Brisbane, or Brissi, as the locals like to call it, is the capital city of Queensland, a.k.a. the Sunshine State. It is often overlooked by travellers who prefer heading to the nearby Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast or Fraser Island. With over 300 days of sunshine every year and a wealth of outdoor activities, It’s no wonder why people regard Brisbane as a gateway city and often only plan one day there. On my solo travels in Australia, I visited Brisbane several times to explore more of its surroundings. Below are my picks for what to do in a day trip itinerary to Brisbane.
Check out our Brisbane Guide:
What To Do When Visiting Brisbane In A Day
1. Take a stroll at South Bank
South Bank is the city’s focal point and the no. 1 highlight of Brisbane. And it’s the ideal place to start exploring Brisbane. The South Bank Parklands encompass a haven of natural beauty and the distinctive cultural flair of the city. Cycling and walking paths skirt the majestic Brisbane River through lush gardens. The Brisbane Arbour Walk, the heart of the Parklands, with its beautiful architectural design and the colourful bougainvillaea, makes it a uniquely picturesque promenade. If you don’t have time to get to the beach, no worries; you can stop at Streets Beach, an inner-city blue lagoon beach with a picnic area just along the Southbank.
The Southbank Parklands is a beloved spot by runners and bikers. A very creative place that celebrates the outdoor lifestyle at its best by offering a variety of leisure activities. On weekends do not miss out on the Southbank Lifestyle Markets, held at Street Plaza. These are the highlights of the South Bank Walk in Brisbane.
2. Check out the Arts scene at QAGOMA and Queensland Museum
Start your day at South Bank at the cultural centre. Stop at the Queensland Museum of Art to visit QAGOMA, the Gallery of Modern Art. At Goma, you can see beautiful contemporary Australian art. From there, keep walking to South Bank’s main attraction, the City Beach, at Streets Beach, the artificial tropical lagoon and the nearby Botanic City Gardens if you want to marvel at spectacular tropical trees, plants and flowers.
3. Take a cruise on the Brisbane River
There is no better way to enjoy the city from a different perspective than going on a river cruise. The City Cat service often rides during the day. It is an excellent way of exploring Brisbane from the water perspective if you have only a few hours. There are several stops along the river, and you can get off and on as much as you like to continue visiting other Brisbane attractions and city corners.
Things to do while on the City Ferry in Brisbane
- The City Ferry will take you to Brisbane’s best spots and attractions, including the Queensland Museum and Gallery of Modern Art.
- You can also hop off at South Bank to enjoy the parklands, pools, and restaurants.
- Take a ferry to the North Quay terminal and explore the historic City Hall.
- Take a brewery tour. The City Ferry stops at Bulimba, where several craft breweries offer tours and tastings.
Timetable: The City Cat ferry runs every 30 minutes between 6:00 am and midnight, seven days a week. (Some routes may have different operating hours.)
Price: The fares depend on the distance travelled. Rates start at $5.60 per adult for a 2-hour ticket. Children receive discounted fares. You can purchase tickets at the ferry terminals or use a TransLink Go Card to pay for the fare.
Check out our Guide:
4. Jump on the Brisbane Wheel
The Brisbane Wheel stands out from the beautiful bridges as a magnificent, eye-catching piece of architecture. This is a must-do for a superb 360-degree view over Brisbane and beyond. I love Brisbane at sunset when evening lights add colour and a unique atmosphere.
5. Brisbane Shopping in Queen Street Mall
After a stroll along the Brisbane River at South Bank, cross over the Goodwill Bridge and continue your walk into the Brisbane CBD. Queen Street Mall is where the city buzz is with its lively shopping malls. If you like fashion, Brisbane is an excellent place with a thriving community of local fashion designers. There are also good dining places, and if you need a break from the mall’s frantic rhythm, walk a little further to the Roma Street Parklands, and get a break in nature; worth visiting. If you have more time to spend in Brisbane, consider these other fabulous attractions.
9. Enjoy the flair of the Brisbane lanes
Brisbane’s beautiful laneways offer an abundance of opportunities for exploration. Street art provides something new to look at around every corner, filled with quirky boutiques, vintage stores, and trendy cafes. Winn Lane is the perfect place to spend an afternoon shopping or sipping coffee with live music venues. At Burnett Lane, you can stroll down the lane and discover trendy bars, restaurants, and the city’s best cocktails. And if you’re looking for one of the city’s best restaurants and bars, you can do that at Fish Lane. It’s also a great place to people-watch and soak up the atmosphere.
Practical information: Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm on weekdays and 9 am – 4 pm on weekends.
7. Get Active at Kangaroo Point Cliffs
The Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a well-known landmark in Brisbane. It’s one of the most popular spots for rock climbing and other adventurous outings. These 25-meter-high heritage-listed cliffs offer stunning views of the river and city skyline.
Fun things you can do at Kangaroo Point Cliffs in Brisbane
- Abseiling (also known as rappelling). Prices start at $45 per person for 1,5 hours per session. Book your tour here.
- Kayaking. Riverlife Adventure Centre offers tours that start at around $65 per person. Book your tour here.
- Rock climbing. 2-hour tours cost $52-54 on average. Book your tour here.
- For those looking for less adrenaline on their day out, there’s a lovely Boardwalk: a 2.4-kilometre-long walkway along the edge of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
6. Go to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
If you don’t want to go to the famous Australian Zoo, which is one hour drive from Brisbane but want to see all Australian native animals, go to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. On my first trip to Australia, I visited this sanctuary and saw many Koalas and Kangaroos in their wild habitat. It’s one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world and one of the few in Australia where you can feed and get up close to animals. It is located only a 10-minute bus ride from Brisbane CBD. This is an excellent way of visiting on a half-day trip. There are also special events and shows available at an additional cost, such as “Koala Encounter”, “Wild Lorikeet Feeding”, “Sheepdog Show”, and “Koala Photo Experience “, where visitors can get up close to these adorable creatures.
More info about the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane:
Opening hours: 9 am – 5 pm daily, seven days a week.
• Adult (18+ years): $49
• Senior/Pensioner (65+ years): $39
• Children under three years old can enter for free! Book your ticket here.
This is the website for more information about the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
8. Jan Power’s Farmers Market
Brisbane is brimming with markets of all shapes and sizes. If you’re looking for fresh, locally-sourced produce in Brisbane, the best place to go is Jan Power’s Farmers Markets. These markets have been local icons for over 30 years and are dedicated to advocating for regional produce and providing a paddock-to-plate connection.
They can be found in three locations across Brisbane:
- Powerhouse (Every Saturday, 6 am – 12 pm)
- Mitchelton (1st Sunday of the month, 6 am – 12 pm),
- Manly (Every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month, 6 am – 12 pm)
10. Climb Story Bridge
The Story Bridge in Brisbane is a beautiful heritage-listed steel cantilever bridge spanning the Brisbane River and offers exciting activities for adventure seekers. One of the most popular activities is the Story Bridge Adventure Climb. Climbing over the steel structure gives you an incredible bird’s eye view of Brisbane and its surroundings. It’s not recommended if you have a fear of heights, though.
The 2-hour tour costs $84.93. Book your tour here.
11. Wilson Outlook Reserve
Located on the beautiful Brisbane River near the Story Bridge, Wilson Outlook Reserve is a stunning natural outlook perfect for enjoying a picnic lunch or watching the native wildlife of Brisbane. With plenty of trails to explore and breathtaking views across the river, you can enjoy scenic waterfront paths that connect you to Kedron Brook Park and Nudgee Beach. Whether you take a peaceful stroll around the reserve or kayak down the river, Wilson Outlook Reserve offers visitors a great outdoor experience. Moreover, this popular spot features many recreational facilities, such as BBQs and playgrounds, ideal for an active outing with friends or family.
12. Enjoy Brisbane from Mt. Coot-tha Lookout
A great way to enjoy Brisbane from the hill is to take a bus to Mt Coot-tha Reserve. It takes only 8 minutes from Brisbane to get there, and you can take in a spectacular view of the city; in good weather, even a bit further to Moreton Bay. You can also visit Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens and Brisbane’s Planetarium, the largest in Australia in this vast wilderness reserve. A great place if you want to get a taste of the wilderness.
More Than One Day To Spend In Brisbane
What if you have more time than one day to spend in Brisbane? If you plan to spend two days in Brisbane, you can take half-day trips of 1-2 hours from Brisbane. Here are some ideas for short trips from Brisbane. You can go to the Australia Zoo. You can use Brisbane as a hub and take day trips from there. You can visit at least 3-5 places in one day using public transportation.
However, my tip is to hire a car if you plan to explore more and spend more time in each place. They are many easy drives from Brisbane worth considering if you travel solo. The classic day trip is to the Gold Coast Region and or just to spend a day at the beach and explore Coolangatta.
TIP: If you don’t want to go alone and prefer joining a guided tour, check out this 6-hour Brisbane Highlights tour that includes Southbank, the Kangaroo Point, Mt. Coot-tha and a visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
How to get to Brisbane
As an international airport, Brisbane is well connected within Australia through domestic flights and international destinations. However, most international flights to Brisbane include a stop-over in a South-East Asian airport, like Singapore or Bangkok. Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and all major destinations are connected to Brisbane. You can fly for less than 100 AUD from Sydney or Melbourne.
Getting around Brisbane
Getting around Brisbane is accessible with pubs, the metro and local trains. You can, however, walk pretty much anywhere from Southbank to CBD. It takes 20 minutes on foot. Public transport is excellent in Brisbane, and if you plan to go to the Gold Coast or Byron Bay. Public transportation helps you save money when visiting Brisbane on one day or a multiday trip. Here you can read more about the Brisbane Trasport GO-Card.
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Check out the best day trips from Brisbane.
Check out our Guide To the Best Hotels in Brisbane
Check out our Where To Stay In the Gold Coast Guide
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First published in 2013, last updated in Nov 2023
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