12 free things to do in Brisbane
Save your cash for something else and explore Queensland's capitol for nothing. From free gigs to art exhibitions and picnics with a view, Brisbane has something for everyone.
While a Brisbane summer is not for the faint-hearted, the city’s (very) warm climate lends itself to outdoor activities all year round. Even in the depths of winter, Brisbane’s average daytime temperature is 21 degrees - perfect for picnics, strolls, and market browsing. And we haven’t even mentioned the best part: many of Brisbane’s best activities are free. Whether you live in the city or you're just visiting, see the best of Queensland's capital without spending a cent.
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Catch a free riverside gig
Pack your picnic rug and head to South Bank Parklands or Roma Street Parkland for Brisbane’s free music program, The Sound Society. The lineup features performances from local Brisbane artists set in some the city’s favourite green spaces. Bring your own snacks or pick up something from the on-site food vendors.
Wander along Brisbane’s favourite stretch of real estate
There’s a reason 11 million people visit South Bank every year. Actually there are several reasons, including 17 hectares of parklands, over 90 places to eat and drink, a cinema, and an inner-city beach. Window shop at the boutiques along Little Stanley Street, take a dip at Streets Beach, or find a shady patch of grass for an afternoon of reading in Brisbane’s favourite urban retreat.
See the city from the water on the CityHopper
Photo by Nick-D
It’s free to hop aboard the CityHopper ferry, which chugs along the Brisbane River between North Quay and Sydney Street every 30 minutes from 6am to midnight, 7 days a week. Hop on and off along the way to explore the city, South Bank or New Farm, or just relax and take in the views along the whole route.
Walk (or ride) on water
While you probably don’t have the ability to literally walk on water, the Brisbane Riverwalk is the next best thing. Reconstructed after the original path was washed away in 2011 floods, the Riverwalk is a suspended bike and walking path that sits above the water and connects New Farm with the city centre. It also connects with other pathways that provide an uninterrupted route all the way to the City Botanic Gardens.
Have a literary evening
If you’re into books of any genre, the Avid Reader bookshop in West End will be your new favourite place. As well as a huge collection of books to browse, they hold regular events and author talks and many of them are free.
Photo by GordonMakryllos
Brisbane’s arts and culture precinct in South Bank includes the Queensland Museum, State Library of Queensland, and the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. While some exhibitions here come with an entry fee, there are heaps of free exhibits to explore. The Discovery Centre at Queensland Museum is not to be missed, as is the Indigenous Australian Art Collection at the Queensland Art Gallery.
Take in the whole city at Mount Coot-Tha
Photo by Brisbane City Council
Just a 15 minute drive from the CBD, Brisbane Lookout at Mount Coot-Tha provides unmatched views of the entire city that are equally as impressive at night as during the day. Once you’ve had your fill of city views, head into the bush on one of the nearby walking tracks in the Brisbane Forest Park.
Enjoy a cliff top picnic at Kangaroo Point
Photo by Lachlan Fearnley
Head to one of the many parks in Kangaroo Point for a picnic with a view. There are plenty of parks to choose from, but if you’re after one with a public barbecue to go with your river views, try Captain Burke Park or Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park. Make the most of the vantage point by staying until sunset, when you’ll be rewarded with twinkling city lights reflected in the river.
See some koalas in their natural habitat
Head 25 kilometres south of Brisbane to the Daisy Hill Koala Centre, an education facility with free admission all year round. Wander the boardwalks to catch a glimpse of some koalas in the eucalypt forests and get a koala-eye view in the Treetops Tower. There are also daily talks from wildlife officers providing information about how you can help with the conservation efforts.
Cycle your way from Story Bridge to South Bank
Photo by Brisbane City Council
Brisbane Council’s bike share scheme, CityCycle, has bike stations dotted at several locations around the city. The first 30 minutes of your ride are free, and if you need a little longer it’s just $2 for a 24-hour pass. Pick up a bike from the station just under the Story Bridge at Dockside and follow the track along the river, past the Kangaroo Point Cliffs and on to South Bank.
Get a dose of Brisbane history on the Classic City Centre Heritage Trail
The self-guided Classic City Centre Heritage Trail takes in 26 points of interest in the Brisbane CBD. Starting in Queen Street at the Regent Theatre, the trail will take you past Brisbane Arcade, City Hall, The Windmill Tower, Central Station, and several historic churches and homes. Download a map from the Heritage Trail’s website for directions and information about each stop on the route.
Ride the Brisbane River Loop
If you’re feeling energetic, challenge yourself to ride the whole length of the Brisbane River Loop bike path. It’s a 40 kilometre ride that takes you along both sides of the river, from South Brisbane down to Tennyson and back. While it’s long, it’s a pretty flat and easy ride but it does involve some on-street riding so you’ll need to be comfortable sharing the road with cars. Reward yourself at the finish line with a coffee at one South Brisbane’s best cafes, like Gauge or Espresso Garage.