12 Hours in Brisbane: Top Things to Do and See

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Australia’s third largest city offers plenty to see, do and eat for everyone, from relaxed tourists to intrepid adventurers. We’ve rounded up some of the best activities to do in this stunning city, as well as where to refuel with an amazing meal afterwards.

What to See

Museum of Brisbane

There is plenty on offer in the way of art and culture in Brisbane, but the Museum of Brisbane gives you a special insight into the history of the city. It can be found at the top level of City Hall, one of Brisbane’s most important, and most beautiful, heritage buildings. The museum offers stunning views across the city, as well as letting you get up close and personal with City Hall’s ornate clock tower and copper dome. Although it is quite small the museum is packed with stories that bring Brisbane to life, and its exhibitions really are state-of-the art. It can be easy to overlook, but you’ll be glad you made the time to visit this little portal into Brisbane’s past.

botanic gardens brisbane

The Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens

The Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens are a favourite attraction of both visitors and locals, and wandering through the various themed gardens is the perfect way to discover some of Australia’s most breath-taking flora. The gardens cover 52 hectares, with each individual zone dedicated to different types of foliage, such as fragrant plants, bamboo, cactus, wetland plants, indigenous plants, ferns, bonsai, and many more. It is also home to the largest collection of Australian rainforest trees in the world, giving an amazing insight into the huge range of plants that grow across Australia.

Whales with Brisbane Whale Watching

Brisbane’s location by the coast gives it lots of unique benefits that you don’t usually get to enjoy in a city, and one of the best of these is whale watching. Between June and November, tour operator Brisbane Whale Watching give you the chance to head out on the water and see the whales in Moreton Bay. Every year these gentle giants travel to the calm waters of the bay to give birth, giving you the opportunity to get a ringside view of humpbacks and southern rights tending to their young. These whales are the most surface-active of all the whales, making it likely that you’ll get to see some spectacular acrobatics from these surprisingly agile titans of the sea.

What to Do

koala sanctuary brisbane

Cuddle a Koala at the Lone Pine Sanctuary 

Ever fancied meeting a cuddly koala bear? The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is definitely one of the best places to do just that. You can see all kinds of indigenous Australian animals, such as kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, snakes and even crocodiles. Stop by to watch bird of prey flight demonstrations, see the adorable platypuses at dinner time, and learn how Australian farmers use sheep dogs to round up their flocks and help with shearing. Of course, you can also meet the koalas, and get that perfect ‘cuddling a koala’ photograph to show off back home.

Climb the Story Bridge

Constructed in 1930s Depression-era Brisbane, the huge steel Story Bridge is a much loved landmark of the city. There are only three bridges that can be climbed in cities around the world, including Sydney, Auckland, and Brisbane, so get your climbing shoes on and make the most of this rare experience. It caters to people of all fitness levels, as long as you’re over ten years old, and gives you a spectacular view over the city. For those among us that are a little braver, the Story Bridge also offers you the chance to abseil your way back to terra firma. What a great adventure!

brisbane south bank parklands

Relax at the South Bank Parklands

Southbank is Brisbane’s signature district, once the original site of the 1988 World Expo, it is now a hive of parklands, plazas, promenades, and even a street beach. The atmosphere is very relaxed, and you can make use of the BBQ areas, swim in the lagoons, or explore the walking trails. Lined with trendy cafes and restaurants, and home to an artificial beach, it is one of the best places to kick back, relax and enjoy all that Brisbane has to offer. 

Where to Eat

Malt

Malt offers contemporary cuisine that is a taste bud tingling testament to Australia’s resurgent interest in food. The restaurant offers fine dining at its best, with attentive service, rustic décor and live piano music creating the perfect atmosphere to sample some of Brisbane’s best culinary offerings. An intentionally limited menu allows the featured dishes to showcase the skill of the chef, with each dish brimming with local produce and perfectly balanced flavours. This is definitely a time to strike out from your flavour comfort zone and discover an amazing dish that you wouldn’t usually choose. The kingfish in a Moreton Bay bug sauce and the wagyu sirloin are truly excellent.

napoli pizza in brisbane

Tartufo

Showcasing beautiful Italian cuisine done right, Tartufo has a mouth-watering menu alive with the flavours of Napoli. Pizza is its flagship dish, and for those who want a more relaxed dining experience this can also be ordered in the bar area. The margarita and primavera are created authentically, with the technique and freshness of ingredients easily discernible in this superior end product. In the bar you’ll be limited to the (delicious) pizza selection, but if you have a craving for fine dining then the main restaurant does just that. The menu is a delightful array of classic Italian flavours with a modern twist, all constructed and presented with amazing attention to detail. The snapper is a standout dish, with some reporting that it is the best they’ve ever tried, while the rabbit pasta and calamari are both stunning examples of how to let fine produce speak for itself. If you can’t possibly choose, opt for the mixed degustation — you won’t regret it.

Bird’s Nest Restaurant

It’s rare to find a truly authentic Japanese restaurant that hasn’t been influenced by the whims of the western palate, but Bird’s Nest Restaurant is exactly that. They specialise in authentic Yakitori skewers, which are skewers of grilled chicken served with different seasoning and dips. All parts of the bird are used in this type of cooking, but if the thought of organs has you wrinkling your nose, think again, this cooking style will change the way you think about innards forever. The unique smoky flavour from the grill combined with the spice infusions and outstanding array of dipping sauces make for a truly beautiful Japanese taste experience. Opt for the Omakase, or chef’s selection, to sample a range of skewers, vegetables, rice and dessert, all expertly paired with sake by the in-house sommelier.

If this range of exciting activities has whetted your appetite for a trip to one of Australia’s most premier cities, why not book a cruise that visits Brisbane? Check out our full range of Australia cruises, or you can give our friendly sales team a call on 1300 857 345.

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About Author

Alyssa Beit

Alyssa lives in Sydney, NSW. Born on the 14th October and is a Social and Human Service Assistant at Cruise 1st Australia. She is in her early 40’s and loves tranquility on luxury cruises.

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