Brisbane is a great base to travel along Australia’s East Coast from. However with easy access to so many beautiful places like Fraser Island and the Sunshine Coast in the north, or Byron Bay and the Gold Coast to the south, sadly Brissy (as the locals call it) is often overlooked on the tourist itinerary and doesn’t get the credit it deserves. But there is so much to do in sunny Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, and even better there are many things you can do for free or super cheap! Read on to find out how to make the most of your time in this amazing city with my 24 hours guide to Brisbane!
Morning: Ferry ride (free!)
Start your day by taking a ferry ride on the Brisbane river, one of the best ways to discover Brisbane. There are lots of companies to choose from, but there is a free one (the red Cityhopper) operating between North Quay and Sydney Street, with stops including Southbank and Eagle Street Pier. It runs every 30 minutes from 6am-midnight and is the perfect introduction to the city.
Get to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in the morning. It is the world’s largest koala sanctuary and one of the top 10 animal sanctuaries in the world. It houses 130 koalas and plenty of kangaroos, dingoes, Tasmanian devils, platypus etc. Entrance is A$36 and for A$18 extra you can have a professional photo of you holding a koala. If you wish to hold a koala you will need to get there by around 10am as these tickets sell out pretty fast. However if you do miss these tickets, at 1o’clock you can still have a photo with your own camera with one of the staff holding the koala and you stroking it for no extra charge. Not quite the same but hey better than nothing!
In some states in Australia it is actually illegal to hold a koala, but it is allowed in Queensland (as the koalas here are slightly smaller than in the other states), so this could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for you!
There are also many wild kangaroos roaming free and relaxing in the field at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and you can hand feed and pet them. The kangaroos are really tame, they just lie there whilst you stroke them. The sanctuary is open 9-5pm 7 days a week and you can stay here as long as you want enjoying the wildlife of Australia, you don’t feel rushed at all. There are lots of talks about the animals throughout the day and free wifi inside the park.
How to get to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:
To get to the park from Brisbane city you can take the bus (445), a taxi for about A$28, or you can take the boat down the Brisbane river as the koala sanctuary lies on the river bank 12km from Brisbane city! Take the Mirimar boat cruise from the Cultural Centre Pontoon on the South Bank at 10am and it drops you right at the koala sanctuary at 11.15 (so if you want to get a photo of you holding a koala, I would suggest to arrive earlier than this, by bus or taxi as these tickets often sell out before the boat arrives).
The boat then departs at 2.15pm, giving you plenty time at the koala sanctuary. It is a lovely boat ride with great views, going past lots of grand houses overlooking the river. The return cost is A$45, or you can do as I did and get a bus/taxi there early, and then take the boat back for A$30.
If you come back from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary on the boat, you will disembark on the Southbank. Take a stroll along the promenade of the Southbank, a lively entertainment area just across the river from Brisbane’s CBD. It is a particularly vibrant area of town and it reminds me a lot of London’s South Bank, with buskers, weekend markets, cafes and restaurants and lots of entertainment. There is always something going on here and there is plenty space for BBQs and picnics!
On the South Bank is Australia’s only artificial inner city beach “Streets Beach”. Swim for FREE in the beautiful outdoor lagoon on the banks of the river. Surrounded by tropical plants and amazing white sands, this place is so amazing! I love how Queensland always has lots of outdoor things to do for free! Plus the view of the CBD from here is great! Where else can you be on a beach facing the city skyline?!
Just next to the lagoon you will see the Rainforest Walk: afterwards stroll along here and feel a million miles away from city life in this lush and enchantingly tranquil man-made rainforest. Look out for wildlife and tropical plants or simply get away from the city crowds under the canopy of tropical trees. Further along the Southbank look out for the famous Brisbane sign – get your picture here and then head down towards Kangaroo Cliffs.
One of the best views of Brisbane can be seen from Kangaroo Cliffs, a short stroll from the South Bank. These cliffs are a very popular place for people to go abseiling – who would have thought you can find big natural cliffs right next to a city centre!
Make your way to the City Botanic Gardens, on the north bank of the river (you’ll cross the Goodwill Bridge – the pedestrian and cycle bridge). The gardens are also free to enter and are beautiful, and are another place to escape the busy city life. If you’re here on a Sunday check out the lively market at the main entrance of the Botanic Gardens. There’s lots of food and crafts, and it is open until 3pm.
Sunset: Mount Coot-Tha
To get great views all over the city, head to Mount Coot-Tha. Just a short bus ride from town (catch the bus from Adelaide Street) or a taxi (A$30 maximum) from the centre. You can take the bus to the top of the summit or get off at the bottom and walk through the tropical Brisbane Botanic Gardens (different to the City Botanic Gardens in town) to get to the top. If you stay until the evening you will be rewarded with an amazing sunset.
Evening: dinner and drinks
For dinner and drinks, check out Fortitude Valley: a creative and alternative suburb of Brisbane a short walk from the CBD. There are lots of bars, live music venues, clubs, boutique shops, markets and Brisbane’s Chinatown is here. The open air chic rooftop bar Cloudland should definitely be on your list if coming this way (dress smart)!
Or if you are on the other side of town on the south of the river check out the hipster Westend inner city suburb near the South Bank for amazing bars and restaurants. West End’s Friday and Saturday evening markets on Boundary Street are a must to check out, with lots of great food and boutique stalls!
Whilst you absolutely don’t need a car to explore Brisbane as it is relatively compact, you may want to consider hiring a car if you are staying longer and are planning to see the surrounding areas, such as the Hinterland and the beaches. You can still get around without a car, but a car is much more convenient and gets you to these places a lot quicker.
The Gold Coast Hinterland is roughly an hour drive south of Brisbane and there are several UNESCO World Heritage Listed National Parks (Springbrook National Park and Tamborine Mountain for example) with natural swimming holes, great walking trails and stunning lookouts! Car hire is cheap in Australia, you can hire a car for 24 hours for around A$80.
When to visit Brisbane?
Brisbane is the capital of The Sunshine State (Queensland)! It is sunny almost year round! Spring (September – November) is an ideal time to visit, and in October all the jacaranda trees transform the city into a sea of purple. The summer (end of November – March) is hot and humid, and as Queensland is tropical this can often lead to tropical rain storms.
Day trips from Brisbane:
Brisbane is a great base from which to explore nearby places. The Sunshine Coast (north of Brisbane) and The Gold Coast (south of Brisbane) are both an hours drive from Brisbane. Nearby Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island are both stunning and worth a visit too. Alternatively, if you wish to go further afield for a few days, head to up to Noosa to explore the beaches and do the coastal walk, or even Hervey Bay where you can see the humpback whales from July to October. This was honestly one of my most incredible experiences in Australia!
There is certainly a lot to keep you entertained for 24 hours in Brisbane! After travelling literally the length and breadth of Australia, I can honestly say Queensland is my favourite state in Australia! The subtropical climate means there is always great weather here, the scenery is stunning and so varied, and it boasts some of the best beaches in Australia, if not the world!
Like this post? Pin it for later!