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Things to Do in Brisbane

Hemmed in by the beaches of the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane is the perfect cultural antidote to a sun-and-surf overdose. Effortlessly laid-back yet surprisingly fashion-forward, Queensland’s capital city is always changing, with museums hosting some of Australia’s most cutting-edge exhibitions, and new restaurants, pop-up stores, and seasonal events springing up constantly. Highlights of a trip to Brisbane include climbing the famous Story Bridge, strolling the lush City Botanic Gardens, and spotting koalas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Lone Pine is a 20-minute drive from downtown Brisbane, but it’s more fun to float there on a river cruise that departs from Southbank, with views of Brisbane’s landmarks along the way. As the gateway to Queensland, Brisbane also makes a good base camp for exploring the region’s highlights. The beaches of North Stradbroke Island or Moreton Island are a short ferry ride away, while the world-class theme parks and beaches of the Gold Coast are just an hour’s drive south of the city. To experience Queensland’s diverse flora and fauna, tours are your best bet. A guide can lead you to waterfalls and glowworm caves on a rain forest tour of Springbrook National Park, 62 miles (100 kilometers) south of Brisbane, and Mt. Tamborine National Park. Or join a multi-day excursion to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Fraser Island (one night at a beach resort included) or the Great Barrier Reef, where you can swim, look for turtles and humpback whales, and snorkel ’til your heart’s content.
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Brisbane River
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Brisbane is a city shaped by the river. It is a city of long walks in the summer dusk and riverside picnics on weekends. Bringing natural life to the urban scape, the Brisbane River is the site of many of Brisbane’s best attractions, events and everyday joys.

Popular activities on the Brisbane River include kayaking through the city at night, exploring the river on a CityCat, taking a dining river cruise or catching a local ferry to reach the opposite shore. Climbing the Kangaroo Point Cliffs on the river’s edge is a popular evening activity, and many residents and visitors alike enjoy climbing the famous Story Bridge, dining at South Bank by the water and relaxing with a drink at Eagle Street Pier.

You can also take a walk through the City Botanical Gardens that follow the northern river’s edge, see a live show at the famous Riverstage, look across the urban night from a Gallery of Modern Art ‘Up Late’ event, or read by the river.

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Moreton Island
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Moreton Island is a peaceful retreat for day trippers and weekenders, right on Brisbane's door step. More than 90 percent of Moreton Island is protected as national park, and only 4WD (four-wheel drive) vehicles and walkers can access the beaches and trails. Spend days relaxing by pristine beaches, swim underwater to view the marine life, go wreck diving or try dune bashing across the sandy dunes.

Dolphins visit Tangalooma to be hand-fed by volunteers, and seasonal whale-watching cruises circle the island between June and October.

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Story Bridge
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Story Bridge is Brisbane’s answer to Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. Iconic in its own right, Story Bridge is a heritage-listed, steel cantilever bridge that allows access between the northern and southern suburbs of Brisbane.

Story Bridge was built between 1935 and 1939, and was known as Jubilee Bridge until mid 1940. The main attraction of Story Bridge, as splendid as it is to view from afar, are the bridge climbs which began in 2005. A guided tour takes visitors up the bridge to stunning panoramic views of the city, out to Moreton Bay, and west across the aptly named Scenic Rim as they stand 80 metres above sea level. It’s also possible to abseil down one of the bridge’s pylons and into Captain Burke Park.

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Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park
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Located right across the river from Brisbane’s CBD, the popular Kangaroo Points Cliff Park is the place to head for a sweeping view of Brisbane’s downtown skyline. The cliffs here were formed by mining in the middle of the 19th century, and are now a popular spot for rock climbing and abseiling down their face. Since the park is located right on the river, kayaking is another popular activity for visitors as well as locals, and the BBQ grills and walking tracks make it a perfect family outing. To try your hand at scaling the cliffs, a number of climbing and abseiling companies offer guided lessons on the rocks, and the park is also a popular spot for stops on a city tour. And, while it doesn’t take long to swing by the park and enjoy the manicured grounds, it’s a peaceful, fun, and healthy retreat in the middle of Brisbane’s downtown.

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Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
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Australia's first and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is home to over a hundred cute and cuddly koalas, along with other weird and wonderful native Australian animals like wombats, emus, dingos and kangaroos.

Opened in 1927, the sanctuary began as a home to only two koalas, and over the years has grown to its current size. Lone Pine found its fame around the time of WWII, when Americans would visit the park to see these strange and new creatures. Today, the sanctuary is dedicated to the conservation of all native Australian animals, especially the koala, and works under strict regulations of the Queensland National Park and Nature Reserve Office.

The real highlight of the park is that you are able to cuddle a koala! Get the chance to hold a koala and even pose for a photo. No personal cameras are allowed, so to take home the special memory of you and a koala, you will have the chance to purchase a professional photograph from the park.

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Mt. Coot-tha
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Brisbane’s all-natural lookout point and city escape is Mt Coot-tha, hovering above the city to its west. The views from the lookout are legendary, taking in Brisbane and the undulating Brisbane River, all the way to Moreton Bay and the Glass House Mountains on the horizon. At the foot of the mountain, the lush Brisbane Botanic Gardens provide a vivid touch of green.

The lookout is surrounded by expansive native bush and parkland. Brisbanites flock here on family picnics, or to follow walking tracks to waterfalls and more lookouts. An Aboriginal Art Trail winds past ancient sites, and weekend cyclists come here to follow the winding roads. Come here at night to see the city lights twinkle, for a relaxed lunch at the cafe or more formal dinner at the Summit Restaurant.

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Streets Beach
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Water, sand and sun make for a good combination pretty much anywhere in the world. Put them all together to create a man-made beach right in the middle of Brisbane, and you’ve got the must-visit Streets Beach.

Australia’s only inner-city, manmade beach, this site has a chlorinated lagoon surrounded by sandy beaches and sub-tropical plants that makes for a great spot to head to whether you have kids in tow or not. An extra bonus—this beach-like spot enjoys a view of the city skyscrapers and Brisbane River, which will keep you from forgetting you’re not out on a tropical island somewhere.

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Wheel of Brisbane
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Admire the gleaming cityscape and natural beauty of Brisbane City from a lofty carriage on the Wheel of Brisbane. Likened to the famous London Eye, the Wheel of Brisbane offers an exciting chance to look across the city from above.

Take your time to spot the heritage buildings nestled among modern skyscrapers, admire the Brisbane River as it twists through the city centre, and enjoy the vibrant lights of the Brisbane’s attractions as they create an evening rainbow.

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Roma Street Parkland
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On a hill overlooking Brisbane City, you will find a sprawling garden oasis known as Roma Street Parkland. This subtropical parkland boasts bamboo thickets, sunny picnic patches, calming waterways and meandering paths through botanical bliss.

The happy result is an inner-city retreat that can whisk you into another world, despite being only a few minutes’ walk from the central bustling business district and Brisbane Transit Centre.

Designed and realised by Australian gardening celebrity, the late Colin Campbell of the ABC’s Gardening Australia, Roma Street Parkland was established in 2001 as a horticultural wonderland, using the former goods yard for the adjacent train station. Since opening, the parkland has become a popular outdoor space, hosting entertainment events in the natural amphitheatre at the top of the park, as well as festivals and other recreational events.

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The Gabba (Brisbane Cricket Ground)
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For an authentic Australian sporting experience, take yourself along to the 42,000-seat Brisbane Cricket Ground. Known as the Gabba, because it's in the suburb of Woolloongabba, the sports ground hosts Australian Football League (AFL) games and international cricket matches.

Summer is the time for cricket, with matches held between January and March. In winter, March to October, AFL games hit the turf, often under the lights at night. Tours run daily, but not on match eve and match days. You get to view the stadium from the upper levels, then take a walk on the hallowed ground, see the memorabilia in the members’ dining room, see the corporate and media facilities, view the practice wickets and take a stroll through the players’ locker room.

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More Things to Do in Brisbane

North Stradbroke Island (Straddie)

North Stradbroke Island (Straddie)

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North Stradbroke Island, nicknamed “Straddie” by the locals, offers a low-key escape from Brisbane. The picturesque island, the most popular of all the islands in Moreton Bay, is lined by white sand beaches on its eastern shores, while the interior is dotted with freshwater lakes.

The first inhabitants of the island showed up some 40,000 years ago, and members of three Australian Aboriginal groups call the island home today. Before you begin your explorations of the island, spend some time learning about the island’s long history at the North Stradbroke Island Historical Museum.

Besides the museum, all of Straddie’s other attractions revolve around Mother Nature. Along the coast, it’s possible to spot dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles and humpback whales, and more something a little more active, you can dive, surf, fish, sand board, sea kayak or take a 4WD tour of the island’s interior.

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City Botanic Gardens

City Botanic Gardens

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Opened in the 1840s and stretching from Gardens Point on the Brisbane River to the grounds of Parliament House, Brisbane’s City Botanic Gardens is the oldest green space in the city. The gardens were originally planted in 1825 by convicts who needed to provide food for the penal colony, but three years later the colonial botanist Charles Fraser decided that this would be the perfect spot for conducting plant experiments to see which cash crops could grow well in Australia. Mango, ginger, tamarind and mahogany trees were all planted, and even sugar was produced in the gardens.

Formerly known as the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, the City Botanic Gardens front Alice Street and George Street. Full of rare and unusual flowers and plants including cycads, palms, figs, and bamboo, the gardens stretch for 20 acres and are popular with CBD workers and visitors looking to relax on the lawns and walk by the ornamental ponds.

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South Stradbroke Island

South Stradbroke Island

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North Gorge Walk

North Gorge Walk

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Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park)

Suncorp Stadium (Lang Park)

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Home of the Brisbane Broncos Rugby League, the Queensland Reds Rugby Union, the Brisbane Roar Soccer, and host to national and international sporting events and concerts, Brisbane’s famous Suncorp Stadium is a state-of-the-art arena located in the inner-city suburb of Milton. Formerly Lang Park, the site of Suncorp Stadium has a long and rich event history.

With a capacity of over 52,500 people and a site area of over seven hectares, Suncorp Stadium transforms from an echoing shell to a pulsing entertainment hub on event days. Keep an eye out for the famous bronze statue of Queensland sportsman, Wally Lewis, outside the Stadium.

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Customs House

Customs House

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With its striking green dome and colonnaded façade looming over the riverside, Brisbane’s grand Customs House stands out as one of the city’s most iconic heritage buildings. Dating back to 1889, the Customs House originally served to collect the custom duties on imports brought in Brisbane port, but today, the historic building is run by The University of Queensland and best known for its glamorous ballroom and function rooms.

The architectural gem is also open to the public, with visitors able to stroll around the building, view the Stuartholme-Behan exhibition of Australian Art and admire the collection of artifacts and memorabilia on display. There’s also an on-site restaurant, with terrace seating overlooking the Brisbane River and the Story Bridge.

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Treasury Casino

Treasury Casino

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Eagle Street Pier

Eagle Street Pier

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Shiny and modern, Eagle Street Pier is the riverside corporate entertainment precinct of Brisbane City. Beneath the glass facades of the city’s law firms and commercial offices, overlooking the Brisbane River, are many of the city’s most loved bars and restaurants.

Local favorites at Eagle Street Pier include Jade Budda for cocktails, the Bavarian Bier Café for a hearty feed and Matt Moran's ARIA for fine dining. The precinct is popular on Friday nights in particular, when end of week celebrations transform the calm riverside into a cosmopolitan hotspot.

Every Sunday between 8am and 3pm, Eagle Street Pier hosts a waterfront market for the weekend wanderer to browse stalls selling clothing, arts and crafts, jewellery and gifts.

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Queensland Art Gallery

Queensland Art Gallery

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With more than 16,000 works dating from the 19th-century to modern-day, the Queensland Art Gallery is one of Australia’s leading art institutions and it’s the top ticket for art lovers visiting Brisbane. The gallery is split over two sites, the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), which opened its doors in 1982, and the glass-fronted Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), inaugurated in 2006, and the neighboring museums form the focal point of Brisbane’s South Bank Cultural Precinct.

The gallery’s vast permanent collection features works from all over the globe, with a particular focus on contemporary Asia-Pacific art. Highlights include works by Australian artists like Arthur Boyd, William Dobell and George Lambert; a varied collection of Indigenous Australia art; and a dedicated Children’s Art Centre. There’s also a cinema, several temporary exhibition spaces, gift shops and a café-restaurant.

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Queensland Museum

Queensland Museum

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In the heart of Brisbane’s Cultural Centre precinct, the Queensland Museum is a rich and ever-evolving exhibition space for art and culture, which celebrates more than 150 years of recording and exhibiting Queensland and global culture through world-class collections.

As well as hosting traveling exhibitions and the permanent museum collections, the Queensland Museum is home to the Sciencentre, a favorite attraction for families and school groups.

Take time to wander outside the museum, along the river front, past the fountains and sculptures and enjoy a break in the two museum cafes.

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South Bank

South Bank

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South Bank is located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River in Queensland’s capital city. South Bank is home to lush parklands, restaurants, cafés and bars, and many, many events. The boardwalks and promenades threading their way along the riverside are popular with joggers and cyclists, and ideal for catching city views across to the CBD.

South Bank is perfect for a relaxing day out. The gardens are a mixture of rainforest, grassed areas, water features and plazas, leaving plenty of places for picnics in the many habitats. The river promenade is the main attraction, including the Grand Arbour covered in flowering bougainvillea, the Nepal Peace Pagoda, the open air amphitheatre of the Courier Mail Piazza, and many retail spaces.

Streets Beach is a main attraction of South Bank. A large, man-made beach covering 1.2 square miles, Streets Beach is comprised of a huge lagoon, rocky creeks, and exotic plants, creating a mini-oasis in the center of Brisbane.

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Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Story Bridge Adventure Climb

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Brisbane's Story Bridge Adventure Climb is an exhilarating two and a half hour scaling of the beautiful Story Bridge, offering the viewer an exclusive panoramic view of Brisbane's glorious city landscape, Glasshouse Mountains to the north, the world acclaimed Lamington National Park and of course, the phenomenal view of the eastward Moreton Bay.

On the way up, guests may listen to the audio guide tour, which walks you through a detailed history of the bridge. If are able to take the early morning ride, you will notice how the bay gleams in the sunrise, while in the evening the sun radiates off the city the its high-rises. Either way, you may choose to book the time of ascension to fit your preferences. Leaving every 20 minutes, finding a seat on the Story Bridge Adventure Climb is no difficult task. As the specific times of take-off do change somewhat often, you may choose to book your trip ahead of time while making sure to arrive at least 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

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Brisbane City Hall

Brisbane City Hall

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Admire historical glamor and civic pride at Brisbane City Hall, which was built between 1920 and 1930 and reopened in 2013 after an extensive $215 million heritage restoration.

Located in the heart of the city, next to King George Square and close to Queen Street Mall, the heritage-listed Brisbane City Hall is Australia’s only city hall and is the home of Brisbane society, culture and governance. As well as hosting community events and civic ceremonies, Brisbane City Hall accommodates the Brisbane Lord Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Brisbane Council chambers and the world-class Museum of Brisbane. The gem of City Hall is the stunning circular auditorium, with an impressive fluted Corinthian pilasters, overhead dome, an organ built in 1892, restored gallery seating and gilded elegance.

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Dreamworld

Dreamworld

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Dreamworld on the Gold Coast is home to the most thrilling rides on Australia's east coast! Adventure and excitement can be found at every turn. Thrill-seekers can get their hearts racing with any of the Big 9 Thrill Rides including Pandamonium, Tower of Terror II, The Claw and Tailspin. Little ones will enjoy fun-filled rides like Escape from Madagascar, Big Red Boat Ride or Dorothy's Rosy Tea Cup Ride.

Those on a quest for adventure will also find great attractions from DreamWorks Experience: Shrek's Faire Faire Away, Kung Fu Panda: Land of Awesomeness, Madagascar Madness and Madagascar Live!

Dreamworld is also home to Australian wildlife, including a huge population of koalas, while Bengal and Sumatran tigers rule at Tiger Island. And if you get hungry at any time during your exciting day, stop at any one of restaurants and cafes located throughout the park for a bite to eat!

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