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16 Best Things to Do in Brisbane

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Brisbane — Queensland's capital prides itself on balancing its cosmopolitan polish with a laid-back tropical lifestyle and gloriously sunny weather. With its signature Brisbane River and nearby Moreton Bay, Brisbane has water fun on tap, while its CBD plays host to fabulous retail therapy, sumptuous restaurants, and a vibrant market. Climb the iconic Story Bridge, cuddle a Koala, and go for a river cruise or picnic in a park to experience an iconic trip to Australia. Confidently Australian, there are plenty of things to do in Brisbane. 

1. Check Out Brisbane’s City Centre

The Brisbane CBD offers something for everyone. Stroll around its streets to discover delightful heritage and architecture, including the Customs House, Treasury Building, enticing boutiques, and delightful food options. King George Square is another highlight to visit that has events, festivals, and markets happening regularly.

  • Opening hours: 9:00 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Thursday, 9:00 am to 9:00 pm Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday
  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: Don’t miss a 45-minute guided tour of the gorgeous 1930 Brisbane City Hall.

2. Immerse Yourself in Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct

Just a short walk across the Kurilpa or Victoria Bridge is Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct, one of the top things to do in Brisbane. Its QAGOMA art gallery is home to modern Australian and Asian art. Beside GOMA is the State Library of Queensland, the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre and even a bodhi tree descended from the Buddha’s tree.

  • Opening hours: Daily QAGOMA 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Queensland Museum 9:30 am – 5:00 pm.
  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: The GOMA Restaurant's menu is as creative as the art!

3. Spend the Day at the South Bank Parklands

Things to do in Brisbane South Bank Parklands
Visit the Nepal Peace Pagoda in the South Bank Parklands.

The South Bank Parklands is Brisbane at its best. Beautiful parkland, a delightful riverfront promenade, an artificial beach, and sumptuous restaurants mix with trendy cafes. Unwind, chill out, you can even meditate at the Nepal Peace Pagoda. There’s even free Wi-Fi!

  • Opening hours: Daily 5:00 am to midnight
  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: Check out nearby Little Stanley Street, it’s one of Brisbane’s best dining locations.

4. Climb the Story Bridge

Things to do in Brisbane parklands
Climb the iconic Story Bridge and get the best view of Brisbane.

Brisbane’s iconic heritage-listed Story Bridge connects Kangaroo Point to Fortitude Valley over the Brisbane River. A 2.5-hour Story Bridge climb provides enthralling views overlooking the Brisbane skyline, Moreton Bay and the Glass House Mountains.

  • Opening hours: 7 days a week, hours vary with climb options.
  • Entrance fees: Climb and dine USD 98, Day climb USD91, Express climb USD 84, Twilight climb USD 113, Night climb USD 98, Climb and abseil USD 112*.
  • Insider’s tip: Opt for a Twilight Climb to watch the city come to life with lights.

5. Discover the Brisbane River on a CityHopper Ferry

If you are wondering what to do in Brisbane, board a CityHopper ferry and watch Brisbane’s sights glide quietly past. This is the ultimate stress-free way to see the city and get to know the Brisbane River.

  • Opening hours: The CityHopper ferry service visits 6 terminals every half an hour, seven days a week between 6:00 am and midnight.
  • Entrance fees: The CityHopper is free.
  • Insider’s tip: Make the most of the CityHopper’s hop on and hop off model to explore different parts of Brisbane’s riverfront.

6. Get Your Sea Legs at the Maritime Museum

Brisbane’s Maritime Museum features a fascinating collection of exhibits showcasing Australia’s maritime history. Check out the museum’s historic vessel collection, including the world’s last River Class WW2 frigate the Diamantina and a dry dock dating to 1881.

  • Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (last entry 3:30 pm)
  • Entrance fees: Adult USD 11, Children USD 5, Family USD 27, Seniors USD 10*.
  • Insider’s tip: Stay strictly nautical by catching a ferry to the museum.

7. Cycle around New Farm Riverwalk

things to do in Brisbane Riverwalk
The Riverwalk zigzags its way from New Farm to Howard St. Wharves.
things to do in Brisbane cycle on the Riverwalk
The Riverwalk is a highway for pedestrians and cyclists jutting out along the most scenic tract of Brisbane river.

 Cycle or saunter the New Farm Riverwalk. This is a Brisbane “must do”. Set across from the eastern bank of Kangaroo Point, the new Riverwalk zigzags its way from New Farm to the Howard St. Wharves and on to the Brisbane CBD. Dedicated roadways have been separated for cyclists and pedestrians.  

  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: The best time to visit is during summer months from December to March but there is no shade to escape the harsh Australian sun so visit either early in the morning or at dusk.

8. Commune with Trees at The Sherwood Arboretum

Things to do in Brisbane Visit Sherwood
Spend some peaceful moments and find your zen at the Sherwood Abboretum

If Australian native trees and tranquility is your thing, the Sherwood Arboretum is for you. With a collection of 1,000+ specimen trees, some rare and endangered, the heritage-listed arboretum is the perfect place to learn about Australian native plants. Discover your zen by exploring the magnificent trees on the Tree or Heritage trails, photograph the wildlife living in the trees on the Bird Trail, sizzle a sausage or go for a jog.

  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: There is no lighting in the Arboretum so visit during daylight hours.

9. Cuddle a Koala at Lone Pine Sanctuary

Things to do in Brisbane cuddle a koala
Get a chance to come up close to a koala and even carry one in your arms.

The world’s first Koala sanctuary, today Lone Pine has more than 130 koalas. The sanctuary allows you to cuddle a koala making for magical memories. You can also hand-feed kangaroos, hold a snake and see native birds and animals in natural settings.

  • Opening hours: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week
  • Entrance fees: Adults USD 25, Children 0 - 2 Free, Children (3 – 13 years old) USD 15, Seniors USD 24, Families USD 60*
  • Insider’s tip: Plan your visit to witness the  daily free flight Raptor show at 12:30 pm, it’s amazing!

10. See Brisbane from a Historic Steam Train

Steam Train Sunday in Brisbane is your chance to ride a legendary historic steam train through Brisbane. The train departs from and returns to Roma Street station. Inside its carriages, you’ll discover a bygone era of elegant rail travel.

  • Opening hours: Departs 10:15 am and 11:40 am on the first Sunday of each month.
  • Entrance fees: Adults USD 21, Children Under 3 Free, Children 3 to 15 USD 13, Concession USD 19, Families USD 62*
  • Insider’s tip: Wear sunglasses to protect the eyes from the cinders that the steam engine throws off.

11. Go Whale-Watching in Moreton Bay

Things to do in Brisbane whale watching
Humpback whales can be spotted off the coast of Brisbane from June to November.

Moreton Bay is the place to be in Brisbane for watching Humpbacks and Southern Right whales. During the whale-watching season from June to November, these gentle giants of the ocean frolic in Queensland’s warm waters as they rest from their annual migration and nurse their young.

  • Opening hours: Departing Redcliffe 7 days per week during Brisbane’s whale watching season from June to November.
  • Entrance fees: Day cruises from USD 96*
  • Insider’s tip: Bring a light raincoat in case the whale breaches close to your boat!

12. Gaze Over Brisbane from Mt Coot-Tha

Brisbane Mt Coot-Tha lookout is just seven kilometers from the CBD. If you are looking for things to see in Brisbane the lookout’s panoramic views stretch from Moreton Bay and the airport to the Brisbane River. A cafe and restaurant offering sumptuous meals are onsite.

  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: Celebrate your great Australian outdoors experience by throwing a shrimp on one of the picnic area’s gas barbecues.

13. Catch the West End Fire Festival

Orleigh Park combines fabulous river views with its legendary fire festival. Staged on the night of each full moon, there’s lots of fire twirling and spinning. Hosted by the Firetricks community a group of dedicated circus performers, they create an experience to remember.

  • Opening hours: 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm daily
  • Entrance fees: Free
  • Insider’s tip: Try your hand at fire spinning under the steady guidance of the performers — it’s seriously cool!

14. Escape to the Beaches in Moreton Island

Things to do in Brisbane - visit Moreton Island
Explore beaches and shipwrecks at Moreton Island.

Besides whale-watching, Moreton Island is also a great place to explore flawless beaches, tall sand dunes, and translucent lakes and lagoons. Go bushwalking, try sea kayaking and paddleboarding, cast a line and hook that big fish, dive or enjoy a guided snorkeling tours of the island’s wrecks and reefs.

  • Entrance fees: Entry onto the island is free although transfer and accommodation fees apply.
  • Insider’s tip: Don’t miss hand feeding wild dolphins at the Tangalooma Island Resort!

15. Indulge Your Taste Buds at the Eat Street Markets

Things to do in Brisbane - Eat Market
Try varying dishes at the Eat Street Markets.

The Eat Street Markets feature exotic culinary delights. The 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers add a splash of color to the river and city views. Encounter Peruvian curries, Jamaican jerk chicken, Vegan, Gluten-Free, Dairy Free and Halal gastronomy.

  • Opening hours: Friday & Saturday 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm Sunday 12:00 noon to 8:00 pm
  • Entrance fees: USD 2*, Children 12 years & under are free
  • Insider’s tip: Grab a Eumundi ginger beer, a local icon as you explore the nightly entertainment.

16. Ride the Wheel of Brisbane

Located in the heart of Brisbane, this architectural marvel reaches 60 meters in height. This is a great way to get a 360 degree panoramic view of Brisbane City. The 10 to 15-minute ride sees four revolutions accompanied by an audio tour of iconic Brisbane landmarks. Take in the sights of the city during the day or enjoy the beautiful city lights at night. You can even enjoy a Sky High Picnic while indulging in a choice of wines.

  • Opening hours: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm daily
  • Entrance fees: USD 10 for children, USD 15* for Adults. Children under three ride for free.
  • Insider’s tip: Plan an evening around the Wheel of Brisbane and enjoy a stroll around South Bank Parklands and visit the Eat Street Markets all in a half day trip.

Brisbane is a laid-back city with loads of atmosphere, a dynamic arts scene, sensation dining, and a heaving nightlife. There are so many things to do in Brisbane, whether you’re strolling through its lush gardens, kayaking down the Brisbane River or checking out a live band, you’ll discover a Brisbane that is full of character, awash in welcoming locals and with lots to see and experience.

Note: The prices quoted above are as per November 2018.*

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