Over the coming months, we're polling a variety of regional tourism authorities, tour operators and local residents on what are the top things to do in some of the most popular travel destinations in both Australia and New Zealand. Here, we look at the top 10 things to do in Brisbane.
This diverse city offers an endless list of things to do. Browse through the following list, which highlights some of the most popular activities in Brisbane.
1. Climb the Brisbane Story Bridge
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. The option exists to climb the Story Bridge, which spans the Brisbane River and connects the popular Southbank district to the CBD.
Like the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this is one of the only three bridges in the world that can be climbed, making it a rare opportunity for visitors to be able to take advantage of. The climb offers four separate sessions throughout the day - including Dawn, Day, Twilight and Night climbs - and is relatively only a moderate challenge, making it a suitable activity for all ages and fitness levels.
2. Explore Brisbane City
While it might not get nearly as much international attention as its southern brothers, Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane is positioning itself more and more as a city with an international focus. As Australia's third largest city, Brisbane provides all the aspects you'd expect from a metropolis while also benefitting from the generally pleasant and warm weather that its position in south-east Queensland provides. Exploring the city is thus pretty much enjoyable all year round, as even during winter you'll never have to worry too much about ridiculously freezing weather or persistent bouts of rain.
If you're looking to get out and explore Brisbane, take the chance to join a City Tour that encapsulates all the local must-see icons. Expect to pass such landmarks as the Botanic Gardens, pay a visit to Cathedral Square, see how Brisbane blends the impressive old architecture of Parliament House with its new modern leanings, and much more.
The city also plays home to the popular Conrad Treasury Casino where you'll be able to have a flutter or a quality dining experience, the popular street entertainment and shopping avenue of Queen Street Mall, pay a tribute to our diggers at ANZAC Square, enjoy the scenic views from Kangaroo Point Cliffs, cross Captain Cook Bridge, see the alternative culture hot spot of Fortitude Valley, or grab yourself some great food at Chinatown. All the experiences of a modern, cosmopolitan city are available in Brisbane - combine this with the weather and you've got a travel destination that is quickly rising up the ranks of the Australian tourism food chain.
3. Cuddle a Koala at Lone Pine Sanctuary
The original "Home of the Koalas" in Australia and one of the most criminally underrated wildlife attractions in the country, Lone Pine Sanctuary just to the north of Brisbane's CBD. You can visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with just a simple 15 minute drive, or take one of the scenic river ferry options that will deliver you from your stop of choice to the wildlife sanctuary's doorstep.
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.
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. Couple this with the various informative shows they have going on throughout the day, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary provides the Brisbane region's premier dose of animal action all for a very reasonable price.
Tangalooma Island Resort and Moreton Island in general just off the coast of Brisbane are fairly unique offerings in terms of capital cities, offering an island-style escape not too far from the centre of the city CBD. The resort island specialises in adventure and marine activities such as scenic cruises and 4WD tours, and serves as a perfect destination if you're operating on a limited itinerary or time frame yet still wanting a dose of a more refreshing atmosphere than the hustle and bustle of a big city.
While it's become highly commercialised over the years, visting Tangalooma for a day may not be cheap, but the chance to drive around on the sand is something you'd usually need to travel multiple hours - or even fly - to experience from Australia's other capitals. The island also offers decent snorkelling opportunities, as the waters surrounding it are dotted with both reefs and the relics of ship wrecks, with generally high visibility levels most of the year. Meanwhile on-shore, the various bodies of water inland provide the opportunity to swim in sparkling blue water lagoons within tropical surrounds, or simply explore the pristine surroundings in search for native wildlife which includes such animal highlights as over 180 bird species and 40 species of reptiles ranging from skinks to blue-tongued lizards.
Perhaps the island's most famous wildlife feature however is its dolphin feeding; the waters around Moreton Island are populated with many pods of friendly dolphins, and tour options offer the chance to upgrade to a Dolphin Adventure Tour where you'll be able to hand feed one of these intelligent ocean-dwellers yourself.
5. Visit the famous XXXX Brewery
Queensland's most iconic beer has its home in Brisbane, and its head brewery is something of a symbol of the state's laid-back attitude as a whole. A fixture of the city since back in 1924, the XXXX Brewery makes for a great way to spend a couple of hours if you've got any amount of appreciation for the fine amber stuff. Upon setting foot in the factory section of the brewery, you'll no doubt be blown away by the scale of the operation - the sheer volume of beer produced day in, day out is staggering.
If you're wanting to see the inner workings of the brewery firsthand, options are available to join a classic XXXX brewery tour, where you'll be taken 'backstage' to see where the brew masters produce XXXX Beer. Learn about the ingredients and work that goes into making every batch, and enjoy some tasting as well. Boasting the the largest single packing line in the southern hemisphere is the Packing Hall, and the guides are typically enthusiastic enough to breakdown all the aspects of the process while answering any additional questions you might have. Definitely an essential stop for beer lovers visiting Brisbane!
6. Go Whale Watching from Brisbane
During the yearly whale watching season, Brisbane offers a greta opportunity to get out and see these gentle ocean giants, as the calm waters of Moreton Bay offer a place for the Humpbacks and Southern Rights to rest and tend to their young.
With a Whale Watching Cruise, you'll be able to head out on the water and encounter the most surface active of all whales, displaying playful behaviour that has to be seen up close to be fully appreciated. 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. Various whale watching cruise offerings on offer from a number of tour operators, many of which also incorporate stop overs at the aforementioned Tangalooma, allowing you to not only get a dose of whale watching but also take part in the many on-shore resort activities within the one day.
Brisbane's whale watching can, however, be slightly more expensive than some other major regions - but given you'll also have the chance to spot dolphins chasing the vessel along the way, it's well worth it if you've got an appreciation for marine life.
7. Full Steam Ahead at the Workshops Rail Museum
One of the best attractions in the greater Brisbane area for kids, the Workshops Rail Museum is 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.
While not located strictly in Brisbane - the museum actually lies in Ipswich, which can be reached in just over half an hour's drive from Brisbane City - it's still extremely popular with both locals and visitors to Brisbane alike. The Workshops Rail Museum is steeped in history, and is a prime example of "a learning experience done right". In addition, if you have younger kids, keep an eye out for their annual "Day out with Thomas" event that caters specifically to children and characters from the Thomas the Tank Engine show such as the Fat Controller and Thomas himself.
8. Enjoy the City Botanic Gardens.
As with most other large cities around Australia, Brisbane boasts an impressive botanic gardens which is kept in immaculate condition and serves as a point of pride for the city. Set amongst some beautiful parkland in the heart of Brisbane city, how you wish to best enjoy the botanic gardens is entirely up to you; take a stroll through the grounds, hop on a bicycle and take a ride on the pathways, or relax in the calming surrounds for a picnic - if you're looking for an oasis of peace in the middle of a large city, this is the place for you. If there's one word to describe the gardens, it would probably be "restful".
In addition, the spacious nature of the grounds means you'll seldom ever have any trouble finding a peaceful spot for yourself, and the fact that it's also situated riverside simply adds another layer of charm. You can enjoy a free, guided tour to learn more about the history of the Gardens and the variety of plants that are there from experts in the know about all things botanical. The official Botanic Gardens website provides more detailed information about seasonal activities and goings on in the area; check it out for more detailed information.
9. Explore the Arts and Brisbane's Museums at the Cultural Centre
Walking the line between "cheap" and "free" depending on whether or not there are special exhibitions being held, the entertainment-rich "cultural district" alongside Brisbane's South Bank provides a number of opportunities to get your fix of culture 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.
On site is the Queensland Performing Centre which plays host to a number of live performances throughout the year, with everything from theatre to ballet to opera being held within its walls. Meanwhile, the Queensland Museum provides an 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. Those with a bent towards the artistic will enjoy the Queensland Art Gallery that showcases artworks from the past, while its neighbouring Gallery of Modern art provides a contemporary slant on things.
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 within easy walking distance of one another adjacent to the Cultural Centre train station for ease of access via public transport. Lastly, the towering Wheel of Brisbane sits on the shorefront just next to the museum, and makes for a great way to get panoramic views of the city at a reasonable price.
10. Experience South Bank
Simply put, the South Bank area has one of the most pleasant atmospheres of any other district of Brisbane. 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. It's spacious, it's clean, and above all, it's 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.
The Suncorp Piazza within South Bank is also famous for its live entertainment and movies, and there are plenty of great restaurants dotting the area if you're looking for a decent dining experience. 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; simply put, it's a must-visit if you're going to be visiting or staying in Brisbane.
BONUS: Discover Roma Street Parkland
If, for whatever reason, you aren't able to make it to either the Botanic Gardens or South Bank, or are simply looking for a change, Roma Street Parkland is a more than suitable alternative that is also very central to the city.
With a visit to the Parklands, you'll be able to explore the worlds largest subtropical garden that exists in a city centre and enjoy the various themed gardens such as the forest walk, amphitheatre and topiary maze. The fern garden is a highlight and adds to the relaxing "tropical" atmosphere, while the cafe allows you to grab a refreshment then kick back and relax amidst the greenery.
There are plenty of spacious walking areas if you're looking to take a stroll, and the beautifully kept gardens make admiring its offerings a joy while navigating from one place to another. There is also a children's playground on offer for those with young ones, which can hopefully keep them occupied while you take some much-deserved time out. All in all, the Roma Street Parkland serves as yet another haven in the city and is a testament to efforts the local government have made to keep the city as light and breezy as possible amongst all the urban development.