Keep reading for a local’s guide to the best things to do and eat in Brisbane.
I have to thank my friend for inspiring this post on Brisbane. I hit a travel blog slump this week and couldn’t think of what to post about next. If that isn’t a reason to go on holidays, I don’t know what is. Then he mentioned escaping Melbourne for a mini getaway in Brisbane. He had never been and asked for my tips, seeing as I did live there for over a year (2012/13). It was also the city where Hayley on Holiday was born!
I visited Brisbane on innumerable occasions when I lived in Townsville as well, so I’m an expert at finding my way through the airport 😉 Here’s my pretty comprehensive guide to all the good stuff to do in Brisbane.
THINGS TO DO IN BRISBANE
GO TO KANGAROO POINT CLIFFS FOR SUNSET
Known as one of Brisbane’s swankier suburbs, the views from Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park are unbeatable. Visit at dusk to see Brisbane’s skyline in all of its glory.
Check out Riverlife for the best Brisbane outdoor activities.
HOP ON THE CITYCAT
The CityCat is a public transit ferry service along the Brisbane River. It is not only a cheap way to visit some of the city’s best suburbs. But for fellow photography lovers, capturing any city from the water is always recommended.
Brisbane has some really pretty northern suburbs, like Redcliffe, Woody Point and Sandgate. I remember going for a solo drive out there when I lived there, and it was one of my favourite days. We all know I love being by the water, and the oceanfront walk at Woody Point is just beautiful.
DO A MORETON ISLAND DAY TRIP
I know, some of my favourite things to do in Brisbane are outside of the city. But seriously, Moreton Island is one of the most naturally stunning places I’ve visited in Australia. That is a big call for me. Snorkelling around the Tangalooma Wrecks has to be on your bucket list. Just look at the water below.
Speaking of being by the ocean, Manly is a southern seaside suburb of Brisbane. I used to live nearby and wish I visited more often. There are lots of restaurants and cafes here, plus farmers markets and waterfront views.
If you want a break from the Brisbane “hustle and bustle”, check out the Roma Street Parkland or City Botanic Garden.
DO A SUNSHINE OR GOLD COAST DAY TRIP
I have been a fan of the Sunshine Coast forever. I love visiting Eumundi, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore whenever I can. It is an easy day trip from Brisbane, but if you have time, stay the weekend. The same can be said for the Gold Coast, located in the other direction. I have heard people rave about Burleigh Heads lately. Surfers Paradise isn’t my favourite place, so I suggest visiting the Gold Coast’s other towns.
SEE THE SUNSET FROM WILSON’S OUTLOOK
Located around the peninsula from Kangaroo Point, Wilson’s Outlook is another excellent viewpoint. You can capture the Story Bridge in photos from this outlook.
GO SHOPPING AT CHERMSIDE
If you need some retail therapy, check out Chermside, which is Australia’s largest Westfield shopping centre. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you’re in trouble.
BRUNCH IN BULIMBA
I discovered the little waterfront suburb of Bulimba with a friend, and it quickly became one of my favourite places. The cinema is irresistibly cheap, and it has excellent riverside dining. This is an excellent guide to things to do, but iL Molo (rebranded from The Jetty Oxford) is perfect for dinner and drinks.
HEAD TO THE MARKETS
If there is one place you visit in Brisbane, make it Southbank. It has everything: city views, the Wheel of Brisbane, exquisite dining options, a man-made beach, galleries and theatres, weekend markets, and waterfront walking paths.
GO TO A SPORTS GAME
Queenslanders love their sports. Although I’m partial to rugby league, the Gabba is home to AFL in winter and cricket in summer.
DO SOME ANTIQUE SHOPPING
Speaking of the Gabba, the Woolloongabba Antique Centre is just so fun to wander through. It’s full of vintage memorabilia and collectibles.
GO ON A FREE WALKING TOUR
I’ve heard good things about the walking tours organised by Brisbane Greeters.
WALK ACROSS THE MANY BRIDGES
If you don’t get on the water via a CityCat, cross over the Brisbane River on one of the many bridges connecting Southbank to the city. This is the view awaiting you.
CONQUER THE STORY BRIDGE CLIMB
Yeah, move over Sydney, Brissy has its own bridge climb.
GO TO THE DRIVE-IN
There are actually two drive-in cinemas on Brisbane’s outskirts.
Another awesome suburb you should definitely visit. It’s known for its epic brunch game, boutiques and op shops. Check out this list of things to do.
CHECK OUT THE VIEW FROM MT COOT-THA
This was one of the last things I did, but it turns out Mt Coot-tha may have the best city views. It’s Brisbane’s highest point.
VISIT FORTITUDE VALLEY
The Valley is known for its bars and nightclubs, being home to Chinatown and its beautiful boutiques. Check out this guide, but I recommend visiting the laneways and street art spotting.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK IN BRISBANE
HAPPY HOUR AT EAGLE STREET PIER
This is where you will find many office workers after hours, as it’s located in the CBD. But many of the restaurants and bars along Eagle Street offer amazing happy hour deals. River views included. Just google ‘happy hour + Eagle Street Pier’ to choose your poison.
ICE CREAM AT MISTER FITZ
I wrote about the awesomeness that is Mister Fitz in my Brisbane weekend post. Basically, this place is heaven on earth for fellow ice cream lovers. It’s all about the ice cream sandwiches here. Check out this photo they recently posted to Instagram. OMG.
Happy birthday to me ? Entering the last year in my 20s and feeling okay about it. Melbourne is also the fifth city I've celebrated my birthday in this decade (Townsville, Brisbane, Bali and Vancouver are the other places). This was an early birthday treat I had in Brisbane over the weekend: an epic @misterfitz_ ice cream sandwich. I do love the very Instagrammable tables. • • • #lifewelltravelled #darlingmoment #theeverygirl #mytinyatlas #flashesofdelight #abmlifeissweet #letsflyawayto #beautifuldestinations #gingersnaptravels #teamkaptainkenny #lppathfinders #expediapic #buzzfeast #postitfortheaesthetic #ichosetowander #food52grams #iamatraveler #culturetripfood #passionpassport #openmyworld #liveauthentic #dametravelerfoodie #pursuepretty #huffposttaste #brisbaneanyday #discoverbrisbane #visitbrisbane #foodporn #foodphotography #livecolorfully
KING OF KINGS
Located in Chinatown, I’ve been to this unassuming but large restaurant on a few occasions. The last time I visited with my friend, we asked our server if we could have what the table next to us ordered, because it looked SO good. I’ve never done that before, but it was well worth it.
BREAKFAST CREEK HOTEL
This place is a Brisbane institution. It was also built in the French Renaissance-style in 1889, so its architecture is on point.
If you like Turkish food, this is the restaurant to visit in Southbank.
EAT STREET MARKETS
I have never been to these markets, but there are plenty of street eats to enjoy and beers to drink. I want to try a cronut cone SO badly. Hamilton is a cool Brisbane suburb too.
This is one of the busiest streets in Brisbane on the weekends. Caxton Street is known for its plethora of restaurants and bars, and its close proximity to Suncorp Stadium.
WHERE TO STAY IN BRISBANE CITY
BRISBANE CITY YHA
I don’t have a lot of experience with accommodation in Brisbane, as I lived there and then usually stayed with friends/family. But last year I did check out the Brisbane City YHA hostel and I thought it was perfect for a budget-friendly Brisbane weekend. It’s within walking distance from many of the main attractions, or the Roma Street train station is close by. The rooms were clean, the bathrooms were new and there’s a rooftop pool. Make sure you check it out at golden hour!
I stayed at Breeze Lodge in 2018. It’s Brisbane’s newest hostel, which you definitely notice as everything is very modern and clean. It’s not as central as the YHA, but it was easy to get around by bus. I loved that it was so close to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, the staff were friendly and there was free breakfast.
I also spent one night at the Ibis Brisbane in 2018. The hotel itself is massive, as are the rooms. It’s very centrally located too. If you’re more of a hotel than hostel person, I recommend checking it out.
OTHER BRISBANE TRAVEL TIPS
• Brisbane’s public transport isn’t as good as other Australian cities. Although you can get around via train within the city limits, I would recommend hiring a car to explore the city’s outer suburbs. Like I said, some of Brisbane’s best parts are outside of the city centre, so a car rental would be worthwhile for an extended trip.
• Brisbane has pretty spectacular weather year-round. I last visited in May, when I was wearing jeans and a jacket in Melbourne, and I was walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. When I lived there, I would sometimes wear a light jacket or blazer in the early morning and evening, but that was it. So don’t pack thick parkas in July, is what I’m saying.
I’ll definitely be visiting Brisbane when I return to Australia, as I still have many family and friends in the area. I think it’s the perfect place for a long weekend getaway during winter. Also, thanks for lasting through this post. There’s a lot of words here. But hey, you can’t tell me it isn’t comprehensive, right? 😉