Queensland’s capital city is a welcoming destination home to great food, cultural experiences and unique encounters. Get up close with fascinating Australian wildlife, enjoy stunning panoramic views, explore heritage-listed locations and soak in all that golden Queensland sunshine. Whether you’ve got a few days to spend or a bit longer up your sleeve, there are plenty of ways to make the most of your time in Brisbane. To get you started, here are 17 things you absolutely must do in Brisbane!
Planning a trip to Brisbane? You should also watch our video travel guide:
1. Take a scenic helicopter flight over the city
A scenic helicopter flight over Brisbane is an incredible experience! Soaring high above Queensland’s capital city, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for its layout and just how beautiful Brisbane actually is. The flight itself is relatively quick, taking only 15 or so minutes. But, in that time, you’ll see the CBD from a unique angle and spot things you may not have noticed before. We loved our scenic flight so much! It was an amazing way to see our beloved home town and made us fall even more in love with it. Our flight was booked through Viator. Find Brisbane Scenic Helicopter Flight here.
2. Visit Lone Pone Koala Sanctuary
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary opened in 1927 as a safe refuge for sick, injured and orphaned koalas. Since then, it has grown into a sanctuary for more of Australia’s gorgeous wildlife including birds of prey, platypus, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, crocodiles, kangaroos and more! There’s a lot to do at Lone Pine, including a must-see free-flight raptor show, sheepdog show, the chance to grab a photo with a Koala and various feeding times. Best of all, Lone Pine is only around 20-minutes drive from Brisbane CBD so it’s easily accessible for overseas visitors. Spend a few hours as part of a quick itinerary or make a day of it, the choice is yours! Find Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary here.
3. Enjoy a 4-course degustation at Bacchus
If you’re a true gourmand or just appreciate a fine-dining experience to remember, be sure to visit Bacchus for their 4-course degustation. Located within Rydges South Bank, the award-winning restaurant is headed up by Chef Massimo Speroni who joined Bacchus from the 2-Michelin starred Ristorante San Domenico. On our visit, Matt tucked into the traditional degustation menu while I sampled the vegan/vegetarian option and we were both blown away by how delicious each and every course was. From start to finish, it was an unforgettable meal. An unexpected highlight for me was wine selections by the sommelier! I’m not usually a big wine drinker yet I thoroughly enjoyed each of his selections down to the very last drop. Find Bacchus here.
4. Explore the laneways in Fortitude Valley
‘The Valley,’ as it’s known locally, is Brisbane’s ultimate nightlife spot! This is the place to come for great bars, live music, pubs and clubs of all shapes and sizes. During the day, it’s a great spot to grab a bite to end from trendy cafes and quirky eateries or explore boutiques, vintage stores, and laneways. Be sure to check out California Lane, Winn Lane, and Bakery Lane or simply hit up the Laneway Markets held on the first Saturday of each month. During the daylight hours, the Valley can be a bit grungy but that’s how it is! Find Fortitude Valley tips here.
5. Check out the Brisbane Botanical Gardens
Founded in 1970, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens are nestled beneath majestic Mt Cootha. Entry is free so a visit to the gardens is the perfect addition to any budget-friendly itinerary or simply for those who love to visit gorgeous gardens! spend a few hours exploring the Japanese Garden, Bonsai House, Fragrant Garden and Tropical Dome (which, by the way, looks like a mini version of Jewel at Changi Airport!) There are two botanical gardens in Brisbane with the second located in Brisbane CBD. Find the Brisbane Botanical Gardens here.
6. Get your feast on at Eat Street
With around 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers, Eat Street is a must-visit for food lovers! There’s an entry fee of $3 per person for anyone over 12 and dogs are welcome (yay!). Once inside, you’ll find an abundance of great eats to choose from including slow-cooked meat, cronuts, American-Korean fusion, Mexican and everything in-between. The markets are located in Brisbane’s North Shore precinct and are only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Find Eat Street here.
7. Explore South Bank
South Bank is Brisbane’s entertainment and cultural hub! For anyone visiting, it’s the perfect spot to stay or simply spend a day exploring. Here, you’ll find a large number of fantastic cafes, restaurants, and bars to choose from, especially along Gray Street. Wander along the pathway lining the Brisbane River then hop on the Wheel of Brisbane for great views of the city. Visit the beloved Streets Beach, a manmade beach in the heart of Brisbane! Catch a show at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), visit the State Library of Queensland, Science Centre, Queensland Art Gallery or Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) for a dose of culture. Find South Bank tips here.
8. Watch the sunset at Kangaroo Point
The heritage-listed Kangaroo Point cliffs offer spectacular views of Brisbane City and beyond, making them a must-visit spot for sunset. Getting a park can be tough so be sure to arrive early, be patient or find another way to get there to ensure you don’t miss golden hour. The cliffs are the ideal place to sit and breathe in the gooey afternoon light! If you really want to take things to the next level, pack some snacks and have yourself a lovely little picnic up there. Just remember, the cops will nab you if they catch you with booze! Find the Kangaroo Point Cliffs here.
9. Visit the Howard Smith Wharves
Nestled along the Brisbane River with the iconic Story Bridge overhead, the heritage-listed Howard Smith Wharves is a great spot for food and drinks. There’s a range of restaurants to choose from including Ciao Papi (Italian), Yoko Dining (Japanese), Mr Percival’s (Overwater Bar), Arc Dining (Modern), Stanley Restaurant (Cantonese), Greca Restaurant (Greek), Felons Brewing Co., Fiume Bar, Goodtimes Gelateria and more. This spot is best enjoyed on a day when the weather is good and absolutely comes alive on weekends! Parking can be a bit tough so either book a spot or find your way here without driving. Find Howard Smith Wharves here.
10. Soak in the views from Mt Cootha
At 287 metres above sea level, Mt Cootha is Brisbane’s highest peak! For visitors, it’s an excellent viewpoint, offering panoramic views of Brisbane CBD and beyond. It’s the ideal spot to watch the sunrise or sunset and you can pack a picnic and bring it with you for a scenic outdoor dining spot if you like. There’s plenty of free parking and a cafe on-site too so you can grab a coffee or bite to eat while you relax and enjoy the views. Find Mt Cootha here.
11. Catch the free City Hopper
When it comes to getting around in Brisbane there are a few options including hiring a car, exploring on foot, using public transport and rideshare apps like Uber. But one of the best options has to be the City Hopper, a free ferry service that can help you move between South Bank, Brisbane CBD and beyond. Not only is it a great money-saver, it will also allow you to see Brisbane from the river, which is really gorgeous! Find the City Hopper here.
12. Dine at Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers
Located in trendy Paddington, Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers is one of my favourite spots for a laid-back yet delicious dinner that won’t break the bank. The menu here is dedicated to gnocchi and there are options for gluten-dodgers, meat-lovers and vegans and vegetarians too. You can grab a delicious bowl of gnocchi for around AU$16 or less if you get it to-go and take it somewhere scenic to eat (like Mt Cootha or Kangaroo Point!). Find Gnocchi Gnocchi Brothers here.
13. Watch a show at QPAC
If you love the theatre be sure to check out the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) website for current shows! We recently saw The Book of Mormon and loved it. An evening at QPAC is paired perfectly with a pre-show dinner and drinks in South Bank followed by an evening stroll along the waterfront. Find QPAC here.
14. Grab brunch in West End
West End is Brisbane’s quirky, bohemian neighbourhood and a popular place to live for students. The main street, Boundary Street, is lined with cool boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and bars, with plenty of fantastic options to choose from! West End also has a legendary brunch scene with favourites like the Gunshop, the Burrow, Plenty and Miss Bliss. If you love markets, be sure to check out the Davies Park Markets held each Saturday in Davies Park. Find West End tips here.
15. Explore the James Street Precinct
James Street is definitely one of Brisbane’s more high-end spots! The precinct features a curated mix of over 130 specialty stores including design showrooms, fashion boutiques, award-winning restaurants, cafes, and art galleries. It’s a great spot to stroll and explore all the different shops, grab a bite to eat or indulge in a sweet treat from Gelato Messina and Jocelyn’s Provisions. Find James Street Precinct here.
16. Relax at New Farm Park and the Brisbane Powerhouse
New Farm is one of Brisbane’s trendiest suburbs, located perfectly along the Brisbane River. This area is home to a great range of cafes and restaurants as well as the beloved New Farm Park and Brisbane Powerhouse, a cultural events hub. Visitors can spend a lazy afternoon relaxing under the shade of trees in New Farm Park, perusing the Jan Powers Farmers Markets held Saturday from 6am to midday or catch a comedy performance or show at the Powerhouse. Find New Farm tips here.
17. Stay at Rydges South Bank
When it comes to choosing a place to stay for your visit, there are loads of fantastic hotels in Brisbane! We recently stayed at Rydges South Bank and loved the hotel’s central location, perfect for staycationing locals and tourists. The hotel has recently undergone a refurbishment so the rooms are modern, elegant and offer great views of the Brisbane skyline. Read our full review of our stay here or watch the video at the top of the post to see our guided room tour. Book your stay at Rydges South Bank here.
Planning a trip to Brisbane? You should also watch our local’s video travel guide:
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