20 cheap things to do in Brisbane
Exploring the Queensland capital shouldn’t have to break the bank. In fact, we’re happy to wager that the best of the River City’s sights don’t demand you digging deep into your pockets. You’ll find our insider’s guide to the top 20 cheap things to do in Brisbane below:
1. Team up with a Brisbane Greeter
What better way to explore Brisbane than with a Brisbanite? Be led by the hand of a local through the best-kept secrets of the city with complimentary ambassador service Brisbane Greeter.
100 Greeters are involved in the program, who speak more than 20 different languages.
2. Set sail on Moreton Bay
Channel your inner seafarer with a sail around the local islands of Moreton Bay. In an effort to encourage more Brisbanites to take to a life at sea, the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron in Manly hosts Wednesday Afternoon Go Sailing (WAGS) club every week, weather permitting.
Cost: The first three visits are complimentary.
3. Spend a day in the laneways
While Melbourne may boast a reputation for its laneways, the Queensland capital is hot on its heels. Venture through the trio of Winn, California, and Bakery Lane in Fortitude Valley, or South Brisbane’s burgeoning Fish Lane, each lined with specialty boutiques, niche bars and eclectic eateries.
Cost: Relatively cheap, provided you simply window shop.
4. Catch a cat
Considering Brisbane’s nickname is the River City, it seems a shame not to experience it aboard the high-speed ferry that runs its stretch. Embrace the water-borne commute, winding your way along the riverbed from the University of Queensland, through Toowong, the City, South Bank, New Farm, Hawthorne, Bulimba, and onto Portside Wharf.
Cost: $5.60 per adult per zone. A round trip will cost you under $10.
5. Find inspiration at QAGOMA
A visit to QAGOMA in South Bank will get your creative juices flowing. Comprised of the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, the duo each boast their own distinct personalities but share a collection of 16,000 works between them, curated from across Australia, Asia and the Pacific.
Cost: Free, though some exhibitions are ticketed.
6. Meander through South Bank
Born with Expo in ‘88, the South Bank precinct has become known as Brisbane’s backyard for good reason. Exploring the 17 hectares straddling the southern bank of the river house you’ll find cultural destinations aplenty, eateries for all budgets, and a chance to cool off at the world’s only city beach.
Cost: Access to South Bank is free, so save your pennies for the cafes and restaurants you’ll find there.
7. Taste the best of local produce
Some of Australia’s best producers proudly call Queensland home. Sample their wares at the Jan Powers Farmers Markets, a champion of local edible offerings hosted across a trio of different Brisbane locations; Brisbane Powerhouse, Manly, and Mitchelton.
Cost: Stall prices vary, but dishes are generally $10-20.
8. See a show at Brisbane Powerhouse
Don’t judge a book by its cover; this graffiti-adorned space was once a neglected power station reborn in 2000 as the home of Brisbane contemporary culture. Drop into the heritage-listed landmark year-round to experience one of the 1250 performances that colour its calendar, from comedy to cabaret.
Cost: Access to Brisbane Powerhouse is free, but shows charge varying ticket prices.
9. Get competitive at Merthyr Bowls Club
Sharpen your ball skills with a cheap game of Barefoot Bowls at one of Brisbane’s more iconic clubs in New Farm. Queenslanders aren’t ageist; bowling greens in the Sunshine State are enjoyed by young and old, but undoubtedly more often than not, without shoes and with a beer in hand.
Cost: $10 per person for a 2 hour session, which includes the supply of bowls, coaching and assistance with team organisation.
10. Gaze at the view from Mt Coot-tha lookout
Catch a glimpse of Brisbane’s best angles from the iconic lookout at Mt Coot-tha. While views of surrounding Moreton Bay, Moreton Island, and the blossoming Gold Coast can be enjoyed all day, it’s sunrise and sunset that shouldn’t be missed.
11. Immerse yourself in local history
Just as impressive at Brisbane City Hall’s grand facade is the building’s contents. Wandering the halls of the 80-year-old public space on a free guided tour you’ll encounter plenty of historic exhibitions and Brisbane-based anecdotes, but nothing as captivating as the chance to climb the 87.5-metre high clock tower.
12. Feast at Eat Street Northshore
Satisfy your hunger pangs just east of the CBD 1.5 kms up the road from Portside Wharf, where you’ll find foodie mecca Eat Street Northshore. There, 70 food vendors housed in brightly-hued shipping containers assemble each weekend. The atmosphere is a buzzing kaleidoscope of fairy lights, live music, and riverside views as you take your pick of plates of cheap and tasty delicacies from around the globe.
Cost: Admission is $3 but those 12 years and under are free. Stall prices vary, but dishes are generally $10-20.
13. Fire up the grill at Kangaroo Point Cliffs
Gift yourself the best seat in the house with a barbecue atop the ancient Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
Nestled between South Bank and the Brisbane CBD, the heritage-listed landmark is popular for climbers, runners, and leisure-seekers alike, each enticed by the views of the city skyline.
Cost: Free, aside from the cost of your barbecue food.
14. Find tranquility at Roma Street Parkland
You’ll find an inner-city oasis amidst the skyscrapers at Roma Street Parkland. Join a free tour led around the 16 hectares of manicured gardens and sprawling lawns, or simply conduct your own.
15. Picnic at New Farm Park
Beckoned by its 37-acres of garden, and the ample playgrounds and barbecues scattered throughout, 18,000 descend on New Farm Park each week. The sprawling grass areas of the historic precinct demand a picnic; all you’ll need to bring is a hamper.
Cost: The public park is free, just BYO picnic.
16. Embrace the great outdoors with Riverlife Adventure Centre
Kangaroo Point‘s Riverlife Adventure Centre is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Kayak your way along the Brisbane River, or abseil down the nearby cliffs with your tykes in tow. This space is all about making memories in the fresh air.
Cost: Dependent on age and activity.
17. Explore Mt Glorious
Like its name suggests, Mt Glorious is a rather luscious pocket of bushland and rainforest just under an hour from Brisbane. Traverse the well-trodden bushwalking tracks around its base, and you’ll find a series of scenic lookouts which make the journey worthwhile.
18. Stroll or cycle the Brisbane Riverwalk
Amble or pedal along Brisbane’s famed floating Riverwalk to get up close and personal with the city’s leading waterway. Stretching between New Farm and bustling Howard Smith Wharves, the current pathway arose in 2014 to replace the original, a victim of 2011’s Brisbane floods.
19. Work on your swing at Victoria Park Putt-Putt
Prepare your concentration skills before you embark on a game of Putt Putt at Victoria Park. The 18-hole course open morning, noon, and night, features plenty of challenging terrain to navigate, from sand to water traps. Luckily for adults, it’s also fully licensed.
20. Search for the stars at Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium
Get better acquainted with the universe at Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. Opening in 1978, the public space has been showcasing the outer stretches of the galaxy with its 12.5-metre-diameter projection dome for more than 40 years.
Cost: General entry to the Planetarium is free, but admission fees apply for Cosmic Skydome shows.
*This post was originally published in 2015 and updated in November 2019.