Our first night in Brisbane was a bit stressful and confusing, and based on night one we thought we were going to hate it here. Our plan was to go salsa dancing in the city, so we plugged the address (ETA of about 10 minutes) into our GPS and we were off. An hour later…we ended up arriving at the location. Google Maps was really like to tell us to take highways which were tunnels under the city.
As soon as we got into one of those tunnels, it became extremely confused, tried to say the location was halfway through the tunnel (where there were no turn-offs), and didn’t re-calibrate to tell us what to do until we were well outside the tunnel. We pulled over and after a bit of map wizardry, we found our way to the dance location (and back to the AirBNB). Once we figured out a few things that first night, navigating the city got a lot better (and we encountered less tolls).
Christmas in Brisbane
After doing some research the next morning, we learned it was less expensive to park and see a movie, than it was to just park in South Bank (the theater validates your parking). We drove to South Bank Cinema to see Rogue One. We were running late to the 1:00, but lucky for us the trailers ran until 1:23 p.m. Even luckier for us, the guy before us had bought tickets for two of his friends, but one didn’t show up. Instead of accepting a refund, he had the theater pass along a free ticket to the next person in line and say Merry Christmas. So we got a free ticket! And the other one was $9 AUD. Concessions were also a lot less expensive (at this theater anyway).
In South Bank on the river, there’s a ferry you can take for free that goes up and down the river with multiple stops along the river. It’s called the City Hopper, you can get on it every 30 minutes, and it was a great way to take in some scenery.
The theater was close to the river where there was a Christmas Market set up, as well as some Christmas activities planned for later in the day. It was fun to walk around and see the vendors, and they were showing 2 “Dive In Movies” at a man made beach and pool area. Families can hang out the beach and swim while a movie plays on the outdoor big screen.
They had family oriented Christmas Movies playing in the evening (Elf and Jingle All The Way). It was a popular event for families. Between the two outdoor movie showings, the city of Brisbane put on an incredible Christmas fireworks display set to a variety of Christmas songs. We were wowed! It was a really neat way to celebrate Christmas, and Joseph got to practice his Fireworks photography. We capped the night off with a walk across the Victoria Bridge (it lights up!) and some outdoor salsa dancing at a plaza.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
We drove down to the Gold Coast to spend our Christmas Eve together Aussie style: on the beach! Since it’s summer here, a lot of families head out to the beach together for a BBQ. We packed some sandwiches and had a picnic at Currumbin Beach (along the Gold Coast). We missed hanging out with our families, but this was a fun and different alternative to our usual white Christmas.
Christmas Day we packed up our things and did the Honey-Eater Trail, a 4 km hike at Mount Coot-tha. We could hear a lot more birds than we could see. Most were too high up in the tree-tops, but we did see our first wild Bush Turkey digging in the dirt on the side of the trail!
Overall, we really enjoyed our stay in Brisbane (even after a few initial hiccups). It’s a vibrant city that’s driving distance to a lot of great beaches, delicious food, green space, and hiking.
Things We Wish We Knew About Brisbane
In case anyone is planning on visiting Brisbane, here are a few things we wished we would’ve known before arriving. These would’ve made our first night a lot less stressful:
- If you’re using Google maps, select the options to Avoid Tolls and Avoid Highways when possible.
- Parking is insanely expensive in the city ramps ($40 AUD for 3+ hours in some places). Parking is less expensive after 4:00 p.m. It’s even less expensive if you reserve and pay for a spot ahead of time online.
- Watch out for tolls. A lot of the underpasses and tunnels on the main highways charge tolls for passing through them.
- Google Maps doesn’t work in tunnels, and gets really confused. Helps to check out directions before you leave so you know where you’re going. In case the directions don’t tell you the destination is in the middle of a tunnel.