Sydney, with its iconic opera house and gorgeous beaches, is popular among travelers bound for Down Under. Yet, Brisbane — Australia’s third-largest city and the capital of Queenland — is fast becoming a world-class travel destination. Home to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (the largest of its kind in the world), this year, Brisbane is co-hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup, and, in 2032, the capital city will host the Summer Olympics.
Of course, you shouldn’t wait until 2032 to visit. Here are 7 reasons to visit Brisbane right now.
Celebrate Australia’s Indigenous community
For thousands of years, long before it was established as a penal colony in 1824, Brisbane belonged to the Turrbal tribe and other Aboriginal peoples. For that reason, no trip to the capital of Queensland is complete without shopping and dining at Birrunga Gallery or taking a walking tour of the city’s Aboriginal neighborhoods with BlackCard. Both businesses are Indigenous-owned and operated.
If you venture 15 minutes outside of Brisbane, you can participate in a traditional smoke ceremony and learn how to survive in the bush with Nyanda Cultural Tours, an Aboriginal-owned enterprise.
See wildlife at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Brisbane is home to the world’s largest koala sanctuary, where you can hold and hand-feed these cuddly marsupials. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is just a 20-minute drive from downtown. (It’s also a stop on most Brisbane River cruises.) Don’t be fooled by its name. The sanctuary is also home to kangaroos, platypus, dingo, and even the mischievous Tasmanian devil.
Pro tip: Instead of buying a souvenir plush, consider sponsoring a resident.
Win big at Treasury Brisbane
The city has such a stellar casino, Treasury Brisbane, that it only needs one. With more than 1,300 machine games to choose from, you’ll never be bored — just poor if Lady Luck isn’t on your side! Of course, the casino also boasts popular table games like Texas hold’em, roulette, blackjack, and baccarat. There are plans in the works to relocate this 24-hour casino in 2024 to the city’s newest five-star hotel, The Star Brisbane at Queen’s Wharf.
Enjoy Lamington and lobster on the waterfront
When the Michelin-star rating system finally comes to Australia, it could very well start in Brisbane. Of course, in addition to an up-and-coming fine dining scene, the city offers a plethora of reasonably priced riverfront restaurants, where you can try local delicacies like Lamington, a coconut-covered chocolate sponge cake, and flathead lobsters freshly caught from Moreton Bay. Enjoy a night out on the town at Howard Smith Wharves, where you’ll find bars, live music, cafes and restaurants.
Climb Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge
Embrace your inner adrenaline junkie and scale a Brisbane landmark with Story Bridge Adventure Climb. Sign up for the Twilight Tour for an even bigger rush!
The city also has incredible rock climbing and abseiling opportunities at Kangaroo Point, where you’re more likely to run into professional athletes than kangaroos. If cycling is more your speed, rent an e-bike from Zoomo and ride the scenic 21-mile Brisbane River Loop.
Visit national parks at the Scenic Rim
Drive an hour southwest of Brisbane, and you’ll find yourself in the bucolic and aptly named Scenic Rim. This fertile hinterland was formed by an ancient volcano. Today, it’s home to six national parks and is the perfect place to spend the morning hiking in a World Heritage-recognized rainforest. Afterwards, relax in the afternoon with a flight of local wines made by a family-owned vineyard. For the best views of the Scenic Rim, stay at Spicers Peak Lodge.
Tour Moreton and North Stradbroke islands
Brisbane’s front yard is Moreton Bay, home to several barrier islands that are destinations in themselves. On Moreton Island (its Aboriginal name is Mulgumpin), you can climb sand dunes, snorkel colorful reefs, and, if you have your PADI certification, dive at historic shipwrecks.
Meanwhile on North Stradbroke Island (its Aboriginal name is Minjerribah), you’ll find incredible whale-watching and some of the best surfing waves in Queensland.
Where to stay in Brisbane
Consider the cosmopolitan and conveniently located W Brisbane, or if you’re an art aficionado, the Crystalbrook Vincent, which boasts a collection of 500-plus Vincent Fantauzzo prints. If a trendy rooftop bar is more important to you than a mini bar, book a room at the Emporium South Bank.
Best time to visit Brisbane
Brisbane is blessed with more than 280 days of sun annually, and even in its coldest months of June and July, the daily temperature rarely dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. High season for tourists in Brisbane is from May through October when temperatures are pleasant (think: spring or autumn) and humidity levels are low. Because the weather is so favorable, this is when the city hosts most of its major events, including the Brisbane Marathon, the World Science Festival and BIGSOUND.
It’s the kind of place where you can dine outdoors year-round, and, at most, you’ll need a light jacket or an umbrella. Should you get a rainy afternoon, don’t worry. Spend it admiring masterpieces at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art or watching a West End classic in the city’s Underground Opera. Founded by a former miner, it’s literally down under.
Flights to Brisbane
There’s never been a better, or easier, time to fly to Brisbane, thanks to nonstop flights from the U.S. This November, United Airlines will increase its San Francisco (SFO) to Brisbane (BNE) flights from three times a week to daily, and, in December, it’s going to start offering Los Angeles (LAX) to BNE. This new service will be offered three times a week.
The author acknowledges and pays respect to the past, present, and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of Australia and the continuation of cultural, spiritual, and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.