The river city embraces its natural beauty like no other. You can, too, with these 11 essential outdoor activities in Brisbane.

Take in Brisbane from the river

For a newcomer, the sheer size and length of Brisbane River can be intimidating. The best way to get to grips with this mighty waterway is by kayak with Riverlife Kayaking. The Friday night Paddle & Prawns is best, allowing you to take in the lights of both the city and the Story Bridge, before heading back to shore for a barbecued feast. The groups tend to be large, but that doesn’t dent the personalised service both on the river and off. 

Fill your tummy at the Eat Street Markets

This inventive dockyard recreation of a bustling Asian hawker market is about as close to the real deal as you can get without jumping on a plane to Singapore. Every Friday and Saturday night it’s food and drinks, fashion and music, all enjoyed in the warm breeze that typically blows from the bayside. The ritzy Portside precinct sits adjacent to the market if you want to finish your night on a more upmarket note.

Take a day trip to Moreton Island

One of two enormous sand islands that sit off the coast of Brisbane, protecting the city’s ports, Moreton is just a 70-minute ferry ride from the bayside suburbs and perfect for a day trip of surfing sand dunes, snorkelling among the wrecks, and exploring the freshwater lakes inland. Largely uninhabited, it’s a perfect antidote to city life. Adventure Moreton Island offers a bunch of different tour packages, depending on your interests.

Dine al fresco on the river at Bar Alto

There are plenty of riverside eateries in the city, but few as steadfastly reliable as Bar Alto. The superb location at the side of the Brisbane Powerhouse is a great start, but it’s the authentic, modern Italian food that seals the deal. You’ll find the best tables outside on the first floor deck. Be sure to book.

See also: Top 10 Places to Drink in Brisbane 

Catch a flick under the stars at Yatala Drive-In

One of Queensland’s last drive-in theatres isn’t just surviving — it’s thriving. Indeed, the queue of cars waiting to enter Yatala Drive-In on a weekend can be intimidating. Still, don’t stress, the screens are enormous and the parking carefully laid out so there’s room enough to either get to know the locals or keep things intimate. The 50s-themed diner in the centre of the lot completes the nostalgia trip. It’s 30 minutes from the CBD but well worth the drive.

Cycle through the city’s hotspots

An excellent way to get under the skin of the Queensland capital, Brisbane by Bicycle focuses on the inner city, introducing travellers to some of the best cafes, bars and restaurants on both sides of the river. There are three ride times, and the city’s extensive trail of bikeways means you’re never working up too much of a sweat.

Enjoy the view at Eleven Rooftop Bar

Eleven’s people-watching is good but it’s the views outside that have made it a favourite among hip locals. Looking uphill towards the CBD, the afternoon sun bounces off the office towers, creating a shimmering beacon for the surrounding suburbs. Try visiting at dusk when it’s less crowded and beware of the dress code, found here, after 6pm.

Explore the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens

Forget the CBD greenway and head west to the lush Mount Coot-tha Botanic Gardens (Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong), sculpted along the lower ridges of the city’s iconic western bookend. With an impressive collection of flora from around the world, the gardens also boast secluded picnic spots and lookouts. Combine a trip with a visit to Brisbane Lookout at the top of Mount Coot-tha for some of the best views of the city.

Picnic at the Sherwood Arboretum

The leafy western suburbs of Graceville and Sherwood are rarely visited by tourists — or locals. It’s a shame, because they’re missing out on some of the prettiest colonial architecture in the city and the Sherwood Arboretum (57 Dewar Terrace, Sherwood). This rambling, immaculately kept parkland is often deserted, making it a winsome spot to enjoy a picnic or pull up a patch of grass and watch the Brisbane river amble on by.

Catch the football at Suncorp Stadium

They might frequently bring inner-city traffic to a standstill, but visitors to Brisbane shouldn’t miss a game at Suncorp Stadium. This modern-day coliseum is just a 20 minute walk from the CBD (or five minutes on the train) and will get you close to your favourite brand of football — rugby union and league in autumn and winter, football in the summer. For a local experience, try a Super Rugby derby between the Queensland Reds and the New South Wales Waratahs. It’s guaranteed to fill the house.

Take a day cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, sits on the upper reaches of the Brisbane River. The best way to get there is on a Mirimar day cruise. Departing from the heart of the city, the 90-minute narrated trip up is a great way to learn some local history. At the sanctuary, you’ll have an easy two-and-a-half hours to get acquainted with Australia’s unique wildlife.

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