Brisbane Travel Guide: How to Enjoy Australia’s Most Relaxed City
When James Cridland moved from the U.K. to Brisbane, his Aussie wife gave him a book on the local creatures that might kill him. “Of the 10 animals most likely to kill you, Australia has seven,” according to James. Though he assures me that Brisbane is a safe place to visit.
I’ve always been a little afraid of Australia because of all its slithery and sharp-toothed creatures, but James has me wanting to sip coffee and cuddle with the koalas Down Under. On the Postcard Academy’s Brisbane episode, James and I talk about the best things to see, eat, and experience in Brisbane, Australia. Also, I finally learn the proper way to eat Vegemite; how (not to) tip in Australia; and how Aussies ride in taxis.
James is a radio futurologist and creator of Podnews, a daily newsletter and podcast. In other words, he’s a thought leader on all things audio, and I first interviewed him on my show Podcasting Step by Step. Check out the interview and subscribe to James’ show if you want to keep up with the wild world of podcasting. To learn more about Brisbane and visiting Australia, subscribe to the Postcard Academy for free. Below are links to what we discuss in the show.
Fun facts about Brisbane
For some travelers, this might not quite be classified as fun, but it's hot, hot, hot in Brisbane! Make sure to pack clothing that's light and breathable and get yourself a Barmah hat - a wide-brimmed hat made out of a variety of materials, including, sadly, kangaroo leather. Vegans can pick up a cotton version that’s great for keeping the sun at bay. The hat works great at keeping the rain off, too.
Get ready to expand your vocabulary! Australians use different words than what other English speakers are accustomed to. This adds a fun ‘treasure hunt’ element to your grocery shopping.
Most of the food you’ll eat in Brisbane is locally sourced and grown right in Australia. They’re not big on imported ingredients because they’re already blessed with a wonderful climate. So when you experience all the mouth-watering food there, you’re tasting Australia itself.
MUST-SEE SITES IN BRISBANE
Mount Coot-tha. Coot-tha is the Aboriginal word for honey and was the home of the stingless honey bees. Going up the mountain you’ll see a beautiful panoramic view of all of Brisbane: the rivers, the greenery, and even the sea.
MUST-HAVE EXPERIENCES IN BRISBANE
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. This one is a can’t-miss for the animal lovers. At the sanctuary you can hug a koala, feed a kangaroo, and see other Australian animals.
The Powerhouse. You can take the ferry down to this cultural center and enjoy your evening at one of the many shows that take place there. It used to be an old power-generating building which was almost demolished but instead was kept, refurbished, and turned into this theatre.
There’s a large market right in the center of Brisbane at the end of Queens Street. There you’ll find everything from fresh fruits to granola muesli.
HIDDEN GEMS IN BRISBANE
In the city center of downtown Brisbane, you’ll find the huge City Botanic Gardens, filled with all sorts of unusual plants.
Insider Tip: This is also a great place to go for walks by the river.
Underneath the Story Bridge, there’s a brand new brewery. They have really tasty food and brew their own beer.
BEST MUSEUMS IN BRISBANE
The Museum of Brisbane. A gem hidden away in City Hall, this museum offers a really engaging experience to learn about the people of Australia in an interactive way.
Queensland Museum. This museum has a section dedicated to showing you every single animal that you might find in Queensland. They’re displayed in a slightly eerie taxidermy way, but don’t let that detract from the really amazing experience of seeing the different species of spiders and fishes that can kill you, koalas, kangaroos and so many other animals.
FOODS YOU NEED TO TRY IN BRISBANE
Chicken Parmi: James recommends that meat eaters try this chicken escalope covered in breadcrumbs and topped with cheese, tomato sauce, and chips. A pub staple in Brisbane.
Dukkah: a traditional topping sprinkled on toast. Consisting of seeds, nuts, and grains from Australian plants.
Vegemite: an umami spread used on buttered toast. It’s similar to Marmite, which is popular in the UK. Basically, it’s the yeast that’s scraped from the bottom of the barrel of Australian beer and put into jars. Don’t forget to spread it lightly — a little dab'll do ya.
WHERE TO EAT IN BRISBANE
The Bennerton Bakery. Located all over, but James’ favorite is the one in Ashgrove. It serves really nice croissants, loaves, quiches, and all sorts of pastries.
Random morning activity
Bowls clubs. These are bars where you can also play lawn bowls. It's a popular pastime to go there in the mornings and enjoy beer and food with friends.
Miss Audrey Coffee. Only open in the mornings, it's a wonderful community hub that’s located on the front porch of a hairdresser.
A nice Chinese food spot opposite Roma Street station on a street corner near the police station. James couldn’t remember the name bus says you’ll identify it easily at lunchtime: it’s filled with police officers.
The Gap Tavern. The Gap is a place literally between two mountains.
BEST PLACES FOR NIGHTLIFE IN BRISBANE
Eat Street Northshore. A night market where you’ll find buzzing bars and food from around the world.
The Pub Choir. Think about it: 1,500 people gathered together and taught to sing a song in 4-part harmony — plus have the experience on video! Can you picture it?
BEST NEIGHBORHOODS IN BRISBANE
Paddington or Red Hill. Two older areas in Brisbane where you can see the older architecture with wooden houses on stilts.
Insider Tip: Paddington also has great local independent art galleries where you can get commissioned work done.
West End. An area of the city with great restaurants that has an independent feel to it.
SHOULD YOU TIP IN BRISBANE?
There is ZERO tipping. Some restaurants will add a 20% charge to the bill, and you’ll end up paying more for your food on weekends and public holidays, but everything is included in the price up front — both tip and sales tax. Makes life so easy.
BEST WAYS TO GET AROUND BRISBANE
Traveling around on foot in Brisbane is great, but if you’re not feeling up for a walk, they also have buses and trains which are sometimes free, depending on which one you take. The public transportation there is excellent and the ferry is also a great way to get around and experience the scenic Brisbane River.
Uber and taxis are also options in Brisbane but here’s a quick tip: get in the front seat or be prepared to be on the receiving end of some weird looks.
If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.