Every major city has an important area of designated green space: New York has Central Park, London has Hyde Park, and Brisbane is lucky to have not one, but two botanic gardens for families to enjoy, creating more to see and do in our clean and green city.
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Research has found that spending time in parks and gardens has numerous health benefits, plus it’s a great way for kids to enjoy some fresh air, exercise and run off some energy.
We’ve rounded up the best of what the City Botanic Gardens and the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha have to offer families, and you’ll be surprised at the number of activities and events on offer.
City Botanic Gardens – family bucket list
One of the best inner-city playgrounds, the City Botanic Gardens playground features a range of sensory play, musical activities, imaginative and physical play. Parents can relax under the trees overlooking the boats moored in the Brisbane River while the kids can enjoy the swings, slides, sand play, music area or sensory sculpture garden. Even though it’s located within the bustling city, the large trees within the gardens block out the city noise and leave everyone with a feeling of tranquillity.
If you can stay a little longer, pack a picnic to enjoy at one of the picnic tables, and bring bikes or scooters to make the most of the paved pathways. There are toilet facilities within the gardens, as well as a cafe – The Gardens Club – which welcomes kids and offers a small children’s menu.
City Botanic Gardens – family events
Time your next visit to the gardens with one of these great events!
- Gigs and Picnics – enjoy some free live music at this monthly event held at City Botanic Gardens from February to November. Families can purchase food from one of the food trucks, BYO snacks or even order a picnic basket from The Gardens Club cafe.
- Volunteer-guided walks – join a free guided walk to learn more about the plants and features of the City Botanic Gardens. Walks are taken at a gentle pace for about one hour Mondays to Saturdays at 11am and 1pm.
- Weekly Markets – The City Botanic Gardens are home to the Sunday Riverside Markets, operating from 8am-3pm.
City Botanic Gardens – family challenge
Can you find the historic water fountain? Challenge your kids to use the garden’s map (available at the entry) to locate the fountain, and learn a little local history at the same time. The City Botanic Gardens were officially opened in 1855, and in 1867, the Walter Hill drinking fountain was built to provide much-needed drinking water to the public. Visitors drank water from the fountain out of cups until 1930 when modern bubble fountains were installed. In 1972 the fountain was named the Walter Hill Fountain as a tribute to the gardens’ first curator. Water to the ornamental fountain was turned off and remained inoperable until June 2005 when the fountain was once again opened to the public.
City Botanic Gardens – How to get there
The City Botanic Gardens are located on Alice Street in the Brisbane CBD. There are plenty of paid parking options nearby (see secure parking website), or park at South Bank and enter via a short walk over the Goodwill Bridge. For a more scenic option, catch a CityCat from another location and stop at QUT Gardens Campus or Eagle Street wharves.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha – family bucket list
The Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha are a living museum of native and exotic plant collections and feature thematic areas including a fragrant garden, bamboo grove, arid zone, Japanese garden, waterfalls, tropical dome and the largest collection of Australian native rainforest trees in the world. There’s also an auditorium which hosts horticultural shows most weekends.
However, the biggest drawcards for families are the playground and the Hide ‘n’ Seek Children’s Trail. The playground offers climbing structures, swings, slides, balance and stepping logs as well as a dry creek bed and grassy open spaces. The children’s trail (pick up a detailed map from the Mt Coot-tha Visitor Information Centre) provides a fun way for children to navigate the garden themselves, looking for hidden surprises along the way. There are numerous picnic areas available throughout the gardens with picnic tables and seats in shaded areas. There are also toilets and drinking fountains throughout the gardens, but no barbecue facilities. If you don’t feel like packing your own picnic, the onsite cafe has you covered for breakfast and lunch and also has a children’s menu.
Right next to the gardens is the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, where astronomy lovers can enjoy the free displays and mini-theatre shows, or you can purchase a ticket to see a show in the Cosmic Skydome. This is a unique, circular theatre where the audience lies back on reclined theatre seats to watch shows that are projected by a state-of-the-art optical star projector onto the huge domed ceiling, giving you a 180º view of the action in the night sky and outer space!
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha – family events
There’s always something happening at the Brisbane Botanic Gardens!
- Free guided walks – meet at the Mt Coot-tha Visitor Information Centre daily at 11am and 1pm (except public holidays and between mid-December and late-January)
- Botanic Gardens Open Day – enjoy a variety of activities including “ask a gardener” drop-in sessions, learn more about composting and worm farming and growing sustainable food options at our Kitchen Garden or how to attract pollinators to your home garden.
- Japanese Cultural Day – celebrate Japan Week with traditional Japanese music, a tea ceremony, calligraphy, ikebana, kimono dressing and taiko drumming.
- Mt Coot-tha Songwriters Festival – check out this family-friendly concert on the festival stage
- Shakespeare in the Gardens – introduce your kids to the work and times of the Great Bard
- Tutus & Tiaras – get crafty, listen to music in the outdoors and don’t forget your tutu or tiara!
- Teddy Bears Picnics – BYO teddy to this family event
- Bands in Parks & Food Trucks – check the Brisbane City Council website for dates and times
- Sunset Cinema – head out to the gardens in the evening to catch a family flick (held in Summer)
- Gardening workshops and much more.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha – family challenge
Can you and your kids locate the 17 treasures on the Hide ‘n’ Seek Trail? When you arrive at the gardens, head to Mt Coot-tha Visitor Information Centre and pick up your brochure and take the challenge.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha – How to get there
Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha are at Mt Coot-tha Road, Toowong. There is free parking onsite or you can catch a Brisbane City Council bus there. Visit the TransLink website for more information.
To keep up to date with all the latest events at both locations, sign up to the Brisbane City Council Event Newsletter here