Dreaming about an Australian vacay? Being Australia's largest city and a major travel hub, you might find yourself in Brisbane if you're headed this way — the good news is whether you're looking for an adventure or are more of a city wanderer, there's something for everyone in Brisbane.
While International Language Programs does not have a semester abroad program based in Australia, there are programs nearby, on this side of the world. We have volunteers in both Thailand and Vanuatu who are just a flight away and Australia is definitely on the vacation bucketlist! We let our volunteers plan their own vacations so that they can see and do what they're most dreaming of, and Australia has been on the semester vacation list for more than one ILP group.
Dip your feet into Australia's beautiful blue ocean, pet a Koala, and hike along some of the many trails here!
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Flights To Brisbane
One of the reasons you might be considering Brisbane in the first place is because you found that the best flight deal had this as the destination. It does vary, especially depending on where you're coming from, but major cities like Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne tend to be where most international travelers are arriving.
Especially for our Vanuatu based groups, better flight deals often send you to Brisbane. But you should know that if you're looking for a budget sort of trip, Australia isn't going to be your best option. A trip here in general is going to have higher costs than many other Asian and South Pacific destinations that ILP volunteers love visiting. But ... Australia is a dream vacation, so we get it if you're ready to splurge to make it happen. Flight prices wildly vary depending on your route, the time of year (and even the day of the week) that you're flying, but you're likely looking at $400-$600+ USD for a roundtrip flight.
I love using Skyscanner to help find the best deals, and booking as soon as you can often helps as well.
If you find that you're able to find a better flight deal to another Australian city, that can help with your trip's budget as well. We love Brisbane (for all the reasons you'll find below), but read this post to find highlights in other major Australian hubs.
Like most cities, Brisbane has plenty of local activities to offer. Here are just a few ideas of what to go and see while you're there.
Swim at Streets Beach
This is basically a man-made lagoon that's smack in the middle of Brisbane. There's sandy beaches and tropical plants surrounding this fun little oasis. It's a nice break from the bustle of the city and it has fun aquatic attractions such as the Boat Pool and Aquativity (thought Aquativity is more geared towards kids) that are close by to this area. The best part is it's free, so as long as you remember to pack your swimsuit, you can go.
I'll also add that the coastal beaches have free access as well, so don't miss taking a dip in the ocean!
Address for Streets Beach: Stanley St Plaza, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia Hours: open from 9am to 5pm
Visit QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery/ Gallery of Modern Art)
This museum features over 19,000 pieces of Australian art all with different styles and art. The art's mainly focused on Asian, Pacific, and Aboriginal styles that make this museum unique to Australia and the area around it. The museum is open every day from 10am to 5pm and they even throw in free guided tours that begin at 1pm and last 30 - 40 minutes. For a tour you'll just have to book in advance since there's a ton of people who also want to check out this awesome museum. Most of the exhibitions are free, but there might be some areas and events that you'll have to buy tickets for.
Address: Stanley Place, South Brisbane Queensland 4101, Australia
You can learn more about their exhibitions and events here!
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
This facility is dedicated to helping injured or sick koalas as well as inform international and local visitors about koalas. They host a bunch of shows which do include encounters with koalas and other events like a raptor show, a sheep dog show, and feeding wild lorikeet.
Adult day pass tickets are about $37 and can be bought in advance here. You can also learn more about what the sanctuary has to offer at their website. They're open all days of the week from 9am to 5pm.
The park is about 7.5 miles from Brisbane, Australia and there's a few ways to get there. One option would be to go on a river cruise down from Brisbane to the Koala Sanctuary. The cruise can take you to Lone Pine and back depending on whether you buy a return trip, includes commentary during the ride, and leaves from Cultural Centre Pontoon. It costs about $67 USD ($85 aud) for a round trip. You can learn more about it here!
Budget friendly options are to take a taxi or bus. You can find bus options here.
Explore the Botanic Gardens!
Take a break from the city and go to Brisbane's botanic gardens which are open all day and completely free. They also offer free guided tours from 11am to 1pm where they'll take you through the gardens and give you some info on the plants and fauna.
More information about it can be found here. You can also do a self-guided tour, just grab one of the free maps on your way in.
Address: 147 Alice St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia
Go Hiking around the City
There is plenty of hiking to be done around Brisbane. One hike I'd recommend is going up Mt. Coot-tha, a mountain and a suburb just outside of Brisbane. If you hike up here, you'll have a breathtaking view of the city, and you can get a sunrise or sunset view of the city's skyline depending on how early or late you get there.
Aside from just going to the top, Mt. Coot-tha offers many smaller trails around the mountain that you can explore.
You can get to Mt. Coot-tha by taking a bus which you can find here. There's also a a local shuttle bus that operates from 8:40am to 7pm in the summer from October through April, and 9:40am to 4:40pm during the off-season. You can learn more about it here.
Visit Moreton Island
There are several islands sitting just off of Brisbane's coastline and Moreton is one of the more popular, offering a ton of really fun activities for visitors.
There were 15 ships that were purposely sunk in 1963 to stop smaller boats from coming to the island, and since that time, they've become rusted — grab some snorkel gear and come explore. Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of a sea turtle! You'll need to join a tour group for this and costs typically vary depending on whether you need to rent equipment. There's lots of tour options, but here's a couple to get you started: Australian Sunset Safaris or Sunrover.
Another fun thing you can do here is visit Tangalooma Island Resort where you can feed wild dolphins at sunset! Over the years dolphins have been accustomed to knowing that if they show up, dinner will be served. Each night they typically start showing up around 6:30pm, playing near the pier. Around 7pm you can wade into the shallow water with fish that the hotel provides and wait as dolphins come up and eat right out of your hand. You do need to either be a guest of the hotel or purchase one of their packages to do this. You'll want to check out their website to see what's available and what you'd like to do. There's lots of good reviews on TripAdvisor, but many warn that you may be waiting awhile to get your turn, and then it's over quickly ... but it sounds like it's worth the wait.
You can get to Moreton Island from Brisbane on a ferry which leaves from Brisbane Holt Street and goes to Moreton Island Tangalooma. The ticket prices range from $58-$97 and the trip itself is about an hour and a half. Learn more about it here. If you do decide to visit this island, I'd definitely recommend going with a tour and booking it in advance.
+ Loads More
There's just so much to do here! Brisbane offers so much and I've barely even scratched the surface. For more ideas you can check out this website.
Traveling and Staying in Brisbane
For some perspective, remember this is a major, bustling hub city. If you're only here for a couple of days the tendency is to rely on taxis and Ubers for the convenience, but just know that is going to eat into your budget real quick.
Instead, get familiar with local transportation. It's typically best to get a Go Card from Translink (this is basically a small, plastic card that you put money onto and use for public transportation). It'll save money for all your fares and it can be used for buses, trains, and ferries. You can buy one at the airport or in train stations or convenience stores. For more information you can check it out here, and you can look for specific tourist they have to offer in their seeQ card here.
Just like in most places around the world, hostels to the rescue to help ease the costs of a trip. You can find dorms under $20 USD a night, but of course there's lots of options. My go to's for finding a place to stay are sites like Hostel World and Hostel Bookers.
We're also a fan of Airbnbs — when you're traveling with a group of friends, splitting the cost often makes the price comparable with a hostel (but the best part is you get the entire place to yourself). Check out your options for that here.
For food, Brisbane offers cheaper takeout food that average around $12 per meal. I'd recommend packing plenty of snacks and maybe even taking a look at the farmer's market to get some fresh fruit if you're looking for another way to make the trip more affordable. I'm a huge fan of going out to eat while I'm on vacation, but again that's going to make a huge dent in your overall trip cost if you're not being careful!
Join us on a semester abroad!
Like we mentioned, ILP volunteers live abroad for a semester and have plenty of time to travel around and see parts of the world they've been dreaming of ... including Australia!
You also have the chance to experience just living like a local in another country. It's the kind of adventure you'll always remember — learn more about how it all works right here.
Or if you have any questions, let's get in touch. We're happy to send you a text and chat about it to see if volunteering with ILP is right for you.