25 Things to Do With Out-of-Towners

By Daniel Colasimone
20th Dec 2013

It is the season for welcoming visitors from afar into our homes and cheerily offering them a bed, food, drink and entertainment. 

It is the season for staring at them blankly when they ask you what there is to do around town after they get bored sitting around your house for a day and a half. 

Never fear, we have come up with a list of 25 places to go and things to do in Brisbane that should be enough to keep any out-of-towner occupied for a good portion of their stay. 

Whether your guests are worldly sophisticates from some glamorous foreign locale or yokels from Bundaberg [Ed note: we can say that 'cause some of us are from Central Queensland], beautiful Brisbane offers up a plethora of diverse activities that we, as locals, should feel proud to recommend.

Here we aim to cover the tourist fundamentals (only the ones we think are actually worth endorsing, of course), plus a whole bunch of other suggestions that don't always appear on 'things-to-do' lists, but will hopefully give an insight into the Brisbane lifestyle. And yes, you're welcome to pretend you came up with all these ideas yourself.

Tourist Essentials

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Yep, it's totally cliché, but if you have foreign guests and you don't take them to hold a koala, feed the kangaroos and emus and watch the Tasmanian devils spin into mini tornadoes at the Lone Pine sanctuary, they will literally hate you and never come back for another visit. 

South Bank
Some cynical Brisbanites were a bit dismissive of the South Bank concept at first, but the area has really developed into an amiable place to tarry about in. There's a plethora of nice restaurants to choose from, and the artificial beach is pleasant to stroll around, even if you don't choose to dive in. To finish off an afternoon's sojourn, enjoy a cocktail at the classy Stokehouse, a wine at the fancy Ship Inn, or a beer at the rowdy Plough Inn.

Steam Train Sundays
This is such a simple, fantastic idea it's a wonder nobody thought of it sooner. Queensland Rail is running one-hour train journeys around Brisbane on selected Sundays, aboard beautifully restored vintage steam trains. Check this page for schedules and booking forms.

River City Cruises
For an overview of the city from a different perspective, you could try one of these 90 minute cruises along the river which depart from the Southbank Parklands. You'll get an enjoyable and comfortable guided tour of the sites from river level, and heaps of opportunities to take the kinds of pics that would look lovely as your Facebook cover photo.

Budget version: Brisbane's City Cats are not only a convenient form of public transport, they are also good fun.

Mount Coot-tha
When Nietzsche said, 'He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary,' he could have been referring to Mount Coot-tha, which is the highest peak in Brisbane, but he probably wasn't. It's worth taking guests up to the lookout to view the city from on high, just as the gods do. It's actually really pretty up there!

I've said it before on these pages, and I'll say it again now; the Gallery of Modern Art at Southbank is a Brisbane essential. It's a world-class gallery that you simply must visit.

While you're there: The rest of the Queensland Cultural Centre, which includes the Queensland Museum and the Queensland Art Gallery is also well worth a gander.


Sunday Accoustic Session at Little Brew
Fact: There is nothing more Brisbane than having a few cold drinks and listening to some chilled music in an outdoor setting on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Well, the laid-back hepcats at Little Brew contrive just such a scenario in Paddington for your enjoyment from 3pm every Sunday. It's called The Live Brew has been proven by Science to be the best way to wind down a weekend.

Things to do in Brisbane

Similar: For larger-scale Sunday music sessions, try the Normanby (festive), Oxford 152 (older crowd) or Watt Restaurant & Bar (river views). What, you want more ideas? Demanding! Here's a list we prepared earlier.

Catch a Game at Suncorp Stadium or the Gabba
Brisbane is blessed with two sensational sporting facilities in the Gabba, in Woolloongabba, and Suncorp Stadium in Milton. Both are just a few minutes from the city centre and are perfect arenas to witness first hand this city's obsession with sport. It all depends on the time of year of course, but the Gabba hosts cricket, both international and domestic, in the summer and Aussie Rules in the winter, while Suncorp is home to the Roar (football), the Broncos (rugby league) and the Reds (rugby union).

See a Band at the Zoo (and Listen to Them as Well)
The Zoo is a legendary venue in the heart of the Valley and the spiritual home of Brisbane's thriving alternative music scene. If you're into music, catching a gig at The Zoo is a must.

Alternative: Black Bear Lodge is a slightly more intimate venue in the Valley where you can get up close and personal with up-and-coming acts. 

Have a Flutter at Eagle Farm
If your guests are feeling a tad unproductive, take them to the track and let them turn their holiday into a profitable one. Just kidding guys, gambling should not be viewed as a feasible way to make money. It's just a really stimulating way to make lots of money in a short space of time... that feeling when your horse surges to the head of the field in the home straight... no, I mustn't go back to that dark place. Ahem. As I was saying, a day at the horse races is not about the gambling, it's about dressing up pretty, enjoying a drink in the sunshine and watching the beautiful thoroughbreds gallop around the track. Have a look at Brisbane Racing Club's website to see what events are coming up at Eagle Farm and Doomben.

Eat and Drink

Breakfast in Paddington
On Saturday and Sunday mornings the suburb of Paddington purrs with activity as gorgeous folk don their splashiest 'casual' morning clothes and shimmer into the various gourmet cafes along Latrobe Terrace. It's a scene worth experiencing, if not for the people watching (curve-emphasising cotton dresses, polo-stretching pecs, sculpted fringes, oh my!) than definitely for the lush food and vitality-boosting fresh coffee. Sassafras, Java Lounge, Anouk and Kettle & Tin are all superb, but there are numerous other equally satisfying options to check out. TUL has a million recommendations for breakfast in Paddo and other parts of town. View our picks of the suburb here

Hint: To avoid the crowds, hit up Latrobe on a weekday morning instead. 

Lunch With a Side of Shopping on James Street
The James Street district stands as proof that Brisbane has come a long way since its 'big country town' days when a man named Jo ruled Queensland like a feudal king. In those heady times, rather than dining out, people would stay home and eat boiled cabbage, fashion loitered 10 years behind the rest of Australia and 20 years behind the rest of the world, and the only form of diversion was watching It's a Knockout on television, since everything shut down at 5pm. Nowadays there is a thriving foodie culture, a strong local fashion scene and the Wheel of Brisbane. The first two of those three things can be experienced first hand on James Street in New Farm. Enjoy lunch at one of the numerous top-shelf restaurants and eateries (find a few of our favourites here) then, since you're in the area you might as well also browse the nearby designer stores, which you can find here

Things to do in Brisbane

Dinner and a Drink or Three in West End
One of Brisbane's edgiest suburbs, West End is a buzzing hive of hip cafes, bars and restaurants that is a bit more raw and unaffected than some of the other entertainment zones in town. Everything is clustered together within a few blocks as well, so realistically you could visit up to 20 locales in a single evening of revelry (we've already created this handy West End Bar Crawl Guide, just for this purpose). All right, maybe don't attempt that, but dinner at The Little Greek Taverna or Depo, for example, followed by a few alcoholic beverages at any of West End's funky drinking dens would certainly constitute a satisfyingly festive night out.  

Powerhouse Markets and Picnic in New Farm Park
The Urban List, like the first little piggy, is a big fan of going to market, and visitors to Brisbane should also enjoy experiencing the wide range of fresh, local products, tasty cuisines and all the other interesting stuff that can be found at Jan Power's Farmers Markets at the Powerhouse every second Saturday morning. Once you've eaten as much as you possibly can there, you can buy some more food and have yourself a little picnic in the adjacent New Farm Park, overlooking the river. 

Similar: There are markets all over town that run most days of the week. Just check out our Market Calendar each month for details.

Craft Beer and Wine Tastings
Every Thursday afternoon from 4:30, Craft holds free craft beer tastings at their Red Hill store. Every Friday afternoon from 4:30 they hold free wine tastings. What more do you need to know, really?

XXXX fans: Love it or loathe it, XXXX is one of Australia's most popular beers. To see where it's made, and sample some of the famous golden liquid, take a tour of the iconic XXXX Brewery in Milton. 

Steak at the Breaky Creek Hotel
Brisbane's best-known watering hole, the Breakfast Creek Hotel, has been around forever, and will probably still be around in thousands of years serving beers and hearty pub meals to whichever alien race is occupying the planet at the time. Aside from its uniquely Queensland ambiance, the Breaky Creek Hotel is worth visiting for its famous prime beef steaks.

Want more pub grub? Here's our guide to Brisbane's best pub food

BBQ at Kangaroo Point Cliffs
They provide the gas barbecues and the spectacular views, so all you need to bring are the sausages. Or prawns. Or tofu patties, or whatever it is you like to grill. This is one of the city's prime spots, without a doubt.

More Active Activities

Brisbane By Bicycle
As you might surmise from the name, these guys offer bike tours of the city in which small groups are shown the sights by a knowledgeable local guide. It's a brilliant way to get orientated, learn a bit about Brisbane and pick up heaps of insider tips on things to see and do. And no, it's not strenuous at all; in fact it's all very breezy and a great deal of fun. Check out their website here.

A River Runs Through It
Brisbane is called the 'River City' for a reason. That reason is that it has a large river, called the Brisbane River, running through the city. The river is nice to look at but it is also fun to do stuff on. Riverlife at Kangaroo Point is a convenient hub for a whole range of river-based activities, including paddle boarding, kayaking and rock climbing from the adjacent cliffs.  

A Game of Tennis at UQ
The facilities at the University of Queensland are not only of world-class standard, they are also cheap to hire out. If your friends or rellies like a game of tennis, hit up the tennis courts at the UQ Sports centre. Afterwards you can go for a stroll around the lovely university grounds, grab a coffee and chuckle at the stressed students.

Walking Trails
It would seem a shame not to take advantage of the relatively undisturbed natural beauty right on Brisbane's doorstep, and going on a relaxing walk or more energetic hike will let you and your guests take in some of our gorgeous flora and fauna at close proximity, while also getting a bit of exercise. For convenience, the cruisy trails on Mount Coot-tha are hard to beat, but there are a number of wonderful hiking tracks just a little further afield. 


Boggo Road Gaol Historical Tour
This infamous prison occupies a fascinating, if somewhat dark, place in Brisbane's history. What makes its story so captivating is that it goes right back to 1833 and stretches to the recent past, having only shut down in 2002. Brisbane residents were accustomed to hearing disturbing news reports emerging from Boggo Road through much of that history, with the 1980s especially being a time of great tumult behind the imposing red brick walls. These 90-minute tours allow visitors to soak in the eerie ambiance while listening to some of the juicier anecdotes about the jail's former residents.

If you're brave: There are night-time ghost tours available as well.

Barefoot Bowls on a Sunday
What started off as a bit of a fad (as far as younger folk are concerned, anyway) has endured in popularity long enough to now be called a tradition. Lawn bowls is technically a sport, so you get to be outdoors and active, but it's only barely active, so it doesn't require any actual effort or fitness. Bowls clubs have maintained 1970s beer prices as well, making this a very enticing Sunday afternoon pastime. Merthyr Bowls boasts a prime location overlooking the River, but you will need to book in advance for a weekend timeslot. Bardon Bowls is another good pick, and you can pick up a delicious coffee from Beans on the Green while you're there. 

Antiquing in Woolloongabba
Whether you actually want to buy something, or just have a gander, the Antique Centre in Woolloongabba is a fascinating place to while away the hours. It's perfect for getting your vintage kicks.

Grab a Pie and Head to the Yatala Drive-In
Mention the word 'Yatala' and a lot of Brisbanites will immediately start shouting, 'pies!' clapping their hands together and gleefully spinning around in circles. Pies are about the most 'Astrayan' food there is, and the Yatala Pies are recognised masters of this ancient art form. Once you've picked up your pie fix, catch a movie the old school way; at the Yatala Drive-In. As you're taking in the latest Hunger Games and skipping straight to third base with your partner, just remember; this is how your mum and dad used to do it.

Similar: More top pies here.

TUL Note: Hailing from the 'Paris of the South,' Bundaberg, Dan Colasimone is back in Brisbane after spending the better part of a decade living overseas. He also writes about sport. He once completed an Arts degree. Twitter: @ArgentinaFW

Image credit: Sky Movies, Geoffrey Zabell, Daniel Maddock

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