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Brisbane, the capital of Queensland Australia, boasts more than 260 days of sunshine per year. The temperate, subtropical climate gives both residents and visitors ample opportunity to enjoy Brisbane attractions outdoors. From Brisbane sightseeing to local events, the best things to do in Brisbane are outside in the Australian sunshine. If you’re looking for a variety of things to do in Brisbane – regardless of whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a traveling family with kids or someone who simply likes to bask in the sun – you will find there are abundant Brisbane activities for all those wonderful sunny days!
Best Outdoor Brisbane Activities
Our list of the best things to do in Brisbane, Australia includes nature, exercise, culture and socializing. We find the best travel experiences involve a balance of activities, and the best Brisbane things to do tick all those boxes! Let’s get to it, shall we?
#1 Visit South Bank Brisbane
Visiting Brissy’s South Bank is a must-do Brisbane activity. The parkland was established in 1992 on the previous Brisbane World Expo ‘88 site. Located across the Brisbane River from the Central Business District (CBD), South Bank is a cultural hub and entertainment district. Home to serveral of the best restaurants and bars in Brisbane, South Bank is also the site of numerous top Brisbane attractions.
Dip your toes into Streets Beach Brisbane, a man-made lagoon (complete with imported sand). Stroll the picturesque Riverfront Promenade and the kilometer-long, bougainvillea-lined Arbour – the two main South Bank pedestrian walkways. Or, for a dazzling view of the city, hop on the Wheel of Brisbane, a 200-foot-tall observation wheel offering panoramic views of Brisbane. South Bank also hosts many Brisbane events at the Courier Mail Piazza. For more things to do in South Bank Brisbane, check out the South Bank Facebook Page.
#2 Explore the Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Easily accessible from the Brisbane CBD, the Botanic Gardens are the oldest gardens in the city, which date to 1828. The gardens’ first use was to grow food for the colony, but evolved into a place for plant research and then opened as a public park. Today, the park is one of the top places to go in Brisbane for a touch of nature. The City Botanic Gardens features a riverside path, a bamboo forest, sculptures, ponds and fountains – as well as an outdoor venue, Riverstage, which accommodates some of the best events in Brisbane.
The City Botanic Gardens can be explored at leisure – but for a more informative experience, follow this Self-Guided Walking Tour or join a volunteer guide for an hour-long introduction to the park.
#3 Cruise the Brisbane River
Brisbane is nicknamed The River City for the meandering Brisbane River that cuts through the urban center. In Brisbane, the river is crossed by 15 major bridges – and a fleet of Brisbane ferry boats shuttle passengers up, down and across the river. One of our favorite free things to do in Brisbane is to get a seat on the open-air deck of a CityHopper boat and cruise the river. (Note: We also enjoy the speedy CityCat ferries, which stop at many more of the Brisbane piers and are affordable during off-peak hours.)
Cruising down the Brisbane River on a commuter ferry is fun, but there are other entertaining ways to get out on the water. Sightseeing cruises and dining cruises (lunch, high tea and dinner!) offer a relaxing boat trip. However, the more adventurous might want to tour the Brisbane River by kayak or by Stand-Up Paddle Board.
#4 Walk Story Bridge Brisbane
Of all the bridges in Brisbane, Story Bridge is the most iconic. Connecting Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point, the Story Bridge is a key element in the Brisbane city skyline. Built between 1935 and 1940, the bridge once required a toll of 5 cents to cross. Today, the bridge is crossed daily by an average of 100,000 vehicles and is featured at the annual Brisbane Riverfire Festival (held in September). In addition to vehicular lanes, the Story Bridge has pedestrian and bike paths and crossing it at least once is definitely one of the best things to do in Brisbane.
You can walk across the Story Bridge on the west side for stunning Brisbane views – or walk on top of the bridge. The Story Bridge Adventure Climb is rated as one of the most popular activities in Brisbane…but it’s not for the faint of heart. Rather than simply crossing from one side of the bridge to the other, participants are harnessed in for a climb to the top of the 22-story-tall bridge.
#5 Picnic at Kangaroo Point
Looking for fun things to do in Brisbane on a budget? Have a picnic! There are barbeque grills in over 420 parks in Brisbane that are free to use. Gather supplies from a local market, pack up some lawn games or grab a good book and find the perfect spot to dine outdoors.
We think one of the best places in Brisbane for a picnic is Kangaroo Point. At the tip of Kangaroo Point in the shadows of Story Bridge is Captain Burke Park where there are grills and shaded tables. However, our preferred spot for a picnic is at Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park where, in addition to grills, there are incredible views of the river and CBD – which is especially splendid for a Brisbane sunset.
#6 Brisbane Hiking at Mt. Coot-tha
Mount Coot-tha marks the highest peak in Brisbane, Australia – taking it to the top (quite literally!) of the best places to visit in Brisbane. The Lookout provides phenomenal views of the city and beyond – but the Brisbane viewpoint is not the sole reason for heading to Mt. Coot-tha. In addition to the scenic vantage point, the Mt. Coot-tha reserve has hiking paths and mountain bike trails that wind through the natural bushland.
Spend a day exploring the trails – and perhaps bring along a picnic lunch or dine at The Summit restaurant. To make an entire day out of the trip, visit two other attractions in Brisbane that are at the base of Mt. Coot-tha: the Brisbane Botanic Gardens and the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.
#7 Shop on Queen Street Mall Brisbane
The Queen Street Mall, which boasts more than 700 retailers, is at the heart of the Brisbane CBD and is the city’s top shopping and entertainment destination. The outdoor mall is a top Brisbane point of interest – and is visited by 26 million people every year. In addition to the shopping, visitors are likely to find buskers (street performers) and weekend entertainment.
Enjoy the outdoors while you window shop – and, for maps and Brisbane tourist information, stop by the Visitors’ Office at 167 Queen Street Mall.
#8 Take a Brisbane Bike Tour
One of the cool things to do in Brisbane is to get on a bike and see Brisbane sights on two wheels. Cycling is encouraged in the city (as long as you wear the required helmet), so there are many fun places to go in Brisbane by bike. Our top recommendation is to ride riverside on the Brisbane Riverwalk path.
#9 Go on a Day Trip from Brisbane
While there are many things to do in Brisbane, Australia on a sunny day, there are also outdoor things to do near Brisbane that are just a day trip away. Whether you want to head to the coast, immerse yourself in nature or set your sights on a Australian winery adventure, the options for a quick getaway on a beautiful day are plentiful.
#10 Join Brisbane Sightseeing Tours
When you visit Brisbane, get a proper introduction to the city on a guided tour to top Brisbane sights. Sightseeing Brisbane with a knowledgeable guide can be exponentially better than trying to figure out what places to see in Brisbane on your own. Learn the history and stories of Brisbane city attractions and get local advice on other Brisbane activities and unique things to do in Brisbane direct from a local.
If sightseeing in Brisbane isn’t your thing (or if you are a Brisbane local), there are many Brisbane tours besides the classic city sightseeing and Brisbane walking tour that might fit your style and interest. Join fellow photographers on a city photography expedition, sample Asian street food or, for a fun way to see the city, roll through the streets on a Segway.
#11 Attend a Brisbane Festival
Due to the pleasant climate, outdoor festivals in Brisbane take place year-round – and they happen all over the city. Events in Brisbane range from rocking music festivals to heritage celebrations to family-focused affairs. The Brisbane Festival is the city’s largest arts festival that culminates with the Riverfire Festival and takes place each September.
Most of the festivals are family-friendly (but always check before heading out) and are usually accompanied by food and drink booths. Check the city’s official events page for what’s on in Brisbane.
#12 Peruse Brisbane Farmers Markets
Interested in finding things to do in Brisbane this weekend? Skip the boring (indoor) grocery shopping routine and instead peruse the farm fresh produce and local offerings at one of Brisbane’s many farmers markets. In addition to the booths selling in-season fruits and vegetables, market-goers will find homemade handicrafts and scrumptious prepared meals.
#13 Show your Support at a Brisbane Sporting Event
Sports enthusiasts will have no problem finding things to do around Brisbane, as the city is home to numerous professional Australian sports teams. Rugby League, Rugby Union, Aussie Rules Football, Cricket, Football (soccer) and Baseball teams all compete in open-air stadiums in Brisbane.
Even those unfamiliar with Brisbane sports can get caught up in the excitement of a thrilling match – so check the sports schedules to see what’s on in Brisbane. If there are no sporting events happening in Brisbane, fans can show their team spirit by touring the two major sports facilities: The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium.
#14 Visit the Brisbane Clock Tower
On the spacious, pedestrian King George Square stands the 1930 Brisbane City Hall and Clock Tower – once the tallest building in the city. The striking tower is a sight from below, but even better are the views of Brisbane from the 250-foot-high (76m) observation platform – especially so on a clear, sunny day.
Guests are invited to join complimentary guided tours for a brief Brisbane history lesson and a ride in the hand-operated elevator. Not only is visiting the Clock Tower one of the top things to do in Brisbane, it’s also one of the best free Brisbane activities!
#15 Drink Brisbane Craft Beer
Sometimes the best way to enjoy a sunny day is with a cold beer in hand…and it just so happens that there are several places in Brisbane to do just that. The Brisbane city center and surrounding suburbs are flush with bars, ‘hotels,’ and pubs – many of which occupy open rooftops, have private beer gardens or sidewalk seating for those seeking a spot in the Brisbane sunshine. Revelers can tie one on at a Brisbane Sunday Session, but beer aficionados will find sampling the craft beer scene a must-do in Brisbane.
Dedicated craft beer bars (and breweries) can be found throughout the city. Our top recommendations for where to go in Brisbane for craft beer are: Archive Beer Boutique in West End, Brewski on Caxton Street, Tippler’s Tap in South Bank and Brew Café in the Brisbane CBD – all of which have outdoor space. Craft beer tours are also fun activities in Brisbane – for groups and those traveling solo, too!
Our Top Tips for Visiting Brisbane, Australia
We have a few last travel tips and packing hacks for your trip to Brisbane, Australia!
Tips for Outdoor Brisbane Activities
- The Australian sun is strong! Regardless of which outdoor Brisbane activities you take on, remember to use sunscreen. A hat or travel umbrella can be useful to shield your head from the sun’s rays. It’s also important to stay hydrated, so carry a reusable water bottle (as there are several water fountains around the city to refill!).
- For more tourist attractions in Brisbane and Brisbane Tourist Information, visit the official Brisbane Tourism website, VisitBrisbane.
Where To Stay in Brisbane
The best place to stay in Brisbane is in or near the heart of the city! We have stayed in a convenient and affordable Airbnb on Kangaroo Point and these Brisbane hotels (and apartment hotels): Hilton Brisbane, Meriton Suites Adelaide, and Mantra on Mary.
We have found that staying in apartments is often less expensive than hotel rooms – with the added benefit of a kitchen and, usually, more space. Brisbane holiday apartments can be searched on FlipKey (which is part of TripAdvisor), on VRBO – Vacation Rentals By Owner, and Airbnb.
However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many Brisbane hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center. Search online for the best Brisbane hotel prices on HotelsCombined – or find a deal on a hotel room on Priceline. Budget travelers can search for Brisbane Hostels.
Getting to Brisbane, Australia
Our preferred method of getting anywhere is by flying (we are JetSettingFools, after all!) and when we do need to purchase plane tickets, we start our search for the best deals on airline tickets on Skyscanner. The Brisbane Airport (BNE) is about 10 miles from the CBD and has direct international flights from Auckland (AKL), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Hong Kong (HKG), and Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to name a few! Travelers can get from the Brisbane Airport to the CBD by Airtrain, shuttles and private transfers.
Before You Go to Brisbane, Australia
- Brisbane is a walkable city…but only if you have the right travel shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos. We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures and is a slim and lightweight budget camera).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any new city. Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving in Brisbane.
- Whether you travel with a backpack or a suitcase, you will certainly want a great day bag to organize all of your essential travel items.
- If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to Australia, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
Want more travel planning tips for Australia? Check out our complete guides to Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and Cairns! Also head over to our Travel Planning page and check out all our packing tips and complete travel guides!
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