What to do in Brisbane

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What to do while in Brisbane for the HEIA 2021 conference

Whether you travel short or long distances to get to Brisbane, or even live here, make the most of your time in the Sunshine state. September marks the arrival of the lovely spring season, with temperatures averaging between an overnight low of 15'C and a daytime high of 25'C, with an average of nine hours sunshine each day and only a 17% chance of rain. Humidity is at its lowest in September, with warm sunny days tempered by cool sea breezes. Just the weather to enjoy what Brisbane has to offer, whether abseiling the Kangaroo Cliffs, enjoying a night at the theatre or doing some leisurely shopping and chatting over lunch. While the Visit Brisbane website provides a comprehensive list of things to do, the following have been handpicked for conference delegates and/or their families to consider; maybe for the family whilst you go conferencing?

Things to do within walking distances from the BCEC and Rydges Southbank

The Wheel of Brisbane, Southbank

An iconic landmark on the South Bank skyline, the Wheel of Brisbane is a breathtaking way to take in a 360-degree panoramic view of spectacular Brisbane city. Rising 60 metres above the ground you can enjoy the safety and comfort of a fully enclosed, air-conditioned gondola that seats up to 8 people and is fun for everyone. The Wheel is close to the Queensland Performing Arts Complex, but you can see it from many points at Southbank. Don’t forget the camera.
Southbank playground and swimming pool
If you have children, they might like the fabulous playground at Southbank; it has activities for small and older children. Or enjoy a swim at the Southbank Beach—two or three minutes from the playground, where the young ones can swim in the large pool, with the shallower area cordoned off for little ones, or they can play in the many water fountains and rock pools.
GOMA (Gallery of Modern Art), Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Museum
These cultural icons form part of the Queensland Cultural Centre, with the theatre complex on the same side of Melbourne Street as Rydges, and the museums and galleries on the other side (there is a foot bridge with a lift to get you over the busy road).
If you don’t select The soul trembles as a conference site visit, be sure to stroll over to the Gallery of Modern Art to check out this incredible ‘threads’ exhibition—Brisbane is the only Australian gallery showing it. Also on at GOMA at the same time as the conference are the free Gordon Bennett Unfinished business exhibition, William Yang’s Seeing and being seen, and at the GOMA Children’s Art Centre, the Now is the time exhibition.
At the Queensland Art Gallery there are a number of free exhibitions such as those showcasing indigenous Australian art—for example, Shirley McNamara’s DYINALA, NGANINYA unique sculptural pieces crafted from the spinifex plant and its runner roots; or the INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIAN ART COLLECTION: NAMATJIRA STORY, as well as the permanent international collection.
At the Queensland Museum (Level 1), SparkLab, an interactive science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) space, is ideal for 6 to 13-year olds. They can explore 40 interactive exhibits across three zones and discover how STEM affects the everyday world. A lot of fun for all ages. They can see live experiments at the Science Bar and get hands on at the Maker Space, designing and creating a solution to a challenging question. We highly recommend you purchase tickets ($10 to $15) in advance, particularly during school holiday peak times.
Our friendly Greeters are proud and passionate volunteers who are keen to share Brisbane’s stories, show you some great spots and introduce you to our vibrant city. The Brisbane Greeters daily Greeter’s Choice is a popular choice, available 10am daily and can be booked up to 3 hours in advance. It departs from the Brisbane City Hall (King George Square entrance, Adelaide or Ann Streets) and runs for up to four hours. Bookings are essential—no walk-ups. Your Greeter will take you on a fascinating journey around the parts of Brisbane they love the best.

Want to have a look around?

Mt Coot-Tha Lookout

Drive or take a share-ride to Mt Coot-tha Lookout, about 10 minutes from the city centre/Southbank. At the lookout there are telescopes to get close up to iconic places.
Open seven days a week located in the heart of Brisbane city, Roma Street Parkland is an oasis of designer gardens and sprawling lawns that wind around 16 hectares of stunning parkland. There are guided walking tours (check times) or take a trackless train ride; there is a cafe, BBQ and picnic areas, and a playground. About a 30-minute walk from Southbank, or 7-minute share-ride or take the bus from the Cultural Centre bus station.
Take a CityCat ferry ride heading downstream to Northshore
Hop on at Southbank (or anywhere along the route) and buy a 2-zone ticket (about $6 for 2 hours) to go downstream to Northshore. Travel past the Kangaroo Cliffs, Botanical Gardens, past the CBD, under the iconic Story Bridge and on past upmarket homes and apartments. Stop off at any point that appeals to you—for example, hop off at Eagle Street Pier (CBD) for a bite to eat or a drink from one of the many fashionable cafes and restaurants. The New Farm stop gives you the opportunity to go to lovely New Farm Park (rose garden and great children’s playground) or visit the on-trend Powerhouse for a look around this (also on-trend) arts complex and where you can catch a wine, coffee or lunch as you let the Brisbane River life go by. Want more? Carry on to Brett’s wharf terminal, Portside Wharf shops and cafes are only a short 15min walk from the terminal (not huge though). Your two hours might have run out and you will have to buy another ticket, but you don’t have to get off when you arrive back at Southbank. Keep going upstream to The University of Queensland, cruising past some of Brisbane’s leafy suburbs.
Free City Hopper ferry ride
Hop on at Southbank Terminal 3 and head downstream to Sydney Street. Totally free, glide past the Maritime Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the CBD, and the Story Bridge. Just stay on and come back again, about a 90-minute round trip. Try to get the ferry with the upper deck for good views. You can hop off at any stop but not much to do at most except at the Maritime Museum and Eagle Street Pier (CBD); or hop off at Thornton Street and make your way to the iconic Story Bridge Hotel for a wine, coffee or lunch.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Take the HEIA group tour on Saturday 26 September and cruise along the river to this famous sanctuary where you can cuddle koalas, feed kangaroos and much more —see the HEIA tour information. Or you might prefer to take the bus or share-ride to Lone Pine—about a 15–20-minute share-ride journey.

Want to be active?

The weather should be great for some activity.

Walk, scoot or cycle the boardwalk from Southbank to Kangaroo Point Cliffs
Get into e-scooting (or walking if scooting isn’t your thing)—public electric scooters are everywhere within the inner city (there are two companies that operate them—Lime and Neuron). You just load the app and the app will direct you to the closest scooter, which comes complete with helmet. It costs about $1 to unlock it and 38cents per minute to ride. And when you have had enough, just park it wherever you are, and log off. Try scooting or walking from the Rydges end of Southbank along the boardwalk to the cafes and restaurants at the other end (just abandon the scooter and pick up another when ready to move on); or go a bit further to the Maritime Museum. Still having fun? Keep walking or scooting along to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. And if you want to give your glutes a work out, climb the 107 stairs to the top of the cliffs and relax and enjoy the view from the Cliffs Café at the top. Otherwise turn around and head back home—or walk or scoot just a little bit further to Thornton Street ferry stop, abandon your scooter if you have one (that’s how it works) and take the free City Hopper ferry back to Southbank. All up, from Rydges to Thornton Street is about a 30-minute walk, with plenty of picnic spots along the way. Don't forget to read the instructions on each of the apps before utilizing any of the scooters.
The Story Bridge is Brisbane’s most iconic structure and the best way to see Brisbane is by climbing it! Experience a unique perspective of the city and its surrounds, from the Glass House Mountains in the north to Moreton Bay in the east and stretching towards the Scenic Rim Mountains in the south, along with the best views of the Brisbane skyline and its surrounds. There are day, twilight and night climbs and some optional add-ons—like walking the plank whilst up there! Children must be at least six years old.

From Southbank, walk along the boardwalk (about 20–30 minutes) to Riverlife, or take the free City Hopper from Southbank 3 terminal and get off at Thornton Street, 2 stops away). At Riverlife you can go kayaking, abseil or climb the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, take a 2-hour tour on an electric URB-e or a Segway, or take the Deluxe Dining Urb-E tour, where you travel on an Urb-E to the revitalised and place-to-be Howards Smith Wharves for lunch. It is a one-way trip so you can stay as long as you like!

Want to do some shopping?

Large shopping complexes

Large Westfield-style centres abound, with Indooroopilly Shopping Centre probably the closest to the city of the large ones, but don’t forget Westfield Carindale, Westfield Garden City (Upper Mounts Gravatt) and Westfield Chermside. The closest is probably Toowong Village, a lot smaller than the others but has David Jones, K-Mart and Coles, and has mainly independent retailers rather than chain stores.
Brisbane CBD
Queen Street Mall is the main shopping area in the CBD, and apart from the shops and other services on the Mall, includes three complexes: Queens Plaza (centres around David Jones and some luxury stores such as Tiffany and Chanel); The Myer Centre, which centres around Myer and a myriad of smaller independent and chain stores of all descriptions over four floors; and the Wintergarden with over 60 speciality stores over three levels (check our Dinasaur Designs, lovely stuff). There are also arcades such as the Brisbane Arcade, renowned for its designer fashion, shoes and jewellery as well as Kerri Craig Emporium that does a beautiful high tea (the HEIAQ retirees meet there every year for a catch-up high tea). If you want to go upmarket, head for Edward Street (at the Queens Plaza end of the Mall), one of Brisbane City's most sophisticated fashion hot spots. From international brands to independent boutiques, the precinct is a prime destination to find sought-after and unique fashion. Men's designer stores including Mitchell Ogilvie, Ermenegildo Zegna, Rhodes & Beckett and Canali, and for bespoke tailoring head to The Cloakroom. Female fashionistas can enjoy an equally exciting selection of international labels and specialist boutiques with Gucci and Longchamp, as well as the stylish designs of local brand The 400 Co., and make-up from local Issada. For unique gifts and jewellery, make a beeline for Showroom or luxury stores Montblanc, Paspaley, Cartier, Hermes, Georg Jensen, Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo and Tag Heuer.

James St has staked a claim as Brisbane’s, and Australia’s, foremost retail and lifestyle precinct. Having emerged organically from its inner-city industrial roots, the street and surrounding area has evolved into a high energy urban retail pocket. The precinct features a curated mix of over 130 specialty stores, including an impressive range of design showrooms and fashion boutiques, award-winning restaurants and cafes, in addition to art galleries, design havens and grooming emporiums. Playing home to some of Australia’s favourite designers, the precinct attracts those seeking a design-forward retail experience in a leafy outdoor urban setting. An easy bus ride or share ride from the Cultural Centre or the city, James Street is within easy reach of Southbank and the CBD. Within walking distance are Emporium, and two Home Centres

Looking for somewhere to catch up for lunch or dinner?

In the areas surrounding BCEC and Rydges Southbank there are a myriad of eating options. Within Southbank Parklands, Southbeach Social has a lovely casual setting overlooking the Southbank beach, the river and the city skyline. Or walk along the boardwalk at Southbank and head to the far end to find a selection of elegant options such as Stokehouse and Aquatine as well as the slightly more casual The Jetty. Along Stanley Street, there are options galore from a range of ethnic choices to (on parallel Grey Street), Emporium’s 5-star Belle Epoque or Rooftop Terrace. If you want to venture further, try Howard Smith Wharves under the Story Bridge, Brisbane’s newest waterfront dining precinct where these revitalised wharves boast a range of eating options, whether it’s sipping champagne as you overlook the river, having pizza or fish and chips with the family, or enjoying the delights of some of Australia’s most respected chefs and restaurateurs, there will probably be something there for you to enjoy. Or head to James Street in Fortitude Valley where there are plenty of great options such as the Cru Bar, Harveys, Hellenika and Bucci as well as heaps of coffee shops that serve light meals. If you are free Friday, Saturday or Sunday, check out Eat Street, North Shore, on the river at Hamilton Wharf, where 180 dining and entertainment shipping containers add a blazing coloured landmark to the Brisbane & South East Queensland dining and entertainment scene offering over 70 vendors who create delicious dishes from all over the world. Either take the CityCat from Southbank to Northshore Hamilton Ferry Terminal or take a share-ride. Plus of course, check out all the options that have been put together for you in the conference Dine around—apart from your Dine-around choice, there are great ideas for other days whilst in Brisbane.

Going to the theatre

More shows will probably be announced closer to the conference, but currently advertised at Queensland Performing Arts Complex (right by BCEC and Rydges Southbank) are Queensland Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty, Julia Morris I’m not even joking, and Real classics, which is only on Sunday 27 September at 11 am. The Brisbane Arts Theatre is showing children’s shows Garfield—The musical with Cattitude and Peter Rabbit.

Explore outside of Brisbane

Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast offers the best of both worlds: hinterland and mountains perfect for hiking and stunning shorelines and beaches that belong on a postcard.See below a list of key attractions and activities to add to your itinerary.

Australia Zoo
Web: australiazoo.com.au
Phone: +61 7 5436 2020
Address: 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah

There’s never a dull moment at Australia Zoo as you encounter non-stop free wildlife action and entertainment daily. Hand feed our kangaroos, pat baby animals at our Kids Zoo, or meet our roving animals such as our baby alligators, birds and koalas!

Aussie World
Web: aussieworld.com.au
Phone: +61 7 5494 5444
Address: 73 Frizzo Road, Palmview

With so many thrilling rides and attractions on offer, Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast is a fun day out for the entire family. If you’re looking for thrills and excitement then you will find it all right there!

The Original Eumundi Markets

Web: eumundimarkets.com.au

Phone: +61 7 5442 7106

Address: 80 Memorial Drive, Eumundi

Renowned for its locally made artisan treasures, there’s no other market quite like it. Mark it in your diary – open rain, hail or shine every Saturday and Wednesday. The Original Eumundi Markets is the biggest and the best art and craft market in Australia.

Gold Coast

The Gold Coast, famous for its long sandy beaches and diverse entertainment precinct, is located a short 50 minute drive south of Brisbane. Home to stunning hinterland, mountains, vineyards and shorelines, the Gold Coast also offers unique tourist experiences and theme parks.

Warner Bros. Movie World

The only movie theme park in Australia, Warner Bros. Movie World is for those seeking adventure, excitement and most of all: thrill rides. Fun can be had by all with family rides, theme shows and many entertainment acts!

Sea World

The Gold Coast’s most beloved marine park, Sea World, offers a unique experience for guests to connect with marine life in an up-close and personal way. Watch dolphins perform, meet polar bears and penguins and get too close for comfort to a variety of sharks in the Shark Bay! The theme park also includes rides and animal adventures, for those seeking an extra experience.

Wet 'n' Wild

The perfect day out in the sun, Wet ‘n’ Wild waterpark offers guests an exhilarating experience with their series of water slides and pools. Perfect for the family, the theme park offers rides for all ages and levels of fun-seeking.

Outback Spectacular

If you’re interested in Australian culture, you won’t want to miss the Australian Outback Spectacular: an Australiana dinner and show package which features Australian animals, songs and food.