Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Photograph: Tourism and Events Queensland | Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

The 26 best things to do in Brisbane

This future Olympic host city has an enviable lifestyle and a wealth of fun things to do all year round

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If there was any lingering doubt that Queensland's capital is a world city, it was put to rest with the announcement that the 2032 Olympics would be hosted right here in Brisvegas. And truth be told, for a long time the River City has been much more than just a pit-stop on the way to the Gold Coast. 

In QAGOMA, the city has two of the best-designed art galleries anywhere in the world, and blockbuster art to show in them. We have great barbecue spots, sure, but there are also some great high-end, fine dining experiences too. With an incredible climate (although slip, slop, slap please, we implore you) and a great set of river walkways and public transport connections, it’s also easier than ever to get around. Whether it’s a family adventure, a romantic weekend or a spare 24 hours at the end of a business trip – here are our pick of the best attractions in Brisbane.

Got no money? Here are the best free things to do in Brisbane.

Best things to do in Brisbane

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Mount Coot-tha

What is it? Only 15 minutes from the CBD, the Mt Coot-tha Reserve is the largest natural area in Brisbane, coming in at a whopping 1,600 hectares of lush rainforest gullies, eucalypt forests, creeks and waterfalls.  

Why go? The summit offers panoramic views of the city and is easily accessible by car or walking trail. Take your camera and head up early to see the sun rise from Brisbane’s highest point, before enjoying breakfast at the café. If mornings don’t agree with you, the sunset and evening views are equally impressive. 

Want more? Make a day of it! The reserve is also home to extensive hiking and mountain biking trails, waterfalls, picnic areas, Botanic Gardens and even a planetarium.

  • Art
  • Galleries
  • South Brisbane

What is it? The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is one of Australia's most exciting and respected creative precincts. The complex spans two buildings – the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art – and is idyllically located by the water in South Bank.

Why go? Get lost in the galleries at QAGOMA as you explore more than 20,000 spectacular artworks, with a significant collection of First Nations and Asian and Pacific art. With an extensive collection of free exhibitions, big-name touring shows, a cinema, a dedicated interactive kids area and numerous special events, there is guaranteed to be something happening whenever you visit. Since 1993, QAGOMA has also hosted the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, which draws around three million visitors. 

Want more? While you’re there, check out the other cultural institutions in this innovative arts district, including the State Library, Queensland Museum and Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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  • Italian
  • New Farm

What is it? Australia’s first vertical restaurant, offering an exclusive dining experience 17 metres above the ground overhanging Brisbane Powerhouse. Securely strapped into their seats, guests are served an exquisite set menu by Italian bistro Bar Alto, available for dinner from Thursday to Saturday, or brunch on Sunday morning.

Why go? It’s hard to top this equally thrilling yet terrifying dining experience at Brisbane’s highest restaurant. Those who can stomach it can enjoy the three-course dinner menu, featuring hand-rolled potato gnocchi, Adriatic seafood stew and the aptly named Death by Chocolate torte. You can also get sky high with Vertigo’s new Sunday brunch where you’ll start with Champagne, fresh fruit and croissants, followed by avo toast, spanner crab omelette or a porchetta and cheese toast. An Aperol Spritz will calm your nerves before you abseil off the edge of the building.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia

What is it? Brisbane is home to some of Australia's most beautiful islands, with many located in driving distance from the city. From big hitters like Stradbroke and Moreton, to chilled-out destinations like Bribie and Coochiemudlo, you'll find your piece of island paradise.

Why go? Less than an hour's ferry ride away, Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) is easily one of the best coastal day trips from Brisbane. You can hop on the passenger ferry or take a car over on the barge for the ultimate weekend getaway. Whale-watching season (June-November) is the ideal time to go, but the island is stunning year-round. And it’s the closest place to Brisbane where you can see kangaroos on the beach! 

Want more? Yura Tours run cultural tours led by traditional owners, the Quandamooka people. The Yallingbilla (Whale) Tour takes in wonderful views from the famous Gorge Walk at Mulumba (Point Lookout), while the Bajara 'Footprints' Tour will take you across beautiful beaches and lakes in a 4WD. 

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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  • Attractions
  • Eagle Farm - Pinkenba

What is it? What do you get when you combine 180 shipping containers, millions of fairy lights and food from all over the world? Eat Street Northshore.   

Why go? With more than 70 traders, five themed bars and a roster of live music, Eat Street is like a year-long carnival. It's open every Friday-Sunday, and you can expect to find everything from churros to Filipino street food. And it’s pet-friendly!

Want more? Live music is also on the menu – check out the website for upcoming gigs and events.

  • Attractions
  • Brisbane

What is it? Face your fears for the panoramic views at the top of Brisbane’s well-known Story Bridge, built in 1940. Punters get an information session on the history of the bridge before starting a climb that can be timed for dawn or dusk. 

Why go? For the chance to scale one of the few climbable bridges in the world, this urban adventure is not for the faint of heart. At the top, you’ll be 80 metres above sea level, with 360-degree views of the Glass House Mountains, Moreton Bay and the Brisbane skyline. 

Want more? Sign up for the Bridge to Brisbane, a yearly fun run. There are five and ten-kilometre races, and sprinting across the bridge with the masses is an exhilarating feeling.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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  • Things to do
  • Markets
  • Brisbane Inner

What is it? These bustling community markets are held every Saturday from 6am to 2pm in Davies Park, offering farm-fresh produce and small goods from more than 150 passionate vendors. West End itself is one of the most diverse and exciting inner city suburbs in Brisbane.

Why go? With seasonal produce, spectacular street food, boutique arts and crafts, fresh flowers, live entertainment and stacks of atmosphere, the real question is why wouldn’t you go? The market prides itself on being a ‘celebration of the eclectic diversity, independence and lifestyle’ that West End is known for. When you’ve finished wandering around the stalls, head into town for more food and coffee or take a stroll along the river to Orleigh Park. 

Want more? Brisbane is home to a host of markets, so make sure you check out some of the others, including the Brisbane City Markets, Northey Street Organic Markets, Brisbane Vegan Markets and special events like the Seasonal Flavours Twilight Markets.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
  • Attractions
  • Wildlife centres
  • Fig Tree Pocket

What is it? The world's first and largest koala sanctuary has way more than just koalas. You can get up close with 75 species of other Australian native animals and watch daily shows and presentations. 

Why go? Because koalas are adorable! Lone Pine has a lot of these little grey guys – more than 100 – ready and waiting to be cuddled and photographed with you. For something a little more spine-tingling, opt for a photo with a raptor or a snake, or come face to face with saltwater crocodiles in the Sanctuary's new 360-degree viewing dome. On the other end of the Australian wildlife spectrum, you can also hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies, or check out a sheep dog show, a platypus keeper talk or a big lorikeet-feeding session. 

Want more? Take the scenic route to the Sanctuary by booking a return trip on the Mirimar River Cruise. 

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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  • Attractions
  • Fortitude Valley

What is it? Originally built in the 1930s, the historic wharves have been revitalised into one of Brisbane’s newest entertainment destinations.

Why go? With stunning views of the Story Bridge, the Howard Smith Wharves are a nerve centre for dining out in the riverside city. The heritage-listed buildings are home to some of Brisbane’s hottest tables, including Greca, Yoko Dining, Stanley and Ciao Papi. The wharves are also the perfect spot for a relaxing riverside Spritz at Mr Percival’s or a locally brewed schooner at Felons Brewing Co.   

Want more? Walk or take the lift up to the nearby Wilson Outlook Reserve for Brisbane’s best sunset views over the Story Bridge.

  • Museums
  • History
  • Brisbane City

What is it? Take a trip back in time with a visit to the City Hall, which was the tallest building in town until the late 1960s. You can explore the museum on level three or take the free, 15-minute Clock Tower tour.

Why go? The Museum of Brisbane is an impressive attraction from the get-go. The venue is housed in Brisbane City Hall – the elegant, imposing neoclassical building overlooking the expansive King George Square. Take the lift up to the museum, which is dedicated to showcasing the art, stories, culture, history and talent of the Sunshine State's storied capital.

Want more? Book a free tour up to the very top of the Clock Tower, offering 360-degree views of the city skyline. You'll go for a ride in one of Brisbane's oldest working cage lifts, look behind Australia’s largest analogue clock faces and might even catch a glimpse of the bells.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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  • Attractions
  • Beaches
  • South Brisbane

What is it? Brisbane doesn't have a beach per se, so they built this thing. It's a palm-fringed inner-city swimming beach (the only one in Australia) along a lagoon with a picnic area, bang in the middle of South Bank Parklands.

Why go? You might grimace at the idea of swimming at a fake beach (that’s a normal reaction) but then you get there and find yourself marvelling at the view over the city and the fact that the whole place is free. Plus they’ve always got lifeguards on duty, so it’s a safe place for kids to burn off energy while you cool down.

Want more? Shady trees and cabanas provide spaces to park your towel, and ice cream is readily available from nearby shops and carts. 

What is it? BlackCard Cultural Tours run interactive tours in Meanjin (Brisbane city), offering a rare opportunity to connect with the oldest living culture in the world. 

Why go? Learn about the history of the city with an Aboriginal guide on one of three immersive Aboriginal Cultural Tours. From the past to the present, you'll learn about the cultural and spiritual significance of different sites, including the Maiwar (Brisbane River) and South Brisbane's Cultural Precinct. Tour highlights include exploring the city's collection of Indigenous public artworks (with work by Albert Namatjira, Lilla Watson, Fiona Foley and Clifford Possum), tasting the delights of the bush tucker trail and learning the ancient art of weaving.

Want more? Check out Birrunga Gallery and Café in the city for Indigenous art and bush tucker-inspired food, and Open House in West End for Indigenous fashion and homewares.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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What is it? The Brisbane River snakes through the heart of the city, and there are several tour operators who will help you get out on the water and show you the ropes, like Riverlife Adventure Centre.

Why go? Paddle Brisbane's scenic waterways and see the city from a new perspective as you take in sights from the water, including the Story Bridge, mangroves and the Myora shipwreck. Riverlife Adventures offer guided tours and kayak hire, so it doesn’t matter how experienced you are.

Want more? If you're not keen on kayaking, jump on a CityCat or CityHopper. The larger CityCat ferries cruise up and down the river from the University of Queensland to Northshore Hamilton. The smaller CityHoppers are a free inner city service that will ferry you across the river to major attractions. 

  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Fortitude Valley

What is it? Netherworld is an all-encompassing good time – drinking hole, diner and home to a collection of vintage arcade games. 

Why go? Venture beyond this hell mouth for guaranteed fun. Inside, you’ll find 25 arcade games, 15 pinball machines, consoles and more than 100 board games. Machines are only $1 to play, while consoles and board games are free; and there are deals during happy hour and special events. Add in a selection of locally brewed beers (Espresso Martini Stout, anyone?), a fusion Asian-American diner and live music, and you’ve got an epic night out.  

Want more? Come for the drinks and the games, stay for the food. All the grub at the Hellmouth diner is vegan, unless you choose to add dairy or carnivorous options as extras. Don’t leave without trying Mushu's Morsels – tempura cauliflower never tasted so good.  

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  • New Farm

What is it? Located in leafy New Farm Park, the Brisbane Powerhouse is the home of contemporary culture, performance and art in Brisbane. A pre-war industrial building by the river, its architecture is pretty striking as well.

Why go? Brisbane Powerhouse hosts events from the Brisbane Comedy Festival to the Melt: Festival of Queer Arts and Culture. The space clocks in more than 1,250 performances every year. Catch a CityCat to New Farm, enjoy a stroll through the park and then check out what’s on offer at the Powerhouse for a perfect night out in Brisbane.

Want more? Enjoy a pre-show drink at one of the two on-site bars, both with riverside views. The Powerhouse is also home to weekly farmers markets, held every Saturday.

Picnic in the parklands

What is it? Brisbane’s inner city is home to several parklands, including the City Botanic Gardens, Roma Street Parklands and New Farm Park.

Why go? Brisbane’s subtropical weather means that it is perfect for picnics year-round. Pack your own or check out some of the local companies that offer bespoke picnic experiences.

Want more? The twinkling fairy lights adorning the fig trees at the City Botanic Gardens are a much-loved photo opportunity come nighttime.

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What is it? Navigate the neighbourhood of Brisbane's largest Asian population on a three-hour Food Discovery Tour of Sunnybank. You'll taste some of the best Asian food in Brisbane, while diving into the culture, history and cuisine of some of the world's oldest cultures. 

Why go? Sunnybank is a melting pot of culture known for its fabulous food options – from Chinese favourites like hot pot and yum cha to Korean barbecue, Japanese, Malaysian, Taiwanese, Singaporean and Vietnamese restaurants. Your passionate tour guide and professional chef Tony Ching, will show you the top spots to eat and shop, with lots of dumplings, noodles and soups to be demolished along the way.

Want more? Check out Sunnybank Oriental Restaurant for authentic Hong Kong-style breakfasts, Pappa Roti for buttery coffee buns and teh tarik (pulled milk tea), and Danbo for vegan-friendly ramen.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia

Explore South Bank to Kangaroo Point on two wheels

What is it? This easy, breezy route from South Bank to Kangaroo Point is made up of parklands, riverside walkways, restaurants and bars. There’s even an urban beach if you feel like a dip! Kangaroo Point features riverside cliffs with spectacular views and plenty of barbecue and picnic areas.

Why go? Touring South Bank on two wheels is one of the best ways to experience the sites. Jump on your bike or hire a scooter and cruise along the riverside bike tracks, stopping to refuel and admire the views along the way. With a packed schedule of events, including markets, festivals and free outdoor music, there’s bound to be something going on.

Want more? Ride all the way to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, where you can either watch the rock climbers scaling the heights or join them!

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Catch some live music in The Valley

What is it? Fortitude Valley is home to Brisbane’s well-loved live music scene, where bands like Powderfinger, Regurgitator and The Grates cut their teeth.

Why go? Head to The Valley for the best beats and boogies Brisbane has to offer. With venues like The Tivoli, The Triffid, Fortitude Music Hall, Ric’s Bar, Greaser and Black Bear Lodge, you're spoilt for choice with nightly gigs from local and international stars. Opened way back in 1992, The Zoo remains the spiritual home for live music in Brisbane, and is one of the oldest independently owned live music venues in Australia. 

Want more? Grabbing a slice of pizza from New York Slice is a rite of passage after a night out in the Valley.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia

What is it? The Emporium Hotel towers over Southbank, and The Terrace is the place to see and be seen. 

Why go? From leisurely breakfasts to late-night cocktails, all served with a side of stunning views, The Terrace is the ultimate rooftop bar. The best bit? The retractable ceiling and operable glass roof.

Want more? Check out the infinity pool on the terrace. It might just entice you to book a staycation. 

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  • Things to do
  • Games and hobbies
  • Kelvin Grove - Herston

What is it? Challenge your mettle with a putter at this 18-hole mini golf course, featuring sand and water traps and swinging poles. Victoria Park Putt Putt hosts regular themed events, including Halloween and Christmas, as well as live music and family events at the bistro.

Why go? With great city views and an on-site bar, the putt putt course is perfect for family fun, first dates and after-work hangs. Check out the bistro after a taxing round of mini golf for a bite to eat. Top tip: visit later in the evening during the summer months to beat the heat and soak up the night-time views. 

Want more? Brisbane City Council is revamping the area into a 64-hectare natural retreat with the ‘Victoria Park Vision’. Sign up on the council’s website for updates on how to be part of the community consultation.

What is it? From night-time shows, balls and musicals to brunches, bingo and trivia, Brisbane's best drag queens know how to wow a crowd.

Why go? If you’ve never been to a drag brunch, here’s your invitation. Cloudland’s Brunch with Bite is on every Sunday from 11am to 2pm, featuring riotous and risqué entertainment, along with a banquet brunch and booze package. The buzzing Fortitude Valley bar also hosts the drag-and-dine musical, Hey Felicia 2.0. Trust us, it’s a lot of fun. 

Want more? Some of the original drag venues are still going strong in Brisbane. Check out The Sportsman Hotel, The Beat Megaclub and The Wickham Hotel for weekly shows and drag trivia. For a taste of drag Ballroom culture, follow House of Alexander for upcoming events.

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Melissa Woodley
Travel & News Editor, Time Out Australia
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Escape to nature

What is it? Brisbane is home to huge areas of bushland, with the council conserving over 9,500 hectares for the protection of biodiversity. Take your pick from nature reserves, wetlands, forests, parks, creeks and lakes.

Why go? For an antidote to city living, get back to nature. The Bayside Parklands are particularly stunning, with the Moreton Bay Marine Park listed as a Wetland of International Importance. Enjoy the greenery however you wish, whether it's swimming or canoeing at Enoggera Reservoir, mountain biking at Daisy Hill State Forest, bird watching at the Boondall Wetlands, exploring the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre or hiking to the Cedar Creek Falls for a dip in the ice cold waters.   

Want more? Nyanda Cultural Tours offer Indigenous cultural tours around the Nudgee Waterholes, taking in the Bora Ring and bush food garden.

What is it? Craft beer breweries and distilleries have boomed in Brisbane, meaning you are spoilt for choice when it comes to trying the local flavours.

Why go? Support a local business and throw back a cold bevvie, what’s not to love? There are a whole host of places to check out in Brissie, including Newstead Brewing Co, Catchment Brewing Co, and Green Beacon Brewing. Ballistic Beer Co started in suburban Salisbury but has expanded to include several locations, making it the largest brewery on the Southside of Brisbane. With a core range of traditional style beers and an ever-changing selection of seasonal and experimental brews, Ballistic is well worth checking out. 

Want more? The Brisbane Distillery runs its own Gin School, where you can learn how to distil your own unique bottle of gin.

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  • Attractions
  • Woolloongabba

What is it? Named for its location in the inner suburb of Woolloongabba, the Gabba is the definitive home of sport in Brisbane.

Why go? With sport on offer all year round, you can choose from cricket, AFL, rugby league, rugby union, soccer and baseball. The Gabba is the home ground for the Brisbane Lions, Brisbane Heat and the Queensland Bulls, so there’s plenty of opportunity to catch a home game. 

Want more? The Olympics are set to take place in Brisbane in 2032, so keep an eye out for the Gabba’s major upgrade before it takes centre stage. 

  • Seafood
  • Manly - Lota

What is it? An iconic seafood restaurant with views of the boats moored in the marina as well as Moreton Bay.

Why go? Lunch (or dinner) here can’t help but be an occasion. You don’t have to be Daddy Warbucks to have an ace seafood experience here – you can line up for fish and chips in the casual outdoor patio section and eat your catch at the tables under big umbrellas. You still get to look at the ocean (albeit framed by cars in the carpark) and your food is coming straight from the same kitchen that’s servicing the indoor diners. 
Your fry-up comes wrapped in paper, so you can take the lot away and eat it on the esplanade if you prefer. 

Want more? Try some more of the best fish and chips in Brisbane.

More great things to do in Brisbane

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