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16 Must-See Big Attractions in Brisbane and Queensland

04/04/2024
15 mins read
Eumundi Markets
Source: Tourism and Events Queensland

Embark on a quirky and iconic journey through Brisbane and Queensland with our guide to the 16 “Big Things” – those larger-than-life landmarks that capture the imagination and the spirit of Australia. From the towering Big Pineapple to the gigantic Big Mango, these attractions offer a unique glimpse into Aussie culture and the perfect backdrop for unforgettable memories.

So, grab your camera and your sense of adventure as we explore the whimsical world of Australia’s Big Things. Get ready for a road trip like no other!

At a Glance

Our editorial picks for the must-visit attractions in Brisbane and Queensland are:

1. Great Barrier Reef

Dive into the heart of the world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef. This underwater paradise is a vibrant tapestry of 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and 4,000 types of mollusc. It’s a world teeming with life and color, where every dive reveals something new and exciting.

The Great Barrier Reef is not just a natural wonder, but a vital part of the Australian economy and employment. It’s a place where you can swim with the fishes, explore the coral gardens, or simply relax on the sun-kissed beaches of the reef’s many islands.

Whether you’re an experienced diver or a first-timer, the Great Barrier Reef offers an unforgettable underwater adventure. So, grab your snorkel and fins, and get ready to explore the depths of this incredible marine ecosystem.

  • Best Time to Visit: May to October
  • Known For: The world’s largest collection of coral reefs, with 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish, and 4,000 types of mollusc
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Travel time from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef can vary from 30 minutes to 2 hours by boat, depending on the specific reef or island destination
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/jB4LXFbwpzRRH6UT8

2. Daintree Rainforest

Step into the ancient world of the Daintree Rainforest, the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet. This lush, green paradise is a living museum, home to an incredible diversity of plants and animals.

The Daintree Rainforest is a place of breathtaking beauty, where every path leads to a new discovery. From the towering canopy to the forest floor, it’s a place where nature takes center stage.

So, lace up your hiking boots and get ready to explore the Daintree Rainforest. Whether you’re trekking through the jungle, cruising along the river, or simply soaking up the serene beauty of the rainforest, the Daintree is sure to leave you in awe.

  • Best Time to Visit: May to September during the dry season for long hikes; December to April for lush scenery despite high humidity and frequent rainfall
  • Known For: The world’s oldest tropical rainforest, with a rich biodiversity and ancient energy
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Approximately 77 km (48 mi) from Cairns to Mossman Gorge, with travel time depending on the mode of transportation
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/GpKN6CNZr9bmFV287

3. Fraser Island (K’gari)

Discover the unique beauty of Fraser Island (K’gari), the largest sand island in the world. This island paradise is a place of stunning contrasts, where rainforests grow on sand dunes and crystal-clear freshwater lakes dot the landscape.

Fraser Island is a place of adventure and exploration, where you can drive along the sandy beaches, swim in the sparkling lakes, or hike through the lush rainforests. It’s a place where nature’s beauty is on full display, and every moment is a chance to create lasting memories.

So, pack your bags and set off on an adventure to Fraser Island. Whether you’re a nature lover, an adventure seeker, or just looking for a relaxing getaway, Fraser Island has something for everyone.

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, the cooler months from April to October are preferred due to the pleasant weather
  • Known For: The world’s largest sand island with unique ecology and freshwater lakes
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located off the coast of Hervey Bay and can be reached by ferry
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/WnPbp4ncZKZsixb46

4. Whitsunday Islands

Set sail for the Whitsunday Islands, a group of 74 islands nestled in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. Known for their stunning white-sand beaches and excellent sailing conditions, the Whitsundays are a true paradise.

The Whitsunday Islands are a place of relaxation and adventure, where you can snorkel in the clear waters, hike through the national parks, or simply relax on the beach. It’s a place where the sun shines bright, the water is crystal clear, and the scenery is simply breathtaking.

So, hoist the sails and set course for the Whitsunday Islands. Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a landlubber looking for a taste of the sea, the Whitsundays are sure to leave you spellbound.

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, during the dry season from May to September for the best weather and sailing conditions
  • Known For: Pristine white-sand beaches and sailing opportunities
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: The islands are accessible from Airlie Beach via boat
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/3tgqe6opkfH2DtjG9

5. Noosa National Park

Welcome to Noosa National Park, a coastal gem that’s a slice of paradise on Earth. With its stunning coastal walks, pristine beaches, and the chance to spot a koala in the wild, it’s no wonder this place is a hit with both locals and tourists. The park’s natural beauty is breathtaking, offering a perfect blend of beach and bush right next to the vibrant hub of Noosa Heads.

Noosa National Park is not just about the views; it’s an adventure waiting to happen. Whether you’re surfing the breaks at Alexandria Bay, spotting dolphins from Hell’s Gates, or enjoying a leisurely stroll along the coastal track, there’s something for everyone. The park’s diverse landscapes, from rainforest to rugged coastline, make every visit a unique experience.

So, why wait? Pack your sunscreen, grab your walking shoes, and head to Noosa National Park for an unforgettable day out. Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or simply a beautiful place to picnic, Noosa has it all. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local wildlife!

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, the cooler months from April to October are preferred due to the pleasant weather
  • Known For: Scenic coastal walks, pristine beaches, and wildlife including koalas
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 136 km (85 mi) north of Brisbane
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/V6gsTqb7q8998AkJ6

6. Australia Zoo

Get ready for a wild adventure at Australia Zoo, the legacy of the legendary Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. This world-class zoo is not just about seeing animals; it’s about experiencing them up close and personal. With a strong focus on conservation and education, Australia Zoo offers an incredible array of wildlife and interactive experiences that will leave you inspired.

From hand-feeding kangaroos to watching the thrilling crocodile shows, every moment at Australia Zoo is filled with excitement and discovery. The zoo is home to a wide variety of animals from Australia and around the world, making it a must-visit for animal lovers of all ages.

So, come and experience the magic of Australia Zoo. Whether you’re cuddling a koala, walking with a tiger, or simply enjoying the beautiful surroundings, it’s an experience you won’t forget. Remember, as Steve Irwin said, “Conservation is all about love.”

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, the cooler months from April to October are preferred due to the pleasant weather
  • Known For: Wildlife conservation and education, home of the Crocodile Hunter
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 80 km (50 mi) north of Brisbane
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/RRJ8hmcuV3FHbESp9

7. South Bank Parklands

South Bank Parklands is Brisbane’s premier lifestyle and cultural destination. Located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River, its lush parklands, stunning river views, and plethora of dining and entertainment options make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re taking a dip in the Streets Beach, Brisbane’s only inner-city, man-made beach, or exploring the vibrant South Bank Collective Markets, there’s always something to do.

The Parklands are not just about relaxation and fun; they’re a hub of cultural activities. With the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, the Queensland Museum, and the Gallery of Modern Art all within walking distance, South Bank is the heart of Brisbane’s cultural scene.

So, whether you’re looking for a place to chill, thrill, or fulfill your cultural cravings, South Bank Parklands has got you covered. It’s the perfect spot to spend a day or even just a few hours, soaking in the best that Brisbane has to offer.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round, with various events and festivals happening throughout the year
  • Known For: Cultural hub with parklands, a beach, dining, and entertainment options
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located within the Brisbane CBD
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/eEcZCwbPT2UjMPWJ8

8. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Embrace the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with Australia’s iconic wildlife at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Here, you can cuddle a koala, hand-feed kangaroos, and encounter a wide range of Australian wildlife in a natural setting.

Lone Pine offers an intimate experience with nature and wildlife, making it a must-visit for animal lovers. The sanctuary is dedicated to the conservation of Australian wildlife, and through its various programs and encounters, it educates visitors about the importance of wildlife preservation.

So, if you’re looking to make some furry friends and learn about Australian wildlife, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is the place to be. It’s not just a visit; it’s an experience that touches the heart and enlightens the mind.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round, as it is a wildlife sanctuary with controlled conditions
  • Known For: The world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, with various Australian wildlife interactions
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 12 km (7.5 mi) from Brisbane CBD
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/WbFapZqYWNCqFvGj7

9. Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Get ready to elevate your Brisbane experience with the Story Bridge Adventure Climb, an exhilarating journey to the top of one of Australia’s most iconic bridges. This adventure offers not just a climb but a chance to soak in panoramic views of Brisbane’s skyline, the Brisbane River, and the distant mountains. It’s a unique blend of thrill and beauty, making it a must-do for both locals and visitors.

The climb is more than just a physical challenge; it’s an opportunity to learn about the history and architecture of the Story Bridge, which has been a Brisbane landmark since 1940. Whether you choose the day, twilight, or night climb, each offers a different perspective of the city’s beauty.

So, strap on your harness and step out of your comfort zone. The Story Bridge Adventure Climb is an unforgettable experience that provides not only breathtaking views but also a sense of achievement once you reach the top. It’s a perfect activity for those looking to add a little adventure to their Brisbane visit.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round, with different experiences during day and night climbs
  • Known For: Panoramic views of Brisbane from the iconic Story Bridge
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located within the Brisbane CBD
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/Z41ozw2WrEbxhZEZ7

10. Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt. Coot-tha

Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and immerse yourself in the tranquility of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt. Coot-tha. This botanical paradise offers a vast collection of native and exotic plants, thematic gardens, and a stunning lookout that provides sweeping views of Brisbane. It’s a place where nature, culture, and science meet, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers, families, and anyone looking to relax in a beautiful setting.

The gardens host a variety of attractions, including the Japanese Garden, the Fragrant Garden, and the largest collection of Australian rainforest trees in the world. Additionally, the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium located within the gardens offers an astronomical adventure for all ages.

Whether you’re exploring the themed gardens, enjoying a picnic, or simply taking a leisurely stroll, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt. Coot-tha is a peaceful retreat that offers something for everyone. It’s a reminder of the beauty and diversity of the natural world, right on Brisbane’s doorstep.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round, with different flora highlights across seasons
  • Known For: Thematic gardens and a lookout offering sweeping views of the city
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 7 km (4.3 mi) from Brisbane CBD
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/nEd7L7t9JL2jxc1h9

11. Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Embark on a journey through the ancient rainforest with the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway. This breathtaking experience takes you over and through the World Heritage-listed rainforest, offering a unique perspective of this ancient ecosystem. From above, you’ll witness the lush canopy, cascading waterfalls, and the Barron Gorge National Park’s rugged landscape.

The Skyrail experience includes stops at two mid-stations, Red Peak and Barron Falls, where you can explore the rainforest from the ground on boardwalks and at the Rainforest Interpretation Centre. It’s an educational and immersive experience that highlights the importance of rainforest conservation.

So, glide above the treetops and discover the beauty and complexity of the tropical rainforest. The Skyrail Rainforest Cableway is an unforgettable way to experience one of the world’s most ancient rainforests, combining adventure with education and conservation.

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, the cooler months from April to October are preferred due to the pleasant weather
  • Known For: A cableway ride providing a bird’s-eye view of the ancient tropical rainforest
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 15 km (9.3 mi) northwest of Cairns CBD
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/ti3rZFCEs8n6iPHE8

12. Kuranda Scenic Railway

Step back in time with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway, a historic journey that takes you through the heart of the tropical rainforest. This railway is not just a mode of transportation; it’s an experience that transports you to another era, offering stunning views of dense rainforest, steep ravines, and picturesque waterfalls along the way.

The journey begins in Cairns, winding its way up to the charming village of Kuranda, known as the “Village in the Rainforest.” Along the way, you’ll pass by the Barron Falls, a majestic waterfall that is especially spectacular during the wet season.

The Kuranda Scenic Railway is more than just a train ride; it’s a journey through the natural beauty and history of Tropical North Queensland. It’s an adventure that combines breathtaking scenery with a touch of nostalgia, making it a must-do for anyone visiting the region.

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, the cooler months from April to October are preferred due to the pleasant weather
  • Known For: A historic railway journey through the tropical rainforest
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: The railway starts in Cairns, which is the CBD for the region
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/EyqWk5pKBdjbvs8k6

13. Paronella Park

Step into a dream at Paronella Park, a place where history, romance, and nature intertwine to create a magical experience. Built in the 1930s by José Paronella, this enchanting castle set amidst a lush rainforest is a testament to one man’s vision and determination. Paronella Park is not just a visit; it’s a journey into the past, filled with stories of love, dreams, and a touch of magic.

As you wander through the grounds, you’ll discover the beauty of the park’s cascading waterfalls, the grandeur of the castle ruins, and the tranquility of the surrounding rainforest. The park also offers a unique experience after dark, with its night tours showcasing the castle and gardens illuminated by enchanting fairy lights.

So, let yourself be transported to a bygone era at Paronella Park. Whether you’re exploring the ruins, enjoying a picnic by the waterfall, or simply soaking in the atmosphere, Paronella Park is a place where dreams come alive. It’s a must-visit for anyone looking for a touch of romance and mystery in their Queensland adventure.

  • Best Time to Visit: Generally, the cooler months from April to October are preferred due to the pleasant weather
  • Known For: A historic castle set in a lush rainforest
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 120 km (75 mi) south of Cairns
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/LXeessbtotgBcKi16

14. Carnarvon Gorge

Embark on an adventure to Carnarvon Gorge, a hidden gem in the heart of Queensland’s high country. This spectacular natural wonder is known for its towering sandstone cliffs, diverse ecosystems, and ancient Aboriginal rock art. Carnarvon Gorge is a place where nature’s artistry is on full display, offering breathtaking scenery and a deep connection to the ancient land.

Hiking through Carnarvon Gorge is an unforgettable experience, with trails leading you past serene waterholes, through lush fern-filled gorges, and to awe-inspiring lookouts. Along the way, you’ll discover the gorge’s rich Aboriginal heritage, with rock art sites that tell the stories of the land’s traditional custodians.

So, lace up your hiking boots and set off on an adventure to Carnarvon Gorge. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just looking for a peaceful escape in nature, Carnarvon Gorge offers an experience that is both exhilarating and grounding. It’s a place where the beauty of the natural world meets the depth of human history.

  • Best Time to Visit: Typically during the cooler months from April to October for hiking
  • Known For: Sandstone cliffs, diverse ecosystems, and Aboriginal rock art
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 720 km (447 mi) northwest of Brisbane
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/DhiHR8x4L53J3AKt5

15. Eumundi Markets

Experience the vibrant heart of the Sunshine Coast at the Eumundi Markets, where local artisans, chefs, and musicians come together to create a lively atmosphere that’s truly unique. Known as one of Australia’s best artisan markets, Eumundi Markets is a place where creativity and community thrive. From handcrafted jewelry and artworks to gourmet foods and live music, there’s something to delight every sense.

The markets are a celebration of local culture and craftsmanship, offering visitors a chance to meet the makers, taste the flavors of the region, and find one-of-a-kind treasures. It’s a place where you can spend hours wandering the stalls, soaking in the vibrant energy, and enjoying the Sunshine Coast’s laid-back lifestyle.

So, make your way to the Eumundi Markets for a taste of local life. Whether you’re shopping for unique gifts, indulging in delicious food, or simply enjoying the lively atmosphere, the Eumundi Markets are a must-visit destination on the Sunshine Coast.

  • Best Time to Visit: Open on Wednesdays and Saturdays, year-round
  • Known For: Artisan market with local crafts, foods, and live music
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located approximately 120 km (75 mi) north of Brisbane
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/QdGNuXJTBgacUcs68

16. Roma Street Parkland

Discover an urban oasis at Roma Street Parkland, one of the world’s largest urban subtropical gardens. Located in the heart of Brisbane, this sprawling parkland offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. With its stunning floral displays, serene lakes, and lush green spaces, Roma Street Parkland is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a moment of tranquility.

The parkland is not just a place to relax; it’s a place to explore. From the Spectacle Garden’s vibrant blooms to the Forest Walk’s towering trees, there’s always something new to discover. The parkland also hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year, making it a lively and dynamic destination.

So, take a break from the urban grind and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Roma Street Parkland. Whether you’re enjoying a picnic, taking a leisurely stroll, or simply sitting back and enjoying the scenery, Roma Street Parkland is a breath of fresh air in the heart of Brisbane.

  • Best Time to Visit: Year-round, with various events and seasonal gardens
  • Known For: One of the largest urban subtropical gardens
  • Distance and Travel Time from CBD: Located within the Brisbane CBD
  • Google Map Link: https://maps.app.goo.gl/KC1LcsMGf4BAUq5r6

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit the Great Barrier Reef?

The best time to visit the Great Barrier Reef is from May to October when the weather is warm and underwater visibility is at its best.

Can I visit the Daintree Rainforest and Fraser Island (K’gari) on the same trip?

Yes, you can visit both on the same trip, but they are located in different parts of Queensland and would require separate travel arrangements. The Daintree Rainforest is closer to Cairns, while Fraser Island is off the coast of Hervey Bay.

How far is South Bank Parklands from the Brisbane CBD, and what is it known for?

South Bank Parklands is located within the Brisbane CBD and is known as a cultural hub with parklands, a beach, dining, and entertainment options.

Is Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary accessible from Brisbane city center, and what can I do there?

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is approximately 12 km (7.5 mi) from Brisbane CBD and offers the opportunity to cuddle a koala, hand-feed kangaroos, and interact with a variety of Australian wildlife.

Are there any unique markets to visit in Brisbane or its surroundings?

Eumundi Markets, located approximately 120 km (75 mi) north of Brisbane, are one of Australia’s best artisan markets, known for local crafts, foods, and live music. They are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays year-round.

Lachlan Taylor

Lachlan aka Lockie is a contributing writer at Humble Trail, known for his down-to-earth style and passion for the great outdoors. Born and raised in the small town of Deloriane, Tasmania, Lockie developed a deep love for nature and adventure from a young age.

His articles are a blend of his personal adventures and insightful explorations, often focused on sustainable travel, wilderness treks, and the serene beauty of untouched landscapes.

Always with his own reusable coffee cup in hand, Lockie loves a good caffeine fix as much as everyone else on the Humbletrail team.

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