3306-8888).

The Corner Bar, part of Fringebar in the Fortitude Valley neighborhood of Brisbane.
The Corner Bar, part of Fringebar in the Fortitude Valley neighborhood of Brisbane.

Top choices for dining 

Brisbane has a diverse dining scene. A cross-section of the city's demographics shows that a significant number of foreigners have chosen to make Brisbane their home, and they have brought different tastes with them. Brisbane has its own Chinatown in Fortitude Valley, and most European tastes are well represented here.

Some good dining choices include:

  • The award-winning ARIA Brisbane (1 Eagle St, 07-3233-2555) offers a good view of the river and the Story Bridge. Located in the Eagle St Pier precinct, it specializes in locally grown Australian produce.
  • Alchemy (07-3229-3175), located in a little hideaway on Eagle St, offers one of the most impressive views in Brisbane, looking across the river to the Story Bridge. Well known for its "liquid nitrogen nibbles", Alchemy lives up to its name.
  • Cha Cha Char
    A dessert dish at e'cco bistro.
    A dessert dish at e'cco bistro.
    (Pier Ave, 07-3211-9944) is the award-winning steakhouse with steaks considered among Australia's best. 
  • e'cco bistro (100 Boundary St, 07-3831-83440, open since 1995, has become a city landmark, occupying a stylish converted tea warehouse. Founded and run by the internationally acclaimed chef Philip Johnson, it is one of the best restaurants in Australia.
  • Esquire (145 Eagle St, 07-3220-2123) offers upscale fare such as coal roast calotte and air dried highly marbled beef. Lunch prices run $60-$85 and dinner runs $90-$130 per person. Recently opened by executive chef Ryan Squires, who trained at Noma in Copenhagen, this restaurant is famed for its degustation menu. 
  • Moda (12 Edward St, 07-3221-7655) serves upscale Spanish cuisine in a fabulous setting, with a large selection of wines and a varied Mediterranean menu. 
  • Restaurant Two (corner of Edward and George St, across the street from the Botanic Gardens, 07-3210-0600), headed by executive chef David Pugh, is widely regarded as one of Brisbane's best restaurants.
  • Sake (Eagle St Pier, 07-3015-0557), named one of Australia's 100 Top Restaurants, is one of the hot newcomers to the Brisbane restaurant scene, serving upscale Japanese cuisine.
  • Urbane (Mary St near Stamford Plaza, 07-3229-2271), one of the city's best fine dining restaurants, serves unconventional but innovative food.

When you arrive

Docking information

Cruise ships dock at the Port of Brisbane. There is road access available directly from the port.

Getting around

Buses and ferries are the best ways to get around Brisbane. Buses depart from King George Square. A city bus known as the red loop bus travels around the city, stopping at most points of interest in Brisbane. Ferries are operated by CityCats (07-131-230), with most running at least twice an hour. Train travel is another option, as the suburbs are connected to the city in an efficient manner. As always, taxis are an excellent option. You should have no trouble hailing a cab, but if none are available, just call Yellow Cabs (07-131-924).

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