Brisbane has it all – sunshine, friendly people, heritage buildings, cutting-edge infrastructure, parks, gardens, wide open spaces and hills to climb – and there’s so much you can do for free!
When considering the city as somewhere to live, study or holiday, a good way to decide is by sampling the free things to do in Brisbane.
Free activities in Brisbane when you need to get wet
- Streets Beach, South Bank – The weather is often hot and steamy in Brisbane but that’s ok when you can cool off in the man-made lagoon at Streets Beach at South Bank. It’s literally a city beach, complete with sandy shores, palm trees and lifeguards but no sharks, jellyfish or rips to get caught in! There’s even an interactive water park called ‘Aquativity’ where little ones can play in the fountains and stand under the tipping buckets.
- Settlement Cove, Redcliffe – A 45-minute drive to the north is Redcliffe where you’ll find Settlement Cove, another free lagoon to swim and play in. Lifeguards are on patrol during summer and there are toilets and changing areas. Play in the shallows, have fun with the squirting lizards and mushroom fountains or head out into the deeper areas. Just beyond is the beautiful ocean.
- Orion Lagoon, Springfield – Thirty minutes’ drive from Brisbane CBD is Orion Lagoon with interconnected pools to suit all ages. Plenty of shade is available thanks to the trees and colourful sails and this site also has squirting spouts as well as stepping stones and little sandy shores. Lifeguards are on duty all year round, from 5am to 9pm in summer months and 8am to 4pm in cooler months.
Catch up on a little bit of Brisbane history
- City Hall tours, Brisbane CBD – Take a free 45-minute City Hall Heritage Tour through this majestic building, first constructed in the 1920s. As well as seeing the magnificent Auditorium and its 13-metre high, 4,300-pipe organ, you’ll gain exclusive access to the basement where you’ll see the signature wall. It contains the signatures, names and dates of soldiers from all over the world who were stationed in the city in World War II. Visit the Lord Mayor’s office and other fascinating parts of the complex and the tour ends at the Museum of Brisbane. If you’d like to go up inside the iconic clock tower, a separate 15-minute Clock Tower tour will take you 76 metres above the city in Australia’s second oldest manually operated cage lift.
- Windsor Historical Society, Windsor – Step inside the quaint old Windsor Town Council building and discover how this inner north Brisbane region grew from its settlement in the 1850s. It’s open from 1pm to 4pm on Mondays and Sundays and is staffed by volunteers who are well informed and interesting to speak with. Learn about the historic houses and notable residents of the area and check out the beautiful, locally quarried porphyry (tuff) that was used to construct the Council building.
- Heritage Trails, various locations – Brisbane City Council lists 18 suburban heritage walking trails throughout the city as well as an Aboriginal culture trail and a natural history trail. You can download the individual brochures from the website and each shows you a map with the various points of interest, then provides a history of each one. Many are walkable, others may require driving between a couple of points but all will give an interesting insight into the historic – and often infamous – past of the area.
Educational free things to do in Brisbane
- Queensland Museum – General admission is free and the museum is open every day except Good Friday, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Here’s where you’ll find the state’s collection of artefacts and displays around natural history, science, human endeavour and cultural heritage. Designed for all ages to enjoy, the children always love the bugs and the life-sized dinosaurs!
- State Library of Queensland – Forget the old days of dusty libraries where you have to be quiet. The State Library runs lots of regular activities for kids and adults. Seniors can learn Internet skills, there are different exhibitions to view, story readings and an infinite amount of compelling material across all forms of multimedia. Expect to spend hours and hours.
Free activities Brisbane Greeters can show you
- Meet a local who will show you around for free and with a warm smile. Brisbane Greeters are volunteers who love to share the story of their city and you can go with the Greeter’s Choice (they pick the tour for you) or your own choice of precinct or special interest. Greeter’s Choice tours depart from Brisbane City Hall at 10am every day.
Other free things to do in Brisbane
- Parks – Brisbane’s parks have lots to offer. Some have outdoor exercise equipment, others have children’s playgrounds and a lot have gas barbecues you can use.
- Free indoor entertainment – There are regularly free events and shows at the Brisbane Powerhouse arts centre, from comedy happy hours and virtual reality nights to public debates and live concerts.
- Botanic Gardens – There are two: Mt Coot-tha and Alice Street in the City. Each has water features, lawns, picnic spots, pathways and a café. Take a self-guided walk or attend a free event such as Tai Chi Qigong, BoxFit and scheduled picnics.
- Get a taste of Indigenous culture – On Wednesdays from midday to 1pm, watch Aboriginal performers on the main stage in Queen Street Mall.
- Free markets – Every Saturday and Sunday, there are markets all over Brisbane where you can browse or buy fashion, fresh produce, artworks, handmade crafts, vintage clothing and second hand goods.
- Free ferry ride – Catch the CityHopper inner city ferry; the little red one is the only one that’s free. It runs from 6am to midnight every day.
- Free live music – It’s Australia’s largest free live music program and it offers all kinds of music from local and touring artists. Check out City Sounds for jazz and folk gigs, electro performances, acoustic guitar and more.
- Best view of Brisbane – Head up to Mt Coot-tha for Brisbane’s most panoramic view. Pop a coin in the telescope to see even further. Try sunrise and sunset for the best views ever.
- Go hiking – Choose your difficulty level on these well-known hiking trails. You could spot a koala, eat your sandwich by a billabong or swim in freshwater gorges.
- Arts events – Metro Arts in Edward St, the City maintains a calendar of free artistic events. It could be an all-night film fest, ghost storytelling, artist/author talks or art exhibitions.
- Free art gallery – Aside from the obvious, QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art), you should check out the Institute of Modern Art in Fortitude Valley. Cast your eye (and imagination) over some seriously intriguing art, listen to lectures, attend symposiums and see whatever incredible exhibition is currently showing.