During my time in Australia, I spent over 4 months living with a local Brisbane family in a suburb, 15 minutes outside of the Central Business District. In this time I was able to explore what Brisbane has to offer and how the locals live. If you want to find out how you can spend your time around the CBD then you’ve come to the right place.
1. South Bank
Along the south side of Brisbane’s river lies the Cultural Centre of Queensland’s capital city. Home to the Gallery of Modern Art, Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, The State Library of Queensland and Queensland Performing Arts Centre to name just a few of the art and cultural things to do here. With so many options to stretch your creativity and knowledge of Australia, it is no wonder that South Bank got the title of Cultural Centre. Whether you need an activity to get out of the heat or to avoid a rainy day you will be spoilt for choice along the south side of the river.
When it comes to free entertainment South Bank is more than generous, offering free fitness classes and free performances on Sundays you are bound to find something to do here without breaking the bank. One of the best days out in Brisbane can be found at Streets Beach; a swimming pool right in the middle of the CBD overlooking the river and the cityscape. Perfect for families and friends alike as there is plenty of room to set up your towels and go for a dip in either the deep pool or the kiddy pool and water fountains. Not only are the pools free and open to the public from early morning until after dark there are also BBQ’s available for the perfect day out.
If you don’t want to spend an entire day lounging on an artificial beach then there is still plenty to do. Go for a stroll through the Sub-Tropical Rainforest and take in the contrast of tranquillity and nature in the centre of an up and coming city. Better yet, be transported to Asia when discovering the temple nestled in between the rainforest and the riverfront. For the best views of Brisbane’s high-rise buildings and riverside location book yourself a ticket for the Wheel of Brisbane and take to the skies. Last but not least, for the ultimate Instagram look for the Brisbane sign – big purple letters spell out Brisbane with the city’s skyline as the backdrop, both day and night make for a good picture of this small but effective landmark.
2. Mount Coot-Tha and The Botanical Gardens
Just a 15-minute drive from the CBD Mount Coot-Tha sits 287 metres above sea level, providing a high vantage point and 360º views of Brisbane and the surrounding area. For the best views head up there on a clear day for impressive visibility or at night to see the city lit up. Once you’ve taken in the scenery stop in the Summit Restaurant or cafe where you can enjoy a glass of wine or entire meal while overlooking the city. As well as a popular spot for tourists and foodies Mount Coot-Tha also caters for fitness enthusiasts. With a range of hiking tracks varying in length and difficulty, anyone can find a walk suited to their abilities and once you’ve tired yourself out stop for a picnic at one of the many BBQ areas. It is an easy drive to the summit with roads going all the way to the lookout but if you don’t have a car there is a regular bus service departing from the city which stops at the base and summit.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens
At the base of Mount Coot-Tha, you will find a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city. Either join a free guided tour or explore the park for yourself and read about the plants and wildlife on offer. Not only do the botanic gardens showcase Australia’s native fauna but also includes a section dedicated to succulents, a Japanese Garden and a Bonsai Tree House. Probably the most iconic part of the gardens is the tropical dome which stands out amidst the surrounding nature. Step inside the dome and be taken to a rainforest, complete with a canopy of leaves above you and a layer of mist around you. Look at the pond in the centre of the dome to find fish swimming around and a layer of lilypads sitting on the water.
The botanic gardens are also home to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium where you can view the night sky from the Cosmic Skydome and discover the constellations and planets that will be visible that night. Learn about astronomy and immerse yourself amongst the stars for just $15.80 per adult. Find out more about the Planetarium here.
3. Eat Street Markets
If you find yourself in Brisbane during the weekend then there really is only one place you need to go to meet all of your foodie dreams – Eat Street Markets. Located in Macarthur Avenue – roughly a 15-minute drive from the CBD you can cure all of your food cravings in one evening. The street food style set up offers every type of food you can imagine; from stone oven baked pizza to cheesecake in a jar, everyone can leave the markets feeling satisfied. Not only is there an abundance of food on offer but also live music, fire breathers, and cocktail bars to turn your evening meal into your evening entertainment. Open on Fridays and Saturdays from 5 pm until late and all day on Sundays you can try out all of the cuisines on offer and still have time left over for dessert. My personal favourite stall was The Doughnut Bar where you can get a ‘dough cone’ – consisting of a cone made entirely of doughnuts, filled with ice cream, waffles, and a chocolate bar of your choice.
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4. Kangaroo Point
Further along the Brisbane river, you will find Kangaroo Point. Offering a new perspective of the cities high-rise buildings, along with a riverside location this spot is the ideal place for a picnic or traditional Australian BBQ. Although you may not see any Kangaroos during your time here you will most likely see Lorikeets in the many trees in the area as well as Water Dragons sunbathing by the river. If you’re lucky you may even catch a glimpse of dolphins as they make their way along the river. An ideal time to come to Kangaroo point for photo opportunities is during sunset when the orange hues in the sky can create golden reflections against the buildings and the water. If you are in need of transport to get to and from this location then it’s worth looking at the many ferries which travel up and down the river – the City Hopper is completely free!
Kangaroo Cliffs are equally popular to Brisbanites and tourists alike. Here you will find fitness enthusiasts running up and down the many stairs and jogging along the waterfront as well as groups of people climbing up and abseiling down the cliffs, which are beautifully lit up at night. If you are the adventurous type and would like to try climbing Kangaroo cliffs yourself, click here for more information.
5. Fortitude Valley
Located next to the Story Bridge (Brisbane’s answer to the Harbour Bridge) you will find an area home to a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and clubs. But don’t just stop at the first place you see, look for the less visible laneways; Winn Lane and Bakery Lane. Ben’s Burgers (in Winn Lane) is home to a burger voted one of the best in Queensland. As well as a hard to find burger bar Fortitude Valley is also where you will find Brisbane’s China Town. With Chinese lanterns lining the street and Asian restaurants in the area, you can be transported out of Brisbane for a while.
Another benefit of including Fortitude Valley in your itinerary is Wilson’s Lookout. Just a 5-minute walk from the Valley you can sit on a park bench and get a great view and photo opportunity of the Story Bridge. Equally impressive in the daylight as it is during the night when the bridge is lit up with colours regularly changing depending on the event happening at the time.