From wild dolphins and crocodile shows to folk festivals and street dancing, Brisbane is an attractive river city with nature, wildlife and cultural activities at its doorstep.
Here are some classic places to visit in Brisbane and a stack of other cool things to do in Brisbane at night too.
- 6 Classic Things To Do in Brisbane
- 3 Places to visit near Brisbane
- Cool Things To Do in Brisbane
- Things to do in Brisbane at night
6 Classic Things To Do in Brisbane
1- Explore South Bank
With a picturesque riverfront promenade and the only beach in the heart of an Australian city, South Bank is one of Australia’s most creatively designed riverside precincts.
Meander through parklands, rainforest walks and under designer flower-trellises that stretch along winding pathways.
You’ll find yourself wandering past outdoor cafes, bubbling water features and colourful markets each weekend.
That Brisbane is a river city with no natural beaches has not deterred its sun-loving residents from enjoying the sand and sunshine.
Streets Beach opens up into a man-made lagoon which is patrolled seven days a week by professional lifeguards.
On weekends, people gather at the beach to swim, sunbake and take part in one of the many sponsored competitions.
You could spend an entire day on its own just wandering around the Queensland Cultural Centre through the Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Museum and State Library.
Also in the precinct, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Opera Queensland and Queensland Theatre Company show a changing menu of live performances.
2- Cruise the Brisbane River
For five dollars a day, you can hop on and off the fast, sleek City Cat ferry to explore many of Brisbane’s attractions.
Start at North Quay, a city stop which is a short walk into Queen Street Mall and the heart of Brisbane’s shopping area.
Eagle Street Pier is home to the Sunday Craft Market, popular with the locals.
The Sydney Street stop is a short stroll to the popular cafes in New Farm.
There are also other organised cruise options such as the historical River Queen paddle wheeler or the Mirimar Wildlife Cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
Brisbane City Hall’s revamped museum has an exhibition on the Brisbane River.
3- Relax in Roma Street Parkland
A paradise in the centre of a growing city and the world’s largest urban subtropical garden, Roma Street Parkland is designed to show off a wide assortment of plants.
Wander along the Forest Walk over cascading waterfalls and around steep hills to the colourful ever-changing display of annuals in the Spectacle Garden.
Camellias and Azaleas, Native Violets, Bird of Paradise, Gymea lilies, Bangkok Roses are currently in season.
Themed gardens include the Topiary Maze Garden, Lilly Pilly Garden, a wall of Epiphytes and an extensive collection of herbs.
One-hour guided walks are free (10 am daily Sept-May, 11 am June-Aug and 2 pm Thurs-Sun all year round).
4- See the view at Mt Coot-tha
The best view of Brisbane can be found from the observation deck at Mt Coot-tha, a 15-minute drive from the city centre.
The lookout is well-planned with reading guides to the city, a wishing waterfall and beautifully manicured gardens that blend into the surrounding bushland.
The Summit Restaurant and Bar is a popular lunch spot (here are more cafes in Brisbane) which serves up contemporary Australian cuisine and terrific views.
After lunch, take the Aboriginal Art Trail, a 45-minute return walk, down to Slaughter’s Falls past Aboriginal contemporary paintings, tree carvings and rock paintings.
Nearby, there are free guided tours of the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens (11.00 am and 1.00 pm Monday to Saturday).
5- Have a flutter at Conrad Treasury
Try your luck at one of the 80 gaming tables and thousands of slot machines in Brisbane casino’s stately 19th-century sandstone building.
Brisbane’s Treasury building is one of Australia’s grandest heritage buildings and was the seat of power for the Queensland Government Treasury for 70 years.
Now named Conrad Treasury, this stately building houses a casino and five-star hotel; and is ironically still raking in the money.
6- Discover St Helena Island
A fun way to learn about Queensland’s colonial history is on a spooky ghost tour through the ruins of St Helena Island.
For over 60 years, St Helena was Queensland’s Alcatraz, a maximum security prison for men once known as the “hell hole of the South Pacific”.
Today it is a national park of historical value.
3 Places to visit near Brisbane
7- Visit Moreton Island
Although the world’s second largest sand island consists mostly of national park with expansive white sandy beaches and sparkling freshwater lakes, it does have a few small villages.
You can hire a 4WD on the mainland, catch the ferry across and drive straight to the beach where normal traffic rules (and a 60-kilometre per hour speed limit) apply.
When American heiress Paris Hilton visited Australia, she was spotted cavorting with the wildlife at the Tangalooma Resort.
Tangalooma provides the opportunity to hand feed wild dolphins on the beach, as well as a raft of nature-based activities suitable for families.
8- See the wildlife at Australia Zoo
The main stars of Australia Zoo are the saltwater crocodiles.
Make sure you catch one of the daily feedings where brave Steve Irwin look-alikes dangle chicken carcasses to entice the cranky crocs out of the muddy billabongs.
There are other animal shows that feature Asian otters, cuddly koalas, snakes, Harriet the amazing giant Galapagos tortoise, elephants and camels.
One of the newest additions to the zoo is the Tiger Temple – a Southeast Asian temple replica with an underwater viewing area – which is home to five tigers and four cheetah cubs.
9- Enjoy music at Woodford Folk Festival
Held over six days and six nights, 2000 Australian and international performers strut their stuff at Australia’s largest folk festival.
With over 400 events (such as concerts, dances, workshops, forums, street theatre, comedy sessions, acoustic jams, social dialogue and debates) Woodford devotees often bring their camping gear and camp out in a special area on the grounds.
There is also an entire children’s festival, art and craft workshops and late night cabarets.
Cool Things To Do in Brisbane
THINGS are changing so rapidly in Brisbane these days, blink and you might miss all the funky happenings in the Queensland capital. From cafes to shops, restaurants, bars and all the quirky spots in between, here are some places to visit in Brisbane and the coolest neighbourhoods to explore the hidden corners of the city.
10- Charlotte Street
Wandering around Charlotte Street and surrounds is a wonderful web of some of Brisbane’s most intriguing experiences.
Start in Charlotte Street with John Mills Himself – a café and bar – which uses all-local and organic coffee and produce where possible.
At the same address, you’ll find Archives Fine Books which stocks speciality tomes.
Head towards adjacent Albert Street for a host of Mediterranean dining experiences at Jeremy’s, Pane e Vino, Café Mondial and Gelattissimo.
In nearby Albert Lane, you’ll find cheap and cheerful eateries such as Little Singapore.
Albert Lane also boasts the uber cool Skatebiz where hipsters can eyeball skateboards and roller blades to their heart’s content.
A little further up, in Elizabeth Arcade, discover Violent Green, a boutique which specialises in local and international fashion, with a bit of a dark twist.
For something more upmarket and in the other direction towards the river, Restaurant Two is Brisbane fine-dining on a plate.
Work off some of the award-winning dishes served here across the road at the Botanic Gardens where you can partake in a free guided walk or hire a bike.
After dark, head down to The Laneway, a cocktail bar hidden away in Spencer Lane off Margaret Street.
11- Wickham Terrace
The hills up and around Wickham Terrace are alive with the sound of music, and from one of the most incongruent venues imaginable.
Just recently, clever creative souls decided to open up the old Spring Hill Reservoir to Opera in the Reservoir, a pop-up event which takes advantage of the supreme acoustics here.
For authentic Lebanese cuisine head to Al Beik Lebanese and Holy Moly Espresso sits up here too.
Also up on Spring Hill is the Spring Hill Café Deli, which serves such delights such as a peaches and cream milkshake.
Or grab some of their delectable deli produce and wander down to the Roma Street Parklands for a picnic.
Be sure to check out the tropical gardens and languid lake here before stopping at Melange Café for a coffee or High Tea.
For a caffeine hit with a splash of theatre continue on towards Ann Street and to the pop-up Glen’s Espresso.
First-timers here receive a cuppa for $1 if Glen thinks you are good looking.
Shake shoulders with Brisbane’s big wigs a little further along George Street at Cicada, a café, restaurant and bar, frequented by the city’s legal eagles.
12- Queen Street Mall
A visit to Brisbane isn’t complete without a stroll down the Queen Street Mall and surrounds.
Wear your walking shoes, as this is a shoppers’ paradise, with everything from the mainstream to high-end stores which epitomise Queens Plaza at the bottom of the Mall.
We’re talking the likes of Louis Vuitton, Paspaley Pearls and Tiffany & Co here.
Australia’s first Forever 21 store has just opened in Queen Street and Zara is slated to open soon.
Also check out Brisbane Arcade, Rowes Arcade and Tattersall’s Arcade for a variety of shopping experiences.
To sustain this fashion frenzy, grab a sugar hit at the upmarket Chocolate Moments, which has a store in both Queen Street and adjacent Albert Street, and serves some of the finest chocolate in the land.
For an afternoon caffeine injection, head to Brew, tucked away in Burnett Lane, between Adelaide and Queen Streets.
Burnett Lane is also home to SuperWhatNot, which opens from mid-afternoon until late and serves craft beer, wine and an impressive cocktail list.
Jamie Oliver’s Jamies Italian will also be opening in mid to late November in nearby Adelaide Street.
13- Astor Street
Astor Street sits on its high horse up on Brisbane’s terraces, and deservedly so.
It is also the ideal perch from which to wander in search of some of the best caffeine in the Queensland capital.
Trundle down the hill towards Creek Street and you’ll discover Bikini Red Salad Bar which oozes a variety of healthy offerings from salads, omelettes, juices, yoghurts and fruit.
For a taste of the Mediterranean, check out Saffron on Creek bistro.
Sated and pious, head to nearby Adelaide Street and Brisbane’s first coffee roastery, opened in 1970, for a cuppa which has stood the test of time.
For something more modern, head further down Creek Street towards the river and stop in at Bar Linea Espresso.
Further down towards the river at Queen Street, you’ll find Cremosa Espresso Bar, one of three in the city, which touts itself as a true Italian espresso bar experience boasting some of the best baristas as well as paninis, pastries, and coffee, of course.
Things to do in Brisbane at night
From Spanish tapas bars to Irish pubs, Fortitude Valley has plenty of cool things to do in Brisbane.
Fortitude Valley is the hub of Brisbane’s nightlife.
Trawl the hip nightclubs and Brisbane craft beer bars for evening entertainment.
The Valley markets are Bohemian and cosmopolitan were where International Australian sensations Sass and Bide started off.
Browse through a collection of up-and-coming designers displaying fashion, accessories, crafts and homewares.
Also renowned for its underground music culture – as the birthplace of international bands such as Powderfinger and Savage Garden – there are new unsigned bands trying out their luck in the marketplace.
Fortitude Valley is situated between Brunswick Street and China Town Malls.
14- Macrossan Street
Perched in pole position within walking distance of the CBD on one side and Fortitude Valley on the other, Macrossan Street has something for everyone from its riverside location, including the upmarket Ecco Bistro.
During daylight hours, wander along the waterfront and you’ll soon hit the Riverside precinct with arguably the best dining in Brisbane (if you’re after a steak restaurant in Brisbane you won’t be disappointed).
Choose from some of the headline acts such as Esquire, Sake, Jellyfish and Pony for a wide variety of chefs and cuisine.
A huge range of coffee shops, offering multi-million dollar views of the Story Bridge, also frequent this precinct.
After the sun sets, head in the other direction to Fortitude Valley, Brisbane’s best nightlife location with everything from The Beat Megaclub to the more intimate Bowery bar.
Cloudland, along Ann Street, is a destination in itself, with 5000 plants climbing 14-metre walls and its trademark bar constructed from 19,000 crystal balls.
There are floors and floors of booths, bars and restaurants here.
15- Grey Street
The name of this street is a little misleading, as it’s all about colour and life along Grey Street and its surrounds.
Sitting along South Bank, there’s plenty to do whether it’s shopping in boutiques such as Akuti, Izabel Shoes and Nancy King, or fine dining along the riverfront at places like Stokehouse, Poppolo and Cove.
In the other direction along the river, head to Brisbane’s cultural precinct comprised of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Queensland Museum South Bank, Queensland Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), and State Library of Queensland.
In one day, you can investigate your family history, explore the dinosaurs, see a show, admire Australian artists, dine and shop while indulging in pretty park surrounds with city views.
For a really cool experience, the Soleil Pool Bar, at Bacchus in nearby Glenelg Street, is one of the hottest new hangouts.
Back on Grey Street, check out The Charming Squire, James Squire’s new brew bar which focuses on craft beer and delicious dishes.