We have just spent the last week exploring Brisbane on a budget, and if you are looking to do the same then you are going to need this post. We look at all the best places to visit if you have only a few days and you need to watch your pennies.
Let’s take a closer look below at our top recommendations for Brisbane on a budget!
* This post may contain affiliate links that may earn me a small commission should you decide to click through and make a valid purchase (at no extra cost to you). Thanks for your support!
I’m going to jump right in here and say this was our favourite area to chill, to geek out in the museums, to picnic and to play. There is SO much to see and do here that it could take up to three days or more to explore the entire space. Below are the areas within Southbank that we explored and can recommend.
Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA)
With regularly changing exhibitions GOMA is a great starting point if it’s your first or fifth time to Brisbane.
We loved The Children’s Art Centre which focuses on interactive exhibitions for children. During our visit, the installation Now is the Time was on for children, which explored activism as a form of communication. It was powerful in the sense that it helped my children think about world issues and encouraged them to reflect on ways they can use their voice to speak up.
Check here to see what is on for The Children’s Art Centre.
On the weekend that we visited, there was a line out the door for the European Masterpieces exhibition, which was in town for a few months only. So… it’s a popular place! And while I’m sure it’s not always this busy, it is however a good idea to check in advance to find out what is on or upcoming.
- Visit the GOMA website here for more information about current exhibitions
- GOMA timings 10.00am to 5.00pm
- Entry is free, aside from occasional paid exhibitions
The State Library of Queensland
While you are in the GOMA vicinity, you should definitely pop into the State Library of Queensland for a quick look around. Head through the main doors on the ground level and make your way towards Kuril Dhagun to the back left. This space is dedicated to the First Nations of Queensland, an intentional space created for inspiring and celebrating culture of the Indigenous Aboriginal community.
During our visit the featured showcase was called Deadly Threads. This exhibit was focused around a display of some 200 shirts designed by Aboriginal people, which spoke to the power of identity through clothing.
The showcase changes but this space of the library is always dedicated solely to Kuril Dhagun. While you are there be sure to find the map that depicts how many unique Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Nations there are. Hint: it’s over 250. What’s more, as you walk around and read the exhibits you’ll have a picture perfect waterfront view out the library windows of the Brisbane river, which flows on by.
- Visit the library website for more information about Kuril Dhagun
- Library timings are 9.00am to 8.00pm Sun-Thur, till 5.00pm Friday, 10.00am to 5.00pm Sat-Sun
- Entry is free
The Queensland Museum
Not far from the library is the Queensland Museum, and the exhibits change regularly here too. On Level 0 you’ll find the Dinosaur Garden, Level 2 Lost Creatures and on Level 4 you’ll find all Australian wildlife on display from the beach to the bush in the Wild State exhibit. There is also a living display with cockroaches, snakes, and stick insects.
If you are visiting with children, then we thoroughly recommend a trip downstairs to the Basement level to the Spark Lab. Get your tickets in advance as it books out, particularly on weekends. This highly interactive learning lab is quite frankly mind-blowing, and we have visited our fair share of learning spaces like this. Each section presents a different scientific concept for kids to investigate, hands-on and in depth.
There is a small price, but I think well worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed watching my two making some really great learning connections here that linked in with our world schooling approach.
- Visit the Queensland Museum website to find out about their current exhibitions
- Museum timings are 9.30am to 4.00pm
- Entry to the museum is free
- Spark Lab costs $15.50 for adults, $12.50 for children aged 5-15 years
The Brisbane Sign
Just beyond the museum and over the Southeast Busway follow the riverside to explore the rest that the South Bank has to offer. Beside the Lyric Theatre is the Brisbane Sign and you might want to stop here for a photo or two. It is particularly beautiful towards the end of the day as the sky turns a deeper blue and the Brisbane skyline in the background begins to pop!
The Rainforest Walk
This stunning walk was one of my favourite areas of the city. Just a few metres and you are immersed in a green sub-tropical paradise. You’ll forget you’re in the middle of the city. Towards the beginning of the walk look out for the Nepalese Peace Pagoda and here you might even forget which country you’re in.
Riverside Green Playground
This is a great time-out for the kids. A few outside the box ideas at this play park keeps the kids entertained and climbing for ages. During the holiday period and weekend, it can get quite busy so it’s a good idea to keep a close eye. But otherwise it’s perfect time-out for mum and dad too, while the kids keep themselves challenged… for a while at least. So, find a patch of grass and relax nearby.
The Lagoons – Boat Pool and Streets Beach
In the summer months this is the place to be. It never ceases to amaze me in Australia how they create these incredible water lagoons in the middle of town, or in this case, the city! There are two to choose from and there is a lifeguard on duty. So even in the middle of the city you can still find some quality beach and pool time to work on your tan and people watch.
- Pool lifeguard timings are 9.00am to 5.00pm
- Entry is free!
The Rest of Southbank
If you’d like to splash out and see Brisbane from a higher elevation, then you might want to take a ride on The Wheel of Brisbane.
There are occasionally pop-up markets to explore, and there are restaurants along The Arbour a plenty!
Basically, the rest of Southbank begs to be explored on foot, walk the bougainvillea lined path and discover it at your own pace and leisure. There is plenty to see and do here so give yourself plenty of time.
Eat Street Northshore
Now if you are hungry, it’s time to get ready for a food lovers’ extravaganza. In a myriad of rainbow colour and food chaos comes Eat Street! I promise that if you turn up with an empty belly you will leave in a food stupor. Whatever your poison, you will find it here!
This market has been decked out with shipping containers. And in them you will find vendors selling their dishes from all around the globe, desserts and sweet treats that will blow your mind, and licensed bars and bands. It’s loud, it’s vibrant and best of all… FUN.
My advice is to walk the full market BEFORE you decide on exactly what you’d like to eat. And bring a hungry tummy. AND an animal too if you like… that’s right, it’s a pet friendly spot (we even saw a cat perched on his owner’s shoulder).
On a side note: We recommend that you get there via ferry as the terminal is very close. Then when you have eaten all there is to eat at Eat Street, jump on the ferry and head to the CBD. The night cruise is a pretty one and cheap to boot! Read our section below on how to get around the city on a Go Card.
- Visit the Eat Street Instagram page to see more
- The timings are Fri-Sat 4.00pm to 10.00pm, Sunday 4.00pm to 9.00pm
- Entry is $5 per person, children under 12 years are free
Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
Because I love green spaces so much I’m also going to recommend the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens for a lush picnic destination.
It’s perfect if you have been on your feet shopping in the Elizabeth Street district and you need a nearby sit down with a coffee and lunch. Or if you have seen everything there is to see in Southbank and you are looking for a change of scenery. If this is the case, then take the Goodwill Bridge over the Brisbane river and keep walking till you get to the gardens. Find a tree or bench soak in some sun rays and some greenness.
QUT – The Cube
This is definitely one for the kids… well if you are a bit of a techie then you might also enjoy these giant digital interactive screens. I know I got stuck at the Code-A-Bot screen for quite some time trying to (quite unsuccessfully I might add) create the perfect code to direct my bot.
There are three of these giant screens. And the theme on each rotates through a series of about six or more programmes that they have developed at the Queensland University of Technology. The idea is that each gives children a taste of different STEM related concepts. On the day we visited we discovered the bot coding screens, and The Living Reef screen that encouraged it’s users to learn about the ocean food chain and more. On the third was the Physics Observatory screen that touched on gravity, force and motion, astronomy and so on.
- Visit QUT – The Cube page here for more
- The timings are 9.00am to 4.00pm
- Entry is free
For a little rebellious street art and culture, we’d recommend a short trip to Burnett Lane. This was a recommendation by the Australian Traveller magazine. It took us no more than 15 minutes and was a perfect detour on our way from the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.
Stroll this small lane and keep an eye peeled for a tiny red door. This is a piece of street art from the guerrilla artist Mace Robertson. And while you’re at it look for the blue duck wearing a hat, and some cheeky blue street rats playing hide and seek among a jumble of street pipes, by the Blu Art Xinja.
This lane also has a great place for lunch, so if you are in the vicinity, or alternatively if you time it right for lunch, then jump into Felix For Goodness for a bite to eat.
Time now for a visit a little further beyond the CBD. Catch a bus if you like, or there is plenty of parking too if you prefer to take yourself there. Read on to see what your options are for Mt Coot-tha.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha
Take the time to indulge in a good book or wander around the gardens for some time away from the city hustle and bustle. And if you are looking for a little inspiration or direction then stop in to see the very helpful staff at the information centre at the entrance to the gardens. There are more than 10 attractions to visit here such as the Tropical Dome and the Japanese Garden.
We can recommend the Hide and Seek Children’s Trail for little ones. Get a copy of the map from the information centre.
And also, if you can, be there 10 minutes before 11am or 1pm to sign-up for a free tour of the Botanic Gardens. This is well worth your while.
- Visit this website here for more information
- Botanic Gardens timings are 9.00am to 4.00pm
- Entry is free
Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium
Across from the information centre is the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. You can’t miss it, as it’s big and white and looks like a space centre.
This one comes at a cost, but don’t worry as it won’t break the bank. Trust me when I say it is fantastic!!! A dark dome shaped cinema theatre with reclined chairs is the right recipe for chill, but it will likely blow your mind. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Robert Redford, because as he narrated the show we saw about Cosmic Collisions he literally transported us to another place.
Disclaimer – if the thought of asteroids colliding with earth get you on edge then be warned this show probably isn’t for you. But this aside, the 360 degree presentation of how planet earth came to be stunned me, and I highly recommend you go and see it.
The documentary combined with a small presentation at the end is an hour long. Then you are free to explore the rest of the planetarium displays around the dome.
There are many other shows to choose from so visit their site for the full list of shows and timings.
- Visit this website here for more information
- Timings are Monday closed, Tue-Sat 9.00am to 4.00pm, Sun 9.00am to 3.00pm
- Entry is $10 for adults and $6 for children aged 3 to 14 years (prices increase slightly on Saturday see the site above for details)
Getting Around Brisbane on a Budget
Public Car Parks
Parking can be a little tricky, but if you are travelling as a family and you need all day parking at a good rate then I recommend Queensland Cultural Centre. They have a daily rate of $17 which is a good deal, hassle free and in the heart of the city.
This is how we got around town and my favourite option for transport. It is perfect in the sense that it is completely trouble free and gets you everywhere you need to be.
Find a location that sells a Go Card, I googled it and found one near me. But usually you’ll find one at a news agency or similar. There is a refundable deposit of $10 to pay for the card ($5 for children’s cards). You can get this back, but you must allow two days for the refund to be processed, so keep this in mind. But load your card up with some money and you are ready to tap on and off buses, trains and ferries. It is FANTASTIC!
Also keep in mind that the cards come in the categories of child, adult and senior so get the right one for you. For an idea of fares and the discounted times to travel then check their link here.
For the eco-warriors you might like to grab yourself a Neuron e-scooter which are all over the city. They are a super cheap, easy and efficient way to get about. Check their rates here, sign up for a multi-day pass and you’ll soon be scooting all over town.
You may also see Lime Scooters about, but I didn’t see as many along our travels. See more at their website here.
Rent a Car or Camper
I don’t know about you, but I always prefer a self drive option when travelling around Australia. It’s such a massive country and there is so much to see, that it becomes a pricey holiday if you are getting around via public transport. So why not consider renting a camper? That way you’ll save money on transport costs in the long run and you’ll have more independence. Jucy always offer fantastic rates and when it comes to value for money, they’ll see you right. Click the image below for more information about their deals and offers.
Best Places to Stay in Brisbane on a Budget
Now I’ve done the homework for you on budget places to stay in Brisbane and below are a couple of the best backpackers in my opinion. However, if you are not a backpacker fan not to worry, there is an apartment option there for you too.
City Backpackers is super central with a great view over Southbank. They don’t have a no child policy like so many backpackers do, so if you are travelling with kids this would be my top pick.
Chill Backpackers is in a similar area. It comes with good reviews, on the higher end of the review spectrum, based on our research when comparing the options. This would be my choice if I was travelling without kids.
This apartment, though a little more expensive than backpacker accommodation, it is still very reasonable. And when you see the views over the CBD you might just be convinced that this is the perfect spot to base yourself in. There is even a pool and free parking… that sold you now didn’t it!
We hope you absolutely loved this post on Brisbane and have discovered some of the great things to see and do in this beautiful city, if you are on a budget. Don’t forget to Pin for later.
And if you are planning a trip north then don’t miss the beautiful Agnes Water. One of our favourite beachy towns in Australia.