12 best things to do in Brisbane

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  • Post last modified:June 2, 2024
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Hopping from sight to sight along the Brisbane River is sightseeing at its finest. Tick off these best things to do in Brisbane, and you’ll soon find yourself embracing a pleasant riverfront lifestyle like no other.

1. Venture along splashing Brisbane River

Sightseeing in a big city doesn’t have to mean navigating busy streets and squares. Soothing Brisbane River meanders through Brissie like a long wet snake, connecting many of the city’s best attractions.

Do like the locals and descend on the pathways that hug the river and allow for the finest of big-city recreation. Walking, jogging or cycling along the water’s edge while ticking off sights makes for a grand day.

When you don’t want to work for it any longer, top off the river experience by sitting back on a Brisbane ferry. A dutiful fleet of inner-city boats, including free CityHoppers, happily shows you around.

Two men fishing on boat on the Brisbane River in front of Brisbane's glittering skyline
Enjoy recreational activities along the Brisbane River.

2. Prove that you were there by the Brisbane Sign

The simplicity of the Brisbane Sign doesn’t make it less appreciated. Set on South Bank’s riverfront with the CBD’s shiny skyline in the background, these uncomplicated, big colourful letters provide a quintessential photo opportunity. Make a quick stop, snap that picture and then move on for much more Brissie.

Large colourful letters saying "Brisbane" on the green banks of the Brisbane River
Capture these vivid Brisbane letters.

3. Zoom out at Mount Cooth-tha

Some of the best views are from a distance, as proven by eucalyptus-covered Mount Cooth-tha, a 15-minute drive west of the CBD. Here, bushland trails offer beautiful hiking opportunities, but the star attraction is the car-accessible Mount Cooth-tha Summit Lookout. While the 226m overlook ironically isn’t the mountain’s highest point, it provides an unbeatable vista of Brisbane, with glittering Moreton Bay on the horizon. Bring your own picnic or pay the appreciated Summit Cafe a visit for maximum enjoyment.

4. Feel on top of the world crossing Story Bridge

Spanning Brisbane River, between Kangaroo Point and Fortitude Valley, Story Bridge is Australia’s longest cantilever bridge. Crossing on its west-facing pathway, walkers and bikers can absorb awe-inspiring CBD views.

But to savour the very best vantage point in town, sign up for the iconic Story Bridge Adventure Climb. At the monument’s top, thrilling 360-degree views also encompassing Moreton Bay (east) and Glass House Mountains (north) await.

Green trees and picnic areas below the base of cantilever Story Bridge on the Kangaroo Point side of the Brisbane River
In one way or another, you need to traverse Story Bridge.

5. Power up at celebratory Howard Smith Wharves

Howard Smith Wharves, in the shade beneath Story Bridge and along rising New Farm Cliffs, showcases the delightful Brisbane lifestyle like no other place. Recharge in style as you explore the heritage-listed modern-day entertainment hub boasting myriad places to eat and drink right by the river. At the heart of it all, acclaimed Felons Brewing Company pours you cooling beers and ciders.

Don’t want to leave? Check in at the precinct’s own Crystalbrook Vincent, a stylish hotel with original Vincent Fantauzzo artworks

6. Immerse yourself in Queensland Cultural Centre

It’s easy to feel inspired at Queensland Cultural Centre, a cluster of leading institutions with something to reflect on for everyone. View Australian and international masterpieces at Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), delve into the state’s natural and cultural heritage at Queensland Museum (with popular interactive exhibits for kids), catch a sparkling show at Queensland Performing Arts Centre or browse wide-ranging collections at the State Library of Queensland — beautifully set on the green riverfront of South Bank.

Gigantic humpback whale statues hanging from the ceiling at Queensland Museum
Look up at the Queensland Museum.

7. Find zen in Brisbane’s botanic gardens

Some of Brisbane’s most beloved features are its green spaces. Find inspiration in not one but two botanic gardens, each with its own charm.

The original, nestled in Brissie’s heart, 17-hectare City Botanic Gardens was first planted as a farm by convicts of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1825. Soak up the history as you relish well-groomed lawns, tranquil ponds and vivid flowerbeds brilliantly flanked by the Brisbane River.

The biggest, 56-acre Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha stands out for its many distinctive, carefully curated plant segments. Marvel at all from an eye-popping tropical dome and rainforests to a mountain-pond-stream-themed Japanese garden and a bonsai house.

8. Cool off at inner-city Streets Beach

Approaching a crystal-clear lagoon fringed by white sand and swaying palm trees, complete with a lifeguard station, at the heart of pulsating Brisbane, you may think you’re experiencing a mirage. But you’re not; the pleasing sight in front of you is man-made Streets Beach in South Bank. Unfurl a towel on the soft shoreline and, for complete salvation, dive into the refreshing water.

Streets Beach, a Brisbane oasis.

9. Say g’day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

If you want to cuddle with, arguably, Australia’s cutest animal, there’s no better place to do it than Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, a 20-minute drive south of the CBD. Occupying 18 bushy hectares next to the Brisbane River, it’s the world’s largest and, founded in 1927, oldest koala sanctuary. On top of 100-plus koalas, keep an eye out for kangaroos, dingoes, platypuses and many other Australian favorites.

10. Admire Brisbane City Hall

Massive neo-classical Brisbane City Hall, amid the CBD’s buzz, is bound to impress. Gawp at 14m Corinthian columns guarding the main entrance, gaze up at the clock tower rising 92m above you and enter to find a stately foyer crowned by a magnificent marble staircase.

This is another helpful guide by Strayaguide.com

For unique insights about the exceptional landmark, book a guided City Hall Tour or Clock Tower Tour with the Museum of Brisbane. Then immerse yourself in engaging Brisbane stories at the museum itself, which occupies the third floor.

Sandstone-clad Brisbane City Hall with Corinthian columns and a soaring clock tower fronting King George Square
Be dazzled by Brisbane City Hall.

11. Feast and laugh your way through Eat Street

Pay a few dollars to enter Eat Street, a weekend hotspot created from 180 repurposed shipping containers on Brisbane’s North Shore. Inside, sample 70-plus food vendors competing for your attention with flavours from all corners of the globe. Multiple entertainment venues, a great variety of performing artists and thousands of bright lights ensure a festival-like ambience and that nobody wants to leave early.

Pro tip: Beat the traffic and take the CityCat to the Northshore Hamilton Ferry Terminal, located within 250m of Eat Street.

12. Switch to island time

Complete your Brisbane trip with a dreamy island escape. Floating off the coast, North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island both feature pristine stretches of sand and clear waters just waiting to be explored.

North Stradbroke Island has an alluring lineup of beaches, including east-facing Main Beach, offering epic surf, and north-facing Cylinder Beach, with generally calmer waves. That the ferry trip over only takes 25 minutes and a bus line connects the island’s three small hubs, Dunwich, Amity and Point Lookout, makes excursions easy.

Moreton Island, a 75-minute ferry ride from Brisbane, is the definition of an adventure. Four-wheel drive across the world’s third-biggest sand island, of which 98% constitutes national park land, on your own or join a tour to get the serene scenery served. Don’t miss the 15 deliberately sunken Tangalooma Wrecks while you’re there.

The Tangalooma Wrecks surrounded by clear blue water just off the coast of Moreton Island
The Tangalooma Wrecks of Moreton Island.

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