The top 10 places to visit in Brisbane
Once outshone by larger cities along Australia’s east coast, Brisbane has established itself as a genuine tourist destination for travellers from every corner of the globe. Boasting a subtropical climate with warm to hot weather all year round, the Queensland capital is particularly popular during its winter months (June to August) when temperatures are mild and perfect for experiencing everything the city has to offer. Brisbane’s sprawling metropolitan area stretches north along the coast, south towards the Gold Coast, west towards Toowoomba and the Great Dividing Range and east towards Moreton Bay, meaning there’s a veritable smorgasbord of attractions and activities to suit the fussiest visitor.
As the capital of the aptly named Sunshine State, you can expect a jam-packed itinerary. On any day of the year, you’ll find tourists sampling award-winning food and wine, pushing their limits with thrilling outdoor activities, soaking in panoramic views and experiencing the thriving entertainment scene.You may hear locals refer to their hometown as BrisVegas, a nickname originally used to poke fun at the city for its lack of Vegas-like nightlife and entertainment. Decades on, its residents have reclaimed the nickname and use it to show affection for a city that has transformed into a vibrant melting pot of culture, sport, music, history and entertainment. If you’d like to sound like a local but prefer another option, ‘Brissy’ is a safe bet and common slang used by locals.
Whether you are travelling for business, leisure or anything in between, this city is certain to steal your heart.
Wheel of Brisbane
There’s no better way to soak up Brisbane’s beautiful skyline, iconic river and famous landmarks than with a ride on the Wheel of Brisbane. The 60-metre tall wheel offers breathtaking 360-degree views and is an undoubted highlight on any visit to the Queensland capital. Hop into one of the wheel’s 42 fully air-conditioned gondolas and have the camera ready -- with each ride lasting 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to take some incredible snaps.
The wheel was constructed in 2008 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Brisbane’s World Expo in 1988, which saw the city welcome more than 15 million visitors over six months. History buffs will enjoy listening to the audio guide played through each gondola’s built-in speakers and gaining insight into the city’s numerous landmarks -- keep your eyes peeled for Mount Coot-tha, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Mount Coot-tha and the Botanical Gardens!If you’re after the true VIP treatment, you can book a private gondola with dining platters and wine tastings. Sampling fine fare with unbelievable views of the city -- life’s tough, isn’t it?
Brisbane River Cruise
Snaking through the heart of Brisbane is the aptly named Brisbane River, a glittering waterway that carves the city in two and creates the perfect foreground for the city skyline. The river is punctuated by numerous vehicle and foot bridges and makes an important contribution to the city’s lifestyle. But why settle for taking snaps from the riverbank when you can hop on a cruise and admire the city from the water?
Brisbane River cruises are one of the most popular activities for visitors to Queensland’s capital, and for good reason. The unique views of the city alone are enough to justify it, but combine that with the variety of entertainment and dining on offer and it’s an unbelievable experience you won’t soon forget.
Operators like River City Cruises, Koala and River Cruises by Mirimar and Kookaburra Showboat Cruises all offer a range of packages for those after a relaxing and picturesque voyage along Brisbane’s iconic river, suitable for anything from basic boat rides to modern dining options. You can even hop on the CityCat between St Lucia and Hamilton to get a taste of the city’s marine public transport. Just don’t get caught in the middle of an argument between a northsider and a southsider over which is the better half of Brisbane. You’ve been warned!
Now that you’ve experienced Brisbane from the water, it’s time to soak in some more of the spectacular views on offer. Hotspots like the Kangaroo Point Cliffs and Eagle Street Pier are the perfect spots for panoramic views of the city, while the more daring view-chaser seeking a thrill should climb the iconic Story Bridge.But whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to see the city from the lookout at Mt Coot-tha. No vantage point can rival the sprawling views of Coot-tha, which is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. Our tip? Get up early to witness an absolutely jaw-dropping sunrise over the city, or time your visit so you can catch the gorgeous sunset and stay to see the twinkling lights of the CBD illuminate the night.
If the word “mountain” is scaring you off, don’t fret. The lookout is just seven kilometres from the CBD and accessible by car and public transport; you’ll also be able to rest and recharge at the local Kuta Cafe or the award-winning Summit Restaurant. Those who’d prefer to stretch the legs have a smorgasbord of hikes to choose from, ensuring no visitor is left unsatisfied. From romantic evenings to family-friendly fun, Mt Coot-tha ticks all the boxes.
There’s two other attractions near the base of Mt Coot-tha that are certainly worth visiting on your way there or back from the city. The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are considered the best subtropical botanic gardens in the state with 52 hectares of lush landscape open 365 days a year. There are many events held at the Gardens throughout the year, so be sure to check on the website to see if any are on during your visit.
History buffs and thrill seekers won’t want to skip Toowong Cemetery nextdoor to the Gardens, where Ghost Tours have been running since the early 2000s. These tours through the burial place of some 120,000 souls on Friday and Saturday nights combine engaging history with spine-chilling storytelling for an experience unlike any other. Hint: Kuta Cafe customers can get 10% off with the codeword “KUTA”.
Sometimes, when you visit a new city, you just want to take a stroll to the beating heart of it all and enjoy the vibes. In Brisbane, there’s no better place to do so than South Bank, where an entire precinct of activities and attractions serve up everything from world-class eats to unmissable events.Comprising 17 hectares of lush parklands, South Bank is the hottest lifestyle and cultural destination in the city and perfect for couples, families, friends or simply strolling through on your own. Its location directly opposite the CBD offers a unique combination of spectacular views and a retreat from the bustling metropolis, and nothing quite tops a refreshing dip at the fully patrolled Streets Beach -- the only inner-city, man-made beach in Australia.
South Bank is also perfect for simpler pleasures, whether it be a wander through the parklands, admiring the art installations or enjoying a barbecue lunch. Be sure to drop by the Epicurious Garden to brush up on cooking with organic foods, and you can even score free produce when the volunteers gardeners are on duty -- Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7-11:30am.
Need a break from the outdoors? Enrich your mind with a visit to the incredible Cultural Centre, which is home to the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and the State Library of Queensland. To put it simply, Brisbane’s Cultural Centre is a bustling hub of knowledge and creativity.
As you move through the precinct, you’ll be exposed to a vast range of exhibitions from the classic and traditional to the abstract and ultramodern. Step into the museum to gain fascinating insights into the natural, cultural and scientific history of Queensland, and keep an eye on the events calendar for one of the many incredible performances from local and international productions held at QPAC each year. Oh, and did we mention there’s a slide between the top and bottom floors of the building? Yes, you read that correctly.
A highlight of the Cultural Centre is The Edge, a creative space run by the State Library of Queensland. Here, a range of free equipment, hardware, software and facilities is on hand to help you learn, create and experiment to your heart’s content. With a packed calendar of workshops, lab sessions, workshops and other events, it’s a fascinating section of the precinct to visit, even if you’re just there to have a look around.
Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild
You’ve spent plenty of time relaxing -- it’s time to chase some thrills at the biggest collection of rides, slides, shows and animal experiences in the Southern Hemisphere. While Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild are all part of the Gold Coast, their close proximity to Brisbane makes them an extremely popular item on the itinerary for visitors to the Queensland capital. The theme parks are a comfortable 40 minute to one hour drive from the CBD, so you’ll have no trouble fitting in an unforgettable day trip.
Dreamworld is the biggest of the four with more than 40 rides and attractions in total. Experience five roller coasters, a zoo and a series of themed lands within the park, each with a mix of activities and entertainment for hardcore thrillseekers and families with young children. Beyond the rides, the park has a stack of animal exhibits, shows, shops and food outlets to keep you occupied all day. Movie World is an equally popular theme park based on the iconic Warner Bros. film studio and DC Comics. Here you’ll find everything from family-friendly fun to terrifying coasters based on your favourite films and characters, in addition to attractions like motion simulators, river rides and street shows.
If the day is a little too scorching for coasters, Wet’n’Wild is the obvious choice. Packed with 42 water rides and activities across 25 hectares, there’s no better place to spend a hot summer’s day. Don’t forget Sea World, though: with an unrivalled selection of animal exhibits and shows plus a bunch of great rides, there’s no better marine park in the country.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Australia is renowned for its biodiversity, and there’s no shortage of native fauna adored by locals and tourists alike. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a Brisbane treasure offering a rare chance to get up close and personal with one of the most iconic animals in the country.It’s the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary with a total of 130 ‘residents’, which you’ll have the chance to hold and thus fulfil your dream of cuddling a real-life teddy bear. There are also hand-feeding opportunities with kangaroos and a variety of other Australian wildlife to see throughout the grounds.
But Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary isn’t just a place to take some photos. The sanctuary describes its aim to help guests “connect emotionally with nature” and “not just see animals, but meet them”. It’s this approach that has seen the organisation become one of Australia’s most cherished wildlife centres and a leading hub of research, conservation, education and social initiatives.
For a great nighttime activity, head over to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary on the first and third Friday of the month for a free movie at one of the park’s three outdoor cinemas. Bring your own pillows and blankets and snuggle up on the grass for a wonderful, family-friendly evening among the trees and under a blanket of stars. Food stalls will be set up to keep you refreshed and well fed, and comfortable seating is available by the Riverside Cafe. Check the website to see what’s showing and when, or follow the sanctuary’s Facebook page for updates.
Food, beer and wine tours
One of the best parts of exploring a new city is discovering the best local beers and wines, and Brisbane does not disappoint. When it comes to the amber, tours from operators including XXXX Brewery Tours, Hop On Brewery Tours and Hops and Brew Craft Brewery Tours are essential for anyone who loves a cold one.Wine lovers won’t miss out either, with tours available to a variety of destinations in the city and surrounding regions from Vino Bus, Tash Maree, Brisbane Winery Tours and Mountain Wine Tours, to name a few.
If you don’t have time for a tour, take things into your own hands and settle in to one of the many craft breweries, wine bars and boutique watering holes throughout the CBD, South Brisbane and near Suncorp Stadium. Take yourself on a DIY pub or wine bar crawl through the city or simply enjoy a drink by the water -- with so many choices, you’ll have no trouble making a night out of it.
The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium
Australians love their sport, but ask any Brisbanite and they’ll passionately argue they do it better than anyone. The abundance of local swimming pools, arenas, bike paths, ovals and other sports venues is evidence enough to support the claim, but the undoubted pride and joy of Brisbane’s sporting tragics is Suncorp Stadium and the Brisbane Cricket Ground, more commonly known as the Gabba.South-east Queensland is largely considered to be rugby league heartland, but you’ll find plenty of support for Australia’s other major codes here too. Whether it’s cheering on the Broncos in the NRL, the Lions in the AFL, the Roar in the A-League, the Heat in the BBL, the Reds in Super Rugby or the Bulls in the Sheffield Shield, there are countless opportunities to experience Brisbane’s passion for sport first-hand.
If you have an inkling of an interest in sport, catching a game at one of these iconic stadiums is a must. Watching the Aussies play test cricket at the Gabba, which has long been considered a fortress for the team, is an opportunity that can’t be missed, but perhaps the most rewarding sporting experience in Brisbane is to watch Queensland take on New South Wales in the State of Origin rugby league competition.
Markets are an excellent way to immerse yourself in any city’s food scene -- in Brisbane, look no further than the Jan Powers Farmers Markets. Packed with local produce, this open-air market is a hive of activity every Saturday from 6am to 12 noon and a must-see for foodies.
One of the first things you’ll notice is overwhelming abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables from more than 300 Australian growers. This is a sight in itself, but stroll through the stalls and you’ll find an endless selection of flavours and fare: bread, meat, fish, cheese, honey, bagels, olives, spices, ginger beers, pastas, curry powder, smoothies, French delicacies, organics, you name it! The market also features fresh flowers and wares from artisan designers, with so many tempting buys you’ll struggle to fit all your new goodies in one bag.
Don’t worry, this isn’t just a place for locals to stock up on fresh groceries from local producers: there’s plenty of food stalls dishing up hot food and sweet treats on the spot. Tuck into a Japanese chicken skewer, a French pizza or some handmade dumplings before treating yourself to a delectable crepe or croissant. If you’re feeling a little rusty from a beer or wine tour the night before, you’ll have no trouble tracking down the coffee stalls thanks to the aroma of freshly ground, world-class beans.
Located in the heart of Brisbane, a serviced apartment at Capri by Fraser is the perfect accommodation to experience one of Australia’s most beautiful cities. Packed with on-site services and facilities, there’s no better way to see Brisbane.