33 things to do in Brisbane during the Commonwealth Games

On your marks, get set, go! Brisbane will be buzzing with things to do, special events, Festival 2018 and more when the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games kick off at our neighbouring city down the road. 

As a secondary host city, Brisbane is home to two events – cycling and shooting. If you don’t have tickets, there’s a mega arts program called Festival 2018 that will celebrate the state’s creativity, lifestyle and culture right here in the capital.

Then of course it’s also school holiday time, and the weather is perfect for day trips and camping. There is plenty to do around Brisbane during the Commonwealth Games, so sit down, read on and prepare to be a winner.

1. Go find the baton

The Queen’s Baton Relay is parading through Brisbane on Easter weekend, stopping at 10 locations throughout the city. Find more information on locations at Brisbane City Council's website here.

2. Explore big art in a big park

A mass-scale exhibition of 20 contemporary sculptures and installations will take over the City Botanic Gardens from 6-15 April. Botanica will feature workshops, talks and kids' activities to coincide with the event. Pack a picnic and make a day of it in the park.

3. Throw athletic shapes on the mountain

Look, chances are you’re no athlete – but don’t let that stop you from getting that body moving. Run, walk or ride up Mt Coot-tha and be rewarded with killer views over Brisbane towards the CBD. Bonus points if you make it up before sunrise.

4. Challenge yourself to a bigger peak

Mt Coot-tha too small? You’re right, a half hour walk up is nothing. Challenge yourself to tick off a few of these mountain tops dotted around Brisbane across Easter weekend or the school holidays. You got this.

5. Hands up for live music

The Preatures

Live, loud and free – does it get any better? As part of Festival 2018 there’s a massive free music program scheduled. Catch The Preatures, Regurgitator, Cheap Fakes, Urthboy, Alex the Astronaut, The Creases, Jeremy Neale, Banff and so, so much more on stage at the Cultural Forecourt in South Bank from 4-15 April.

6. Not to mention our music storytellers

Archie Roach, whose music draws on stories from his life, will perform his well-loved Australian roots and folk tunes. Songwriter and keyboardist Don Walker is the man behind some of our most iconcic songs. And lucid storyteller Jackie Marshall’s striking voice (Dolly Parton meets Patti Smith) sprinkles country and folk in traditional rock songs. Don’t miss this line-up on April 5.

7. Wander the Maiwar gallery trail

For the whole month of April, First Nations artists will be celebrated through a series of outdoor exhibitions, panel discussions and guided tours. Wander Brisbane City’s outdoor gallery through Hutton Lane, Eagle Lane, Fish Lane, King George Square Car Park, Giffin Lane, Irish Lane, Edison Lane, Edward Street vitrines as well as the Museum of Brisbane and William Jolly Bridge. Opt to self-guide or book a guided tour.

8. Keep the kids busy

School holiday time calls for new ideas and fun things to keep them busy. During the school break there is always heaps on in Brisbane, so check out the family friendly section of our What’s On calendar, and read about 40 things to do with kids in Brisbane.  

9. Watch the new Planetarium show

One of the many Legacy projects from the Games, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium has a new permanent exhibition, Skylore: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Astronomy. After checking that out, head to the Cosmic Skydome for Stories in the Stars where teenagers Erica and Daniel, two Aboriginal Australian city-slickers, travel home to country and hear stories about the constellations and how they relate to their culture.

10. Escape to Moreton Island

Want a back-to-basics day in nature? Brisbane’s Moreton Island is the third-largest sand island in the entire world, and it is 95 per cent national park. Catch the MICAT ferry over to the island and enjoy a day splashing in the cool blue water and bring your own gear to snorkel around the Tangalooma Wrecks. If you want to really see the island though you’ll need a 4WD to tackle the sand. Australian Sunset Safaris will take you on an adventure day snorkelling, sand boarding the giant dunes and kayaking the wrecks.

11. To market to market

The Museum of Brisbane is hosting a big open-air design market in King George Square with Brisbane’s leading designers and creative selling jewellery, homewares, fashion ceramics and more. BNE Design is on April 13 from 10am-4pm.

12. Connect with Aboriginal dance

Nunukul Yuggera Aboriginal Dancers

Ancient Dreamtime comes to life as the descendants of the Nunukul Yuggera, Yugimbir and Nugi tribes perform Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stories using dance, song and other forms of cultural expression on 5 and 13 April. On 14 April, comedy and dance collide when the Murriwattana Dance Troupe showcases dances from central and north Queensland – including the rain dance, hunting dance, crocodile dance or kangaroo dance.

13. Watch the Festival of Sails

Spend Good Friday down by the water at the annual Redcliffe Festival of Sails. From here, catch a great view of Australia's second-largest yacht race, The Brisbane to Gladstone, as they sail past the stunning Redcliffe Peninsula. The Queen's Baton Relay will also make its way through Redcliffe (to the Commonwealth Games) on 30 March. 

14. Find a spot to go camping

With the days getting cooler, now is the time to plan your camping adventure in Brisbane. Surrounded by stunning displays of natural beauty, the Brisbane region is home to national parks, beaches and lakes worth pitching a tent at.

15. Weave then walk to live poetry

Moving Words is a special two-part event. Start with a weaving and yarning workshop Sonja Carmichael, a Ngugi woman belonging to the Quandamooka People of Moreton Bay. After the workshop, a live poetry walk will find new perspectives on Queensland Art Gallery’s Australian Collection.

16. Sing loud and proud over beers

Pub Choir

Leave your inhibitions at the door, or shake them off with a schooner and join in Brisbane’s pop-up Pub Choir. No auditions, no experience needed – everyone is welcome to join this motley crew of strangers singing loud and proud. The event’s biggest monthly meet up ever is on Thursday, 5 April from 6-8pm at the Cultural Forecourt.

17. Get surreal with Patricia Piccinini at GOMA

Patricia Piccinini hybrid creatures will take over Brisbane’s beloved Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 24 March. The exhibition will be the largest ever solo show of an Australian artist, with more than 50 works by Piccinini taking over the entire ground floor. We. Cannot. Wait. Check out this three-day art itinerary around Brisbane.

18. Who run the world?

Girls. The Brisbane Powerhouse is hosting a celebration of women at WOW (Women of the World) Festival. Across three days, you will laugh, get inspiration and reflect on what it means to be a woman in today’s world at workshops, speed mentoring, exhibits and performances. 6-8 April.

19. Experience the collision of Brisbane’s past

The Spirits of the Red Sand is a brand new Aboriginal theatre and dinner experience. Set in a real 19th century colonial village, step back in time with actors retelling Brisbane’s story as two worlds collide. This indigenous experience has come to life as part of the Commonwealth Games’ Legacy projects. 

20. Gorge yourself on North Straddie

If you’re yet to visit North Stradbroke Island and wander the incredible Gorge Walk at Point Lookout, then there’s no time like now. After stretching your legs on the 40-minute track (but speaking honestly, you’ll stop a bunch of times to spot dugongs, turtles, rays and dolphins) reward hard work with an icy treat from Oceanic Gelato and a dip at Main Beach. Do swim between the flags.

21. Enjoy looking at one million stars

One Million Stars

These are not intergalactic stars, no – these coloured woven stars contributed from around the world will create a mammoth public art installation in King George Square from 29 March – 15 April. The stars are to inspire light, hope and peace.

22. Chase heritage in Ipswich

With a strong heritage heart, the City of Ipswich is reinventing itself by transforming old buildings into new cool hangouts. Have you been to the craft brewery Pumpyard? Or tried ice-cream from Masterchef star Ben Ungermann?

23. Blak Friday

"Blak Out" is a term that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use to describe large groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered in one place. On April 13, Brisbane will experience a Blak Out like never before, with a program highlighting the artists’ connection to Country through contemporary performance and storytelling.

24. Spend a day playing in Brisbane City

From shopping up a storm along the Queen Street Mall, to discovering Brisbane’s stories at the Museum of Brisbane – there’s plenty to do every day in the city. Come nightfall, the options expand with nightlife, great bars and incredible restaurants to meet friends in. Make a day of it and find new favourites.

25. Chase wide expanses of water inland

Wivenhoe and Somerset Dams are two jewels in the Somerset region. Plan a lazy Sunday drive out there chasing open hectares, with the wind in your hair and the lure of fresh air. Find 28 other things to do in the area here.

26. Hunt out the Megafauna

Three ancient mammals will get lost in the city over two weekends. Follow the giant puppets as they wander along the Brisbane River in South Bank. Join a workshop to learn how construction and movement techniques of large puppets too.

27. 50 Shades of Black

Sean Choolburra

Laugh out loud with Sean Choolburra’s uniquely Australian, laugh-out-loud comedy that blends pop culture, dance and hip hop. It’s a Festival 2018, and it’s free on 12 and 13 April.

28. Choose-your-own-adventure on Bribie Island

Brisbane’s most accessible island, Bribie is connected to the mainland by bridge making to easy to pop by for a day. On the far side, Woorim Beach is a great place to catch a wave or learn to surf, while on the western side Pumicestone Passage is calm and crystal clear with more than 300 types of birds to spot. Personally, we like to hire a BBQ Boat and putt around on the water - all you need is a car licence. The island is also known for great op shopping and the Bribie Island Seaside Museum. Find 21 other things to do in a day there here.

29. Brewery hop

How’s this sound – you, your mates, an air-conditioned van and ice-cold craft beer? Great, right? There’s a side of education too when Hop On Brewery Tour take you on a crawl around Brisbane’s top craft breweries.

30. Meeanjin markets

Over two days (6-7 April) these markets will showcase authentic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts, crafts and experiences from local Queensland creators.

31. Immerse in The Village

The Village at Festival 2018

Audiences will experience the real-life stories of refugees and people seeking asylum, who now call Brisbane home. These true stories are told by ordinary people about extraordinary situations. 

32. Chase waterfalls on Tamborine Mountain

When the city gets hot, head for the hills. There are plenty of waterfalls to chase down in the Scenic Rim area, but for a short walk with plenty of reward go to Tamborine Mountain. After you’ve reconnected with nature, there’s a few wineries and local breweries to reward yourself with - not to mention the fudge shops and galleries to explore.

33. Boogie down to the bay

Summer days call for sea breezes and simplicity – north of the city, boogie down Bee Gees way in Redcliffe before going for a dip at man-made Settlement Cove, or kick your shoes off and splash along the shore at Suttons Beach. Drive over the Ted Smout Memorial Bridge towards Sandgate for fish 'n' chips by the bay, and then walk it off on the Shorncliffe Pier. Breathe in that salty in. Breathe out. Relax.

‘Blak Out’ is a term that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use to describe large groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people gathered in one place. On April 13, Brisbane will experience a Blak Out like never before, with a program highlighting the artists’ connection to Country through contemporary performance and storytelling. 

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