Keep reading for a (former) local’s guide to the most fun things to do in Brisbane. Restaurant, day trip and accommodation recommendations included!
I have to thank my friend for inspiring this post on the most fun things to do in Brisbane. I hit a travel blog slump this week and couldn’t think of what to post about next. If that isn’t a reason to go on holidays, I don’t know what is! Then he mentioned escaping Melbourne for a mini getaway in Brisbane. He had never been and asked for my tips, seeing as I did live there for over a year (2012/13). It was also the city where Hayley on Holiday was born!
I visited Brisbane on innumerable occasions when I lived in Townsville as well, so I’m an expert at finding my way through the airport 😉. Here’s my comprehensive guide to all of the fun things to do in Brisbane, including my favourite places to eat and where I recommend you stay.
Cheap accommodation in Brisbane
First things first, here are three cheap places I’ve personally stayed in Brisbane.
I stayed at Breeze Lodge in 2018. It’s Brisbane’s newest hostel, which you definitely notice as everything is very modern and clean. It’s not as central as the YHA mentioned below, but it was easy enough to get around by bus. I loved that it was so close to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs too, and that the staff were friendly and there was free breakfast.
Brisbane City YHA
I have stayed at Brisbane City YHA hostel three times now and it’s the perfect place to stay if you’re a fellow budget traveller. It’s walking distance to many of the main attractions and the Roma Street train station is close by. The rooms are clean, the bathrooms are new, and there’s a rooftop pool and bar. Don’t miss heading up there for sunset.
Finally, I also spent one night at the Ibis Brisbane in 2018. The hotel itself is massive, as are the rooms. It’s very centrally located too. If you’re more of a hotel than hostel person, I recommend checking it out.
Other things to know before you go to Brisbane
• Brisbane’s public transport isn’t as good as other Australian cities. Although you can get around via train within the city limits, I would recommend hiring a car to explore the city’s outer suburbs. As you’ll soon find out, some of Brisbane’s best attractions are located outside of the city centre, so renting a car would be worthwhile for an extended trip.
• Brisbane also has pretty spectacular weather year-round. I last visited in May, when I was wearing jeans and a jacket in Melbourne, and I was walking around in a t-shirt and shorts. When I lived there, I would sometimes wear a light jacket or blazer in the early morning and evening, but that was it. So basically, don’t pack thick parkas in July.
Fun things to do in Brisbane
Okay, let’s go! Here are lots and lots of fun things to do in Brisbane.
1. Go to Kangaroo Point Cliffs for sunset
Let’s start with one of the best free things to do in Brisbane. Known as one of the city’s swankier suburbs, the views from Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park are unbeatable. Visit at dusk to see Brisbane’s skyline in all of its glory.
2. Visit Riverlife
Check out Riverlife for the best Brisbane outdoor activities.
3. Hop on the CityCat
The CityCat is a public transit ferry service along the Brisbane River. It’s a cheap way to visit some of the city’s best suburbs. Plus, for fellow photography lovers, capturing any city from the water is always recommended.
4. Head north
Brisbane has some really pretty northern suburbs, like Redcliffe, Woody Point and Sandgate. I remember going for a solo drive out there when I lived in Brisbane and it was one of my favourite days. We all know I love being by the water, and the oceanfront walk at Woody Point is just beautiful.
5. Do a day trip to Moreton Island
I know, some of the most fun things to do in Brisbane are located outside of the city. But seriously, Moreton Island is one of the most naturally stunning places I’ve visited in Australia. That is a big call for me. Snorkelling around the Tangalooma Wrecks has to be on your bucket list. I’ve included some day trip recommendations from GetYourGuide below.
6. Do some antique shopping
Did you know that one of the most fun things to do in Brisbane is meander through the Woolloongabba Antique Centre? It sounds strange, but trust me. This place is full of so much interesting vintage memorabilia and collectibles.
7. Go green
If you want a break from the Brisbane hustle and bustle, check out the Roma Street Parkland or the City Botanic Gardens.
8. See the sunset from Wilson’s Outlook
Located around the peninsula from Kangaroo Point, Wilson’s Outlook is another excellent viewpoint in Brisbane. You can capture the Story Bridge in photos from this lookout.
9. Do a Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast day trip
I have been a fan of the Sunshine Coast forever. I love visiting Eumundi, Mooloolaba and Maroochydore whenever I can. It is an easy day trip from Brisbane, but if you have time, stay the weekend. The same can be said for the Gold Coast, located in the other direction. I have heard people rave about Burleigh Heads lately. Surfers Paradise isn’t my favourite place, so I suggest visiting the Gold Coast’s other towns.
Click here for my favourite places to visit on the Sunshine Coast
10. Head to Springbrook National Park
While we’re on the topic, I have to mention Springbrook National Park, which is another popular day trip from Brisbane. It’s located in the Gold Coast Hinterland and features picturesque viewpoints, waterfalls and lots of walking trails. Here and here are a couple of organised day tour options, if that’s your cup of tea.
11. Go on a free walking tour
I’ve heard good things about the walking tours organised by Brisbane Greeters.
12. Shop til you drop
If you need some retail therapy, check out Chermside, which is Australia’s largest Westfield shopping centre. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you’re in trouble! I also think Queen Street Mall is a good place to go shopping in Brisbane as well. There’s H&M, Uniqlo, luxury fashion brands and all the usual suspects too.
13. Check out the view from Mount Coot-tha
This was one of the last things I did in Brisbane. As it turns out, Mount Coot-tha may have the best city views. It’s Brisbane’s highest point, after all.
14. Head to the markets
My two favourites markets in Brisbane include the Finders Keepers Market, which happens a couple of times a year. There’s also the Suitcase Rummage Market, where people sell pre-loved things essentially out of their suitcases. It’s an awesome initiative!
15. Visit Paddington
Another awesome suburb you should definitely visit in Brisbane is Paddington. It’s known for its epic brunch game, boutiques and op shops. Check out this list of things to do in Paddington. I should also mention that West End is a vintage/op shop haven as well.
16. Spend the day in South Bank
If there is one place you must visit in Brisbane, it’s South Bank. It has everything: city views, the Wheel of Brisbane, exquisite dining options, a man-made beach, weekend markets and waterfront walking paths. South Bank is also home to QPAC, as well as the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. That’s all 😏.
17. Walk across the many bridges
If you don’t get on the Brisbane River via a CityCat, cross over the river on one of the many bridges connecting South Bank to the city.
18. Conquer the Story Bridge Climb
19. Go to the drive-in
There are actually two drive-in cinemas on Brisbane’s outskirts: Tivoli Drive-In (in Ipswich) and Yatala Drive-In. Talk about fun things to do in Brisbane – what a fun night out!
20. Visit Fortitude Valley
The Valley is known for its bars and nightclubs, being home to Chinatown, and its beautiful boutiques. Check out this guide, but I recommend visiting the laneways and street art spotting.
21. Go to a sports game
Queenslanders love their sports. I’m partial to rugby league and the Brisbane Bronco have games regularly at Suncorp Stadium. Meanwhile, the Gabba is home to AFL in winter and cricket in summer.
22. Do a day trip to Stradbroke Island
I can’t believe I didn’t visit Stradbroke Island when I lived in Brisbane. I’ve recently seen photos of North Stradbroke Island and it looks incredible! You can easily do a day trip from Brisbane to Stradbroke Island – here’s an organised day tour option. Don’t be like me and miss out.
23. Visit Manly
I’ve covered a lot of my favourite Brisbane suburbs in this post. But Manly is a southern seaside suburb of Brisbane. I used to live nearby and wish I had visited more often. There are lots of restaurants and cafes here, plus farmers markets and waterfront views.
24. Visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Full disclosure – the below koala is not from the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. But this Brisbane attraction is located just 12 kilometres from Brisbane CBD. It’s actually the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, and is home to over 130 koalas. But you can see other Australian animals at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary too, like kangaroos, platypus, the Tasmanian devil and wombats. If you’re interested in visiting the sanctuary, check out this bestselling GetYourGuide tour, which combines admission with a Brisbane River cruise.
Read my guide on Travelettes about the best Brisbane suburbs
Where to eat and drink in Brisbane
Following on, here are my favourite Brisbane restaurants and foodie destinations.
1. Brunch in Bulimba
I discovered the little waterfront suburb of Bulimba with a friend, and it quickly became one of my favourite places. The cinema is irresistibly cheap and it has excellent riverside dining. This is an excellent guide to things to do, but iL Molo (rebranded from The Jetty Oxford) is perfect for dinner and drinks.
2. Ice cream at Mister Fitz
I wrote about the awesomeness that is Mister Fitz in my Brisbane weekend post. Basically, this place is heaven on earth for fellow ice cream lovers and a visit is definitely one of the most fun things to do in Brisbane. It’s all about the epic ice cream sandwiches at Mister Fitz. This is just one of the many amazing places to eat in South Bank. Honestly, you can’t have a bad meal in this Brisbane suburb.
3. Breakfast Creek Hotel
This place is a Brisbane institution. It was also built in the French Renaissance-style in 1889, so its architecture is on point.
4. King of Kings
Located in Chinatown, I’ve been to this unassuming but large restaurant on a few occasions. The last time I visited with my friend, we asked our server if we could have what the table next to us ordered, because it looked SO good. I’ve never done that before, but it was definitely the right decision.
If you like Turkish food, check out Ahmet’s Restaurant in South Bank. It’s been around for years and is open for both lunch and dinner.
6. West End
7. Caxton Street
This is one of the busiest streets in Brisbane on the weekends. Caxton Street is known for its plethora of restaurants and bars, as well as its close proximity to Suncorp Stadium.
8. Eat Street Markets
I have never been to these markets, but there are plenty of street eats to enjoy and beers to drink. I want to try a cronut cone SO badly. Hamilton is a cool Brisbane suburb too.
9. Happy hour at Eagle Street Pier
This is where you will find lots of office workers after hours, as it’s located in the CBD. Many of the restaurants and bars along Eagle Street offer amazing happy hour deals – river views included. Just google ‘happy hour + Eagle Street Pier’ to choose your poison.
The best bits of Brisbane
I’ll definitely be visiting Brisbane when I return to Australia, as I still have many family and friends in the area. I think it’s the perfect place for a long weekend getaway during winter. Also, thanks for lasting through this post. There’s a lot of words here. But hey, you can’t tell me it isn’t comprehensive, right? 😉
P.S. If you’re looking for more Australian content, check out my Sunshine Coast post, what you need to know before you visit Australia and other Australian cities I recommend visiting alone.
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