There are many great things to do in Brisbane with kids, which made it a great first stop. Brisbane is half way down the eastern coast of Australia, putting it at about the same distance from the equator as Egypt, South Africa, Baja California and Florida. It turned out to be a great choice for us coming from a rainy cold autumn in Vancouver BC to a sunny and hot spring in Brisbane.
We decided to stay in Brisbane for 9 nights so that we have time to get over jet lag and not feel rushed to see and do all the things we wanted to before we moved on. I made that mistake last year on our trip to Japan when we landed in Tokyo and only had 5 nights – it was not enough especially because the kids had a really hard time adjusting to the time. This time, we adjusted very well so jet lag was not an issue.
Luckily we have some friends in Brisbane and it was so wonderful to spend time with them again. I used to work with Luke at an Internet company in Vancouver. He and his wife Bay lived in BC and moved back to Australia about 8 years ago. Now they have 2 kids and they live in an area of Brisbane called the Gabba (close to the stadium where cricket is played). We went to their house for dinner a few times (Luke is an excellent chef). This year they had to do a renovation to raise their house 6 feet above ground because they had been flooded a few times in the crazy rain storms that they get. We saw them most of the days we were in Brisbane which made our stay even better!
Streets Beach Pool in South Brisbane
There is an incredible FREE public pool in Brisbane that we went to several times while we were there. The pool had a regular swimming area, a sandy beach swimming area, an outdoor movie screen set up, a great playground and a water splash pad. I just can’t believe this place is free – it really is amazing.
We were very lucky to have the chance to drive up to the Sunshine Coast about an hour north of Brisbane to get to the beach. Luke and Bay picked us up at our Airbnb and took us for a little road trip. Our first stop was a river with amazing sand and very warm water (it was a full on beach but they called it a river). Here we spent lots of time burying the kids in the sand and basking in the sun.
After playing in the sand at the river, we headed to the ocean. We had so much fun jumping in the warm Pacific water. It reminded me so much of Hawaii – the water was perfect, the sand was perfect and the beach stretched on forever. It was paradise!
Before we left the coast, we stopped in at Bay’s parents home. They have a beautiful house up on a hill with an ocean view and outdoor rooms. It is always so fun to visit homes in another country. We were warmly welcomed by her parents and her brother and his family with tea and home made cake.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
One of our favourite places in Brisbane was the Lone Pine – the worlds oldest Koala sanctuary. It is a small sanctuary with over 100 koalas and other animals like crocodiles, platypus, snakes, emus, tasmanian devils and kangaroos. It felt like a mini zoo, and we were skeptical about paying extra to hold a koala. However, we were assured that each koala was not held more than 30 minutes each day and we saw them being rotated quickly. So, we went ahead and paid $20 each for Jaida and Blake to hold a koala and take a photo. This was a disappointment because the kids had to sit on a chair and the handler did not let go of the koala at all so we have her arm in all of our photos (adults were able to hold them without the handler). The kids did not actually get a good snuggle in – but I suppose the koalas comfort is more important than our photo.
What we did love about this place were the kangaroos. They are so amazing in person, they look remarkably like humans from the waist up. The way they jump and use their tail like a third leg had us laughing so hard. Plus they were super friendly and came up to us to gently eat out of our hands. There were a few momma kangaroos with their joey’s in their pouch – this was very different from how I pictured it to be. The joeys legs and tail was hanging out of the pouch while they nurse inside.
Mount Coot Tha
The highest point in Brisbane is Mount Coot Tha, home to a small planetarium and an amazing botanical garden. We ventured from our West End apartment with an Uber who happened to miss a turn on the freeway and took us on an extra long route to get there. The kids were feeling a little queasy from the curvy car ride that was playing a talk radio show that was extremely inappropriate. We shook that off and entered the very small planetarium – we walked through it in about 20 minutes. We were then told that we must drive up to the top of the mountain to see the view but we didn’t have a car and we were warned that it was way to hot to make the hike up.
We decided to get lunch at the cafe. As soon as we walked in, Jaida’s eyes lit up and she pointed at the ham and cheese croissant sandwiches in the deli window. She was so excited as she had been dragged to too many sushi restaurants for lunches on our previous days (Australian sushi rolls are not cut up so for some reason the rest of us love them!). As Blake and Christian were deciding what to eat, a man came along and bought the remaining 3 croissant sandwiches and there were none left for Jaida.
We were a little disappointed with our whole trip to the mountain but that all turned around when we entered the botanical gardens. They had a little treasure hunt going on where we had to go around the gardens looking for specific plants and marking them off on our paper. It was so much fun AND we got to see some AMAZING plants and trees and bushes and bamboo and flowers. It seems like you can grow ANYTHING in this climate. We all really loved this experience and highly recommend it.
Free things to do
I am amazed at how many free things there are to do with kids in Brisbane. We decided to check out the GOMA – Gallery of Modern Art after seeing a billboard for it. Surprisingly, we found out at the doors that it is free to enter and check our bags. We enjoyed the Yayoi Kusama exhibit and the children’s interactive area where we got to make our own masterpiece on paper, on a screen and through headphones.
As we walked away from this exhibit we wandered into the State Library where we found a free digital media exhibit with very cool virtual reality activities. The kids loved this.
After we left the library we found our way back to the amazing free pool at Streets Beach. And just past this pool is a small edible garden that donates all of it’s food to the community. There was a little cart set up with the freshly picked herbs and spices (no veggies or fruit when we were there but there were several fruit trees and bushes).
I am so happy we spent a good amount of time in Brisbane. It is a city I would happily return to.