Brisbane is an outdoorsy city year-round. While denizens of the southern metropolises cower inside throughout the winter months, daytime temperatures in Queensland's capital rarely dip below 20°C.
There's lots of fun found that's outdoors and free, from exceptional markets to lush tropical gardens. But if it will rain, don't despair, Brisbane has your back with a plethora of fine, free museums, galleries and indoor activities.
Dabble in the arts at the Cultural Precinct
Packed full of free attractions, the sprawling Queensland Cultural Centre complex directly across the river from the city, includes the Queensland Arts Gallery and Gallery of contemporary Art (or QAGOMA, as they're known together), State Library, Queensland Performing Art Centre and Queensland Museum.
The galleries and concert halls all feature ticketed events, but there are truckloads of gratis options – local exhibitions, talks and music performances – and also the sheer scale of the complex means it is a great place to invest a couple of hours simply soaking within the atmosphere.
Most have an excellent and free kids program, particularly during summer break. You may also catch free rare and classic cinema, offbeat Aussie movies and recent silent-film restorations at QAGOMA's Australian Cinemateque.
Swim and chill within the Central Business District
South Bank, next to the cultural precinct, may be the riverside property opposite Brisbane's city centre. Here you can consume a band as you're watching the sun set, frolic at the cute (if crowded) Streets Beach, or window shop at boutiques along Little Stanley Street. The Aquativity interactive water-play park is specially designed for kids, or you can take home free samples in the harvest cart at the Epicurious Garden and meet the green-thumbed volunteers.
Dive into free pools and wild swimming holes
Alongside city-centre Streets Beach, Brisbane has plenty of pools and swimming holes where you can cool down for free. Try Orion Lagoon or Enoggera Dam for swimming spots that are great for kids, or go wild swimming at Rocky Hole, Kondalilla Falls or Albany Creek.
Gallery hop on campus
QAGOMA's never-ending line-up of major exhibitions has had an unwanted effect: squeezing out smaller, more specialist art shows. Brisbane's universities have taken in the slack. The Queensland University of Technology's Art Museum, the Griffith University Art Museum and University of Queensland all host impressive, always-free exhibitions, in addition to boasting their very own collections. If nothing else, this is a good excuse to investigate each one of the campuses – particularly Queensland University's snazzy St Lucia digs.
Explore Brissie culture within the Museum of Brisbane
This colourful, award-winning museum dives into Brisbane fashion, music and architecture, sometimes teasing out the contortions of colonialism, and often enjoying a laugh at tropical kitsch. You can also jump in the gorgeous 1930s cage elevator, the oldest working manual lift around australia, to accept free visit to the top of the City Hall's elegant clocktower. This was the tallest building in the city before the 1960s, and "trip up the tower" is a fond memory for anyone who was raised in Brisbane. Each one of the four opal clock faces is 5m wide and the minute hands are 3m long.
Hit the river on the CityHopper
This is the greatest method to travel around the Brisbane River. The disposable of charge CityHopper ferry covers a substantial stretch of the waterway from Sydney Street in New Farm up to North Quay in the city, with a brand new terminal at Howard Smith Wharves opening in December 2022. Ferries run daily on the 30 minutes between 5.30am and midnight, later on Friday and Saturday nights. The majority of the services have rooftop seating available, contributing to the enjoyment. Don't expect it to visit anywhere very fast, but then that isn't really the point.
People watch in the Davies Park Markets
Referred to as the West End Markets, every Saturday morning Davies Park is turned over to all types of pushers and peddlers. It is the best market of its key in Brisbane, presented within the welcoming shade of a row of giant fig trees. Regardless of anything else, it's a great chance to people watch around the main stomping ground of the infamously alternative West End locals.
Get a glance over Brisbane
Brisbane is much more varied in its elevation than either Melbourne or Sydney. It means brilliant views from the city are just Fifteen minutes away only at that terrific lookout along with Mt Coot-Tha. A great spot to get your bearings in early stages in your stay, it has a view that stretches in the north for the bay and airport right around towards the sprawling suburbs south of the river. There's a cafe and restaurant on hand, in case you want to create a night of it, or take a picnic to the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. Sculpted across the lower ridges of the city's inland bookend are species upon types of flora collected from across the globe. You shouldn't be afraid to climb the hill to the gardens' often overlooked rear precinct. And don't hesitate of the water dragons.
Ponder the Pillars street-art project
The stunning Pillars Projects is really a collection of 10m-tall artworks gracing the pillars from the Merivale Bridge by leading Australian street artists. Artists include Fintan Magee, Travis Vinson, Clarie Foxton, Mik Shida and Guido Van Helton, with new commissions being added each year. Other street-art hotspots include Fortitude Valley, New Farm and the Brisbane Powerhouse (inside and outside).
Walk or cycle the Riverwalk
Destroyed in Brisbane's 2011 floods, the Brisbane Riverwalk reopened sturdier than ever before however with the same wowser views. It sits over the river on the suspended pathway across in the eastern side of Kangaroo Point, zigzagging its way from the Story Bridge around to New Farm Park. The path constitutes a unique circuit for the city's fitness geeks, but wanderers continue to be welcome, with plenty of places to prevent and eat the scenery opposite.
Get together for any barbecue at Kangaroo Point
One of the best samples by mail to complete in Brisbane at night is across the river, over the long defunct porphyry stone quarry now utilized by the city's numerous rock climbing schools. By all means take a seat on the wall with a picnic, but you're best securing one of the many barbecues placed across the the surface of the cliffs. Either way, the sunsets over the city are enchanting affairs and the atmosphere lifts further once the skyscrapers blink to life, casting their lights over the Brisbane River as it stills after rush hour. Look out for passing joggers.
Drive the Nerang -Murwillumbah Road
Heading south across the multi-lane M1 towards the Queensland -New South Wales border is really a bore, but a road trip through the Nerang -Murwillumbah Rd is a lovely day trip. The street is being upgraded, but narrow country lanes still gradually climb through vertiginous mountain landscapes and deeply scooped valleys. It's heady stuff, with plenty of opportunity to stop for coffee or simply to gawk in the view. Drive back to the town through the inland Mount Lindesay Highway if you want to keep those country vibes rolling.