1. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Cuddling a koala is a quintessential Aussie experience, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is an ideal place to tick this off your bucket list. Other Australian animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, snakes, and even crocodiles live in this compact sanctuary nestled on the Brisbane River. Daily encounters and experiences include bird of prey flight demonstrations, platypus feeding, sheep dog and shearing shows, Tasmanian devil keeper talks, and barn animal encounters. A popular way to travel here is the Koala and River Cruise, departing from Brisbane's Cultural Centre Pontoon every morning.
2. The Cultural Precinct
On the banks of the Brisbane River, the heritage listed Cultural Precinct in South Bank is a fantastic, family friendly destination for a day out, with a host of excellent museums, galleries, and performance venues. Award winning architecture adds to the precinct's beautiful setting on the river near picturesque parklands, and you will find plenty of things to do here for the whole family.
3. Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha
Offering panoramic views of Brisbane, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha is a favorite attraction with locals and visitors alike. Not to be confused with the City Botanic Gardens, another serene oasis and prime picnic spot, the Mount Coot-tha gardens are seven kilometers from the city, with diverse themed gardens that take visitors on a journey through 128 acres of horticulture. Highlights include the beautiful Japanese gardens and the largest collection of Australian rainforest trees in the world, as well as sections dedicated to fragrant plants, bamboo, cactus, indigenous plants, and more. Budding botanists will love the Hide 'n' Seek Children's Trail through the rainforest, and you can take advantage of the free guided walks and minibus tours. Best of all, entry to the gardens is also free.
While you are in the area, stop by the Brisbane Lookout Mount Coot-tha, about a four minute drive from the gardens, for a breathtaking panorama over the entire area, with the city skyscrapers sprouting in the distance. Walking tracks weave through the national park, and a restaurant serves up delicious food with superb views.
4. Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)
This excellent, free attraction occupies two adjacent but contrasting buildings along the waterfront in the South Bank Cultural Precinct. Together, they display more than 1,700 works of art from around the world, with a special focus on Australia, the Pacific, and Asia. This bold collection is sure to spark animated conversations between art lovers of all stripes. Even the Gallery of Modern Art's award winning, glass encased building makes a statement.
Permanent exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery include the International and Asian Collection, with classic and contemporary works; the Indigenous Australian Collection; and the dramatic sculptures gracing the grounds. At the Gallery of Modern Art, exhibits span all mediums, including sculpture, painting, video, film, and photography. Special exhibits mean there is always something new to see here. Do not miss the fascinating contemporary art installations. Also within the complex, Australian Cinémathèque screens stimulating films from around the world, and the interactive exhibits at the Children's Art Centre keep little hands busy.
5. South Bank
The original site of World Expo in 1988, South Bank is filled with parklands, plazas, and promenades, as well as a diverse array of restaurants and exciting special events. This riverside paradise sits directly opposite the CBD, with Streets Beach at its center. A swim in the human made lagoon is a popular choice on a warm Brisbane day. Other popular things to do here include working out at the free fitness classes, visiting the Epicurious Garden, and biking or strolling along the trails.
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the state of Queensland, the Wheel of Brisbane opened here in 2008. The giant Ferris wheel is one of the top tourist attractions in South Bank and offers an exciting 10 to 12 minute ride with a bird's eye view over the river and the city.
6. River Cruises
The most scenic and exciting way to travel around Brisbane is by CityCat. Gliding the twists and turns of the Brisbane River seven days a week, the fleet of CityCats and City Ferries with 24 hop-on, hop-off terminals offer a range of different cruises, many with informative narration about the history and sights of the city. From the magnificent University of Queensland to the North Shore, the route takes in redeveloped industrial sites, riverside mansions, bridges, and parklands. This is an excellent way to gain a fresh perspective of Brisbane landmarks such as the Story bridge, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, and even some of the wildlife, like the fruit bats that gather along the mangroves on the riverbank. You can also hop aboard a Miramar Cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The CityHopper ferry service offers free cruises, stopping at attractions like South Bank 3 and the Maritime Museum.
7. Story Bridge Adventure Climb
Constructed during Australia's Great Depression in the 1930s, the attractive steel Story Bridge is a much loved Brisbane landmark. As one of only three bridge climbs in the world, after Sydney and Auckland, this one also offers something totally unique, the choice to abseil the descent. Catering to people of all fitness levels and those 10 years of age or older, the two hour experience takes you 80 meters above the Brisbane River for uninterrupted views of the city.
8. Moreton Island Day Trip
Easily accessible via a 75 minute ferry ride from downtown Brisbane, Moreton Island is the perfect day trip. As the world's third largest sand island and with more than 98 percent of the island designated as national park, Moreton Island is one of Queensland's best kept secrets. Lush vegetation frames azure waters that lap the pure white sandy beaches. Popular things to do here include diving and snorkeling the many shallow water wrecks; feeding wild dolphins at the Tangalooma Island Resort; quad biking; and water sports, such as whale watching cruises, fishing, and sea kayaking. Sandboarding and 4WD adventures are also popular. While you are here, try to visit Cape Moreton Lighthouse for beautiful ocean views.
9. Customs House
Owned by the University of Queensland, this magnificent 19th century building offers a cultural and educational experience. Although operating as a function center, Customs House includes plenty of public spaces, including an indoor/outdoor restaurant offering unparalleled river and Story Bridge views. The daily high tea here is popular with locals and visitors, but reservations are essential.
10. Brisbane Powerhouse
Lying on the banks of the Brisbane River between Powerhouse Park and New Farm Park, the Brisbane Powerhouse is undoubtedly one of the coolest venues in town. Formerly an abandoned power station, its graffiti-strewn interior now houses all kinds of different cultural events, with something new going on every day. With industrial machinery still lying around, it is a very unique and atmospheric place to catch a gig, watch a show, or wander around one of its brilliant art exhibitions. In addition to its packed calendar, which also includes stand-up comedy and theater performances, the Brisbane Powerhouse has two excellent restaurants for you to check out, as well as beautiful views out over the river.
11. Museum of Brisbane
Housed in one of Brisbane's premier heritage buildings, this intriguing museum was redeveloped and reopened in 2013. This "small in size, big in stories" museum occupies the top level of City Hall and brings the history of Brisbane and its people to life through a series of state of the art exhibitions covering everything from convict history to Brisbane's floods. Adding to the experience are the sweeping views of the city from the magnificent clock tower.