The capital of the Sunshine State, Brisbane, is full of great things to see and do. Whether you live here, or you’re just visiting, Brisbane has plenty of must-visit attractions – from relaxing on the South Bank and going for a dip on Streets Beach, to visiting shipping container markets, museums and galleries, and cuddling koalas. Here are 25 of our favourites.
For only a few dollars, take a joyride along the Brisbane River to witness the city in its entirety. From ferris wheels and skyscrapers to beautifully designed bridges and luscious parks, the City Cat is the best way to see Brisbane.
Home to both the Museum of Brisbane and the famous Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower, visiting the historic City Hall is one of the best free things to do in Brisbane. Opened in 1930, the City Hall Clock Tower was the tallest building in Brisbane for over 30 years. While the landscape surrounding it has changed dramatically, the views from the top are still pretty magical.
Take a stroll through the heart of downtown Brisbane, where shiny skyscrapers rub shoulders with Victorian-era buildings, heritage shopping arcades and grassy parks. Don’t miss the former Treasury Building, now home to a casino and hotel, Customs House, Old Government House, City Hall and the Old Tower Mill, Brisbane’s oldest building, which was built by convicts in the late 1820s.
You don’t have to go to a gallery to find great art in Brisbane – the streets themselves are home to some incredible pieces, including one of the largest collections of Aboriginal public artwork in Australia. Take an Aboriginal Art Tour through the city, or go on a self-guided exploration and marvel at murals and sculptures dotted around the streets and alleyways. While South Bank is a great place to begin your quest for street art, you can also find some of our favourites down Burnett Lane – Brisbane’s oldest laneway – which is incidentally also home to some of the city’s best bars, in case you needed an excuse to stop for a drink.
Located in the heart of the CBD, Birrunga Gallery & Dining is a Wiradjuri-owned gallery, restaurant and bar that celebrates First Nations culture in all forms – from art, music and dance, to food, workshops, classes and monthly markets. From the hand-picked Indigenous art that lines the walls to the artisan products in the shop, Aboriginal ancestry art classes, and the bush tucker/native-inspired menu in the café, Birrunga is a long-overdue nod to Brisbane’s Indigenous history.
Built in the 1930s, the heritage-listed Howard Smith Wharves are now one of Brisbane’s premier entertainment precincts. Located on the riverside under the city’s iconic Story Bridge, the wharves are best at dusk, when you can see the lights of the city and the bridge reflected in the water. Stop off for pre-dinner drinks and snacks at one of the myriad restaurants and bars, or just go for a stroll along the boardwalk.
A 25-minute walk from the city along Ann Street, or a short train ride from Central Station, Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley is home to alfresco cafes, exclusive boutiques, bars and restaurants, and the weekly Valley Markets, where up-and-coming designers mingle with vintage fashion and art. Take a stroll down the leafy James Street, home to the city’s chicest shops, before stopping for a coffee or a cocktail and some of the best people-watching in the city.
A little way outside of the city, Mount Coot-tha is famous for its panoramic vistas of Brisbane and Moreton Bay, as well as the beautiful Queensland Hinterland. Whether you choose to brave the hike to the lookout or take the easy route and drive up to the top, the views are incredible. Make a day of it and swing by the Mount Coot-tha Brisbane Botanic Gardens and J C Slaughter Falls.
While Brisbane’s pop-up markets may draw quite the crowd, there is nowhere better to get your culinary fix than the Eat Street shipping container market by the Brisbane River in Hamilton. Open from Friday to Sunday, these colourful containers are filled with every flavour under the sun, from doughnut fries and gelato to Peruvian street food and wood-fired pizza.
An innovative, inspired and informed museum centred around the crossover between art, culture and history, Museum of Brisbane in City Hall offers walking tours through the city along with ever-changing exhibitions. Showcasing the best and most interesting things about the city, including the stories of the First Nations People who have called this area home for tens of thousands of years, the Museum of Brisbane celebrates creativity in all forms, from art and design to writing and storytelling.
Move over Fraser Island, there’s a new contender in town — and it’s much closer to Queensland’s capital. Just a 70-minute ferry ride from Brisbane, Moreton Island is home to lagoons, untouched beaches, coral reefs, historic shipwrecks and tropical forests. The third-largest sand island in the world, Moreton Island is great for a day trip or an extended getaway. Between June and November, you can also catch a glimpse of migrating whales as they make the long journey back to Antarctica.
The cutest way to escape Brisbane’s summer heat, Spring Hill Baths are not only the southern hemisphere’s oldest surviving public pool – dating back to 1886 – but they also look like a scene from a real-life Wes Anderson movie. Encircled by brightly coloured wooden doors, steeped bleachers and a perfectly preserved Victorian symmetry, the Spring Hill baths exude whimsical joy.
Easily accessible from the city via public transport, Brisbane’s beach-side suburbs were once the playground of holidaymakers seeking sun, sand and sea. While there are a few different beaches to choose from, we love Shorncliffe, with its historic timber pier stretching out into the sea. Surrounded by pristine examples of stilted wooden houses and early Queenslander architecture, as well as the beginning point of the Lovers Walk coastal trail to Sandgate, Shorncliffe is a great place to spend an afternoon.
Additional reporting by Cassie Wilkins