Brisbane travel guide: the top things to do in Brisbane

Credit: Tourism and Events, Queensland

Joanne Brookfield

Posted December 23, 2021

With so many things going for it – endless sunshine, vibrant arts and culture, excellent food and wine, plus proximity to beaches, rivers and rainforest – Brisbane was selected among the top ten of the World’s Most Liveable Cities for 2021.

However, if it’s only a holiday you’re planning there and not a new home, we’ve got you covered with some of the city's must-see attractions which, if you’re an RACV Member, you can enjoy with special offers and discounts.

The 'must-do' Brisbane activities 

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Just 13 km from Brisbane’s CBD you’ll find Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary.

Home to over 100 of these marsupials, Lone Pine offers opportunities to view, touch and hold koalas. You can also pat dingoes, hold snakes, have an owl land on your hand, hand feed kangaroos and emus, be deafened by the screeching lorikeets during their daily feeding frenzy and much more, so there’s numerous ways to engage with some Aussie wildlife and capture some special selfies at the same time.

Story Bridge

While Queensland is known for endless coastline, its capital city is built around a river, as the best cities always are - think New York, London, Paris, Rome and of course, Melbourne.

Brisbane River, the longest in South-East Queensland, winds through the centre of the city and with rivers, come bridges.

Story Bridge, a heritage-listed steel cantilever bridge that connects Fortitude Valley to Kangaroo Point, offers 360 degrees of uninterrupted panoramic views over the CBD and river, Glasshouse Mountains, Mt Coot-tha, Moreton Bay and the Gold Coast Hinterland...if you climb to the top of it, that is.

Brisbane River

Swap the bridge for boats and see more of the river and city that way. There are river cruises to classic old pubs and to the newest breweries; or you can cruise at twilight and have a tour of the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of it.

Or if you feel like getting even closer to the water, there are options to kayak along the river as well.

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Image: Tourism and Events, Queensland
Brisbane River. Image: Tourism and Events, Queensland
Story Bridge. Image: Tourism and Events, Queensland

Moreton Island

Immerse yourself in nature by hand feeding dolphins, snorkelling shipwrecks and relaxing under a palm tree.

Moreton Bay and its islands are a bit over an hour away from Brisbane, making it an ideal destination for a day trip or an overnight stay with some tropical island vibes. Made entirely of sand, Moreton Island has surf on one side and crystal-clear waters on the other, with a national park in between, and bottlenose dolphins visiting the beach each evening for a feed.

If you’re there between June and October, migrating humpbacks will be in the neighbourhood as well. RACV members can make the most of day tours to the island, which range from including 4WD or water activities, to snorkelling and scuba diving tours, by booking here.

Mount Coot-tha

Mount Coot-tha is the backdrop to Brisbane. Open eucalypt forest, rainforest gullies and meandering creeks and waterfalls make it a destination for picnickers, hikers and mountain bikers.

But it’s not all rugged, natural scenery. An observation deck offers panoramic views back across Brisbane, there’s a cafe and restaurant on the mountain, and at the foot of it is also where you’ll find Brisbane Botanical Gardens.

There are 52 hectares of Queensland’s premier sub-tropical botanic gardens here, which include several themed ones and the Tropical Display Dome.

Similar to Singapore’s two climate-controlled glass domes in Gardens By The Bay, but pre-dating them by three and a half decades, the Tropical Display Dome has a humid atmosphere to recreate the tropics, and also has a stunning pond with water lilies and native fish.

If a visit here puts you in the mood for looking skyward, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, with its Cosmic Skydome, is also within the gardens.

Double Bay, Sydney

Mount Coot-tha. Image: Matthew Taylor & Tourism and Events, Queensland 

Up the road from Brisbane

While cuddling a koala at Lone Pine might not have you exclaiming ‘crikey!’, catching sight of a crocodile at Australia Zoo might. World famous as the home of the ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin, Australia Zoo is an hour north of Brisbane, on the Sunshine Coast.

Down the road from Brisbane

An hour’s drive south of Brisbane and you’re in Australia’s favourite playground, the Gold Coast, with its glittering beaches and lush hinterland.

RACV Members can easily get there from Brisbane, with day tours offering everything from Gold Coast winery tours, whale watching experiences, and sightseeing in Surfers Paradise.

There are also options to check out the rainforest of Springbrook and its Natural Bridge or take a 4WD tour into the Gold Coast Hinterland to explore Lamington National Park.

RACV Members save more on amazing travel experiences.
Discover more →

  • Royal Botanical Gardens, Sydney
    New South Wales

    What to do in Sydney on a long weekend

    Sydney, colloquially known as the Harbour City, certainly does have something special about it. From the glittery surrounds of the Sydney Opera House and the Harbour Bridge to the village peninsula of Balmain, there's something for everyone.
  • Two people walking past the Adelaide Festival Centre lit up for Illuminate Adelaide
    South Australia

    The ultimate guide to Adelaide

    Adelaide is fast becoming one of Australia’s leading cultural and lifestyle destinations, and for good reason. Here's what to do on your next Adelaide getaway.