Our final stop in the Australian portion of our vacation was the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane. While there, we spent two days and two nights in Brisbane and two days and two nights in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. In this post, I’ll be talking about Brisbane.
I’ve always maintained that I’ve never been to a city that I don’t like. I pride myself on being able to find something to love everywhere I go. During our first night in Brisbane, I actually thought this was going to be a challenge. Almost nothing was open and the city felt deserted. However, the next day completely changed my mind. Brisbane felt vibrant and diverse and it seemed like the entire city was out to play! We spent the majority of our two days in Brisbane exploring various markets and parks in the city. (Note: I apologize that my photos are a bit spotty in this post. I apparently was too busy exploring all the fun Brisbane had to offer that I didn’t take a ton of pictures outside of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary!)
What to do:
If Queensland is known as the Sunshine State, I would argue that Brisbane should be known as the City of Parks and Markets! Especially on a weekend, Brisbanians are out and about shopping and enjoying the sunshine. Visiting the parks and markets is a great way to immerse yourself in the Brisbane culture, people watch, and pick up a few souvenirs for yourself or friends back home.
Riverside Markets is located in the Central Business District (CBD) on the pier. The markets feature local and imported handcrafts, and food and beverage stalls. My favorite vendors consisted of one gentleman that sold vintage maps and etchings that he has collected all over the world, and the other was a gentleman who sold beautiful men’s boots made of animal hides. The Riverside Markets are easily accessible by bus, train, ferry, or on foot. Sundays 7-3pm
Near the South Bank Parklands, you can visit the Collective Markets. This was my favorite market in terms of both offerings and atmosphere. Collective Markets features over 100 stalls with local artisans selling clothing (for all ages), jewelry, art, and homewares. It’s the perfect place to find a unique souvenir for a friend or a small trinket to remind you of Brisbane. The markets also had live music from local musicians and a few food stalls. Here, we discovered the potato twister and devoured it. How I have not seen this yet in America, I do not know. It was a spiralized fresh potato, perfectly lightly fried, and covered with your choice of seasoning. I can’t find the particular company we went to, but these links will give you an idea (Tornado Potato, Tornado Twisters). Check website for times; open weekends Fri: 5pm – 9pm, Sat: 10am – 9pm, Sun: 9am – 4pm.
The most unusual market we visited was the Suitcase Rummage market in Queen Street Mall. Vendors sell or swap their wares out of suitcases (you can sell literally what fits in your suitcase). Goods range from artwork to jewelry to books to records to paper to clothing. Again, this is a fantastic place to pick up a few souvenirs. Most items are locally made or secondhand goods sold with the intention of promoting consumer consciousness. First and third Sunday of the month. Pop-ups hosted from time to time.
Queen Street Mall is not a market, but I would be remiss not to mention it as it is a great shopping and lifestyle destination. This is where you will find all of the major chains. The mall contains more than 700 retailers. However, it’s not only big box shopping as the mall features live music, farmers markets, and other public events. Queen Street Mall also has great restaurants!
Brisbane also has no shortage of parks. My favorite is the Roma Street Parkland. Just a short walking distance from the CBD, Roma Street Parkland is a beautiful park filled with incredible gardens. It is also home to several cafes and restaurants and is always well-populated. When we arrived at Roma Street Parkland, a large public yoga class was being set up to celebrate International Yoga Day. I was so sad I wasn’t wearing the proper yoga attire to join the class, but I enjoyed people watching and taking photos. If you don’t happen to be in the park for such an exciting event, there are other regularly scheduled activities available. You can take one of several different free one-hour guided walks offered by volunteer guides through the parkland several times a day, go for a swim in the historic Spring Hill Baths (they were Brisbane’s first public baths), or take in a show at the amphitheater.
South Bank Parklands is another large parkland that stretches into an entire area of cultural and entertainment activities. The parklands include 17 hectares and are filled with public art displays. Another fun feature of the parklands is Streets Beach. Streets Beach is Australia’s only inner-city, man-made beach and includes a swimming area surrounded by white sand beaches. The beach is patrolled by lifeguards throughout the year. My favorite part of the parklands is The Arbour, a 1km walkway covered with bougainvillea flowers. The South Bank Parklands are in a fantastic location near several restaurants, museums, the theater, and the Wheel of Brisbane. You can read more about sightseeing at South Bank here.
If the weather is nice, a great way to get around Brisbane and see the city is to go for a ride on the free City Hopper Ferry. We took the City Hopper for its entire service, jumping on in the CBD and departing at the South Bank Parklands. The whole journey took us 1.5 hours. Admittedly, the City Hopper was quite slow, but it didn’t bother us because we weren’t in a hurry to get anywhere. If you need faster service, you can take the CityCat to all of the same places for the same fare as Brisbane’s bus and train services. If you think you’ll be using public transport frequently, it probably makes sense to get a SeeQ card so you don’t have to buy individual tickets every time.
After departing the City Hopper, we arrived at South Bank Parklands just in time to enjoy Sunday Sessions on the Green, which ended up being one of my favorite memories of the trip. Taking a cue from the locals, we picked up wine and cheese at a local market in South Bank. We then snagged a couple of the chairs set out on the River Quay Green and listened to a great band while enjoying the sunset behind the Brisbane skyline.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, but it is also home to so many other Aussie animals. Lone Pine is a must during a visit to Brisbane! Home to over 130 koalas, Lone Pine also features marsupials, cassowaries, and reptiles, and provides the opportunity to hand feed kangaroos, wallabies, and emus. The Sanctuary also offers several talks and presentations throughout the day, including a sheep dog show, sheep shearing show, koala presentation, and Tasmanian devil feeding. I highly recommend participating in some of the shows as they are both informative and entertaining! Of course, hand feeding kangaroos is a highlight as you will have the opportunity to see and touch them up close. They are sweet, gentle creatures! And of course, you can’t leave without taking advantage of a photo opportunity with a koala. Open 9-5 daily, $36 for adults, $22 for children.
A great way to get outside and experience some nature is to take the Forest Park Hike up to Mt. Coot-Tha, where you will have a beautiful view of the Brisbane skyline. We did this on our last evening in Brisbane (and Australia) and were treated to a spectacular rainbow over the skyline. The Summit Track Hike is just under 2 kilometers (4k total) and has a moderate incline (see other hikes here). When you reach the summit, you can spend time at a large viewing area and learn about the history of Mt. Coot-Ha. You can also enjoy dinner or drinks at the Summit Restaurant or a coffee at the Kuta Cafe.
Where to eat/drink:
Jimmy’s on the Mall is a great restaurant for people watching on the Queen Street Mall, especially if you sit on the second story of the beautiful venue. Jimmy’s is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has a retractable roof so you can enjoy the second floor in all types of weather. What to order: Halloumi and avocado, breakfast waffles.
Plough Inn, located in the South Bank Parklands, is a great bar to get drinks and enjoy live music or watch a sports game. With a deck and beer garden, it’s perfect to meet some new friends and spend a night with great views of Brisbane year round. What to order: Your beer of choice.
Cloudland was actually closed for a private event when we tried to have dinner there, but I recommend it nonetheless. It is one of the most phenomenal venues that I have ever seen. From worldsbestbars.com: “It’s a striking space boasting some 5,000 plants and a retractable ceiling. The interior is lavish and evocative and the food and drink of a comparable standard.” Don’t miss this unique restaurant/bar, even if it’s only to step inside to admire the decor.
After we couldn’t eat at Cloudland, I think the staff felt quite sorry for us when we were completely disappointed by their restaurant being closed for a private event. They recommended Green Tea, which was a fantastic suggestion. We enjoyed traditional Vietnamese and Asian cuisine in the Chinatown/Brunswick Mall area. What to order: Grilled lemongrass pork, caramelized Vietnamese short ribs, chicken chili and lemongrass.
Bakery Lane, around the corner from Cloudland and Green Tea, is a street filled with funky boutiques and gourmet cafes. A bakery, I Heart Brownies, features gluten-free brownies. A juice bar, Skull It, offers organic and vegan smoothies, juices, and acai bowls. The Botanist sells fresh flowers and home goods. For clothing, you can visit Bow & Arrow for trendy women’s items and Stock and Supply for surf and street-style for both men and women. And in the spirit of Brisbane’s many markets, you can get even more gourmet edibles on the first Saturday of each month at Bakery Lane Providore Market.
Chocolateria San Churro is a fantastic place to get dessert after a long day spent in the South Bank. You may or may not know about my obsession with churros y chocolate, but it stems from my time spent studying abroad in Spain. The delicious dessert is just what it sounds like: a plate of hot, sugary churros and a cup of decadent chocolate for dipping (and if you’re me, drinking every last drop). Perfection. The restaurant also offers ice cream, hot chocolate, and truffles, but honestly, you cannot skip the churros. What to order: Don’t even bother with churros for one. Get them for at least two or the whole fiesta!
For a unique dessert, make sure to check out Nitrogenie when you are in the South Bank. Workers make ice cream on the spot using only the freshest ingredients and freezing them using liquid nitrogen to make perfectly smooth and creamy ice cream. What to order: Flavors change frequently, but order the sticky date toffee fudge if you see it!
Where to stay:
I’m not going to recommend where we stayed. It was acceptable for a place to sleep, but the rooms were extremely small and they only provided one hour of wi-fi. However, the location was great. We were right near Queen Street in the CBD with easy access to the Queen Street Mall, Roma Street Parklands, and ferry access. Another great option would be to stay near South Bank for proximity to museums and the South Bank Parklands.
Thank you for reading! If you’ve been to Brisbane, I’d love to hear your favorite suggestions. Next time, I’ll tell you all about our time spent in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland before we move on to Asia!
Jimmy’s on the Mall, Queen Street Mall, Brisbane, QLD, 4000
Chocolateria San Churro (South Bank), 2/161 Grey St, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Plough Inn, 29, Stanley Street Plaza, Stanley St, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Cloudland, 641 Ann St, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
Green Tea, 1b/31 Duncan St, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
Nitrogenie (South Bank), Shop 30BC, Stanley Street Plaza, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Riverside Markets, Waterfront Place – 1 Eagle Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
Collective Markets, Stanley Street, Stanley Street Plaza, QLD 4101
South Bank Parklands, Stanley St, South Brisbane QLD 4101
Roma Street Parklands, 1 Parkland Blvd, Brisbane QLD 4000
Suitcase Rummage, see website
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, 708 Jesmond Rd, Fig Tree Pocket QLD 4069
Mt Coot-Tha Lookout, 4066, 1012 Sir Samuel Griffith Dr, Mount Coot-Tha QLD 4066