10 free things to do in Brisbane

January 29, 2014
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Brisbane was until very recently the perpetual bronze medal winner in the contest of Australia’s best city. It was considered slightly less fun and less cultured than its neighbours to the south… until the latest Australian edition of Lonely Planet named BrisVegas the country’s coolest city. Those who live there are now being told what they’ve always known: Queensland’s capital is a burgeoning art hub full of awesome boutiques and fun things to do. Lucky for the broke students, some of those awesome things are also free. Here’s a guide to the top 10 things to do in Brisbane during February and March that don’t cost a penny.

Markets galore

You can hardly move on a weekend in Brisbane without finding yourself lost in a market maze. While most of them are free to enter, you might find yourself tempted to get your wallet out when you see what’s on offer. Head to Suitcase Rummage (the first Sunday of every month) for vintage clothes, jewellery and nic-nacky things. Night birds can opt for the West End Twilight markets on the fourth Saturday of every month for a bit of evening shopping. If it’s yummy things that you’re after, then Jan Power’s Powerhouse Famers Markets are held at various locations throughout the week.


Queensland Gallery of Modern Art

This South Bank gallery is pretty amazing. You’ll have to buy a ticket to get into featured exhibitions, but it also has a lot of exhibitions that are free to the public. The QAGOMA (now that’s an acronym!) has quality free content on show from different painters, printmakers, sculptors, and interactive artists from January through to March this year.

A Night by the Fire

Grab a cup of tea, gather round the fire and listen to some Aboriginal poets, hip hop artists, and speakers as they share stories for an hour at the Talking Circle.  These events at the State Library of Queensland are eclectic in flavour but they all focus on Aboriginal storytelling. They’re held in the evenings a few times per month, but check the website first as they fall on random dates.

Riverside cycling

Brisbane is understandably proud of its river, so grab a bike and trundle along the banks of the river on the New Farm to Teneriffe cycle path. It’s a 6km return ride along the river, which winds through an ex-convict farm, racecourse and the old Powerhouse. Half-way along you’ll find yourself at a fig tree fortress playground, which should be enough to get your inner-child off the bike and up the tree.  Not only will cycling cost nothing (assuming you own a bike or can beg/borrow/steal one) but it’s a beautiful, active and quick way to see the city.

Image: mustdobrisbane.com

The Brisbane Botanic Gardens

Not only are do these Mt Coot-tha gardens have a bounty of free events, such as walking tours, mini bus tours, story time for kids, and jazz on Sunday afternoons, they’re also just really pretty. Chill out there for a few hours and enjoy the fact that nature and its goodness is totally free.

Beach bum goodness

It’s no secret that Queensland is known for its beaches. If you’re baking in the northern heat, then head to one of Brissy’s sandy destinations. The beaches that are close to the city often have gentle surf conditions, except for Pinkenba. This beach at the mouth of the river is where surfers catch waves off incoming cruise liners (seriously). This means there’s a risk of rips and sharks there, so it’s not really one for the casual tourist. Try Suttons beach or Margate instead.

Free dance classes at Empire Swing

As the sun sets, head to buzzing Southbank for a free swing dance class until March 1. Experts are there to teach you dance moves from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. Classes are free and open to dancers of all skill levels – from cha-cha-cha pro through to somebody with two very left feet. Classes run for half an hour and are followed by social dancing to classic swing music.

Image: visitsouthbank

BrisAsia festival

This festival is dedicated toward "celebrating Brisbane-Asia connections” and lasts for the month of February. If you’re lucky enough to be in Brisbane sometime in that month, head along to some of their free events. These range from Tai Chi Qigong classes in various parks, martial arts demonstrations, and paper lantern making workshops.

Boondall Wetlands Reserve

If you need a break to feel the serenity, the Boondall Wetlands Reserve really is the place. It’s free, easy to get to, open seven days, and has great walks, cycling tracks, picnic spots, and even birding (if watching birds is really what you’re into). You can also do a free guided walk with a volunteer, hire a canoe (not for free) or just bask in nature.

Sunday afternoon movies at SLIQ

If you’re enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning and need a free way to extend your snoozy mood, then the State Library of Queensland hosts free movies every Sunday afternoon at 2pm. Each month, the library picks a different theme that ties in with one of their exhibitions and, in a nice moment of democracy, they also allow viewers to vote for which movies they want to see through Twitter.

Kate Lyons

Kate Lyons is University of Sydney Alumni and writes for The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Daily Life. She is a former editor of student publication, BULL, and blogs at katelyons.net.

Hero image: qagoma.qld.gov.au