Brisbane, the capital of Queensland and the third biggest city in Australia, had never been on my Australia Bucket List. It’s a job offer that took me there a few years ago. It first appeared to me as a beautiful town with its river, palm trees and jacarandas. And that’s it. So, have I changed my mind? Is Brisbane worth visiting?
Why I think Brisbane is not worth visiting
Don’t misunderstand me. Even if I didn’t fall in love at first sight; I enjoy living in Brisbane. I find it relaxing and easy-going.
When I ask the question “is Brisbane worth visiting?”, I am not judging the city itself.
But living in a place is different than visiting it for a few days. I appreciate that holiday time can be precious and we want to visit extraordinary destinations.
In my opinion, if you are short on time in your Australian itinerary, there are better places to explore in Australia than Brisbane.
I associate Australia with wild and impressive nature. So I wouldn’t put visiting Australian cities as a priority, except for the iconic Sydney.
As a city, Brisbane isn’t very special, apart maybe for the South Bank lagoons and the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. You don’t often find a beach and natural cliffs to rock climb just in front of a CBD. Otherwise, from a tourist point of view, I found Sydney a lot more scenic and interesting (see my Sydney vs Brisbane article).
When Brisbane can be worth visiting
If you have time, it is worth visiting Brisbane for a couple of days or use it as a base to explore the region.
If you don’t want to pack
One day you are admiring beautiful corals at Flinders Reef or Cook Island, and the next day you are chasing waterfalls in the Springbrook National Park rainforest. You can spend the day in the wild on Moreton Island, one of the world’s largest sand islands, or explore villages in the countryside of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. And the stunning Stradbroke Island may be the highlight of your stay in Brisbane.
You’ll find many trip ideas around Brisbane on this blog. I’ve been living there for more than seven years and love exploring my region. The rest of this article will focus on things to do in Brisbane.
What to do in Brisbane
This is the itinerary around the city that I prepare for my overseas friends when they come to visit Brisbane. So far, they’ve all given me the feedback that Brisbane was worth visiting. But we didn’t stick to the city, and they had a local showing them around. This can surely change your experience. But I hope these tips will help you maximise your time in Brisbane.
Is it raining? Have a look at this list of things to do in Brisbane on a rainy day!
Loop to explore Brisbane city
This loop is great both during the day and at night.
From the CBD, I recommend going down Queen St to cross Victoria Bridge towards South Bank. You can stop there to relax near the lagoon with a view of the city. Then, board a ferry for a short cruise on the river up to Riverside. The Riverside Bar has a terrace with a perfect view of the Story Bridge. From Riverside, you can walk along the river and through the Botanic Gardens, to go back to the city. As you wander in the city, try to get a free ticket to go up the Townhall tower. You’ll get a nice view from up there.
If you feel like more walking, head towards the Story Bridge and follow the Riverwalk to New Farm. Make sure you look back at the great views of the Story Bridge with the City behind it. The New Farm Park is a great place to chill. Have a look at what’s on at the Powerhouse as they sometimes have good shows and exhibitions. You can then catch a boat or a bus back to the city.
If you don’t feel like walking, you can also easily rent a City Cycle. You’ll see the yellow bikes and their automatic hiring stations a bit everywhere in the town centre.
This loop is also nice at night when the city lights are on. The night photo below was taken from Bowen Terrace, near the Story Bridge. You can stop at the Felons Brewery for a drink or a bite to enjoy such a view.
Kangaroo Point: Sunset & Climbing
Kangaroo Point is just after South Bank, with the town on the other side of the river. The top of the cliffs is a great spot to watch the sunset in Brisbane while enjoying a barbeque.
Kangaroo Point is also an original outdoor climbing destination. The 20m wall is popular with different levels and even stitch plates on some routes. Read this article for more information.
Mount Coot-Tha: a bird view of Brisbane
You can hike up to Mount Coo-Tha via the Botanical Garden of Mount Coot-Tha. I actually prefer these gardens to the main ones in the CBD.
If you don’t feel like walking, catch a bus to Mont Coot-Tha lookout (timetables here) or go there by car. It is 287m above sea level and the panoramic view on Brisbane from up there is unbeatable.
Queen Street and the Casino
I’ll keep this part short: I never go shopping and don’t gamble. But I know some people enjoy these two places when visiting Brisbane, so I wanted to mention them! A part of Queen Street is accessible only for pedestrians and that’s where you’ll find most shops in Brisbane CBD – enough to keep you busy for the day if you wish.
The Casino is at the end of Queen Street, just before Victoria Bridge that leads to South Bank.
Eating out and going out in Brisbane
You can find many restaurants in West End, South Bank, Eagle Street Pier, New Farm, Newstead and Chinatown (Fortitude Valley).
My personal favourites? I haven’t tried all the restaurants in Brisbane, but there are a few where I’d be excited to go back to. Da Burger* is NewFarm is my favourite burger place in town. My favourite restaurants in Chinatown are Umami* (a fusion of different cuisine style) and The Vietnamese*, but those who like spicy food may be seduced by LONgTIME*. Still in Fortitude Valley, Gerard’s Bistro* is always a great experience full of tasty surprises. More classic, the best pizzas in Brisbane are at Beccofino*, but Julius Pizzeria* is excellent too and probably easier to access as it’s in South Bank.
Fancy something different? They have installed mini-restaurants in shipping containers at the Eat Street Market (Hamilton). It is an excellent destination for international food in an original setting.
For a great view of the city and the Story Bridge, you can go right under the bridge at the Felons Brewery. If you prefer something fancier, go to the Eleven Rooftop* on Ann Street, in Fortitude Valley. The Riverbar* on Eagle Street Pier also has nice views, but the food and drinks are nowhere as good. The Terrace restaurant on the top floor of the Emporium Hotel* in South Bank offers some of the best views you can get of Brisbane City. I only had breakfast there and wasn’t impressed by the food, though.
I like how live music is easy to find in Brisbane. Bars with a live band playing are common in West End, and also in Fortitude Valley. The Valley is reputed as the main place to go out in Brisbane. There is indeed a large panel of choices for bars and clubs around Brunswick Street.
Preparing a trip to Brisbane? Check out these tips about where to stay in Brisbane.
What’s the best season to visit Brisbane?
Brisbane is the capital of the Sunshine State. The climate here is generally very nice. My favourite seasons are Spring (September – November) and Autumn (April – May).
It does not get too cold during the winter months. But I would avoid the wet season from the end of November to March as it is hot and humid, with a high chance of rain and storms.
If I had to pick a date to visit Brisbane, I would come at the end of September. Temperatures are rising as it is the end of winter, and the Brisbane Festival is on. The streets are more animated than usual with art shows and food stalls for the occasion. The fireworks at the end of the festival are breathtaking. And the jacarandas season is not far away; the trees paint some areas of the town in a beautiful purple!
What do you think? Is Brisbane worth visiting? Share your experience in the comments below!
Map of Brisbane Inner City
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