There are so many fun things to do at South Bank in Brisbane, whether you want to spend a whole day or head in for a few hours. From family-friendly playgrounds and free museums to gardens perfect for family picnics and get-togethers. South Bank is also the ideal place to bring visitors so they can get a taste of what our wonderful city has to offer!
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Browse the South Bank Markets
The Collective Markets are on at South Bank every Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday throughout the year. The market stalls feature art, homewares, collectables, fashion, jewellery and other creative handmade goods. At the time of writing, they run along Stanely Street and take you past a fantastic variety of cafes and restaurants, including the famous Spaghetti House.
The South Bank Markets operates Friday evening from 5 pm to 9 pm, Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm, and all day Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm and extended trading in the lead up to Christmas.
Splash and swim
There are three main swimming areas at South Bank. The swimming lagoons and all the facilities are free and open seven days a week.
Streets Beach is the name given to the artificial beach and lagoon overlooking the Brisbane cityscape. With a lifeguard on duty seven days a week, this swimmable lagoon has a (progressive) but maximum depth of 1.8m. The lifeguard’s hours change seasonally, so it is worth contacting South Bank, especially in the off-season.
The Boat Pool is a second lagoon close to Streets Beach with a depth of 0 – 1.1 metres. It offers a wheelchair entry with South Bank Visitor Information Centre providing purpose-built pool wheelchairs for hire (for free!). It also has a lifeguard.
Aquativity is the third water fun area at South Bank. This South Bank water play area is a popular spot in the hot summer months, featuring zero-depth with a splash zone with fountains, water jets, and tipping buckets.
Facilities are excellent at South Bank with free public toilet facilities, underground parking (not cheap) and close to public transport drop-off points. You can hire a stroller for a fee from the visitor information centre.
Visit the Expo 88 sites
South Bank has undergone many changes since Expo 88 redefined Brisbane, but some things remain. The Nepalese Pagoda was a crowd favourite in 88 and has remained popular to this day, and the high wire unicyclist Human Factor sculpture (that hangs suspended above the roadway that leads to the beach) is still attracting attention.
Explore the Epicurious kitchen garden and rainforest
The Epicurious Garden is a productive garden filled with herbs, fruit and vegetables from around the world that grow well in our Brisbane climate. It’s a fantastic place to explore, show Brisbane Kids how various things they might eat are grown, or even get some ideas of what you might like to try growing at home. Only the garden volunteers and horticulturalists can pick the produce placed on the harvest cart for the public on a first-in, best-dressed basis. The harvest cart is open from 7 am-2 pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
There is also a wonderfully stunning rainforest planting right in the centre of South Bank. Even my teenagers were impressed with the immediate transformation of surroundings from riverfront concrete boardwalks into a lush green immersion of the senses.
South Bank Playgrounds
In addition to aquativity, South Bank offers two land-based playgrounds. Picnic Island is a shaded playground located near BBQs and underneath a fig tree for all-day relaxed play. Riverside Green playground is the more extensive playground located right in the centre of South Bank. It features a multi-storey play area with tunnel slides, hill slides, a guinea pig wheel (that’s what my kids call it) and swings. It is unfenced but with good visibility and plenty of places for parents to sit and watch nearby. It is also located close to toilets and cafes.
South Bank Food Options
Your biggest decision will be what to choose. South Bank has a seemingly endless variety of food and drinks options! There is plenty of seating and green space to host a picnic and dozens of cafes and restaurants both in the park and on the surrounding streets. Even if you’re here for a quick trip, it’s hard to resist a New Zealand Hokey Pokey ice cream or another snack as you wander the park.
South Bank Cultural Precinct
Located just a few minutes from the main South Bank precinct is Queensland Museum, Art Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art and State Library of Queensland. The most scenic way of walking there is along the river front.
Immerse yourself in Art & Books
The Queensland Art Gallery and The Gallery of Modern Art feature fantastic art collections and exhibitions. GOMA has a children’s art centre, which generally offers free, hands-on activities designed to engage children (These activities change with the different exhibitions). The Gallery of Modern Art also has a wonderful gift shop at the front of the building. The Queensland State Library, located in the same precinct, has a special children’s section and an equally excellent gift shop with books you won’t find in more general book retailers.
Visit the Queensland Museum
The Queensland Museum is ever popular and one of the few city Museums in Australia to still offer free entry. It’s a great year-round destination (out of the weather) with permanent free exhibitions designed to educate and engage visitors young and old. Keep an eye on the touring ticketed shows by checking out our Brisbane Calendar of Events.
The Sciencentre, also known as SparkLab, is in the same building as the museum and features over 4o interactive science exhibits. There is a fee to enter the Sciencentre.
Other fun things to do at South Bank
- Visit the Maritime Museum, learn about the history of our river city from a maritime perspective, and climb aboard a World War Two-era ship, the Diamantina. The Queensland Maritime Museum is one of the largest maritime museums in Australia and houses all sorts of interesting artefacts from our maritime past. https://brisbanekids.com.au/the-maritime-museum/
- Ride the Wheel of Brisbane to get complete views of the city. Rising over 60 metres above the ground, the Wheel of Brisbane operates on Sunday to Thursday from 10 am to 10 pm, and Friday and Saturday from 10 am until 11 pm. With up to 8 people in each air-conditioned gondola, this ride offers 360-degree views of Brisbane and its surroundings. Each ride lasts around 10-15 minutes and includes an average of 4 rotations. https://thewheelofbrisbane.com.au/
- No visit to South Bank is complete without a visit to the Brisbane Letter sign initially intended as a temporary sculpture. They’ve become so popular that they’re now a permanent feature at South Bank.
- Between South Bank and Queensland Museum sits QPAC, which has regular theatre acts, ballets and shows for the whole family. Just check out the Brisbane Kids Calendar to see what is showing.
Local Guide to South Bank
- South Bank host major events throughout the year; check the Brisbane Kids calendar first or the South Bank events calendar to see if your visit will cross with any of these.
- The Brisbane Convention Centre (which also has additional parking) also hosts many significant events and may have an expo or festival when you visit.
- You can rent a wheelchair and strollers from the visitor centre at South Bank.
- You might consider a tour of South Bank on a Segway tour.
- Catch a ferry or a boat to get here! There’s parking at sites along the river close to the ferry and city cat stops, making it much more scenic to travel.
- There is parking under South Bank, The Queensland Museum, QPAC and GOMA, but they get busy during peak times, especially over school holidays. You can use secure parking (locations around South Bank) to book a spot before you go, so you are guaranteed a spot.