OVERVIEW

Brisbane is very walkable in and around the CBD and it has a fairly good public transport network between it's trains, buses and river boats, which will allow you to access most attractions.

The food and drinking scene is notable, mainly due to the exceptional year round weather, which allows for a wonderful alfresco lifestyle. Getting out of the city is always on a Brisbanites agenda too, with trips to the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and Moreton Bay Islands always great options.

All the essential information you will likely need before visiting Brisbane is below, so take a look and get ready for a trip to this stunning city.

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Brisbane Essential Info

 

Getting Around Brisbane

Walking

Many of the most popular attractions in Brisbane are in the CBD or Southbank, both of which are very walkable. You can easily stretch yourself to surrounding suburbs too, like Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane.

 

There are several pedestrian bridges crossing the river on the Southbank side, and these allow you make loops back to the CBD as you explore, but there are no bridges on the eastern side of the CBD until the Story bridge, so whilst this is a nice walk through Kangaroo Cliffs Park, it may be a little long for some.

Train

Translink runs the South East Queensland (SEQ) network that consists of twelve lines that all intersect in Brisbane's CBD and head as far away as the Gold Coast in the south and the Sunshine Coast in the north. With most of the attractions being in the CBD however (and Mt Coot-tha accessed via the bus), you may be able to avoid using the train, depending on your chosen 'things to do'.

 

The Airtrain is likely to be the best option is you arrive in Brisbane via air. See out 'Getting There and Staying Where' page for the details.

Ticketing

Translink operate the trains, boats, buses and tram (Gold Coast), and their tickets cover use of all modes of transport across 8 different zones. There two types of way to pay - a single paper ticket bought from a machine, or by tapping on using the 'go card'.

 

Fares start at $4.90 for paper tickets but are discounted for the go card to $3.37 and off-peak at $2.70. Concessions are even cheaper. See fare prices at this link here. You will probably only need zone 1 or 2, unless you go to the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast.

 

The discount makes it worth getting yourself a go card, especially if you are planning on doing more than a couple of trips. Go cards can be bought at stations, including at the airport Airtrain (you can pay using the go card), or many retailers, and you have to pay a $10 deposit that you can get refunded from any station, including at the airport, at the end of your trip. The cards can be topped up online or at fare machines that are located at many stations or at retailers.

There is a special tourist card available, called the 'go seeQ' card, which offers unlimited travel across train, bus, boat and tram, across South East Queensland, for 3 consecutive days ($79) or 5 consecutive days ($129). More info here.

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Riverboat, Brisbane © Tourism and Events Queensland

River Ferry

Brisbane's City Cat river boats are a ferry service that cover from UQ in the west to Hamilton in the east. Aside from being a good way to get on the water, they may be a useful transport option for getting to UQ, to Brisbane Powerhouse or to Eat Street Northshore.

The free City Hopper ferry runs from the western side of the CBD to New farm and is a great way to get on the water without needing a ticket. They leave every 30minutes in each direction. They're also useful to get from one side of the CBD to the other without needing to walk.

More information on the different ferry types here.

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Buses with Brisbane CBD in the background © Jeff Muir

Bus

The buses in Brisbane are really useful for a tourist as they reach places that the trains can't. Of particular note is the Mt Coot-tha area, where you can reach the lookout, botanic gardens and planetarium, all via the bus.

There are three free bus routes in the CBD. Two of them (no 40 and 50) run the same route, just in opposite directions, doing a loop of the CBD. Look for the purple bus stop signs. The number 30 runs a loop up Spring Hill, which is directly north of the CBD with it running alongside the Roma Street Parklands.

More information on public transport can be found on the Translink website.

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Cycling the Riverwalk, Brisbane © Tourism and Events Queensland

Cycle

In general, Brisbane is relatively hilly and cut across many times by the river, so cycling as a mode of transport can be constrained at times, but Brisbane has a well established cycle path network that is excellent by Australian standards.

 

For a tourist, it is easy to get to all the core attractions of Brisbane that are spread between Southbank, the CBD and Fortitude Valley, so cycling can be a good option if you have access to a bike. This is especially so when you consider the ease of cycling along the river, which is a great place to saunter along when you have time to enjoy the ride and view.

There's some more information on cycle paths in Brisbane here.

There are many places to hire a bike, or e-bike, with prices starting at $25 per day. Tours are also available.

Taxi / Uber

Uber operates in Brisbane via their app. Taxis are present too and can be hailed if their light is on, indicating they are available.

Driving

With most of the attractions in and around the CBD, or easily accessible via public transport, a car is not necessary and becomes a hindrance. If you happen to have your car with you though, or you hire a car, it can easily be used to access the attractions on the fringe of the city, like those at Mt Coot-tha, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, theme parks, or some national parks. It can also be useful if you plan on extending your trip beyond Brisbane by visiting the Gold Coast or Sunshine Coast and their hinterlands.

Driving around the city is relatively easy but you can get bad traffic at peak times.

There are several toll roads in Brisbane but none of them are required in order for you to get around. The main one you will notice is likely to be the Gateway Motorway, which allows you to reach the airport and bypass the CBD if heading around Brisi. The others mainly just duplicate other routes for slightly faster travel times and can be avoided.

Car Rental / Share car

All the major car rental companies operate in Brisbane. You can hire a vehicle across many suburbs, including at the airport and close to the CBD.

Car share operators are also present. Most need an account set up to use first (with an annual fee), but this can be a very convenient option, especially if you only need a car for a few hours. Operators include GoGet, Flexicar and apps that allow you to hire people's private cars.

Orientation

 

 

This link takes you to a useful free downloadable tourist maps.

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Afternoon drinks, Brisbane © Ellena Mcguiness

 

Food In Brisbane

Brisbane has fantastic year round weather and a sub-tropical atmosphere, so eating and drinking outdoors at least once on your trip is a must.

There are many great options in the CBD, especially alongside the river. Just outside the bounds of the CBD, you can find more choices in South Bank, and behind it on Fish Lane in South Brisbane. On the other side of the city, Howard Smiths Wharves has plenty of atmosphere as it sits on the river and underneath the Story bridge. Beyond there, you can find Chinatown and Fortitude Valley, where you can find another collection of dining and drinking options, particularly along Brunswick street.

Don't forget to check out a market whilst you are there - the City Markets, Jan Powers market (at Powerhouse) and Sunday market are the easiest to get to.

For street food, you could try taking a river boat to Eat Street Northshore.

Try this link for info on the best restaurants in Brisbane, or this link for more everyday food.

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Queen Street Mall, Brisbane © Tourism and Events Queensland

Shopping In Brisbane

 

Queen Street Mall is the centre of shopping in Brisbane. It has all the high street names you could want.

Fortitude Valley has it's own shopping attractions, with a focus more along the independent and boutique side of things.

Outside the CBD, Westfield Chermside is the largest shopping mall in Queensland and can be accessed by bus from the CBD.

There are plenty of markets worth exploring for both food and handmade crafts and gifts. The easiest to access is the Brisbane City Market which opens on Wednesday and Thursday morning to lunch time. Jan Powers markets are well known in Brisbane and there are three locations with the one at Powerhouse in New Farm being the easiest to reach.

 

For handcrafted gifts, clothing, art and street food, try The Collective Market in Southbank (on Friday night and all day on weekends), the Riverside Sunday Markets in the botanic gardens in the CBD or The Brisbane Twilight Market.

For outlet shopping, there is a DFO near the airport, but it's not very accessible by public transport from the CBD.

For more info on shopping in Brisbane, try here or here.

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Story Bridge fireworks, Brisbane © Sathesh Sekar

 

Events In Brisbane

Brisbane always has something going on, but there are a few major events that you may want to plan your trip around so you can attend. Chief among them is the Brisbane Festival, which is a multi-week long arts festival that consists of dozens of different events and performances and takes place in September.

In addition to the Brisbane Festival, major events include the following: -

There are many more events. Take a look here and search to find things that may be on during your visit.

 

Theatre In Brisbane

The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), located in the South Bank cultural area, is the main performance venue for Brisbane. This is where you will find Broadway style productions as well as opera, ballet, dance and classical music.

More information here.

Many of those productions come from Queensland Theatre productions who also stage shows in the Bille Brown Theatre, which is nearby in South Brisbane.

The Brisbane Powerhouse, located in a former power station on the riverbank in New Farm, is another venue that has a wide variety of different types of contemporary shows, including music and comedy, and hosts many festivals. More information here.

The Princess Theatre is Queensland's oldest theatre and hosts live music and performing arts. More info here. It's sister venue, The Tivoli, is located in Fortitude Valley. More info here.

There are a few smaller venues you may wish to check out. These include The Brisbane Arts Theatre, La Boite, Judith Wright Arts Centre and The Twelfth Night Theatre.

Search for events at this link here.

 

Nightlife In Brisbane

There are plenty of bars to check out in and around the CBD. The rooftop bars or riverside bars should certainly be on your agenda to get that true outdoor living Brisbane experience.

Fortitude Valley is a particularly good area to go to for a few drinks on a night out with lots of bars and clubs present. The cities gay scene is loosely based around here too.

Live music is something Brisbane does particularly well. There are many venues you can catch a show at, or find one of the pubs that has a band playing.

Note that having ID is a must for everyone for entry after 10pm.

For more info on Brisbane's nightlife, check out Visit Brisbane's guide here.

 

Weather

Brisbane has fantastic weather all year round. Some may find it a little too hot in summer, but there is always some AC to be found in the city centre.

More info here.

 

Best Time To Visit

Any time is a good time to visit Brisbane. Just be careful of those high summer temperatures and see if there are any specific events that you want to experience.

 

Safety

As a tourist in the CBD, there's nothing different about Brisbane than any other major Australian city.

The main thing to look out for is the constant sun. So slip, slop, slap and keep yourself protected, especially if you plan on being outdoors a lot on a particular day of your trip to visit an island or national park.

 

History

Several aboriginal groups occupied the Brisbane area, likely for tens of thousands of years. These were the Yugara, Turrbal and Quandamooka people.

European interest began when Cook sailed through the area in 1770 and named Moreton Bay. Matthew Flinders came next when sailing through and exploring in 1799.

Brisbane itself was settled in 1824 under the direction of the New South Wales Governor Thomas Brisbane after he was petitioned by free settlers in Sydney to find somewhere else to send the worst convicts that were being transported to Australia from the UK. Just a few years later, in 1828, the Commissariat store was built, which still exists today and can be visited as a museum. The town was focused around the keeping of convicts until free settlement was allowed from 1838.

Read more here.

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Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday's © Travel Unpacked

 

Where Next?

In addition to the potential multi-day trips mentioned in the list of 'Things To Do' - The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast - the following options are a little further away, so could be the next stop in a trip across Queensland and beyond.

 

Fraser Island - A few hours north of Brisbane, this popular sand island is large enough for you to spend a few days on. You can drive along the sand roads and beach (in a 4x4), explore the lakes, look out for wild dingoes and take part in all manner of bush activities. It is not really populated as it is a national park, but there are a couple of accommodation options, along with camping.

 

To get there, you need to take a short ferry ride from Hervey Bay, which can be done in your own 4x4 vehicle or on an organised tour. Hervey Bay is a fantastic place (maybe the BEST place) to go whale watching in August.

Outback Queensland - Queensland's outback is one of the most popular and interesting outback regions to explore in Australia and it begins just a few hours from Brisbane. Grab a car and drive west to Roma and continue from there to the outback towns of Charleville or Quilpie. North from there is Longreach, Winton on to Mt Isa. There are dozens of tiny towns along the way, loads of interesting landscapes and attractions, a great national park in the form of Carnarvon Gorge, lots of history and some great people to meet.

Coastal Queensland and Cairns - It's a long trip, but the road north of Brisbane allows for you to visit some stunning places, especially when you can get out on the water an experience the Great Barrier Reef, which follows the entire coastline. Highlights include the Sunshine Coast, Fraser Island, the Whitsunday islands, Townsville, Cairns and Port Douglas. Allow at least 10 days to do it all.

Coastal New South Wales and Sydney - Heading in the other direction, south, you will find another attraction filled coastline that leads to Sydney. Along the way you will pass through the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie. A week should be enough to do the highlights.

Need info on 'How to get to Brisbane?' or 'Where to stay?'

Go to the second page of our travel guide for the full run down.

Or, go to page 1 to discover all the 'Things to do'.

AUTHORED BY

Christopher Jubb, Founder of Travel Unpacked

More information available on our About page

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