Australia is full of fantastic destinations which as a tourist, you won’t want to miss. Cities like Melbourne and Sydney may get the most attention, but another one that shouldn’t be overlooked is the city of Brisbane in Queensland. With its laid-back attitude, Brisbane is an easy city to like. While traveling around Australia, Brisbane is an essential stop as you begin to explore the many great destinations up north.
Considering the size of the city, the best places to visit in Brisbane are quite easy to fit into a single day. Guided by our Brisbane itinerary, you can head straight to the city’s main attractions without messing around. Here you’ll find information on what to do in Brisbane in 1 day so you’ll be ready to visit this fun Australian city.
Best Time to Visit Brisbane
With just one day to see the city, you’re going to want to carefully time your trip. The last thing you want is to arrive and find you’ve picked the season with the worst weather, or find that everything is booked out. The good news is that Brisbane has amazing weather most of the time, so the best time to visit Brisbane depends on what weather you find most comfortable.
Summertime, from December through February, means hot and humid weather in Brisbane. If you can’t handle the heat, then this might not be the best time to book your visit. It’s also school holidays, so the city tends to be much busier during the day than at other times of the year.
For comfortable, warm, and sunny weather, consider visiting Brisbane in April, May, October or November instead when the city is experiencing spring and autumn. What you might not realize is that winter is also a great time to visit. Winters in Brisbane are nice and sunny, with temperatures that do not drop all that much compared to other Australian cities.
How to Get Around Brisbane
While Brisbane covers quite a large area, tourists to the city will mostly be sticking to the beautiful city center and parts of South Brisbane. Many of Brisbane’s main attractions can be found within the city’s central business district (CBD) or along the snaking waterfront of the Brisbane River. It’s only if you have more time in Brisbane that you’ll have a chance to venture beyond the center and get a taste for different neighborhoods.
Walking around Brisbane is certainly one way to see the city, but there are other options for getting around that at times may be more suitable. Brisbane’s public transport network is made up of trains, buses, and even ferries, which are each useful in their own way. All transport uses the same ticketing system, with single tickets starting at $4.80 and cheaper fares using a gocard. For more information on tickets and fares click here.
The trains in Brisbane are helpful when trying to reach the city from the suburbs, but not much beyond that. Instead you’ll want to take buses to get around the inner city and South Brisbane. As for the CityCat ferries along the river, they’re useful if you want to get into the city center, but also to enjoy great views of the city skyline. There’s even a free alternative with the red CityHopper boats which run from North Quay to New Farm Park.
To make your way into Brisbane from the city’s airport, it’s best to take the Airtrain which reaches the city in 20 minutes. Otherwise, you’ll need to look at a special shuttle bus, Uber, or a taxi.
Where to Stay in Brisbane
To get the most out of a visit to Brisbane, you need to find a place to stay that’s right for you. Brisbane has loads of accommodation options to choose from, meaning however you like to travel, there will be somewhere that suits you. Despite the size of the city and how easy it is to get about, it’s best if you either stay in the CBD or nearby in South Brisbane. Now that you know where to stay in Brisbane, let’s look at some of the best places to stay in Brisbane.
Visitors to Brisbane looking for a special place to stay best look to the Treasury Brisbane Hotel. This incredible five star hotel inside a heritage building has modern and stylish rooms, plus a great location in the CBD.
A great choice for those looking to enjoy their time in Brisbane without breaking the bank is the ULTIQA Rothbury Hotel. There you can enjoy spacious apartments with facilities like a kitchen, air-conditioning, and washing machine which will all make you feel right at home.
For a great budget friendly spot to stay near the city center, you can’t beat Brisbane City YHA. Not only are the dorms and private rooms affordable by Australian standards, this hostel has a chilled out vibe and a great staff.
For more accommodation options in Brisbane check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Brisbane Itinerary
Spending just a single day in a place always feels rushed, but rest assured that Brisbane and its key sights can be covered in a single day. Should you spend longer in Brisbane? Definitely. But in a pinch one day can do. To help, you have our Brisbane travel itinerary which will show you the very best of Brisbane in your short time there. During your visit, you’ll not only see the heart of the city and Brisbane’s beautiful waterfront, but also many of its greatest attractions.
However, before we get to our Brisbane itinerary, we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and, trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
We personally use and recommend SafetyWing. For only around $10 a week, it’s really a no-brainer. You can get a quick, non-binding quote below:
With that valuable advice covered, it’s time for us to look into what the best things to do in Brisbane are and how you can manage to experience them all in just 1 day in Brisbane.
Before we get into specific attractions, it makes sense if we first take a general look at the Brisbane CBD. The central business district is the heart of Brisbane, not only for office workers but also for city life in general. Scattered among its highrise buildings you’ll find not only shopping areas, but many of the city’s heritage landmarks.
To get a feel for the city, it’s worth taking a walk through the CBD before you start really sightseeing. Head to Anzac Square across from the main train station and you can immediately see plenty of green trees and old colonial buildings mixed in with the usual offices. At its center lies the Anzac Square Memorial, honoring Australian and New Zealand soldiers who have fought around the world.
Heading deeper into the CBD you’ll soon reach Queen Street Mall, another important part of the city center. This long pedestrian street is always lively, with shoppers moving between big-name chains and local boutiques. Look carefully and you’ll spot the heritage Brisbane Arcade which takes you back to a simpler time in the city’s history.
Brisbane City Hall
Being the capital city of the state of Queensland, Brisbane has quite a few buildings designed to give the city some gravitas. Probably the best of these is the Brisbane City Hall, built in 1930 and home to the city council. With its huge columns and Italian Renaissance design it’s a much more impressive building than you might expect to see in Australia.
Rather than just looking at the building, you’ll also want to head inside the City Hall to visit the Museum of Brisbane. Held on the top floor of the building, the museum highlights the city’s history and has displays that range from the convict era right through to the extreme Brisbane floods of 2011. While there, be sure to make a trip up the clock tower as well to enjoy a nice view of the surrounding city.
City Botanic Gardens
After walking around the concrete jungle for a while, mix things up by heading over to Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens. Not to be mistaken with the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-Tha, this wide-open park sits nestled in a bend of the Brisbane river. As you’d expect, there are plenty of plants and trees to admire here, including Brisbane’s iconic Banyan Fig trees. You’ll also find a lovely walking path along the riverfront, as well as some heritage buildings like the Queensland Parliament and Old Government House.
Heading across the river, over the Goodwill Bridge, you come to one of the most adored places in all of Brisbane. South Bank is a splendid waterfront area across from the CBD which is packed with all sorts of odds and ends to keep you entertained. It makes a strong first impression as you head down its main boulevard walkway, with bright bougainvillea flowers hanging overhead. A little further along you reach the Epicurious Garden, a fabulous community garden with different plants and herbs which are free for the picking.
The most famous attraction in South Bank though is Streets Beach. Since Brisbane is a bit inland from the coast, it misses out on a city beach like those in Sydney and Melbourne. The city’s solution is Streets Beach, a man-made beach around a shallow lagoon just off the river. Open to the public and suited for young and old alike, this beach is buzzing come summer.
Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art
Further up from South Bank you’ll find Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct, where one of the centerpiece landmarks is the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art or QAGOMA. With its focus on art from Australia, Asia and the Pacific, the gallery has a dazzling array of exhibits which could keep you busy for quite a while. Visitors will especially find the gallery’s Indigenous Australian Collection fascinating, but there are also exhibitions featuring classic and contemporary pieces. Since entry here is free, you can spend as little or as long here as you like.
Melbourne may be the Australian city most known for its laneways, but Brisbane has some good ones too, like Fish Lane. Tucked behind the Queensland Museum and Science Centre in South Brisbane, Fish Lane is home to an awesome collection of restaurants, bars, and cafes. While Chinatown and Fortitude Valley are known for their dining and drinking venues, Fish Lane has recently become a hotspot in the city. After a day of sightseeing, this is a great place to finish up with drinks and dinner. Or if you have dinner plans elsewhere, there’s always time for gelato here at the famous Gelato Messina.
Kangaroo Point Cliffs
Before heading home, there’s one last spot to see along Brisbane’s scenic riverfront right, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. One of the best attractions by the river, there’s two good reasons to see these rocky cliffs. Firstly, it’s hard not to be impressed when you stand on The Cliffs Boardwalk looking up at them. Then there’s the fact that they boast one of the best views of Brisbane’s skyline along the river, best caught at either sunrise or in the evening. If you can make it there for sunset, you won’t regret it.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Brisbane?
While you can see a lot with 24 hours in Brisbane, most people would advise you to spend longer in the city if you can. Brisbane has way more to do than can be fit into a single day plus, it’s simply a nice place to be. You could follow up sightseeing with visits to different suburbs like Paddington or New Farm and that would be time well spent. But Brisbane also has some cool places on its doorstep that help give you a well-rounded Australian experience. If you have more time, here are some day trips from Brisbane worth doing.
1. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
People love to see Australia’s unique wildlife and one of the best places to do that is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. All sorts of animals can be seen at this wildlife sanctuary, from kangaroos, platypuses, wombats, and more. They even have a program for the endangered Tasmanian Devil, in which you can see these rare creatures. The big draw of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is that visitors actually have the chance to hold a koala while there. Don’t worry, the sanctuary closely monitors the welfare of the animals and limits each animals interaction. So if you’ve ever wanted to get up close with these adorable animals, here’s your chance.
2. Mount Coot-tha
For unparalleled views, and some gorgeous nature, pay a visit to Mount Coot-tha out to the east of the city. On the city’s outskirts, the Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers visitors a breathtaking panorama of the Brisbane city skyline which just can’t be beat. There are also walking trails through the nature reserve to spots like Simpson Falls. The other major draw of Mount Coot-tha is the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, where you’ll find 128 acres of impossibly diverse gardens, from Australian eucalyptus to bamboo, cacti, and more. Best of all, each of these attractions around Mount Coot-tha are completely free to visit.
3. North Stradbroke Island
While there are plenty of day trips you can make from Brisbane, one of the closest getaways is North Stradbroke Island. Just a 25 minute water taxi ride or a 50 minute car ferry ride from the mainland, the island is perfect for a day away. If it’s beaches that you’re after, you’ll have no problem finding them here. During winter, it’s possible to witness the annual migration of humpback whales, plus see dolphins and sea turtles over at Point Lookout on the far side of the island. There’s also the idyllic coastal scenery from spots like North Gorge Walk that you’re bound to love.
It should be clear that there’s more than enough to do while exploring Brisbane in 1 day, and what we’ve shared with you is a great place to start. Don’t forget that once you’re done with Brisbane you’ve still got all the rest of Queensland to explore as well!