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Southbank is an incredible part of Brisbane city that offers so much to see and do. It is home to the Brisbane Cultural Centre which houses the Museum of Queensland, the Art Gallery, and various theatre companies. It is easy to make a day out of your visit to Southbank as there is so much more to explore and see while you are there. This post will tell you all the best things to see and do on your visit.
The Queensland Museum
The Queensland Museum is at the heart of the Brisbane cultural centre and is free for general entry. It’s permanent exhibitions are largely based on the natural wonders and history in Queensland. There are also plenty of temporary exhibits and events, some of which are ticketed.
We love visiting Museums, but also find that it is a good idea to have a time limit of about 2 hours. Anything over that and we find it hard to take in all the information.
The Queensland Museum has a great shop attached to it which would be perfect for a quirky gift or souvenir.
Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art
These two galleries are located right next door to each other. Both are free to enter and both are worth a visit. The Queensland Art Gallery is a little bit larger and is your more traditional sort of art gallery. The Queensland Gallery of Modern Art is smaller and quirkier.
They also both have ticketed visiting exhibits and events. The Gallery of Modern Art includes a small cinematheque which shows foreign and art house films, most of which are free (but still require tickets).
Check the website for upcoming events and for cinema tickets.
Queensland Performing Arts Centre
QPAC has a good variety of shows playing at all times. Shows vary and include shows for families and kids. We took Lala to see Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox while we were there and she loved it.
The QPAC Building had a variety of wings painted on the walls for selfies and an old painted piano which anyone can play. After the show we were able to explore the rest of what Southbank had to offer.
Inner City Beach
The man made beach at Southbank is one of our favourites on a hot day. Complete with sand and life guards the beach is free for anyone to use.
Beautifully made and manicured, it is half beach and half pool. It offers views across the river, lifeguards on duty and there is shelter and tables so you could bring a picnic. Nearby is also a water playground with streams of water jetting at different intervals. The kids will be screaming happily running away from jets of water for hours. Lala would happily play here all day, but can be tempted to move on by the awesome playground that is also nearby.
The playground includes a number of different play areas suiting different age groups from toddlers through to tweens.
Cafes and Restaurants
There is a huge variety of restaurants, cafes and dining options at the cultural precinct in Brisbane. Grey Street is lined with restaurants of all kinds or there is a market-style pavilion with outdoor chairs and tables close to the beach.
There are cheap movies in Brisbane, we go every time we are there. At the Cineplex Cinema at Southbank it is only $8.50 per adult ticket while kids are $5.50. Prices can vary depending on the film and when it is watched, but it is always cheap. You can check the latest films, sessions and pricing on the Cineplex website.
The Brisbane Sign
Located opposite from the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, next to the Brisbane River, the Brisbane sign is a great spot to meet friends and take a photo. It lights up at night but I must admit it is almost impossible to get a photo of it without someone you don’t know standing in front of it.
The whole Southbank area is beautiful to walk around. It includes a rainforest boardwalk which loops around a manicured rainforest display. Many of the plants have name tags and you can spot a number of birds scratching around below the boardwalk. It is all fed by reclaimed water and there is an educational display telling you all about it.
Nepalese Peace Pagoda
The rainforest boardwalk leads to the Nepalese Peace Pagoda which was Nepal’s contribution to the World Expo in 1988. It is a beautiful structure with intricate wood carving which is the perfect addition to the Cultural Centre precinct in Brisbane.
The Wheel of Brisbane
Southbank is also home to the Wheel of Brisbane – a huge Ferris Wheel offering views of the whole city.
I had to practice deep breathing as we went higher and higher. I never quite realised I was scared of heights and definitely felt a bit of a panic when Lala wanted to stand up near the edge (even though it was completely enclosed and safe). The Brisbane Eye is $21 per adult and $14.50 per child or you can buy a family pass for $62 (2 adults, 2 children). It did provide great views over the city and a recording told you what you could see as you cycled around the wheel. It lasted for about 15 minutes. (I was fine as long as Lala was sitting down.)
You can purchase tickets from a booth next to the wheel itself or you can save 5% by buying them online in advance.
The Collective Market
The Collective Market operates on weekends at Southbank’s Cultural Centre in Brisbane. You can combine a visit to the markets with any of the other suggestions in this list. As well as operating on Saturday and Sunday, it is also open on Friday and Saturday evenings until 9pm.
Southbank Amphitheatre and River Quay Green
Head to Southbank on a Sunday afternoon and you will find free music in the Amphitheatre between 2 and 5pm. Check the event guide with the latest upcoming acts.
Explore Brisbane River
The City Hopper Ferry is a free ferry service that operates in the central business area of Brisbane, including Southbank and the Brisbane Cultural Centre. Brisbane also has the City Cat which is a paid ferry service that operates as a part of their public transport system. You can hop on the City Cat if you want to go a bit further down the river.
There is also the option to do a river cruise tour of the Brisbane River which is excellent value at approximately $30 per person.
Boardwalks, Bridges and Cycle Paths
The walk and cycle paths along the Brisbane River at Southbank are popular with the locals for a run, walk or bike ride. There are a few bridges that connect Southbank to the Brisbane CBD so it is easy to do a loop walk.
It is also possible to do a Segway tour from Southbank’s walking and cycling paths. If you prefer you can hire an electric scooter in Brisbane, you will spot coloured scooters scattered around the city. Download the App and you can hire one wherever you find it and leave it wherever you like.
As you can see there is plenty to keep you busy in the Brisbane Cultural Centre and Southbank, but there is even more to see in the greater Brisbane area. Have a look at my post on Affordable Family Day Trips from Brisbane. Or have a look at my other Queensland posts on Winton and Cairns.