Adventures Under $20: The Travel-Budgeter’s Guide to Brisbane

I used to consider myself a very conscientious saver. But as my pay packet has grown, so has the time between consulting those handy budgeting  spread sheets that I used to religiously maintain. I have learnt to love the financial and social freedom allowed by full time work: museums, restaurants and cafes, regular gigs, movies, even cocktails … I’m practically out of control.

So now I find myself in the first-world dilemma of wanting a double-cake life: an active, exciting social life and a savings account as fat as Jabba the Hut to fund my travel addiction. Oh dear.

With my 2012 Europe travel adventure only weeks away, I have reaffirmed my personal challenge to seek entertainment that is more suitable to a travel-budgeter’s expendable means.

I present to you: adventures around Brisbane under $20.

Markets, markets markets: This is a classic (and regular) Brisbane West end markets_capsicum timeadventure for me. Weekend mornings present a lovely suite of market choices across the city, my favourite being Davies Park in West End. You can walk, cycle, bus, ferry or drive there with ease, and only spend:

  •  $10 on delicious breakfast delights (French crepes, woodfired pizza, Lebanese falafel pockets, Greek haloumi, gluten free brownies… the list goes on)
  • $5 on a cold pressed Black Star coffee (in soy, white and black) or a choice of hot caffeine delights
  • and up to $5 on some fresh treat for later (strawberries have been my pick lately).

Then, sit in the sunshine (free), read a book (can be free), chat to friends (should be free) or listen to the range musical delights on offer (donation only). This is a seriously chilled out weekend adventure.

P1000915_thumbOther Brisbane markets include: weekly Saturday Kelvin Grove Markets; The Valley Markets every Saturday and Sunday; Northey Street Organic Markets early on Sundays; Portside Boutique Markets every second Sunday; Eagle Farm Markets every Sunday ; New Farm Markets on the second and fourth Saturday of every month … and the list goes on!


A night out in Chinatown: Anywhere near The Valley on Friday night is bound to be an adventure. Known for its nightlife and rowdy crowds, The Valley can seem like a daunting evening choice. But rest assured, there are plenty of more ‘low key’ options to consider. The dinner options under $20 in Chinatown are endless, especially if you’re sharing, but I have to recommend ‘The Vietnamese’ as a lively and flavoursome night out!

  • BYO a $8 bottle of wine and order a $12 dinner special and you’re all set to sit and enjoy the buzzing restaurant atmosphere. Chinatown Mall Brisbane
  • After dinner, have a wander around Chinatown Mall and Brunswick Mall,  where there are often free gigs and plenty of hilarious people watching opportunities.
  • You could also try a dance or some chilling on the AstroTurf in Ric’s Bar, Brunswick Mall. While this entertainment option does present risk for an overspend, keep in mind that where ever there is money to be spent, there is a free alternative nearby.

Trip along the Brisbane River: This trip can be done on foot, bicycle and CityCat for a great view of the Brisbane CBD and inner suburbs.

For a full tour, I recommend starting at Park Road in Milton (a classic cyclist coffee spot), riding along the river bikeway across the Go Between Bridge, past GoMA and the cultural precinct and along the South Bank Bougainvillea path, across the Green Bridge, into the Botanical Gardens (for a picnic lunch), the back towards the city along the river to Milton. For a little extra adventure, head towards New Farm from the Botanical Gardens until you reach New Farm Park and the Powerhouse (for a glass or wine or peak at the free exhibitions) then catch the CityCat back. Brisbane CBD

  • If you don’t have a bike, you can hop on a CityCycle at Park Road for only $2 (daily subscription for 30 minute intervals) – keep an eye out for the courtesy helmets attached to the bikes.
  • Picnic lunch can be gathered at a supermarket before the ride for about $7 if you’re strategic– fruit, bread, cheese. Bring a free bottle of tap water along from home.
  • A glass of wine at the Powerhouse will cost you about $8. The view over the river is free.
  • The CityCat trip from New Farm terminal to Toowong Regatta terminal (near Park Road) will take about 40 minutes and cost anywhere between $2 and $4.60, depending on the type of fare your purchase.

Brisbane cultural adventure: There are plenty of low cost cultural highlights in Brisbane to take advantage of. I recommend combining some of the following options.

  • ‘Spoken’, a congregation of poets, writers, DJs, musicians and artists at the very lovely Queensland State Library cafe. This is a free event running on the second Friday of every month from November 2011 to April 2012. I had a recent taste of the talent at these events and have to say I had an awesome night.
  • The Museum of Brisbane in Ann Street, City, runs high quality, free public exhibitions that are open every day between 10am and 5pm. Everything I’ve seen there has been worth the wander.
  • Any of the LIVE events offered for free by Brisbane City Council. There seems to be some kind of music, dance, craft or stall on every day, offering opportunity for some spontaneous cultural entertainment.
  • Metro Arts in Edward Street, City, is a pretty nifty little hub of P1140539independent art and all things cultural – art, theatre, performance of all sorts. Sometimes things are free, or by donation, the rest of the time they are fairly cheap (generally less than $20). Verve bar downstairs also offers reasonably priced drinks for the budget conscious artistic.
  • Blackstar Coffee in West End is another of my personal favourites, offering live music, slam, really really good coffee and very cute little P1010273muffins that come in gluten free, dairy free and vegan varieties. It is the perfect start, end or interlude to a day of cultural adventuring and will cost you under $10.

Published by Nic Freeman

I feel most like myself when I'm travelling, and enjoy sharing experiences and photography with fellow globe adventurers. Find me on Instagram for regular travel snaps @nicfreemanlife

4 thoughts on “Adventures Under $20: The Travel-Budgeter’s Guide to Brisbane

  1. Here are a few more:

    The Green Jam Sessions in the gardens of QPAC: Laid back lounge and smooth jazz, 5-8pm on Friday evenings at QPAC’s Melbourne Street Green stage. The current run of this series is until 9 December. Entry is free, and drinks and snacks are available for purchase. Bring a picnic blanket and have a great evening.

    Free outdoor movies on 18 and 26 November:

    And you really can’t miss out on mentioning the beautiful, peaceful and serene Mt Coot-tha botanic gardens: Take a cool stroll among beautiful plants from all over the world, test your wits on the Hide ‘n’ Seek Trail (for children aged 4 to 104), “find yourself” in the zen-like Japanese Garden, participate in a Sunday morning Falun Gong exercise and meditation session on the water’s edge, and take a hour-long walk through the twisting paths of the Australian Plant Communities section (a 27 hectare area that highlights native Australian plants, mostly from Queensland) where you can rest on the sloping lawns under the totem poles, watching turtles break the mirrored surface of the lake – All for free. Then for the price of a cup of coffee, finish off at the newly renovated cafe with the great view.

    1. Thanks for those awesome tips Dan! There are so many great things to do around Brisbane on the cheap. I whole-heartedly support the inclusion of the Green Jam Sessions – I’ve had quite a few chilled out picnics on the QPAC lawn listening to Friday Jazz.

      Sadly, I still haven’t made it to the outdoor movies OR the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens (am I still allowed to call myself a Brisbaner?) I think these (and the gardens especially) need to go on the list of things to do before I leave! As always, thanks for sharing!

  2. Awesome! I will have to check out some of these markets! But you forget to mention that awesome swimming/artificial beach area to hang out and catch some rays! 🙂

    So far the only thing we have done in Brisbane is sit in the free internet access library!

    1. Thanks Jade. I really think markets make Brisbane lifestyle for a lot of people – especially in summer. Yes, I did fail to mention the swimming but sadly it is one joy I never seem to associate with Brissy. That said, South Bank has some awesome water-side sitting spots, especially now with its post-flood refurb. I suggest checking out New Farm Park and the City Botanical Gardens for some free wifi too – sometimes it’s nice to sit under a tree while browsing your way around the world.

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