Updated: Apr 28
Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is Australia’s third-largest city. The city is full of modern and historical attractions. The best part is that many of the top things to do and see are easily accessible via ferry ride along the beautiful winding Brisbane River.
Besides the cultural and historical institutions, you can get closer to nature in the many parks and gardens and enjoy the city view from the summit of Mt Coot-tha. Or, you can get even closer to the river with a paddle in a kayak.
If food and shopping are more of your things, Brisbane has a huge selection of amazing restaurants, street market eateries and the Queen Street Mall.
For a great family day out to remember, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, only 12km from Brisbane city, will get you up close and personal with koalas, kangaroos and other Australian wildlife.
Brisbane River & Southbank
Brisbane River offers a multitude of activities and things to see for all ages. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, South Bank Parklands is a must. Here you can take a dip at Streets Beach, Australia’s only city beach! Cool off in the crystal clear lagoon and soak in the atmosphere on the white sand beach, all with the Brisbane skyline right in front of you.
Nearby is the architecturally award-winning Arbour - a kilometre-long awning covered in beautiful pink bougainvillea flowers. Take a relaxing stroll underneath and dream the day away.
Southbank is also home to a vast array of gardens, including the Epicurious Garden, where fresh produce and plant life is grown and looked after by dedicated gardener volunteers.
Make sure you visit the awe-inspiring three stories high Nepalese Pagoda, featuring hand-carved timber that took 160 Nepalese families 2 years to build.
Further along, you will see The Wheel of Brisbane, offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the river, the city and beyond. The wheel is open 7 days a week and there is no need to book.
Getting around Brisbane is easy, and there is no better way than on the CityHopper ferry – a free service that departs from South Bank Terminal 3 every 30 minutes. You can hop on and off as many times as you like, visiting all of the main attractions along the way. An alternative is buying a ticket on the CityCat ferry service, which runs more frequently and travels a little faster along the river.
Southbank is also a hive of activity in the evenings. There are lots of restaurants and cafes, and the Stanley Street Plaza markets are open until 9 pm. If you’re looking for something more on the adventurous side, get yourself into a kayak for a Friday Night Paddle & Prawns or Saturday Night Paddle & BBQ. This unique adventure will have you gliding up the Brisbane River on 1.5 hours illuminated kayak, allowing you to take in the twinkling lights of the city. Upon arriving back on land, you’ll be greeted with buckets of fresh ocean king prawns or a BBQ feast with beer, wine and soft drinks served in a riverside marquee.
Fancy a cuddle with a koala? Just 12km from Brisbane city is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – the world’s largest, with over 130 koalas in its care!
Open daily, the sanctuary is easy to get to by bus from the city, or make a day of it and take the Mirimar boat cruise past Brisbane’s waterside mansions. The boat departs at 10 am from Southbank, and allows you 2.5 hours at the sanctuary before returning you back to the city.
At the sanctuary, up-close encounters include holding koalas, feeding a platypus, walking with a dingo, and only for the brave, holding a raptor or wrapping a python around your shoulders! If you prefer to keep your distance, there are many more Australian animals to enjoy around the grounds.
Gardens & Bridge Walks
For garden lovers, the Roma Street Parkland and Spring Hill are a must-see. The Roma Street Parkland is considered to be among the best display gardens in Australia. You have the option of enjoying a one-hour free guided tour or stroll at your own pace. The Spectacle Garden is bursting with colour all year round and features artworks and water features.
Refresh and refuel at one of the cafés in Spring Hill, and visit the Old Windmill and Spring Hill Baths. Roma Street Parkland and Spring Hill are a unique part of Brisbane’s history and located to the north of the city centre.
On the other side of the city, you’ll find the City Botanical Gardens. This is Brisbane’s oldest park, with the gardens originally planted by convicts in 1825. The garden is full of rainforest glades and exotic species, as well as ancient trees.
Mount Coot-tha Lookout
A little out of town is the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha. You can get there on the Brisbane Explorer open-top double-decker bus. You can be driven to the top of Mt Coot-tha where you can take in the sweeping views of the city. There is a café at the top, gift shop and toilets. Back down in the gardens, a visit to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium will have you gazing at the night sky in the Cosmic Skydome.
For those who aren’t afraid of heights, you will not forget climbing Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge. You can make the climb from dawn to dusk. Whatever time of day you choose, enjoy taking in the breathtaking view of the city and its surrounds. If adrenalin is what you are seeking, there is an optional 30-metre abseil back down!
Soak up the Culture & History
Brisbane also boasts Australia’s largest modern and contemporary art gallery, the QAGOMA (The Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art). The gallery, which is situated in two adjacent riverside buildings in the Southbank area, has over 17,000 historical, modern and contemporary pieces of art.
If you’re planning a visit to Spring Hill, don’t miss the chance to glimpse Brisbane’s oldest building. Built by convicts, the Old Windmill is the longest surviving windmill in existence in Australia. Whilst you can’t go inside, you can learn about the tortured convicts that had to operate the treadmill in the blazing Brisbane climate.
Eat, Shop and Repeat
What’s a holiday without dining out and doing a spot of shopping? Brisbane has plenty on offer on both counts. For a lively food experience, the Eat Street Markets are a collection of food stalls full of variety, along with craft beer, cider stalls and live music. Do note that you have to pay a $2.50 entry fee, and be prepared for the crowds!
Brisbane boasts world-class cuisine in its fine restaurants, many of which are located along Southbank and the Brisbane River. Check out restaurant review sites to see what is on offer and which ones are popular.
For a great shopping experience, head to Queen Street Mall in the heart of the city. This popular pedestrian shopping strip offers international labels and more than 700 retailers. For something a bit more local and unique, the Collective Markets offer a diverse range of fashions by emerging designers, vintage clothing, artwork, homewares and handmade jewellery. The markets are open Friday evenings, Saturday and Sunday and are located on Southbank.
Discover Brisbane’s best activities, free events and tickets. Search for everything from yoga to festivals, from gigs to sports, from stuff for kids to adults-only. All the best events are here.