The Top 10 Things to do in Brisbane, QLD and Surrounds
Perhaps Australia's most up-and-coming capital, Brisbane has seen continued fast growth over recent years yet still manages to provide one of the best balances of urbanisation versus nature that helps make it one of the more pleasant cities to visit. With an excellent central area dissected by a lovely river, easy access to some wonderful coastal areas, and possibly the best overall weather of any Aussie capital, Brisbane has a ton to offer both visitors and residents.
Looking for all the best tours, attractions and other things to do in Brisbane?
While it may not yet have the international fame that its southern brothers Sydney
currently enjoy, this is quickly changing as its reputation for providing an ideal balance of activities, attractions and atmosphere is increasingly obvious. The city's CBD is a great example of urban planning, while areas emphasising the outdoors, the cultural, quality shopping and dining area all available within easy reach of one another.
This level of diversity and accessibility thus makes Brisbane easy to recommend for travelling adults and families alike, as there's likely to be at least one area or attraction in the city you'll fall in love with. But what are the overall “best” things to do in Brisbane? Here's our list - based on a combination of customer feedback, local knowledge and balance of appeal to all demographics – of the Top 10 Things to do in Brisbane:
Explore Brisbane by Bicycle
West End, Brisbane, QLD
One of the core reasons Brisbane is such an enjoyable city to spend time in is that it lacks a lot of the “hemmed-in” feeling many other capitals around the world tend to have. Great lengths have been taken to provide alternative methods of public transport to help alleviate traffic congestion, with its excellent CityCat water taxi system being one example, and its expansive amount of bike ways and paths being another. Ideal for getting around the city regardless of if you're a local making the daily commute to work or a visitor looking to explore some of the city's most scenic spots, cycling offers a relaxed, family-friendly and healthy way to take in Queensland's capital. This is augmented by the city's comprehensive CityCycle system that allows for the public rental of bikes from a number of terminals dotted around the city, meaning that you'll seldom be in a spot where a bike is not available nearby.
"Choice of bike routes in Brisbane is vast enough to be almost overwhelming, and it's here that tour company Brisbane by Bicycle come in, offering first-time visitors a guided tour from a local's point of view."
The majority of the most popular sightseeing areas in the city and its outskirts are accessible by bike, and each offer a different aspect of the city and its environment – the expansive and green natural surrounds of the Boondall Wetlands, the historic suburb of Newfarm with its winding path following the Brisbane River, Toowong's Bicentennial Bikeway and rides leading up to scenic Mount Coot-tha are just some of the possibilities on offer that are all reachable on two wheels. Choice of bike routes in Brisbane is comprehensive enough to be almost overwhelming, and it's here that tour company Brisbane by Bicycle come in, offering first-time visitors to the city or those looking to explore some of its best parts by bike a guided tour from a local's point of view.
Offering a range of tours to both the major highlights of the city centre as well as some areas and outlooks that aren't covered by the majority of guidebooks, a ride with Brisbane by Bicycle helps to add a historical and social context to many of the sights you'll end up seeing along the way. These bike tours are conducted at a leisurely pace to minimise fatigue and focus on sightseeing and acquiring local knowledge, with the majority of bike rides following the Brisbane River – routes are designed to cover all the essential aspects of Brisbane's inner city while minimising the riding up hills whenever possible, which is a nice touch. It's a great starting point if you're paying your first visit to the city – you'll learn a lot about what there is to see and do around the city along the way, which can provide you with some more informed decisions of where to visit during the rest of your stay.
Couple the scenic opportunities on offer with a friendly and down-to-earth attitude along with some pleasant stops in parks for some nice views – be sure to bring your camera along for the ride! - and a meal to recharge your batteries, and its a thorough introduction to what makes the city tick. A ride with Brisbane by Bicycle is thus easy to recommend, and you'll likely come away with a new appreciation for the well-constructed layout of the city along with some extra tidbits of info on many of the items mentioned later on this list.
See the Whales with Brisbane Whale Watching
133-137 Redcliffe Parade, Redcliffe, QLD
Brisbane's coastal aspect and easy access to the open ocean makes it a city that blends all the benefits of modern urban construction with plenty of emphasis for enjoying water-based activities, with its iconic river, waterfront areas and nearby islands all being prime examples of this. Heading out on the water in some form is thus a must while you're here, and during the yearly whale watching season Brisbane offers a great opportunity to get out and see the gentle giants of the ocean, as the calm waters of the adjacent Moreton Bay offer a place for the Humpbacks and Southern Rights to rest and tend to their young. Brisbane's whale watching season takes place between June and November each year, and operator Brisbane Whale Watching provide eager participants with the chance to head out on the water and encounter the most surface-active of all whales.
"One of the added benefits of Brisbane's whale watching offerings is the short distance you'll have to travel for your first whale sighting given how close Moreton Bay is to the city."
Displaying playful behaviour that has to be seen up close to be fully appreciated, the Humpbacks are surprisingly agile given their mass. The sheer size of the creatures is impressive, and combined with their surprising agility as they breach, it's truly a sight to behold. One of the added benefits of Brisbane's whale watching offerings is the short distance you'll have to travel for your first whale sighting; given how close Moreton Bay is to the city, it's often possible to encounter your first whale after a mere 30 minutes worth of seafaring – something of a rarity amongst the world's capital cities. Of course, given the wild and uncontrolled nature of the experience, there can't be guarantees about how close the whales will approach, but this largely beats encountering animals in a comparatively sterile, manufactured zoo-style environment. If a whale breaches right in front of your eyes, you can be sure the behaviour was completely spontaneous which makes the occurrence all the more magical.
In terms of the whale watching tours themselves, Brisbane Whale Watching's vessel is modern, big and comfortable with all the modern on-board conveniences, and also was constructed with specially-designed engine mounting that helps make for reduced noise and vibration that reduces any irritation for the whales. Other marine life such as dolphins and sea turtles also frequent this part of the 'Bay, adding to the diversity of the sightseeing experience. Tour itineraries also include a tasty and plentiful lunch consisting of a ham/beef/prawn/salads mixed offering, and as the vessel's lower deck windows are at sea level, you'll be able to see the whales while enjoying your meal which makes for some truly unique dining.
The Brisbane Whale Watching crew and its captain also offer a top-notch experience that provides a solid combination of imparting knowledge and customer service, making for a smooth and pleasant overall day on the water. Tours last for around 5 hours, which is a solid amount of time to be at sea, so be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen during your trip out – the typically clear Queensland skies during whale watching season can make for some intense UV rays. In addition, bring seasickness pills if you're the type with a sensitive stomach, as although the vessel is stable things can get quite choppy on windier days. If you've ever wanted to tick the “whale watching” item off your bucket list, there are few better spots in Australia to do so than Brisbane.
Cruise the Brisbane River with Kookaburra River Queens
45 Eagle St, Brisbane, QLD
Brisbane wouldn't be Brisbane without its iconic river, which was a large reason for the city being settled in the first place and continues to this day to serve as a focal point for many of the city's activities and attractions. In short, you haven't truly “experienced” Brisbane unless you've seen the city from the vantage point of the water, and one of the more unique and tranquil ways for doing so is offered by Kookaburra River Queens. The stars of the show here are the old-style paddlewheel vessels that can often be seen plying their trade around the city's waterways, and add a vintage touch to the proceedings while harking back to the previous days of water navigation. These are lovely, beautifully-constructed 30m boats consisting largely of wood made utilising old-time shipwright techniques, and their peaceful nature when making their way down the river belies the powerful diesel engines chugging below deck.
"These are lovely, beautifully-constructed 30m boats consisting largely of wood made utilising old-time shipwright techniques, and as a result atmosphere-wise, this kind of cruise is hard to beat."
Many of Brisbane's icons take on an entirely new aspect when viewed from the water – such as the Story Bridge, Southbank Parklands and city skyline – and excellent views of each are available on the boat's spacious top decks that provide an unrestricted 360 degree panorama of all of its goings-on.
There are a range of cruises on offer here, including lunch, dinner and specially-themed jazz cruise that puts an emphasis on live music; if you're looking for a way to combine a sightseeing trip of the city along with a quality meal there are thus few better ways to do so, given that the cost of dining at a decent quality restaurant is comparable without all the scenic benefits. Kookaburra River Queens' lunch cruise features a well-organised and delicious buffet featuring a diverse array of foods to choose from, with the mixed seafood-and-carvery menu containing both hot and cold offerings both Aussie-style and international.
The dinner cruise itinerary, meanwhile, is perhaps the top highlight, as the Brisbane River looks truly amazing in the evenings – the combined view of the city night lights reflecting off the water, the lit-up city skyline and the illuminated Story Bridge look wonderful, and make for a romantic backdrop for a special occasion. As with lunch, dinner boasts plenty of choice with fresh crab, oysters and prawns as well as steaming beef and pork on offer as well as vegetarian options. Grabbing a drink an enjoying the top deck after a meal is an essential must-do while on the trip, although be sure to dress appropriately warmly if taking the cruise during the winter months.
Atmosphere-wise, this kind of cruise is hard to beat; while the décor is “dated”, its largely a reflection of the time period the boats attempt to recreate, and during the trip you'll gain some well-commentated insight on Brisbane's various highlights both past and present. There's an on-board, Dixie-style brass band who play some toe-tapping jazz and organ music which provide a touch of old-world class as well. While it's an experience that may be more suited towards the older demographic (it's possible younger kids may find it “boring”), this is one of the most leisurely, relaxed and best value ways to enjoy the spectacles of the Brisbane River.
Get Active with Adventure Moreton Island
Tangalooma Island Resort, Moreton Island, QLD
Not all of the Brisbane region's aquatic-oriented adventures are purely relaxed and scenic; those wonderful waters that surround Brisbane present plenty of opportunity for more active types to embark on any number of watersports and shore-based fun as well. A great deal of this is owed to the islands that sit just off shore from Brisbane, the most accessible and obvious of which is Moreton Island which lies just 25 kilometres away from the city and serves as something of a lovely little resort-escape hub for Brisbane residents. While it's an exceedingly popular destination for Brisbanites to kick back and laze the day away in the sun, operator Adventure Moreton Island take things in the other direction – if you're looking for some upbeat “fun in the sun” whether on the sand or in the water, this is the place to start.
"You'll be able to pick from a range of different itineraries to choose from 3 or 4 activities from the “menu” of 11 possible in total, allowing for a degree of customisation that lets you tailor your experience at Moreton Island as you see fit."
Based out of Tangalooma Island Resort (mentioned in greater detail below), they're a friendly and energetic bunch that have an array of flexible activity packages that provide plenty of entertainment. You'll be able to pick from a range of different itineraries that allow you to choose from 3 or 4 activities from the “menu” of 11 possible in total, allowing for a degree of customisation that lets you tailor your experience at Moreton Island as you see fit.
If you're looking to partake, the journey begins with the trip from the mouth of the Brisbane River aboard a fast catamaran – a scenic enough trip in and of itself – that takes just over an hour and provides the chance for some marine life spotting along the way. Once on the island, the variety of opportunities opens up – ocean kayaking, stand up paddling, fish feeding and more allow you to experience the waterways up close. Your choice of activity lineup here will likely depend on your level of comfort in the water, as there are a range of different areas on and off the island to explore that are best experienced via different methods. Moreton Island boasts a number of rich offshore reefs that are perhaps most famous for their number of shipwrecks that dot the waters and attract marine life of all kinds.
Guided snorkelling tours are thus immensely popular in this area, as the wrecks are famed not only for their own interesting hulls but also for the tropical fish, wobbegong sharks, and coral varieties that call them home. It's one of the best arrays of marine life available to encounter in Queensland outside of the Great Barrier Reef, so if you've been looking to enjoy some snorkelling without a massive time or financial commitment, Moreton Island serves as a decent imitation. Kayaking, meanwhile is also highly enjoyable here and allows all ages to get out on the water and experience the spectacle of sea and bird life, with both single and double kayaks available – with the double versions ideal for those travelling with kids. Likewise, if you've got little ones in tow, fish feeding is a possible itinerary item that they'll no doubt love and allows for proper contact with the animals of the deep.
Looking towards the shore, meanwhile, and there's an equal amount of selection; hop aboard an ATV/Quad Bike for some offroad exploration, try your hand at riding a Segway on the golden sands, cast a rod and see if you can come up with a catch – the key here is freedom of choice, and Adventure Moreton Island offers this in spades. Add in the ability to take full use of Tangalooma Island Resort's many amenities in-between items in your tour (it's a well-equipped facility in and of itself) and there's an adventure-laden, tropical day out that ensures you'll never be bored within easy striking distance for a day trip from the city centre.
The Workshops Rail Museum
North St, North Ipswich, QLD
Got kids? You'll want to read this one. While due to its nature as a large city Brisbane has plenty of things to see and do for kids, for a truly unique day out that will keep the children happy you'll have to travel a little further afield. Located in Ipswich around 40 minutes' drive outside Brisbane City, simply put the Workshops Rail Museum is one of the best attractions in the greater South East QLD area for kids, serving as an extremely hands-on exhibit that highlights the history and contribution that rail has made to the development of Queensland and Australia as a whole. The facility puts a lot of effort into making things as interactive as possible, in order to not only entertain but also educate kids (and adults as well!) without them getting bored or distracted.
"Located in Ipswich around 40 minutes' drive outside Brisbane City, simply put the Workshops Rail Museum is one of the best attractions in the greater South East QLD area for kids."
The Workshops Rail Museum covers a broad range of train travel history ranging back from the steam era all the way up to current electric models that are still in use in Brisbane today, and the fact that it's so steeped in history makes it a prime example of "a learning experience done right". This tends to have a profound positive effect on kids visiting - the fact that it's not merely a static “look and learn” facility and the inherent participation aspect encourages kids to learn and absorb while still having fun. There's plenty of freedom for the little ones here, and there are opportunities for the kids to come into contact with the trains themselves, while there are also a number of multimedia to support the physical trains themselves showcasing unique sights, sounds and smells divided up into 16 different exhibition zones.
The Museum features a small-scale “transporter” train that takes visitors from one of these areas to the other, adding to the already substantial amount of train-based entertainment. In addition, if you have younger kids, keep an eye out for the Workshops Rail Museum's annual "Day out with Thomas" event during school holidays that caters specifically to children. This event features characters from the popular Thomas the Tank Engine TV show such as the Fat Controller and Thomas himself and is a character that boasts near-universal appeal amongst kids.
In terms of pluses for adults, the first is price – there's a reasonable, cheap entrance fee given the amount of time it's possible to spend here, particularly in comparison with many other kids-focused attractions; expect to spend around 4 hours here in total if you're planning on seeing everything properly. In addition to the standard walk-around-and-enjoy part of the visit, there's also an optional tour available that takes you on a “behind the scenes” look at the workshops that showcase the maintenance of the trains – you can see smiths doing their actual work in person here, and the sparks flying can be quite impressive. There's also a great little cafe on site for parents to grab a quality bite to eat while the kids burn off some energy, while visitors are also welcome to pack their own food and enjoy a picnic on the grounds to help keep down on costs.
In terms of when to visit, the best time to go will depend on whether or not you're bringing kids along for the journey – if you've got little ones, then visiting the Workshops Rail Museum during the school holidays will be a positive rather than a negative. However, if you're merely a history or train buff and planning on visiting out of your own interest, give the holidays a miss and you'll likely to be more able to absorb the impressive curation at your own leisure. History, interaction, and a great place for families – that's the Museum in a nutshell.
Riverlife Adventure Centre
Naval Stores, Lower River Terrace, Kangaroo Point, QLD
Looking to take your Brisbane-based outdoor adventures to the next level? If the likes of abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking and more pique your interest, be sure to pay a visit to the popular Riverlife Adventure Centre situated at Brisbane's Kangaroo Point. Located within Brisbane's historic Naval Stores, Riverlife features a mixture of scheduled tour-based activities as well as equipment hire for a range of outdoor entertainment, and has thus become a go-to destination for those looking to get active without leaving the boundaries of the city. In addition to the raw fun of the activities themselves, Riverlife also offers journeys that aim to highlight and detail the Brisbane region's Aboriginal culture, which can be experienced on a tour conducted via kayak to designated areas of the banks of the Brisbane River.
"If the likes of abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking and more pique your interest, be sure to pay a visit to the popular Riverlife Adventure Centre situated at Brisbane's Kangaroo Point."
While several of the activities on offer here can be experienced at other destinations in the greater Brisbane area, it's the abseiling plays a major role in setting Riverlife apart from its peers. The sheer walls of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs make for the ideal naturally-formed abseiling spot, and they offer great view of the city skyline to boot. During an abseiling experience, you'll join a professional instructor for a full safety briefing, then harness up and get prepared for the rush as you begin the descent down a roughly 20m-high cliff. It's an experience that may be a little nerve-wracking for some, but it also comes along with a strong sense of self-achievement at the end, and the Riverlife staff are always famously supportive and encouraging along the way. No prior experience is necessary in order to take part – all you need is to be 8 years or older, and you're good to go.
Riverlife's rock climbing, a.k.a “abseiling in reverse” also takes place in the same area of the cliffs and will see you attempting to ascend rather than drop – a challenge that can be even more strenuous but offers the same rewards. Kayaking tours, meanwhile, provide the chance to get out on the waters of the Brisbane River in person, with Riverlife's specialty being a “night kayaking” adventure that lasts for 1.5 hours and takes participants on a journey past the impressive lights of South Bank and the Story Bridge while all culminating in a meal of fresh prawns accompanied by alcohol along the waterfront. It's a distinctly different way to see Brisbane and enjoy an evening meal, and it's only further enhanced by the characteristic friendliness of the guides – they're always flexible, accommodating and always willing to go the extra mile, which makes both the kayak trip and the following meal even more enjoyable.
Lastly, a tip of the cap must be given to Riverlife's Mirrabooka Aboriginal show/experience that aims to bring Indigenous traditions to the forefront – all conducted by the banks of the Brisbane River. It's an interactive and enjoyable activity that is quite unexpected in the heart of a capital city, focusing on the song and dance of the native Yuggera tribe and conducted amongst the greenery of the Kangaroo Point bushland. Stories of traditions, customs and history along with practical demonstration make for a slice of culture that comes highly recommended. Riverlife is another shining example of Brisbane's emphasis on experiencing the outdoors and what the city has to offer rather than just being a passive observer.
Climb the Brisbane Story Bridge
170 Main St, Kangaroo Point, QLD
One of Brisbane's most obvious and distinctive landmarks, the Brisbane Story Bridge goes a long way to adding its own sense of character to the city. While it may not have the fame of its big brother, the Harbour Bridge down in Sydney, the Brisbane Story Bridge makes for no less an impressive way to view the city from a supremely scenic viewpoint and, like the Sydney's bridge, the Brisbane Story Bridge is one of the only three bridges in the world that can be climbed. Thus the option exists for those wanting a combined adventure / outstanding panorama to take the plunge and climb it for themselves, providing one of the best views in the region. The Story Bridge, which spans the Brisbane River and connects the popular Southbank district to the CBD, measures 74 metres in height at its apex, which makes for a climb that is challenging but safe, making it a suitable activity for all ages and fitness levels.
"Lasting roughly 2.5 hours, the journey up and back down the bridge is appropriately long without being overly tiring, and it also happens to be good value for money – particularly when compared to the other bridge climbs on offer."
Lasting roughly 2.5 hours, the journey up and back down the bridge is appropriately long without being overly tiring, and it also happens to be good value for money – particularly when compared to the other bridge climbs on offer. During the climb, you'll be provided with all gear necessary for the experience (including the signature, fully-enclosed climb suit) and have everything well explained in terms of safety and what to expect. This goes a long way to reassuring those who may be afraid of heights, as safety is obviously the no. 1 priority here and the basic training covers all the essentials without being overly lengthy or tedious. Once everyone's prepared, the climb begins, with the initial portion of the journey rising past the road level that's also the steepest; from here on out things only get both easier and more visually impressive, so don't despair!
As the climb continues, you'll have commentary piped in and delivered via radio headset from your climb-guides pointing out local landmarks and icons as well as details on the bridge's construction. Key facts and historical tidbits make for a nice compliment to the views, and the entire experience is conducted at a pace that allows for everything to be taken in without ever feeling rushed. After long enough you'll have ascended to the main viewing platform where you've likely seen shots taken for the Bridge Climb's promotional materials, and with good cause – it's a completely unrestricted 360 degree visual cavalcade showcasing a spectacle all the way out over the Brisbane CBD, Mount Coot-tha, Moreton Bay and further on to the Glasshouse Mountains and the Gold Coast Hinterland. It's also the designated spot to pose for a great photo, so get your smile on and enjoy a happy snap or three.
There's also the option to abseil back down to the bottom from a 30m pylon at the base of the bridge for a combined climb/abseil experience that's one-of-a-kind in Australia. The Brisbane Story Bridge Climb can be done at multiple sessions throughout the day, with each time period offering its own unique aspect - four separate experiences can be chosen from in total including Dawn, Day, Twilight and Night climbs. Which appeals specifically to you will largely depend on your personal preference; both dawn and twilight offer the opportunity to witness the Brisbane skyline under the red-orange glow of the sun which has its own charm, while day climbs are a solid balance and night showcases the cityscape like few other spots can. As one of Brisbane's signature activities at a price that won't break the bank, the Story Bridge Climb is an essential for any first-timer's itinerary.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
708 Jesmond Rd, Fig Tree Pocket, Brisbane, QLD
In terms of wildlife attractions, Brisbane suffers a bit in comparison to other capital cities and regional destinations as it lacks a true “flagship” zoo befitting of a city of its stature – the recent closure of longstanding icon Alma Park Zoo was another blow in this regard. Luckily, however, it can still boast the original "Home of the Koalas" in Australia and one of the most criminally underrated wildlife attractions in the country, Lone Pine Sanctuary which lies just to the north of Brisbane's CBD. Able to be visited in a simple 15 minute drive from the city centre, or via taking one of the scenic river ferry options that will deliver you from your stop of choice to the wildlife sanctuary's doorstep, it's an attraction that deserves more publicity on the national stage. Set amongst beautiful natural Aussie bush surroundings, Lone Pine is far more of a literal “sanctuary” than manufactured commercial zoo, which is reflected both in its attitude towards animal welfare and the attitudes of its staff.
" Set amongst beautiful natural Aussie bush surroundings, Lone Pine is far more of a literal sanctuary than manufactured zoo, which is reflected both in its attitude towards animal welfare and the attitudes of its staff."
As the world’s first and largest Koala sanctuary, Lone Pine has more than 130 koalas and, due to Queensland law being the only state in Australia that allows you to cuddle a koala, you'll be able to come away with a photograph of your encounter with this most famous and furry of Aussie creatures. Koalas aren't the only focal point of the facility, however; Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary's hands-on approach means you'll also have the opportunity to get up close with and hand-feed kangaroos, hold a snake, and view a variety of native birds and animals in scenic natural settings all without the feeling of being pressured to purchase additional addons that more commercialised venues often convey. Lone Pine Sanctuary even has a platypus enclosure, which is exceedingly rare in Queensland.
The park is famous for its family atmosphere and attention to individual detail that some of the larger zoos and wildlife parks in Australia simply can't offer due to visitor volume; the workers at Lone Pine are renowned for being warm and approachable, and are typically happy to provide answers to any questions you may have. This also shines through in the number of animal shows held throughout the day – while it's wonderful to see the animals in action, it's the knowledge and insight that goes along with it that complete the experience.
The Birds of Prey show is a standout among these, and seeing these swift and skilled aerial predators in action is always amazing as they swoop at high speeds to grab food tossed in the air. Other demonstrations highlight different parts of the animal kingdom, and in all you'll get to see interactive displays of sheep dogs and sheep shearing, Tasmanian Devils, reptiles and more all included in the cost of admission. Lone Pine Sanctuary also boasts a huge array of bird life, from smaller species of finches all the way up to massive and prehistoric-looking Cassowaries. Kids, meanwhile, will no doubt love the kangaroo and wallaby enclosure, as grabbing one of the available bags of feed and getting a hands-on encounter with these Aussie icons is always a positive experience, while emus can often be seen strutting around nearby as well.
Combine all of the above with reasonably-priced food and refreshments (as well as admission fees) compared to other similar attractions, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary provides the Brisbane region's premier dose of animal action. If you're in Brisbane and are short on time yet wanting to see some Aussie wildlife, or if you're a local who has visitors or friends coming to Australia from overseas, Lone Pine makes for a great and enjoyable introduction to the animals of our country that provides several hours worth of quality entertainment.
Enjoy the Arts and Museums at Brisbane's Cultural Centre
Grey St, South Bank, South Brisbane, QLD
Looking for a day out in Brisbane that provides a helping of sophistication and culture, all for a very modest price? Walking the line between "cheap" and "free" depending on whether or not there are special exhibitions being held, the entertainment-rich cultural district adjacent to Brisbane's South Bank waterfront area provides a number of opportunities to get your fix of civilisation and history, playing host to various art galleries, museums and exhibits all within some pleasantly clean and modern surrounds. The Queensland Cultural Centre as it's known allows you to immerse yourself in a world of creativity both old and new, and is an excellent example of a city providing locals and visitors alike with an easy-to-access dose of historical exhibits, art and more.
"The Cultural Centre is both well laid-out and modernly presented, and boasts several facilities within walking distance of one another that each emphasise a different aspect of the cultural spectrum."
The Cultural Centre is both well laid-out and modernly presented, and boasts several facilities within walking distance of one another that each emphasise a different aspect of the cultural spectrum. Music, literature, historical artefacts, and both ancient and modern art are all represented here in some form, allowing visitors to take their pick of their preferred form of exhibit and embark on an interesting journey into human creation. The five main buildings at the Cultural Centre are the Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Museum, State Library, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
The Queensland Performing Arts Centre has undergone recent refurbishment and plays host to a number of live performances throughout the year, with everything from theatre to ballet to opera to comedy being held within its walls. The facility is divided up into four separate sub-sections that each cater to various types of performances; if you're planning on seeing a show check the current programming by visiting the Queensland Performing Arts Centre website
. Meanwhile, the Queensland Museum provides a detailed insight into the historical, with exhibitions that focus on a specific aspect of history at different times throughout the year; despite its focus on the past, it's housed in a very slick, modern building that was constructed just a few years back. The Museum also houses the popular Sciencentre attraction which provides a very interactive look at the world of science. This has long been a popular exhibition for children as many of the exhibits are hands-on and demonstrate physics, chemistry and more in a highly visual way – and they may just learn something while there, too.
Those with a bent towards the artistic with a dash of history involved will enjoy the Queensland Art Gallery that showcases artworks from the past, both Aussie and international. It's not just paintings on display here, either – a range of wonderful sculptures, wall hangings and elaborate water features round out the artistry, with many of the landscape paintings being some of the most impressive you'll come across. Aboriginal art has a strong emphasis here, and all of the displays are well-curated with many of the key pieces coming with accompanying video/multimedia presentations. The more-recently added neighbouring Gallery of Modern Art provides a contemporary slant on things, blending the latest upcoming artists from Oceania, America and Asia in particular. This section also frequently conducts exhibitions that focus on fashion and art as applied to the physical form, while post-modern sculpture is also a key element.
Finally, the State Library of Queensland is not just a thorough collection of books, journals, magazines and newspaper archives, but it's also got a well-deserved reputation of devotion to engaging kids. The prime example of this is their dedicated children's area “The Corner” that combines a number of elements together that will hold the attantion of kids. Regular activities ranging from art and craft-based activities, storytelling, kids games and more are held by their enthusiastic staff, while in between these events there's plenty of self-entertainment options for the little ones. It's a great initiative that truly pays dividends when you see kids actually having FUN and being creative while engaging their brains. If you're visiting Brisbane with children along for the ride, be sure to pay a stop here.
With such a wide variety of cultural experiences available, there's something here to suit almost any field of interest, and all the facilities are located adjacent to the Cultural Centre train station for direct and easy access via public transport. Situated just across the river from the CBD, it's a key part of Brisbane's efforts to give back to the community and also another reason why #1 on this list is so impressive.
Spend some time at South Bank Parklands
Stanley Street Plaza, South Brisbane, QLD
Most major cities have a single signature district, landmark or area that help give them their own distinct character and serve as a point of pride, and Brisbane's answer to this is its outstanding South Bank district. Simply put, the South Bank area has the most pleasant overall atmosphere to be found in Brisbane that blends everything the city does well into a single focal point; outlooks over the Brisbane River, the Cultural Centre above, its large Wheel of Brisbane and plenty of expansive grassed and shaded areas, there are few better places to experience what Brisbane is all about. Modern, extremely well-maintained and lined with trendy cafes, restaurants, surrounding parks and an artificial beach, this is a great place to unwind and relax and maybe even swim.
"Simply put, the South Bank area has the most pleasant overall atmosphere to be found in Brisbane that blends everything the city does well into a single focal point."
It's spacious, it's clean, and above all, the majority of South Bank's entertainment on offer is entirely free (aside from parking) - with plenty of BBQ areas, lagoons to swim in and biking tracks, you can easily spend a few hours at South Bank if you want to get the most out of its offerings. There are several standout features and sections that help add to South Bank's appeal, each with their own positives. The first and most distinctive of these is the Arbour area in South Bank's parklands, with a an arched walkway boasting a unique architectural layout that's draped in colourful flowers. It's a lovely, modern-feeling gateway to surrounding park spaces that serve as the ideal spot for a picnic, reading a book or letting the kids run around.
If you're looking to explore South Bank further, there are a number of ways to do so – a range of lovely walking tracks are available that take walkers to a separate section of South Bank and each of which provides its own take on the area's scenery. From the aforementioned Arbour to the atmospheric Rainforest Walk featuring lush trees and plants, it's possible to get immersed in an amount of greenery that's a true rarity in the middle of a major city. As within the rest of the city, cycling also is a viable method of transport through South Bank, and its riverside ride along the Clem Jones Promenade provides a wonderful, periodically-shaded look at the Brisbane River and CBD along its route.
In terms of facilities, South Bank likewise comes up trumps; it's exceedingly well-equipped, with public bathrooms and showers, parent's rooms and lockers for hire. Perhaps the most impressive of its public offerings however is the excellent Streets Beach, a man-made beach including actual sand that is the only one of its kind in Australia and that makes for a wonderful place to visit during the warmer months. White sandy beaches and blue lagoons all surrounded by the greenery of tropical plants and overseen by dedicated lifeguards, it's one of the most unexpected and unusual yet easy to appreciate features of South Bank Parklands.
Culinary-wise, South Bank is likewise a haven, as there are plenty of great restaurants dotting the area if you're looking for a decent dining experience or bars if you're looking to enjoy a drop to drink. There's a variety of cuisines on offer in the area and all the major favourites are covered – Japanese, Italian, Turkish, Indian and more blend with standard Aussie and pub-style fare to ensure there's a meal available for all tastes and budget levels. In addition, regular markets are held at South Bank on weekends that add both stall-style food and drink as well as hand-crafted goods to the pool of choices on offer and making for an enjoyable browsing experience.
The Suncorp Piazza within South Bank is also famous for its live entertainment and movies, and buskers are a prominent feature who can often be seen playing their instruments or putting on comical demonstrations in public. Dog walking, families playing ball games with kids, artists garnering inspiration for their latest works, and periodic festivals are just some of the sights you can expect to see when visiting South Bank. In all, this part of the city is a testament to good city planning and proper investment of tax dollars - simply put, it's a must-visit if you're going to be visiting or staying in Brisbane and with the diversity of things to see and do in the area, there's sure to be something that will entertain or amuse you here. Just take a short stroll across the Victoria Bridge over the river, and a bevy of entertainment at Brisbane's Top Thing to Do awaits.
In addition, if you're looking for all the top things to see and do in and around Brisbane including activities, attractions and more, be sure to check out our main region section to browse and book online!