The best things to do in Brisbane with kids
There is no shortage of family fun in Brisbane. From parks and waterfront attractions to the state’s cultural highlights, at least half of the best things to do with your kids come with an added bonus… they’re FREE!
But if you’re happy paying for the pleasure, there’s plenty of kids activities on offer where you’ll have to bring the piggy bank too.
Check out our list of the best things to do in Brisbane with your munchkins!
1. Explore the cultural precinct
Expose your kids to some of the most cultural and educational venues in Brisbane! These places cater to families with young children with specific activities and interactive programs like the Children’s Art Centre at QAGOMA, The Corner at the State Library and, well, pretty much the whole of the Queensland Museum.
There are cafés aplenty and open spaces in between, in case the kids need to run around and get the sillies out (and so you can refuel with a coffee or two!).
2. Indulge your inner botanist
Picture 52 hectares of gardens, rainforests, trails and water features teeming with creatures waiting to be discovered… all just a few kilometres out of the city centre at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha.
Venture along the hide and seek children’s trail, where kids can hunt for native bees, a crocodile, dragons (water dragons, that is), dragonflies and other critters. If that’s not your speed, bring a picnic blanket and stretch out on one of the lawns while they explore the lily ponds of the lagoon and the bamboo grove.
Don’t leave the gardens before you’ve at least had a walk through the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and let the aspiring astronauts marvel at the life-size replica of Neil Armstrong’s lunar space suit. Admission is free, but scheduled shows require booked tickets.
Note: The Planetarium is closed on Mondays.
3. Visit Daisy Hill Conservation Park
While you won’t be able to cuddle a koala at this park, you will be able to see a naturally intact koala habitat area and learn all about Queensland’s most loveable marsupials.
Based on over 570 hectares between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, bring the kids to hike and/or bike on the regional park trails while you keep watch for birds, wildlife and koalas!
Stick to the Paperbark Trail or the Tree Discovery Trail if you have a pram or toddlers, as they are the easiest and shortest to manoeuvre.
4. Hit the beach… in the CBD
South Bank is often referred to as the cultural centre of Brisbane, but it also happens to be the aquatic centre of Brisbane and is the perfect spot to cool off and make a splash in the middle of the city! Streets Beach at South Bank, along with Aquativity, provide an oasis of fun for visitors both big and small.
Pack your own picnic and make a day out of lounging on the banks of the Brisbane River, or go in the cooler hours of the morning and then hit a local Little Stanley Street café for a treat after you’ve dried off.
5. Splash about at Settlement Cove Lagoon
What could be better than a day at a beach? Overlooking Moreton Bay, the waterfront lagoon in Redcliffe is a great spot for families with small children.
Complete with a water play area for the little ones, a wading pool and beachside BBQs, this day trip from Brisbane is certainly worth it. Grown-ups will enjoy the stunning views to Moreton Island, tropical bay breezes and of course, the large swimming lagoon.
Open year-round, be sure to get there early during the busy summer months to get a good parking spot if you’ve got lots of gear to bring with you.
6. Visit Boondall Wetlands Reserve
Long before Brisbane became Brisbane, it was Mian-jin to the original Indigenous inhabitants. Kids can learn more about Aboriginal cultural heritage by following the Nurri Millen Totem Trail at Boondall Wetlands, where they can spot the cast aluminium totems that reveal how the clans used the wetlands.
They can also enjoy exploring the bikeway, boardwalk and walking tracks, wildlife spotting and bird watching and visiting the Conservation Centre for informative displays and activities.
7. Picnic at a park
You can’t really say you’ve visited Brisbane until you’ve visited one of the gorgeously green parks around the city. Roma Street Parklands, New Farm Park, Kidspace, Colmslie Beach Reserve and Kalinga Park are just a few of your options!
Bursting with flowers, wildlife and plenty of playgrounds to keep the little ones busy, the parks (especially the ones on the river) are a major drawcard for families and gatherings every weekend. Stop by a local deli or café on your way or pack a picnic lunch from home, spread out a blanket and relax.
Bring your wallet
8. Cuddle up at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Probably one of the most notable kids activities in Brisbane, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is all about the cuddly marsupials and other Australian animals, and it’s only a short drive, or river cruise, from the centre of Brisbane City!
Small enough for little legs that get tired easily, there’s enough to entertain for a full day, but it’s contained enough to cover in a half-day too. Be sure to check out the Birds of Prey Show, as well as the farm animals petting area. And of course, don’t forget to cuddle a koala!
9. Ride the Wheel of Brisbane
Much like the Eye of London, the Wheel of Brisbane can be seen along the river’s boardwalks from miles around. It’s a great way to get up high and take in unparalleled 360-degree views of the city. Located in the heart of South Bank, there’s plenty to see and do surrounding the giant ferris wheel to make a whole day out of it.
Located in the heart of South Bank, there’s plenty to see and do around the giant Ferris wheel to make a whole day out of it.
10. Explore The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich
All aboard for Australia’s oldest railway workshops still in operation! If you’ve got a Thomas-loving toddler, you can’t miss this fully functioning heritage railway workshop.
Fifteen larger-than-life exhibits along with interactive and hands-on activities will bring history to life for everyone in the family.
11. Feed the dolphins at Tangalooma Resort
A great day or weekend trip from Brisbane is just a short ferry ride away! Head to Moreton Island, a 70-minute jaunt to paradise, and get up close to marine life while you hand feed dolphins at Tangalooma Resort. The dolphins, who come in nightly to feed, are from two families who have been returning to the island resort since the early 1990s.
Note: If you stay the weekend you can enjoy all of the family friendly activities on Moreton Island – like calm water beaches, fishing, and snorkelling.
12. Discover Newstead House
Built in 1846 and beautifully preserved by the Queensland Historical Society, Newstead House is Brisbane’s oldest surviving residence. Take the kids on a look-don’t-touch tour of the residence that once housed some of the most influential families of Brisbane, as well as WWII service men, and show them what life was like in the 1800s.
Afterwards let them burn off steam on the expansive lawns that lead down to the Brisbane River.
13. Get your geek on at the Sciencecentre
Although arguably better suited for the 10 year old than a toddler, the Sciencecentre does a good job of wowing all inquisitive minds. With hands-on, immersive activities that offer a glimpse into the science behind our everyday lives, you can spend hours learning about the human body, energy, light, sound, air, water and earth.
There are things for toddlers to do here too, but the amount of information and reading involved are probably best for those Grade Two and older.
14. Play putt-putt golf at Victoria Park
With views of the Brisbane city skyline and fully licensed, you might think that this is a destination just for the grown-ups. But bring the kids and enjoy an afternoon or evening playing 18-holes of putt-putt with sand traps, water traps, crazy bridges and swinging poles just to keep it exciting! Afterwards grab a bite at the bistro.
15. Jump on the City Explorer double-decker bus
Most kids love novelty, and the new City Explorer double-decker sightseeing bus does not disappoint! Offering a 24 or 48-hour ‘hop on – hop off’ city tour experience, where you can plan an itinerary on your own schedule, the Brisbane City Explorer shows off some of the most notable attractions in Brisbane.
We have a hunch that just riding on a red, open-top, double-decker bus will be entertainment enough for the kiddos.
16. Visit the Boggo Road Gaol
From 1883 till as late as 1989, Boggo Road Gaol was a working prison and was for many years Queensland’s main prison. Kids can learn about prison life, the baddies that lived there and the history of this heritage-listed site.
Admission to the gaol is through a guided tour, which is child-friendly and includes plenty of time to explore the gatehouse, yards and one of the original cell blocks. For brave Brisbane kids over 12, there is also a ghost tour available.
17. Ride a CityCat or RiverFerry
Possibly one of the most unique ways to see the city is to hop on and hop off one of Brisbane’s public transport water vessels.
Whether it’s a CityCat, a CityFerry or the CityHopper you can start at any one of the 25 ferry terminals that dot the Brisbane riverbank and stop to explore one of the waterfront suburbs, many with parks and cafés just a stone’s throw away.
That said, it’s really just the boats we think your kids will like best. For the adults, you can access a free river audio tour designed for the CityCat rider.
Note: Although the CityCat and CityFerry incur a transport fee, the CityHopper is free!
18. Shop at Jan Powers Farmer’s Markets
Yes, we know, kids and shopping don’t often mix, but if you fill little mouths full of enough treats, you’re sure to enjoy this retail therapy!
With everything from cronuts and milky buns to the traditional snow cones and homemade fudge, Jan Powers Farmer’s Markets have enough of the good stuff to keep the kids going all day long while you shop your heart out over a coffee or treat of your own.
19. Hire a City Cycle and bike around town
In 2010, Brisbane City Council introduced the CityCycle program and now you can find bright yellow bicycles lining the city streets, ready to be taken for a ride for a nominal cost.
Just sign up on their website for a subscription and you can pick up a bike at any one of their 150 locations across Brisbane’s city centre and ride all day for free, as long as the bike is returned within half-hour intervals.
If you wish to ride longer, the fees are nominal and they even stock courtesy helmets (subject to availability) at most of the stations across the city, in case you want to take a spontaneous ride or forget your own helmet (it’s the law in Brisbane to wear a helmet while cycling).
Note: Bikes are one-size-fits-all and not suitable for small children. Visit their website for more information.
20. Head to the Lego Education Learning Centre
Building Lego is awesome! Every Sunday in South Bank, the Lego Education Learning Centre opens its doors to the public for some hands on Lego building fun. Put your creativity to work and join them for one of their themed building parties. Each Sunday the theme changes, but past examples include amazing animals, mad machines, space journey and fantasy fun.
At $5 per person for over two hours of building time, we think that qualifies as almost free! Keep in mind that kids must be four years old or older for this activity.