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 10 things to do in Brisbane.
1- 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- 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- 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 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- 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- Fortitude Valley
From Spanish tapas bars to Irish pubs, Fortitude Valley has plenty of cool things to do in Brisbane. It’s the hub of Brisbane’s nightlife. Trawl the hip nightclubs and 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, Fortitude Valley.
7- 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.
8- 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.
9- 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.
10- 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.
For more ideas on what to see and do in Queensland go to Best of Queensland.