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Planning a trip to Australia and not sure what to do in Brisbane? Despite being a stopping point for exploring other parts of Queensland, there is actually a lot of things to do in Brisbane.
Brisbane is the third largest city in Aus and is a buzzing city with a vibrant, bohemian atmosphere. Brisbaners have a laid-back attitude and are incredibly friendly, making all who visit here want to unpack their bags for good.
Not to mention the subtropical climate which boasts warm sunshine all year round, it’s the perfect city for those who love the outdoors and being outside. Simply walking along the Brisbane River is enough.
In this guide, we have shared our Brisbane travel tips and knowledge on the best attractions in Brisbane, Queensland, so you can plan your trip to Brisbane with ease.
- Things to Do in Brisbane
- 1. Go to the lookout at the top of Mount Coot-tha
- 2. Take a ferry on the Brisbane River
- 3. Walk The Promenade along the Southbank
- 4. Visit the Southbank Museums
- 5. Visit Pine Koala Sanctuary
- 6. Explore The Neighborhoods in Brisbane
- 7. Go Bar Hopping in Fortitude Valley
- 8. Check Out The Markets and Shopping in Brisbane
- 9. Attend Brisbane River festival
- 10. Take A Day Trip from Brisbane To The Beach
- 11. Take a Brewery Tour
- 12. See A Show at Brisbane Powerhouse
- 13. Feast at Eat Street Northshore
- 14. Take The Kids to New Farm Park
- 15. Go Rock Climbing at Kangaroo Point Cliffs
- Best Time of Year to Visit Brisbane
- Where to Stay in Brisbane
- Getting To And Around Brisbane
- Where to Eat in Brisbane
- Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Brisbane
- More Queensland Inspiration
Planning your trip to Brisbane last-minute?
Don’t forget to plan ahead when visiting Brisbane! Here are some of the top tours, hotels, and useful items you may need before your trip!
Top Experiences and Tours in Brisbane
- Storey Bridge Climbing Experience (ideal for adventurers!)
- Sunset Brisbane River Cruise (an unmissable attraction in Brisbane)
- Moreton Island Snorkel & Dolphin Watch Cruise (the best day trip from Brisbane)
Top Accommodation and Hotels in Brisbane
- Brisbane Quarters (the top-rated hostel in Brisbane)
- Sofitel (ideally located in the CBD)
- Central Cosmo Apartment (vacation rental for those who need space)
Things to Do in Brisbane
Despite many people skipping Brisbane on their visits to Australia because Sydney seems to steal all the attention, there’s lots to see and do in Brisbane.
It’s worth spending some time in the city and enjoying it, rather than just using Brisbane as a stopping point on the way to the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, or Byron Bay.
1. Go to the lookout at the top of Mount Coot-tha
Hiking up to Mount Coot-Tha is one of the top things to do in Brisbane for those who love the outdoors. It’s nestled in Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens, and from the top, you’ll be surrounded by rainforest and sweeping views of the city.
There are regular buses to the summit or to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium at the base if you’d like to walk to the top through the city botanic gardens.
Go at sunset for fantastic 360-degree views over Brisbane to the coast.
There’s a restaurant and a cafe at the summit, both of which are over-priced for the food they serve but are still a good place to hang out for a drink with top views.
2. Take a ferry on the Brisbane River
There are plenty of boat tours of Brisbane and CityCat ferries to help you get around but my tip is the free Cityhopper.
It just launched on 1 July and links various Brisbane hot spots, including Eagle Street and the South Bank, along the inner city stretch of the Brisbane River and runs from 6am until midnight.
Check out this river cruise of Brisbane River! Or, if you want to try kayaking the Brisbane River, check out kayaking tours here.
3. Walk The Promenade along the Southbank
Brisbane has long river walks on both sides of the river but the Southbank is particularly vibrant.
There are free pools for the summer months. You’ll also enjoy playgrounds for the kids, markets, and street performers to entertain you.
The sparkling Brisbane River next to the South Bank parklands sets everything off beautifully and there’s a huge range of cafes and restaurants.
If you fancy a dip, head over to Streets Beach where you can paddle in the river.
4. Visit the Southbank Museums
While your in Southbank, check out the museums in the precinct. Do visit the Queensland Museum, Brisbane’s (free) State Museum where you can learn about Queensland’s history, geography, and native people from the hands on displays and beautiful exhibits.
The Sciencenter next door to Queensland Museum is great if you have kids. There’s a charge for entry but it’s worth it so allow plenty of time as the kids will want to stay and play all day.
The Museum of Brisbane which is located inside Brisbane City Hall is a great museum with fascinating temporary exhibitions. It’s free to enter and has great views of the Tower Clock.
The Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) across the street will give you great insights into life in Queensland including works by Queensland-born or Queensland-based artists and a colourful collection of indigenous art.
Next door to GOMA the State Library of Queensland is a relaxing place to hang out, research your travel options and tap into the free wifi.
5. Visit Pine Koala Sanctuary
If you’re into seeing and cuddling Australian animals and can’t make it to Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast then Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary will deliver the goods.
This is your chance to get up close and personal with a koala, and even cuddle one. You can also learn about how they have been protecting koalas since 1927 and helping with wildlife conservation in Australia.
They also have other native Aussie animals such as kangaroos and wallabies.
6. Explore The Neighborhoods in Brisbane
One of the best ways to get to know a city is to stroll around the neighborhoods and take it all in. In Brisbane, there is so much to see and so much going on, that just walking around and seeing it all come to life is one of the top things to do.
Be sure to check out the following neighborhoods…
- Fortitude Valley, known to locals as the Valley, is one of the most fun areas to hang out in within central Brisbane and is home to Brisbane’s Chinatown. It’s also full of hip young people, boutique shops and myriad restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
- New Farm is one of Brisbane’s most cosmopolitan suburbs and contains many of the city’s trendiest bars and restaurants. Thanks to its proximity to the city and riverside location, it is also becoming one of Brisbane’s most prestigious suburbs.
- Brisbane CBD and Queen Street Mall to stock up on essentials before you head off to rural Australia.
- The Southbank, with its lovely location by the Brisbane River, has something for everyone, from endless dining options to free swimming in the man-made lagoons
- Kangaroo Point is a green area with spectacular views of Brisbane city centre and impressive structures including Story Bridge and natural sandstone cliffs, both of which you can climb on tours.
7. Go Bar Hopping in Fortitude Valley
There are bars and nightclubs galore in Fortitude Valley. Sadly my bar hopping days are over but a little bird told me that these are the hip and happening spots you should check out.
- Sky Room on Wickham Street for cocktails.
- Emporium at the Emporium Hotel on Ann Street if you want to go upmarket and get dressed up.
- Cloudland, which is THE place to see and be seen in Brisbane.
For a quiet drink and an extensive wine list including wines from the nearby Granite Belt head to Bar Barossa on Queen Street just a block back from the river.
8. Check Out The Markets and Shopping in Brisbane
Queen Street Mall is Brisbane’s most popular shopping area with boutiques, chain stores and department stores to suit every budget.
The Southbank markets on Friday evenings and weekends are fun.
The Powerhouse Farmers Markets in New Farm are open on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month
9. Attend Brisbane River festival
When it comes to festivals in Brisbane, the big one is the Brisbane River festival in September when you can catch a flotilla of boats cruising down the river as well as a fireworks display.
There are plenty of other events including film festivals, arts festivals, and fashion events throughout the year. Just look out for the free local press which you can usually find in your hostel or hotel.
10. Take A Day Trip from Brisbane To The Beach
Brisbane’s location on the East Coast means it’s a great base for exploring other coastal towns and areas. It’s just a stone’s throw from the Gold Coast, and if you want quieter beaches, I’m a bit biased toward Noosa and the Sunshine Coast where I live.
If you head up there you’ll find miles of beautiful white sand beaches with ocean swimming possible all year round. If you visit during the winter months (June to November), you might even get a glimpse of a humpback whale migrating off the shores.
For beach lovers who want to stay closer to Brisbane try Moreton Bay and Bribie Island. North Stradbroke Island is another great island off Brisbane to explore and is known for its excellent beaches, camping, and position for whale watching.
The Granite Belt is also a short day trip away. It’s a well-known wine-growing area with heaps of vineyards and wine tastings as well as Girraween National Park, which is gorgeous.
11. Take a Brewery Tour
Queenslanders love beers, and Brisbane is the home of the world-famous beer, XXXX. You can learn all about the XXXX production on a brewery tour..
On the tour, you not only get to learn about the brewing process, but see how they are made and learn to pour the perfect pint.
The tour takes you behind the Learn how the brewery and tells you about its 135 years of history, see the inner chambers and see the bottling room.
This is one of the more unique things to do in Brisbane and is perfect for beer enthusiasts.
12. See A Show at Brisbane Powerhouse
The Powerhouse is a live performance venue and is a great place to catch a comedy show, watch live music, or a theatrical performance.
If you’re planning a visit for May, then you will have come to Brisbane during the Brisbane Comedy Festival, and some of the biggest comedy names and performers will be showing their acts at the Powerhouse.
Any visitors to Brisbane should check to see what’s on at this venue, as there is always something good on. It’s my top tip for things to do in Brisbane at night.
13. Feast at Eat Street Northshore
Eat Street Northshore is a night market serving street food and delicious meals from its quirky market stalls made out of shipping containers.
It’s a bit of a way out of the CBD, located on a disused historic wharf next to the Brisbane River, but it’s worth the trek for the atmosphere.
Not only does it have 70 stalls and five themed bars, but it also have live entertainment, music and quirky shops. You can sample cuisines from pretty much any country, and enjoy your delicious meal while listening to a live band play.
Since it’s only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it’s one of the top things to do in Brisbane at the weekend.
14. Take The Kids to New Farm Park
If you’re looking for some outdoor fun, pack up a picnic and head over to New Farm Park. It’s only three CityCat stops from the CBD and is the oldest and biggest urban park in Brisbane.
While your kids run around the grassy areas you can sit back and take in the scenic river views, or head over to the playground where your kids can let off some steam.
On a Saturday morning, you’ll find a farmer’s market here from 6am – 12pm. It’s the perfect place to sit back and relax.
15. Go Rock Climbing at Kangaroo Point Cliffs
Another park in Brisbane is Kangaroo Point Cliffs which is known for having amazing rock climbing and abseiling facilities.
The climbing precinct is by the ferry terminal and Maritime Museum. Click here to join an organized abseiling experience with instructor.
The park also has public barbecues, a picnic area, and a boat ramp where you can launch your own canoe or kayak.
If you’re not into climbing, it’s another waterfront park where you can sit back and relax to serene river views.
Best Time of Year to Visit Brisbane
The great thing about Brisbane is there is no bad time to visit in terms of the weather. It’s always sunny in Brisbane, making it a great holiday destination all year round.
If you don’t like crowds, I would avoid visiting during the summer school holidays in January when it’s super hot and the entire Southbank is crawling with people.
Where to Stay in Brisbane
Spring Hill has plenty of great hotels and hostels for the budget traveler including Brisbane Quarters.
For luxury check out the Sofitel in the CBD or the Treasury Hotel and Casino.
If you’re traveling with friends or family booking an apartment at Central Cosmo Apartment is a great deal. We have also stayed at the Novotel Brisbane South Bank before which was fantastic.
Many of the apartments have spectacular river views and they’re all right on the river and within easy walking distance of Fortitude Valley.
Getting To And Around Brisbane
Qantas has international flights to Brisbane Airport from big transport hubs like Auckland, Los Angeles, and Singapore and there are plenty of domestic flights to other big cities around Australia.
You can also get here by train or bus and driving around the city is quite easy too if you have your own wheels.
When it comes to getting around Brisbane, you can pretty much walk anywhere.
Walking along the river makes it fun to walk around. If the distances are too far or you’re in a hurry there are buses and river ferries as well as services like Greyhound buses to get you out of the city to your next destination.
Where to Eat in Brisbane
Brisbane’s foodie scene is taking off with endless great cafes and restaurants to choose from.
For the best assortment of international restaurants, including a dizzying array of Asian restaurants in Chinatown, head to the Fortitude Valley area and try:
- Wagaya – Set on a first floor over Brunswick Street this huge, busy Japanese restaurant has several booths as well as private rooms and traditional Japanese-style rooms. With touchscreen ordering and a vast choice of dishes, this is a cheap and cheerful place to eat that’s got something for everyone.
- Grill’d – For gourmet burgers including beef, chicken and lamb along with three rather fine vegetarian options.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Brisbane
I love Brisbane because it’s got a fabulous sub-tropical climate so it never gets that cold, plus it’s got all the glitz and glamour of a big city yet it’s easy to get around and the people are friendly.
BIO: Annabel Candy is a freelance writer and web designer. Born in England, she’s traveled to over 40 countries, lived in eight of them, and has both British and Kiwi passports. But don’t hold that against her. Annabel now lives in Noosa, Australia where she writes her travel blog, shares blogging tips, and spends far too much time on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.
Tours in Brisbane
More Queensland Inspiration
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