Located in the Southeast of Queensland, Brisbane is an impressive modern metropolis set amongst sprawling subtropical wetlands, dense rainforests and exceptional green spaces.
If you’re planning to go backpacking in Brisbane, you’ll be sure to enjoy the wonders of dozens of coastal islands, national parks, impressive parklands and vibrant nightlife spots.
Brisbane’s many impressive sites and outdoor wonders are precisely why this city is a fantastic destination for backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
So, to help you put together the perfect itinerary, we have provided a round-up of activities and fun things to do in Brisbane, especially for backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts.
Backpacking in Brisbane
Did you know? Over 7.3 million visitors travelled to Brisbane in the year ending June 2020, discovering many of the city’s fantastic sites spread out across this vast urban landscape.
The bending reaches of the Brisbane River are a prominent feature of the city’s landscape, as are hilly suburban pockets and extensive parkland areas.
The city’s positioning amongst a subtropical ecosystem also makes it one of Australia’s most bio-diverse regions while also providing easy access to nearby national treasures like the Gold Coast and Great Barrier Reef.
All of this is what gives Brisbane a strong focus on the outdoors, with fantastic al fresco dining, riverside picnics, beautiful museums, national parks, dynamic cultural precincts and more.
The many beautiful sights, sounds and wonders around the city means there are countless fun things to do in Brisbane. It also makes it the perfect hub for backpackers.
My partner and I recently organised a trip to Brisbane and had such a great time. Check out the video below for a sneak peek into our experience in Brisbane and the top highlights.
Watch the video below:
Fun Things to Do in Brisbane for Backpackers & Outdoor Enthusiasts
Activities to Do in Brisbane When Travelling Alone, with Friends or Family
To help you take full advantage of all that Brisbane has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of the best things to do in Brisbane by yourself or with friends!
1. Explore Brisbane Botanic Gardens
By far one of the best outdoor attractions in Brisbane, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens consists of 56-hectares of gardens, tropical domes and public buildings providing endless hours of discovery.
With dozens of exhibits on many of Queensland’s most impressive flora and fauna, backpackers can enjoy this great outdoor space 365 days of the year.
In this garden, you can admire hundreds of different plants and fauna and learn about the fantastic conservation efforts of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens’ researchers.
It’s a great thing to do in Brisbane regardless of whether you’re travelling on your own or with friends/family,
2. Visit QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art)
If you’re an art lover, ensure to visit to the Queensland Modern Art Gallery (QAGOMA).
This modern art gallery is located next to the river in Brisbane’s bustling South Bank district, providing a scenic space to enjoy contemporary exhibits from across the Pacific territory and many parts of Asia.
Another great thing to do in Brisbane by yourself, QAGOMA offers the perfect way to chill out and take a break while backpacking in Brisbane.
3. Views of Brisbane CBD from Story Bridge
The impressive marvel of modern engineering, Story Bridge spans the Brisbane River and provides some of the best views of the city’s towering central business district.
Grab a spot at the centre walkways and watch as the sun sets and the lights of the city’s heart glitter to life as this vibrant city prepares for a night unlike any other.
If you’re feeling adventurous or would love see the city from great heights, you can climb the bridge to the top for amazing city views: Story Bridge Adventure Climb.
4. Hit up the Bars and Clubs in Fortitude Valley
Brisbane’s vibrant nightlife hub, Fortitude Valley, is filled with countless fun activities for backpackers to enjoy.
Visit the various bars including those that showcase live music representing some of Australia’s best up-and-coming bands. Alternatively dance the night away at one of the area’s many bustling nightclubs.
My partner and I went to Fortitude Valley while we were in Brisbane for New Years, and it was awesome! We went to a “Havana nights” themed bar and it was a blast.
5. Quench Your Thirst at Felons Brewing Co
Felons Brewing Co is located on the banks of the beautiful Brisbane River. From here, you can take in fantastic views of the city’s riverside while enjoying some delicious barrel-crafted beer or refreshingly crisp cider.
Savour some of the most fantastic meals available in Brisbane and soak up the vibrant atmosphere within the heart of the city.
On thing to keep in mind is that this venue definitely isn’t cheap. Personally, I found the meals and drinks to be quite pricey,but I would still recommend giving it a visit for the great views and atmosphere.
6. Zip Around the City on a Neuron Scooter
Brisbane has a fantastic public transport network, however one of the coolest ways to get around the city is definitely on a Neuron E-scooter.
This was definitely one of our favourite things to do in Brisbane – it’s just so fun, convenient, and makes you feel like a kid again.
Neuron scooters are great for backpackers in Brisbane because they provide a fast and budget-friendly way to get around the city, saving you from kms of walking on foot. It can also be quite thrilling and liberating!
Simply connect with the Neuron app and enjoy a trip along the winding river trails as you visit all that Brisbane has to offer.
Just make sure to use the your scooting time wisely, so you don’t end up spending a small fortune while using them.
7. Walk Along Eagle Street Pier and its Restaurant Precinct
The Eagle Street Pier River complex is home to some of the best restaurants in Brisbane and provides a great space to enjoy a huge variety of different foods.
Here you can admire the impressive array of boats and traditional streamliner ferries that sail past every day and enjoy some of Brisbane’s finest cuisine.
We went to the most incredible Japanese restaurant here called Madame Wu. Incredible food, incredible views and incredible staff. What more could one want?
If you’re a foodie or simply want to treat yourself, don’t miss an evening out at Eagle Street Pier.
8. Eat and Relax on the Sand of Southbank & Streets Beach
One of the most visited outdoor attractions in Brisbane, the Southbank neighbourhood is a bustling district filled with countless fun things for backpackers to do. It includes an impressive man-made lagoon for swimming and over 17 acres of beautiful parkland.
This is a must visit for backpackers in Brisbane – a perfect place to grab some takeaway lunch and bask in the sunshine on your choice of lawn hill or lagoon-side location.
Do note though…. the lagoon tends to attract a lot of kids and families due to the shallow waters. So, there is often a lot of kids waddling in the shallow pools, which for me was a bit of a turn off.
If a hot day, I’d probably recommend to head to the lagoon later in the afternoon, or simply wing it and hope for the best.
Exploring this region is one of the most uplifting things to do in Brisbane by yourself, as you can simply lie down on the grass or sand and absorb the sunshine and surrounding atmosphere.
9. The Wheel of Brisbane
The Wheel of Brisbane is a towering 60-meter-tall Ferris wheel located in the heart of the city’s premium entertainment district.
The enclosed capsules mean you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of spectacular Brisbane all year round – even if it rains.
We didn’t end up going on this ourselves (as we’ve done a few of these in our lifetime), but if you haven’t done something like this before, it can be a cool experience.
10. Queensland Maritime Museum
If you’re seeking unique things to do in Brisbane, the Queensland Maritime Museum could be a great option.
It is one of Australia’s largest outdoor museum complexes and their mission is to connect people with the maritime heritage of Queensland and the world.
Considered one of Australia’s largest maritime museums, here you can discover historic vessels of all shapes and sizes including the warship Diamantina and the lugger Penguin.
The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday, with tickets available at the front entrance (Adults $18, and kids under 15 $8).
11. Visit Eat Street Northshore
An absolute MUST visit for backpackers, Eat Street Northshore is the perfect place to enjoy some local music and live entertainment whilst digging into some incredible cuisine.
This outdoor foodie market is located just 15 minutes from Brisbane CBD and 12 mins from the international airport. It covers over several hectares of land and is built from 180 repurposed recycled shipping containers.
With over 70 traders/food stalls including 5 themed bars, eclectic shops and micro restaurants it offers a wide selection of delicious dishes and tasty treats from six of the world’s seven continents including Asia, Australia, Europe, North America and South America.
The venue is open on Friday, Saturday (from 4-10pm) & Sunday (from 4-9pm) and costs $5 to enter – regardless of whether you’re and adult or child.
So why not indulge your senses at Eat Street Northshore – we definitely did.
12. Stroll Along Fish Lane
This little hidden gem is a great thing to do in Brisbane, yet is often overlooked or unknown of given its secluded location.
When backpacking in Brisbane CBD, ensure to take a walk down Fish Lane as the sun goes down and make a visit to one of the nearby boutique restaurants or cafes – eg. the Saccharomyces Beer Café.
Named after George Fish who owned the very successful Fish Steam Laundry on the site in the 1940s, Fish Lane provides a great space to enjoy some of the Pacific Oceans’ freshest catches.
So why not take a break from exploring the city by enjoying a drink at one of Brisbane’s most indie and upcoming “watering” holes.
10 Epic Day Tours for Backpackers / Outdoor Enthusiasts
With so many unbelievably fun things to do in and around Brisbane, booking a tour can be one of the best ways to enjoy all that this incredible city has to offer.
Here is a list of some popular day tours and activities that you can check out in Brisbane.
Whilst in Brisbane, ensure to take in some of the most extreme views of the city with this harnessed safety climb of the iconic Story Bridge.
Climb in the heart of the day or enjoy a twilight assent that allows you to witness the city come to life as the sun dips below the horizon.
Moreton Island is a classic picture of sunny Australia, known for its pristine beaches and towering sand dunes.
This tour includes a full day tour of the island and the surrounding reefs in a glass bottom boat, as well as a variety of adventure activities, including kayaking, 4X4 dune driving, sand tobogganing and more.
My partner and I did this tour and despite the weather being atrocious, it was a really well run tour. It will allow you to do many of the most-popular island activities all in the one day.
This 1.5-hour tour is perfect for those wanting to take in Brisbane’s many impressive sites while also learning about the city’s dark past.
Walk amongst the city’s winding alleyways and learn about the hidden criminal history of Brisbane, from its early days as one of Australia’s first settlements – including infamous criminals and some of its more modern characters.
Located 30 kilometres southeast of the centre of Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island is a perfect trip for backpackers in Brisbane.
Enjoy a day filled with activities, including a hike along the famous Gorge Walk, awarded one of the most impressive coastal walks in Australia.
Visit the picturesque Brown Lake, Cylinder Beach, Point Lookout and Myora Springs while keeping an eye out for local wildlife like koalas or dolphins leaping from the water’s edge.
End the day with a fantastic view of the sunset while you ride the ferry back to Brisbane.
One of the most fun things to do in Brisbane, this action-packed tour which involves sailing from Brisbane to explore Moreton and Tangalooma Island on a day trip with lunch included.
Experience the best of Moreton Island and Tangalooma Resort on this day trip from Brisbane which involves:
- Snorkelling the Tangalooma Wrecks
- Enjoying a helicopter’s aerial look of the island
- A Scenic boat ride from Brisbane to Moreton Island
- Enjoy full access to the various pools, cafes, restaurants, bars, and the beach.
- Savour a bird’s eye view of Tangalooma and Moreton Island by helicopter.
This tour includes some of the best near-Brisbane activities and highlights within the one tour, so ensure to check it out below.
One of the best outdoor attractions for travellers and backpackers in Brisbane, this full-day tour allows you to explore the diverse rainforests of Springbrook and Tamborine national parks.
Admire beautiful waterfalls set in a natural forest, take a walk amongst the paths and admire towering rainforest trees as well as unique sites like the natural waterfall cave bridge.
This tour will provide you with a knowledgeable guide who will teach you about the famous glow worm caves at Cedar Creek, where you can watch thousands of these fascinating creatures in their natural habitat.
End your day with a walk through Australia’s fascinating subtropical rainforests and take in the breath-taking views of the iconic Curtis Falls.
Explore the stunning countryside past Brisbane’s hillside neighbourhoods on this tour that will have you exploring the quaint quiet countryside of the Blackall Mountain Range.
This full-day tour will have you enjoying a variety of unique sites like the stunning views of the Queensland coastline, then stop at the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Lookout for some of the most panoramic vistas of the countryside surrounding Brisbane.
Your small group tour will help you spot some of the coastline’s most scenic sights, like the beach town of Caloundra and the palm-lined trees of Bribie Island.
Arrive at the picturesque mountain town of Montville and explores its charming art markets and food quarters. Spend your free time admiring the breath-taking views and exploring the streets of this charming town that sits just outside the hustle and bustle of Brisbane.
One of the most unique ways to explore Brisbane’s numerous iconic sites, a 2.5 hour Segway tour will have you zipping along the greenways of the city as you explore the best it has to offer.
See iconic Brisbane sights like Story Bridge, Eagle Street Pier, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, Kurilpa Bridge, South Bank Parklands and the Goodwill Bridge, all the while receiving fascinating insight into the local history from your experienced guide.
By far one of the most unique Brisbane activities, this 5-hour whale-watching excursion is one of the best opportunities to spot the magnificent and barely seen humpback whale.
Board the state-of-the-art MV Eye Spy Catamaran and set sail from Brisbane as you watch the horizon for pods of migrating humpbacks while also spotting other marine creatures, including Dolphins, sharks and more.
Lounge on the deck in the sun and enjoy a pre-packed picnic as you marvel at the many amazing creatures of the South Pacific.
This fantastic tour will have you visiting the town of Maleny, perched high above the Sunshine Coast and shrouded in the shadow of the Glasshouse Mountains.
Explore the many renowned shops of Maleny and indulge in some of the best treats that Australia has to offer, with countless ice cream shops, boutiques and sweet stores to peruse.
After you’ve finished your free time in Maleny, take a leisurely stroll through the scenic rainforests to the impressive Kondalilla Falls where you can cool off with a swim in the natural rock pools and admire the remarkable sights surrounding you.
End your day with a drink and relax at the banana Bender hotel before beginning your journey back to Brisbane.
21 Fun Things to do in Brisbane for Backpackers & Outdoor Enthusiasts
No matter what you decide to do, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to fun things to do in Brisbane.
Whether as a solo backpacker exploring its many unique city centre sites, or as a group of friends hoping to enjoy one of the many fantastic tours available, this city is the jewel of Queensland for so many reasons.
Hopefully our tips have provided some greater guidance around some of the best Brisbane activities to enjoy while backpacking in the CBD, and inspiration around experiences to tick off your bucket list.
Happy travelling and remember, continue living life adventurously.