Brisbanites are very, very lucky. And just a tad spoilt. Well, so say my friends in my homeland of New Zealand, anyway, who envy us for our climate and lifestyle, amongst other things.
Brisbane is an underrated little paradise, particularly for families with active children looking to get outside, do fun stuff and have wonderful experiences.
There are few places in the world that have stunning summers so conducive to swimming and splashing about, and winters so mild that it’s perfectly OK to sit and bask in the sunshine in t-shirts and shorts.
Families here have no shortage of entertainment at their feet. There is simply so much to do, see and experience, and yet so many people I know have not discovered the lion’s share of their city at all.
In fact, it can sometimes take a wee tourist like me to spark up the interest and pique the curiosity. So let’s see if I can do for you what I’ve done for my friends, and ignite some newfound passion and inspiration into exploring our gorgeous city.
Here are my top 10 picks for fun family days out in Brisbane…
Walkabout Creek Wildlife Centre and Bushwalk
This gem is situated a mere 12kms from the city centre, but when you arrive you feel as though you are far, far away from the madding crowd.
Part of D’Aguilar National Park and overlooking the Enoggera Reservoir, this beaut little destination is a perfect getaway for families who want a day out without the big drive. There is a small but very cool wildlife centre and the entry fee is minimal.
You can then mosey on down to the picturesque lake (pack a picnic!) and if you are game, swim or kayak in the scenic lake. It’s free, and it feels like you are at summer camp in the USA! Or at least that’s how I would imagine it to be (not Camp Crystal Lake, though — no Jason Voorhees here).
There are also a couple of amazing bushwalks that are child and even pram friendly (for the most part, anyway, with only a few steps in the flatter of the two walks).
Honestly, this is a fabulous place to burn off some energy, soak up some Vitamin D and get amongst nature in our own backyard!
Mt Coot-tha Plantarium and Botanic Gardens
You don’t have to be a Trekkie to appreciate the appeal of the Planetarium.
The multitude of shows on offer (for various age groups and interests) provide a staggering look at the vast universe that we are part of, yet so oblivious to. It’s a great experience kicking back, watching the show and being taken on a tour of our very own night sky and the constellations above us by the obliging host.
My six-year-old was mesmerised and keeps wanting to go back for more — and we’ve seen four shows already!
Once you’ve toured through space you might like to hop back into your moon buggy (or stroller, as the case may be) and blast over to the Botanical Cafe. A functions venue that is also open to the public, this cafe is a nice spot for a quick cuppa, or better yet, a longer, lingering lunch. Ice creams, cold drinks, counter food and a marvellous menu make this very appealing. Not to mention they do children’s birthday parties, too.
Once refreshed you simply have to stroll through the gardens. As the most exotic of Brisbane’s three Botanic Gardens, it’s a great place to see plants that you don’t usually come across. The many cactuses always give me a “desert vibe”, and apparently a resident (harmless) carpet python sometimes seen writhing amongst the succulents agrees it’s a good place to hang out.
At some stage your hike through the Sahara should lead you to the new and improved playground. Ideal for the younger kids, it’s a lovely spot for a rest while the children climb, dig, run and slide. The ample sandpit is a big favourite – you could even plan ahead and bring your own sand toys!
Roma Street Parklands
As if having one Botanic Garden isn’t enough, in Brisbane we have three. They are all amazing but you simply can’t go past Roma Street Parklands for a quick, fun and entertaining outing.
The gardens are lush, stunning and worth admiring at various times of the year. The Parklands Explorer (a cute little train that gives a guided tour of the gardens) runs on weekends and school holidays and makes for a nice little treat, for young and more mature alike.
The new “nature themed” playground is somewhat groundbreaking in showing how a playground can be focused on the natural surroundings and still be exciting enough for a wide range of ages.
Last but not least, the onsite cafe, Melange, does lovely food and ice cream and makes for a very nice place to sit and relax with a view to remember. Who doesn’t love a crystal chandelier and a giant waterfall as a backdrop?!
All this within walking distance of the city and public transport!
Steam Train Sundays and Workshops Rail Museum
You don’t have to be a train aficionado to appreciate the romance and glamour of a stream train ride. Run by the Workshops Rail Museum and departing from Roma Street station on selected Sundays, it really is worth catching one for the experience.
The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich is also a must-do for any parent (or big kid at heart) who enjoys trains and simply seeing exciting stuff. It’s a jam-packed day out with live shows, toys, arts, crafts and so much to see.
The indoor ‘train station’ play area is also a firm favourite amongst children and it will be hard to get them to leave. It’s a real destination outing.
Be a tourist in your own city
Have you ever taken the gorgeous red Brisbane Explorer Bus and completed a tour of beautiful Brisbane?
You can hop on and off wherever you like, and it really does make you see things from a new angle (and heights). The interesting narration is also worth listening to — there’s so much to know about this gem of a city!
South Bank and surrounding area
OK, sure, who hasn’t been to South Bank? But have you seen a show at QPAC, enjoyed a Ferris wheel ride, swam and built sandcastles on the beach, enjoyed a churro at the night markets, or admired the lanterns during the annual Buddhist Festival? Not to mention the countless fireworks that set off the night sky like a real life postcard. This is one scenic place to visit, day or night.
If you’re game for more and keen to milk every drop, make sure you visit the nearby Museum – it’s great fun for kids. So is the Science Centre, which changes its exhibits and themes regularly and makes for a most interactive place to take curious little minds and busy hands. As for GOMA next door, well, that’s right up there with some of the best art galleries in the world.
Don’t underestimate what we have here — it’s absolutely spectacular, and it’s all right next to each other! You could literally spend days checking it all out.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
If Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is good enough for the Pope and One Direction (and many, many other famous visitors), then it’s certainly worth checking out.
Offering an affordable annual membership and located close to the city, this well maintained little haven of furry creatures and beautiful river views is a great spot to hit up if you want to walk a little, breathe some fresh air, learn something new, watch an animal presentation, sit and relax by the river, cuddle a koala or hold a baby chicken.
It’s the closest thing to a real zoo that we have within our city radius. The venue runs frequent twilight movies, and has a great cafe and a simple yet fun play space for kids.
Day trip to Mt Tamborine
Mt Tamborine is certainly worth a visit if you can put up with the kids in the car for the smidgen over an hour’s drive from the city!
The mountain is home to lovely cafes, arts and crafts, exhibitions and animals. It’s a beautiful tourist spot (check out the German cuckoo clock shop) and offers unsurpassable views.
The Sky Walk is also well worth doing. There’s nothing quite like walking high up on a suspended platform amongst the rainforest canopies — you’ll feel like the king or queen of the world, provided vertigo doesn’t get you first!
The fresh air, the views, the excitement… it will all add up to you bringing home a very tired, yet content, family at the end of the day.
Steve Irwin may have left us well before his time, but his legacy lives on and his work remains strong in one of the best zoos you will ever visit.
Well worth the drive north, this is one place where animals come first and we learn from them. It’s best to go a few times, as there is just so much to see and enjoy and soak up. It’s a huge place so eat your Weet-Bix and rest up before you come!
The famous midday croc show is not to be missed, with some amazing “stunts” by the big, burly resident crocs. Crikey, mate, you really have to visit!
Ithica Pool Paddington and Frew Park Milton
Blink and you’ll miss it, but you really, really don’t want to. Ithica Pool in Paddington is neatly nestled away opposite the mighty Suncorp Stadium, and unless you know to look for it you might not even realise it’s there. The locals probably like it that way, and may well want to keep this hidden treasure all to themselves.
Open from October to May, Ithica’s “summer pool” will take you back to your childhood. It’s a beautifully maintained 25 metre pool that is a joy to spend time in. Not crowded, but bustling all the same, the atmosphere is fun, and the vibe amazing. Due to its compact size it is also very easy to supervise children, even from the comfort of your garden chair and umbrella if you prefer. It’s an awesome spot to cool off during the sizzling summer months and burn off some of that excess energy (and spare tyre).
Following a visit to the pool, Frew Park beckons. This new and exciting playground is just a hop and a skip away down in the Milton Courts complex in Milton. Aimed at older children, Frew Park puts excitement back into playgrounds, providing physical challenges and great entertainment for anyone left with extra energy to burn. Bring your racquet and hit up the tennis courts on site, and don’t forget to pack a picnic and a soccer ball to be enjoyed on the vast grassy area out front.
It’s all there in one spot offering everyone in the family something to enjoy (even the toddlers will enjoy the smaller play equipment). Did I mention there’s a cafe on site, too?
A real treat of a park to visit all year round.
Where do you go for fun family days out in Brisbane? Have your say in the comments below!