Brisbane, Australia is the state capital of Queensland and is the third most populated city in Australia. Brisbane is a “business city”, so unlike Sydney or Melbourne, there isn’t a lot of culture here. It’s a place where people work during the week, and then go to the coast on the weekends. South Bank has some nice restaurants, and there are some decent pubs, but overall, the city isn’t one of the most exciting places to visit in Australia. However, it’s worth a stop to hang out on South Bank (which I loved) and meet travelers heading north.
Hostel prices – There are lots of hostels in the city. Dorm beds begin at 20 AUD and private rooms at 60 AUD. Personally, my two favorite are Base Brisbane Uptown and Bunk Backpackers.
Budget hotel prices – A budget hotel room will cost you about 80 AUD for a single room, and will start at 110 AUD per night for a double room. A better alternative to hotels is Airbnb, where private rooms start at 60 AUD per night.
Average cost of food – Cheap take-away meals and ethnic food like Indian or Chinese can be found for under 13 AUD, but most sit down restaurant meals with a drink and tip will cost between 28-40 AUD. If you cook you own food, you can spend between 68-108 AUD per week on groceries.
Transportation costs – The absolute best option for using public transport is the Go Card. Go Cards are an electronic pre-paid ticket that automatically calculate the cheapest fare for your journey. They cost about 30 AUD and never expire, but you can turn in your card before leaving the city and be refunded any unused credit, as well as your deposit.
Read more on the costs of traveling Australia.
Money Saving Tips
Buy a Go Card – Users save about 30% on a single priced ticket, so if you think you will do lots of traveling around the city, this pass would be worth the purchase. It can be used on any train, bus, or ferry in South East Queensland. If you don’t use all of the funds on your Go Card, you can get a refund on what you have left.
See movies on Tuesday – If you need a break, Cineplex Cinemas movies are 6.50 AUD on Tuesdays.
Top Things to See and Do in Brisbane
Visit the South Bank Parklands – Featuring a stunning inner-city beach, miles of tree-lined walks, fabulous shopping, and plenty of restaurants, South Bank is the one place you do have to see in Brisbane. Located a short hop over the river from the CBD (Central Business District), it’s easy to spend a full day among the many attractions. I love hanging out here and walking the river, seeing a movie, or getting something to eat. You often see musicians and outdoor dance classes here too.
See Koalas at the Koala Sanctuary – The world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine has over 130 koalas for you to observe. If cuddling a national icon isn’t your thing, you can feed the rainbow lorikeets and kangaroos, or even hold a snake. Moreover, you can also see beautiful Australian fauna like wombats, echidnas, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, and many more.
Enjoy the view from Mt Coot-tha – Mt Coot-tha offers beautiful panoramic views of the city and on a nice day, Moreton Bay. A favorite for locals and visitors alike, you can enjoy a meal or coffee and look out over the city’s surroundings. Catch the local 471 bus from the city or buy a pass for the hop-on, hop-off City Sights bus.
The City Botanic Gardens – These gardens are in a fabulous spot beside the river, close to the CBD. Spend a few hours strolling here away from the madness of the city center. They aren’t as nice as the ones in Melbourne but I like coming here, wandering around, and reading a good book on a nice afternoon.
The Cultural Center – The Cultural Center is right in South Bank and includes the Queensland Art Gallery, as well as the Gallery of Modern Art. The Queensland Museum is a good place to learn about natural history and cultural history of the area. If you want to see an opera, ballet, or other theater, there is also the Queensland Performing Arts Center.
Head to the Beach – After a few days, you might find yourself looking for things to do. In that case, think like a local and head to the beach. The Gold Coast, with its surfing, white sand beaches, and lush rivers, is only 30 minutes away. Watch out on the weekends when everyone in the area gets the same idea. The beaches get crowded and the traffic a mess!
Roma Street Parklands – This is the world’s largest sub-tropical urban garden, located only 5 minutes walk from city hall. I personally like it better than the park by the river, but both are very good if you have the time to hit both.
Riverlife Adventure Center – The Riverlife Adventure Center is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area—they offer various outdoor activities that everyone can enjoy, at an affordable price. Consider checking out anything from biking or rollerblading to abseiling and rock climbing. Guided groups can take you everywhere from the riverside to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
XXXX Brewery – XXXX (Four X) is one of the cheapest and not so great tasting beers of Australia but, if you need something to do, want to learn more about beer, and get something to drink after, this brewery is around to see!
Queensland Performing Arts Center – This exhibition and performance space is considered one of Australia’s best. Home to a performing art complex, art gallery, state library, museum, and more. Be sure to check their daily schedule to find out what is around. Get some culture!
St. Helena Island – The first historic national park of Queensland, this island is host to the ruins of a colonial prison that was once known as ‘the hell hole of the South Pacific’. I definitely recommend the guided tour—even the local schools go on field trips here.