30 of the best things to do in and around Brisbane
With almost 300 days of sunshine per year and long, warm summers (even our winter days hover around 24 degrees), there are a myriad of things to do in Brisbane that take full advantage of our incredible weather.
Our sub-tropical clime makes for a city of lush green parks and gardens, miles upon miles of riverside walkways, and dozens of al fresco bars restaurants better than anywhere else. Our adjacent islands are packed with sand dunes, ancient shipwrecks and pristine beaches. Brisbane is a place to relax, recharge and get outdoors. We don’t take ourselves too seriously here, either.
To get you started, here are 30 things to do in Brisbane that will make you fall in love with the great outdoors.
Things to do in Brisbane CBD
1. If finding (and devouring) the latest food trend is your preferred pastime, then open-air market precinct Eat Street Northshore should be first on your Brisbane to-do list. Featuring over 180 permanent stalls, this mammoth riverside hub is made entirely from shipping containers and is where locals come to chill out and fill up.
2. Stroll along the Brisbane Riverwalk. This tranquil boardwalk runs parallel to the Brisbane River and takes in some of the most idyllic suburbs and Brisbane city views. The official route takes you from New Farm to the historic Howard Smith Wharves precinct on the edge of the CBD, but if you’re looking to up your daily steps, start at Teneriffe and wind past the city to the Botanic Gardens. It’s the ultimate power walk.
3. Throw down a rug and have a picnic under the enormous fig trees at New Farm Park. As well as being right by the riverfront, this picturesque patch of greenery is adjacent to the iconic Brisbane Powerhouse, where, alongside being home to some of the best theatre shows in town, it’s also home to a handful of incredible al fresco eateries that overlook the riverfront. Cold beers and warm breezes; does it get better?
4. If there’s one thing Brisbane really excels at, it’s farmers markets. Make a visit to any of the Jan Powers Farmers Markets for a rainbow of fresh Queensland produce from local growers. Held every Saturday and Sunday at various locations across Brisbane, there’s never not a good time to head to market.
5. Take in the sights and sounds of Brisbane’s majestic Brisbane River, courtesy of the adventure-loving crew at Riverlife. Kayak along the Brown Snake, abseil down the Kangaroo Point Cliffs—even sign up for a twilight kayak tour—for some spectacular views of the city.
6. Strap on a harness and scale the Story Bridge with Story Bridge Adventure Climb. From the top, you’ll have a bird’s eye view over the river out to Moreton Bay, down to the Gold Coast and out to the Scenic Rim.
7. Ditch four wheels and hike Mount Coot-tha. As well as boasting magnificent views of the CBD, the forest is home to the popular Simpson and JC Slaughter Falls. The Eugenia Circuit winding through eucalypt woodland and vine forest is also the perfect spot to stop for a picnic, with designated areas dotted throughout under shady gum trees.
8. Visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and get to know Australia’s famous furry icon. Make a day of it and cruise down the river with Mirimar Cruises to learn about Brisbane’s history before arriving at Lone Pine to learn about all things koala.
9. Spend an evening supporting emerging Australian and international artists at Brisbane Powerhouse. Nestled between the river and New Farm Park, Brisbane’s arts hub is as renowned for comedy acts and live music as it is for sipping on Aperol Spritz’ out on the al fresco deck at Bar Alto. Settle in to watch the City Cats and boats cruise along the river as the sun sets after a show.
10. An elegant, tree-lined shopping street with a multitude of laneways, small bars and boutique hotels, James Street in Fortitude Valley is the place to watch day turn to night. Not just a high-end shopping hub, James Street is home to burgeoning dining scene that’s takes full advantage of Brisbane’s sun-soaked days; quaint kerbside cafes and gelaterias, sprawling beer gardens and rooftop pool bars are the norm here.
11. 2018 saw the completion of a multi-million-dollar renovation of the heritage-listed Howard Smith Wharves. Situated right beneath the Story Bridge, HSW has become a riverside hub. Floating riverside bars, Greek, Italian and Japanese fine dining spots dotted along the boardwalk, and Brisbane’s first CBD craft brewery all reside here. Remember to BYO a picnic blanket and stretch out on the lawns overlooking the Story Bridge; there are definitely worse spots to spend a day.
12. For the ultimate adrenaline rush (and to practice your aerial back flips) spend a morning riding the currents at iFly Indoor Skydiving. Boasting a state-of-the-art 360-degree vertical wind tunnel, feel what it’s like to freefall—without the need to jump out of plane.
13. Eyes to the sky at the Tropical Display Dome in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Taking its cue from the famous Eden Project in the UK, explore the serene surrounds inside this immense glass domed greenhouse. With 56 hectares of surrounding nature to explore, this one’s perfect for flora and fauna admirers.
14. If you’re looking for outdoor dining options on the southside, Fish Lane is your go-to for eating under the stars. A host of local faves happen to reside along this bustling laneway—but locals don’t just come here for the food. South Brisbane has become a haven for international street artists to flex their creative muscles, with Fish Lane its beating heart. Explore the ever-changing murals and sculptures that adorn every surface along the laneway, then stay for a bite to eat.
15. Add a touch of traditional charm to your Saturday afternoon session in New Farm and roll a bowl at the Merthyr Bowls Club. Set against the backdrop of the Brisbane River and jacaranda trees, let out your competitive edge – frosty in hand.
16. Roma Street Parklands on the edge of the Brisbane CBD is a green haven away from the heat and humidity of the city. Festivals pop-up here throughout the year, so there’s always something to pique your interest, but it’s the peaceful gardens, lush green lawns and statement three-storey waterfall feature that will have you packing a picnic basket faster than you can say party pie.
17. A world-class stadium and sporting Mecca, secure seats to watch the Australian cricket team whack a six at the Gabba. An Aussie tradition, be sure to get yourself a pie and a cold drink at the ground’s bar before settling in under a wide brimmed hat.
18. Gear up for a scenic ride with Brisbane by Bicycle. Running three tours that showcase the beauty and history of the river city, head out on a twilight bike ride with you and your fellow riders as you take in the city skyline as the sun sets.
19. South Bank has some of the very best things to do in Brisbane. As well as some of the world’s finest art galleries and theatres, including QAGOMA, Queensland Ballet and QPAC, South Bank has acres of outdoor gardens, river walkways, riverside restaurants and its very own beach with views overlooking the CBD. Plan your trip or simply take a walk; it’s hard to put a wrong foot round these parts.
Things to do near Brisbane
21. Plan a day trip out to Tangalooma Island Resort. Moreton Bay is home to over 600 wild dolphins and guests are given the opportunity to feed the dolphins at sunset, wading into the water, fish in hand.
22. Dive among the Tangalooma wrecks off Moreton Island. A world-class snorkelling and scuba destination, you’ll find wobbegongs, trevally, kingfish yellowtail and all sorts of tropical fish in the calm Moreton Bay waters.
23. In Brisbane, the early bird gets the worm (and a spectacular view). Take to the skies with Floating Images Hot Air Balloon Flights, which has just celebrated its 18th anniversary of flying people over Ipswich, Somerset and the Scenic Rim. It’s the closest air-ballooning experience to the city, and won’t disappoint with those pink sunrise skies.
25. Famous for its protected sand dunes, Moreton Island is one Australia’s most famous camping destinations. Hire a 4WD wheels and make tracks along the golden sandy beaches before setting up camp along the rugged coastline.
26. Get on island-time with North Stradbroke Island (for the surfers) and Moreton Island (for the snorkellers and 4WD enthusiasts) only short ferry trips away. Put some sand on your wheels and 4WD ‘Straddie’. If you don’t have your own 4WD, let Barefoot Dave show you around. Strap on SCUBA gear and explore the underwater world with the legends at Manta Lodge on North Stradbroke Island. You can see manta rays year-round, but the cooler months are when these gentle giants come through in larger groups.
27. Less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane, Lake Somerset is a breathtaking expanse of crisp, calm waters, ideal for water sport lovers. The lake permits both motorised and non-motorised boats (read: dropping a line here is a-okay) and is known as the perfect spot to try your hand at water skiing and wakeboarding.
28. Jump on a 10-minute ferry from Victoria Point and explore the tranquil Coochiemudlo Island. Try your hand at stand-up paddle boarding, tandem bike-riding, kayaking or jump on an old-fashioned aqua-bike and cruise around the calm waters of Moreton Bay.
29. If you find yourself in Brisbane between June-November, catch all the action of the annual humpback whale migration with Brisbane Whale Watching Tours in Moreton Bay. Often seen jumping out of the water mere metres from the shoreline, you’ll never forget your first sighting of these magnificent creatures.
30. Take a hike through the glorious National Park and rainforest aptly named Mount Glorious. At 680 metres above sea level, the air is cool and crisp up here—even in the height of summer—making it a unique hiking destination.