32 free things to do in Brisbane - Visit Brisbane

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32 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

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 (Note, Streets Beach is closed for maintenance until the start of the school holidays from 27 June). 

2. Wander through the air-conditioned halls of 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 (Note, the Queensland Art Gallery re-opens 22 June and the Gallery of Modern Art re-opens 7 August).  

Level up: The major exhibitions 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 entertaining commentary or join Mirimar Cruises on a cruise upriver to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

4. Explore the local farmers’ 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 and the Jan Powers Powerhouse Markets, or the Brisbane City Markets on Wednesdays in the CBD. 

5. Catch local artists free with City Sounds

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 (returning to the streets on 10 July).

6. 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). 

7. 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.

8. 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 (re-opening 25 June).

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.

9. 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.

10. 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. 

11. Hike near the city

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.

12. Explore the 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 (re-opens 17 July). 

13. 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 (re-opens 27 June). 

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. Check their website for updated shows.

14. Head along to the free Christmas Festival 

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.

15. 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 (the State Library's spaces and services are gradually re-opening - check the website for updates).

16. Go on a scenic drive

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 22 here.

Level up: If you want to sit back, relax and enjoy the views, let Sunrover Tours do the driving on day tour to the region's best spots. 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 (re-launching 11 July).

17. Pick up herbs at the 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.

18. Climb a mountain near Brisbane 

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 #thisisbrisbane

19. 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.

20. Wander through the Bribie 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 (re-opens 27 June).

21. 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.

22. 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.

23. Barbecue at Kangaroo Point above the 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.

24. Wander up and down Shorncliffe Pier

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.

25. 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. 

26. Walk to 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.

27. 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.

28. 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.

29. Get green

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.

30. 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 (next event 1 August).

31. 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.

32. 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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