This major city in Queensland is an excellent starting point for your family’s adventure Down Under.
Located between the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast in eastern Australia, Brisbane is a great jumping off point for a family vacation Down Under. While many families fly from the United States directly to Sydney to begin their Aussie travels, I’d suggest flying to Brisbane and then ending your tour in Sydney. When you price out flights, you’ll find that it’s not more expensive, and you’ll have the added advantage of exploring another family-friendly Aussie city.
The city is divided by the Brisbane River with high rises on the north bank and an entertainment district with museums, parks, and a spectacular public pool on the south bank. Plus you can visit one of the dozen or so places in Australia that allow you to cuddle a koala!
What to do?
On your morning in Brisbane, board the Mirimar ferry and head up river to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. (You can also opt for the city bus.) Only 7 miles from downtown, it’s the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary with over 130 koalas, and it does have the feel of a sanctuary as opposed to a zoo. Its compact size is especially nice if you’re visiting with little ones. But there’s no shortage of up-close experiences with the animals. In addition to holding a real-life koala (Cost: Free, but extra fee for photo), you also can pet and feed kangaroos - if they hold still long enough - and see other Aussie favorites like emus and platypuses. Lone Pine cost: Family $62; with Mirimar cruise: $145.
KidTripster Tip: Don’t miss the sheep dog show!
KidTripster Tip: The captain will let your kids steer the ferry. Just ask!
After the sanctuary, head back downtown with your swimsuit and towel to the South Bank Parklands along the river. Here you’ll find Streets Beach, a one-of-a-kind, man-made swimming lagoon with white sands and tropical palm trees, and Aquativity, an interactive water park. Both are absolutely free and manned by lifeguards. I had a hard time pulling my boys away from this resort-like setting at the end of the day.
Where to eat?
Folks in Brisbane are obsessed with doughnuts. With flavors like salted caramel, lemon meringue, custard, cinnamon, and Nutella, who can blame them. The sugary treats are easy to find a bakeries, cafes, food carts, and even fine dining restaurants. Eat like a local (as if you needed an excuse)!
Where to stay?
Meriton Serviced Apartments on Herschel Street is well located for a visiting family. The apartments are easily accessible for anyone using the Airtrain from the domestic or international airport, and they’re within walking distance of the South Bank Parklands. The modern, well-appointed apartments are spacious with a full kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms. Starts at $162/night.
It’s about a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles to Brisbane. If you book that flight with Qantas, you can then get discounts on in-country flights through the Qantas Explorer program.
From Brisbane, I’d recommend flying north to Cairns and then renting a car for the drive to Port Douglas. For more ideas on what to do in those areas, click here.
Editor Shellie Bailey-Shah travels with her husband and two sons. No matter what any Aussie tells you, she says that Vegemite is awful and should be avoided at all costs!