Brisbane is an outdoorsy city year-round. While denizens of the southern metropolises cower inside during the winter months, daytime temperatures in Queensland’s capital rarely dip below 20°C. And in Brisbane, the best kind of fun is often found outdoors and free. From exceptional markets to lush tropical gardens, Brisbane has you covered without breaking your wallet.
Head north to Sunshine Beach
Forget the beautiful, but always congested, the resort of Noosa. For a more sedate seaside trip ‘within cooee of Brisbane’ head to Sunshine Beach, just south of Noosa Heads. Even when the neighboring areas are full of tourists, Sunshine Beach retains a laid-back vibe, its hillside perch preventing the township from ever growing into a tourist mecca.
Hit the surf (beware of the rip!) before tacking back to the city along with some beguiling inland plateaus, taking in the townships of Maleny, Woodford, and Dayboro (and its endearingly overgrown Crown Hotel).
Cycle New Farm Riverwalk
Destroyed in Brisbane’s 2011 floods, the New Farm Riverwalk reopened sturdier than ever but with the same wowser views. It sits on the river across from the eastern side of Kangaroo Point, zigzagging its way from the Story Bridge right around to New Farm Park, creating a unique circuit for the city’s fitness geeks. Wanderers are still welcome, though, with plenty of places to stop and take in the scenery opposite.
Hit the river on the CityHopper
This is the best way to travel on the Brisbane River. The free of charge cityhopper ferry. covers a significant stretch of the waterway from Sydney Street in New Farm all the way to North Quay in the city, running on the half hour between 6 am and midnight, seven days a week. Most of the services have rooftop seating available, adding to the fun. Don’t expect it to go anywhere very fast, but then that’s not really the point.
People watch at the Davies Park Markets
Referred to as the West End Markets, every Saturday morning Davies park is turned over to all manner of pushers and peddlers. It’s the best market of its type in Brisbane, presented in the welcoming shade of a row of giant fig trees. If nothing else, it’s a great opportunity to people watch on the main stomping ground of the infamously alternative West End locals.
Explore the Sherwood Arboretum
The suburbs on the far side of Walter Taylor Bridge are seldom visited by either tourists or locals. But Graceville and Sherwood together make for one of the prettiest areas in the entire city, boasting some impressive, colonial-era real estate and a tranquil, isolated ambiance. It also means the rambling Sherwood Arboretum is often deserted, making it a winsome spot to wander, enjoy a picnic or simply sit on the banks of a far more sedate stretch of the Brisbane River.
Dabble in the arts at the Cultural Precinct
The sprawling cultural center complex directly across the river from the city and adjacent to South Bank includes the Queensland Arts Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art (or QAGOMA, as they’re known together), State Library, Queensland Museum, Queensland Performing Art Centre and Queensland Theatre Company.
The galleries and concert halls all feature ticketed events, but there are truckloads of gratis options— local exhibitions, film screenings, talks, and music performances — and the sheer scale of the complex means it’s a great place to spend a couple of hours simply soaking in the atmosphere.
Gallery hop on the campus
QAGOMA’s never-ending line-up of major exhibitions has had a side effect: squeezing out smaller, more specialist art shows. Brisbane’s universities have taken up the slack. The Queensland University of Technology’s Art Museum, the Queensland College of Art and University of Queensland all host impressive exhibitions, as well as boosting their own collections. If nothing else, this is a good excuse to investigate each of the campuses — particularly Queensland University’s snazzy St Lucia digs.
Get a look over Brisbane
Brisbane is much more varied in its elevation than either Melbourne or Sydney. It means brilliant views of the city are just 15 minutes away at this terrific lookout on top of Mt Coot-Tha. An excellent spot to get your bearings early on in your stay, it has a view that stretches from the north towards the bay and airport right around to the sprawling suburbs south of the river. There are a cafe and restaurant on hand, in case you want to make a night of it.