Our Week in Brisbane, Australia

Coming back to Brisbane was both really fun and very nostalgia-inducing. I studied abroad here for 6 months in college and revisiting this city 5 years later was a completely different experience. It brought back all kinds of great memories, but also gave me a new perspective of the city. Since I’ve been traveling for 7 months now, I had a new appreciation for Brisbane the second time around – the seamless public transportation, the cleanliness, the friendly people, the laid back atmosphere, the city gardens, the nightlife. Here’s how we spent our week in Brisbane (besides indulging on Christmas Day), including some pictures (of course) plus some tips I picked up from living there back in 2012.


Staying at the Brisbane Marriott was nothing short of revitalizing. The location was ideal – right next to the Valley (which I’ll explain in the next section), the river, the botanic gardens, public transportation, and only a short walk (or very quick ferry ride) to South Bank.


We spent our 7 days trying not to spend any money on food or drinks and (surprisingly enough) we were pretty successful!

brisbane marriott lounge
Evening “canapes,” which we fondly called dinner

How did we do that? Since I’m a Platinum member at Marriott (thanks to my previous business travel), we got access to a free breakfast buffet in the lounge every morning and unlimited drinks and “canapes” every evening, which was enough food to keep us satiated. Read more in Pete’s hotel review.

…Satiated, but not completely satisfied. We still wanted to get a taste of the nightlife, so here’s where we did spend our money (after some solid free “pregames” in the lounge).

Fortitude Valley (aka The Valley)

The Valley is one of the most popular areas in Brisbane for its nightlife. I remember going out here a lot when I was abroad, so it was pretty fun to see all the same bars not in a drunken stupor in a new light.

But where to go as “adults”? *shudder* There was one pretty classy place I remembered where people dressed to impress and I couldn’t afford the drinks:

A magical place called Cloudland

Cloudland is one of the prettiest bars I’ve ever been to. When I saw that they have a weekly salsa night, where you can get salsa lessons for free, I knew we had to go. It turned out to be a really fun night – we could actually afford a drink and being immersed in drunken people learning salsa is as entertaining as it sounds.

West End

West End is a pretty chill, hip spot (according to yours truly), especially Boundary Street. Again, this is a place I remembered from my study abroad days as being more “adult-ish,” which is why we decided to spend our New Year’s Eve there, at a bar called Brisbane Brewing Co. We had a ton of fun and we actually met other people!

Activities/Points of Interest

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

This is probably the number 1 tourist attraction in Brisbane – it’s the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Most people come to hug a koala, but there are many more animals here too – platypuses (Pete’s fave), kangaroos (that you can pet and awkwardly pose with), wallabies, dingoes, kookaburras…etc. etc.

Cost: $36 (or $32.40 online); a picture with a koala is extra

Botanic Gardens

We walked along the river path almost every day from our hotel to the city botanic gardens. I hadn’t appreciated this area before, but I loved the serenity here!

Kangaroo Point

You can go rock climbing on the Kangaroo Point cliffs, bring a picnic there, or go see the lookout.

South Bank Parklands

This area’s close to my heart, since I lived here as a student of the University of Queensland. With its gorgeous, flowery walkways, abundance of restaurants, laid-back atmosphere, and public lagoon, it’s easily one of my favorite parts of Brisbane.

The lagoon was ridiculously packed over the holidays, when we went

In addition to the lagoon, don’t miss the rain-forest walk and a ride on the ferris wheel.

Getting Around

Getting around Brisbane is incredibly easy, which is one of the things I like best about this city. I love that you don’t need a rental car. If you didn’t want to spend any money, you could walk around the whole city fairly easily (although it would take you a few hours). However, it’s much easier (and pretty inexpensive) to use their efficient public transportation. Purchase a GoCard, which is the area’s electronic ticket, to get discounted fares (and it’s just way easier than buying one-way tickets with cash every time). That ticket is like a debit card you can use on buses, trains, and even ferries! You can buy it online or at various locations. If you don’t use all of the balance on your GoCard, you can get the remaining balance (and the deposit for the card itself) put onto one of your credit cards.

Have you been to Brisbane? What are some of your favorite parts of the area?

4 Comment

  1. Trevor says: Reply

    The GoCard seems like a good system! I was slightly disappointed in San Diego because the public transportation card required a large deposit that was not refundable.

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      It’s a fabulous system! Australia has great public transportation overall. Melbourne was the only city where we didn’t get our ($6 AUD) deposit back. That is disappointing about San Diego!

  2. Janice THOMPSON says: Reply

    I have been there and i can report that you NAILED it! All my favorites are included and wish I would have visited those adult ** don’t shutter anymore** bars- especially the salsa dancing…how did we miss that??

    1. Brittany says: Reply

      We just stumbled upon the salsa dancing – a very fortunate thing 🙂

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