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Travelling with kids: 5 great free things to do in Brisbane

by on January 12, 2018
 

Are you visiting Brisbane with kids? Do you have kids under 13? Visiting from overseas? Living in Brisbane or other parts of Queensland? Visiting from elsewhere in Australia? 

Brisbane with kids

Don’t worry, we spent nine days in and around Brisbane with three children who were more than happy to enjoy as much as we could experience in our limited time. One of the great things about Brisbane is the abundance of wildlife in and around the city. It’s wise to keep your distance from spiders and stay well away from any snakes. Lizards like the Eastern Water Dragon are common near the river and in the parks near water and you’ll see plenty of birds. Scrub turkeys, noisy miners and ibis (aka ‘bin chickens’ for their scavenging habits) are also aplenty. Please don’t feed them!

In the CBD

  • Museum of Brisbane, City Hall, Mob Sunday

    • This programme may change, the current programme is available until the end of April 2018
    • Activities are free (but parents should be present) and can be self guided, like the kite making our three enjoyed.
    • Parking at King George Square is a flat $5 for the day on Saturdays and Sundays.
    • Combine your visit with a trip up the city hall tower and find out the history of the decoration on top. Hint – a plumber was involved.
  • The Mouse door

    • Walk along Albert St across from City Hall towards Queen St Mall. As you pass Burnett Lane, step in to find the mouse door.
    • It’s said it mysteriously appeared some time ago, nobody has claimed credit.
    • Will you see a mouse come out?
  • Queen Street Mall

    • Before Christmas, check out the Myer Centre windows, with their animated stories
    • Every Sunday, enjoy the buskers and performances
    • Look out for special performances at the stage – Carols before Christmas, Irish music for St Patrick’s day etc.
  • The City Centre has lots of other free children friendly activities, including a free guided tour of the City Hall.
    • Check out the City Botanic Gardens and State Parliament building at the end of George St
  • There are also some great heritage walks, for information check our story here.

Brisbane Cultural Centre

Extends from the Brisbane Cultural Precinct on the east of Melbourne St to Kurilpa Bridge at the western end, taking in the Concert Hall. State Museum art Gallery and Library and  the Gallery of Modern Art GOMA.

  • Discovery Centre at the Museum

    • Probably the most popular of all the places we visited, so we even went back for a second visit.
    • They have a wide collection of all types of birds & animals found in Queensland
    • Lots of interactive displays for all ages.
    • Especially popular with our three were the live stick insects and huge cockroaches.
    • They also loved sorting out the stick insect eggs.
    • The museum also has an impressive dinosaur display.
    • Don’t forget to stop and listen to the whales talking in the corridor outside the entrance.
  • The Queensland State Library Summer holiday programme

    • Entrance level from Stanley Place – the kids enjoyed colouring designs on robot templates, which a helper scanned for them
    • The completed design was projected on a big screen, moving around with all the other robots.
    • There are storytelling and other making activities, especially during the school holidays.
    • Magnificent Makers is on until 3rd June 2018. You can listen to stories about the makers and their results. Try your hand at typing a letter in Braille on the Braille typewriter.
    • The Digital Futures Lab is open until 21st January 2018, but look for something equally exciting to take over after that.
  • GOMA (The Gallery of Modern Art)

    • The Gallery is at the Western end of the Cultural Centre complex.
    • There’s a kids’ activity centre and lots of great exhibitions, though this time we didn’t have enough time to stop and really enjoy the offerings.
    • We stopped by for a peek at Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s popular exhibition. (until 11th February 2018)
  • The Queensland Art Gallery

    • The garden outside the entrance is a lovely place for a picnic. Enjoy the fountains and pelican statues as you eat.
    • The gallery features a wide selection of Queensland and Australian artists.
    • If you have no time for the whole gallery, don’t miss the entrance hall with it’s interactive display to show the collection of artworks.
    • If you don’t have backpacks (which must be checked in), a walk through the ground floor to reach the State Library will give a taste of the gallery and encourage a return (and longer) visit.

Parks, Gardens and Walks

  • South Bank

    • walk along the South Bank of the Brisbane river on what was the site of EXPO’88 has surprises at every turn.
    • wildlife – please don’t feed the birds or lizards, which will often come quite close. Show them respect!
    • art installations – check out the sandstone pillars near the Wheel of Brisbane. Three pillars and a suitcase are reminders of the little physical remains of a former life. These are the stories of recent refugees, but they remind us of those who’ve made Australia their home from necessity.
    • Epicurious – this food garden has a wide range of herbs – check out the stall which will give out free samples, please don’t pick your own.
  • Playgrounds:

    • Brisbane City has playgrounds in most gardens and public spaces.
    • South Bank is well set up for families, their Age appropriate Playground is well maintained and suitable for a range of ages. You do need to be present though as some of the activities do require your supervision. 
    • The City Beach is specially popular, with lifeguards, and changing rooms with showers.
    • The City Botanical Gardens, overlooking the river at Gardens Point near Parliament House has a great playground with some unusual equipment.
    • Enoggera Reservoir, along Waterworks Road at The Gap, has a swimming area, water sports and easy walking tracks. There’s also bike track if you have one with you. 
    • Walkabout Creek, on the same site is paid entry to see a small animal collection. It is worthwhile to visit as they have a number of platypus. These unusual animals are very hard to see in the wild and not easy to find in captivity. Feeding time, mid afternoon is the best time to go. You can reach Enoggera Reserve via Translink bus P384 or 385,
  • Bush walking:

    • There are many great places to go for a walk in the ‘bush’.
    • One of the easiest locations to get to is Mt Coot-Tha, accessible by car or Translink bus (No 471). Please note that the bus doesn’t run in the evenings, so check the timetable before you plan your journey.
    • Very important: Australia is home to some very dangerous creatures. The bite of a spider or snake can be deadly, so be very careful when stopping to look at bugs and creepy-crawlies. Ensure your children keep a safe distance and don’t touch or provoke any creatures they encounter.

Have a ‘barbie’ or a picnic

Free electric Barbecues are common at most parks in and around much of Australia. They are popular, so usually cooking time is restricted to 30 minutes. P.S. Free Public toilets are usually nearby. You can generally expect them to be clean, with running water and toilet paper.

You can find picnic areas/barbeques in over 370 parks around Brisbane. They’re maintained by the Brisbane City Council.

  • Among our favourite spots are:
    • Mt Coot-tha Reserve – There’s parking if you have wheels, or you can catch a bus to the Lookout and walk down to the JC Slaughter Falls.
    • Kangaroo Point Cliffs Park – If you like abseiling, or just enjoy watching people clamber over cliffs, this may be the place for you. You’ll also have wonderful views of the city in the evening.
    • Kurilpa Point Park in South Brisbane is perfect if you want to visit the Galleries , Museum and Library. Walk over the Kurilpa Bridge from Tank Street in the City.
  • There’s a food court in South Bank offering everything from pies to kebabs, burgers to fish & chips. Eat in or take away and have a picnic on the grass or nearby tables.
    • South Bank is easily accessible on foot from the city. The CityCat and ferries (including the free City Hopper ferry) also stop at South Bank.

Get out of town

  • Go to the beach

    • Mudjimba is a quiet beach along the Sunshine Coast, North of Brisbane. There’s free parking and picnic tables opposite shops. The beach is patrolled and there are lifeguards on duty. ** Important!  Always swim between the flags as this is the safe area. Watch your children.
  • Skip stones

    • Any quiet river with flat pebbles is perfect. Teach your kids, or discover the joys for yourself.
  • Find a train

    • Take a day trip to Spring Bluff. About 90 minutes West of Brisbane along the Warrego Highway, turn right to Murphys Creek. Spring Bluff Station is a few km past this small township. There’s a cafe and a beautifully kept garden. Goods trains pass through at odd times, but we ‘got lucky’ this time as a long train passed through as we were about to leave.

Public Transport in South East Queensland

Public transport (buses, ferries and trains) in South East Queensland are all run by Translink. Buses are clean and run to schedule, useful if you don’t have your own transport. Here’s a useful link to all Brisbane bus routes.

There are also three free city Loop services, which operate Monday-Friday. The bus stops are bright yellow.  Loop 30 connects the city and Spring Hill and the other two run clockwise / anticlockwise around the CBD area. (40 and 50)

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