Brisbane, or as the locals call it, Bris-vegas, is the bogan capital of Australian cities, home to Pauline Hanson, XXXXs beer, and adding an ‘o’ to the end of words. Considered by Melbourne and Sydney to be their little backwards cousin, Brisbane is the only Australian Capital not located by the sea (we don't recognise Australian Capital Territory here at Tripfarm). Brisbane is home to over 2.4 million Brisbanites and is Queensland's official capital city. It's location on the Brisbane River, near Moreton Bay, attracts tons of sharks, both the human, loan giving kind and the more animalistic kind. When backpackers think of Brisbane, they often wonder, ‘why the fuck would anyone visit there?’. Well, Brisbane is full of surprises, with an amazing climate, a much more small-town feel than Sydbourne, tons to do in the hinterlands, and is pretty cheap for a large city.
Getting to Brisbane couldn’t be easier. Brisbane can be accessed from Brisbane International Airport, from hundreds of destinations worldwide, and from most domestic airports. Getting from Brisbane airport is easy- the AirTrain runs directly to Central and Roma Street Stations, or you can share an Uber or a taxi, or, use a company such as Con-X-Tion to get dropped to your accommodation directly, for the same price. Just over an hour away is Gold Coast Airport too, where there are often cheaper flights. If you’re arriving by Premier Motor Service, Loka/Stray Australia, or Greyhound, the coach terminal is at Roma Street Station, right in the centre of Brisbane, and a 5-minute walk to most hostels in Brisbane. If your driving, the Bruce Highway cuts through Brisbane from both Cairns and Sydney, and you can find free parking outside the city centre. Finally, cruises arrive at Brisbane Port regularly- you’ll need to get a bus or taxi into the city centre.
Brisbane’s trains, buses, and ferries are run by Translink- you can buy a Translink GO card in train stations and shops for a $10 deposit, which you get back when you return the card, similar to an Opal card in Sydney, or an Oyster Card in London. Definitely get this- it makes travelling around Brisbane and the Gold Coast up to 50% cheaper. Brisbane also has a free ferry for the inner city river stops, called the Cityhopper. You can find the timetables here.
Best Time To Visit
Brisbane is warm year round (Only one time in recorded history did the temperature drop below 0 in the city), so it’s good to visit anytime. The summer months tend to be hot and humid, with frequent, fantastic storms, that clear the humidity, while winter months tend to be cooler, with average temperatures of 17 degrees, and much less storms. There are a plethora of festivals year round in Brisbane, with September being the most popular month, containing Riverfire, Brisbane Festival, multiple music festivals, Brisbane Pride, and Oktoberfest. The only time to avoid visiting Brisbane as a traveller is probably Christmas and New Years- the majority of travellers will be in Sydney, Byron Bay, or Noosa instead, so the city centre is quite quiet.
Where to Stay
For backpackers, Brisbane is accommodation heaven. The vast majority of hostels are on Upper Roma Street, and most have rooftop views overlooking the Brisbane River that hotels are jealous of. There are some hostels in the city, and with others located in the centre of the nightlife in Fortitude Valley, and hipster paradise Westend. Brisbane has it all, from the super cheap Big Bird Backpackers (Dorms from $18 a night..in a 50 bed dorm, that’s a converted petrol station) to the slightly nicer Chill Backpackers, to the quality Summer House Backpackers, to the almost hotel quality YHA Brisbane City. If you’re hopping off the bus at Roma Street Station, most hostels are 5 minutes walk away.
If you want a party hostel, Base Uptown on Roma Street, Nomads Central in the city centre and Bunk in the valley are all good shouts- they all have their own bars attached, with nightly events to keep everyone occupied. Nomads is the cheapest, but Base Uptown is normally more lively, with its bar, ‘The Guilty Rogue’, been the centre of backpacker events in Brisbane in the evenings, while Nomads ‘Down Under Bar’, becomes packed with students, strippers, and backpackers after 11 most nights (Tuesdays are run by a group of drag-queens who get people to strip for the chance of winning a bar tab- its worth a look!). Bunk is located in the heart of Fortitude Valley if you want a good location to go clubbing from, wait here- And its bar Birdies is very student friendly.
If you prefer a quiet stay, YHA Brisbane is an amazing hostel- its rooftop is one of the best on Roma Street, and it's very professional- perfect if you're a bit older, or just want a good private room. YHAs, in general, accept all ages, and have a fairly strict noise policy- so you do end up paying a little bit more for better quality. Brisbane Backpacker Resorts in Westend is also a good shout- it’s a little bit out of the centre, but Westend is Brisbane’s answer to Byron Bay- Full of characters, alternative lifestyle shops, and a strong, long-lasting smell of herb. It’s also the place to go for craft beer and Saturday markets, and Brisbane Backpacker Resort will pick you up from the coach stop on Roma Street.
However, my personal favourite is Summer House Backpackers, in the middle of Upper Roma Street- small enough that everyone feels like a family, but big enough so that that family never becomes inbred, its a quality mix of a hostel hostel, with amazing high speed FREE wifi, a cozy rooftop, nightly events, and the comfiest beds on the East Coast. And, although it’s attached to The Flamin’ Galah, its BYOB- so you can drink on the roof at one of its weekly BBQ nights, and head next door when the rooftop closes at 10pm.
Dorms: From $18, Privates from $79
Hotels: From $77 for a private double
Things to Do in Brisbane
Brisbane doesn’t lack things to do- it’s just an example of poor marketing and having no icon like the Opera House. First of all, there’s a free Cityhopper ferry along the river in the city centre, that goes from 6am to midnight- perfect if you want to head over to Southbank Parklands or Kangaroo Point and don’t want to walk. Speaking of Southbank, it's a free, man-made beach, pool, and mini botanic garden, that’s perfect year round to chill out in- it almost makes up for Brisbane’s lack of real beaches. Heading to Kangaroo Point is also great for a walk- its 3km of riverside cliffs, that are a great place to watch sunrise and sunset, and you can practice rock climbing there.
If you continue following Kangaroo Point you get to the Story Bridge- Brisbane’s version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which can be crossed by bike, car, or on foot, and is spectacular to view at night. Across the river from the Story Bridge is Riverside and the University of Queensland City Botanic Gardens, which is a lovely riverside boardwalk in the city centre, not far from Queens Street, Brisbane’s pedestrianised centre. Outside of the city centre, Westend offers a good small town feels escape- the riverside walk here will bring you right down to the Westend markets (Saturdays), and a free callisthenics gym. Westend is also home to the Boundary Street Markets, which are open every Friday and Saturday night from 4pm to 10pm, and a good place to cheap food and live music. Finally, Eat Street markets in Hamilton are amazing for an evening- its the best of Brisbane’s foods, all located in one place.
Brissy isn’t just the city, it’s also hiking trails and viewpoints, such as Mt Coot-tha Lookout. Mt Cooh-tha is a 30-minute public bus ride away (take the 471 bus) and offers a panoramic view of Brisbane City, Moreton Bay, and the hinterlands. Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens is also free, and a nice place to spend a day walking around, likewise the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is well worth your time. If you want to see Australian wildlife up close and personal, you could also check out Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (Hop on the 445 bus from Adelaide Street), where you can hand feed kangaroos, hold koalas, and see live animal roundups. Other activities in Brisbane are kayaking the Brisbane river with Riverlife, rock climbing, climbing the Story Bridge, or skydiving.
If you’re based in Brisbane but are looking to do things outside the city, you could head north by train and visit the Glasshouse Mountains for a few hikes/rock climbing experiences or could drive south to Mount Tamborine and Lamington National Park. Springbrook National Park is also a short drive away, in the hinterlands of the Gold Coast, and its natural bridge and waterfalls are also well worth visiting for a day, but might be better if done directly from the Gold Coast. Finally Kondalilla Falls National Park and the Gardners Falls are two classic swimming and cliff jumping spots just north of Brisbane- so bring your GoPro, tie your swim shorts, and try not to die.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary: $36 entry
Kayaking Brisbane River: From $20
Rockclimbing/Absailing: From $59
Story Bridge Climb: From $129
Skydive Brisbane: From $214 10,000 ft, $244 for 15,000.
North Stradbroke and Moreton Island
North Stradbroke Island (Straddie for the lazy) is a large, wildlife-filled sand island, whose rocky outcrops are home to a huge amount of wild wallabies, koalas, and dolphins, and go-too if you want to surf around Brisbane. It’s also pretty easy to get too- just take the train to Cleveland, hop on the shuttle bus to the ferry port, and take the ferry across. Stradbroke Ferries will drop you off at the port in Dulwich, and you can take the local bus around the island, with the top attraction been Point Lookout. The Gorge Point walk between the beaches around Point Lookout is amazing for whale watching between June and November, as North Stradbroke Island is the most easterly part of Queensland, and you’ll see custom built viewing platforms along the walk. There are two popular lakes to see on Stradbroke Island- Brown Lake is a tinged lake which gets its colour from the surrounded tea trees, about 3km from Dulwich, while Blue Lake is a 5km return walk. The differences are striking- one lake is blue, one lake is brown. There is also sandboarding, surfing, scuba diving and kayaking options available on Straddie. If you fancy doing a guided tour, Shakas Adventure Tours is the one to do- Shakas is run by a Brisbanite legend called Tim, who’ll give you the weekend of your life exploring Straddy. He’s passionate, full of local knowledge, and is Aussie to his core. He does both one day and weekend trips to the island, so check in advance.
Moreton Island (For some reason, never shortened to ‘Morty’), is the opposite of Straddy. It's the worlds 3rd largest sand island, and is famous for its shipwrecks, the highest sand dunes in the world, and its marine life. There are a total of 15 shipwrecks here, sunk by the Queensland government to create a safe area of calm water for mariners on Moreton Island. The shipwrecks create a natural harbour of calm water, and coral has begun to grow on the hulls, meaning that there is an abundance of wildlife to be found here- snorkelers often spot dolphins here, along with dugongs (also called Manatees, aka, the kings of the sea), wobbegongs, trevally, kingfish, yellowtail. The shipwrecks, however, don’t protect against the currents, so it’s advised to either boat down to them from Tangalooma Resort, or walk along the beach and swim from there. You can get to Moreton Island by ferry from Holt Street Wharf, which drops you off at Tangalooma Resort or take the Micat Ferry ($55) from Port of Brisbane.
Adventure Moreton Island offers the best one day trip to Moreton Island from Brisbane- they depart daily from Holt Street Wharf and includes equipment hire such as Kayaks, SUPs, and snorkel gear in their price. They also have a scuba diving option! Adventure Moreton also lets you be completely independent- it is more a good deal than a guided tour, but remember to bring your own food. If you’re adventurous and would like something more structured, you could also check out Sunset Safaris- They offer kayaks with transparent bottoms, guided 4x4 driving, and sandboarding in an all-in-one day trip. Both Adventure Moreton Island and Sunset Safari’s also offer overnight trips that include sunset dolphin feeding and a stay in Tangalooma Resort- consider it if your in Brisbane and your budget doesn’t extend to the more expensive Fraser Island.
Shakas Adventure Tours: $149/ $129 backpacker/student. $209 overnight.
Adventure Moreton Island: Day trips from $99, $219 Overnight. Scuba Dive for $229
Sunset Safaris: $189/ $179 backpacker rate.
As a city, farmwork is limited in Brisbane. However, just outside Brisbane are Lockyer Valley, Gatton, Laidly, and Caboolture/ The Sunshine Coast, all regional sign off areas.
Gatton and Lockyer Valley are about an hour east of Ipswich and has farmwork year round due to its temperate climate. Peppers (Capsicum), cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli are the main fruits here, and are harvested year round.
Gattons Backpackers is the main backpacker hostel in Lockyer Valley, and the only other options are motels or caravan parks.
Like Bundaberg to the North, Gatton has a somewhat bad reputation for farm work- farmers to avoid are Elite Harvesting and Harvest Solutions, as they are regularly known to scam backpackers out of deposits. For a complete picture check out this page.
Caboolture and the Sunshine Coast is better known for strawberries- its the strawberry capital of Australia, Pineapples, and its crab factory. Places to stay on the Sunshine Coast are Mooloolaba Backpackers, Cotton Tree Backpackers, and the main hostel in Caboolture is Caboolture Backpackers- although it's a bit rundown. Places to avoid are Strawberries Sues (underpayment and racist hiring policy), and Suncoast Backpackers (Just a terrible place in general).
If your looking for ideas on how not to do your farmwork check out my story here.
Hints and Tips
Free BBQs in Roma Street Parklands and Kangaroo Point, so if your hostel doesn’t let you bring alcohol you can drink here for cheap, as long as your eating too.
Brisbane Bikes are a great way to get around- And they normally don’t check if you use student prices ;).
Cineplex is $8 on Tuesdays in Southbank.
Tired of your wrinkled shitty clothes? Check out the monthly suitcase rummage in Kings Square- you can get dresses for as little as $1 later in the day.
Dominos do $5 pizzas- say no more.
Your GOcard is the same price as a box of goon, and refundable- get one, or alternatively, swap a box of goon for one.
Your GOcard can also go under $0 as long as it starts in a positive. So if you have $0.30, you’re good to go!
Get to the airport for $5 with your GOcard- hop on the train from Central to Toombul, and get the towards Garden city. Hop off at Skygate shopping centre and get the free orange Tbus shuttle to Brisbane Airport.
Did we miss anything? Tell us what you think in the comments.
Looking for other exploring guides around Australia?