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23 Free Things to do in Brisbane When You’re on a Budget 2024 Guide

Whether you’re visiting Brisbane for a short stay or you consider yourself a local, there are so many free things to do in Brisbane. As a Brisbane local, here are my favourite picks for the best free things to do in Brisbane at night and during the day.

If you’re looking for more Brisbane activities, check out my Fun Date Ideas in Brisbane guide and my Best Things to do in Brisbane at Night guide.


1. Discover Brisbane’s laneways

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Put on those walking shoes to explore Brisbane’s best laneways! Fish Lane in South Bank, Bakery Lane in Fortitude Valley, and Burnett Lane in the city are my favourite laneways to go. Within each, you can find great restaurants, bars, cafes, shops, and street art.

If you want to make a day of all three, start with breakfast at Lune Croissanterie in Burnett Lane, lunch and shops in Bakery Lane, followed by a South Bank dinner at Southside and a cocktail at the hidden bar Next Episode.


2. Go searching for Brisbane’s secret tiny doors

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There are tiny doors in Brisbane you can explore in laneways, iconic buildings and even in tree trunks. There’s everything from a mini fire station, medieval style door, mini record shop and fairy village door, and more.

This would be the perfect activity for kids to spot the tiny doors while exploring different areas of Brisbane. Perhaps you can even create a map and head to a different area each weekend to tick them off.


3. Take a free ferry ride on the Brisbane River

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Did you know the Brisbane City Cat ferry has free routes on the Brisbane River? Look for the absolutely adorably named ferries called the Kitty Cats for the free stops.

Go from Sydney Street terminal in New Farm on the Brisbane River, past South Bank and to North Quay – so you can really explore quite a bit for free. I recommend hopping off at South Bank, or Holman Street terminal in Kangaroo Point to picnic along the Brisbane River under the Story Bridge.


4. Antique window shopping

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Brisbane has a bunch of great antique shops perfect for window shopping. There are so many interesting and eclectic items that you can find.

My favourites are the Camp Hill Antique Centre, Empire Revival in Paddington, and New Farm Antique Centre. All these spots have cafes attached or close by to give you sustenance for a day of antiquing.


5. Explore the local farmers’ markets

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Every weekend you’ll find fantastic farmers’ markets dotted around Brisbane city. They’re great for picking up fruit and veggies for your weekly shop or a casual brunch outing.

The West End Markets are my go-to and they’re along a nice stretch of the Brisbane River. I love exploring the stalls of local artists and their jewellery, homewares, clothing and snacks.

I also love the Cleveland Markets for their relaxed bayside vibe, and the Global Food Markets in Logan for their bustling authentic multicultural feel. Wherever you go, just bring cash and your reusable bag to make sure you don’t miss out on anything you might want to buy.


6. Listen to live music

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Whether you want to listen to acoustic music outdoors in the sunshine, or dance to a live band in an underground bar on a weeknight, there’s something for everyone in Brisbane.

In the Brisbane CBD bar Brooklyn Standard, you’ll find a fun honky tonk style live band. There’s free live music in South Bank on weekends, and regular entertainment in Queen Street Mall. Basically, wherever you head out in the inner city should have some great tunes to soundtrack your weekend.


7. See a show at Brisbane Powerhouse

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Brisbane Powerhouse offers free and as well as paid exhibits. Home to the Comedy Festival and the World Press Photo Exhibition each year, the Powerhouse has lots to check out.

Even if you don’t want to see a paid general admission show, the Brisbane Powerhouse building itself is a fantastic architectural delight.

Bonus tip: if you go in the morning or in the late afternoon, Brisbane River walkway is busy and the New Farm Dog Park is filled with adorable dogs.


8. Picnic at New Farm Park

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New Farm Park is right next to the Brisbane Powerhouse so a visit of the two go hand-in-hand. At New Farm Park, you can wander the rose gardens and stroll along the Brisbane River waterfront.

It’s great for people watching, picnicking, or taking your dog. On weekends, you’ll see soccer teams or people practicing circus skills. And there’s a couple of great cafes close by to pick up your snacks – MK Cafe and Joedy’s are great options.


9. Hiking and koala spotting near the city

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There are many great walking trails close to Brisbane city to get some exercise and fresh air. For untouched bushland and koala spotting, check out Toohey Forest in Tarragindi or Whites Hill Reserve in Camp Hill.

For the serious hikers, Mt Coot tha has 70 tracks for all fitness levels. The Summit Track is really popular 2km walk with beautiful city skyline views at the top (as well as a cafe!). If you’re into mountain biking there are also trails here you can ride to your heart’s content.


10. City Sounds in Brisbane City

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Every week in the CBD you’ll find free live music through the City Sounds ongoing program. You’ll find the musicians set up in Queen Street Mall, Post Office Square and Reddacliff Place.

The local talent is brilliant, and there’s even been some big Australian names taking part. Check out the City Sounds website and plan your visit into the Brisbane CBD to enjoy the sounds and talents of our local musicians.


11. Stroll and smell the flowers in Roma Street Parkland

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Roma Street Parkland is an inner city oasis from the skyscrapers and concrete jungle of the city. Among these sprawling lawns are local wildlife and exotic plants, and plenty of excellent picnic areas.

While you can wander the city botanic gardens at your own pace, I would recommend taking a free guided tour. A knowledgeable guide shares insights, history and stories for 90 minutes. Even if you’ve been before, you’ll definitely learn something new.


12. Check out the art galleries in South Brisbane

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The Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art are two of Brisbane’s best galleries and some of the best in Australia. Located in South Bank, they’re close to the ferry, city, restaurants and shops.

While there can be some paid exhibits, including the popular Up Late nights, there’s also free things to see and do. Visiting Queensland Art Gallery is a great activity to do with kids!


13. Get a bird’s eye view from Mt Coot-tha

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Mt Coot-tha is Brisbane’s highest point and offers amazing views over the entire region. Make sure you go on a clear day so you can see all the way out to Moreton Bay.

While it is accessible by bus, it’s much more convenient to self-drive here and there’s parking at the summit. The best time is to go in late afternoon and stay for sunset and the city night lights. It’s a different perspective to explore Brisbane.


14. Walk to an island

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One of the best free things to do in Brisbane, even in Australia, is walk across a natural sand walkway from the mainland over to King Island.

I had no idea this even existed until very recently, and I think it’s the coolest activity to do. Just make sure you time your walk properly with the tides as you don’t want to be stranded. Bring a water bottle, your swimmers and a towel, and you’re all set.


15. Take a road trip to the countryside

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Road trip into the Brisbane countryside and check out the Sunday markets or enjoy a great pub lunch.

The Old Petrie Town markets are a great free activity. In this historic village, you’ll find food stalls, a children’s train ride, handcrafts and local history. I love watching the old-fashioned lolly shop make toffee outside, and my favourite thing to eat are the poffertjes.

Another great option for a country drive is out to Samford Village where you’ll find quaint shops, bakeries and cafes, and an excellent pub. You can also find The Store of Requirement, a must visit for any Harry Potter fan.


16. Take a trip to space at the Planetarium

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The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is part of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens – beautiful gardens in the foothills of Mt Coot-tha.

With free entry to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, you can explore the interactive displays, touch screens, mini movie theatre, and even a replica of Neil Armstrong’s Apollo space suit. There’s also ticketed shows for some more special exhibits and cosmic shows.


17. Explore the diverse night markets

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There are only a few free night markets in Brisbane, and the new Alien Night Market in Underwood is one of them. From Thursday to Sunday evenings, expect 40 Asian food stalls and live entertainment.

Another new night market are the South City Square themed monthly markets on Friday nights. Go early to avoid the queues.

There are some other options that have a small entry fee. Eat Street Northshore is open Friday to Sundays and and Mt Gravatt Street Food night markets are once a month, both worth visiting for a small fee.


18. Take a swim

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There’s many great free swimming holes in Australia. My favourite is Enoggera Dam for its safe and warm water. Take a short 200m walk down to the dam where you can easily spend a day swimming. You can also hire kayaks and paddle boards too.

The Redcliffe Lagoon, Streets Beach and South Bank lagoon and Wynnum tidal pool are also great options for those that are closer to those areas. Find playgrounds, barbecue facilities, grassy spots, and great swimming options here.


19. Stroll or cycle the Brisbane Riverwalk

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On the easily accessible Brisbane Riverwalk you can stroll, cycle, roll or scoot along the 870m scenic walkway on the Brisbane River.

I’d recommend starting at the New Farm end (easier for free parking), and walk along the Brisbane River until you get to the Brisbane CBD. You also go past Howard Smith Wharves which is a great option to people watch over a drink. You can either head back the way you came or take the free ferry back to the Sydney Street terminal.

If you go at sunset, head to Wilsons Outlook Reserve, a scenic picnic spot overlooking the Story Bridge and Howard Smith Wharves. It’s such a great spot that even people have their weddings here.


20. Barbecue in a local park

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Bring your own ingredients and take advantage of sprawling gardens as your special venue. This is an excellent idea for birthdays or any occasion where you want to enjoy the outdoors. There’s also some great ones at Streets Beach in South Bank.

Check out the Brisbane City Council BBQ map to find the 400+ barbecues. They’re cleaned regularly, but you will need to bring your own oil and ingredients. I’d also recommend bring a plastic bag for rubbish, paper towels, as well as your key items like plates, cutlery and picnic blanket.


21. Find a street library

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Street libraries are inconspicuous boxes in suburban streets in Australia that house free books you can take. Because they work on an honesty system, you never know what kind of book you can pick up in a street library.

The free street libraries are a great way to discover new books and authors, and to contribute your unwanted books to the community through a circular economy.


22. Free fitness equipment in local parks

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You don’t need an expensive gym membership to stay fit in Brisbane. Thanks to the Brisbane City Council, there’s free exercise equipment in over 170 parks all across the city.

The outdoor gyms are a perfect way to exercise in the great outdoors. Not many people know about these free outdoor gyms but they’re an awesome perk in our local parks in Australia.


23. Scenic views of the city from the City Hall Clock Tower

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The iconic clock tower in Brisbane City Hall offers fascinating 15 minute free tours. This is a tradition that lots of kids in Brisbane city do and is a great way to see Brisbane from a different perspective.

Go up one of the city’s oldest lifts past the clock face. Here you’ll have views over the city, where you can imagine what it looked like when it was built 100 years ago.


Where to stay in Brisbane

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The Calile Hotel

Looking for the best Brisbane accommodation? Here’s our top picks!

  1. W Brisbane – one of the best hotels in Australia you need to see for yourself@
  2. The Calile Hotel – trendy hotel in the beautiful St James Precinct
  3. Oaks Brisbane – one bed apartments in the heart of the city

More Brisbane Travel Guides

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Looking for more things to do in Brisbane? Check out our popular travel guides below!


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