44 free things to do in Brisbane

What would you do if you had unlimited money? Well, we don’t think you’d be reading this list. But here you are, looking for free things to do in this fine city – and boy, do we have the goods for you. 

If you're looking for things to do on a budget in Brisbane, we’ve compiled the city’s most comprehensive list of available options. Money certainly won’t be a problem here. 

1. Go for a dip at Streets Beach

Life guard looks over Streets Beach at South Bank

Ah, the eighth great man-made wonder of the world – Streets Beach at South Bank. The massive beach-style lagoon is popular with tourists and locals keen for a dip in the middle of the city. Lay a towel on the sand and wade into the cool blue waters, cut laps in the Boat Pool next door or let the kids splash about at the Aquativity water park. 

2. Wander through the air-conditioned halls of QAGOMA

QAGOMA

The Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art are like yin and yang – two distinct galleries that make a perfect whole. Between them the city showcases world-class art exhibitions that are more often than not free to attend.   

Level up: The major exhibition's are often ticketed but it's a small price to pay to see world-renowned art.

3. Catch the CityHopper along the river

All aboard the tiny red vessel! You may have seen the little red CityHopper boats dashing from one side of the river to the other. They travel between Sydney Street terminal in New Farm Park and North Quay in the CBD transporting people between for free. 

Level up: Put yourself in capable hands and join a day cruise along the Brisbane River. River City Cruises offer morning and afternoon cruises with a souvenir map and entertaining commentary or step it up on a Kookaburra Queen Cruise and enjoy lunch, high tea or dinner as you sail through Brisbane.

4. Discover or rediscover the city with a Brisbane Greeter

Brisbane Greeter

Speaking of red … have you seen a bunch of very friendly looking people in red shirts with big smiles plastered across their faces? It sounds like you’ve seen a Brisbane Greeter. These passionate volunteers lead small groups around the city telling stories and teaching them cool things about Brisbane. Whether it’s the stock standard basic four-hour Greet, or a more customised street art tour through Fortitude Valley – there is something to learn.

Level up: Take a three hour walking tour with Walk Brisbane and hear about the people and history, see cool art and get the latest tips on the best cafes, bars and restaurants. Not a walker? Jump on a bike! Brisbane By Bicycle will take you all over the city to historical sites and cultural attractions and provide you with an insiders guide to local bars, cafes and restaurants.

5. Laugh at the Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

On Friday nights kick your heels up and laugh your socks off at Knockoff. It’s an hour of free, funny and surprising comedy at the Brisbane Powerhouse from 6pm.

Level up: There's always something happening at the Powerhouse. Check out some of the ticketed events here

6. Explore the local farmers’ markets

Jan Power Famers Markets

Brisbane locals love their farmers' markets. On weekends almost every suburb has its own market, but of course everyone has a favourite where they can pick up the freshest produce, flowers, meat and artisan goods. Our picks are Saturday’s Davies Park Market, the Jan Powers Powerhouse Markets, and the Jan Powers City Farmers’ Market on Wednesdays in the CBD. 

7. Catch local artists free with City Sounds

City Sounds South Bank Launch

Fun fact: Brisbane is home to Australia’s largest free live music program. Each week a rolling line-up of local and touring bands and artists perform on the stages in the Queen Street Mall, Post Office Square, South Bank and other locations in Brisbane. Take a look to see what’s coming up.

Level up: Duck underground to Brooklyn Standard where live music is playing every night from 7:30pm – the craft brews and bar snacks are a great accompaniment.

8. Ride the old lift up City Hall’s clock tower

ClockTower

Built between 1920 and 1930, the heritage-listed Brisbane City Hall was the tallest building in the city until 1960. Free tours up the old city hall clock tower run every 15 minutes during opening hours. Head up in the original lift and get a bird’s-eye view over King George Square and the buildings that now tower over it.

9. Lie on the grass at New Farm Park

Locals love New Farm Park – and it’s not hard to see why. One of the city’s most popular parks, grab the chance to sit on the grass by the river and watch the CityCats and other boats cruise up and down while embracing a riverside breeze, or drop a picnic rug under a tree in the main oval area and kick a football or throw a Frisbee with friends. 

Level up: Be the envy of all picnickers and grab traditional Italian and European cheese, meat and delicacies from New Farm Deli just up the road – they even stock European wine to match (alcohol is permitted in New Farm Park). 

10. Wander back to the city via the Riverwalk

After your nap in the park, wander back towards the CBD via the Riverwalk. This permanent pathway sits above the Brisbane River, winding its way from New Farm towards the CBD.

11. Explore the planet at the Queensland Museum

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Explore the natural world through the Queensland Museum’s Discovery Centre and Wild State exhibitions. General admission to the museum is free, with plenty to see, while some special exhibitions are ticketed.

Level up: Keep your minds thinking in Sparklab and explore 40 interactive exhibits across three zones to discover how science, technology, engineering and maths affect your everyday world. Tickets start at $12.50.

12. Sunrise at Mt Coot-tha

Sunrise at Mt Coot-tha

Rise and shine angels, the only time to see the sun sitting behind Brisbane’s city skyline is in the wee early hours. Jump in the car before dawn and make your way up the mountain to find a vantage point before Earth spins Brisbane back to daytime.

13. People watch and window shop in Queen Street Mall

Retail therapy is a notoriously expensive exercise, so leave the plastic cards at home for this one. Queen Street Mall is the heart of Brisbane City and is the best place to watch busy office workers scuttle by, spot tourists and see the city’s best street style. 

14. Hike near the city

Hiking in Brisbane Forest Park

Chasing adventure but don’t want to travel too far? Try these hikes and walking trails that are within 30km of the city. If you don’t own a car to get there, many are accessible for the cost of a bus fare.

Level up: Leave it to the experts and join a Lucy Boots Bushwalking Tour. Experience the peace and serenity of nature on a 2, 5 or 6km walk through Brisbane's countryside – they can even organise the transport and lunch. 

15. Experience Aboriginal culture

The songs, dance and stories of Aboriginal culture will come to life every Wednesday on the main stage along the Queen Street Mall. From noon to 1pm, Gathering showcases a different group each week who express their culture through traditional and contemporary dance and Dreamtime stories.

Level up: If this leaves you wanting more, join a tour with Boomerang Aboriginal Cultural Tours or settle in for an evening theatre show and dinner as Spirits of the Red Sands connects you with Aboriginal culture.

16. See koalas in their natural habitat

South of Brisbane, the Daisy Hill Koala Centre is home to a number of education koalas on display who can’t be released back into the wild. It’s free to enter and besides the resident koalas there is plenty of information about them. The centre sits within Daisy Conservation Park, so after a little marsupial viewing plan a short walk through the bushland.

Level up: Not only can you see a koala in Brisbane but you can hold one too at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Transport is easy as Mirimar Cruises will take you along the river directly from the CBD to Lone Pine, showcasing Brisbane's riverside suburbs along the way. 

17. Go sailing on Wednesday afternoons at Manly 

Join the WAGS! No, not those sorts of WAGS – we’re talking about the Wednesday Afternoons Go Sailing group that operates out of Manly. 

Level up: Can't make it on Wednesdays? Join Aria Cruises on a 5-hour sailing cruise with lunch to Peel or North Stradbroke Island. 

18. Explore the Museum of Brisbane

Museum of Brisbane

The third floor of Brisbane City Hall is home to the Museum of Brisbane. It’s a fascinating place to drop by with all-class free exhibitions that dive a little deeper into Brisbane’s story. 

19. Join a free fitness class in South Bank

Twice a year the Medibank Feel Good Program pops up for a few months in the South Bank Parklands. Free exercise classes covering yoga, pilates, aquarobics and dance run most days during the program and, best of all, it’s always free.

20. Take a trip to space at the Planetarium

Set within the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is free to enter the display zones and sundial courtyard. Take an astronomical journey from the present day solar system to the time of the Big Bang. 

Level up: Most Saturday nights there is a live sky show in the observatory, while the Cosmic Skydome has various recorded shows. These both require bookings and have an admission cost.

21. Swim at Wynnum Wading Pool

Built during the 1930s depression period, the Wynnum Wading Pool is a tidal concrete pool that’s popular with children at high tide. Pack a picnic or pick up fish 'n' chips nearby and make a day of it by the bay. At low tide the kids can chase soldier crabs on the foreshore or splash about the aqua playground.

22. Head along to the free Christmas Festival 

David Jones Christmas Parade in Brisbane City

Across the whole month of December the inner city is alive and buzzing with free events and things to do. From the Christmas Parade and carols, to lit-up gardens, workshops and City Hall light projections, there is plenty to do for all ages.

23. Take the little tuckers to The Corner at the State Library of Queensland

The Corner is the State Library’s noisy, kid-friendly playzone. Here children under eight can participate in free, creative, hands-on fun, digital games and reading activities. Keep an eye out for the library’s special school holiday programs too.

24. Go on a scenic drive

Landscape shot of Lost World

There’s nothing quite like hitting the open road. Take the road less travelled and explore the hidden pockets of nature and history surrounding Brisbane on one of the many scenic drives in the region. We’ve gathered 23 here.

Level up: If you want to sit back, relax and enjoy the views, let Prestige Day Tours do the driving on a limousine-style day tour. Take it to the next level and make this scenic drive a wine tour to discover Tamborine Mountain's best boutique wineries with The Vino Bus or Tash Maree Travel Wine Tasting.

25. Pick up herbs at the Epicurious Garden

Epicurious Garden

A giant edible garden filled with exotic plants and fragrant herbs isn’t exactly what you’d imagine yourself stumbling across in the inner city. Set within the South Bank Parklands, the Epicurious Garden grows seasonal fruit and vegetables. To keep the garden thriving, drop in Tuesday to Thursday from 7am to 2pm to collect free food from the Harvest Cart.

26. Climb a mountain near Brisbane 

Mt Beerburum

Reaching the summit of a mountain makes the pain of the climb all worthwhile. Chase down one of these mountain climbs around Brisbane and snap your next Facebook profile picture at the top. #killedit #brisbaneanyday

27. Celebrate Riverfire from a park

Riverfire is Brisbane’s night of nights with an epic fireworks display that lights the sky while thousands of residents and visitors line the river banks to catch a glimpse of the action. While restaurants with a view will capitalise with fancy dining and drinking packages, Brisbane has a few key vantage spots where you can have your own party. Take a look at our Riverfire vantage points article

Level up: If you don't want to fight the crowds for your view of the fireworks, these hotels guarantee a view of Riverfire.

28. Follow the City Centre Heritage Trail

Starting off at the Regent Theatre, follow the City Centre Heritage Trail and discover what it was like before it transformed into the city we know and love today. Of the 26 stops along the way, highlights include the beautiful Brisbane Arcade (try not to get lured in by all the beautiful stores), St Stephen’s Chapel and the site of the old convict barracks.

29. Wander through the Bribie Seaside Museum

Bribie Island Seaside Museum

Take a look into the past at Bribie Island’s Seaside Museum. Overlooking the magnificent Pumicestone Passage of Moreton Bay, wander through the museum’s three permanent exhibitions and its current visiting shows. You can see what’s on at the museum here.

30. Get back into nature

Do you know just how many outdoor activities there are to do around Brisbane? Go scouting for waterfalls, lakes and waterholes, try your hand (legs?) at mountain biking or check out the hikes and walking trails nearby (beginners, we’ve got you covered too). 

Level up: Combine nature and wildlife with the thrill of adventure on a kayak, paddle board, mountain bike or segway with Walkabout Creek Adventures.

31. Play around with the interactive Cube

The Cube at QUT

As the world’s largest interactive learning display space, The Cube at QUT is designed to inspire the next generation of thinkers and is a fun way to encourage interactive and hands-on learning experiences.

32. Find peace walking around the Roma Street Parkland

The Roma Street Parkland is arguably one of the most beautiful spaces in the CBD. Check out the Spectacle Garden and try to spot as many varieties of flowers as you can, wander through the rainforest and around Fern Gully or pack a picnic and relax (or nap) under a tree in the Celebration Precinct.

33. Barbecue at Kangaroo Point above the cliffs

Kangaroo Point Cliffs

On the weekend, the parks around Kangaroo Point Cliffs are packed with families and friends enjoying Brisbane’s balmy nights with a few eskies and cooler bags to ensure nobody goes hungry. If you’re keen for a barbecue, arrive early so you don’t miss out. 

Level up: Enjoy a wine, beer or cocktail at Bar Spritz, Kangaroo Point Cliff's resident watering hole with an epic view of Brisbane City.

34. Party at Valley Fiesta

A huge weekend street party, Valley Fiesta is a five-day festival program packed with music, food, art, fashion and markets. By night, the Brunswick St stage swells to music festival proportions.

Level up: Running over four days and night in September (usually very close to Valley Fiesta), BIGSOUND takes over Fortitude Valley and showcases the next big things in Australian music.

35. Wander up and down Shorncliffe Pier

shorncliffepier

Stretching 350m out into Bramble Bay, the iconic Shorncliffe Pier is Brisbane’s largest timber pier. Pack a picnic and your camera or throw a line into the water and there’s your day sorted.

Level up: Visit here at sunset and grab fish 'n' chips from one of the local vendors.

36. Visit Old Petrie Town

Step back in time and into Old Petrie Town. Set over 50 acres of beautiful gardens and untouched bushland, Old Petrie Town is a restored historic village half an hour north of the CBD that replicates life pre-1930s. 

37. Walk to King Island

King Island

Roll out of bed nice and early and trek out to King Island. Thanks to the natural sand walkway that appears when the tide is low, the walk is a 2km round trip. Today the island is a conservation park, uninhabited and surrounded by mangroves. Just be sure to check the tide times before you leave otherwise it could be a very long and lonely day.

38. See the BrisAsia Festival

The BrisAsia Festival showcases contemporary and traditional Asian arts and cultural events throughout Brisbane. The annual program falls around February each year and features some of the finest theatre, dance, food, arts and music, providing a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Asian cultures in Brisbane.

Level up: While you're celebrating everything Asia, dine at all the best Asian restaurants around Brisbane.

39. Get green

Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre

Check in to the Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre and learn about the area’s environmental significance. There’s an interactive projection of a frog habitat, a sculptural forest discovery area and a virtual reality experience that offers a bird's-eye view of the Karawatha State Forest.

40. Go along to the West End Fire Festival

Orleigh Park lights up every month for the West End Fire Festival. Pack a picnic rug, some snacks and lay back and enjoy the fire-spinning circle and the terrestrial drumming circle. What date? Well, it lines up with the full moon of course.

41. Sunday session on Brisbane River

Sunday sessions are held at Customs House each Sunday at 11.30am featuring performances by students from the UQ School of Music. You never know, you might see a future star in the making.

Level up: Keep your Sunday session going into the late afternoon at these Sunday sesh venues.

42. Take a tour of Parliament House

Parliament House

Experience the grandeur of Queensland Parliament House. Built in 1868, the beautifully restored interior showcases Queensland’s history, including the striking red and gold leaf decoration and the grand staircase.

43. Explore the Sherwood Arboretum

Pack a picnic and eat on the green, throw a line in the water off the jetty, roll down a hill or simply just laze under a shady tree at the Sherwood Arboretum. 

Level up: After your day in the park, pop into Lick Ice Cream at Graceville for the ultimate treat – easily some of the best ice cream in Brisbane.

44. Game your afternoon away at Vault Games

Grab a group of friends and spend the afternoon in the CBD's gaming location. With over 200 games to choose from, the hardest part will be agreeing on which games to play.

Level up: Take your gaming skills to the next level and attempt to crack the codes in an escape room at Escape Manor

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