Brisbane is a city dear to our hearts after our unforgettable travels around Australia. We spent a lot of time in Brisbane and spent a couple of nights in Brisbane City. We loved Brisbane for its modest size, scenic river, modern architecture, and accessible bike lanes across the city. Brisbane is a lovely place to live and reminds us of our hometown of Rotterdam.
Given its smaller size, it’s easy to get around Brisbane and see most of the highlights in one day. Many of the best attractions sit along the Brisbane River, and there are stunning cityscapes everywhere. And the mountains and islands just beyond the city limits tempt you with beautiful nature escapes.
To excite you for a visit to Brisbane, we’ve tallied our favorite activities from this laid-back town. Avid trekkers, beachgoers, foodies, music fanatics, history buffs, and everyone in between will find fun activities here. For the best experience, here are our 15 top things to do in Brisbane.
Things to Do and See in Brisbane
1. Take a Picture with the Brisbane Letters
With the Brisbane skyline forming the backdrop, the colorful Brisbane letters make the best first photo of your adventures. The eye-popping sign sits along the Brisbane River and dazzles visitors with its creative artistic designs. Although it was a temporary fixture, popular demand wanted the Brisbane letters to remain on the river’s southern bank. For the iconic photo, cross the Victoria Bridge from the Brisbane CBD and stroll down the Clem Jones Promenade.
2. Visit the Streets Beach Brisbane Lagoon in South Bank
Walk a little farther down the Clem Jones Promenade to discover this crystal-clear urban swimming hole. South Bank is the perfect beach escape to beat the heat without leaving the inner city. The lagoon sparkles beneath the sunlight, and sunbathers can lounge on the sandy shore. With skyline and riverside views, the palm-fringed retreat does its best beach resort imitation.
3. Learn the Aboriginal Culture
Australia’s Gold Coast abounds with the history and rituals of the Aboriginals who first inhabited these lands. For a chance to experience Aboriginal traditions firsthand, this cultural show and dinner is an ethereal experience to add to your things to do in Brisbane. You’ll learn about Aboriginal Dreamtime and witness a live theatre spectacle of spirited song and dance.
The show transports you to the 19th century and delves into the story of brothers meeting British settlers. As you depart Brisbane for the Gold Coast, guides entertain you with fascinating Aboriginal tales. After watching the cast bring the Beenleigh Historical Village to life, chow down with a delicious dinner of traditional Australian food.
4. Explore the Markets
Brisbane is home to a smorgasbord of lively markets, and they’re the best place to shop on the weekends. From fresh produce to handmade crafts, you’re guaranteed to find something that fancies your interest. Plus, wandering the markets helps you shop local and support local businesses.
If you can’t wait till the weekend, hit up the Brisbane City Markets for tasty produce, artisan cheeses, meats, and sweet treats. The markets operate at Reddacliffe Place 8 am to 4 pm on Wednesdays and Cathedral Square 8 am to 2 pm on Thursdays.
For a little live music with your shopping, Riverside Sunday Market plays tunes as you search for arts & crafts, clothing, international food, coffee, and fresh produce. The famous Sunday market is among Brisbane’s most famous and opens from 8 am to 3 pm.
5. Ride the Wheel of Brisbane
Located in the South Bank, the Wheel of Brisbane is among the best things to do in Brisbane for dramatic skyline views. The iconic Ferris wheel soars to heights of 60 m (197 ft) and lets you capture the top sights of Brisbane. Constructed in 2008, the wheel amazes both tourists and locals with its heart-racing cityscapes any time of day.
With 42 climate-controlled gondolas capable of holding 8 people, the wheel is fantastic for large groups. But if you’re looking for the most romantic things to do in Brisbane, the Wheel of Brisbane makes a great choice. Sitting at the top with 360° sunset views of Brisbane can be a treat for couples on a city retreat.
6. Go Abseiling at Kangaroo Point
The Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a Brisbane icon and entice thrill-seekers exploring Australia. During this tour, you can conquer the 20-meter (66 ft) cliffs with the help of a trained abseiling instructor. And of course, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Brisbane skyline. Overlooking the Brisbane River, standing atop the cliffs is easily one of the top things to do in Brisbane.
After rappelling the vertical wall, watch kayakers and City Cat ferries cruising the river. The unparalleled views of Brisbane include towering skyscrapers, city parks, and boats docked in the harbor. If you’re shaky about heights, your instructor is there every step to encourage you.
7. Go Hiking
Brisbane is for hikers, and the city has a myriad of urban trails that entice trekkers. Stroll down riverside paths, smell flower gardens, visit city parks, and find small bushlands right in Brisbane. You’ll find endless places for a picnic, so pack a lunch when you set off on your day hike around the city.
An essential Brisbane city walk is the Kangaroo to Story Bridge hike that follows the river. You’ll ascend bridges, spot climbers hanging from the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, and get incredible views of the Brisbane CBD. Just a short drive from the CBD, the Seven Hills Bushland Reserve feels like a city escape. It’s a cool spot to find wildlife and feel like you’re in nature without venturing outside of Brisbane.
8. Moreton Island
Brisbane has several offshore islands in Moreton Bay, and Moreton Island takes you on a beach getaway. With white-sand shores and dreamy turquoise waters, Moreton Island is a slice of heaven. From the Brisbane Port, it’s only a 75-minute ferry ride to this immense sand island. Whether you cruise to Moreton Island to hike, chill at the resort, or go swimming, you’ll leave feeling recharged.
While you’re cruising to Moreton Island, keep your eyes peeled for the Tangalooma Wrecks just offshore. For a closer glimpse, go snorkeling at Moreton Bay Marine Park, where you might also see bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles. If you’d rather explore Moreton Island by land, a 4WD tour is our pick. Ride around the island to visit bushlands, sandy beaches, dunes, freshwater lakes, bubbling pools, and the scenic Cape Moreton. So, visiting Moreton islands is definitely one of the most incredible things to do in Brisbane.
9. Watch a Concert
Brisbane has a killer music scene and some of the most underrated venues in Australia. Up-and-coming artists thrive with the large collection of concert halls, and you can catch tomorrow’s biggest stars. Fortitude Valley is Brisbane’s live music epicenter, but there are energetic venues in multiple neighborhoods playing every genre under the sun. So, watching a concert is one of the most epic things to do in Brisbane!
We saw a Tom Walker concert at the Tivoli, an indoor theatre and music space that’s a Fortitude Valley staple. Brisbanites call it “The Tiv,” and the venue accommodates 1,500 people standing room when the energy soars through the roof. Other rowdy venues in Fortitude Valley to check out include The Zoo, Black Bear Lodge, and Fortitude Music Hall.
Situated in New Farm, the Brisbane Powerhouse is a hip performing arts venue to check out. The old tram power station hosts concerts, comedy shows, art exhibitions, and more. We stopped by the Powerhouse to watch a film festival during our Brisbane stay.
10. Story Bridge
Another iconic landmark in Brisbane, Story Bridge offers one of the few bridge climbs in the world. The steel cantilever bridge crosses the Brisbane River and has thrilling views of the Brisbane skyline. While the bridge is free for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles, adrenaline junkies will love the Story Bridge Adventure Climb.
The 2-hour ascent takes you to spine-tingling heights for one of the best panoramic views above Brisbane. Starting beneath the bridge, you’ll climb a spiral staircase before reaching the suspended walkway. But the real fun begins when you ascend the cantilever arm that rises above the Brisbane River. You’ll have mind-blowing vistas of Kangaroo Point, Moreton Bay, and even the Glass House Mountains at the summit.
11. Hike Mount Coot-Tha
Mount Coot-Tha is the most accessible mountain range in Brisbane and a must-do activity for trekkers. Just a 15-minute drive from the Brisbane CBD, Mount Coot-Tha treats you to sprawling views of the city skyline. Bushlands, eucalypt forests, and radiant gardens adorn the range to give nature lovers a refreshing break from urban life.
The Mount Coot-Tha Summit Trail courses through forested terrain and passes tumbling creeks before reaching the popular lookout. From the summit, it’s one of our favorite sunset spots overlooking the Brisbane skyline.
If you like hiking, also check out our guide on the best areas for hiking around Brisbane.
12. Cruise the Brisbane River
Cruising the Brisbane River is the perfect way to discover why they call Brisbane the “River City.” The river bends through the heart of Brisbane and links many of the city’s top attractions. A trip down the river is the best thing to do in Brisbane to visit all the beautiful riverside sights.
Adventurous travelers can take a guided kayaking tour along the river to explore the city’s most famous landmarks. As you paddle down the waterway, learn about Brisbane from your guide while admiring the South Bank and Story Bridge.
One of the most romantic things to do in Brisbane is enjoying a sunset river cruise with your better half. Watch the Brisbane skyline sparkle and the sky emit bright shades of orange as you listen to music and enjoy a refreshing drink.
13. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Around a 20-25 minute drive from Brisbane CBD, you’ll find the world’s largest koala sanctuary. The sanctuary creates a nurturing refuge for injured and orphaned koalas to protect the adorable creatures. Lone Pine’s dedicated staff helps visitors connect with loveable species in a habitat similar to their natural environment.
First opened in 1927, the facility lets you mingle with koalas, kangaroos, and other Australian wildlife in a safe setting. Stand face-to-face with koalas, hand-feed kangaroos, and meet other native species like the platypus, Tasmanian devil, and wombat. Lone Pine remains steadfast to its mission of environmental wildlife management, and you’ll witness firsthand how they achieve their goals.
14. Day Trip to Bribie Island
Bribie Island is one of the essential things to do in Brisbane for nature lovers with its pristine sands and tea-tree lagoons. The island links to the mainland and is the most accessible beach getaway outside of Brisbane. For an action-packed day exploring Bribie Island, a 4WD Nature Adventure is our choice.
Drive along the white-sand beaches and gaze at the crystal-clear waters lining the shore. Continue your journey to the brown-tinted tea-tree lagoons, where you can go for a soothing dip. Eventually, you’ll ride into the wetlands and forests to search for all sorts of Australian birdlife. And don’t miss the Pumicestone Passage to witness the glorious vistas of the Glass House Mountains.
15. Sip a Drink at a Riverside Café
After an exciting afternoon exploring Brisbane’s natural beauty, a drink by the river hits the spot. The subtropical climate creates balmy weather most of the year, but the Brisbane River makes up for it. Brisbanites are spoiled with countless charming cafés beside the river that offer respite from the heat. The waterfront views are spectacular, and you’ll quench your thirst with your favorite beverage.
More about Brisbane
Where is It?
Nestled on the Brisbane River, Brisbane is the capital and largest city of Queensland. Near Moreton Bay, the “River City” sits on Australia’s eastern coast between the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Brisbane is around 917 km (570 miles) north of Sydney and 1,678 km (1,043 miles) southeast of Cairns.
How to Get Around?
Brisbane is pedestrian-friendly but renting a city bike provides convenient transport for places too far to walk. There are city bike stations everywhere, and it’s an easy, affordable way to explore Brisbane. Public transport is super-efficient, and the TransLink go card gives you access to bus, ferry, and rail services.
How many days here?
For the best experience, you’ll need 1-3 days to explore the best sights in Brisbane. But if you want to make extra trips to the mountains and islands, plan for a couple more days.
Where to stay?
Brisbane has a wide range of accommodation options that suit travelers of every budget. For mid-budget travelers, we can recommend The Cliff House for its fabulous location in Kangaroo Point.
TIP: Book your stay with hotels.com and get 1 night free for every 10 nights you stay!
These were our choices for the 15 best things to do in Brisbane. If you have questions or if you have other recommendations, please leave a comment below.
Are you ready to explore more of Australia? Check out our Australia page to read all our tips, tricks, and things to do in this country.