The third-largest city in Australia after Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane is located on the east coast of the country in Queensland, which is nicknamed the ‘Sunshine State.’ Appropriately enough, it is blessed with year-round good weather, so both locals and tourists alike indulge in a wide variety of outdoor activities. Many of these take place on the banks of the Brisbane River that courses through the center of the city on its way to the coast.
Besides its warm climate and plethora of recreational tourist attractions, Brisbane has a burgeoning culinary scene for visitors to explore, with new restaurants, coffee shops, and bars springing up all the time.
Home to an increasingly lively arts and culture scene, the city has lots of theaters and unique music venues on offer, as well as its fantastic Gallery of Modern Art. A popular tourist destination in its own right, Brisbane also serves as a gateway to the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, both of which lie nearby.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Brisbane Powerhouse
Lying on the banks of the Brisbane River between Powerhouse Park and New Farm Park, the Brisbane Powerhouse is undoubtedly one of the coolest venues in town. Formerly an abandoned power station, its graffiti-strewn interior now houses all kinds of different cultural events, with something new going on every day.
With industrial machinery still lying around, it is a very unique and atmospheric place to catch a gig, watch a show, or wander around one of its brilliant art exhibitions. In addition to its packed calendar, which also includes stand-up comedy and theater performances, the Brisbane Powerhouse has two excellent restaurants for you to check out, as well as beautiful views out over the river.
11. Queensland Cultural Centre
Located just a short walk away from the CBD, the Queensland Cultural Centre is the beating heart of the city’s thriving arts and culture scene. Set on the South Bank of the river, with wonderful subtropical plants and gardens all around it, it is here that you will find many of Brisbane’s most important and prestigious cultural institutions.
These include the Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery, and the Queensland Performing Arts Center. All of these are located in striking buildings that exhibit some fabulous architecture.
Of these, however, it is undoubtedly the brilliant Gallery of Modern Art that is the most renowned around the country and further afield. Due to its many award-winning venues, the Queensland Cultural Center is the perfect place to head to see an art exhibition, learn more about the state of Queensland, or watch a ballet or theater production.
10. City Botanic Gardens
Set in a curve of the river, the City Botanic Gardens are one of the most peaceful and pleasant spots in Brisbane. Its perfectly manicured lawns are lined by a wide array of subtropical plants, with some wonderfully wild rainforest also on show. Its serene setting makes it a popular place to visit with locals and tourists alike, and the tops of skyscrapers can just be seen poking up above the palm and fig trees.
What started out as crop gardens to feed the city’s prison colony in the 1820s is now a delightful recreational space, with sculptures and statues found alongside a little cafe and picnic areas. On Sundays, it is well worth strolling by the City Botanic Gardens to peruse its riverside market.
9. Museum of Brisbane
Full of interesting and interactive exhibitions on the past, present, and future of the city, the Museum of Brisbane offers a fascinating insight into the workings of this thriving metropolis.
Starting with the indigenous peoples who once inhabited the region, it takes you on a whirlwind journey through the ages, right up until the present-day, and what Brisbane may look like in the future.
Among its 5,000 or so items on show are paintings, photos, and sculptures depicting the history of the city, its people, and culture. The Museum of Brisbane regularly hosts temporary exhibitions and can be found on the third floor of the town hall.
8. Wheel of Brisbane
Towering to a height of 60 meters, the Wheel of Brisbane boasts incredible views of the city and the river below. Located right at the entrance of the South Bank Parklands, the enormous Ferris wheel can be spotted from far and wide.
It looks particularly arresting in the evening when it is beautifully lit up against the night sky. A spin in its air-conditioned capsules takes just under 15 minutes; from up high, Brisbane looks incredible stretching into the distance.
7. City Hall
One of the most important and impressive historical landmarks in Brisbane, the gorgeous City Hall building was inaugurated in 1930, with construction having started in 1920. Although it was once the tallest building in the city, now a number of skyscrapers tower high above its sturdy sandstone columns and lofty clock tower.
While the architecture is certainly among the finest in the city, its interior is no less arresting; a huge foyer and auditorium can be found alongside the Museum of Brisbane on its third floor. As it regularly hosts free concerts, as well as daily tours of the clock tower, there are several different ways to appreciate and explore this fantastic historic building.
6. Botanic Gardens Mt. Coot-tha
Lying at the foot of the tallest mountain in the area, Mount Coot-tha, these magnificent Botanic Gardens were the second to be established after the City Botanic Gardens and were opened to the public in 1976. The garden has several different parts to it, with fern and cactus houses lying side by side with rainforest sections, bamboo groves, and a lagoon.
Its marvelous Japanese Garden and Bonsai House are just two of its main highlights. Strolling around is a delightful affair, and there is also a great planetarium for you to check out, as well as the National Freedom Wall commemorating the end of the Second World War.
5. Gallery of Modern Art
Housed in a distinctive-looking building on the banks of the Brisbane River, the Gallery of Modern Art is part of the Queensland Cultural Center and is regularly included among the finest museums in the nation.
Dedicated to modern and contemporary art, the museum showcases artworks by Australian, Asian, and Pacific artists, with temporary exhibitions being held all the time.
Through various mediums, its extensive collection explores lots of fascinating topics, such as activism, Aboriginal rights, and the environment. Sculptures and paintings are displayed alongside videos and photographs. A must-see if you are into art, the Gallery of Modern Art will certainly get you thinking with its innovative and creative installations.
4. Roma Street Parkland
Tucked away amid the city’s many tall buildings and skyscrapers, this beautiful park is a great place to relax and unwind. Very reminiscent of Central Park in New York, the Roma Street Parkland is the largest subtropical garden in a city center in the world and boasts lots of thick rainforest, ferns and water features.
Once a railway terminal, it was turned into a park in 2001. Themed gardens are placed alongside recreational areas, which include work-out stations, playgrounds, and barbecue facilities. Very peaceful to wander around, the wild yet landscaped gardens offer locals and tourists alike respite from the hubbub of the city.
3. Mount Coot-tha Lookout
Meaning ‘Place of Honey’ in the indigenous language, Mount Coot-tha is the tallest mountain in the area and reaches a height of 287 meters. Coated in dense rainforest, it is a fantastic place to go for a hike. Many paths and trails weave their way up the mountainside, although most people simply drive directly to the summit.
Perched atop of the mount is a kiosk where you can grab a bite to eat or drink, and a lovely viewing platform where you can enjoy one of the best views out over Brisbane and its surroundings. Known as the Lookout, it is open at any time of day, so it is well worth rising early to watch dawn break over the city or arriving later on in the day to see the spectacular sunset.
2. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
If you’re looking for a quintessential Australian experience, then no visit to Brisbane can ever be complete without stopping by the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Located 12 kilometers from the city center, the sanctuary is home to all kinds of Ozzie critters, with koalas and kangaroos on show alongside wombats, dingoes, and platypuses.
Besides learning all about them at one of the park’s talks and presentations, you can also feed kangaroos, pose for a photo with a koala, or be a keeper for a day. Opened in 1927, it is the oldest and largest koala sanctuary in the world; over 130 of the cute little animals live inside.
1. South Bank Parklands
Located just across the river from Brisbane’s CBD, the South Bank Parklands is one of the most popular places in the city among residents and tourists alike. Set amid the park’s enthralling mix of manicured lawns and thick rainforest are everything from fountains and plazas to restaurants, cafes, and little street markets selling local arts and crafts.
Nestled alongside these many delights are the charming Nepal Peace Pagoda and the Courier Mail Piazza, which hosts lots of fun and free events.
On top of all of this, the South Bank Parklands also boast Streets Beach, a brilliant, human-made lagoon, the bougainvillea-filled Grand Arbour, and the pleasant riverside promenade that has such fantastic views out over the city. With so much going on, there is always a lively feel to the place. It really is a must-visit when in Brisbane.
Best Time to Visit Brisbane
With short, warm winters and long, hot, wet summers, Brisbane is great to visit year-round. That said, make sure to apply sunscreen and cover up whenever you go as extreme UV rays constantly beat down.
July and August, so wintertime in Australia, are when crowds start to pour in. Averages of 21 and 22°C (70 to 71°F) and the dry conditions are perfect for exploring its CBD and enjoying outdoor activities. While prices are highest, there are the Ekka celebrations and Queensland Music Festival to enjoy.
After this, September through November remains popular as the days are sunny with clear blue skies. As temperatures hit 24 to 28°C (75 to 82°F), you can sunbathe and try watersports at either the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast. The massively popular Brisbane Festival also takes place then.
While December still sees a lot of people visiting due to the holidays, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the high heat and humidity make sightseeing less pleasant. Many cool off at the South Bank Parklands.
After the January school holidays when its beaches and theme parks are packed, Brisbane is relatively quiet due to the rain and humidity. April and May can be good times to visit as the autumn weather is ideal for outdoor activities before the winter crowds arrive again.