The best things to do in Brisbane with kids
Family fun and Brisbane go hand-in-hand – from parklands and waterfront attractions to meeting the local wildlife and visiting the State’s cultural highlights there is something for all little munchkins.
We’ve gathered up our top things to see and do in Queensland’s capital with your kids – whether you’re looking for free, almost free, or something a bit more special.
1. Explore the cultural precinct
Education doesn’t stop in the classroom thanks to the cultural centre venues on the western tip of South Bank. The area is perfect for younger families with specific activities and interactive programs like Children’s Art Centre at QAGOMA, The Corner at the State Library and 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 you can refuel with a coffee or two!).
2. Indulge your inner botanist
For a city with 2 million people, it’s fitting that there are two botanic gardens: the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens and our pick for travelling with kids, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha.
Picture 52 hectares of gardens, rainforests, trails and water features teeming with creatures … all just a few kilometres out of the city centre.
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 or drive to the top of the mountain and set up camp next to the ice-cream shop and enjoy the view of the city from the Mt Coot-tha lookout.
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 can see koalas in their natural habitat and learn about Queensland’s most loveable marsupials.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 activities will bring history to life for everyone in the family.
11. Feed the dolphins at Tangalooma Island Resort
You could be mistaken for thinking you are in another country after a short ferry ride from Brisbane to Moreton Island. It takes just 70-minutes to jaunt to this paradise, and get up close to marine life while you hand feed dolphins at Tangalooma Island 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 olds than toddlers, the Sciencecentre does a good job of wowing 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.
14. Play putt-putt at Victoria Park
With views of the Brisbane city skyline and a fully licensed cafe, 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 pits, water traps, crazy bridges and swinging poles just to keep it exciting.
15. Visit the Boggo Road Gaol
From 1883 ’til as late as 1989, Boggo Road Gaol was 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 kids over 12, there is also a ghost tour available.
16. Ride a CityCat or RiverFerry
For a city that’s built around a river, it goes without saying that the best way to discover it is from the water.
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.
For the adults, you can access a free river audio tour designed for the CityCat rider (and also do this pub crawl).
Note: Although the CityCat and CityFerry incur a transport fee, the CityHopper is free!
17. 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 to traditional snow cones and homemade fudge, Jan Powers Farmer’s Markets at The Powerhouse (Saturdays), Brisbane City (Wednesdays), Manly (1st and 3rd Saturday) and Mitchelton (1st Sunday) 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.
18. 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. For a nominal cost, these two wheels can be taken for a spin.
Just sign up 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.
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.
Check out this guide for the best bike trails around Brisbane.
19. 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 up to one hour of building time, we think that qualifies as almost free! Keep in mind that kids must be three years old or older for this activity.
20. Dance and dine south side at Mount Gravatt Marketta
Give your family a chance to branch out their taste buds with the street food options at Mount Gravatt Marketta. The markets are on at the Mount Gravatt Show Grounds (who also play host to a farmer’s market each Sunday morning from 6am until noon) spot off Logan Road, every Saturday night from 4pm. The markets are full of families early on, with live music creating the perfect dinner entertainment for your little rockers. There’s a $2 entry fee for the adults, but kids under 16 go for free.