Not only is Brisbane, Australia, an excellent jumping off point for many adventures up and down the nearby Gold Coast, it holds its own as an exciting and varied destination city. Whether you’re an art lover looking for local flavours, a nature lover with a penchant for rock climbing, or just someone who seeks out variety, Brisbane delivers all you can handle.

So what’s there to do in this river city? First, make sure you’re pronouncing it properly; it’s “Briz-bin.” Not “Briz-bane.” I made the mistake only twice. Next, head to the river!

1. Explore the river

The Brisbane River flows through the heart of the city and is an attraction it its own right. Offering scenic views from its south bank, the river winds from Mount Stanley, 320km (198 mi) inland, to the Pacific Ocean just 22km (13 mi) past the city.

Both CityCat and the City Hopper ferry services can take you up and down the river in comfort. The CityCat is aimed at the commuter crowd, running every 15 minutes to more than 20 terminals along the river, while the City Hopper might be a better choice for travellers. It runs every 30 minutes, is free and, as the name implies, allows hop-on, hop-off service to the city core.

Dusk falls on the Brisbane River.
Dusk falls on the Brisbane River.

For those in need of a leg stretch, the river offers miles and miles of beautiful trails. Bike rentals are offered close to many of the more popular ferry terminals, or you can simply lace up your sneakers and hit the trail for a flat, panoramic run or walk.

2. Scope out the art

Before Pokémon Go, there was art. Brisbane prides itself on the array and quantity of art throughout the city as well as in its multiple museums and galleries. They even have an app for it!

If you aren’t the museum type, there is artwork on every other city block, which helps set the tone for Brisbane as a modern and eclectic place. If you’re into galleries, the Gallery of Modern Art/Queensland Art Gallery is not to be missed for its vast representation of art from all over Queensland.

3. Get your rock climbing on

What a better setting for an afternoon heading up a single pitch, top-rope climb than across the river from downtown Brisbane? You get the city at your back, easy access, and a chance to feel real rock in an urban setting.

Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park is the closest natural rock climbing to a city that I’ve ever seen and it has routes to make beginners and intermediate climbers happy for hours. If you are new to the sport, there are a couple of climbing organizations nearby who can get you started with instruction and local tips. The cliffs have more than 200 routes and offer picnicking facilities to make for a great afternoon in the sunshine.

Rock climbing on offer so close to the city centre.
Rock climbing on offer so close to the city centre.

4. Put your nose in a book

I have to admit to having a thing for libraries, and the State Library of Queensland could suck me in for a lifetime if I let it. If you’re a fellow book lover, you owe it to yourself to spend a few hours roaming the stacks of this beautiful facility.

The library is not just for bibliophiles. The robust, modern design of the building itself is a noteworthy feast for the eyes in a city that features a nice mix of glamourous glass and steel buildings. History buffs will appreciate the glimpse into Queensland’s past with the most complete catalogue of historical documents on the state. Didn’t fill up on enough art at all the other museums around town? Art aficionados will enjoy the design, sculpture, and painting collections as well as a well-rounded photography collection.

Get stuck in a book at the State Library of Queensland. Photo courtesy Wiki.
Get stuck in a book at the State Library of Queensland. Photo courtesy <a href="">Wiki.</a>

5. Get close to a koala

You’re in Australia, you really should see a koala. And a kangaroo.

While these animals can be found in the wild, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary makes it easy to visit them up close.

The sanctuary is also a great introduction to the many endemic species that populate Australia’s wild lands, like lorikeets, platypuses, or dingoes. There are regular informational shows most days and the area is perfect for kids or and grown-ups alike. Some experiences in the sanctuary require booking in advance, so check before you go.

The sanctuary is located a mere 15 minutes outside of town, and can be reached by car, bus, or boat (but not the CityCat). As luck would have it, the Miramar boat cruise to the sanctuary leaves from the boardwalk just outside the State Library, which makes this an easy extension of your day.

These are just a few of my favourite things to do with spare days in Brisbane. What are your favourites?

Getting There

G Adventures runs a number of departures in Australia encompassing a wide range of departure dates and activities to cater to different tastes. We’re thrilled at the prospect of showing you this big blue planet of ours — check out our small group trips here.