Brisbane City Guide: what to see
Brisbane City Guide: what to see

Brisbane travel guide: TOP-10 free things to do and see

The capital of the Sunshine State, Queensland Brisbane is overlooked as a tourist destination. Visitors flock to Noosa and Cairns, both with their international airports encouraging visitors to skip past Brisbane as a gateway to Queensland. Brisbane, is the Gold Coast without the glitter and gloss of attraction parks. Brisbane is sunshine and culture wrapped up in Queensland hospitality.

Brisbane, Australia

What is the best time to visit?

March to May are the autumn months in Australia, it is best to visit Brisbane during that time. You will avoid holiday crowds while still being able to enjoy the warm weather and a low chance of rain. Temperatures will generally be around 24 °C.


Brisbane Forecast, Weather, Brisbane is tropical with hot, humid weather from December to March.


  • Southbank precinct for cafes and pubic events
  • Perth Story Bridge Climb
  • Powerhouse Museum
  • River sunset cruise
  • Roma Street Parkland

Awesome journeys and day trips from Brisbane

Top ten things to do in Brisbane for free
Parks and public spaces, a favourite for visitors short of time is Streets Beach. Check out our detailed description in the beaches to visit section of this guide as well five favourite family beaches in Western Australia.
Powerhouse Museum is a great rainy day spot for all age groups. A great rainy Sunday day is Sunday evenings is the family laughing their heads off at Livewired. It’s an hour of free, funny and family suitable humour at the Brisbane Powerhouse from 5pm.
Daisy Hill Koala Park has free entry. The koala education facility is where you can see koalas in their near-natural habitat (large outdoor enclosure). There is an observation tower and while Daisy Hill is a rehab centre with an ethos of education it is enjoyable as the koalas have passionate advocates for their cute friends.
Getting to know the city with a free Brisbane Greeter tour. These are led by local volunteers who are very passionate about their city. An excellent way to be a tourist in your own city.
Ride the old lift up to City Hall’s clock tower. Built between 1920 and 1930, the heritage-listed Brisbane City Hall was the tallest building in the city until 1960. Free tours up the old city hall clock tower run every 15 minutes during opening hours. Head up in the original lift and get a bird’s-eye view over King George Square and the buildings that now tower over it.
A ferry ride on the City Council's CityHopper is a free inner city ferry service for the Brisbane River. You can hop on and hop off the CityHopper at eight stops between North Quay and Sydney Street, New Farm. The service runs every 36 minutes between 6am and midnight, seven days a week.
The City Sounds is Australia’s largest free music program and has been bringing Brisbane’s emerging music talent to light. The City Sounds is committed to giving local music talent a public stage. Catch a free gig at one of nine CBD locations each week, or pack your blanket and picnic basket and settle in for a classic Saturday session at Gigs and Picnics in the City Botanic Gardens.
Check Brisbane’s visitor information centre for up and coming Aboriginal public concerts where the vibe of Darwin is brought to Queensland.
What’s not to love about a market, There is always a bargain and great food at street prices. A weekend favourite suburbian occupation is the local market. Locals are enthusiastic about their favourite where they can pick up the freshest produce, flowers, meat and artisan goods. Local hot spots for markets are Saturday, Davies Park Market and the Jan Powers Powerhouse Markets, or the Brisbane City Markets on Wednesdays in the CBD.
Nature and landscapes, take advantage of the numerous walks in the area, from short ½ km city walks to more strenuous 8 km hikes. It is advisable that the summer months you are prepared for the heat of a Western Australian climate. The best time to walk is between May to late September.
Scenery & landscapes: City Centre precinct

South Bank

South Brisbane QLD, Australia

Story Bridge

Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Instagram selfie moment is the Story Bridge. A  twin of the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal, Canada, this bridge lights up at night and makes for an Instagram photo against the Brisbane night sky.

Epicurious Garden

Formal Gardens, Clem Jones Promenade near South Bank 3 Ferry Terminal, Australia

The Wheel of Brisbane

Russel Street, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia

Activities: River Cruise

Brisbane River cruises.  A classic cruise is the tropical sunset watching the pink, purple and orange sun sinking below the horizon from the water.  Whether you are on a dinner cruise, on the winding Brisbane River, or further afield on Moreton Bay, being out on the water is a treat with sea breezes offering a cool respite from the tropical warmth of the day.

Activities: Festivals

Riverfire Festival

State Route 15, New Farm QLD 4169, Australia

Paniyiri Greek Festival

42/60 Edmondstone St, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia

West End Fire Festival

26 Hill End Terrace, West End QLD 4101, Australia

Family friendly activities

The Queensland Museum and Science Centre

Corner Grey Street &, Melbourne St, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia

Brisbane City Botanic Gardens

147 Alice St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Streets Beach, Southbank

Stanley St Plaza, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia

Culture & Art

Brisbane’s cultural precinct is clustered on the South Bank (Brisbane River). The Queensland Museum and Science Centre is located here. Another South Bank cultural institution is Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, considered among Australia’s major contemporary art museums. Visitors often spend an entire day within the South Bank area and feel afterwards a repeat visit is necessary to make sure nothing has been missed.

No admission fee to general areas.

Old Petrie Town

901 Dayboro Rd, Whiteside QLD 4503, Australia

Parliament House

2A George St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Queensland Maritime Museum

412 Stanley St, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia

Queensland Police Museum

200 Roma St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Commissariat Store Museum

115 William St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Adderton: house & heart of mercy

547 Ann St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Brisbane Powerhouse

119 Lamington St, New Farm QLD 4005, Australia

Bribie Island Seaside Museum

1 S Esplanade, Bongaree QLD 4507, Australia

MacArthur Museum Brisbane

Macarthur Chambers, 201 Edward St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Museum of Lands, Mapping and Surveying

317 Edward St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Gardens & Parks

Mt. Coot-tha

Queensland, 4066, Australia

Roma Street Parkland

1 Parkland Blvd, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Tropical Dome

152 Mount Coot Tha Rd, Mount Coot-Tha QLD 4066, Australia

New Farm Park

New Farm QLD 4005, Australia

Shopping & retail therapy, outdoor markets

Howard Smith Wharf

5 Boundary St, Brisbane City QLD 4000, Australia

Boundary Street Markets

56 Russell St, West End QLD 4101, Australia

Eat Street Market

221D MacArthur Ave, Hamilton QLD 4007, Australia

West End Farmers' Market

Montague Rd & Jane Street, West End QLD 4101, Australia

  • You can always catch the city hopper ferry to the New Farm terminal and indulge in a stroll under the shaded tree canopy of James Street. Try to resist the window temptations from independent and local boutiques displaying designer wear, clothes and unique household items.
  • Major shopping destination is Queen Street Mall. It is a pedestrian mall with flagship international and local brand stores. With over 710 retail stores it is a natural venue for outdoor activities, buskers, and a great meeting place. There are heritage listed arcades adjacent and alleys where the dedicated shopper can easily spend a day investigating what is around the next enticing corner.
  • Heritage protected Brisbane Arcade, with its bay windows, decorative brickwork tempts shoppers and visitors alike to check out its stunning interior. There are a range of artisan, jewellery and boutique operators who call Brisbane Arcade home.
Brisbane day trips

Stradbroke Island

Queensland 4183, Australia

Gold Coast

Queensland, Australia

Moreton Island

Queensland, Australia

Getting around

South East Queensland | is the metropolitan bus service, check for timetable details and ticketing information. NOTE: A free bus service runs around the City (CBD). Tickets for the TransLink network can be bought from vending machines. Weekly tickets are valid throughout South East Queensland.

CityHopper is a free inner city ferry service for the Brisbane River. You can hop on and hop off the CityHopper every 30 minutes. The service runs between 6am and midnight, seven days a week. CityHopper ferry is a free hop on, hop off service.  City Hopper ferry stops at the following ferry terminals:

  • North Quay, Brisbane City
  • South Bank 3, South Brisbane
  • Maritime Museum, South Brisbane
  • Thornton Street, Kangaroo Point
  • Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane City
  • Holman Street, Kangaroo Point
  • Dockside, Kangaroo Point
  • Sydney Street, New Farm.

TIP: Watch out if you want to take it very early in the morning as it might be full of commuters.

Free Walking tour departs everyday at 10:30 from the Brisbane City Information Centre and takes you sightseeing for one and half hours. A useful introduction to major city attractions as well as giving you an orientation about where things are located.

Brisbane Airport is located 13 km from the city centre. Trains run every 30 minutes between 6 am and 8 pm. The journey takes 30 minutes and pre-booking is available.

Travel Pack Information

Sharks and Safety alert

Swimming in the Brisbane River is not allowed, a bit because of the pollution and the number of bull sharks that inhabit the river.   

Queensland’s beaches are great places to swim and surf, but be aware that sharks inhabit our coastline as well as estuaries, rivers, creeks, canals and streams.

We recommend you swim between the flags at patrolled beaches that have shark control equipment in place. If a shark is spotted, lifesavers will sound a siren or ring a bell, put up the red-and-white flag and tell you to leave the water immediately.

Safety tips

  • Don’t swim at dawn or dusk
  • Always swim in clear water (not in murky water, busy anchorages, estuary mouths or canals
  • Don’t throw good scraps or fish waste overboard (including in anchorages or where people are swimming)
  • Don’t swim where fish are being cleaned
  • Swim, surf, snorkel or dive with a buddy
  • Follow signage and swim between the flags at patrolled beaches.

Read more about being SharkSmart.

Marine stingers

Queensland is home to several species of dangerous tropical marine stingers, including the box jellyfish and the Irukandji.

Marine stingers are present in tropical Queensland waters all year round but the risk is higher during the marine stinger season (November–May).

Sting prevention

  • Always swim at patrolled beaches, between the red-and-yellow flags
  • Look for and obey safety signs
  • Don’t enter the water when beaches are closed
  • Ask lifesavers for help and advice if you need it
  • Don’t touch marine stingers washed up on the beach, they can still sting you
  • Swim in the stinger nets where provided
  • Consider wearing a full-body lycra suit to protect against marine stings.

Sting treatment

If stung, dial Triple Zero (000 and ask for an ambulance. While waiting for the ambulance, pour vinegar onto the sting and administer oxygen or CPR if required. Symptoms of Irukandji stings may take 20–40 minutes to develop—if in doubt, seek medical aid.

Read more about marine stinger first aid.


Crocodiles live in fresh and salt water in northern Queensland. Swim only in designated safe swimming areas. Even if there is no warning sign, there may still be crocodiles.

Safety tips

When in crocodile-inhabited areas:

  • obey all crocodile warning signs
  • always keep a watch for crocodiles
  • never provoke, harass or interfere with crocodiles, even small ones
  • never feed crocodiles—it is illegal and dangerous
  • be extra careful around water at night and during the breeding season (September–April)
  • stay away from the water’s edge.

Read more about being croc wise.

Blue-ringed octopus

Blue-ringed octopuses are one of the world’s most venomous animals. They live in tide pools and shallow reefs all around Australia.

Bites can occur when people touch them or stand on them. While the bite might be painless, the venom in their saliva can be fatal.

If bitten…

Call Triple Zero (000) immediately and ask for an ambulance. When the ambulance is on its way, apply a pressure immobilisation bandage to the bite site. Start and continue CPR if required.

Sun protection alert

Wearing a hat and sunscreen is a must if you are exposed to direct light.

The journey is worth it

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