Brisbane Travel Guide
When mapping out your Australian vacation, a visit to Queensland's capital may not be your first choice. The country's third largest metropolis is often overlooked in favor of Australia's more well-known tourist hot spots, like Sydney and Melbourne. But Brisbane's subtropical climate, thriving arts and live music scene and bevy of outdoor to-dos make it a worthy destination for your next trip Down Under. continue»
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The best time to visit Brisbane is from March to May — autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. Temperatures during this season stay in the comfortable mid-70s with little rainfall. While you won't have to deal with too many rain showers during a fall visit, you will need to slather on the sunscreen: Brisbane sees an average of eight hours of sun per day thanks to its subtropical climate. The city's winter (June to August) and spring (September to November) are also popular times to visit thanks to the mild temps and dry days. But these two seasons also see plenty of hotels booked solid, especially in September during the monthlong arts celebration known as the Brisbane Festival. If you're planning to visit during the arts festival, arrange your accommodations well in advance. Meanwhile, you'll find better airfare and hotel room deals during Brisbane's wet, humid season, which spans from December all the way to early March. Just note that the soggy weather might put a damper on your outdoor activities.Best Times to Visit Brisbane»
Brisbane is nestled on the southeast corner of Queensland (on Australia's east coast), about 575 miles north of Sydney. Brisbane is the third largest city in Australia, and as such its neighborhoods are relatively spread out, though they can all be easily reached by public transportation. Each neighborhood reveals a different facet of Brisbane's personality, so make sure you carve out some time to explore as many districts as you can.
Central Business District
Use the central business district as your home base when navigating the city. You'll find several brand-backed hotels here, including the Brisbane Marriott Hotel and the Hilton Brisbane. From here, you can easily explore the city's outer suburbs via bus, car or rail (via Central Station). When you're in the central business district, the streets named after female British royalty (Margaret Street, Alice Street) run southwest to northeast while those named after male British royalty (William Street, George Street) run southeast to northwest. Within the central business district you'll also find many of the city's top restaurants and a popular pedestrian shopping area, the Queen Street Mall.
Fortitude Valley — or "The Valley" as it's called by locals — is where Brisbane's nightlife and music scenes thrive. Situated a little more than a mile northeast of the central business district on the north bank of the river, The Valley is easily reached via the light rail's Beenleigh Line or the 335 bus. If live music is what you've come for, you'll hear plenty of it in the clubs along Brunswick Street. Experts and travelers alike recommend Black Bear Lodge for its tucked away location (on the second level of the Brunswick Street Mall) and relaxed, speakeasy-like atmosphere. If you're looking for something a little more raucous, head to The Zoo or the Alhambra Lounge for more local bands. Aside from the live music and nightlife, Fortitude Valley also hosts trendy hotels, including the Emporium Hotel and the Limes Hotel, a chic boutique outpost with a popular rooftop.
If you're hoping to explore South Bank, the city's definitive cultural hub, head just 1 mile west of Brisbane's central business district, across the Victoria Bridge. (You can walk here, or you can take public transit: South Bank has two light rail stations, a bus station and a river terminal for CityCats and ferries.) South Bank is home to some of Brisbane's top attractions, including the Gallery of Modern Art/Queensland Art Gallery (QAGOMA). If you want to be based in the center of the action, South Bank is an ideal place to stay.
Rent bikes or walk along the Clem Jones Promenade, which hugs the river's curves and offers a gorgeous view across the water. When you're ready for a bite to eat, follow the Clem Jones Promenade to the River Quay area of South Bank where delicious menus are paired with amazing river views. You'll find even more restaurants on Little Stanley Street, less than a 5-minute walk southwest of the Clem Jones Promenade. Little Stanley Street also boasts a variety of shops and hosts events like Swing on Little Stanley, an informal dance clinic held monthly.
This area is located about 2 miles southwest of Brisbane's center just west of South Bank; several rail lines as well as the No. 199 bus service West End. This part of town is known for its abundant collection of boutique shops, ethnic restaurants and street markets. You can find the Boundary Street Markets — a smattering of more than one hundred growers, producers and designers of various market goods — every Saturday and Sunday on the corner of Boundary and Mollison Streets in the heart of West End. Though the area boasts abundant shopping opportunities, it does not offer quite as many lodging options; stick to the central business district for more accommodations.
New Farm and Teneriffe
About 2 miles east of the central business district on the north side of the river, New Farm is often described as being the bohemian soul of Brisbane. Think microbreweries, an industrial warehouse-turned-performing arts space and a sizable waterfront park. While here, you'll also come across numerous cafes, boutiques and restaurants that cater to the trendy group of Brisbanites that call this spot home. New Farm doesn't have too many accommodation options for visitors, but it does boast one of the city's more popular hotels, the Spicers Belfour Hotel.
Teneriffe is New Farm's neighbor to the east (about a 10-minute walk from New Farm). This enclave, which was once an area for farming and then an industrial hub, has undergone a complete revitalization. Alongside stylish, loft-style apartments, you'll find plenty of cafes, boutiques and restaurants to sample. Venture to Teneriffe to tour some of the area's many independent shops and restaurants, but plan on hanging your hat elsewhere.
Woolloongabba and Kangaroo Point
Several buses, including Routes No. 100, 110 and 115, can get you from Brisbane's central business district to Woolloongabba — located about 3 miles south of the city center and home to Brisbane's famous sporting venue, the Gabba. The 42,000-seat Gabba stadium hosts the Brisbane Lions Australian Football League team (that's soccer to us Americans) and the Queensland Bulls state cricket team. If you're not in Woolloongabba to catch a game (or take a tour of the iconic venue), there are plenty of restaurants and shops to occupy your time.
If you're looking for a little more heart-pumping adventure, head less than a mile north of the Gabba to Kangaroo Point. This area earns its moniker from the kangaroos that used to call the area home in the 19th century. If you're in Kangaroo Point, you're likely here to hike the magnificent cliffs that share their name with the neighborhood. Follow the Art and the River Public Art Trail from the Maritime Museum up to the top of the cliffs; at the peak, you can see clear across the Brisbane River to the city skyline. Along the way, you can stop for a bite at the picnic tables and gas barbecue posts that the city has stationed along the trail. Travelers recommend making the trek at dusk to catch a spectacular sunset.
Paddington and Rosalie
Venture a mile and a half northwest of downtown and you'll find the undulating hills of Paddington and Rosalie. Renovated Queenslanders (Victorian houses) have been turned into quirky boutiques hawking art and retro wares. These charming pre-war homes are the main reason many travelers visit the neighborhood, that and the mix of restaurants and cocktail lounges that rub elbows with the secondhand shops. The best way to get to Paddington from downtown Brisbane is via the No. 375 bus. There are also several metro rail lines that service the area, but the bus is more direct.
When you're in Paddington, you'll also want to explore the Rosalie Gourmet Market, which is located less than a mile west of central Paddington. Here you'll find plenty of fresh local produce; visit on a Saturday and you can enjoy complimentary tastings from the market's suppliers. You'll find a handful of boutique hotels and smaller inns around Paddington, plus a few apartment-style accommodations.
Fig Tree Pocket
A little more than 7 miles southwest of Brisbane's city center, this suburb is home to the city's cuddliest residents, who occupy the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. However, if you're not visiting the koala reserve, you'll probably find little reason to venture to this wooded riverside neighborhood. Several bus routes will get you to Fig Tree Pocket from the central business district, but it's much easier to make the trip with your own set of wheels. If you're going to the sanctuary, you can also get to Fig Tree Pocket via the Mirimar river cruise.
You shouldn't expect to encounter any major crime when visiting Brisbane. However, as with any large city, you should take precautions. Stay alert when walking around unfamiliar areas, especially at night.
While you won't have to worry about the threat of serious crime when visiting Queensland's capital, don't forget about another, often forgotten danger: the sun. Because of Brisbane's subtropical location, it's easy to get burned quickly — even on overcast days. Remember to wear sunscreen and a brimmed hat if you're out and about.
The best way to get around Brisbane is by public transportation. Thanks to the combination of buses, ferries and trains operated by TransLink, the central business district and outer suburbs are easy to reach. You can even take a train from the Brisbane Airport (BNE) to the central business district. (The airport is located about 10 miles northeast of the downtown area.) You can also rely on your own two feet to get around the city. Brisbane's compact size lends itself well to biking and walking, especially along the many paths that follow the river's winding curves. Only rent a car if you plan to drive to Brisbane's outer regions, like Moreton Bay or the Redlands; you won't need your own set of wheels with this city's reliable public transportation.Getting Around Brisbane»