Are you looking for fun things to do in Brisbane? Whether you’re just visiting for a weekend, or you’re simply looking for new experiences as a local, there’s plenty to do in our river city.
As a Brisbane local myself, I’m sharing my picks that you need to do at least once when you are in Brisbane. Everything is centred around the city and there are loads of completely free things to do in Brisbane.
Whether you’re looking for family-friendly activities, you’re a solo traveller, or you’re here with a special someone or a group of mates – Brisbane city offers something for everyone.
I’ve lived in Brisbane for all of my 30 plus years, except for a few international adventures in between. What I like about Brisbane is that there’s always something to do and the weather agrees!
As the third most populous city on Australia’s East Coast, the Greater Brisbane region is actually quite large, but the inner city is compact and easily accessible. Friends from Sydney and Melbourne love the fact that everything in Brisbane is pretty close together so it’s fairly easy to get around especially if you have a car.
What Brisbane city doesn’t have in white sandy beaches, it more than makes up for with loads to explore in the city and along the coastline.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s not just about the outdoors. It feels like there is a new restaurant, cafe or bar opening weekly.
There are also loads of free activities, family-friendly attractions, day trips, and plenty to do to fill your time here! This just means there is a growing list of exciting places to check out in Brisbane.
See the city skyline from a totally different perspective – abseiling 20 metres down the Kangaroo Cliffs in Brisbane! Not for the faint hearted, this activity is sure to get the blood pumping.
The Kangaroo Point Cliffs abseiling experience is directly across the river from the Brisbane CBD so location-wise it’s super convenient by bus, ferry, or foot. There are some pretty steep stairs alongside the cliffs frequented by joggers so stay alert and keep to one side.
For those that want more than just abseiling, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs also offers rock climbing by daylight and moonlight. You can scale and abseil during the day but I’d recommend going at sunset to truly make the most of the incredible panoramic views. Pre-book the Kangaroo Point Cliffs abseiling experience because it does get booked up.
Afterwards, if it’s time for a celebratory snack or drink there’s options nearby – check out Joey’s on the cliff top for their great cocktails and pizza.
2. Go on a sunset river cruise
The most relaxing way to see the inner-city sights is on this 1.5 hour sunset river cruise, run by the super friendly crew at River City Cruises. Starting off in the sunshine, this comfortable cruise takes you along the most central part of the river from South Brisbane to Teneriffe, and back again to the backdrop of city night lights.
Classic Aussie snacks are provided – think cheese, kabana, dip and crackers – and you can purchase drinks on board from their licensed bar. There’s a surprisingly good selection despite this not being a party boat.
I’d suggest arriving at the dock early to grab your ideal table as soon as you board, and bring a jacket if you want to sit on the top deck as it can get breezy. It’s not a big tourist boat, but it does offer cosy vibes as well as having stability for a smooth ride.
3. Story Bridge Adventure Climb
As one of only three bridge climb experiences in the whole world, see incredible panoramic views from the top of the iconic Story Bridge Climb. This is one of the most exciting things to do in Brisbane and absolutely a must-do when you visit Brisbane.
The 1.5 hour experience includes a guided commentary about Brisbane’s history and the history of the bridge. It’s a really unique and fun thing to do in Brisbane city.
While you can’t take your camera with you, you won’t miss out on getting that memorable snap. The crew take great professional photos without the risk of you dropping your phone.
So enjoy the challenge of a bridge climb and fully take in the views of Brisbane’s CBD, New Farm Park, and surrounds. Tick it off your bucket list!
4. Brisbane River Kayaking
A guided Brisbane kayak tour is a unique way to see the main sights in the city centre. You can choose to go during the day, or at sunset to get the best of both kinds of views.
This 1.5 hour experience should be on your list of things to do in Brisbane. Hear anecdotes from a Brissie local, as you paddle along the river and check out the sights. The section underneath the Story Bridge is particularly stunning and you’ll want to have your camera ready.
I’d suggest checking the weather forecast before you book, because this is the perfect activity for a sunny or cloudy day. Sunscreen is provided but bring a hat and your sense of adventure.
If you’ve never been kayaking before, the instructors are committed to making sure you’re feeling comfortable.
The great thing about the kayak tour is that you can take advantage of the shower facilities afterwards to freshen up and continue on to the next activity.
5. See the Brisbane River by ferry
The Brisbane River winds through the Brisbane CBD and is basically the jumping off point for a bunch of great activities – many of which are in this guide. If you familiarise yourself with the Brisbane River, this also means familiarising yourself with the inner city suburbs which makes it so much easier to know what’s around to visit.
If you’ve got time to spare, hop on the City Cat ferry to see the sights for as cheap as possible. You will need to purchase a Go Card or a paper ticket before you get on the ferry, although soon they will be introducing tap-and-go ticketing just like Sydney has.
Go the whole length of the service one-way in is about 1.5 hours. Going east from the Brisbane CBD takes you to Northshore Hamilton (scroll down to read more about New Farm Park and Eat Street Northshore!).
Going west from Brisbane’s CBD takes you to University of Queensland in St Lucia (keep reading on to hear about West End Markets and South Bank).
The City Cat gives you great river views of the city skyline, stunning riverfront homes, parklands, and it goes right under the Story Bridge. It doesn’t matter which direction you go, or you can split it up over a couple days. City Cats are fully accessible and have both inside air-conditioned seating as well as outdoor breezy seating.
The City Hopper service, with the adorably named Kitty Cat boats, are smaller ferries that run completely free services across seven stops in the inner city. Perfect for those who are staying in hotel rooms in the Brisbane CBD near Queen Street Mall and just want to check out the sights close by. Just turn up and hop on.
6. West End Markets
This is the place to be on a Saturday morning when you visit Brisbane.
The West End Markets has over 150 unique market stalls, with everything from local organic fresh produce, food trucks, and handmade gifts.
There’s free entry, so grab a coffee and breakfast and sit under one of the leafy fig trees to listen to local live music. It’s great for people watching, if that’s your thing, and there’s plenty of dogs to admire and pat, if that’s also your thing!
Bring eco-friendly bags with you to stock up on goods, and don’t worry about cash as most stalls only accept card payments. The location at Davies Park makes for a relaxing day by the Brisbane river.
It’s fairly easy to get to – hop off the blue City Glider bus out the front or walk from South Bank. Parking can be tricky though because of the inner city location and how popular it is, so walking or public transport is recommended.
7. Parklands in the inner city
Brisbane city is blessed with several large parklands in the inner city, filled with wildlife, events, picnic areas, playgrounds. There’s always things to do in Brisbane here.
Roma Street Parkland is 16 hectares of public space, with landscaped gardens and lush green lawns. Most weekends you’ll find some sort of event or festival on here and in summer I love the Moonlight Cinema and the Enchanted Garden (bookings required for both). Another must-do with kids is to ride the aptly named Xpress Fun Train through the Roma Street Parkland (for $5).
The Brisbane City Botanic Gardens is nestled in the heart of the CBD along the river, next to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Parliament House. Enjoy a riverside walk under the canopy of Moreton Bay fig trees, and venture into the gardens to discover the ponds and playgrounds. Take a Brisbane Botanic Gardens free guided walk organised by volunteers, or join in a free community fitness class.
At both Roma Street Parkland and Brisbane Botanic Gardens, you’ll find local wildlife in their natural habitat. It’s really a fantastic experience right in the city centre.
8. Brisbane Riverwalk
You can enjoy a relaxing riverside stroll, run, roll, scoot or cycle along the flat boardwalk on the Brisbane Riverwalk. What’s normally called the Brisbane Riverwalk is less than a kilometre from the Brisbane CBD and goes along the river past the Sydney Street terminal to New Farm Park.
However there are also a few other scenic riverwalks in the inner city. Go west from the Brisbane CBD out to Toowong, checking out Suncorp Stadium, the XXXX Brewery or the Milton Markets along the way. Go from South Brisbane to Orleigh Park in West End for a relaxing walk or chilled out picnic. Go east from South Bank to Kangaroo Point, going past the base of the Kangaroo Point cliffs and under the Story Bridge.
With all of these options, there are plenty of rest stops, shade, restaurants, bars and cafes on the way to help rejuvenate you.
9. Howard Smith Wharves
Under the Story Bridge on the northern bank of the Brisbane River, and just a short walk from the Brisbane CBD or New Farm, you’ll find the rejuvenated Howard Smith Wharves – an entertainment destination for all ages.
Kids will love running on the spacious turf, lying in the bean bags or playing in the pirate ship playground.
And big kids will love the live music, relaxed riverside atmosphere, and great food and drinks.
Plus it’s dog friendly and half the fun is people/dog watching.
There are plenty of food options from high end restaurants such as Stanley, to more relaxed options like Betty’s Burgers and Felons. My favourite spots are Greca (to eat), Mr Percivals (to drink), and Fiume Rooftop Bar (for views).
This is somewhere you can easily spend an entire day and want to come back the next day too. Come in the afternoon and stay past sunset for the best vibes, and cross your fingers that a table will become available as you’re walking past. It gets busy but any local will tell you it’s one of the best things to do in Brisbane.
10. South Bank Parklands and Streets Beach
During summer months, expect free fitness classes, movies under the stars, and live music on the green. There’s still heaps to do outside of summer though – there are weekend markets, events, and it’s a foodie haven with loads to choose from.
Now, who said there aren’t any sandy beaches in the city?
The highlight of South Bank, especially for families, is Australia’s only inner city man-made beach called Streets Beach. Picture white sand, crystal clear lagoons, and water play parks perfect for swimming – but right on the bank of the Brisbane River overlooking the city skyline.
The beach is patrolled by qualified life guards, and there are great picnic areas and BBQs nearby to make a day of it. Best of all, the whole of Streets Beach and South Bank Parklands is totally free so it’s a great idea for a day trip activity.
11. Gallery of Modern Art and Art Gallery
In the midst of South Bank you’ll find the Brisbane cultural centre. This complex contains the Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Queensland Museum and Science Centre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), and the State Library.
The Gallery of Modern Art, in particular, always has curious and exciting exhibits from all around the world. Expect to find some kid-friendly options that will capture their imagination and attention.
These accessible venues normally have a few exhibits available for free. For other areas that might require tickets, you can pre-book in advance (recommended for popular exhibits) or purchase on the day.
You could easily spend an entire day (or more) in this corner of South Bank. Spending an afternoon wandering the gallery is one of my favourite things to do in Brisbane.
12. Feel like you’re at a festival at Eat Street Northshore
Eat Street feels a bit like walking into a festival every single weekend on the Northshore in Brisbane, just bear in mind getting here by public transport is a bit tricky.
The best part of Eat Street is that it’s got something for everyone, with about 50 food and drink stalls. It’s the perfect activity for families, friends, couples or solo travellers for Friday nights or weekends if you like great food, live music and good vibes.
There are all kinds of cuisines here that cover all corners of the world. I love the South American BBQ and the okonomiyaki from Japanese Pizza Kotetsu, finished off with donuts (or churros!), and a cocktail from the Pineapple Bar.
Entry is $5 and well-behaved dogs are welcome. This food and entertainment hub is also a good option for those rainy days when you’re not sure what to do – there’s heaps of undercover spaces and seating.
If you’re with a group, my tip is to browse the food containers first to decide what you want because there’s so much to choose from. Once you find a table, hold onto it as it can get quite busy.
13. See a sports game at a stadium
The inner city stadiums of Suncorp Stadium (also known as Lang Park) and The Gabba are both an institution in their own right.
The Gabba houses the cricket and AFL grounds, while Suncorp Stadium is the home of rugby league, rugby union and soccer. Both stadiums also hold major events throughout the year.
With a max capacity of 52,500 at Suncorp Stadium and 42,000 at The Gabba, the atmosphere during games is electric. Even if you’re not necessarily a fan it’s absolutely worth going to a game if you can get your hands on a ticket.
What’s fantastic about both of these venues is their inner city location.
Normally, there’s free public transport to and from the stadiums from most suburban areas so you can leave the car at home.
Take advantage of the locale and find a pub nearby to eat beforehand. The food inside the stadiums are pretty expensive and limited in what you can get.
My top picks are the German Club, Electric Avenue or The One Mile (near The Gabba), and Newstead Brewing Co, Darling and Co or Brewski Bar (near Lang Park). They’re all known for great food and drinks and an even better vibe, especially on game days.
14. Arts and events at the Brisbane Powerhouse
What used to be a 1920s electricity generator is now a hub of arts, theatre, music, dance, comedy and events. There always seems to be something happening here – everything from free exhibits to ticketed events and festivals.
The riverfront restaurant, Mary Mae’s, has great food and fabulous views. Bring your dog, and order an Aperol Spritz and ploughman’s platter to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. The indoor bar, Bar Alto, is well known for its arancini and creative Italian eats.
Outside the heritage Powerhouse building on Saturdays you can find the buzzing Jan Powers Farmers Market. Grab a coffee and brekky while you browse the stalls and pick up fresh fruit and veg.
The Powerhouse is also right next to New Farm Park. So make a day of it and hop off the City Cat ferry, wander the rose gardens, check out the adorable dogs at the New Farm Dog Park, and stroll along the riverside boardwalk. You could easily spend a day in this corner that feels a million miles from the city centre.
15. Get dressed up for the James Street Precinct
Just up from New Farm and the Powerhouse is the super trendy James Street precinct. The Calile Hotel is the centrepiece of this area and it all sort of has Rodeo Drive vibes.
On James Street, expect to find fabulous cafes, bakeries, restaurants and bars. If you’re planning a visit in advance, reserve a table at Same Same, Hellenika or Gerard’s. If you’re the spontaneous type, check out Sunshine, At Sixes and Sevens, or Cru Bar.
The trendy crowds who shop at James Street have everything and more, including Camilla, Mecca, Zimmermann, Mister Zimi, and Bared Footwear, among other exciting local and international brands.
James Street is where many real locals go and is a fun and lively part of town which makes it one of the best things to do in Brisbane.
16. Putt Putt at Victoria Park
Victoria Park/Barrambin in Spring Hill, is an incredible 64 hectares of open green space and rolling hills – with Brisbane skyline views. It’s an easy bus ride, or a half hour walk, from the Brisbane CBD if you don’t have your own transport.
Go here for a round of the best Putt Putt in Brisbane. Bonus tip: it’s fully licensed so you can have a drink on the green! They have a great selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic. If you need to burn a bit more energy, grab a bucket of balls and take a swing at the driving range.
The bistro restaurant, next to the putt putt area, is a solid choice for all meals. Go for their insanely good wood-fired pizza selection. The bistro also overlooks a large playground and lawn for the kids to play.
Or you can venture a little further into Victoria Park/Barrambin to explore nature in the inner city. Take yourself on a self-guided wellness trail, or take a dip in the heritage listed Centenary Pool.
17. Enjoy water sports at Enoggera Reservoir
If you’re looking for fun things to do in Brisbane that involve water then this is the spot for you. Enoggera Reservoir is perfect for stand up paddle boarding, swimming, kayaking, canoeing, wildlife viewing, or relaxing by the shoreline.
This recreation area dates back to 1866 and has since been a well-loved local favourite for Brisbane region day trips. While it’s a great family-friendly spot especially in school holidays, dogs aren’t allowed, and it isn’t patrolled so adult supervision around the water is required.
Don’t have the equipment? You can hire stand up paddle boards and kayaks from Walkabout Creek Adventures. There are also bush walks you can do, ranging from a fully accessible 400m trail to a 5km loop.
There is a bus from the city centre, but it might be easier and more comfortable to drive yourself here especially if you’re planning to get wet. Bring a packed lunch to picnic by the water, or visit the cafe at the Walkabout Creek centre.
18. Epic views from the Mt Coot-tha lookout
Mt Coot-ha is the only place in Brisbane where you get a full panoramic view of the entire city and out to the bay.
This highest peak is also home to local tv stations and a bunch of walking tracks with wildlife.
Mt Coot-tha Lookout is where everyone brings their visitors from out of town and it’s one of the best things to do in Brisbane. And if you’re lucky, on a clear day you can see out to Moreton Bay. There are binoculars to get a better view, and this is one of the spots where day time is just as lovely as night time.
You can take a bus from the Brisbane CBD or drive up the mountain. Or be extra energetic and join others in cycling up! There are some wheelchair accessible car parks at the top, but it does get quite busy so patience is required. Enjoy lunch at the cafe or restaurant, or bring a picnic and make a day of it.
If you’re looking for a quieter spot to picnic then it’s best to head back down the mountain to the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens where you’ll have plenty of parkland to enjoy to yourself.
19. Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium
Named after a noted astronomer and 1800s governor, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is really fun and educational for both kids and adults.
At the heart of the planetarium is a dome that’s 12.5 metres wide. They have a huge range of shows that cater for all ages, from 3 and up. Kids will be captivated by the animated stories, and adults will enjoy the clever stories about our universe narrated by famous voices.
Particularly during school holidays, you’ll find a range of activities to entertain all ages. The planetarium’s astronomers will also share tips on how to read Brisbane’s night sky.
Brisbane’s planetarium sits among 56 hectares of botanic gardens in the foothills of Mount Coot-tha. This means that before or after your visit to the planetarium, you can explore the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens for a picnic or wildlife viewing.
20. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
It’s no wonder this one is at the top of most people’s bucket list of things to do in Brisbane. Who wouldn’t want to see cute furry koalas up close?!
This is the place to get a photo with a koala.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary has been around since 1927 and is an eco-certified nature tour operator. So you know they look after their troupe of animals really well. Here, you’ll also find other Aussie animals like the platypus, Tasmanian devils, and reptiles. It’s an awesome day trip out for everyone, especially families.
Located 12km out of the city centre, you can either drive, catch the bus, or take a private cruise along the river to the sanctuary. There’s also free wifi, and you can bring your own snacks for a picnic which can save you some money. If you’re not that organised then there’s an on-site cafe that has plenty of options to purchase food and drinks.
If you’ve ever seen a photo of someone cuddling a koala, then this is the place for you to have your very own top ‘koala-ty’ experience!
21. Discover the best hidden places to eat in Brisbane
Every city has so many restaurants to choose from, so if you’re looking for the hidden gems, look no further. Read my guide for the Best Secret Places To Eat In Brisbane which includes the best bakeries, breakfast spots, 10 seater restaurants and so much more. So, you can stop searching and thank me later for introducing you to some of the best places to eat in the city!
Looking for day trips from Brisbane?
Here’s some of our top picks for places to visit near Brisbane city!
22. Movie World in Gold Coast
Movie World, Gold Coast is such a fun day trip from Brisbane city. Expect rides for the whole family, as well as experiences you need to see in person. Don’t think it’s just for kids, it makes a fun date idea in Brisbane too! Check out our guide 18 Tips For Visiting Movie World, Gold Coast to help you plan your trip.
The Glass House Mountains are absolutely beautiful. The unique mountains are something not to be missed! Make sure you hike up to the top of Mount Ngun-Ngun for Insta-worthy views (it only takes 30 minutes). You can see a spectcaular look out point in Maleny as well, which is a gorgeous Sunshine Coast Hinterland town you need to visit. Check out our guide for 15 Things To Do In Glass House Mountains before you visit.
25. Moreton Island
If you’re heading up to the area of Moreton Bay, make sure you jump on the ferry and spend the day with Tangalooma Island Resort at Moreton Island. It will blow your mind that a beautiful tropical island is just a stones throw from the city.
If you only have time for a couple of activities, you can’t miss the quad biking or snorkelling the famous Tangalooma Wrecks. Both are absolutely fantastic. Check out our guide for How To Plan A Day trip To Moreton Island and you won’t be disappointed!