Discover Brisbane's top major attractions

Enticed by the River City but not sure where to start? We always say Brisbane is better experienced than explained, so make plans for tomorrow, next week, or that holiday you’ve always wanted with this comprehensive guide to discover Brisbane’s top things to do. As Australia's most biodiverse capital city, there's not shortage of major attractions to visit and explore.

Cruises, culture and a city of excitement. What more could you want? #brisbaneanyday

Cruise the Brisbane River

The iconic Brisbane River is the perfect backdrop to this city of lifestyle and leisure. Plenty of bridges criss-cross the water to and from the banks but the water itself is one of the best ways to enjoy an adventure and get around. For entertainment and dining cruises, look for Kookaburra Showboat Cruises, Koala and River Cruises by Mirimar and River City Cruises. The Kookaburra Queen is a beautiful balance between old-school cool and modern dining – all aboard the old paddle steamer.

The CityCat is part of the TransLink public transport network and runs from St Lucia to Hamilton. 

Breathtaking views

Sunrise at Mt Coot-tha

Off the watery path, Brisbane also has plenty of sights to marvel at. Catch one of the city’s numerous helicopter tours for a bird’s eye view of the CBD or the islands – depending on where you want to go. The Kangaroo Point Cliffs are stunning for cityscape views – though you won't see any of our furry friends – otherwise try Eagle Street Pier on the opposite bank. The Story Bridge Adventure Climb is exactly what it says on the tin and is a great way to get a unique perspective on the River City. Mt Coot-tha’s also a staple, with some of the best sunrise and sunset views in Brisbane. At night watch the city lights and star-lit skies transform before you.

South Bank

South Bank is home to a whole precinct of activities and attractions perfect for you, the family or a date night out. Located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, the area is made up of 17 hectares of lush parklands and Australia's only inner-city, man-made beach. This makes South Bank Parklands the perfect place for a dip in the pool, stroll in the park or a barbecue with friends. Streets Beach is monitored all day by lifeguards and feels just like the real thing – without a tide, though.

The Epicurious Garden is a great place to learn how to cook the many organic foods the space grows. Volunteer gardeners are on hand from 7-11.30am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and you can collect free produce on those days as well. First in best dressed. Then of course the Wheel of Brisbane’s an uplifting (hah!) way to see the city. Perfect for snapshots and a change of pace, you can also book a private dining experience for two.  

For a romantic night out, head straight for River Quay at the southern end of South Bank. Beautiful dining and drinks, plus a lush riverside lawn make for a perfect date night. For more dining choices, a parade of restaurants and bars line Little Stanley St and Grey St with the South Bank Cineplex smack-bang in the middle.

Cultural Centre

Two women walk through GoMA

At the top of South Bank, the Cultural Centre is home to Queensland’s largest galleries and library and Australia's most popular museum. QAGOMA consists of the Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art. The Queensland Art Gallery houses more traditional mediums and exhibitions while the Gallery of Modern Art is where modernism meets the abstract and sometimes there's a slide going from the top storey to the bottom. Fun.

QPAC, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, is home to over 1200 performances a year. Boasting a catalogue of emerging, local, new and world-renowned productions, if it can go on stage and is definitely worthwhile, you’ll be able to catch it here.

The State Library of Queensland is a knowledge bank in the heart of the Cultural Centre, positioning itself as a community hub for sharing, learning, collaborating and creating. Register as a member for free to get access to the impressive catalogue and to book meeting and study rooms.

Queensland Museum is a museum of natural history, cultural heritage, science and human achievement that also tells the changing story of Queensland. Permanent and rotating exhibitions provide refreshing education experiences for kids and grown-ups while the Sciencentre on Level 1 gets you up close and personal with the latest in research and discovery. Entry to the Sciencentre is ticketed.

Inner-city adventures

Riverlife

For an inner-city adventure, look no further than Riverlife. Take a segway spin under the Story Bridge, rock climb the Kangaroo Point Cliffs or glide down the river in a night-time kayak among the range of experiences.

Part of its aim to be a green city, Brisbane boasts two Botanic Gardens in which to explore and unwind. Bring a picnic blanket and friends or family to the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens before a hike up the mountain for the breathtaking views of the city. Or relax in the City Botanic Gardens before shopping your stress away along Queen Street Mall.

Brisbane Greeters, in and around the CBD, are free walking greets that guide you through the backdrop and history of Brisbane with a passion that only volunteers can muster.

Day trips

Couple walk through D'Agular National Park

Brisbane is a beautiful place to spend a day discovering all the regions have to offer. Up north, Australia Zoo is the iconic home of the Crocodile Hunter, delivering conservation through exciting education. D’Aguilar National Park houses remote gorges, subtropical rainforests and spectacular views of Moreton Bay just half an hour out of the city. Bribie Island is accessible by bridge for a relaxed beach day or cruise up and down Pumicestone Passage. Wivenhoe Dam offers quiet and relaxed recreation for families, though permits are required for camping, fishing and boating.  

In Moreton Bay, Tangalooma Island Resort offers day cruise options for dolphin and whale watching, shipwreck snorkeling, and ATV quad bike tours. Brisbane Whale Watching and Aria Cruises also provide whale watching and dolphin tours in season.

Food, beer and wine tours

XXXX Brewery Tours

Brisbane is home to a craft beer aficionado’s dream. Hop On Brewery ToursHops and Brew Craft Brewery Tours and the classic XXXX Brewery Tours will get you around to the city’s best breweries, as you can imagine.

For wine tours, Brisbane Winery ToursVino Bus and Tash Maree have you covered while Mountain Wine Tours takes you up through the hinterlands. Book through Foodi for a three-hour walking tour of Brisbane’s best chocolate or explore one of their many food tour options.

Shopping in the city

If nothing else, a long wander through the concrete jungle is the perfect excuse to spend some of your hard-earned cash and glam up. The Queen Street Mall is home to some of your favourite retailers and big international chains and luxury brands, while James Street in Fortitude Valley offers a leafy boutique and upscale experience.

Historical sightseeing

Brisbane might be a young city in the overall scheme of – well, everything that’s ever happened – but we’re proud of where we’ve come from. Discover the storied convict history of the River City with Boggo Road Gaol, Newstead House, and the Old Windmill. Flashback to the World Wars with Fort Lytton National Park or wander into the political backdrop of the Parliament House, Old Government House, and Customs House.

Some of Brisbane’s oldest churches are still operational today as well. Catholic Old St. Stephen’s Church, St. John’s Anglican Cathedral and Albert Street Uniting Church host services every Sunday and are gorgeous relics of the 20th century.  

River City culture

The Brisbane Powerhouse

The Brisbane Powerhouse is a local favourite with Friday night comedy, regular exhibitions, shows on stage and a bar and restaurant for a full night out. The Museum of Brisbane focuses on the art and stories of Brisbane, the Queensland Maritime Museum at South Bank examines our connection to the river and the bay, while the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium urges us to look to the stars.

The Judith Wright Contemporary Art Centre, also known as the Judy, is home to a unique blend of cabaret, circus, dance, music and contemporary performance right in the Valley. The Institute of Modern Art inside the Judy is a free public art gallery and forum for art and its discourses. The Brisbane Arts Theatre, similarly, is an independent icon.

Farmers' markets

With unparalleled access to fertile regions all around, Brisbane’s farmers and artisanal market scene is thriving. This comprehensive list of markets will keep you busy around the city, but don’t forget the Redcliffe Jetty Markets or the Collective Markets.

Sports

For sports, look straight to the two Brisbane stadiums. Suncorp Stadium, or Lang Park, mostly hosts the rugby (league and union) and soccer, while The Gabba is a cricket and AFL ground. Weekend sport is also happening all over the city in the smaller leagues – keep an eye out.

Precincts

For a more comprehensive list of exactly where to go and what to do, check out our precinct breakdowns: Ascot & Hamilton at the top of the river, Bulimba & Hawthorne on the opposite bank, the industrial chic of New Farm & Teneriffe, Kangaroo Point & Woolloongabba on the southside, the inner-city hip hubs of Paddington & Rosalie, evolving Milton & Park Road, and the culturally exciting West End.  

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