The Best Things to do in Brisbane, Australia

The 15 Best Things to do in Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane is a city that’s too easy to fall in love with. Perhaps it’s the beautifully meandering bends of the Brisbane River, maybe it’s the city’s effortless sophistication, or could it be the endless sunshine and free public swimming lagoons? 

Whatever it is that catches your eye, we know you’re going to quickly immerse yourself in Brisbane’s best sightseeing attractions. Start by visiting Brisbane’s excellent museums before exploring a different side of history with an Aboriginal-led walking tour of the city. Take a cruise along the Brisbane River to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, then hike to the top of Mount Coot-tha for the best view of the city! 

And once you’ve checked off all the best things to do in Brisbane, you’ll find that Queensland‘s capital is just a short drive away from national parks, beaches, islands, and mountains. If you love outdoor attractions and activities, you’ll love exploring this incredible part of Australia.

With so many exciting things to do in Brisbane, you might not know where to start. To help you out, we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best sights in Brisbane for you. Stick to these fun and unique Brisbane bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’re going to have an incredible time exploring the gorgeous capital of Queensland!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Brisbane

1. Delve into history at the Queensland Museum

Best Things to do in Brisbane: Queensland Museum

If you’re interested in learning more about local history, a visit to the excellent Queensland Museum is one of the best things to do in Brisbane!

This is one of Australia’s top-rated museums, and you’ll find it on the South Bank right next to Victoria Bridge. As the name suggests, this is Queensland’s state museum, which means you’ll find exhibits and exhibitions covering state-wide rather than just city history. 

The Queensland Museum looks at both the natural and human history of the state. You’ll learn about the prehistoric creatures that roamed Australia millions of years ago and how the unique landscapes you see were formed over time. You’ll also learn about Aboriginal culture, with the museum highlighting the history of Australia’s indigenous peoples. 

Other intriguing exhibits explore Australia’s ANZAC legacy, looking at the role played by the country in World War I and World War II. And for kids, there’s the SparkLab, where they can learn about history and science through fun hands-on exhibits. 

Queensland Museum has a long and storied history itself. The museum dates back to 1862 when it was founded by the Queensland Philosophical Society as a way to protect local history and heritage!


2. Learn about local history at the Museum of Brisbane

Fun Things to do in Brisbane: Museum of Brisbane

To learn more about the history of Brisbane, spend a few hours browsing through the unique displays at the fascinating Museum of Brisbane. Located on Adelaide Street inside Brisbane City Hall, this museum is one of the top things to do in Brisbane. 

The Museum of Brisbane is part art gallery and part museum. You’ll love how the galleries and exhibitions tell the story of both the city and its people through unique objects, paintings, and works of art that represent Brisbane. 

The collection has over 9,000 objects in its care. The collection traces its origins back to 1859 and has been adding objects of historical significance ever since. There’s an ever-changing array of exhibitions to view, including exhibits showcasing the food and drink of Brisbane, the lasting effects of the 2011 floods, and explorations of the city during Covid-19. 

If you’d like to delve deeper, you’ll be pleased to know that the Museum of Brisbane also offers guided tours. There are tours of the museum itself, as well as associated tours of Brisbane City Hall, the Clock Tower, and boat tours along the Brisbane River.


3. Take an Aboriginal walking tour of Brisbane

Best Things to do in Brisbane: BlackCard Cultural Tours
Image courtesy of BlackCard Cultural Tour

British convicts may have laid the foundations for Brisbane, but they were far from being the first people to inhabit the region. Aboriginal communities have lived here for tens of thousands of years, and you can learn more about the local indigenous history on a walking tour of the city.

One of the best local companies offering cultural tours that focus exclusively on Aboriginal history and culture is BlackCard Cultural Tours. Sign up, and you’ll join an Aboriginal guide for a unique 90-minute walk through “Meanjin,” the name given to the city by Aboriginal communities.

On the walking tour, you’ll visit popular locations and traditional tourist sites, including the Museum of Brisbane, but you’ll see these sights through an Aboriginal, rather than a European, lens. This is the best way to gain perspective, and you’ll learn a history that for all too long was overlooked and ignored in Australia. 

The same company also offers tours that focus on Aboriginal art, as well as Bushtucker tastings that allow you to learn about traditional Aboriginal cooking and cuisine. 

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4. Discover Aboriginal culture and cuisine at Birrunga Gallery

If you’d love to learn more about contemporary Aboriginal culture and cuisine, then a trip to the Birrunga Gallery is one of the best things to do in Brisbane. 

Birrunga Gallery is Brisbane’s only Aboriginal-owned art gallery, and you’ll love how each of the works on display tells part of the story of the First Nations peoples of Australia. The gallery was founded by renowned artist Birrunga Wiradyuri, who also leads storytelling tours through the gallery that provides visitors with an immersive insight into Aboriginal history.

But as much as Birrunga Gallery is known for its art, the highlight here is the gourmet Bushtucker menu that’s available in the gallery’s cafe. Bushtucker cuisine makes use of traditional Aboriginal ingredients that are found in the “Bush,” and at Birrunga Gallery, you’ll find a gourmet selection of modern Aussie fusion dishes on the menu!

You can try distinctly Aussie meats served up fine-dining style, including kangaroo filet mignon and beer-battered crocodile tail. You can try a trio of native meats served as tostadas, sample emu sliders served with cheddar cheese and local spices, or fill up on salads featuring unique ingredients such as wattleseed.


5. Cruise the Brisbane River on a Tides of Brisbane Tour

What to do in Brisbane: Brisbane River

There are many ways to cruise along the Brisbane River, and you’ll find that the city’s iconic waterway is packed with public ferries and private boats. While the ferries are a great way to get from Point A to Point B, if you’d love to learn more about the river, its geography, and its history, then we highly recommend joining a Tides of Brisbane Tour

This unique waterborne tour is run by the Museum of Brisbane. You’ll be accompanied by their expert local guides as you spend three hours exploring the Brisbane River’s more curious attractions and history. 

Starting at the City Botanic Gardens, you’ll cruise along the river, stopping off at historic landmarks like the Story Bridge as you learn stories from the city’s past. You’ll cruise with the tides, delving back to Queensland’s Aboriginal beginnings and learning how the river shaped the city. 

And after all the history and geography, you’ll love how there’s also a much-welcomed stop for cheese and beer at one of Brisbane’s best riverside breweries!

Book a Brisbane River Sightseeing Cruise


6. Take a break at the City Botanic Gardens

Brisbane Things to do: Botanic Gardens

Right next to the skyscrapers of the CBD, you can visit one of the best outdoor Brisbane attractions, the City Botanic Gardens

The City Botanic Gardens are located on Gardens Point. The peninsula-like triangle of land is next to the city center and is created by the meandering bends of the Brisbane River. The gardens are expertly cared for and are home to hundreds of unusual, rare, and unique species of plants collected from across the world.

Entry is free, and you can enjoy a pleasant stroll through highlights like the Bamboo Grove and Weeping Fig Avenue before searching out sculptures, ornamental ponds, and fountains hidden among the flora. 

It’s a wonderful way to escape the city and enjoy some fresh air, but you should also know that the City Botanic Gardens are one of the most historic places to visit in Brisbane. The gardens trace their roots back to 1828 when Gardens Point was turned into a farm by the prisoners at Moreton Bay Penal Settlement on the coast. This was the start of the city of Brisbane itself, and the gardens have been tended to ever since!

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7. Stroll along the cliffs at Kangaroo Point 

Unique Things to do in Brisbane: Kangaroo Point

Opposite Gardens Point – on the other side of the Brisbane River – you’ll find the cliffs of Kangaroo Point, one of Brisbane’s best natural attractions. 

Rising high above the river, these ancient volcanic rocks were formed millions of years ago. Interestingly, the cliffs themselves were given their current shape when stone was quarried here by the convicts and settlers who helped build the first European settlements in the area. 

You can stroll along the clifftops and enjoy stunning views of the Brisbane River and the CBD from this beautiful vantage point. The cliffs are protected as Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park, and you’ll find picnic areas and a boardwalk that are open for public use.

If you’re in an adventurous mood, the area is perfect for rock climbing and rappelling. Down below, you can enjoy views of the cliffs from the Brisbane River by kayaking underneath the rocks. 


8. Take a dip at Streets Beach on South Bank

What to do in Brisbane: Streets Beach on South Bank

Queensland is hot. After all, this is the tropics, and after spending the morning or afternoon exploring the many Brisbane attractions, we guarantee you’re going to be feeling the heat! Don’t worry, though, because Brisbane has got you covered with a public lagoon, and it’s totally free for anyone to use.

Public lagoons are a necessary but very Aussie feature that you’ll find in most of Queensland’s towns and cities. Brisbane’s lagoon is located on the South Bank, overlooking the Brisbane River. Bring your swimming gear, and you can take a refreshing dip in the outdoor swimming pools with a view across to the CBD’s skyscrapers.

The lagoon is known as Streets Beach, and there’s an artificial beach that leads down to the water. Brisbane is a good drive away from the coast, so if you’d love to soak up the Aussie sunshine and experience a taste of the famed beach lifestyle, then this is the place to do it without having to leave the city.

Once you’ve had a swim, take a stroll along the South Bank. Along this beautiful public promenade, you’ll find pubs, bars, cafes, and restaurants serving up good food and cold drinks. It’s another great way to combat the Queensland heat!


9. Take in the views from the top of Mount Coot-tha

Best Things to do in Brisbane: Mount Coot-tha

The best view of Brisbane is from the top of Mount Coot-tha, a 302-meter tall mountain that rises above the city’s western suburbs. As the tallest point in the Brisbane area, this is the place to enjoy sweeping panoramas of the city!

You’ll find an observation deck at the top of Mount Coot-tha, as well as a restaurant and cafe offering refreshments with a view. If you can wake up early enough, the best time to visit is dawn, when you’ll see the sun rising over the coastline to the east.

The surrounding area is a protected nature reserve, where you’ll find forests of eucalyptus trees and beautiful scenery within easy reach of the city. There are several miles of walking trails leading through the reserve, and you can hike to waterfalls while watching out for koalas hanging out in the trees! 

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10. Eat your way through the Brisbane City Markets

Must do things in Brisbane: Brisbane City Markets

The Brisbane City Markets are a Queensland institution. This popular marketplace was created for one simple reason, to bring fresh produce and seafood from the countryside and the coast to the city, and we know you’re going to love browsing through the local stalls and tasting the local food and drinks. 

Brisbane City Markets are held twice a week in two different urban locations. On Wednesdays, the market sets up shop in Reddacliff Place. This is the original Brisbane City Market, and there are 85 stalls serving up a wonderful variety of goods. There are fruit and vegetables from the farms, freshly caught crab or shrimp straight from the boats, and everything from souvenir handicrafts to artisanal cheeses for sale. 

On Thursdays, the market heads to Cathedral Square, where there are fewer stalls but more of a focus on street food. Arrive at this one hungry, because you’re going to want to try everything! Both markets attract performers and musicians, too, making a trip to the Brisbane City Markets a fun day out rather than just a shopping trip.


11. Learn about World War II at the MacArthur Museum 

Best Things to do in Brisbane: MacArthur Museum
Image courtesy of MacArthur Museum

History buffs will have an exciting time in Brisbane because the city is home to one of Australia’s best World War II museums. 

During World War II, Brisbane became an important Allied base in the efforts to beat the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. The city became, for a time, the headquarters of American General MacArthur, who led the fight across the region. 

MacArthur spent a lot of time in Brisbane, and the MacArthur Museum is dedicated to exploring the general’s story. You’ll find exhibits exploring how he planned the fight back against the Japanese after escaping the Philippines in 1942, and you can even see the office where he planned campaigns and issued orders.

However, it’s about much more than this. The museum also tells the wider story of the conflict in the Pacific. You’ll learn how Allied forces retook the region one island at a time and how civilians at home – in Brisbane and Australia – were affected by the war.


12. Visit the koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Brisbane Things to do: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

The koala is one of Australia’s most well-known endemic species, but this unique animal has become endangered across the country. On the banks of the Brisbane River, though, you can find the country’s oldest koala sanctuary, where injured and sick koalas have been cared for since 1927.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to around 100 koalas, as well as a variety of other native Australian species, such as the Tasmanian devil and cassowary, many of which are also endangered. 

It’s an excellent place to learn more about local wildlife, as well as the threats (which are predominantly human) faced by Australian animals in the wild. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary runs a scientific research center on-site that contributes research toward the long-term protection of native species.

A day out at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is one of the top things to do in Brisbane, and you can make the most of it by catching the ferry from the city. The ferry provides you with an opportunity to cruise the Brisbane River, taking in the city’s skyline as it slowly melds into the countryside!

Book a Brisbane River Cruise and Koala Sanctuary Visit


13. Marvel at the otherworldly Glass House Mountains 

Unique Things to do in Brisbane: Glass House Mountains

A one-hour drive north of Brisbane lies one of Queensland’s most unusual landscapes, the volcanic plugs and peaks of the Glass House Mountains.

This is one of the best places to visit while you’re staying in Brisbane, and we think you’ll agree that there are few places in the world with such an otherworldly beauty as this. Among this otherwise flat, hinterland plain, you’ll be astounded to see 13 tall peaks rising abruptly upwards into the sky.

These peaks are the Glass House Mountains, and they are thought to have been formed by dramatic volcanic activity some 26 million years ago. The tallest is Mount Beerwah, which rises to 556 meters above sea level. 

The area is steeped in indigenous history and legend, and each of the volcanic plugs and peaks has a unique story attached to it. Some of the peaks can be climbed. However, the local Aboriginal communities do request that travelers think twice about this, as they hold a place of huge significance in local culture.

Check in with the visitors center for the best hikes in the area (there are many hikes that don’t go to the sacred summits) while also taking into consideration the wishes of the region’s Aboriginal communities. 

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14. Explore Moreton Island’s beaches, dunes, and wrecks

Brisbane Bucket List: Moreton Island

Follow the Brisbane River east, and you’ll soon reach Moreton Bay, a large, natural bay that’s located less than 10 miles from the CBD. This is where the first European settlers arrived and settled before Brisbane was founded, but these days, it’s best known for being a great place to escape the city!

Head to Moreton Island, which is found in Moreton Bay, and you can spend your day exploring the world’s third-largest sand island. The island formed over hundreds of thousands of years, with sand slowly building up in the bay. 

Given its unusual composition, Moreton Island is thankfully almost entirely protected as a national park, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy adventurous activities like four-wheel driving and sand tobogganing. 

Just off the coast of Moreton Island, you can snorkel and dive the Tangalooma Wrecks. Queensland’s government deliberately sank 15 ships here between the 1960s and 1980s. The wrecks have since become an incredible artificial reef and one of the best places to visit in Brisbane. 

Get your Moreton Island Ferry & Adventure Day Pass


15. Brave Brisbane’s Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Best Things to do in Brisbane: Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Australia’s most famous bridge-related activity might be the BridgeClimb Sydney, but did you know that Brisbane also has a bridge climb that’s just as exciting? 

That’s right! When you’re visiting Brisbane, it’s possible for brave travelers to climb to the top of Story Bridge, one of the city’s most iconic attractions. This steel cantilever bridge is a remarkable work of engineering that first opened in 1940. 

It’s a staggering 777 meters long, with its steel supports rising to a dizzying height of 74 meters as the bridge spans the Brisbane River. The Story Bridge Adventure Climb is the most exciting way to experience the bridge while enjoying the most unusual view of Brisbane from far above. 

You’ll be safely strapped into harnesses as you traverse the upper reaches of the bridge with an experienced guide. The views are magnificent, and you can make the experience all the more adventurous by signing up for a “Lean Out” or “Walk the Plank” experience. You can climb back down the traditional way, or you can rappel off the bridge in style. 

The best time to do the Story Bridge Adventure Climb is at dawn or sunrise, but bear in mind these popular slots book up early! 

Book a Story Bridge Adventure Climb

There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Brisbane. What’s your favorite thing to do in Brisbane?


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Frequently Asked Questions

Where can you get the best views of Brisbane?

The best view of Brisbane is from the top of Mount Coot-tha, a 302-meter tall mountain that rises above the city’s western suburbs. As the tallest point in the Brisbane area, this is the place to enjoy sweeping panoramas of the city! You’ll find an observation deck at the top of Mount Coot-tha, as well as a restaurant and cafe offering refreshments with a view.

Where can you see koalas in Brisbane?

The koala is one of Australia’s most well-known endemic species, but this unique animal has become endangered across the country. On the banks of the Brisbane River, though, you can find the country’s oldest koala sanctuary, where injured and sick koalas have been cared for since 1927. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to around 100 koalas, as well as a variety of other native Australian species, such as the Tasmanian devil and cassowary, many of which are also endangered.

What is the best beach in Brisbane?

Head to Moreton Island, which is found in Moreton Bay, and you can spend your day exploring the world’s third-largest sand island. The island formed over hundreds of thousands of years, with sand slowly building up in the bay. Just off the coast of Moreton Island, you can snorkel and dive the Tangalooma Wrecks. Queensland’s government deliberately sank 15 ships here between the 1960s and 1980s. The wrecks have since become an incredible artificial reef and one of the best places to visit in Brisbane.

What is the best historical attraction in Brisbane?

To learn more about the history of Brisbane, spend a few hours browsing through the unique displays at the fascinating Museum of Brisbane. Located on Adelaide Street inside Brisbane City Hall, this museum is one of the top things to do in Brisbane. If you’d like to delve deeper, you’ll be pleased to know that the Museum of Brisbane also offers guided tours.

Where is the best place to swim in Brisbane?

Queensland is hot. Don’t worry, though, because Brisbane has got you covered with a public lagoon, and it’s totally free for anyone to use. Brisbane’s lagoon is located on the South Bank, overlooking the Brisbane River. Bring your swimming gear, and you can take a refreshing dip in the outdoor swimming pools with a view across to the CBD’s skyscrapers. The lagoon is known as Streets Beach, and there’s an artificial beach that leads down to the water. Brisbane is a good drive away from the coast, so if you’d love to soak up the Aussie sunshine and experience a taste of the famed beach lifestyle, then this is the place to do it without having to leave the city.

What is the best attraction in Brisbane?

A one-hour drive north of Brisbane lies one of Queensland’s most unusual landscapes, the volcanic plugs and peaks of the Glass House Mountains. This is one of the best places to visit while you’re staying in Brisbane, and we think you’ll agree that there are few places in the world with such an otherworldly beauty as this. Among this otherwise flat, hinterland plain, you’ll be astounded to see 13 tall peaks rising abruptly upwards into the sky.


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