8 Awesome Free Things To Do In Brisbane (Region)

Straddling both sides of the Brisbane River at its most squiggly, Brisbane, Queensland’s capital makes full use of its nickname the “River City“. With City Cats to traversing its waterways, skyscrapers lining its forefront and a yearly fireworks display dedicated to it, Brisbane is, in every sense a city enamoured with its meandering river course. Uncover free things to do along Brisbane‘s shoreline and then uncover even more.

Walk/Cycle The River

Various Locations

Brisbane has done a great job living up to its reputation as being the “River City” and its nonesomore evident than with its river walks. Taking up prime real estate along the Brisbane River, these walks are a great way to discover this beautiful city (and which all make fantastic places to view Brisbane’s fireworks shows such as Sunsuper Riverfire and New Years Celebrations)

New Farm – Jutting out from the banks along the western fringes of New Farm, this over-river River Walk towards the Story Bridge is a relaxing way to stroll or cycle to the city. (The section of the boardwalk closest to the Story Bridge is closed during the fireworks festivities.)

Brisbane Skyline
View from halfway up the cliff on the northern end of the River Walk

Eagle St Pier – Continuing your walk from the River Walk past the riverfront bars under the Story Bridge, you’ll seamlessly arrive at the City Reach Boardwalk. This area is premier waterfront dining, but it’s also the best place in the city to view the iconic Story Bridge, and with the skyscrapers next to it, it’s a perfect place for photography. (Great place for Sunsuper Riverfire as fireworks explode off the bridge. I don’t think there are fireworks down this end at all during the New Year fireworks.)

Brisbane Skyline from Eagle St. Pier/ City Reach Boardwalk
Brisbane’s Skyline and Story Bridge from the City Reach Boardwalk

Kangaroo Point – Switching from the north side to the south side, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs that sits on a peninsula between the two aforementioned places is another fantastic spot to view the city. The natural cliff face offers walkers and cyclers the option of taking the high road, allowing a unique elevated perspective across Brisbane City or the low road that offers quiet paths with scenic views alongside towering cliffs. (It’s also an amazing place to enjoy the Sunsuper Riverfire fireworks that’s less crowded than South Bank.)

Brisbane Skyline From Kangaroo Point C
Views From Kangaroo Point Cliffs (top)
View the top of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs (During 2020’s Sunsuper Night Sky Laser Show)

South Bank – Also on the south side, the Clem Jones Promenade at South Bank is also a great place to stroll along the river offering different riverfront views. It’s also an amazing place to deviate from the river and explore as swimming in artificial beaches and wandering museums, theatre halls and beautiful gardens are the real drawcard of visiting South Bank. (As I’ll get into more later.) (Great place for to see fireworks for Sunsuper Riverfire and for New Year but very crowded!

View from South Bank

Explore The River City By Boat

City Hopper – 8 Ferry Terminals

Hopping on the City Cat is a wonderfully iconic way to view the river city of Brisbane from the river. The wind in your hair and speeding alongside skyscrapers makes a fantastic water adventure, but for those who prefer a pace that’s a bit slower, the free City Hopper is a worthy alternative.

It doesn’t hit as many spots or come as frequently as the City Cat, but with departures every 35 minutes to 8 stops to all the inner city terminals, it’s a great way to discover the all the good haunts while getting a relaxing scenic tour of the city.

Watch The Day Bleed Into Nightfall (Or Vice Versa)

Mt Coo-tha

Mt Cootha in Brisbane’s west is a much-loved, much-visited tourist destination for both locals and visitors.

The mountain which is home to the local news telecasters has a scenic circuit drive which starts and ends at the beautiful Mt Cootha Botanical Gardens and adjacent Planetarium.

It takes you to the starting points for waterfalls, lookouts and bike trails, but the most popular place along this mountain drive is Mt Cootha Lookout.

From this beautiful location, you can see across to the skyscrapers of the CBD and the vast areas of suburbia that lie south of it in an uninterrupted sweeping panorama.

Night Landscape Of Brisbane's Skyline As Seen From Mt Cootha
Brisbane’s skyline from Mt Coo-tha

It’s also a choice destination for viewing the fireworks shows of New Year and Brisbane Riverfire if you don’t want to head into the heart of the city and due to its elevation and easterly view, it’s a fantastic place to watch the sun or the moon rise.

Not only that, it’s also a great place to capture some lightning during a summer storm, and thanks to the cafe there, a convenient place to pick up a souvenir.

Traverse The Story Bridge

Between Kangaroo Point And Fortitude Valley

An inexpensive way to experience the Story Bridge is to walk it. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s a satisfying way to explore a famous, mountable bridge without the hefty fee it takes to ascend it.

While it might not have the grandeur climbing it does, walking the pedestrian path across its expanse, is a great way to see the same buildings at your own pace, which, if you’re like me, is achingly slow.

It also means you can take your camera, which is a big no-no when doing ascents like this one due to safety concerns, and get the shots you want to get and not have to drop dollars on expensive souvenir photos.

There is a bridge long fence that extends quite high though, but it’s a great way to save money if you’re on a budget and the views from here are quite spectacular. Just pop your camera through the lower fence to get the shots.

Find Some Serenity In Chaos

Roma St Parklands

The gardens of Roma St. Parklands are situated north-west of the CBD and are a beautifully groomed serenity amidst the chaos of city life, providing a calm sanctuary to get a nature fix.

From elaborate flower displays to large ponds with fountains and misty mini waterfalls, one can easily spend hours lost in this little slice of paradise. It’s also a great place to see bees, butterflies and bearded water dragons.

For a quick ride around the various sections of the park, a gold coin donation will allow you to hop aboard a train and discover the gardens in a more relaxing way.

Roma St Parklands
Lake Precinct
Little man-made waterfall
Overlooking the Lake Precinct (IR Filter)

Swim Amongst Skyscrapers

South Bank

The major drawcard of this must-visit Brisbane destination is its stunning beach and rockpool inspired swimming pools.

Featuring like an open resort-style arena, splashing around in these free pools right next to the Brisbane River is a great way to cool off on a hot summers day while gazing at the towering skyscrapers nearby.

Nearby, there are numerous playgrounds, gardens, food vendors, souvenir shops and everything you need to have a memorable day out.

Oh, and there’s also the towering Wheel Of Brisbane if you wish to gain new perspective. (but that, unfortunately, isn’t free, but the Queensland Art Museum is!)

Don’t forget to take a photo of the massive Brisbane Sign on the grass by the river at the northern end of South Bank.

More Brisbane:

The Sunshine Coast is part of the South East Queensland region. Click here to see what the South East Queensland has to offer.

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