Credit

Courtesy of Demosthenes Mateo Jr/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Brisbane

Much of Brisbane's activity takes place around the winding Brisbane River, which slithers its way through the city and other parts of southeastern Queensland. Make the most of the water by taking a free river cruise on a CityHopper. Prefer to admire the scene with two feet firmly planted on ground? Lounge with your mates at one of Brisbane's many outdoor spaces, such as Roma Street Parkland and the City Botanic Gardens. For an even more impressive scene, head up to the Brisbane Lookout, Mount Coot-tha, where you'll be met with 360-degree views that stretch as far as neighboring Moreton Bay. Or, take in your surroundings from atop Story Bridge.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated January 27, 2018

  • #1
    Things to do in Brisbane
    View all Photos
    #1 in Brisbane
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    After you've admired the sweeping views at the Brisbane Lookout, Mount Coot-tha, walk (or drive) about 1.5 miles northeast to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha. At this 138-acre subtropical conservatory, you'll find a host of native and exotic plants, not to mention the largest collection of Australian rainforest trees in the world. Within the garden you'll come across several themed spaces, including the Japanese Garden, the Lagoon and Bamboo Grove, the Fern House and the Fragrant Plants and Herb Garden – all containing different varieties of plantlife. When you're not admiring the spectacular flora, see if you can spot the fauna: Visitors say you'll likely come across iguanas and other reptiles, not to mention plenty of insects and birds.   

    Past visitors said the gardens provided a beautiful setting for kids to burn off some energy. The Brisbane City Council also offers a "Hide 'n' Seek Children's Trail" with surprises and facts for youngsters to discover as they make their way through the garden. And do be sure to bring your camera since this outdoor attraction boasts plenty of photo-op-worthy spots, including areas with superb views of the city.

  • #2
    City Botanic Gardens
    View all Photos
    #2 in Brisbane
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you're searching for a quiet respite from the city bustle, you don't have to go far: The City Botanic Gardens are less than a mile southeast of the CBD. In fact, visitors can get to this free attraction by walking, renting a bike from a local vendor, riding the ferry to the QUT Gardens Point terminal or taking the complimentary City Loop bus to several nearby stops. Limited free parking is also available. Once you've reached the gardens, which were the first in Brisbane, you'll find all sorts of relaxing spaces, including the Bamboo Grove, two ornamental ponds, a riverfront cycling area and the Weeping Fig Avenue.

    To explore the gardens, travelers can take a self-guided tour using the Brisbane City Council's points of interest map or a free guided walk with one of the City Botanic Gardens' volunteers. Guided walks leave twice daily – at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. – from the property's rotunda. Whichever option you choose, visitors say you'll encounter stunning scenery.

  • #3
    Story Bridge
    View all Photos
    #3 in Brisbane
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Story Bridge operates as more than just a link between Kangaroo Point, central Brisbane and Fortitude Valley: It's also a major attraction – and not just for photo-ops. With an experienced guide leading the way, you can traverse catwalks more than 260 feet above sea level to reach the top. During your two-hour trek – which includes a briefing and a safety demonstration from Story Bridge Adventure Climb – you'll climb from one side of the bridge to the other, stopping to take in the Brisbane skyline as you go. You can also abseil down its side or travel beneath it in a kayak or on a CityCat ferry.

    Travelers rave about the views from the top of Story Bridge. However, expect to shell out at least 99 Australian dollars (or roughly $76) to climb or abseil down the structure. For a more affordable way to see the bridge, visitors recommend taking the ferry – which costs AU$2.56 ($2) to AU$4.60 ($3.50) per ride – or renting a kayak for about AU$30 ($23) to AU$45 (about $35.50) per person.

  • #4
    Roma Street Parkland
    View all Photos
    #4 in Brisbane
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    It's the largest urban subtropical garden in the world, but travelers just think of Roma Street Parkland as a slice of urban reprieve. Roma Street Parkland, which stretches across nearly 40 acres, is divided into five distinct districts: the Spectacle Garden at Colin Campbell Place, the Celebration Precinct, the Forest and Fern Gully, the Lake Precinct and the Upper Parkland. Some of the most popular areas include the Forest and Fern Gully and the Upper Parkland. True to its moniker, Fern Gully features a rainforest with verdant ferns, bubbling creeks and walkways that will lead you into the lush forest canopy. Families should retreat southeast of this area if they want to explore the Upper Parkland, home to the children's playground, amphitheater and the Harry Oakman Pavilion.

    No matter what area you explore, past travelers said you'll find well-maintained gardens at every turn. To make the most of this beloved park, take a free hourlong guided walk. Tours leave from an information center known as "The Hub" (located in the center of the park) at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. daily.

  • #5
    Museum of Brisbane
    View all Photos
    #5 in Brisbane
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Housed on the fourth floor of Brisbane City Hall, the Museum of Brisbane aims to showcase Brisbane's residents and locals throughout the years. More than 120 exhibits are on display in the museum's five galleries, including artwork by local artist Richard Randall, historic ceramics and various multimedia presentations. What's more, the property offers a small theater, a gift shop, two cafes, restrooms and the Dome Lounge, where travelers can take a break from the attraction's exhibits.

    Whether you're a history buff or have kids in tow, odds are you'll enjoy checking out this museum. In fact, many former visitors appreciated the property's informative displays and complimentary admissions. To make the most of your time while in Brisbane City Hall, travelers recommend joining the free city hall and clock tower tours, which are offered several times daily. Tickets for city hall tours can be arranged by phone or online, while a limited number of clock tower tour tickets are provided on a first-come, first-served basis from the museum's reception counter.

  • #6
    Brisbane Lookout, Mount Coot-tha
    View all Photos
    #6 in Brisbane
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Parks and Gardens, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For sweeping views of Queensland's capital, head up to the Brisbane Lookout, Mount Coot-tha. Located 5 miles southwest of Brisbane's city center, this free viewing platform offers more than just a spectacular vantage point: The lookout sits on a 544-acre bushland reserve with several attractions and scores of walking trails.

    Start at the observation deck, which features coin-operated telescopes, a gift shop, a restaurant and a cafe. The Kuta Café offers small bites, while the Summit Restaurant & Bar features contemporary Australian fare, such as barramundi (a type of seabass). Past visitors say grabbing a drink at the bar while watching the sunset from the lookout is an amazing way to enjoy the vantage point. However, once you've seen the view, travelers admit there isn't much to do at the lookout. After you've taken advantage of the photo-op, move on to the area's other activities.

  • #7
    Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)
    View all Photos
    #7 in Brisbane
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Travelers are consistently impressed with Brisbane's arts scene, and perhaps the best way to experience it is to pay a visit to this comprehensive institution. Made up of two distinct venues – the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art – QAGOMA features a diverse lineup of more than 17,000 paintings, sculptures, decorative art pieces and multimedia installations created by both Australian and international artists. Careful not to ignore the interests of its youngest visitors, QAGOMA also boasts a Children's Art Centre, where interactive exhibitions and activities – often curated by artists exhibiting within the gallery – are available for kids of all ages.

    Visitors regularly praise both galleries for their engaging and informative presentations, as well as their top-notch collection of Australian and Aborginal works. However, some caution that ongoing renovations make parts of the facilities feel a bit sparse. Nevertheless, many are quick to recommend QAGOMA for those days when it's too hot or too rainy to do much outside.

  • #8
    CityHopper
    View all Photos
    #8 in Brisbane
    Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the best ways to take in Brisbane's sights is to travel along the Brisbane River on a CityHopper ferry. Part of the TransLink transportation network, CityHoppers offer free service between North Quay and Sydney Street. The ferry passes by or under popular attractions like the City Botanic Gardens and Story Bridge, giving passengers a chance to snap some superb photos and take in the sights. Visitors are welcome to ride the entire voyage or hop on and off along the way.

    Travelers rave about this convenient, reliable and cost-effective service. But keep in mind that this ferry is slower than the city's fee-based CityCat service, with most journeys between the route's first and last terminals lasting approximately 45 minutes. Also, consider sitting on the top deck when the weather is nice to enjoy some of the route's best vistas.

  • #9
    Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
    View all Photos
    #9 in Brisbane
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Zoos and Aquariums
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    For many, a trip Down Under wouldn't be complete without a koala bear sighting. Pay a visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and you won't just see these snuggly creatures up close; you'll also have the chance to cuddle with them. Here at the world's oldest and largest koala sanctuary, where conservation and research is the reserve's main mission, these marsupials are the star attraction. You don't have to pay extra to hold a koala, but you will have to fork over 18 Australian dollars (about $14) to have your photo taken with one. You can take your own photos with the koala, but only after you've purchased a professional photo from the sanctuary.

    Aside from the 130 koalas that call the sprawling sanctuary home, there are plenty of other native Australian animals to see. You can hand feed kangaroos (for an added fee) and hold pythons. You can also catch several animal presentations throughout your visit with the sanctuary's resident lorikeets, platypuses and sheep dogs. Even if you're not one to get up close and personal with animals, you should still consider the sanctuary a worthwhile visit. Recent visitors say its verdant atmosphere and its seat on the Brisbane River make the sanctuary a pleasant (if pricey) place to experience Queensland's landscape. The sanctuary hosts two cafes, but past visitors say you can save some money (and enjoy a little more meal variety) by packing your own picnic lunch; it allows outside food to be brought in.

  • #10
    Suncorp Stadium
    View all Photos
    #10 in Brisbane
    Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Situated about 2 miles northwest of Brisbane's Milton neighborhood, Suncorp Stadium regularly hosts rugby matches for local and national teams like the Wallabies, the Queensland Reds and the Brisbane Broncos. Football (or soccer) games for the Brisbane Roar and various concerts are also held here. On non-event days, visitors can take a public tour of the facility.

    According to former visitors, the stadium's design ensures that seats at all price points offer great views. However, for afternoon games in the summer, some recommend booking seats on the building's west side to avoid overheating and facing the sun. Facilities here also receive high praise. Several travelers report clean restrooms and speedy and tasty (albeit a little pricey) food and beverage concessions. A gift shop with sports apparel and memorabilia is located on-site.

Explore More of Brisbane

Recommended

The World's 30 Best Places to Visit in 2019-20

Using reader input and expert analysis, U.S. News identified the latest can't-miss vacations.

Tilly PeckerJune 25, 2019

The 16 Best San Diego Tours

Take advantage of the adventures this coastal city has to offer with a guided trip.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

12 Top Napa Valley Wineries to Visit

Set your sights on these can't-miss wineries during your next visit to California's wine country.

Lyn MettlerJune 24, 2019

The 6 Best Denver Brewery Tours

Discover the buzz about Denver's craft beer scene with these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 21, 2019

The 10 Best Charleston Walking Tours

Experience true southern hospitality as you explore Charleston on one of these strolls.

Claire LawtonJune 20, 2019

The 15 Best Charleston Tours

See everything this historic South Carolina city has to offer on one of these guided excursions.

John RodwanJune 19, 2019

The 5 Best Kauai Helicopter Tours

See the Garden Island's far-reaching beauty from the air.

Holly JohnsonJune 14, 2019

The 6 Best Las Vegas Helicopter Tours

Get a thrilling look at the lights and sights of Sin City and its surroundings with one of these tours.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

20 Road Trip Essentials for Your Vacation

These road trip must-haves can help you save money, travel more comfortably and ensure you stay safe on the open road.

Holly JohnsonJune 13, 2019

13 Top Charlottesville Wineries to Visit

Sip a glass of Virginia's signature viognier as the sun sets over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Gwen PratesiJune 12, 2019