Brisbane, or as it’s affectionately known BrisVegas, is the perfect metropolis for people who hate big cities, but love the luxuries of urban life. It’s tame compared to its neighbours Melbourne and Sydney, but what it lacks in vibrancy, it makes up for in bloody brilliant weather.
Here’s our top things to do on a backpacker’s budget in Brisbane…
- Take Advantage of the free museums
- Stroll along Southbank
- Make the most of the markets
- Venture further out to Eat Street
- Hike Mount Coot-tha
- Seek out vintage threads in the West End
- Spend the day at Australia Zoo
- Enjoy the café culture in Paddington
- Jog or walk along the river
- Hire a Lipton bike to explore
Take advantage of the free museums
Everyone loves a freebie. Art is at the heart of most Australian cities, and Brisbane is no exception. It has a beautiful Gallery of Modern Art close to Southbank that is free entry for general admission. Next door is the Queensland Museum, which in all honesty we weren’t blown away by. It’s great for stuffed animals and dinosaur bones, but that’s pretty much it. If you have kids though they’ll probably love it!
Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane
You can also take a free guided tour of City Hall, which happen daily at 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm and 2.30pm (if you’re a group bigger than 10 call ahead!). Then there’s the historic Clock Tower Tours upstairs at the Museum of Brisbane.
Stroll along Southbank
We were told to visit Southbank by a few people who’d been to the city before arriving. It’s a beautiful stretch of waterfront overlooking the Central Business District, which is fringed with cute cafes and bustling bars. Take a leisurely stroll along the pathway and you can enjoy a picture-perfect view of the city. Runners flock to the area in their hundreds at the weekend, and there’s a public swimming pool smack bang in the middle with silky white sand.
Make the most of the markets
As with most cities there’s an abundance of trendy or tasty markets to seek out in Brisbane. Between 11am-5pm Saturdays and 9am-5pm Sundays Southbank has a street full of artisan vendors, from creative cupcakes to homemade soaps. There is also the Collective Markets on a Friday evening until 10pm if you fancy some late night perusing.
Southbank Market, Brisbane
On a Thursday, take a browse through Milton Mini Markets where they have free live entertainment and delicious food trucks. Finally check out the Sunday Discovery Markets at Brisbane MarketPlace with hundreds of stalls popping up every weekend between 6am-12pm on Sherwood Road in Rocklea.
Venture further out to Eat Street
Eat Street pretty much does what it says on the tin. The council decided to transform a section of Brisbane’s dockyards into a food mecca, and it’s worth the 15-minute drive! From the outside it looks like a colourful collection of shipping crates, but inside they’re transformed into dozens of delicious food stalls.
Eat Street, Northshore, Brisbane
They have all types of cuisines, including greasy American burgers, Mexican favourites, Asian classics, and even French street food (we had the raclette cheese and it was incredible). While you’re chowing down you can enjoy live music on one of Street Eat’s stages. The performances are varied and actually really good considering it’s only a $3 entrance fee to the place!
Hike Mount Coot-tha
Brisbane is pretty much flat until you get to the suburbs which surround Mount Coot-tha. This national park overlooks the picturesque city, and there’s a superb viewpoint only a 20-25 minutes’ drive from the CBD. There’s a restaurant and cafe there as well to enjoy a lovely cuppa or very High Tea (terrible joke I know). You can also park up and spend a morning hiking through the park’s lush landscape.
Seek out vintage threads in the West End
The West End isn’t like the one we have back home in England, but it’s still pretty cool. You can find hoards of backpackers and travellers enjoy a refreshing beer or coffee in the beautiful Queensland sunshine. There is a plethora of vintage stores too, which is why I loved it so much. Check out SWOP Clothing Exchange if you have some retro goodies you’d like to get rid in exchange for more.
SWOP Clothing Exchange, West End, Brisbane
A great place to brunch in the area is called the The Gunshop Café. It’s a bit pricey but the food was on point! The West End is also where you can see some of Brisbane’s best street art.
Spend the day at Australia Zoo
The Australia Zoo isn’t particularly cheap, but I still think it’s worth a splurge if you’re in the area, I mean crickey it’s Steve Irwin’s legacy! The zoo is about an hour’s drive from the city centre and you can get the bus or go with a tour group if you don’t fancy going it alone.
Australia Zoo, Queensland
This place is HUGE, so you’ll spend a whole day there even if you rush it. I’m usually not a big fan of seeing animals in cages or small spaces, but that’s not the case here. The animals looked comfortable and very well cared for, and you can get up close to some of the worlds most mesmerising creatures, including crocks, Zebras, Giraffes, Kangaroos, and insanely cute Koalas!
Kangaroo petting, Australia Zoo
Admission is $70pp. If you want one of those must have photos with a Koala, don’t fork out the cash for a staged snap. If you ask a member of staff what time the keepers will be standing near the entrance with one, you can have a photo taken using your own phone. You won’t get to hug the little fella, but you can stroke him.
Enjoy the café culture in Paddington
We were lucky enough to live in Paddington for the three weeks we were in Brisbane. It’s a beautiful little suburb a 30-minute walk from the CBD, with some great cafes, restaurants, and shops.
Our favourite place for a coffee was Naim, which also has a delicious brunch menu, and our second best spot was Anouk. I’d recommend spending the morning there though, as most cafes close at 2pm before the school run.
Naim Cafe, Paddington, Brisbane
One place you must visit if you go to Paddington is a massive antiques centre in a converted warehouse. I could have spent hours playing fancy dress in the vintage clothes or trailing through the record collections.
Jog or walk along the river
On a nice sunny day (so basically every day in Brisbane), go for a slow jog or walk along the riverbank. We started at the iconic Regatta Hotel, which is a beautiful reminder of Australia’s British colonial past. It was established in 1874 and is still a popular dining spot today.
Regatta Hotel, Brisbane
Further up the river you’ll pass a number of the city’s impressive and quirky bridges, including Victoria Bridge and my favourite the Story Bridge. There’s also the Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park (great BBQ spot), Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, and plenty of pretty picnic spots.
Hire a Lipton bike to explore
If you’re not a big fan of walking and don’t want to spend money on public transport, then a fun and cheap way to get about it using the Lipton Tea bikes.
Lipton bikes, Brisbane
There are up to 2,000 scattered all over the city and all you have to do is pop in some money and off you go. They even have helmets (you have to wear these by law). For $3 you can get a 24hr pass via the website here.
Cycle route, Brisbane
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us via the website or on Instagram @journey_bird 😊
Here are some more photos from our time in Brisbane…