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14 Free Things to do in Brisbane, Australia

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Help stick to a budget and explore in your own time with this blog post today on 14 free things to do in Brisbane. This Queensland capital city has a lot to offer any tourist, covering over 15,000 square kilometres in size and providing a variety of things to see and do. 

Brisbane is located in the Southeast section of the state and has a population of over 2 million people. It’s hosted some major events like the World Expo, Commonwealth Games, the G20 Summit, and is known for its architecture and year-round summer weather. 

There is a great public transport system including trains, buses, ferries, bikes, and scooters to help get you around. Although, staying around the central business district and walking everywhere will help keep further costs down.

Read on below and start planning your free things to do in Brisbane. 

Walk Along the Redcliffe Coastline

water with long pier at sunset

There is a boardwalk or walking path that stretches from Woody Point to Scarborough Beach and one of the many Redcliffe activities. This excursion is longer than 10 kilometres and is often used for that earning morning walks or a relaxing afternoon/sunset stroll along the water’s edge. 

Redcliffe has long been known for beachgoers, waterfront accommodation, and a laid-back atmosphere. Cafes, restaurants, and bars line the streets for those beachside views. Consequently, becoming a very popular Sunday morning breakfast location while visiting the weekend markets. 

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Swim at the Bribie Island Beach

Sandy beach lined by trees on the right

Mangroves are very common in the Brisbane region, which is why most people will visit the lovely Bribie Island Beaches for some fun in the sun.

Bribie is only a short 1-hour drive from Brisbane City and is often used as a staycation or holiday destination. It’s lucky enough to be joined to the mainland by the Bribie Island Bridge, and therefore, you can easily drive there in a standard vehicle.

On the west coast of the Island, you will find families with young children swimming in the shallows and those looking for calm water activities like kayaking.

Alternatively, on the east coast, you have the waves, sometimes surfing, beachside hotels, and the four-wheel driving tracks for exploring the National Park.

Walk to King Island

Person walking on a large sand bank between two bodies of water

There aren’t many Islands you can walk to, but King island is a big favourite among the locals. What’s interesting is that you can only walk out there at low tide. Within a few hours after high tide, a sand bar begins to appear and shows a walking path to King Island. Therefore, you must check the tide times before your visit.

Many locals will use this for exercising or having somewhere to take the dog for a walk. The island itself is very small and known as a bird habitat with a mangrove atmosphere. Additionally, when the tide is at its lowest, you can walk out past the Island and watch boats and jet skis drive through the passage. 

Hiking Through the Forests or National Parks

rocky peak overlooking trees and another rocky mountain

If you or the family are into hiking, there are many different trails or National Parks you can access close by. Hiking these trails is one of the best free things to do in Brisbane. Both the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast hinterlands are within 2 hours and a highlighted day out from Brisbane City

The Sunshine Coast will boast hikes up mountains like Mount Ngungun, which has the most amazing 360-degree views. While on the ground, you have many hikes taking you to waterfalls and freshwater swimming like Kondalilla falls and Gardeners Falls. 

Around the Gold Coast, you have Lamington National Park, which is part of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest. Here you can explore the different plants, brightly coloured rosella birds, or king parrots, or venture along the first treetop walk in Australia

Get Your Photo with the Brisbane Sign

Large painted letters spelling out Brisbane with the city in the back

No trip to Brisbane would be complete without getting your photo taken with the Brisbane Sign. This was installed temporarily in 2014 for the G20 summit. However, due to popularity, a permanent, more weatherproof fixture was installed and much loved by the city and its visitors. 

This “Brisbane” sign is located in Southbank and overlooks the city high-rise buildings in the distance. You can sit in front, stand beside, or climb on top of the letters for that perfect Instagram photo position. Grab the whole family, and each chooses a different letter. Either way, you’ll love the memories. 

Take in a Sunrise at Mount Coot-Tha

observatory platform overlooking city skyline at sunrise

Mount Coot-Tha is 302 metres above sea level and the highest hill overlooking the entire city of Brisbane. In fact, on a clear day, you will be able to see even the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast from a distance. This can be enjoyed anytime throughout the day or night and even provides a café, restaurant, and souvenir shop. 

With the sun rising in the east, Mount Coot-Tha has the perfect position for those early morning views over the city. Take that one step further, and instead of driving up, take the 2 kilometre one way hike to the summit. It’s a well-formed path, takes about 40 minutes, and is an easy climb for that moderate hiker. 

If you’re looking for free things to do in Brisbane, this is an absolute must.

Have Some Family Fun at Streets Beach

White sand beach filled with people with the city skyline behind

The Streets beach is located in the busy suburb of Southbank, just across from the river from the CBD. This is a man-made beach with white sandy shores and a brilliant spot to cool off. Feel safe with a lifeguard on duty every day while also providing kids sections, water displays, and enough activities to keep you entertained all day. 

Get some exercise and swim laps, relax on the beach to catch some rays, or organise to catch up with friends or family with a barbecue. Either way, you’ll love the facilities they provide with eateries, bathrooms, markets, or souvenir shopping. 

Wander Through and Enjoy the Cultural Precinct

long hallway filled with large sculptures in an art museum

Brisbane’s cultural precinct includes many different museums and art displays showing Queensland history and Australian culture. Each facility is open during standard business hours and opens for free to the general public. You could spend a whole day going through all the displays or reading up on the information. 

The Queensland Museum, The Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), the Art Gallery, and the Library are all contained within the same block. Obviously, special travelling displays will come and go, and some of these will require a minimal charge. However, as a whole, you can certainly spend many hours enjoying the permanent displays. 

Have a Picnic at Kangaroo Point

small waterway and city skyline from behind a tree

Kangaroo Point is known for its steep cliff faces and picturesque views over the city. Visiting it is one of the best things to do in Brisbane! Parklands, shelters, walking paths, and barbeques are available at the bottom of the cliffs for those large outdoor gatherings.

At the top, you have a walking path that ventures from Southbank all the way across the Story Bridge. Some people use the cliff face for exercise, while others will take a daring attempt at abseiling. 

The avid photographer will use the location for all types of pictures, especially at sunrise or sunset. As well as entrances into the Brisbane River for canoes or kayaks. In the end, there are many ways to enjoy free things to do in Brisbane, especially at Kangaroo Point. 

Visit one of the Botanic Gardens or Parklands

small pond surrounded by green shrubbery and a walking path

There are two different botanic Gardens located near the city, one at Mount Coot-Tha along with the planetarium and the other in the heart of the city. Alternatively, there are the Roma Street Parklands, which hold certain events that might also be of interest. 

The Mount Coot-Tha Botanic section is the bigger of the two and holds a lot of Australian native plants and trees, a Japanese garden, exotic rainforest, a bonsai house, and other international inclusions. The City Botanic Gardens are a way for the locals and people in the vicinity of the city to enjoy some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of city life. 

Alternatively, Roma Street Parklands holds open-air cinemas, an amphitheater, or sometimes musical concerts. In December each year, there is a special Christmas light display featured around the parklands. This is a free event and is hugely popular with families. 

Explore Brisbane City’s Architecture

front of large city hall building with a tall clocktower in the middle

Just like a lot of the major cities around Australia, Brisbane has some amazing early 1900s buildings and architecture to admire. This includes, but is not limited to, the Treasury Casino, the City Hall, The Saint Albert Uniting Church, The University of St Lucia, and Old Petrie Town

In fact, the City hall can be explored for free on the outside and inside with the marble fixtures. Not only that, but booking a free ticket to enjoy the city views from its clock tower. You could spend days touring Brisbane to see all these buildings.

Exploring the city’s architecture is one of the best free things to do in Brisbane.

Wander the Grand Arbor Walk

walking path covered with a green and pink flower arch

The Grand Arbor walk is located in Southbank and stretches a kilometre through the parklands. It’s a pedestrian walkway between Vulture Street and Griffith University, and is used to get to the many different highlights in the area.

It’s made of 443 steel tendrils that curl around the walkway and are lined with pink bougainvillea plants. Alternatively, special events and nights can also have these displayed in lights or lanterns for a romantic feel.  

Ride the City Hopper on the Brisbane River

group of people watching fireworks behind a pink bridge on the water

While City Cat ferries are part of the general public transport system and have a small charge to ride, the City Hopper is free. This allows you to get around to various popular points in the city while also providing you with the best views of the city itself.

The City hopper service stops at Howard Smith wharves, Riverside, and Southbank, around every 30 minutes. Conveniently, you can jump on board between 6 am and midnight, 7 days a week.

Walk over the Story Bridge

city skyline at sunset with a helicopter flying

The Story Bridge was built between 1935 and 1940 and is a very distinctive landmark in Brisbane. It connects the suburb of New Farm with Kangaroo Point. You can walk over it to admire the architecture, design, and size or just to get from one side of Brisbane to the other.

It stands 74 metres high and is known for displaying different coloured lights in the evening. Around September each year, the Riverfire event will have the most amazing display of Fireworks here and is visited by thousands of tourists each year.

Lagoon with a small rock island with palm trees in the middle

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Meet the Guest Author, Chris Fry!

Chris Fry is the writer and photographer behind Aquarius Traveller, where she shares her journeys, provides valuable information and inspiration for your land and underwater travels. She lives in Australia, and has travelled to 36 countries and across Australia.

Follow along with Chris’s journeys on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube!

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