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The capital of the Sunshine State may not be as well travelled as other popular capital cities like Sydney and Melbourne, but the many fun things to do in Brisbane makes it an interesting city to be explored next.
On any day of the year, you’ll find both first-time visitors and seasoned travellers at the various tourist attractions in Brisbane: sampling award-winning food and wine, pushing limits with thrilling outdoor activities, soaking in panoramic views or jiving to the thriving entertainment scene.
Boasting a subtropical climate with warm to hot weather all year round, the Queensland capital is particularly popular during the winter months from June to August. This is when temperatures are at its mildest–perfect for experiencing the city!
Not quite sure where to begin? Here’s our list of the top 10 places to visit in Brisbane for the first-time visitor.
Markets are an excellent way to immerse yourself in any city’s food scene. In Brisbane, look no further than Jan Powers. Packed with local produce from more than 300 Australian growers, this open-air market is a hive of activity every Saturday from 6.00am to 12.00pm.
Think meat, fish, spices, organics, fresh flowers, homewares alongside food stalls serving up Japanese skewers, handmade dumplings and French crepes made fresh to order. And since this is Australia, you can’t miss grabbing a coffee right here in the world’s coffee capital.
One of the best parts of exploring a new city is discovering the best local drinks and Brissy does not disappoint. While you can pick from various beer and wine tour operators serving nearby popular alcohol-producing destinations, central Brisbane offers many craft breweries, wine bars and boutique watering holes for the time-starved traveller too.
Tip: You may hear locals refer to their hometown as BrisVegas, a once-undesirable nickname referring to the city’s lack of Vegas-like nightlife and entertainment. Decades on, its residents have reclaimed the nickname, using it to show affection for a city that has transformed into a vibrant melting pot of culture, sport, music, history and entertainment. But if you would like to err on the side of caution, ‘Brissy’ is a safe bet and common slang used by locals.
Australia is renowned for its biodiversity, and there’s no shortage of native fauna. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is a local treasure offering a rare chance to get up close and personal with one of the most iconic animals in the country—the Sanctuary is one of the few places where you’re legally allowed to hold a koala bear in Australia.
Aside from the koalas, there are also hand-feeding opportunities with kangaroos and a variety of other Australian wildlife to see throughout the grounds. In addition to being the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary with 130 furry residents, it is also a leading hub for research, conservation, education and social initiatives.
When night falls, the Sanctuary offers a free movie screening at its three outdoor cinemas every first and third Friday of each month complete with food stalls dotting the area. All you need to bring is a mat, some pillows if you wish and yourself! Movie updates are best accessed via the Sanctuary’s Facebook page.
Snaking through the heart of Brisbane is the aptly named Brisbane River. A glittering waterway punctuated by numerous vehicle and footbridges, it is best admired on a cruise. The river cruises are one of the most popular activities for visitors to Queensland’s capital—and for good reason.
Not only will you get to enjoy unique views of city, the cruises also come with a variety of entertainment and dining options for various types of travellers. You can also choose to hop on the CityCat ferries between St Lucia and Hamilton to get a taste of the city’s marine public transport.
While hotspots like the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, Eagle Street Pier and Story Bridge might be on your list for best views, first-timers shouldn’t miss the chance to see the city from the lookout at Mt Coot-tha. 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.
For those up for a sweat, several hiking trails will lead you to the lookout. Otherwise, it is accessible by car or public transport. At the top, refuel at the local Kuta Café or award-winning Summit Restaurant before making your descent.
Don’t miss out on two other attractions near the base of Mt Coot-tha: The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are considered the best subtropical botanic gardens in the state with 52 hectares of lush landscape. Meanwhile, the Toowong Cemetery next door will appeal to history buffs and thrill-seekers as the setting for the infamous, spine-chilling Ghost Tours experience.
You’ve not been to Brisbane till you’ve chased 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 in Gold Coast, the short 40-minute to an hour’s drive down from Brisbane doesn’t stop them from being extremely popular with visitors to the Queensland capital.
Dreamworld is the largest of the four with more than 40 rides and attractions suitable for both families and thrillseekers. 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.
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 breath-taking 360-degree views of the capital, with each ride on its gondolas lasting 10 to 15 minutes—more than enough time to snap several photos.
Constructed in 2008, the wheel was built in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Brisbane’s World Expo in 1988, which saw the city welcome more than 15 million visitors in just over six months! History buffs will enjoy listening to the audio guide played in each gondola and gaining insight into the city’s numerous landmarks—keep your eyes peeled for Mount Coot-tha and its Botanical Gardens, as well as the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
If you’re after the true VIP treatment, you can opt for a private gondola with dining platters and wine tastings. Sampling fine fare with unbelievable views of the city makes for an unforgettable experience in Brissy.
Slow things down with a stroll by 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, its location directly opposite the CBD offers a unique combination of spectacular views and a retreat from the bustling metropolis.
Visiting in the summer? Nothing quite tops a refreshing dip at Streets Beach—the only inner-city, man-made beach in Australia. South Bank is also perfect for simpler pleasures no matter the season, whether it be a wander through the parklands, admiring the art installations or enjoying a barbecue or picnic lunch.
Do drop by the Epicurious Garden to brush up on cooking with organic foods. South Bank’s productive garden offers a host of edible fruits, vegetables and herbs. You can even score free produce when the volunteer gardeners are on duty—just drop by Tuesdays to Thursdays from 7.00am to 11.30am.
Need a break from the outdoors? Enrich your mind with a visit to the Cultural Centre, a bustling hub of knowledge and creativity. It is home to the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art; the Queensland Museum and Science Centre; the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the State Library of Queensland—there’s more than enough to see and do here in a day!
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 performances from local and international productions held at QPAC each year. Before you leave, try and locate the building’s slide for a thrilling ride between the top and bottom floors of the building.
A lesser-known 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 are on hand to help you learn, create and experiment. With a packed calendar of workshops, lab sessions, workshops and events, there’s bound to be one for you to try in your time here.
Australians love their sport, and the abundance of local swimming pools, arenas, bike paths, ovals and other sports venues is evidence enough. Soak in the sporting culture by paying a visit to the Suncorp Stadium and the Brisbane Cricket Ground, more commonly known as the Gabba.
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. Alternatively, some might say the most rewarding sporting experience in Brisbane is to watch Queensland take on New South Wales in the State of Origin rugby league competition if you happen to be in town.
Located in the heart of Brisbane, Capri by Fraser, Brisbane / Australia is the perfect base to experience one of Australia’s most beautiful cities from. Packed with on-site services and facilities, there’s no better way to rest and recharge before exploring Brisbane for the first time.