Brisbane with Kids: 12 Top Things to Do
Straddling the Brisbane River, the sunny capital of Queensland offers an exciting array of adventures for kids of all ages, and many of the activities are free. A prime one-stop destination for family fun is South Bank, on the banks of the Brisbane River. The cultural precinct here is home to the excellent ScienCentre, Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery, and Gallery of Modern Art, with fun exhibits for children and plenty of hands-on activities. Kids can even ride the Wheel of Brisbane here for spectacular views over the city. Thanks to Brisbane's year-round sunshine and mild subtropical climate, outdoor adventures abound, from kayaking and stand up paddleboarding on the Brisbane River and biking along the waterfront to picnics in one of Brisbane's many lush gardens or parks. And if your little ones are avid animal lovers, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the perfect place to get up close to some of Australia's most lovable creatures.
1 Cuddle a Koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Cuddling a koala is on the wish list of most critter-loving kids, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary offers this fun experience as well as other rewarding animal encounters. About 20 minutes from the city center, Lone Pine is the largest koala sanctuary in the world, with more than 130 of these cute marsupials clinging to the trees in natural settings. For an extra fee, you can score a one-on-one koala cuddle or hold a snake or a bird of prey, such as an owl or eagle-all with a special photo opportunity. Kids also love hand-feeding the kangaroos, holding baby chickens and guinea pigs in the barnyard, and feeding the wild lorikeets. More than 90 other species of native Australian wildlife also live at the park, including platypuses, emus, wallabies, and dingoes, and live shows round out the attractions. A fun way to arrive here with the kids is aboard the Miramar on a Koala and River Cruise, which leaves from Brisbane's Cultural Centre Pontoon every morning. You can also catch a bus from the city center.
Address: 708 Jesmond Road, Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland
2 Cruise along the Brisbane River
Sightseeing with kids is fun when you're cruising down the Brisbane River. Snaking through the suburbs and coiling around the CBD, the river hosts several family-friendly cruises that offer children and adults a unique perspective of Brisbane's top attractions and natural features. Along the way, you can see landmarks such as Kangaroo Point Cliffs, the Story Bridge, historic buildings, soaring high-rises, and even colonies of fruit bats clustered in the riverbank mangroves. One of the most popular cruises for kids is the Miramar Cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which departs from the Cultural Centre Pontoon in the city and includes informative narration and entry to the sanctuary. River City Cruises depart from the South Bank Parklands and offer sightseeing cruises with commentary along the way; fishing cruises; and combination tickets, which include a morning cruise, a ride on the Wheel of Brisbane, and lunch. If you prefer a self-guided tour with a little more flexibility, you can also ride a CityCat and download an audio tour with information on all the sights. A free option is the CityHopper ferry service, which travels along the Brisbane River, stopping at top spots such as South Bank 3 and the Maritime Museum, or for a more historical feel, kids might also enjoy a cruise up the river on an old paddle wheeler.
3 Ignite your Imagination at the ScienCenter
Level one of the Queensland Museum is dedicated to the ScienCentre, a fun collection of interactive exhibits that keep busy brains buzzing. Children can spend hours here learning about their body by taking their vital statistics; engaging in activities related to weight, space, time, sound, and energy; figuring out puzzles; and discovering how things work at the action stations. Bring your camera for fun photos of the kids in the optical illusions corner. Many of the activities are aimed at older children, but little ones will find plenty to keep them busy as well. You can purchase tickets to the museum on the second floor of the Queensland Museum.
Address: Corner of Grey & Melbourne Streets, South Bank, South Brisbane, Queensland
4 Discover Dinosaur Skeletons at the Queensland Museum
Dinosaur skeletons, giant squid, fossils, shells, and live stick insects: kids can get up close to these and more at the Queensland Museum in South Bank. The museum unveils the history of Queensland, with exhibits on the state's culture, ecosystems, science, and human achievement. Interactive activities keep little hands busy. Other favorite exhibits include Lost Creatures, with giant marine reptiles and megafauna, the Discovery Centre, and exhibits on Queensland's aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures. Best of all, the permanent exhibitions are free. Don't miss the Sciencenter on the first floor.
Address: Corner of Grey & Melbourne Streets, South Bank, South Brisbane, Queensland
5 Run Wild at Roma Street Parkland
At the playgrounds in Roma Street Parkland, kids can soar on the swings, clamber up walls, and zoom down the slides under the shade of towering fig trees. Replete with water features and winding paths, this gorgeous 39-acre city park is the perfect place for a picnic. It also hosts one of the country's finest contemporary display gardens,with vibrant color-themed flower beds and mass plantings of subtropical species such as palms and bamboo. Kids also love the herb and vegetable garden. A fun way to explore the park with little ones is aboard the Parkland Explorer, a trackless train with guided narration along the way. The train usually operates Wednesday to Friday from 10am to 12.30pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 10am to 3pm, with extended hours during the school holidays. Free guided walks are another fun way to learn about the park's history and horticulture. Tell the kids to keep an eye out for water dragons, friendly lizards that dart among the lush foliage.
Address: 1 Parkland Blvd, Brisbane, Queensland
6 Ride the Wheel of Brisbane
Kids and adults alike can enjoy spectacular views of the city from heights of almost 60 meters aboard the Wheel of Brisbane at South Bank. Opened in 2008, this giant wheel takes you on a 10- to 12-minute ride with 360-degree views across the city skyline and the Brisbane River. Guided narration tells you about the sights far below, and you can ride the wheel during the day or enjoy a different perspective at night, when the lights of Brisbane glitter far below. Thanks to the fully-enclosed, air-conditioned gondolas, even small children can admire the views without being too scared by the heights.
Address: Cultural Forecourt, The Parklands, South Bank, Brisbane, Queensland
7 Hunt for Treasure at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha
Water dragons, birds, and native bees are just some of the critters kids might discover on a treasure hunt along the Hide 'n' Seek Children's Trail in the Exotic Rainforest at Brisbane Botanic Gardens in Mount Coot-tha. These 128-acre gardens, a few kilometers from the CBD, are wonderland for budding botanists, with beautiful lily ponds, a bonsai house, Japanese gardens, rustling groves of bamboo, a fern house, tropical rainforest, aboriginal plant trail, and plenty of prickly cactus. Kids will also love the scented garden. Pick up the handouts at the entrance for activities to keep the kids entertained while you explore the gardens. Free guided walking tours and minibus tours are available, but everything is well sign posted, so you can take a self-guided tour and identify different species along the way. After exploring the gardens, relax with a picnic on the sprawling lawn while the kids burn off steam at the playground. Admission to the botanic gardens is free.
Address: Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong, Queensland
8 Stargaze at Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium
On the grounds, of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium is a fun destination for up-and-coming astronomers and curious kids of all ages. The planetarium displays fascinating exhibits, including a life-size replica of Neil Armstrong's Apollo spacesuit, images from the Hubble Space Telescope, and interactive exhibits of the Milky Way and the moon, among others. The excellent shows in the Cosmic Skydome, a projection dome measuring 12.5 meters in diameter, feature topics such as cosmic collisions, moons, and black holes. The presentations usually finish with a guided tour of the Brisbane night sky by an experienced astronomer. Admission to the planetarium is free, but you need to purchase a ticket for the planetarium shows.
Address: Mount Coot-Tha, Toowong, Brisbane, Queensland
9 Create a Masterpiece at QAGOMA Children's Art Centre
At the Children's Art Center in QAGOMA (Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art) in South Bank, children can see world-class art and then use it as inspiration to create their own masterpieces in an activity center within the gallery. Multi-media activities supervised by experienced artists are themed around the current exhibits, such as Japanese gardens, sculpture, and hat designing. Artists of all ages can join in the fun activities, which can include everything from creating dance videos to making origami animals and shadow puppets. The activities change every eight weeks, and entry is free.
Address: GOMA Stanley Place, South Brisbane, Queensland
10 Curl up with a Storybook at The Corner
Peek through the glass walls next to the cafe at the State Library of Queensland in South Bank, and you'll see happy children working on puzzles, dressing up, playing with puppets, and reading books. Brisbane parents and visitors head to this much-loved reading and activity nook to keep their little ones busy - especially on rainy days. This sunken, glass-walled space is jam-packed with books, puzzles, art and craft materials, and dress-ups. The activity themes change every few months and have included everything from Where the Wild Things Are to Outer Space. Free performances take place here during school holidays featuring local musicians and actors. The Corner is for kids under eight years. Children must be supervised at all times, but friendly staff are on hand to help and tidy up.
Address: Cultural Precinct, Stanley Place, South Bank, South Brisbane
11 Kayak, Abseil, Climb, or Cycle with Riverlife Adventure Centre
If you're looking for active adventures to keep older kids entertained, the Riverlife Adventure Centre is the ideal Brisbane city destination. Daytime adventures include guided kayak tours on the Brisbane River, stand up paddleboarding, and rock climbing and abseiling at the Kangaroo Point cliffs. You can also rent scooters, roller blades, and bikes and and enjoy a scenic ride on the inner city bikeway. Kids need to be at least eight years old, except for the Segway adventures and nighttime activities, which require a minimum age of 12 years. You'll find Riverlife Adventure Centre at Kangaroo Point on the Brisbane River in the heart of the city.
Address: Naval Stores, Lower River Terrace, Kangaroo Point, Queensland
12 Bounce on a Trampoline
Kids need to burn energy every day, and one of the best ways to do this is bouncing on a trampoline. Brisbane has two indoor trampoline centers where kids can jump and bounce for hour-long sessions while parents relax in the on-site cafe (or bounce alongside the kids). About 12 kilometers from the CBD, Bounce, Inc. has more than 50 interconnected trampolines with giant airbags. Add wall-running areas and dodgeball courts to the mix, and you have a rainy day wonderland for wiggly kids aged three and older. Also about 12 kilometers from the CBD, Sky Zone has a similar setup as well as a three-story laser tag arena. Make sure you book online well in advance of your visit.
Address: 544, Kessels Road, Macgregor, Brisbane, Queensland