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Top 10 Must-Visit Free Attractions In Brisbane, Australia

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Brisbane, Australia

From mountains to universities to street malls to museums—the possibilities are endless in Brisbane! This capital city of Queensland is like a giant amusement park left for everyone to discover! Even though the city is compact, you won’t find yourself running out of things to do. Most importantly, many of the Brisbane attractions don’t cost a penny! Alternatively, you can visit the Gold Coast that is only an hour’s drive away!

First of all, you need to figure out how many days you’re allocating for your time in Brisbane. Although the city may look huge, it is easily accessible by foot! Other than that, public transportation offers a lot of conveniences for you to get around too! We’ll cover that at the end of the post.

Without further ado, let’s check out the free things you can do in Brisbane!

1. Visit Mt. Coot-tha

A panoramic view of Mount Coo-tha Brisbane overlooking the city of Brisbane

Mt. Coot-Tha is one of the top attractions in Brisbane. Among the many activities you can do in Brisbane, going to the top of Mt. Coot-Tha to get a panoramic view of the Brisbane City should be at the top of your bucket list! When you’re up there, you will see a steel board that tells you the names of the landmarks sprawled out in front of you. Honestly, the views are incredible. But, don’t expect mountains and hills but a very much developed city view of Brisbane! Also, watch out for cheap postcards for sale at their souvenir shop!

Other things you can do in Mt. Coo-tha:

  • Go on one of the many bushwalks: Among them, you can choose from Mt. Coo-tha Summit Track, JC Slaughter Falls, Simpsons Falls, and Eugenia Circuit, and more!
  • Picnic in Brisbane Botanical Gardens: A Queensland premier subtropical garden. Furthermore, there are many themes to choose from this 52-hectare garden!
  • Take a picture at the Tropical Display Dome: This dome houses many tropical plants in a climate-controlled environment! Not only that, the dome makes for a great Instagram shot!

2. Walk around the University of Queensland

Brisbane Forgan Smith law building exterior

The University of Queensland is straight out of the movies! Can you believe that people are actually studying in such a sophisticatedly-designed university? My favourite department in this university is the Law Department in the Forgan Smith Building. Actually, many universities in Australia are open to the public, so it will be fine to walk in to take a peek.

Forgan Smith law building interior with two people walking ahead

When you’re in the Forgan Smith Building, you will see many students studying or having meetings in this building that looks intricate as heck! Honestly, walking in feels like you’re walking into the scene of The Da Vinci Code. Actually, seeing the students doing their revision and studies there brings back memories of my uni days! So, if you’re looking for that uni vibe, most certainly check out the many Brisbane universities around the same area! 

3. Explore Brisbane CBD

A yellow-golden stage with a spectacular organ in a city hall
A vertical image of a clock tower with european-designed architecture in Brisbane

You really can’t miss the Brisbane clock tower, a must-visit attraction, and the symbol of Brisbane. First of all, the clock tower’s design and architecture remind me of ancient Roman buildings. Secondly, it’s really tall and quite easy to spot! Also, People might mistaken you for being in Europe if you take photos in front of this building.

After entering the building underneath the clock tower, we came into the City Hall. Never in my life have I witnessed such a grand-looking city hall. Now I am traversing through the space of the Phantom of the Opera. On the wooden-crafted stage, humongous pipe organs lined the pale yellow walls, which really complement them well.

4. Walk around Queen Street Mall

From the CBD, you are already within walking distance to Queen Street Mall. If you have enough time to spare, consider taking a stroll around Queen Street Mall. No, you don’t have to buy anything. Interestingly, one of the things to do here is people-watching. Really, you can find all kinds of people here! On normal days, street performers and bands will play instruments and sing in the square.

The grand interior of Brisbane Regent theatre

While you’re in Queen Street Mall, access the Regent Theatre, which used to be a cinema designed in the 1930s. However, it is now just a visitor center located in this heritage-listed building. I can’t help feeling in awe with its highly intricate design with its elaborated walls and ornaments! 

5. Visit heritage-listed Cathedral of St. Stephen

Yet another heritage-listed building in Brisbane. St. Stephen Cathedral is the oldest catholic church in Queensland! Because the archaic design of the building looks so different from the surrounding contemporary buildings, it’s impossible to miss it when you’re driving or walking in the city!

When you walk into the church, you will notice a grand Jubilee Pipe Organ, one that was made back in 2000. In addition to that, the church boasts a strong lively music program. If you are lucky enough to chance upon them having a mass, don’t hesitate to walk in and grace your ears with their choir’s angelic voices!

6. Walk along the riverfront

Brisbane story bridge taken from across the bridge on a waterfront
A river front surrounded by buildings with a man pushing his bike

Australia’s longest cantilever bridge is here in Brisbane! And it has a name called Story Bridge! This heritage-listed bridge is stretched across Brisbane River, connecting northern Brisbane to Southern Brisbane. If you have an opportunity, definitely take a walk on the bridge!

Also, do you know that you can book an adrenaline-pumping activity on the bridge as well? Whether you are trying to conquer your fear of heights or in the midst of thrill-seeking, you can give Story Bridge Adventure Climb a go. Walk on the steel beams of Story Bridge and feel like you’re on top of the world!

But, since we’re talking about free things to do in Brisbane, you can get to the opposite of the bridge, stand on the riverfront, and admire its beauty from afar. Undoubtedly, this is one of the perfect spots to soak in the majestic view of the story bridge. 

7. Take a stroll in City botanic gardens

A footpath with flower structures lined the path and people walking in between it

In the heart of Brisbane, you can take a stroll in the 20-hectare botanical garden! In fact, this is Brisbane’s original botanic gardens! Families especially, love having picnics and sunbathing here! Historically, this garden has been around since the 1840s and has gone through plenty of changes since!

Some of the attractions in the garden include:

  • River frontage: Take a stroll or cycle near the Brisbane River!
  • Jemmy Morrill and Brolgas Sculpture: Initially, this was in the Queensland Art Gallery. Now, it is on permanent loan! Not only that, the name Jemmy Morrill belongs to a person who is responsible for managing the relationship with the Aboriginals and early-settlers!
  • Ornamental ponds: There is a top and lower ornament ponds here! In fact, the lower one is the garden’s original creek system!
  • Bamboo Grove: In total, you will find 23 bamboo species here!
  • Walter Hill Fountain: In the past, this water fountain used to supply drinking water to the public! Not only that, it was said to be more hygienic than drinking from a cup!

8. Take a picture with the Brisbane sign and Wheel of Brisbane

With towering buildings line the background, it is only natural that the “BRISBANE” sign is located at this exact spot at Southbank for an epic selfie of Brisbane. However, do you know the story behind this sign? Originally, the sign is meant to be placed there for only a month for the G20 Leader’s Summit back in 2014! In fact, volunteers helped assemble the sign, which lasted for four months while exposed to the elements! Finally, a firmer model was brought in to replace the older model, becoming the one we see today!

As it is safely barricaded from the public, no obvious vandalism was done to the sign to preserve its significance to the city. The sign itself tells many stories, with each letter representing a different element. So, why not try decoding it?

Within walking distance, there lies the Wheel of Brisbane, a permanent structure which was built in 2008! You can take the wheel and rise up 60 meters above ground to get a bird’s eye view of Brisbane! Otherwise, just blend in with the many spectators around and take an Instagram-worthy picture with the symbolic wheel!

Contrary to what you might think, the 42-gondola wheel brings you around four turns that last about 10 to 15 minutes! Additionally, it can fit about 6 adults!

Price:

  • Adults AUD $20.90
  • Children AUD $3.80

9. Relax at Streets Beach

If you are itching to go to the sea or want to lay in the warm sand, fret not as Brisbane has its own artificial beachStreets Beach. A must-visit icon at the South Bank, this beach is embedded into the South Bank Parklands! Therefore, you can walk around the park and lay in the sand at the same time! Other than that, Streets Beach is also known as an oasis in the heart of Brisbane! 

When we were there, plenty of locals and tourists were sunbathing on the grass and sand. Of course, everyone wanted a tan because it was summer. Interestingly, you can see people from all walks of life swimming in the “ocean” having a whale of a time. Or, you can be the one having fun and take a dip yourself! Of course, you don’t have to worry about drowning because they have lifeguards there to watch over you!

10. Take a ferry from the ferry wharf

Brisbane river with a ferry parked at the dock and buildings lined the back

Honestly, I’ve seen all kinds of public transport. But a ferry within a city is the first. One that is free too!

According to Brisbane City Council, the CityHopper is a free inner city ferry service that runs at the Brisbane River. In other words, you can hop on and hop off the CityHopper every 30 minutes at no cost at all! Also, the service runs between 6 am and midnight, seven days a week. Usually, people take CityHopper to move around South bank and the city center!

What blew my mind is the existence of a city ferry within a city. Honestly, this is my first time seeing people taking the ferry from one place of the city to another. For me, a normal mode of public transport would be a bus, a taxi or a carpool with friends. Now a ferry is definitely a first. In short, the Brisbane River does connect the city in many ways.

The ferry will stop at these places:

  • South Bank 3, South Brisbane
  • Maritime Museum, South Brisbane
  • North Quay, Brisbane City
  • Eagle Street Pier, Brisbane City
  • Dockside, Kangaroo Point
  • Holman Street, Kangaroo Point
  • Thornton Street, Kangaroo Point
  • Sydney Street, New Farm

where to stay in brisbane:

When it comes to looking for accommodation in Brisbane, you will be spoiled for choices in this big city. Of all the options out there, we recommend Booking.com for a wide variety of selection at affordable prices too! When you book with the link that we’ve given, what it means is that we’ll earn some commission at no extra cost to you! With that being said, here are a few accommodations that we’ve handpicked for you:

  1. Brisbane City YHA: Stay in the heart of Brisbane just a 5-minute walk away from Brisbane River! Moreover, YHA is a clean and well-equipped accommodation that has a rooftop swimming that looks out to Brisbane River!
  2. The Park Hotel Brisbane: At only a 10-minute walk away from Brisbane city center, this hotel has a grand outdoor pool! You can take a stroll at the nearby Roma Street Parklands just 2 minutes’ walk away! Not only that, their rooms are modern and clean too!
  3. Somewhere To Stay Backpackers: This is the place to meet other backpackers! Their friendly staffs are also always ready to help you out! Additionally, they have a free shuttle service too! 
  4. Ascot Budget Inn & Residences: Free continental breakfast yo! On top of that, it is only an 8-minute drive away from the airport! The contemporary communal lounge looks like an ideal co-working space!
  5. ibis Budget Brisbane Airport: It will take a short 5-minute drive and you will arrive at ibis. Also, you can check in even if you arrive at midnight as they have a machine to assist you!

Getting Around Brisbane:

A hand holding a blue card that says Go

Before I get into the different transportation options in Brisbane, I would advise you to get a GoCard. You can get it from the airport itself, or any 7-eleven (also available for top-up), online, or give them a call!  You can use your go card on trains, TransLink buses, ferries, and trams! Not only in Brisbane, but you can also use it in Ipswich, Sunshine Coast, and even Gold Coast!

Can I pay for Brisbane transportation by cash?
→Yes, you can do that for bus and ferry. However, the price will be more expensive and the driver might not have a change for larger notes! It is best if you get a GoCard.

  1. By Ferry
  • So we’ve actually covered the free ferry earlier. If you need more information on how to take the free CityHopper, head over to their official website to learn more about it!
  1. By Feet
  • Brisbane really isn’t THAT big! Many people here either walk or cycle. Moreover, it helps you burn calories!
  1. By Bus
  • So, you don’t actually have to walk because they have free buses in the city too! They are separated into two: City Loop and Spring Hill Loop. Both loops operate from Monday to Friday ONLY.
  • City Loop: Route 40 and Route 50 buses come every 10 minutes between 7 am to 6 pm. There are clockwise and anti-clockwise buses. You can get to the City Hall, Botanic Gardens and Queen Street Mall with the City Loop.
  • Spring Hill Loop: This route 30 bus comes every 10 minutes when it’s busy and every 20 minutes when it’s not busy. You can get to Old Windmill ObservatoryCentral StationSt Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital, and Brisbane Private Hospital with this bus.
  1. By Train
  • The main train stations in Brisbane City are Roma Street Station and Central Station. They can get you to the surrounding suburbs in Brisbane as well as Queensland Museum and South Bank!

other things to do in brisbane:

If you have more money to spare and would love to stay in Brisbane longer, join a tour with GetYourGuide and you can leave all your transportation problems to them! All you need to do is just sit back and enjoy the ride!

end note:

And there you have it, the 10 things you can do in Brisbane for free! Within the span of 2 days, you can finish touring all of these places! So make sure you plan something else if you’re staying longer! Of course, I would definitely recommend that you take a trip to the Gold Coast as it is only an hour’s drive away! 

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