Laze in the lush riverside gardens of South Bank, then browse the markets and swim in its lagoon. Bike ride in the City Botanic Gardens and abseil the cliffs of Kangaroo Point. Glide down the river on a majestic paddle steamer or take a high-speed ferry to vibrant inner-city villages like Bulimba and New Farm. When culture cravings hit, wander the art galleries and museums, watch a performance by the Queensland Ballet, Opera or Orchestra perform or see cutting-edge theatre in the Powerhouse. In the boating hub of nearby Moreton Bay and Islands, you can swim, sea kayak, snorkel coral reefs, toboggan down the world’s tallest sand dune, hire a sail boat or tussle with a marlin.
Five things you should do in Brisbane:
1. Glide down the river and relax in the gardens
Bike ride beneath macadamia trees and mangroves in the City Botanic Gardens or roller blade over a floating walkway. Then cruise down the river in a wooden paddle steamer, spotting pelicans and eastern water dragons. Laze or picnic under the palms on South Bank’s 17 hectares of riverside gardens. Here you can swim from the lagoon and pools of Paul Breka Beach, browse the markets, visit a summer open-air cinema and dine alfresco in the sun. Follow an Aboriginal art trail through the bushland in Mount Coot-Tha Reserve, also the place to spot native wildlife and take in panoramic city views. At the foot of the mountain you can wander the tropical zone, rainforests and Japanese gardens of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. Cuddle up to koalas and meet possums, kangaroos, wombats, emus and lyrebirds in the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just a short bus drive from the city centre.
2. Soak up culture and architecture
See the skeleton of a Queensland dinosaur in the Queensland Museum and the work of famous Australian artists in the Queensland Art Gallery. Both sit in the sprawling Queensland Cultural Centre on South Bank. At night, visit the dress circle of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre or catch a show by the Queensland Ballet, Opera or Orchestra. Watch plays, browse art galleries and dine out in the transformed industrial space of the Powerhouse, which towers over the wide, brown river like a post-apocalyptic vision. Brisbane also houses many cultural institutions in fine old civic buildings, such as Customs House, the Treasury Building, Brisbane City Hall, the Commissariat Store and the Old Mill. In Brisbane, sandstone cathedrals and classic Queenslander houses on stilts blend seamlessly with steel and glass skyscrapers.
3. Hit the water and islands of Moreton Bay
Sea kayak from North Stradboke Island or Moreton Island or go deep-sea fishing from Scarborough, Bribie Island, Manly or Raby Bay. Jet ski and windsurf on the Redcliffe Peninsula or kite-surf on Wellington Point. Slide down the world’s tallest sand dunes on a toboggan or sand buggy on Moreton Island. Scuba dive with colourful fish, crustaceans, corals and turtles at Cowan’s Artificial Reef, Flinders Reef and in the Tangalooma shipwrecks. Watch out for humpback whales between July and October and dolphins and dugongs all year round. Meet colonies of koalas in Victoria Point and hundreds of wading birds in the Egret Colony and Boondall Wetlands. Aqua-bike from Coochiemudlo Island then mountain bike the BMX tracks at Cleveland and Deception Bay. Four wheel drive Moreton, North Stradbroke and Bribie Islands. See Queensland’s oldest banyan tree in Cleveland Point, Aboriginal scar trees and middens in the Redlands and Myora Springs and a notorious old convict settlement on St Helena Island.
4. Eat, drink and enjoy in the urban villages
Listen to live music, shop along the lively outdoor mall and feast on Chinatown dumplings in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane’s cultural core. Next door in New Farm, you can people watch from trendy cafes, buy gourmet delights from the famous deli and picnic in the riverside parklands. Dine in warehouse converted restaurants and explore the transformed industrial space of the Powerhouse, now a buzzing centre for the live arts. Take the citycat to Bulimba on the river. Then visit pretty Paddington and hop between the popular bars, cafes and restaurants of Latrobe and Given Terraces. Then take in the traditional Queenslander homes which dot the hills and wide-lined streets. Cross the river for the funky restaurants and art house theatres of the West End, the shops of Stones Corner and the brewery of Queensland’s most famous beer.
5. Embrace adventure
Abseil or rock climb the Kangaroo Point Cliffs at sunrise or at night when the city is dancing with lights. Climb the Story Bridge for spectacular 360 degree views. Free fall on a tandem sky dive or float over the city in a hot air balloon. You can even glide like a bird over the Sunshine Coast on a motor glider. Travel down the Brisbane River on a golden gondola, historic paddle steamer or wildlife cruise. Or take a luxury whale watching cruise from the Redcliffe Peninsula, just 30 minutes north of Brisbane. Do an eco cruise past Bribie Island and the Glasshouse Mountains to Pumicestone Passage Marine Park. Bushwalk, swim, four wheel drive, spot wildlife and explore glow worm caves on an eco-tour to Springbrook and Lamington National Parks. See the city sights on the back of a Harley Davidson or go horseriding in the sprawling bush on the edge of the city.