22 Brisbane experiences to tick off your bucket list
Studying in Australia? Make the most of your time here by experiencing the best of what the country has to offer right here in Brisbane.
Brisbane is just a stone's throw away from some of Australia's most beautiful beaches and is home to iconic wildlife, picturesque parks, amazing art galleries and award-winning dining experiences. So don't waste your weekends – check out the best of our sunburnt country right on your doorstep.
1. Cuddle koalas and hand-feed kangaroos
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the world's first and largest koala sanctuary. Just 40 minutes from the Brisbane CBD by bus, you can cuddle a beautiful koala, hand-feed a kangaroo, or tour the Brisbane Koala Science Institute, a world-class koala research facility.
Can’t get enough of koalas? Koala sightings are guaranteed at Daisy Hill. That’s because there is a Koala Centre with a few educational koalas on show – it’s free to visit and makes the perfect start or end to one of Daisy Hill’s bush trails. Head to the centre for information for an up-close look, or bike and walk through the trails to spot some in the lofty gum trees.
You can also experience Australian wildlife at one of Brisbane's many wildlife parks, zoos and animal farms. Interact with creatures big and small, from koalas and kangaroos to donkeys and ostriches!
2. Adventure time on the world's third-largest sand island
You don't have to travel to the far north to see Australia's bustling reef and sea life. Take a short ferry ride from the Port of Brisbane and you'll find yourself at Moreton Island, a tropical sand island with crystal-clear coastal water, lakes and incredible snorkelling at the historic Tangalooma Wrecks. You'll want your GoPro to take some incredible underwater snaps.
3. Whale watching
From June to November, Brisbane Whale Watching runs daily cruises for those who want to witness the incredible acrobatics of the southern humpback whale. More than 20,000 whales migrate through Moreton Bay every winter. Tickets for the five-hour cruise through Moreton Bay start from $110 and include guaranteed whale sightings.
4. Trek around the national parks
Forget the outback and take in the green scene. While most international visitors picture red dirt when they think of Australia, you're more likely to find yourself surrounded by lush greenery than outback desert. Take the opportunity to check out local fauna and flora at Brisbane's national parks, as close as 20 minutes from the CBD. Did we mention our parks are FREE to visit?
5. Fraser Island adventure
The world's biggest sand island is just a few hours away. Heritage-listed Fraser Island has more than 100 freshwater lakes, pristine water and white-sand beaches. There's many ways to explore the island but the most fun is by four-wheel-drive. Join a tour where you can drive yourself and make friends along the way!
6. Freshwater swimming holes
You can't come to Australia without enjoying the abundant inland lakes, falls and swimming holes. There's almost too many to choose from. Check out Visit Brisbane's list of the must-swim spots nearby.
7. Cruise the Brisbane River
Jump on board a CityCat or ride for free on a City Hopper to explore Brisbane by ferry. CityCats run between Brisbane City, QUT Gardens Point, South Bank and Kangaroo Point, all the way around to St Lucia, Teneriffe and Bulimba, and are compatible with your student Go Card.
8. Go chasing waterfalls, waterholes and lakes
We're all about the aquatic life over here in Oz, and you can be too. Take a short trip into the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast hinterland to discover an abundance of natural waterfalls, waterholes and lakes, like this one (Moran Falls) in Lamington National Park, in the Scenic Rim.
9. Climb to the top of the Story Bridge
Get your own city skyline pic when you climb the Story Bridge, right here in Brisbane City. The Story Bridge Adventure Climb is one of only three bridge climbs in the world, and shows off spectacular city and river views. For the most breathtaking experience, twilight is the best time to climb.
10. Dinner and a show
Be entertained at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) with music, theatre, dance and family events all year round. QPAC is in the heart of South Bank, a lively area loaded with multicultural dining options for your night out. Book your show and check out Visit Brisbane's pre- and post-theatre itinerary for dining suggestions. We recommend the post-show visit to Gelato Messina for a scoop of the flavour of the week.
11. Ride the Wheel of Brisbane
Enjoy city views without the climb in the air-conditioned comfort of the Wheel of Brisbane. Every city has its vantage point and for Brisbane, this is it. Ride at night to see the city light up.
12. Sunrise at Mt Coot-tha
The official Brisbane Lookout at Mt Coot-tha is a Heritage-listed site boasting panoramic views of the Brisbane region. This is a definite Brisbane bucket list item for locals and travellers alike – and yes, it's worth the 4am alarm.
13. Australia Zoo croc feeding
They say to never smile at a crocodile, but the Australia Zoo croc feeders don't seem fazed as the massive dinosaur descendants launch themselves out of the water in pursuit of their next meal. You'll be on the edge of your seat when you visit Australia Zoo, home of the Crocodile Hunter. If you're lucky, you might even come across the wildlife warriors and television sensations Bindi and Robert Irwin. Australia Zoo is only 45 minutes from Brisbane CBD.
14. Take a dip in Streets Beach
Take a dip in Australia's only inner-city man-made beach. Streets Beach at South Bank holds the equivalent of five Olympic swimming pools of water, so there's no shortage of space to cool down. Pack your swimmers, bring your friends and don't forget to grab an ice-cream.
15. Live music at River Quay
Nothing captures the laid-back lifestyle of Australians like live music outdoors with friends and a view of the city. The City Sounds program hosts free live music acts throughout the city and South Bank seven days a week, but the one to watch is the Sunday session at River Quay near South Bank Ferry Terminal 3. Prepare yourself with takeaway fish and chips and settle in to watch the sun set over the Brisbane River.
16. Ride up the City Hall Clock Tower
Make time for a free tour of the City Hall Clock Tower for 360-degree views of the city and a sneak peak at the inner workings of the clock bells that keep the time every quarter-hour. Reaching 92m above the city, the clock tower was the tallest building in Brisbane City and the largest public clock in Australia when it was built. Tours run seven days a week, from 10am-5pm – and it's free!
17. Catch an AFL game at The Gabba
Everyone has a different sport in mind when it comes to football, but for many Australians it's the AFL (Australian Football League). Brisbane's own team takes up residence at The Gabba, our local cricket and AFL ground and an Australian icon in the sporting landscape.
18. Take a photo from Wilson Outlook
For an iconic view of the Brisbane skyline, pack a picnic and head to the hidden gem Wilson Outlook Reserve. Take your own Story Bridge photo from this prime location and quiet little park in New Farm.
If you love taking snaps for your Instagram, check out these top spots to snap a winning photo around Brisbane.
19. Indulge your artistic side
Get cultured at one of Brisbane's many art galleries, including Australia's largest modern art gallery, Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art. Keep an eye out for amazing exhibitions with huge international names. Most of the time entry is free, but there are sometimes ticketed shows.
20. Go camping
Make your own outdoor Aussie experience by heading to a nearby camping ground and enjoying the landscape outdoors. A traditional camping experience usually involves a barbecue, fishing, a cup of billy tea and damper around the campfire. Don't forget the marshmallows. But be careful – not all camping grounds allow fires.
21. Take a Brisbane Greeters tour
See Brisbane through a local's eye with Brisbane's award-winning Greeter program. The free volunteer-led tours run daily across the city, parklands and riverside. It’s a great way to get to know the city and we highly recommend doing one (or more!). You can request a standard tour, or ask for a specialised one about something or somewhere you are interested in.