A friendly little city where nothing ever feels too far away. Long summer days and equally beautiful winter days, where the sun pours in warm and golden and the bright blue sky plays host to puffy little clouds. Brisbane might be small, but it’s the overgrown country town vibe that makes it so special. It’s never hard to make a new friend or run into someone you know (or someone who knows someone you know). A burgeoning foodie destination with a focus on farm to plate and unique food experiences, quirky cafes and a vibrant arts scene, Brisbane also acts as the gateway to the stunning beaches of the Sunshine and Gold Coasts. Without a doubt, Brisbane is fast becoming a must-visit Australian destination. For those planning their first trip, here’s everything you need to know about visiting Brisbane.
Must-know tips for visiting Brisbane
If this is your first time visiting Brisbane, there are a couple of things you need to know before you set off:
- The heat is no joke! If you’re visiting from a cooler climate please take care of yourself by drinking enough water, resting appropriately and avoiding the hottest parts of the day. You should also be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat and long-sleeve shirt where necessary. Heat stroke is real, my friends, don’t let it ruin your vacay
- Australia isn’t famous for its cheap eats so if you’re looking to keep costs down, head to your local supermarket to stock up on snacks and supplies for cheap meals
- Our tap water is safe to drink so cut down on single-use plastics and save money by refilling water bottles at your hotel or water fountains while you’re out exploring
- Brisbane is a safe city but, like anywhere in the world you visit, bad things can happen so trust your instincts and take proper safety precautions at all times
- You can get around for free using the City Hopper ferry service and City and Spring Hill Loop bus services
- We’re a pretty polite bunch so don’t forget to say please and thank you to all those who serve you, a friendly ‘hello’ goes a long way with locals and if you do get lost, don’t be afraid to ask someone for directions
- Unlike our American friends, we don’t tip, though I’m sure your servers would appreciate it greatly if you decide you want to (but don’t feel guilty if you don’t)
- If ya haven’t heard already, Australia’s quarantine laws are very strict and we take them very seriously too. There are serious fines for anyone caught trying to bring certain animal and plant products into the country as they could severely impact our native flora and fauna. Be sure to read your arrival card properly and, if in doubt, throw it out!
- We’re also quite protective of our gorgeous home country and don’t take too kindly to littering or disrespect of our local animals. Throw rubbish in bins and refrain from touching any local wildlife, no matter how cute they may look (we know, they’re almost irresistibly gorgeous!)
How to get to Brisbane
With a pretty impressive international airport, getting to Brisbane has never been easier. If you’re flying internationally, you may find yourself transiting through Sydney or even Melbourne before catching a domestic flight to Brisbane. A number of budget-friendly airlines now fly to the Gold Coast’s Coolangatta Airport, so if you’re looking to save money on flights, it could be a viable option. Just bear in mind you’ll need to get from the Gold Coast to Brisbane. A hire car is the most convenient option but it can also be done by train, transfer company or even Uber.
On arriving in Brisbane, you’ll need to get from the airport to your accommodation. Brisbane’s CBD is around 20 minutes drive from the airport. Brisbane Airtrain departs every 15 minutes during peak times and every 30 minutes off-peak. It takes 20 minutes to get from the airport to CBD and there are a few stops along the way, so it suits a few different accommodation locations. An adult, one-way ticket starts at $15.30 with prices going up the closer you get to the booking date. Kids aged up to and including 14 years old travel free when accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. (Please check the Brisbane Airtrain website for current ticket prices as they may have changed).
Depending on the time of day, an Uber from Brisbane Airport to Brisbane CBD should cost around $33-$45AU and a taxi should cost around $45-$65AU. These prices may vary, depending on whether your driver uses the tunnels, time of day etc, so just use them as a rough guide. A one-way ticket aboard a shared airport transfer service, like Con-x-ion, should cost around $20AU, offering a door-to-door service. There are also a number of car hire agencies at both the domestic and international airports. Deciding which option is best for you will depend on how many people you have travelling with you, time and date of your arrival and your budget.
Best time to visit
As a completely biased local, I can safely say Brisbane is beautiful all year round. We are blessed with a warm climate and plenty of gorgeous sunny days boasting bright blue skies. March to May offers cooler temperatures and less rainfall, with plenty of warmth and sunshine, perfect for visiting nearby beaches and exploring the coastline. June through to August brings winter and the colder months, though those from the Northern Hemisphere will probably laugh at our version of ‘winter’. Even in winter, we’re spoiled with golden sunshine and clear blue skies, making it the perfect time to visit the hinterland and regions of Southern Queensland Country.
September through to November bring Spring, cooler evenings and warmer days as everything starts to come alive in preparation for summer. December through to February brings very hot temperatures, which I’ve found have been too much for some visitors (a friend of mine from Canada struggled with the big temperature change from -35 to +35 degrees Celsius). It can often be too hot to spend entire days at the beach during this time, with the sun being dangerously hot during the middle of the day. My tips for the best times to visit would be from March to May and September to November, you may even be treated to a few of Queensland’s iconic summer storms if you visit in November.
Where to stay in Brisbane
No doubt, you’ll want to stay somewhere central when visiting Brisbane and there are hotels dotted throughout a few key suburbs. Here’s some insight on what each spot offers and who it may be best suited to…
Staying in the heart of Brisbane City is a great option for first-time visitors looking to do their sightseeing on foot. It’s easy to explore the main shopping and food destinations within the city itself and make your way to nearby local spots like South Bank, West End, Fortitude Valley and New Farm. Staying centrally also affords easy access to public transport and will help keep transport costs down but can often mean accommodation prices are higher. You might like to stay at The Sebel or Meriton Apartments for a fully-self contained apartment option or, for a high-end hotel experience NEXT Hotel, Pullman King George Square and Stamford Plaza are great options.
Quite a few new hotels have sprung up around Spring Hill in recent years, offering accommodation just outside the heart of the CBD. It’ll take you 15-20 minutes to walk to the heart of the city at a leisurely pace and if you do stay here, I’d probably recommend taking an Uber or Taxi to your hotel to save walking your luggage from the train station. Good accommodation options include luxe spot, The Johnson, as well as more budget-friendly options like Hotel Grand Chancellor, Holiday Inn Express Brisbane Central and Mantra Terrace Hotel.
Famed as Brisbane’s trendy inner-city spot, The Valley offers an abundance of cool clubs and bars, hidden cafes and funky restaurants serving unique offerings. It would take you around 25-30 minutes to walk from The Valley into the heart of the CBD and you’d probably find it easier to catch a bus, taxi or Uber to get around. Perfect for those looking for fun night’s out, Fortitude Valley offers a vibrant scene and some really cool hotels. Check out Emporium Hotel, TRYP Fortitude Valley Hotel, Alex Perry Hotel & Apartments, Sage Hotel and FV by Peppers.
Visitors to Brisbane love our man-made beach within the city and South Bank offers the perfect location to really soak in our iconic river life. You can explore the myriad of restaurants and cafes dotted through South Bank and nearby West End, ride bikes along the waterfront, stroll easily over to the city then escape back to your room for some rest and relaxation. With more of a laid-back vibe, a few of the great spots in South Bank include Rydges South Bank, Mantra South Bank, The Capitol Apartments and Fleet Lane.
Best things to see and do in Brisbane
Need some inspiration on what to see and do in Brisbane? Here are a few tips…
- Join a free tour of Brisbane hosted by the amazing Brisbane Greeters and unearth some of BNE’s hidden secrets
- Grab an awesome coffee from hidden spot, John Mills Himself, in the heart of the CBD
- Check out the Jan Powers Farmers Markets held in Brisbane CBD each Wednesday
- Go kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding on the mighty brown Brisbane river with Riverlife
- Seek refuge inside the iconic rows of Archives Fine Books
- Catch a show at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre
- Explore the fantastic exhibitions on offer at the Gallery of Modern Art
- Wait for temperatures to cool down then hire a bike and ride along the riverfront
- Explore the quirky storefronts and cool cafes of West End and feast on vegan fare
- Take a ride on the river aboard the free City Hopper and see the city from a new angle
- Head up to Kangaroo Point and sit on the cliffs to watch the sunset over our beautiful little city
- Go for a swim at the man-made beach in the city
- Wander the streets of Paddington, popping into boutiques, quaint cafes and spotting iconic ‘Queenslander’ homes
- Delve into the world of Fortitude Valley, spotting vibrant street art and local characters, pausing for cocktails at a cool bar
- Catch a game of barefoot bowls, paired perfectly with a pint, at Merthyr Bowls Club
Need more? Read my guide to 68 of the best things to do in Brisbane or my ultimate guide to 27 of the best cultural experiences in Brisbane.
Where to eat and must-try food
I love food. Like, really really love food! Based on that information, here are my picks on where to get some great grub in Brisbane:
- Enjoy incredible Italian at 1889 Enoteca and savour an unforgettable meal
- Sink your teeth into the iconic and epic Nutella doughnut at Doughnut Time
- Tuck into South American street food favourites at CBD spot, Comuna Cantina
- Stock up on chocolate at the Noosa Chocolate Factory
- Cool down on a hot day with an acai bowl from Kiss The Berry
- Get your steak frites fix at Fortitude Valley favourite, Les Bubbles
- Head directly to The Norman for a true-blue, ridgy-didge Aussie steak with all the trimmings
- Grab a burger from Miss Kay’s
- Get stuck into delectable dumplings at Harajuku Gyoza
- Feast like you’ve never feasted before at the Eat Street Markets
What to pack
Packing can be tough and Brisbane is no exception, here are my tips on a few things you definitely need to pack:
- For protection from the harsh sun, you’ll need to pack sunscreen, hat and sunglasses and possibly a long sleeve shirt too
- Be sure to throw in your swimwear, flip-flops, board shorts, rash vests, goggles, snorkel gear, beach towel and a kaftan or sarong
- If you’re visiting in the warmer months, light, breathable clothing that’s still trendy will be your best friend. Think things like shorts and t-shirts, singlet tops and skirts, cotton dresses and a few nice outfits just to be sure.
- If you’re visiting in the colder months, you’ll need jeans and jumpers and a few warm coats. If you’re from a cold climate, you won’t need to rug up too much but if you’re from a warm climate, you might like to throw in a scarf just to be sure.
Need some inspiration? Watch our Colour of Queensland video!
Phoebe is a travel writer and photographer with a love for storytelling and making people laugh. Matt is a videographer and photographer with a passion for the great outdoors and big adventures. Together we inspire big adventures through our guides, videos, vlogs and photographs. Find out more about us here.