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For all you travellers heading up the east coast of Australia, spending a few days or longer in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, is probably going to be high up on your itinerary. With year-round warm weather and a thriving food, drink and arts scene, there’s plenty to enjoy in Australia’s ‘River City’.

I spent 12 months living in Brisbane as an exchange student many years ago, and returned last year to reminisce and see how things have changed. I’m pleased to say it’s still as beautiful as ever, and quite a bit more cosmopolitan. So for anyone planning on visiting, here are my top 15 things to do in Brisbane.


1. Chill Out at South Bank

For a more relaxed feel than in the city centre, cross the river via Victoria Bridge and explore family-friendly South Bank. With a manmade beach and lagoon, wide choice of eateries, pretty parklands and a cultural precinct featuring art galleries and museums, there’s plenty to do once you’ve finished admiring the city skyline across the water.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

South Bank beach and lagoon


2. Join a Free Tour with Brisbane Greeters

What better way to get to know a city than to go on a personal tour with a local? The Brisbane Greeters scheme lets you and your family and friends book a slot with a local resident who can take you on a tour of Brisbane tailored to your own interests and area of choice. For free!

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


3. Appreciate Art at QAGOMA

Queensland Art Gallery (QA) and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) are neighbouring galleries in the Cultural Precinct at South Bank that are free to enter and well worth a visit if you’re an art lover.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

QAGOMA in South Bank


4. Discover Brisbane’s Laneways

It isn’t just Melbourne that tucks its late-night bars and coffee shops down hidden, hip little laneways. Get to know Brisbane’s cooler side at Burnett Lane, Eagle Lane, Gresham Lane and Albert Lane in the city, or Winn Lane, M&A Lane and Bakery Lane in Fortitude Valley.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

The Treehouse Café  & Bar on Bakery Lane, Fortitude Valley


5. Ride the CityCat

Why catch the bus when you can cruise along the water? A popular means of public transport in Australia’s river city is the CityCat ferry service, which stretches from The University of Queensland in St Lucia to Northshore Hamilton. There’s also the free CityHopper service which runs seven days  week.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


6. Head to the Top of Mt Coot-tha

For a panoramic view of the city, drive up to Brisbane Lookout at the top of Mt Coot-tha, where you can not only see across the CBD to Moreton Bay, but eat and drink in style at Summit Restaurant & Bar.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

Sunset at Mt Coot-tha


7. Picnic in the City Botanic Gardens

Pack a picnic and enjoy Brisbane’s riverside lifestyle in the city’s original botanic gardens. Featuring sculptures, ornamental ponds and river views, the gardens are a pretty place to spend a few hours. To get there head down to Alice St at the bottom of George St and Edward St, just a 10-15-minute walk from the city centre.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


8. Book a Free Tour of City Hall

Heritage-listed Brisbane City Hall, built between 1920-1930, is home to the Lord Mayor and hosts daily community and corporate events. To have a nosey around its grand interior with the aid of an official guide, click here to book onto a free tour.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

Brisbane City Hall


9. Climb the Cliffs at Kangaroo Point

To the south of the Brisbane River, just east of South Bank, lies the picturesque waterside suburb of Kangaroo Point. A popular place for visitors to stay, you can walk the Natural History Trail along the water’s edge, eat at the many restaurants, kayak down the river or climb the Kangaroo Point cliffs. Click here for more details.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


10. Cycle the City

With 150 stations available to pick up a bike from, CityCycle offers a convenient hire service for those who want to explore Brisbane by bike and take advantage of the waterside pathways.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


11. Visit Chinatown Mall

For a change of culture visit lively Chinatown Mall on Duncan St in Fortitude Valley. With restaurants offering cuisine from a variety of Asian countries, Chinese shops to peruse and many festivals held throughout the year, Brisbane’s Chinatown precinct has plenty to keep you occupied.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


12. Dine at Eagle St Pier

With a mixture of award-winning restaurants, bars and casual eateries, Eagle St Pier is known as Brisbane’s premier dining precinct. Whether you stop by for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks, you’ll get to enjoy fabulous views of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

Riverside dining at Eagle St Pier


13. Go Clubbing in Fortitude Valley

If it’s buzzing nightlife you’re after, head to Fortitude Valley, or “The Valley” as it’s know to locals. While this designated entertainment precinct boasts plenty of shops, cafes and art galleries to explore during the daytime, at night the action continues with a multitude of bars and nightclubs that stay open until the early hours.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

The Beat Nightclub in Fortitude Valley


14. Cruise the Brisbane River on a Paddle Wheeler

View Brisbane’s riverside highlights in style while you wine and dine on a paddle wheeler with Kookaburra Showboat Cruises. Passing the Botanic Gardens, Kangaroo Point, South Bank and Story Bridge, you can take in Brisbane’s best bits without so much as a blister.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.

Kookaburra Cruises Paddle Wheeler at Eagle St Pier


15. Shop at Queen St Mall

With over 700 retailers, modern and heritage-listed arcades, a cinema and a casino, pedestrianised Queen St Mall in Brisbane’s city centre has enough to satisfy all your shopping and entertainment needs. From here it’s an easy walk to South Bank or the City Botanic Gardens to continue your explorations.

15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.


For more ideas on things to do in Australia, check out my guides on Sydney, Perth and Newcastle. If you’re planning an east coast Australia road trip, here’s my Sydney to Brisbane drive itinerary, with highlights, costs, distances and accommodation.

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15 fun things to do in Brisbane Australia, the capital city of Queensland. Includes Brisbane cafes, laneways, South Bank, places to eat, Brisbane nightlife, free tours, Kangaroo Point, Botanic Gardens & more.