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Christian Baines Senior Content Editor 2 weeks ago

Three Perfect Days in Brisbane

  • Brisbane River at dusk

There’s a city on Australia’s beautiful East Coast where skyscrapers overlook an iconic bridge spanning a waterway that cuts through the city, defining its geography, culture, and identity. It’s a great place to live, and an ideal introduction to the best Australia has to offer. We’re talking about Brisbane of course!

After spending decades in the shadow of its southern counterparts, Queensland’s capital emerged with a roar in the 1980s, transforming itself ahead of World Expo 88. 35 years later, the River City has gone from strength to strength, becoming one of Australia’s fastest-growing cities and a destination in its own right next to the fabulous beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

What to do with three days in Brisbane? Besides shaking off jetlag, here are three recipes for the perfect ‘Brissie’ day out! You might even want to add in a cheeky day trip.

 Young couple admiring the view over Brisbane River and the Storey Bridge

Brisbane 101 in One Great Day

The best way to understand Brisbane is to explore with a knowledgeable guide. Take a guided tour to learn about the city’s convict past, its patchwork architecture, and how it grew from an unassuming northern outpost into Australia’s third-largest city. See the Storey Bridge and Treasury Casino, a historic building that changes architectural styles with each floor. Of course, no tour of Brisbane is complete without a cruise on the river. Our personal favourite includes a Devonshire Tea, just perfect with the spectacular backdrop of Kangaroo Point cliffs.

Brisbane’s semi-tropical climate sustains a wide variety of spectacular parks and gardens. Take a relaxing afternoon wandering the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens at Gardens Point, until you reach the campus of the Queensland University of Technology. Make your way to Old Government House to explore its museum and art collection in a fantastic 19th-century governor’s mansion, then cross the Goodwill Bridge for unbeatable river views. As the day draws to a close, weave your way through Southbank Parklands and Gardens. Perhaps find a spot for a cocktail overlooking the CBD, or a restaurant for dinner. If you’re not quite done, grab a cocktail or try your luck at Treasury Casino.

 Sipping cocktails after dark with Brisbane's skyscrapers in background.

Star Brisbane Attractions – Culture, Wildlife, and Views

Watch the city come alive over breakfast in the CBD, then cross the Victoria or Kurilpa pedestrian bridge to the museums at Queensland Cultural Centre. The Gallery of Modern Art, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Queensland Museum are all free to enter, so pick whichever interests you. It’s possible to do them all in a half day, but we recommend taking your time and coming back another day if you want to see them all properly. When it’s time for lunch, pick a top spot in or near South Bank Parklands, which offers a wide range of lunch options.

Spend the afternoon with the adorable stars of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Queensland is one of only two states where members of the public can hold a koala. The Lone Pine koala photo is practically a rite of passage for visiting Brisbane, and a perfect ‘only in Australia’ souvenir. You’ll also come face to face with other Aussie natives including kangaroos, emus, wombats, Tasmanian devils, and many more. For sunset, hop a ride to Mt Coot-tha Summit Lookout for spectacular views over the entire city. Return to ground level in time for a performance at Queensland Performing Arts Centre, or skip to the nearby West End neighbourhood, an area packed with atmospheric and unusual bars and restaurants. It’s worth coming back here during the day for local markets and small stores too.

 Couple holding a koala at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Local Brissie Stories

Today starts at Brisbane’s centre in Anzac Square. Admire the historic clock tower at Brisbane City Hall, then head inside for local stories at the Museum of Brisbane. Afterwards, explore Roma Street Parklands. These have transformed the unassuming land around Brisbane’s largest train station into a fantastic urban garden. Alternatively, stop in for a little shopping along Queen Street pedestrian mall.

For lunch, it’s time to dive into one of Brisbane’s most charismatic neighbourhoods. Fortitude Valley may be synonymous with nightclubs, but it’s also the traditional heart of the city’s Chinese community. Dim Sum (called Yum Cha in Australia) for lunch in Chinatown is a must! Then go exploring the small galleries along Brunswick or James Streets, or follow the floating New Farm River Walk. Wind up at the Brisbane Powerhouse for a performance, or just admire the free exhibitions. The free CityHopper ferry runs between Sydney Street ferry terminal and North Quay every 30 minutes until midnight if you fancy a picturesque nighttime ride back to your hotel.

 Couple kayaking on Brisbane River

Great Day Trips from Brisbane

When it comes to great Brisbane day trips, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are the first and most obvious names that come up. You can reach either one in an hour, and plan your itinerary around a specific activity or two, or go beach hopping. You’ll probably want to stay a night or two! There’s a big difference between them, however.

Skyscrapers with mountains in background on Queensland's Gold Coast.

The Gold Coast is more developed, with Australia’s biggest theme parks and thrill rides, long-running wildlife attractions, good surfing beaches and long stretches of white sand under the watch of towering resorts and apartments. Surfers Paradise is the coast’s shopping and nightlife hub, ideal for those who want to be right in the centre of the action. A short drive inland, you’ll find some of Queensland’s best natural parks, and even some boutique wineries. The further south you go, toward Coolangatta, the more relaxed and low-rise things become, making this area a popular choice for long stays.

Relaxed beach near Noosa, Sunshine Coast.

That same relaxed vibe dominates most of the Sunshine Coast, where you’ll find a mix of surf beaches and sheltered waterways, making fishing and water spots popular. Noosa and Caloundra are more relaxed seaside towns, while things get a little busier between Mooloolaba and Maroochydore. You can also head inland into the hills for boutique souvenir shopping and fantastic lookout points in picturesque towns like Montville. One of the Sunshine Coast’s best-known attractions is Australia Zoo. Founded by famed ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Urwin, it continues his legacy of conservation through education in the shadow of the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains.

Tourists feeding friendly wild dolphins at Tangalooma Resort.

Another popular Brisbane trip takes you to Tangalooma Island Resort. Positioned on the outer reaches of Moreton Bay, Tangalooma is one of the few places in Australia you can feed wild dolphins, who come into shore without fear for their nightly snack. Tangalooma is also careful to keep this sustainable, ensuring the dolphins don’t become dependent on visitors. Other popular activities at Tangalooma include wreck diving and snorkelling, and quad biking through the dunes. It’s an excellent spot for families too.

 View of Brisbane from Mt Coot-tha Lookout

Why Brisbane Is the Perfect Gateway to Australia

However you spend your days in Southeast Queensland, the region offers a little something for everyone. With easy flight connections to other parts of Australia including Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, and the beautiful Whitsundays, Brisbane International Airport welcomes nonstop flights from the US and Canada, plus a range of connecting flights through Asia and the South Pacific. If you’re looking to do Downunder a little differently with a gentler pace and fewer tourist crowds, it makes a great first taste of Australia.

Written in partnership with Tourism and Events Queensland.

Queensland tourism logo

Surf lifesaver watching over artificial beach on Brisbane's South Bank

22 Nov 2022, 10:11 p.m.

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