The best things to do in Brisbane
A city of culture and sunshine where great food meets riverside views and inner-city vibes.
- June 2021
- Updated October 2022
With a burgeoning food scene, world-class galleries, glamorous rooftop bars and buzzing laneway cafes, Brisbane is a cosmopolitan getaway catering to all tastes. And thanks to all that sunshine and scenic parkland, the outdoor lifestyle is everything here. Along with the nearby island escapes, rainforest hinterland and endless beaches, there's plenty in the city itself to keep you busy. Start with these must-sees.
Get inspired at the Gallery of Modern Art
When people rave about Brisbane being a city of the arts, invariably they're referring to its big-ticket attraction, GOMA. Since opening its doors in 2006, it's been nothing short of a triumph, hosting blockbuster shows by the likes of Warhol and Picasso to go with celebrated home-grown talent such as Ben Quilty and Patricia Piccinini. And as part of the Queensland Cultural Centre, it shares space with the equally impressive Queensland Art Gallery, which features a stellar permanent collection showcasing a who's who of esteemed Australian artists.
Cool off with a dip at South Bank's city beach
If you're here to make the most of Brisbane's 260-odd days a year of sunshine then don't miss hanging out at these riverfront parklands. Among its 17.5 hectares of lawn, rainforest walking trail and cafes, the standout attraction is Streets Beach – a palm-fringed, white-sand beach that leads to a sparkling lagoon. There's a heap of restaurants and bars to choose from, but it's also the perfect spot to pack a picnic to enjoy by the river while admiring those city views.
See another side of Brisbane in West End
Get a feel for Brisbane at its most vibrant and eclectic in West End (traditional name: Kurilpa), a 30-minute walk from the CBD. Home to quirky cafes and bars, independent and vintage boutiques, record stores, book shops and Insta-worthy street art, this multicultural neighbourhood is well worth a visit. Weekends are extra lively, with the bustling West End Markets on Saturdays and Boundary Street Markets on Friday and Saturday evenings. Both offer unique crafts and collectibles, and a mind-boggling array of irresistible food stalls.
Indulge in Brisbane's food and drink scene
With its choice of night markets, laneway cafes, stylish riverside haunts and multicultural delights, Brisbane continues to impress as a culinary destination. But it's the new wave of talented young chefs that's turning heads, with menus offering contemporary, creative, local, seasonal, organic and, above all, divine cuisine! And when it's time for a tipple, there's much more on the menu these days than XXXX. Whether you're into locally brewed craft beers, artisanal gins or coffee roasted at neighbourhood cafes, you'll find plenty of options in Brisbane's CBD and inner suburbs.
Giddy up for fun times in the Valley
Still the go-to destination for a hedonistic night out on the town, Fortitude Valley has long been Brisbane’s most celebrated entertainment district. Known for its raucous pubs, clubs and live-music venues, these days the scene is balanced out with refined bars, tasteful cafes, fashionable bistros and rooftop cocktails. By day it's all about exploring the laneways, brunching, wandering around Chinatown and shopping at indie boutiques. Then, before you know it, it’s time to get ready for a night of rock’n’roll, DJs and live comedy.
Escape the city for blissful North Stradbroke Island
Brisbane's most popular island getaway, North Stradbroke is a 30-minute ferry journey east of the city. Among its pristine natural scenery and abundant marine life, the highlight for many is Cylinder Beach – a stunning cove of sugary sand patrolled by surf-life savers. Don't miss the opportunity to engage with the traditional Aboriginal owners, the Quandamooka people, to learn about the rich history of the island, which they know as Minjerribah.