Getting anywhere in Brisbane is extremely easy. The CBD is relatively flat and condensed, which makes it perfect for walking or cycling and virtually all other areas can be reached by public transport.
However, some areas can be difficult to navigate through a combination of dead ends, winding roads and steep slopes. This applies to some inner-city suburbs, but especially outer suburbs. If you find yourself lost, it’s advisable to head to the nearest main road as more than likely it will be serviced by buses or trains. If you are driving, a street directory is an essential addition to your car. Locals are generally friendly and more than willing to help you out if you are lost, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Brisbane is an excellent city for walking and you should have no problems getting around the CBD. Within minutes of walking in virtually any direction you will be able to find a bus, train or ferry station. Maps can be purchased from bookstores such as QBD (Queensland Books Depot), Dymocks, any tourist information centre or viewed online.
Beyond the CBD and inner-suburbs however, sights can become very spread out, so you might want to consider other modes of getting around.
Getting around the city and the surrounding areas is easy thanks to the many cycle paths along the river. Bicycles can be rented in the centre of the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.
The Brisbane City Council has recently introduced a scheme known as CityCycle, which offers bicycles for hire at different stations around the city. Tourists can register for a 24-hour period for $2 or for a week for $11. The bikes are free to use after that, as long as you return the bike to a station within 30 minutes (afterwards usage rates apply). You’ll need to provide your own helmet, as it is the law and few stations offer them.
Cycling on footpaths is legal in the Brisbane City Council area, however pedestrians have right of way. Keep left and take special care when riding through South Bank Parklands as the shared (and quite wide) foot and cycle path is often clogged with large groups taking up the whole path, pedestrians stopping unexpectedly for photos and playing children running heedlessly in front of you. It is often too noisy here to use your bell, so out of courtesy and safety, you’re strongly urged to dismount and push your bicycle through crowded areas.
Maps showing bikeways in the Brisbane City Council area are available on the BCC website.
Some areas of Brisbane are very hilly. If your street map shows a tangle of winding streets close together that is a sign of steep roads. A short trip can quickly become a lot of work, especially if you are using the heavy CityCycle bikes. Stick to the river when possible, it’s where you get the best views and it is almost entirely flat.
If you leave the cycle paths, footpaths, and minor streets you should be prepared to contend with busy urban traffic. Feel free to ignore any Brisbane motorists that may have resentment toward cyclists and ignorance of the road rules applying to cyclists; cyclists are permitted to travel on just about all roads in Brisbane. Special “bicycle lanes” on Brisbane’s roads are becoming increasingly common and are often denoted by a narrow green-coloured strip of road adjacent to the curb.
Wearing a safety helmet is law in Brisbane (and the rest of Australia). The police issue a $120 fine for cycling without a safety helmet which is heavily enforced.
Green Cabs are one of the latest additions to the city and growing in popularity. Essentially a rickshaw, they are a novel way of getting around the inner-city areas. Able to accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 small children (though it can vary – talk to the rider and see what you can arrange), they mostly operate between West End, South Bank, the CBD, Fortitude Valley and along the river where it’s mostly flat, although you can arrange to be taken elsewhere. Prices start at $5 and tours are available.
Currently Green Cabs operate on weekends and during special events. During the day operators who are ready to go are usually based at South Bank at the Wheel of Brisbane. At night, you will find Green Cabs at South Bank and throughout the CBD.
Many of the roads in Brisbane Central Business District (CBD) are one-way, making driving in this area complicated for people not familiar with the layout. Drivers used to city driving should not find Brisbane too much of a challenge, and parking is readily available in parking stations in the city, albeit it at a steep cost, around $40 to casually park for a day. $15 parking is generally available with early-bird deals (arrive before 9AM, leave after 4PM.),
CBD roads become clearways at 4PM, and any cars parked on the side of the road will be fined, towed or both. You have to pay for the towing to get your car back, and then they expect a fine to follow in the mail. Check for signs when parking, or just play it safe and find a parking station.
An area of roads around the CBD are covered by the ‘Brisbane Central Traffic Area’, meaning that parking on unmarked roads is limited to 2 hours between 7am and 5pm on weekdays and before noon on Saturdays.
If you are looking to visit the areas surrounding the city, then generally a car will be as quick as any other way of getting around, with the possible exception of the height of peak hour. Brisbane is notorious for having roads that bottle-neck and what would normally be a 15 minute trip could easily turn into well over an hour during peak.
There are several toll roads in and around Brisbane, including the Gateway Bridge which crosses the river near the airport, the Clem-7 tunnel as well as the Go-Between Bridge. Cash is not accepted, toll users must have a prepaid transponder or post-pay via a website. Check the Queensland Toll Roads website for more details. Various car rental companies are available to rent from either at the airport or downtown Brisbane such as:
- Redspot Car Rentals
- Avis Car Rentals
- Hertz Rentals
By motorcycle / motorbike / scooter
Brisbane Central Business District (CBD) is not the friendliest of places when it comes to finding a parking spot for your car. Leaving your car for an hour could cost you in excess of $25 or a few parking fines. The best way to get around the CBD is either by scooter, motorbike. Motorbike and scooter parking is free and there are plenty of areas designated for parking of motorbikes, scooters and Mopeds.
Mopeds, however, are not allowed on major highways. Even though they can be ridden by just about anyone who holds a car drivers license, it is difficult to see all of Brisbane on a moped as most major streets are zoned as 60-80 km/hr and the standard 50cc mopeds are limited to 55 km/hr.
North of Brisbane you will find many beautiful scenic drives for motorbike enthusiasts. The North side is surrounded by many windy roads and great mountain roads on which any motorbike rider can enjoy a full day out on the motorbike of just about any size.
There are services available throughout Brisbane and the Gold Coast which deliver both scooters and motorbikes right to your door-step. Some will even provide all the necessary gear as well. Take a look at a few rental companies below to find a perfect motorbike/scooter for your trip.
Most major car hire companies have offices at Brisbane Airport and in the city centre. As is common with many hire car companies, you will often pay a premium to pick up or return at the airport location. While most car rental companies hire to people 25 years of age and over, some all age car rental companies do hire to younger drivers over 18 years of age (there are surcharges involved for under-age drivers).
Taxis are numerous throughout Brisbane and can take you anywhere. The major companies are Yellow Cabs and Black & White Cabs. All cabs can be hailed down no matter where you are, provided their roof light is on, though in some areas they might not be able to stop, so it might be best to book one in advance. All cabs accept cash, credit and debit cards. Despite cabs being fitted with GPS units, you’ll find it wise to check with the driver about your destination before departing and make sure they are willing to go there.
In the outer-suburban areas, cabs will pull over if you hail them down from the side of the road and can be found in designated taxi ranks in shopping centres, or near bars and pubs. The same can be said for the inner-city, however taxi ranks are more common and it’s usually best to catch a cab from there. At night though, especially on Friday and Saturday, taxis exclusively pick up passengers from these ranks and you’d be extremely lucky if you get one elsewhere. These ranks are usually monitored by security and have ushers at night. Between midnight-5:30AM on Friday and Saturday nights, all taxis from the CBD and Fortitude Valley become “FlatFare”, meaning that there is a fixed price for any given destination and you will have to pay before entering the taxi.
Taxis can be expensive in Brisbane; a trip between the airport and the city can be in excess of $50-60 and can easily run to over $100 if you go beyond the central Brisbane region.
The three main public transport options of Brisbane (ferries, buses and trains) are linked by a common ticketing system, known as TransLink. This coordination arrangement allows free transfers to be made between the three different transport modes, providing relevant time and zone restrictions are met. The TransLink website (13 12 30) is handy for researching public transport options between destinations, and is essential for Brisbane visitors planning their commute.
Single tickets for travel in Brisbane start at over $4 for a one way trip, the most expensive of any city within Australia and the third-most expensive globally (behind Oslo and London). A paper ticket is valid for travel only in the zones you ask for and is only valid for one way trips, so make sure you buy a ticket that covers all the zones you’ll need to travel in. Paper tickets are being phased out in favour of the competitively cheaper Go Card (see below).
Travellers should ensure they have a valid ticket as ticket inspectors make frequent appearances and fines can be significant. You may also be required to display a valid student/senior card if you are travelling on a concession ticket type.
TransLink has integrated ticketing called the go card, a contactless smart card which you purchase before travelling and you top-up with funds. The fare is deducted as you touch-on and touch-off as you board and leave public transport. Buses and CityCats/Ferries are fitted with go card machines that are apparent when you board, whilst train stations have external panels located on the platform or nearby. A deposit of $10 applies when purchasing a go card. Go cards can be purchased and topped up from staff at train stations, some ticket vending machines and selected newsagents and convenience stores, which there are many of in the city centre.
Buying a go card removes the hassle of figuring out zones. Fares are discounted by 30%, and once you make 9 journeys with a go card during a Monday to Sunday week, then the travel is free until Sunday. Obviously, this works best if you arriving on a Monday. Translink uses the word “journey” to mean end-to-end journey including any required transfers, and the word “trip” to mean the leg of travel on one vehicle. A journey can be made up of one or more trips. When making a number of trips to get to your destination it is still one journey if you touch on within 60 minutes of touching off on your previous trip.
Getting a go-card will save you around 50c to $1 on the average journey. However, getting a refund for the unused money and $5 deposit can be a hassle. If you have paid by credit card you need apply and have the money returned by cheque or by transfer to an Australian bank account. If you have paid by cash you can get a refund at a train station, including the airport train station.
SEEQ (See Queensland Card)
For a 3 or 5 Day Trip In Brisbane a SEEQ Card may be better then getting a go-card unlike the Go-Card where fares are based on a pre-paid system and you pay for what you use the SEEQ Card allows for Unlimited Trip on Translink Buses, Trains and Ferries.
The fare you pay will depend on public transport “zones”. The 23 zones form concentric rings and propagate outwards from the CBD (zone 1). All official public transport maps clearly mark the zones and zone boundaries. Generally speaking, most major attractions around the inner-city are within zones 1 or 2. Your fare is determined by how many zones you travel through. Travelling between zones 2 and 3 will cost you the same fare as travelling between zones 7 and 8. You must observe the time restrictions for transfers to avoid having to pay for another journey.
Often, major stops like shopping centres and busway stops are used as zone boundaries. Stops that form part of the zone boundary are considered part of both zones, so you may travel to them on a valid ticket that covers either zone.
If buying a paper ticket, say which zones you wish for it to be valid for, although all operators generally know what to give you if you tell them your destination. Ensuring your ticket is valid for your current journey is important as bus drivers may make you pay for another ticket or not allow you on at all, and officers on trains and ferries may fine you.
If you are using a Go Card, then fares are calculated automatically.
CityFerry and CityCat
CityFerries and CityCats have become an icon of the city and are fantastic ways to tour Brisbane along the river. The CityCats are high-speed catamarans with stops at South Bank and the city centre as well as many riverside suburbs, and are a very popular method of getting around for tourists. CityFerries are more traditional ferries which generally operate shorter routes with more frequent stops; you may end up on one if you must use one of the smaller terminals, but in practice, most riverside destinations are accessible from the faster and more modern CityCats. The red CityHopper ferries that operate in the city centre are free of charge, whereas the regular blue ferries attract a fee according to the above mentioned zones.
Trains in greater Brisbane run along radial lines. Most train services in Brisbane are through-running, travelling from one end of the suburbs to the other, however all trains service Roma Street, Central, Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills regardless of their ultimate destination. Interurban services can also be caught to the Gold Coast (using connecting bus services at Nerang and Robina) and Sunshine Coast (using connecting bus services at Landsborough and Nambour) as well as Australia Zoo (connecting bus at Beerwah). Trains generally run from 6AM to midnight, though there are some variations such as running later on Friday and Saturday nights, and finishing earlier on Sundays.
Brisbane has a large network of bus routes. Virtually all buses have a digital display of their route number and destination(s). The inner city areas are very well serviced by buses, with the most popular routes running from 6AM to 11PM as a minimum, and most routes ultimately terminating at Queen St Bus Station, Fortitude Valley (via Adelaide St or Elizabeth St) or on the busway. In some of Brisbane’s notoriously dispersed outer suburbs, services may be much less frequent or have reduced running hours, so it is advisable to check timetables if making these trips.
Brisbane’s dedicated busway runs from a corridor in the southern or northern suburbs, through South Bank and the central business district. Due to the large number of buses in the central business district, a number of other routes use stops scattered across the city streets, so if you are unfamiliar with the geography of Brisbane, use of the busway is recommended where possible. The busway and rail network meet at Roma Street station, and the two combined provide very good coverage of the key inner city areas.
Drivers do carry notes with them, but not always many or of high value. If you must pay cash, try to pay the correct amount and with coins where possible. Note that some services, especially in peak hour, do not sell tickets onboard at all and only accept pre-purchased tickets or go cards. These are signed with the letter ‘P’ before the route number. As with many cities, Brisbane has a large number of express buses, so it should not be assumed that all buses observe every stop along the roads they travel. In peak hour there are even more express routes (“rockets” and “bullets”) for commuters which make very few stops at all. Ask the driver if you are unsure.
Brisbane also has all-night bus services on Friday and Saturday nights on selected routes; this is branded ‘NightLink’.
- The ‘Brisbane City Loop’ is a free and convenient bus service travelling in both directions around the CBD. Operating M-F 7AM–5:50PM, every ten minutes from any distinctive red CBD bus stop.
- The ‘Spring Hill Loop’ free bus operates approximately every 10 minutes between 8:10AM and 6:05PM and stops at distinctive yellow bus stops.
- The ‘CityGlider’ bus operates as a prepaid service for quick cross-city travel between West End and the Teneriffe Ferry at Newstead, just beyond Fortitude Valley. It runs every five minutes during peak hour (weekdays from 7-9AM and 4-6PM), and every 10 to 15 minutes between all other hours of operation. It operates from 5.30AM until 11.30PM Sunday to Thursday, and 24 hours Friday and Saturday from any distinctive light blue bus stop.
- The ‘CitySights’ bus service is a hop-on, hop-off bus service for getting around to popular sights and attractions in Brisbane. It is operated by Brisbane City Council, but is a premium service and not covered by TransLink tickets or go cards. A day pass is currently $35 and includes free CityCat travel.
- The routes 598 and 599 form the Great Circle Line which circles the city in clockwise and counter-clockwise direction and can be a great way of getting around the different suburbs.
- The ‘CityHopper’ is a free hop on and hop off ferry service that runs every 30 minutes from 6am to midnight, seven days a week. The service covers the inner city reach of the Brisbane River. The CityHopper is identifiable by its red colour and markings which include a hopping kangaroo.
- Brisbane City Hall and King George Square, Located between Adelaide and Ann Streets, this is the city’s most significant historical landmark.
- Museum of Brisbane. Ground Floor, 157 Ann St. 10AM-5PM daily, free. Features one floor of exhibits about the history of the city, and another floor for exhibitions of local artists.
- Churches and Cathedrals, St Stephen’s Cathedral (neo-Gothic, Elizabeth Street), St Stephen’s Chapel (adjacent to the cathedral, Queensland’s oldest church), St John’s Cathedral (Gothic revival, 373 Ann Street), Albert St Uniting Church (decorative red and white building, Cnr Ann/Albert Streets)
- City Botanic Gardens, 10-15 minute walk from the city centre and Central or Roma Street railway stations. Walking and cycling tracks. Exhibits. Open 24 hours. Free. Free guided tours M-Sa 11AM and 1PM, 1 hour. No need to book ahead. These tours are a mix of the history of the gardens and the city whereas the garden tours at Mt Coot-tha are more focused on the wide variety of plants.
- Commissariat Store, one of Brisbane’s oldest buildings, showing exhibitions about the city’s history. 115 William Street. 10AM to 4PM tuesday to sunday, $5 adults, $3 children/concession.
- Queensland Cultural Centre, Adjacent to South Bank, the site includes The Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) and State Library of Queensland – located on Grey St in South Brisbane. The Queensland Conservatorium and the Queensland College of Art are also located on Grey St. The recently opened GoMA regularly hosts exhibitions featuring internationally famous artists (such as Warhol and Picasso) as well as many local contemporary artists. The Cultural Centre has its own busway stop and can be accessed by a large number of different routes.
- South Bank, Formerly the site of World Expo ’88 this relatively recent development is across the Brisbane River from the heart of the city and features an artificial beach surrounded by extensive parklands. Also in South Bank are the shops, cafés, restaurants and cinemas of the Grey Street precinct. A great place to hang out on a hot day and swim for free.
- Queensland Zoo. Located 1 hour north of Brisbane at the Big Pineapple in Nambour. If taking public transport there’s a bus from the Nambour train station that goes to the zoo. Admission: adults $28, children 3-13 yrs $15, discounts for students, seniors and families.
- Parliament House and Old Government House, two elegant historical buildings from the 1860s. At the border of the City Botanic Gardens. Tours available.
- Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. 15 minutes drive from the city on Jesmond Road in Fig Tree Pocket (via the Western Freeway). Catch the hourly 445 or 430 buses from the city or the Mirimar boat cruise from South Bank at 10:20AM. +61 7 3378-1366. World’s first and largest koala sanctuary, with over 130 koalas. Cuddle a koala, hand feed kangaroos and see some other Aussie wildlife. Admission $32 adults, $21 children 3-13 yrs, with discounts for families and students.
- Manly Boat Harbour, Manly Boat Harbour is the nearest access point from Brisbane city to Moreton Bay. Nestled beside the Manly Harbour Village, it is Brisbane’s gateway to the Moreton Bay Marine Park with its pristine waterways and fascinating islands. Manly Harbour Village has a great range of dining and shopping options overlooking the marina.
- Maritime Museum, featuring exhibitions on Queensland’s maritime history as well as several vessels on the river and a dry dock, the largest being the HMAS Diamantina which was a warship during World War Two.
- Mt Coot-tha. Brisbane’s tallest mountain. A popular make-out spot with a great view and good but overpriced cafe and restaurant. Also home to one of the Botanical Gardens and a Planetarium. Approximately 6km west of the CBD. Large TV and radio antennas lining some of its broad peak. You can take a scenic drive through the heavily forested Mount Coot-tha Reserve to the peak to see the almost-360° views of Brisbane and the surrounding region. Also features the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Planetarium and numerous walking and bicycle tracks. The mountain is 287 m (941 ft) above sea level and forms the eastern extent of the Taylor Range. It is the most northern part of Australia to record snow. It is a prominent landmark approximately 6 km (4 mi) to the west of the Brisbane central business district and is visible from much of the city. Before the Moreton Bay penal settlement, Mount Coot-tha was the home of the Turrbal Aboriginal people. Early Brisbane people called it One Tree Hill when bush at the top of the mountain was cleared except for one large eucalypt tree. The Aboriginal people of the area used to come to the mountain to collect ‘ku-ta’ (honey) that was produced by the native stingless bee. Mount Coot-tha (Place of Honey), a derivative of (the indigenous term), replaced the former title ‘One Tree Hill’ in 1880 when the area was declared a Public Recreation Reserve. Car is the most effective way to enjoy Mount Cootha at your own pace. There is ample parking at the peak. One can also hike the marked trail from the mountain’s foot. See one of the best views of Brisbane. It is best to arrive just before dusk or dawn so you can enjoy the transition from day to night. Drive to the peak for a picnic dinner and admire the views. There are several walking tracks through the forests that surround the summit; some are difficult.
- New Farm Park, This historic park is famous for the long line of jacaranda trees, shady picnic areas and its large rose gardens that contain hundreds of variety of roses, and over 40,000 individual plants.
- Old Windmill, Brisbane’s oldest surviving building (1828). Not open to the public. Wickham Terrace.
- Roma Street Parklands – is the world’s largest subtropical garden in a city centre and home to 1,800 unique species of plants. Experience the theme gardens such as the topiary maze, rain forest walk, lake, celebration law and amphitheatre with many public artworks to admire. Free admission.
- Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. Located in the beautiful subtropical Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong. Open Tu-Su with free admission to astronomy and space displays and a mini theatre. Admission fees (generally $14.10 per adult, with discounts for families) apply to the Cosmic Skydome which features a wide variety of astronomy and space programs. All shows feature a “live” segment recreating the current Brisbane night sky. On weekdays (closed M and public holidays), the doors open at 10AM with school shows at 10:30AM and noon. Members of the public are welcome to attend the earlier school shows when space permits (children must be school age). The 1:30PM and 3PM sessions (Tu-F) are public programs, although the 1:30PM program may be booked for dedicated school programs (please check with the Planetarium’s Booking Office). During Queensland school holidays there are extra public shows on weekdays. On weekends, the Planetarium opens at 11AM and shows are also presented on Saturday night with “Saturday Night Live” at 6PM being a very popular show. There is a shop with a wide variety of astronomical/science merchandise and souvenirs. There is free parking, an adjacent bus stop and a separate cafe/restaurant. The Botanic Gardens has many walks.
- Courier-Mail Piazza, Within South Bank often hosts free live events and movies.
- University of Queensland, One of Australia’s oldest and most prestigious institutions situated on a bend of the Brisbane River. Its majestic sandstone buildings are surrounded by ornamental lakes, Jacaranda lined boulevards and some of the finest architecture. Visitor attractions include the Great Court, the UQ Art Museum at the James and Mary Emelia Mayne Centre, the Eleanor Schonell Bridge, the Schonell Theatre, the lakes and Wordsmiths Bookshops. The university can be reached by bus from George St on bus numbers 412 and 109 or via the City Cat.
- Wheel of Brisbane, (at South Bank), A ferris wheel that allows you to observe the city from 60 m with views across the Brisbane River. The trip is a 15 minute ride in an enclosed, climate controlled gondola. 10AM-10PM daily, $15, $10 children 12 years and under, $2 children aged between one and three.
Activities and trips
- Kangaroo Point,- the walls along the Brisbane River are a popular spot for rock climbers and give an excellent view of the CBD skyline just across the river. Activities carry on after dark, when the walls are well-lit. Abseiling and rock climbing classes on the cliffs with an instructor are available from Riverlife Adventures, as well as kayak, kick-bike, rollerblade and bicycle hire. There are also barbecue and picnic spots in the area.
- Story Bridge Adventure Climb, – offers the opportunity to scale the top of Brisbane’s iconic bridge. Enjoy 360° views of Brisbane, the mountain ranges and Moreton Bay Islands at dawn, afternoon or night.
- Jan Powers Farmers Markets. Buy fresh fruit, vegetables and cuts of meat from one of the many farmers markets across Brisbane including the Powerhouse at New Farm, Manly, Mitchelton and the newest market at Reddacliff Place at the top of the Queen Street Mall.
- Balloons over Brisbane, Gain an aerial perspective as you float over Brisbane in our hot air balloon. It’s often possible to see as far off as the magnificent Glasshouse Mountains, to the Gold Coast and out to the islands of Moreton Bay.
- Cruise the Brisbane River, There are many tours available that cruise the Brisbane River and will help you take in the sights of the city.
- Explore Brisbane’s Moreton Bay and Islands, 25 km (16 mi) from the Brisbane’s CBD and stretches from Bribie Island to the Southern Bay Islands. Enjoy sand tobogganing, 4wheel driving, diving or snorkelling or go marine watching and spot turtles, dolphins, dugongs and even whales.
- Explore Greater Brisbane Country. Take a day trip to the surrounding regions around an hour from Brisbane and discover wineries, national parks, lakes and country living. The Scenic Rim including Ipswich, Beaudesert and Boonah is a vast region of mountains, rainforest and valleys embracing the World Heritage wilderness of the McPherson Range. The Lockyer Valley provides a perfect blend of town and country living, with experiences ranging from guided tours and bush camping to hot air ballooning and sky-diving.
- The Scenic Rim – This describes the large arc of mountains, to a height of 1,375 m (4,511 ft), from the Mistake Ranges (south of Gatton) across the Main (Great Dividing) Range to the MacPherson Range that terminates at Currumbin on the Gold Coast. Apart from some well known locations on the Rim, such as Binna Burra and O’Reilleys guesthouses, Springbrook and Cunningham’s Gap, the largest proportion of these ranges are unspoilt and much of it near-wilderness. Many forest areas were previously logged, but the forest recovery has been excellent, and virtually all the logging tracks have disappeared except for those still used for foot access. At the previously mentioned sites, graded paths offer a taste, but for the more adventurous there are many hiking possibilities from day trips to sustained multi-day exercises. More information can be found on the web. Parties should be properly prepared and conversant with navigation in difficult country and the rules of National Parks.
- Riverlife Adventure Centre. Brisbane’s riverside adventures. Kayaking, Abseiling the Kangaroo Cliffs, a rollerblade session and bike rentals. They also organise evening activities such as Kayak paddle and prawns.
- Bosky Bike Hire. Explore the cities landscape on a bicycle. With each bike you also obtain a community card which entitles you to discounts at various cafes, attractions and retail stores throughout Brisbane.
Thanks to Brisbane’s year-round wonderful climate, it’s the perfect city to host outdoor events. The city often plays host to cultural and historic celebrations, music festivals and family entertainment, particularly in the Summer holiday months of December, January and February.
Cultural and historic
By far the largest and most popular event in Brisbane is the annual Brisbane Festival. This festival, which originally started as a celebration of the Brisbane River, now incorporates a number of smaller events at various places around South Bank Parklands, the Cultural Centre and the CBD as a celebration to Brisbane itself. Notably the ‘Riverfire’ event which is held in South Bank every September and draws the largest crowd. It offers free family entertainment all day and the city’s biggest Fireworks display at night.
The annual Royal Queensland Show or The Ekka as it’s almost exclusively called by the locals is a staple event in Brisbane’s history and culture, held every August and dating back to 1876. It is hosted at the RNA Showgrounds in the inner-suburb of Bowen Hills and runs for a week, where the Wednesday is a public holiday (so expect large crowds on this day). Primarily marketed toward families, attractions at the Ekka include fairground rides, a Side Show Alley, animal parades, wood chopping competitions, agricultural displays, equestrian events and Showbags, usually containing food items (such as confectionery) and novelty items. If you are in Brissy at the time, it really is not to be missed!
The Brisbane Powerhouse, renovated from a decommissioned power station, is an arts and cultural hub located in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm, Queensland, Australia. The venue offers an array of performing arts, visual arts, festivals, and free community events along with dining and drinks at Bar Alto or Watt Restaurant+Bar.
In Musgrave Park, the Greek Paniyiri Festival is another popular family entertainment event. Brisbane has a large Greek population who come out in force to celebrate Greek culture. Offers authentic Greek foods and entertainment.
The St. George Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) held throughout November in a variety of venues around Brisbane, BIFF features new films and retrospectives by domestic and international filmmakers along with seminars and awards.
Brisbane has been named one of the world’s top 5 hotspots for music by the influential US entertainment Billboard magazine. A night out in Brisbane is not complete without experiencing some of the live music on offer. The Valley has the highest concentration of bars, pubs and clubs anywhere in Australia and in 2005, was given Australia’s first and only “Special Entertainment Precinct” zoning, which protects and promotes the live music scene.
If you are looking for what’s happening in Brisbane, most music and entertainment stores as well as some hipster restaurants and cafés offer free entertainment magazines like Scene that list what’s coming up within the next month or so.
Though you might find most musicians playing in the numerous bars and clubs around the CBD, West End and The Valley, there are some venues which are geared specifically toward hosting bands or artists that are on official tours. Some events allows under 18s in, but not all, so it’s best to check beforehand.
- Black Bear Lodge 322 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley – tucked away above street level in the Brunswick Street Mall, this stylish candlelit speakeasy venue is the perfect place to enjoy a drink and gig.
- Max Watts 125 Boundary St, West End – funky, purpose-built live show venue located in the heart of Brisbane’s alternative district.
- The Tivoli 52 Costin St, Fortitude Valley – has a very relaxed, noir-styled interior with sizable floor space and a mezzanine. Highly rated venue amongst locals and only a 10 minute walk from The Valley.
- The Triffid 7-9 Stratton St, Newstead – an old World War II US aircraft hangar converted into a modern music venue by former bassist from the internationally-renowned Brisbane band, Powderfinger.
- The Underdog Pub Co. 186 Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley – a new valley staple providing reasonably priced drinks and food, as well as an eclectic taste (from punk to blues) of some Brisbane’s best music.
- The Zoo 711 Ann St, Fortitude Valley – this live music venue is almost more Brisbane than the river. Indie rock, hipsters and that alternative vibe.
The Valley Fiesta is an annual three-day event. It was launched by Brisbane Marketing in 2002 to promote Fortitude Valley as a hub for arts and youth culture. It features free live music, market stalls, food and drink from many local restaurants and cafés, and other entertainment.
Brisbane and the Gold Coast also play host to a number of nationwide electronic and rock music festivals, mostly geared toward the younger crowd.
- Big Day Out Hosted on the Gold Coast.
- Queen Street Mall. Main shopping mall in Brisbane, large variety of shops, contains several shopping centres.
- The Myer Centre. Runs the gamut from jeans shops to specialty knife stores. Internet kiosks are available.
- The Wintergarden. A fashion centre connected to the foot of the Hilton Hotel. Also contains a licensed day or night bowling alley.
- QueensPlaza. Brisbane’s newest fashion centre, with more expensive, big brand stores.
- Broadway on the Mall. Many formal wear, evening wear and bridal stores. Also some stores that stock well known Brisbane fashion designers such as Gail Sorronda. Features a downstairs food court and upstairs electrical and appliance retailer.
- Brisbane Arcade. A secluded narrow shopping strip which acts as a pass way between Adelaide and Queen St. It contains many unique stores. It is one of the few remaining heritage shopping arcades in Brisbane.
- Queen Adelaide Building. One of Brisbane’s oldest buildings is home to Queensland’s flagship Sportsgirl store, Adidas and Rebel Sport.
- The Treasury Casino, (located at the George Street end of the mall).
- Adelaide Street. Downtown’s dress circle
- Elizabeth Street Arcade. Arcade that spans between Elizabeth and Charlotte streets. Lots of independent boutiques to suit various prices, and lots of cheap asian food.
- Albert Street. Has many adventure and sports-type retailers, lots of bookstores.
- Eagle Street. The centre of law and finance in Queensland, holds the Eagle Street and Riverside markets.
- Edward Street. Mostly covered by Queens Plaza, Macarthur Centre and Wintergarden street fashion stores. There are also a couple of jewellery, take-away restaurants, bars and night clubs. Edward St. has recently been transformed into a luxury brands precinct, with stores such as MaxMara, Tiffany & Co., Bally, Mont Blanc, Chanel, Gucci Hugo Boss, Oroton, Ralph Lauren, and L’Occitane. Hermes opened a store on Edward St in late 2010. Apple is reportedly set to open a flagship store on Edward St, which will be the largest in Australia, and one of the largest in the world.
- South Bank markets. Held at the South Bank Parklands every Sunday.
- Brunswick Street Mall. Located in the heart of China Town, there are many Chinese retailers, fast food restaurants, cafes and bars. Markets are run on Sundays.
- Indooroopilly Shopping Centre. Large shopping centre sprawled over three massive levels. Large variety of retailers.
- Westfield Garden City. Large shopping centre with two levels. Contains a large variety of fashion retailers and book stores.
- Logan Hyperdome. Loganholme
- Westfield Chermside. Brisbane’s largest shopping centre. Popular among youth culture for its Megaplex Movie Cinema.
- Westfield Carindale. The largest shopping centre in the Eastern Suburbs.
- Northside Flower Market, Unit 3, 27 Windorah St, Stafford. M-Sa.
- Davies Park Market, Montague Rd, West End. Sa 6AM-2PM. An expansive farmers-style market with an alternative vibe that sells fruit and vegetables, as well as meats, cheese, and handicrafts. Also has food vendors, including a crêperie.
- James Street, Fortitude Valley. Small strip with high end fashion, furniture and electronics retail, plus a couple of nice bars and cafes.
- Valley Markets – A shopping must for locals and tourists. Operating every weekend, find jewellery, fabulous handmade accessories and artwork. Home to emerging fashion designers. (Sa Su 8AM-4PM)
- Ann St Along Ann Street in the Valley there are many independent fashion boutiques for mid-range shopping. Some of them are spread out around the corner of Brunswick Street too.
Brisbane City and Spring Hill
- Beach House, ☎ +61 7 3003-0017 Located on the corner of Albert and Elizabeth St, Myer Centre, 2F. Licensed bar, large meals and live entertainment at value for money.
- Bar Merlo. Various outlets throughout the city, their first being opened in the QUT Gardens Point campus. Regarded as one of the leaders in the Brisbane café society boom since the 90s, their coffee is served at countless cafes and restaurants throughout Brisbane.
- Kadoya Elizabeth St Arcade. Famous for their authentic Japanese curries.
- MOS Burger Albert Street, just off the Queen St Mall in the direction of King George Square. One of Australia’s two MOS locations (The other being in Sunnybank). Quite popular so there may be a line at lunch time.
- German Sausage Hut Burnett Lane. Excellent and authentic German food. Take away available. They offer currywurst, wurst in a roll, wurst on a plate with potato salad and sauerkraut.
- Little Tokyo 85 Bowen St, Spring Hill. ☎ +61 7 3831-7751. Oldest Japanese restaurant in Brisbane, under same ownership for over 40 years. Authentic food and decor but at upper-range prices.
- Pane e Vino, Albert St, ☎+61 7 3220-0044. Italian restaurant with pastas and mains $18-34. Not a lot of authentic Italian ambiance as found in more typical restaurants further south in Melbourne.
- Sono, Queen Street Mall, ☎ +61 7 3220-1888. Authentic Japanese food. Has a second outlet in the new Portside precinct in Hamilton.
- Le Bon Choix, 379 Queen St, near the golden triangle, p 07 3229 9260. Great French bakery. Sells a good variety of sandwiches, cakes, tortes, macarons, fresh bread, croquettes, quiches and coffee. Trading Hrs: Mon-Fri 7am – 6pm, Sat-Sun 7am – 5pm
- ARIA Brisbane, 1 Eagle St, ☎ +61 7 3233-2555. The sister restaurant to the famed ARIA Sydney, ARIA Brisbane is no less impressive, with a commanding view of the River and the Story Bridge. Located in the Eagle St Pier precinct, it specialises in the freshest Australian produce.
- Alchemy, ☎ +61 7 3229-3175. Located in a little hideaway on Eagle St, this restaurant has one of the most impressive views in Brisbane, looking across the river to the Story Bridge. Well known for its “liquid nitrogen nibbles”, Alchemy lives up to its name.
- Cha Cha Char Pier Ave, ☎ +61 7 3211-9944. Famous award-winning steakhouse located at the Eagle St Pier precinct. Their steaks are considered one of Australia’s best. Recently opened is Organic Char, the sister restaurant to Cha Cha Char which serves organic produce.
- E’cco Bistro 100 Boundary St, ☎ +61 7 3831-8344. Founded and run by the internationally renowned and acclaimed chef Philip Johnson, it is one of the best restaurants in Brisbane and Australia-wide.
- Esquire 145 Eagle St, ☎ +61 7 3220-2123. Recently opened by executive chef Ryan Squires, who trained at Noma in Copenhagen, this restaurant is famed for its degustation menu. An immediate hit in Brisbane. Don’t go dressed in shorts and a t-shirt. Many an unsuspecting Brisbanite has attempted to get in, yet even in the height of summer they still enforce the strict dress rule.
- Il Centro, 1 Pier Ave, ☎ +61 7 3221-6090. Located in the Eagle St Pier precinct, along with other notable neighbours. Famed for its signature sand crab lasagne, it is one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Brisbane and also amongst the priciest.
- Moda, 12 Edward St, ☎+61 7 3221-7655. Huge selection of wines and a varied menu including seafood, duck, rabbit and pork cheeks. By no means cheap but amazing food.
- Restaurant Two, Corner of Edward and George St, (across the street from the Botanic Gardens), ☎ +61 7 3210-0600. Headed by executive chef David Pugh, it is widely regarded as one of Brisbane’s best restaurants.
- Sake, Eagle St Pier. Recently the recipient of an Australian Gourmet Traveller star, and selected as one of Australia’s 100 Top Restaurants, Sake is one of the hot newcomers to the Brisbane restaurant scene. Serves Japanese Cuisine.
- Tank, Tank St, ☎ +61 7 3003 1993. Another member of the top 100 Restaurants in Australia, Tank also served Japanese-Australian cuisine in a tucked away spot in a little laneway off Tank St, in the North Quarter of the Brisbane CBD.
- Urbane, Mary St, (Short walk from Stamford Plaza), ☎ +61 7 3229-2271. One of the best fine dining restaurants in Brisbane, serving unconventional but innovative food.
- Vintaged, Hilton Brisbane, Elizabeth St. Serving carefully aged meat within luxe surroundings, this is one of better hotel restaurants in Brisbane.
Fortitude Valley and New Farm
- “The Purple Olive Restaurants Brisbane, 79 James St (“Italian fortitude valley”), ☎ +61 7 3254 0097
- Bank Vault Lounge, Brunswick St Mall, ☎ +61 7 3252-3424. Wood Fired Pizzas, alfresco dining.
- Continental Cafe, 21 Barker St, +61 7 3254-0377. Good food, nice atmosphere across several rooms, surprisingly good childrens menu. Open for dinner 364 days a year. Watch out for the offal specials on Tuesdays. Reliable high quality.
- “Gerard’s Bistro, 14 / 15 James St (“Gerard’s Lane New Farm”), ☎ +61 7 3852 3822
- Enjoy Inn, 167 Wickham St, (corner of Duncan St in Chinatown) ☎ +61 7 3252-3838. One of the longest established restaurants in Brisbane, good Chinese food.
- Fatboys Cafe 323 Brunswick St, +61 7 3252-3789. The cafe portion of Ric’s Bar, on Brunswick St Mall. Serves some of the best value for money breakfasts in Brisbane from $4.
- Freestyle Tout, 1000 Ann St, ☎ +61 7 3252-0214. Popular dessert restaurant located in the Emporium, with a sister restaurant that is first established in the Rosalie shops in Paddington.
- Green Tea Restaurant, 31 Duncan St, (Duncan St in Chinatown mall), ☎ +61 7 3252-4855. Good authentic Vietnamese food at a reasonable price.
- Harvey’s. (James St precinct), ☎+61 7 3852-3700. Very popular cafe restaurant and deli. It is located a short walk from James St market.
- Hunan Chinese Restaurant , (Chinatown Mall). Unpretentious eatery serving exotic regional Chinese fare from the Hunan province, as well as Chinese takeaway staples at cheap and reasonable prices.
- King of Kings, Wickham St, (Chinatown precinct), ☎ +61 7 3852-1122 . A Brisbane institution for yum cha, decent food and prices.
- Mecca Bah, 1000 Ann St, (Emporium precinct), ☎+61 7 3252-5299. Popular restaurant that serves modern Middle Eastern food, part of an Australian interstate franchise that originated in Melbourne.
- Mint Indian Gourmet, Brunswick St, (near the Central Brunswick precinct), ☎ +61 7 3252-0300. Indian restaurant that serves traditional curries as well as gourmet dishes at upper range prices.
- Re Del Gelato, ☎ +61 7 3358-2177. Beautifully made Italian gelato, a perfect cap after a nice meal at one of the close by restaurants on Brunswick Street.
- James Street Market. Not a restaurant, but a yuppie grocery where you will find all the food and drink you need to bring with you in the bush.
- Taj Mahal, 722 Brunswick St, (opposite Village Twin Cinemas), ☎+61 7 3254-2388. Amazing Indian cuisine. Caterers to the Indian Cricket Team when in Brisbane.
- Thai Wi-Rat, 20 Duncan St, (on Chinatown Mall), ☎ +61 7 3257-0884. Cheap and cheerful authentic regional Thai-Laotian cuisine.
- Vespa Pizza, 148 Merthyr Rd, (corner of James St), ☎ +61 7 3358-4100. Woodfired pizza restaurant on the. Serves the tastiest pizzas in Brisbane and is BYO. Cosy atmosphere in the fairylight-lit courtyard outside and room to move in the booths inside. Delivers to local area on Vespa scooters.
- Wagamama, (in the Emporium precinct). Part of the global noodle bar chain. Have franchises in Chermside and Wintergarden in the Queen Street Mall, Brisbane CBD.
South Bank and Woolloongabba
- Ahmet’s Turkish Restaurant, Little Stanley St, ☎ +61 7 3846-6699. Turkish restaurant, features belly dancers on weekends. One of the most popular and busiest restaurants in the South Bank precinct, though the painstaking quality of the kitchen means a longer than usual wait for food. Do not expect to be in and out in less than an hour.
- Brisbane German Club, 416 Vulture St, (opposite The Gabba stadium), ☎+61 7 3391-2434. Located directly, this restaurant/bar offers a wonderful range of authentic German cuisine and beer for very reasonable prices.
- Green Papaya, 898 Stanley St , ☎ +61 7 3217-3599. Formerly a French-influenced Northern Vietnamese fine dining restaurant founded by renowned chef Lien Yeomans, it is now run by the Mons Ban Sabai management and serves Thai and Indonesian food.
- Norman Hotel, 102 Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba. ☎ +61 7 3391-5022. Along with the Breakfast Creek Hotel, possibly the best steaks in town, it’s slogan is “Brisbane’s worst vegetarian restaurant”.
Milton and Park Road
- China Sea, 60 Park Rd, (on the Coronation Drive end of Park Road), ☎ +61 7 3367-0198. Excellent Chinese food at upper-range prices.
- La Dolce Vita, 20 Park Rd, (next to Rue de Paris), ,☎+61 7 3368-3805. Great Italian cafe
- Rue de Paris, 30 Park Rd, ☎ +61 7 3368-2600. Brisbane’s Eiffel Tower, another great cafe
- Royal Thai Orchid 45 Little Cribb St, (off Park Rd), ☎ +61 7 3229-2588. Thai restaurant. Its sister restaurant in the outer suburb of Springwood was the first Thai restaurant in Brisbane.
- The Lure 28 McDougall St, (at the Coro Hotel on Milton Rd), ☎+61 7 3369-9955. Good for well prepared seafood. Possibly one of Brisbanes best seafood restaurants.
- Gambaro’s, 33 Caxton St, ☎+61 7 3369-9500. Has both a seafood restaurant and a long-established seafood takeaway. A Brisbane institution.
- Harem 282 Given Tce, ☎ +61 7 3368-3141. Turkish restaurant complete with belly-dancing
- Kookaburra Cafe 280 Given Tce, ☎ +61 7 3369-2400. Good pizza in a relaxed atmosphere
- Montrachet, 224 Given Terrace. French bistro specializing in Lyonnaise specialties, regarded as one of Brisbane’s best restaurants.
- Sultans Kitchen 163 Given Ter, ☎ +61 7 3368-2194. Among the best Indian food in the city. Fresh and tasty and good service. Usually fills quickly and does a roaring take-away trade, so get in early.
- Tomato Brothers ,19 Nash St, (Rosalie shops in Paddington), ☎ +61 7 3368-1601. Renowned for their wood fired pizzas, with several franchises in several Brisbane suburbs such as Wilston and Clayfield.
- Urban Grind,530 Brunswick St, LaTrobe Ter, ☎+61 408 101 140. Small café with a BYO food policy, great coffee and free Wi-Fi. For those who wish to indulge in a guilt free cup of coffee Urban Grind is committed to being climate neutral and use Barambah organic milk in their fantastic coffees.
- Sol, 20 Latrobe Ter. Vegetarian and all organic café warm in winter and cool in summer and the coffee is great.
University of Queensland
The university and its surrounds provide many quality eateries if you happen to be in the area or on a CityCat ferry and caters to a cheaper market.
- A Salt ‘n Battery, Hawken Drive, Hawken Village. Quality fish and chip shop-cum-seafood restaurant with a wide variety of foods and decent prices. Approx 5-10 min walk from the University.
- The Pizza Caffe +61 733 772 239 – fantastic pizzas with really different ingredients
South Brisbane and West End
- Era Bistro, 102 Melbourne St, South Brisbane, ☎ +61 7 3255-2033. Excellent bistro food, great cafe spot, extensive wine cellar. Same owners/chef as the former critically acclaimed Circa.
- Huong’s, 83a Vulture St. Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese food. BYO and Takeaway available.
- Lefkas Taverna 170 Hardgrave Rd, West End, ☎+61 7 3844-1163. Brisbane’s most famous Greek takeaway and restaurant.
- Makanan Indonesia, 59 Hardgrave Rd, ☎ +61 7 3846-2111. Authentic Indonesian fare at unbeatable value.
- Mondo Organics, 166 Hardgrave Rd, West End, ☎ +61 7 3844-1132. Considered to be Brisbane’s premier organic food restaurant. Also have a cooking school.
- Punjabi Palace, 135 Melbourne St, South Brisbane, ☎ +61 7 3846-3884. Arguably one of Brisbane’s best Indian restaurants.
- The Forest Cafe, Boundary St. Vegan food. The indoors area can get quite warm during the summer months, however.
- Tukka, 145b Boundary St, ☎ +61 7 3846-6333. Unique and innovative modern native Australian cuisine. Pricing is at the upper range, but worth a visit.
- Trang, 2/59 Hardgrave Road West End. Did someone say Pho? Head here for possibly the best Pho is Brisbane. Give the chinese menu a miss.
- Gandhi Curry House, s/10 Little Stanley St South Brisbane, (www.gandhicurryhouse.com.au) ☎ +61 7 3844 1997 Celebrating 10 years of authentic Indian cuisine in Brisbane’s South Bank.
Restaurants in other areas/precincts
- Baguette, 150 Racecourse Rd, (Ascot precinct), ☎ +61 7 3268-6168. Modern-Australian restaurant that is owned and operated by the Domenech family for over 30 years.
- Blue Lotus, Kelvin Grove Urban Village precinct. Gourmet and exotic ice-creams that change according to the seasons.
- Breakfast Creek Hotel, 2 Kingsford Smith Drv, (in the Newstead area)., ☎ +61 7 3262-5988. Famous for its steaks, a Brisbane institution.
- ‘Brett’s Wharf,’ 449 Kingsford Smith Dr, (off Racecourse Rd), ☎ +61 7 3868-1717. Head chef is the renowned Alastair McLeod, great seafood and splendid views of the Brisbane river.
- ‘The Courthouse Restaurant,’ 1 Paxton St, Cleveland, ☎ +61 7 3286 1386 – [www.courthouserestaurant.com.au]. A Redlands institution, situated in an 1850’s Courthouse, this restaurant offers quality food in a stunning heritage building with beautiful views of Moreton Bay.
- Earth ‘n’ Sea, Oxford St, Bulimba ☎ +61 7 3899-5988 or 377 Cavendish Road, Coorparoo ☎ +61 7 3847-7780. BYO family restaurant serving up delicious pasta dishes and pizzas with unusual toppings, all with the freshest ingredients, great atmosphere and strange Aussie decor. Expensive, but you’re guaranteed to leave satisfied.
- Efes One Turkish Restaurant, 293 Sandgate Rd, (off Sandgate Road at Albion), ☎ +61 7 3862-4599. Brisbane’s first Turkish restaurant. Without a doubt the most popular destination for traditional Turkish cuisine and a friendly atmosphere in Brisbane. Belly dancers on Friday and Saturday nights.
- Landmark, Shop/101 Cnr mains Rd, (Sunnybank Plaza business precinct), ☎ +61 7 3344-3288. One of the most renowned and popular Chinese restaurants in Brisbane, notably for its well done authentic yum cha.
- Sakura, Franchises located in Coorparoo and Highgate Hill. Excellent authentic Japanese food at reasonable prices.
- Sitar, (next to Bespoke in the Albion area). Indian restaurant that has franchises in suburbs like West End and New Farm.
- Garuva Hidden Tranquillity Restaurant, 324 Wickham St, Fortitude Valley, ☎ +61 732 160 124. 7 days, 6PM til midnight. In Fortitude Valley, only one train station away from Central. Specialises in Asian food, but come for the atmosphere! Low-lighting, floor seating and ambient music make this the most intimate restaurant in Brisbane, and every table is enclosed by a sheer curtain. Bar as well, cheap cocktails Fri and Sat before 7PM. $20.
- Tosakan Thai Restaurant, 23 Playfield St, ☎ +61 7 3350-5371. 11AM10:30PM. Tosakan Thai Restaurant serves authentic Thai food for dining in or takeaway. $7-35.
- ‘Laksa Hut, Indooroopilly. Best Laksa and Chinese-Malay food in Brisbane. Ho-fun and salty chicken and fish are good too.