Experts in Australia, New Zealand & South Pacific

Top things to do in Brisbane

Posted 06 March 2015
This post is not just about the city, it’s about the life that surrounds the city. Brisbane is a city that for so long remained in the shadow of glamorous Sydney and cosmopolitan Melbourne – but hey, Brisbane doesn't do shadows. There’s too much sunshine.

Australian cities mostly have one thing in common: they come with a beach, or have access to several beaches. Brisbane is no different; in fact it’s nestled between two of the best strips of metro-beach to be found anywhere in the world.

If you like to get out on the water then you are spoilt for choice. With the Gold Coast (aka the Goldie) to the south and the Sunshine Coast (aka the Sunny) to the north of the city, there’s plenty of opportunity to get out on the water.

A trip to Sea World is highly recommended for all the family down on the Gold Coast. There's plenty to do ranging from popular 10-minute helicopter rides up and down the coastline, or for maritime adventure try whale watching cruises to see these mighty creatures break surface just a few hundred metres from the shore. 

Yet Brisbane is also one of the few cities to have a beach in the centre of the city. South Bank Parklands is a man-made sandbar situated next to the Brisbane River, right in the heart of the cultural and entertainment sector of the city. It is a great place to hang out, especially for younger members of the family. There are 17 hectares of tropical parklands, shallow splash pools, restaurants and cafes, plus lots of events held here throughout the year. 

Brisbane has always been different. It didn’t court the limelight like other cities – but just got on with being quietly fabulous. When you think of Sydney you think of the glitz of LA, and trendy Melbourne is reminiscent of many European cities; however, Brisbane is unmistakably Australian. And with a mere two and a half million inhabitants, Brissie also has an intimate feel to its environs - in short, everyone knows somebody who knows your best mate. 

Inland from the city Lamington National Park is a nature lover’s paradise just 100 kilometres to the south. It’s a short scenic drive before you’re able to take a tree-top walk suspended in the lush canopy 15 metres off the ground in one of the most extensive subtropical rainforests in the world. 

When you need to get around, take a ride on a City Hopper. These are small ferries that cruise the Brisbane River and are used by commuters and visitors alike as an easy and idyllic way to criss-cross the city in the most leisurely way possible. 

There’s a saying in this part of the world that should tell you all you need to know: beautiful one day, perfect the next. Sharp blues skies seem to be the norm. If you are a sun-starved Brit, then prepare for a vitamin D overload. So buy a tube of factor 50 and a good pair of sunnies (shades) and ‘she’ll be apples’ (everything will be just fine). 

Brisbane loves seafood and one speciality here are the Moreton Bay bugs, otherwise known as slipper lobsters. They are delicious served with light lemon mayonnaise, aioli or dill vinaigrette. Oysters Kilpatrick are another staple consumed by the bucketload in al-fresco eateries across the city. By the way, the operative word here is ‘staple’. These delicacies are not reserved for the well-to-do. Most people eat seafood in Brissie. Fresh shucked oysters are served with diced bacon, parsley and Worcestershire sauce with a wedge of lemon for good measure. 

And when they are not consuming the fruits of the sea then they are tucking into a variety of aromatic Asian fare. Australian cities like Brisbane are experiencing a cross-cultural flavour explosion. One trip to the suburb of Sunnybank for some exotic cuisine should tell you all you need to know. Nicknamed ‘Little Asia’, Sunnybank has recently overtaken the city’s Chinatown as the premier spot for chowing down on Chinese, Taiwanese, Malaysian, Japanese, Korean, Singaporean and Vietnamese cuisine. 

Architecturally speaking Brisbane is very easy on the eye. From the gleaming skyscrapers that cluster by the banks of the Brisbane River to the Victorian charm of the Queenslanders that adorn the suburbs dotted with jacarandas, figs trees and the occasional pineapple and banana palms, reminding you of the geographical region this city basks in.

Queenslanders were workers’ cottages raised on stilts to avoid problems during flooding. Originally built with tin corrugated roofs, during tropical rainstorms, the ever-present cacophony would lull their inhabitants to sleep. Eventually the tin roofs were replaced (though many still remain because long-time residents complain they couldn’t fall asleep without them) but other features remained. 

No self-respecting Queenslander (the house that is) would be complete without a veranda; a shady spot to while away the cool evening with a beer chilling in a ‘stubby holder’ (a beer bottle cooler) and the TV tuned into the State of Origin rugby football match against rivals, New South Wales. Bliss. 

To get a taste of what this city and indeed Aussie culture is all about, take a trip to Fish Creek for a picnic and a freshwater dip. This can be found in the suburb called The Gap. It’s a nice alternative to coastal activities and it also comes with its own beach. With Mount Coot-tha on one side in the distance and Mount Nebo on the other, the area has become popular with families and nature lovers wishing for a shady spot to cool down and have some fun. 

Brisbane is an ideal place to visit for food, sunshine, surf and wildlife and relaxation. It’s a good-looking metropolis and yet refreshingly down to earth and unmistakably Australian – which we think is definitely an added bonus. It’s a city that is growing in reputation internationally; one visit and you may find yourself wondering why all cities can’t be more like Brissie.

Find out more about holidays to Brisbane.