Pack your sneakers and sunscreen; the best of this city break happens in the great outdoors.
Make the most of Brisbane’s sunny disposition and get acquainted with the city on foot while you take in myriad street artworks – 40 new pieces were added during the annual Brisbane Street Art Festival in May alone. Jump onto the Visit Brisbane website to find a guide then wander down Burnett Lane in the CBD and challenge the kids to spot the tiny red door – a piece by local guerrilla and environmental artist Mace Robertson – and the blue duck wearing a top hat, by the Blu Art Xinja (Ninja). Grab a coffee to go from Felix for Goodness, also in Burnett Lane, and continue on to Roma Street Parkland where you can take a self-guided wander through the 16 hectares of pretty gardens, join a bush tucker tour or jump aboard the Parkland Explorer train. You’ll find two great playgrounds along the way.
Bundle up your favourite picnic ingredients (James Street Market is a great place to stock up if you’re staying in Fortitude Valley, or the Valley to locals) and head to Breakfast Creek. There you can become the captain of your own lunchtime cruise when you hire one of GoBoat’s self-drive electric boats. The Scandinavian-inspired, whisper-quiet boats have a recycled timber picnic table and shade overhead to keep you cool while you motor towards the Story Bridge and see the city from a new angle. If you’re travelling with the whole family, you’ll be happy to know they’re pet-friendly, too.
Take a trip back to the 1800s and be immersed in the Spirits of the Red Sand Indigenous theatre show, held in the Beenleigh Historical Village (about 30 minutes south of the CBD). If the translation of a heinous chapter of Australian history into the fictional tale of three Aboriginal brothers with opposing views on the colonial threat sounds gritty, it is, but this historical narrative leaps to life through song and dance, sparking cultural appreciation in all ages. Enjoy a bush-tucker inspired feast with the cast afterwards (think damper with wild finger lime-infused oil, char-grilled kangaroo and crocodile, and lemon myrtle cheesecake), where you’re welcome to ask any questions to bolster your understanding of contemporary Aboriginal culture.
Start the day with a round of putt-putt golf at Victoria Park in Herston (under-4s are free), where you can also settle in for morning tea and let the kids run amok in the playground, replete with tractor and rock-climbing wall. From July 2021, in a coup for future sustainable travel, works will commence to transform the park’s 18-hole golf course into a 64-hectare public parkland – think high-ropes courses, water play gully, and productive gardens – and increase the city’s native habitat cover.
Keep the park life theme going and head to New Farm Park – Brisbane’s oldest and grandest – where you’ll find an adventure playground built around the base of sprawling ancient fig trees, a croquet club, rose gardens, and riverfront lawn. BYO picnic or grab some takeaway from one of the nearby cafes (plant-based Dicki’s is our pick) but save some room for later…
If you’re visiting on the weekend, catch a Citycat from the New Farm Park ferry terminal to Eat Street Northshore (open Fri-Sun). The journey takes about 40 minutes but is a great way to relax into a sunset session on the water before you embark on a choose-your-own-adventure-style progressive dinner at Eat Street. You’ll find all the food groups you might not always allow at home inside the repurposed recycled shipping containers (you’re on holidays, after all), from fried chicken to mac and cheese and ice-cream nachos.
Start the morning on an active note by hiring a kayak or water bike from Riverlife – picture a stationary bike on an inflatable pontoon – to explore the Brisbane River or, if you’ve got a daredevil in your brood (aged eight and up), join a rock-climbing session to scale the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
Young ones in tow? Follow in Bluey’s footsteps and visit South Bank Parklands for a play and an ice-cream – artisanal Happy Pops crafted in nearby Noosa Heads, perhaps? If it’s a Sunday, mosey on down to River Quay for Sunday Social On The Green from 2pm–5pm. Parents get to enjoy a takeaway picnic hamper from one of the restaurants and listen to live tunes while the kids can roll down the hill and explore the rocks below.
Tucked underneath the Story Bridge, Howard Smith Wharves is the go-to Sunday arvo sesh for local families not least for the whimsical timber ship playground on the lawn outside Felons Brewing Co. You can imbibe while they play pirates (try the cider made with Stanthorpe-grown apples). A toddler-sized playground and sandpit is also just a little further along.
Hire a few Lime scooters, strap on your helmets and explore the City Botanic Gardens, nudging the Brisbane River. Scoot past the bamboo grove and avenue of weeping figs, and park up at the playground with a coffee from The Gardens Club. If you’re a bit shy about e-scooters, hire bicycles and cruise the cycleway along the river towards the University Of Queensland campus in Saint Lucia – one of the best spots to see the jacarandas in all their purple glory come spring.
We hate to cause a rift but the family might potentially be divided over who wants to wave their ticket at the bus driver for a free ride to The GABBA for a Brisbane Lions home game, and who’d rather sip a milkshake in the retro diner and browse the dress-up fantasy land that is the solar-powered Camp Hill Antique Centre.
Settle into local life and toast the city skyline with a barbecue on top of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. It’s not exactly a secret so aim to get there early to nab a spot. If you’d prefer someone else to do the cooking tonight, make your way down to The Prawnster, a floating restaurant split between two vintage trawlers.
Cruise 25 minutes north from the CBD for fish and chips or fresh prawns straight from the trawlers, hire a SUP or paddleboard, and wander the 350-metre Shorncliffe Pier.
Head to the Bayside, 30 minutes east of the CBD, to wander the mangrove boardwalk, cast a line on the pier, and lunch at the newly opened Manly Boathouse.
Punch Guyatt Park St Lucia into Google Maps to find a challenging Ninja Warrior-inspired playground designed for those aged 12 and up.
Getting from A to B
Grab yourself a go card to easily tap on and off trains, buses and ferries while you’re in Brisbane. CityCats – and the newer, more compact KittyCats – zip back and forth across the river, connecting you with train and bus services, while there’s also the free CityHopper inner-city ferry service with six stops between North Quay and Sydney Street, New Farm.
The city is laced with walking tracks, cycle trails and pedestrian bridges and oftentimes getting around on foot is the most attractive – and eco-friendly – option. If you’re travelling with older teens (17 years and over), the CityCycle program has been made free to use (under 30 minutes) for the rest of 2021 as Brisbane City Council prepares to introduce a fleet of 2000 e-bikes in July.
Then there’s also the option of e-scooters. Lime allows kids aged 12-16 to ride when accompanied by an adult but Neuron scooters are only for those aged 18+. You might find some with helmets hanging on their handlebars but BYO to be safe.