When asking people about their top picks in Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, and Queensland came up over and over but never Brisbane. Even when we asked people who were from Brisbane if they would recommend it, they would respond with “meh, Brisbane? Its kinda boring. Don’t bother. There are better places.” I wasn’t exactly getting ringing endorsements for Australia’s third largest city. On the other hand, it offered the easiest flight from Dubai to Queensland so I ignored my friends blasé responses and made it our first stop of our tour down Under.
Thank God I didn’t listen to my friends who were much too quick to dismiss this gem of a city. Brisbane was not boring at all. On the contrary, it was exactly the pace the boys and I needed to recover from our jet lag. We spent a fabulous two and a half days strolling around with pretty much no agenda other than to adjust to the new time zone. We easily filled our time in Brisbane.
The Bridges by Day and by Night
Staying near the Kurilpa Pedestrian Bridge is a great option as it leads to a boardwalk path along the Brisbane River to the popular South Bank. Our walks back and fourth from the South bank to the hotel were the perfect distance for being able to burn off energy from a very long flight but not too long that we were searching for an Uber.
The South Bank
The South Bank is an area in central Brisbane, located on the Brisbane river. If you only have a short time in Brisbane, this is the area you want to stay in. It is speckled with fun points of interest like a rainforest walk, play parks, an outdoor beach area, restaurants, art installations, a ferris wheel, theatres and museums, universities, and plenty of outdoor public bbq stations. Feeling a bit groggy from the jet lag, this was the perfect 1/2 day adventure to get our feet on the ground. The boys were super excited to find out we were lucky enough to be in Brisbane during the Night Noodle Market. Mention the phrase “Food Market” to the boys and they will love you forever :-) TIP: Check festivals or food markets in Brisbane before you go, there are many throughout the year.
Manmade Beach Area and Splash Park
Ferris Wheel and Art Installations
The Night Noodle Market
Restaurants and Street Life
Shopping is never big on our list of things to do when traveling but we have one teenage son that has a passion for all things sneaker related so a few shops were in our future. Before we depart for our destination, our son will research any sneaker shops where we are going and map them out in relation to the main tourist attractions we may be near. He (as were his brothers) were in heaven with the selection of very cool footwear on offer in Australia. If you have teenagers and can stand flashing lights, loud music, attire you won’t understand, then I can highly recommend Culture Kings. I’m sure your teens will love it!
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Our youngest son loves everything to do with wildlife be it on land or sea. Thankfully, as he has gotten older he has found zoos less appealing and prefers to discover animals in their natural surrounding. Seeing a Koala (its not a bear, so all you North Americans who have the urge to call it a Koala Bear, don’t do it, you will immediately be corrected) was of course high on our list of things to see. Unfortunately, once we arrived in Australia, we realized you just don’t walk through a park and see a Koala hanging out in a tree. They are quite rare to spot out in the open.
With a lot of research on how to spot a Koala we stumbled upon the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. From what I could find, this was a sanctuary for animals to be rehabilitated and cared for as well as to preserve a number of native animals that are on the endangered list. The animals seemed to be well cared for and had large spaces to move. The Koala’s were the highlight for sure. The sanctuary allows you to get close enough to see their funny, dazed expressions as they lazily munched on eucalyptus leaves. Have a look at The Australian Koala Foundation website to learn more about this adorable marsupial. If you visit, enjoy your lunch on a bench in the cafeteria watching dozens of Koalas climb from tree to tree. Tip #1, you can pay to have your photo taken holding a koala. I would say its not worth it. You are allowed to hold the Koala for literally a minute before it is taken away. I’m pretty sure the Koala’s don’t even want to be held. If you really want your photo with one, you can have a photo taken with yourself and a worker of the sanctuary while they hold the Koala, and its FREE. Tip #2, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary us located about 20 kms outside of the South Bank area of Brisbane. You can purchase a ticket on a ferry that will give you a river ride to the steps of the sanctuary. This ticket is very expensive and I don’y think there is much to look at on the river ride. If you want to save a few dollars you can take the public bus for a fraction and arrive at the same time.
There are many other animals to enjoy looking at beyond the Koala. You can easily pass a half day roaming the grounds. Since the Sanctuary is located outside central Brisbane, you will need to plan for travel time back and forth so give yourself a full day to enjoy the Koalas and their friends.
Two and a half days were easily filled in Brisbane. Our stay was spent seeing everything outdoors, leaving plenty of indoor activities such as theatres and museums still to discover. Its a great, slow paced city to ease your way into an active vacation in Australia.