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.
Channel your inner daredevil and climb Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge for the best views of the city and the surrounding countryside. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can also take the quick way down — a 30-metre abseil down the anchor pier with epic vistas of the CBD across the river.
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.
Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)
Art Gallery, Cinema, Museum
Considered one of Australia’s finest art galleries, QAGOMA came about in 2006, with the merging of the history Queensland Art Gallery (established in 1895), with the Gallery of Modern Art. Located in an architecturally significant building on Brisbane’s South Bank, the two galleries are home to some incredible visual art from around the world, along with work by Indigenous artists and interactive exhibits.
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 on the southern shores of the Brisbane River, South Bank is Brisbane’s cultural precinct, home to galleries, museums and theatres, along with pop-up markets and some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. When it gets too hot, cool off in Streets Beach, or sit and enjoy the river breeze and views of the CBD.
Along with New Farm’s endless cafés, bars and boutique shops, New Farm Park has long been considered a must-visit in this trendy suburb. Worth visiting for the park alone, with its beautiful rose gardens on the banks of the river, lovers of old buildings also won’t want to miss the Brisbane Powerhouse — a 1920s power-station-turned-arts-and-culture-hub.
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.
On the edge of the Brisbane River, right next to the CBD, Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens are a tranquil spot for a walk or a picnic. First established in 1828 as a market garden to grow food for the penal colony, the City Botanic Gardens opened in 1855, and have only grown in splendour since then. Visit on a Sunday to check out the Riverside Gardens Markets.
Brisbane’s South Bank may be known for its thriving cultural scene, but it’s a great place to unwind and connect with nature. A serene oasis of calm in the middle of the city, the Nepalese Peace Pagoda is hidden away in the tropical greenery of Rainforest Walk, making it the perfect place to escape the metropolis and enjoy a moment of tranquility.
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 little way outside of the city, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is one of Brisbane’s best attractions, and for good reason. Founded in 1927, the animal sanctuary is not only home to famously cute and cuddly koalas, but also kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and Tasmanian devils. You can also visit the Brisbane Koala Science Institute and learn about how researching and studying these fascinating creatures can help us to ensure their future.
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.
From food and fashion, to arts, artisan produce and farm-fresh ingredients, Brisbane is home to some of Australia’s best markets. It feels like every day of the week, there is somewhere new to discover, from pop-up markets to twilight markets, local farmers’ markets and food trucks. We recommend the Brisbane City Markets, the Brisbane Powerhouse Markets and the Collective Markets on the South Bank.
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.
If climbing Story Bridge is a bit ambitious for you, then the Wheel of Brisbane also offers epic 360-degree views over the metropolitan city and the hinterland, but from the relative luxury of an air-conditioned pod. Soaring over the skyline, you can choose to take a ride on this iconic Brisbane landmark during the day, at dusk, when the sun is setting, or at night with all the city lights.
Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium was established as Lang Park in 1914. Now a world-class venue seating 52,500 people, the Suncorp Stadium is the home of rugby in Queensland, as well as being used for soccer matches and pop-up concerts in the city, having played host to everyone from Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift to Justin Bieber and Bon Jovi. Keep an eye on its events calendar to see what’s on next.
Looking for the perfect date night or an easy way to entertain the kids? Just grab a blanket, a pillow and some popcorn, and head down to the Yatala Drive-In or Tivoli Drive-In Theater in Ipswich, a 40-minute drive from the CBD. A charming throwback to the mid-20th century, drive-in cinemas seem to be back in fashion, and these two are no exception, especially the Yatala Drive-In, with its original candy-bar kiosk and old rock ‘n’ roll tunes.
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.
OK, so technically this may not be one of the must-visit places IN Brisbane, but the capital of Queensland is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring some of the other magical places just a short drive away. From the Glasshouse Mountains to Noosa, and the Natural Bridge at Springbrook National Park to Cedar Creek and Surfers Paradise or Burleigh Heads, there is as much to see and do just outside of Brisbane as there is to see and do in the city.