When it comes to Australia’s three east-coast capital cities, Brisbane often gets overlooked by visitors, who choose instead to spend their time in Melbourne or Sydney. Their loss, it turns out: Brisbane, as you’ll learn in the guide, is a vibrant, friendly, and fast-growing city with a pulsing arts and culture scene, an enviable position near the Sunshine Coast, and a healthy job market for ambitious grads across most industries.
With two million residents, Brisbane is Australia’s third most populous city and sits just next to a picturesque bend in the Brisbane River. Boasting excellent food, extensive parklands, and a motto that captures the city’s charmingly laidback attitude (Meliora Sequimur: “We aim for the best”), Brisbane offers graduates a way to escape the rat-race of Australia’s larger capitals without sacrificing access to modern infrastructure, international career opportunities, and big-name entertainment. This guide will cover everything you need to land on your feet in Brisbane, the capital city of a state whose official aquatic emblem is the clownfish.
Brisbane has a subtropical climate that is warm and wet for most of the year. As we’ll see below, this can lead to dramatic summer weather, with high temperatures, thunderstorms, and a sudden influx of tourists. In fact, many would say that Brisbane’s climate is most appealing in winter when cold crisp mornings give way to mild days with low humidity and temperatures of 11–21°C. In June, the sun rises at 6.30 am and sets around 5 pm: you can watch it over the misty Brisbane River on your way to work, and again on the way home. Brisbanites agree: it’s a sight that never gets old.
Perhaps you don’t like mangoes, or bananas, or peaches, nectarines, passionfruit, pineapples, and papaya. Suit yourself. But if you’re a sensible person and agree that tropical fruits are the best fruits of all, then Brisbane’s almost year-round supply of fresh and affordable produce will convince you never to leave (and perhaps also to purchase a Nutribullet). You can stock up at the Brisbane Markets and then go home to feast (and maybe send some food pics to your jealous friends in Sydney and Melbourne).
Brisbane has countless bars, from swanky riverside wine specialists to casual rooftop bars and live music venues. Your night-time options also include comedy clubs, outdoor cinemas, sports games (of course), river cruises, ghost tours, and even the Wheel of Brisbane, a ferris wheel in South Bank that rises 60m into the sky. We’ll have more later on about the various ways you can spend a pleasant evening in Brisbane: for now, suffice it to say that you won’t be short on options.
Melbourne and Sydney have earned themselves reputations as cosmopolitan population hubs for people who can keep up with (or learn to endure) a certain degree of rushiness. People there are busy, want you to know that they’re busy, and may even wonder why you don’t seem busy too. Not so in Brisbane: it’s got an altogether more relaxed vibe, with people getting things done but not making a whole lot of noise about it. In other words, it’s a great place to go if you’d like to escape the rat-race without sacrificing all the conveniences that living in a major city can offer.
From the Suncorp Stadium to the Brisbane Cricket Ground (which it’s best to refer to as ‘the Gabba’ unless you want to signal that you’re a new arrival), Brisbane is dotted with evidence of the enthusiasm its residents have for sports of all kinds. The most popular sport in Brisbane is rugby union, with large crowds, are drawn also to games of cricket, football (soccer), Australian rules football, and basketball. Major events include the Brisbane International(tennis), the State of Origin series (rugby union), and the Ashes (cricket).
Brisbane’s subtropical climate offers year-round warm to hot temperatures. This is good news in winter (Brisbane has never recorded a temperature lower than 2°C), but can be unpleasant during the summer months. From December to February, temperatures can reach as high as 40-45°C (107°F), with average maximum daytime temperatures of 31-33°C (88-91°F). Humidity levels are also high during summer, leading to frequent thunderstorms often accompanied by hail and strong gusts of wind.
Needless to say, if you’re new to Brisbane, you should make a habit of wearing a hat and hydrating regularly during the hot months. Sunscreen is also essential: Brisbane has one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.
The public transport network in Brisbane is administered by TransLink, a state government agency that coordinates bus, ferry and rail services. It also oversees the use of ‘go card’, an electronic smartcard ticketing system valid across Queensland (including the light rail network in the Gold Coast).
Over the past few years, new data has reinforced certain criticisms of the transport system, such that it’s inefficient and overpriced. For example, a 2017 study found that Brisbane residents spend an average of 68 minutes per day commuting, with 43% changing public transport types at least once. A more recent report confirmed that Brisbane is, indeed, the most expensive city in Australia for public transport users.
To be fair, TransLink has responded to the criticisms, introducing a renewed pricing structure, and modifying timetables to reduce travel times during the rush hour. It remains to be seen whether or not this is enough to win over the public transport system’s detractors.