The sun is never in short supply in Brisbane, and the balmy weather keeps Brisbanites outside year-round. Locals love to skate, cycle, swim and run in the sun and when it’s time to cool down, they know that Brisbane's shady green spaces are the best spots to beat the heat.
Greenery patchworks this famously liveable city, and the Brisbane River winds past picnic spots, botanic gardens, outdoor markets, kids’ playgrounds and off-leash dog parks, all of which are easy to access via Brisbane's CityCat ferries.
Want to work outside? There’s free wi-fi in 22 Brisbane parks. Prefer to work out? Some 170 Brisbane parks have free outdoor gyms. You can also throw a shrimp on the barbie – there are public barbecues at parks all over Brisbane (either wood, electric or gas); the council even keeps them supplied with fuel!
Whether you want to work up a sweat or find a spot in the shade, here are the six best parks in Brisbane.
Paddle, stroll and graze at South Bank Parklands
Best for beach fun downtown
It might look like Brisbane's city office workers are buttoned up tight for back-to-back meetings, but chances are they’ve got their swimmers packed and ready for knock-off time. Join them at Streets Beach, known locally as "the Lagoon", one of the best places to unwind in the city. This lovely swimming area is right on the riverside overlooking the CBD, complete with an artificial beach, a resort-style pool and a water play area – and entry is completely free.
The beach is part of South Bank Parklands, a green inner-city oasis of rainforest walks, performance spaces and weekend markets, with an international eat street and a 60m (197ft) Ferris wheel spinning visitors up for a drone's-eye view of the city. A great way to stretch your legs here is to follow the Cliffs Boardwalk that runs between the riverbank and Kangaroo Point Cliffs, a popular workout for local rock climbers.
Mt Coot-tha Reserve
Best for urban nature
Brisbanites count themselves very lucky to have the wilderness retreat of Mt Coot-tha Reserve just 15 minutes from the center, easily reached by car or bus (or on foot, via the CityCat ferry). Peaceful bushwalks wind through the dense bush, or you can follow 20km (12.5 miles) of mountain-biking and horse-riding trails.
The reserve is also home to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha, with beautiful collections of bonsai, arid plants and ferns, a lovingly clipped Japanese Garden and a kids’ hide ‘n’ seek trail. The Instagram-friendly Tropical Dome is a geodesic greenhouse with an eye-catching tessellated glass roof. Nearby is the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium where you can learn about Indigenous astronomy, and the Toowong Cemetery, where you can take ghost tours.
The JC Slaughter Falls are a lovely spot to unpack your picnic basket, and also the starting point for a number of trails, including one to the top of the city’s highest point, 287m (942ft) Mt Coot-tha. There’s a platform offering views all the way to Moreton Bay and old-school coin-operated telescopes to zoom in on the city spread out beneath you.
New Farm Park
Best park for dog lovers
Covering more than 37 acres (15 hectares) of green space within a cooee of the city, New Farm Park is big, beautiful and beloved by Brisbanites. A top choice for a picnic, the park embraces activities of all sorts from basketball to croquet and moonlight cinema. It's also conveniently close to the Powerhouse, a fun hipster hub with live music, theatre, art shows, great dining and more.
Many locals make a special trip to see the blooming jacarandas in November or the roses from September to April (the bushes form part of a century-old garden with 2500 plants). There’s also an awesome adventure playground, cafes and barbecues.
True to the park’s name, the popular Jan Powers farmers' market attracts a crowd on Saturday mornings. The New Farm Dog Park, to the north of the park and right on the river, has a shady off-leash area that’s always full of friendly pooches.
Spot flora and fauna in Brisbane City Botanic Gardens
Best for greenery
Beautifully tended lawns, pretty ponds, a grove of rustling bamboo and an avenue of weeping figs tumble gently down to the water at the City Botanic Gardens (not to be confused with the larger gardens at Mt Coot-tha. Facing the Queensland Parliament buildings, the gardens wrap around a bend in the river, with Brisbane’s favorite outdoor stage, Riverstage, in prime position at the point.
Originally planted with food crops by convicts in 1825 to feed the fledgling prison colony at Moreton Bay, the park now features shady pathways winding between bunya pines, tree ferns, ponds and formal gardens and is home to plentiful birdlife, lizards, eels and turtles.
Late in the day, look out for possums descending from the greenery. Get here easily on foot via George St or amble over from the QUT Gardens Point CityCat ferry terminal (the ferry continues to Regatta, close to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha).
Burn rubber at Bracken Ridge Skate Park and BMX Track
Best park for riders and skaters
The double-whammy of a 1,000 sq meter (10,764 sq ft), state-of-the-art skate park next to Australia’s largest BMX track makes Bracken Ridge in Fitzgibbon a magnet for anyone on wheels. The Bracken Ridge Skate Plaza was set up to maximize speed and designed with a central corridor of trees to provide shade in the Brisbane summer.
For skaters, there are ramps, grinding rails, a pyramid, quarter pipes, a vertical wall, fun boxes, and plenty more, promising hours of fun for beginners as well as experienced skaters. The park also welcomes BMX stunt riders. For spectators, there’s shaded seating overlooking the full 100m (328ft) run.
Next door, a dedicated BMX track features 640m (2100ft) of asphalt track including two large berms (corners), two shallow bowls and a deep bowl, a rhythm track of consecutive jumps and various hill grades. Both parks are free to access, and about a 40-minute drive north of the city.
Thornlands Community Park
Best park for toddlers
If you need to let the kids run loose, the Thornlands Community Park, east of the city in Redlands, is one of the best playgrounds in Brisbane. Opened in 2020, it’s a patchwork of colorful soft-fall surfaces, sandpits and lawns, with activities for kids of all abilities, from toddlers to teens.
There are towers and tunnels and mega slides, a sandpit with a buried dinosaur, a cute cubby house, a water play area with hand pumps and fountains, and a double flying fox, in a green setting that's easily accessible by car, bus or train, via Cleveland.
There’s also plenty of picnic space, barbecues, toilets with change facilities, and easy parking. If you have any skaters on the team, check out the Capalaba Skate Park, also in Redlands, one of the largest in Brisbane; there’s a huge clover-shaped bowl and a 100m (328ft) street run with ledges.