Despite being the third largest city in Australia, Brisbane sees significantly fewer tourists than its big brothers, Melbourne, and Sydney. People don’t seem to know what to do in Brisbane.
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Yes, Brisbane isn’t an iconic Australian destination. It doesn’t have awesome surfing beaches, it doesn’t have too many attractions, and it doesn’t ooze with young hip Aussie culture (although every year more and more pockets of goodness are developing in the city).
After living in Brisbane for over 2 years during our time in Australia, we have discovered what to do in Brisbane, and there are more than a few reasons to recommend it as a stop on your adventure around Australia.
See, the thing about Brisbane is that it’s not the things to do in Brisbane city itself that makes a great destination, it’s the sum of all other attractions that surround it.
Brisbane is a delight for outdoor lovers, nature enthusiasts, sustainable travelers and those hipsters (or hipster wanna-be’s) who refuse to pay a premium for their habits.
And believe it or not, once you get to know Brissie, you will find it hard to believe that you ever thought there weren’t many things to do in Brisbane city.
THINGS TO DO IN BRISBANE AND THE SURROUNDING AREA
Things to do in Brisbane City
There aren’t a ton of sights and attractions in Brisbane, but there are a few cool things to see in Brisbane and activities to take part in. Start your “things to see in Brisbane” tour by visiting the South Bank Parklands. Catch the panoramic views of the city, while riding the Wheel of Brisbane.
Cool off at the man-made beach, dine at one of the many restaurants along Grey Street, or pop into the Queensland Museum, or the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)located a short walk away in Brisbane’s Cultural Centre.
From South Bank, take a leisurely stroll along the river, cross the Goodwill Bridge, and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens. You can easily spend a few hours roaming around the gardens and enjoying this shaded oasis that is bound to make you feel like you are miles away from the city.
Things to do in Brisbane – Get Outdoors
Those that love outdoor adventures, will enjoy getting active on the Brisbane River that winds through the centre of the city. Head over to Riverlife, located in Kangaroo Point for a slew of adventure activities, ranging from kayaking and stand up paddle boarding to abseiling.
The are lots of BBQ spots around Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park, making it a perfect spot for a little sunset picnic overlooking the city.
If you’re interested in whale watching, Moreton Bay is an awesome place to catch a glimpse of beautiful humpback whales! Brisbane Whale Watching has been certified as an Ecotourism company – their aim is to educate all of their visitors about conservation while making a minimal environmental impact.
Another great outdoor option, and one of the top things to do in Brisbane city for those who enjoy tours, is Create-A-Tour. This company has a bunch of different guided tours available all over the Brisbane area – from beaches to bushwalking. Their goal is to teach you about wildlife protection and conservation within the places you visit – and to make sure you have a great time learning about it!
Mt. Coot-tha, which is a suburb of Brisbane, but also a mountain, is located approximately 6 km west of the Brisbane Central Business District. The incredible views at Mt. Coot-tha are one of the top things to see in Brisbane.There are lots of great walks around Mt Coot-tha, but can also be explored by car as you can easily drive up all the way to the lookout.
Areas to Shop in Brisbane
The shopaholics visiting Brisbane will be delighted to know that what Brisbane lacks in brand name stores, it makes up in unique shops, awesome street fairs, and markets. Our favorite was always the Young Designers Market in South Bank, but this list of 10 Best Markets in Brisbane by Concrete Playground lists lots of others worth checking out.
If you’re in the Balmoral area, check out Biome – an eco-store that features Brisbane’s first naked beauty bar that allows you to create your own shampoos, conditioners, and soaps with all raw ingredients.
Things to do Outside Brisbane City
Brisbane itself may not be the hub of activity in Australia, but there are some really cool attractions located just outside of Brisbane that are worth a visit, including the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary – the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary with over 130 koalas, and Australia Zoo, known as one of the biggest and best wildlife conservation facilities in the entire world.
A Great Base For Exploring Queensland
And if you’ve got a few more days in the area, Brisbane can serve as a great base for exploring many of Queensland’s beautiful destinations.
Check out this guide to 22 Brisbane Walks That Will Take Your Breath Away by BuzzFeed to get a glimpse of just a few of the day trip you can embark on from Brisbane, including Lamington National Park, Springbrook National Park, Stradbroke Island, Bribie Island, and Moreton Island, to name just a few.
Here is a more comprehensive list of Brisbane’s top day trips, by Visit Brisbane, that will give you lots of other ideas for what to do in Brisbane and day trips in the Greater Brisbane Region.
If you want a local’s perspective on the best things to do in Brisbane and the best things to see in Brisbane, check out this awesome article “Things Brisbane people like to say and 20 (secret) places they like to go” for some great local gems that are worth checking out during your visit.
Looking for an easy way to book your tours and activities while in Brisbane? We recommend the following tours:
BEST TIME TO VISIT BRISBANE
Amazing Year-Round Weather
Brisbane boasts amazing weather all year around. It’s actually one of the reasons we choose to base ourselves here vs. Melbourne or Sydney.
Even in the peak of Australian winter (June – August), daytime temperature in Brisbane rarely falls below 20°C. You can still enjoy the outdoors, and on a sunny day, even the beach.
Our Favourite Time of Year in Brisbane
But to make the most of your time in Brisbane, we suggest that you plan your visit for the shoulder season. The best time is April – June, just as the wet season comes to an end and the daily highs are still hovering around 25-27°C.
The alternative is September – October. With warm days and breezy nights, which are great since things to do in Brisbane at night are never off limits. Spring in Brisbane is a lovely time of the year filled with festivals, events, and activities.
The Heat Can Be Unbearable in Summer
Avoid visiting Brisbane in the summer (December – February). The heat during this time of the year can be unbearable (think upwards of 30°C), it’s humid and rain is very common, often causing flooding and making it difficult to get excited about going outside, let alone taking advantage of all the things do in Brisbane outdoors.
Find monthly temperatures and rainfall guides in USA Today’s post on the Best Time to Visit Brisbane.
WHERE TO STAY IN BRISBANE
If your wondering what to do in Brisbane when it comes to accommodation, we recommend you to stay near the Brisbane CBD or the surrounding areas. The City, South Bank, Paddington, West End, and Fortitude Valley are all good options that will allow you be in close proximity to the top things to do in Brisbane city.
Accommodation in Brisbane isn’t cheap. Beds in hostels start at $20 AUD ($15 USD) for a 10-15 person dorm room with a shared bathroom and go up to $28- $40 AUD ($22-30 USD) for a more manageable 4-person room with an en-suite. Budget hotels start at $85- 90 AUD ($65-70 USD) and go up from there.
Eco-Friendly Accommodation in Brisbane
If you’re looking to go green with your accommodation options, most are going to come with a price tag. But you can rest assured that where you’re staying has implemented a bunch of sustainable practices that ensure a minimal environmental impact.
Hotels in the City Centre
One great example of this is The Emporium Hotel, located in Fortitude Valley. This luxurious hotel makes sure their facilities don’t damage the surrounding environments. They provide all organic food, and even have a functional herb garden and beehive on the roof of the hotel that acts as their source for dishes and cocktails! They will also be opening another location in South Bank in July 2018.
If you’re looking for an eco-friendly hotel that won’t break the bank, Best Western Astor Metropole has made serious strides in the sustainability space in the last several years. Their hotels are all required to have energy-efficient lighting, water systems, and recycling systems. Check out Best Western on Wickham Terrace Street in Spring Hill.
Just Outside of the City
If you’re looking to splurge – we recommend Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort. It is located within a strictly enforced ‘Green Zone’ – meaning the marine and wildlife within the area are protected, as is the portion of the Great Barrier Reef located within the zone. The resort itself has been certified as a Climate Action Leader – fully committed to environmental sustainability and protection.
Near The Airport
For accommodation near the airport, we recommend the Kingsford Hotel. They are leading the way in sustainable and socially responsible business practices. Some of their key initiatives include utilising solar panels, and water efficient fixtures. A Queen room will set you back $154/night AUD ($116 USD)
Another great alternative for accommodation in Brisbane is Airbnb, where private rooms start at $30 AUD ($23 USD) and offer a unique way to experience the city from a more local perspective.
Don’t have an Airbnb account yet? Sign up now and receive USD $35 to put towards your first Airbnb stay!
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK IN BRISBANE
There are no shortages of restaurants to check out in Brisbane. We spent 2+ years eating our way through Brisbane and still feel like we have barely scratched the surface. So if for some reason you’re stumped for things to do in Brisbane… why not eat!?
Green Food Options
If you’re looking for sustainable/organic/green restaurant options, try some of our favourites below. We are all about supporting local, ethical and organic food options whenever we can!
Let’s start with breakfast. If breakfast is not provided in your hotel, you are in luck, because Brisbane sure knows how to do a good breakfast. Sunday morning breakfasts/brunches were always one of our favourite things to do in Brisbane while we were living there.
Our favourite spot was the Gunshop Cafe in West End (conveniently located just 15 mins from our house), and coincidentally also listed as one of the Top 15 Best Breakfasts of Brisbane by the Courier Mail.
The Lost Boys in Fortitude Valley, have outdone themselves with a completely vegetarian, and organic menu. Try their tasty vegan (and gluten-free) waffles which come loaded with berries, coconut and other goodies of course!
Raw Juicery is the place to go for a light breakfast of raw, organic smoothies, or pretty acai bowls.
Our preference for lunch in Brisbane has never been a sit-down restaurant. With a plethora of great farmers markets and some awesome food trucks, it there are plenty of other dining alternatives that support small local businesses and family-run shops.
We suggest a visit to the West End Market in Davies Park for an opportunity to catch our favourite food trucks, like The Bun Mobile.
However, if that’s not really your thing then try Vege Rama. It is a crazy good vegan restaurant with two locations in the downtown core and a long menu of meat alternative dishes.
Putia Pure Food Kitchen is a real stand out in Central Bayo. They have tons of truly delicious vegetarian, vegan, and raw vegan meals on the menu. The restaurant is part of the cooking school, who are training the next generation of socially conscious chefs. One of their classes is the Love Food No Waste workshop which provides great tips on using leftovers and reducing food waste in your home or workplace.
Wondering what to do in Brisbane for dinner? Your options range from cheap eats, (pick any from this amazing list of 51 of Brisbane’s Best Cheap Eats put together by The Urban List,) to dining in one of Brisbane’s Top Nine Restaurants, and everything in between.
If you are looking for an iconic Australian dining experience and are willing to pay a premium for it, check out Tukka Restaurant in West End and try their menu of native Australian fare with a modern twist. (Yes, they do serve kangaroo, emu, possum and other odd Australian delicacies)
Urbane (Permanently Closed) is famous for their 5 and 7 course Omnivore and Herbivore menus. They have won a multitude of awards for their food and have set a worldwide standard for vegetarian fine dining.
If you fancy a night of takeaway, then It’s Mirchi will hit the spot. They offer a generous selection of Indian dishes made with organic vegetarian and vegan ingredients.
A Night Out on The Town
For a great night out in Brisbane, head to either the Fortitude Valley or the City. The valley is a happening spot on a Saturday night while the City is more popular on Fridays and throughout the week. If you want to make sure you hit up the best bars in Brisbane, check out Good Food’s article listing Brisbane’s Top 20 Bars, which gives a good outline of upscale establishments, neighbourhood watering holes, and everything in between.
Alternatively, this article on “Nightlife in Brisbane: where to drink, dance and party” on Visit Brisbane’s website outlines other entertainment options including live music venues, dance clubs, and alternative clubs.
Every Season is Patio Season
Thanks to great weather, Brisbane boasts a great selection of outdoor patios and rooftop bars that make it all that more enjoyable to go out in the city. The Stock Exchange, or “the Stocky” as the locals refer to it, has always been one of our favourites, but there are many others worth crossing off this list of Rooftop bars in Brisbane.
HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU NEED IN BRISBANE
The time that you choose to spend in Brisbane, should really depend on the length of your overall stay in Australia.
You don’t need more than 1-2 days to check out Brisbane itself, but if you want to explore beyond the city’s boundaries, then plan to stay for at least 3-4 days.
For a short stay, use these suggested itineraries as a guide for your visit:
If you are traveling around Australia for a few months, then you may want to consider a longer stay in Brisbane to give yourself time to explore the city itself and the nearby destinations on the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast.
And when it comes time to continue moving along the coast, consider following this Ultimate Brisbane to Sydney Itinerary, for what to do in Brisbane and beyond. It was one of our favourite road trips in Australia.