What to do if you are spending Christmas in Brisbane

Christmas in Australia is typically a little different from what you might be used to. Santa arrives on a boogie board, at the beach, wearing thongs, gifting us with prawns and pavlova.

Well, not exactly, but it’s certainly warm (really warm) and Christmas dinner is swapped for lunchtime barbecues and pool-side hangs. It’s a time to celebrate family, friends and eat delicious food. So if you are hanging around Brisbane this summer, here’s how you can get into the Christmas spirit. From the festive activities in King George Square to day trips to the beach and everything in between.

For festive vibes:

The biggest Christmas tree in Brisbane: King George Square

Brisbane Christmas Tree
King George Square serves as a cultural hub for all things Christmas in Brisbane. Check out the dazzling, 22-metre Christmas tree and the colourful projections lighting up City Hall.

For the ultimate Christmas lights experience: Enchanted Garden

Trees lit up with green strobe lightsHead to The Enchanted Garden at Roma Street Parkland for a Christmas lights experience like no other. Free entry, Instagram-worthy photo opportunities, food truck galore and beautiful plants and flowers. It doesn’t get much better than that.

To get you into the festive spirit: Brisbane’s Moonlight Cinema

Outdoor CinemaBring your picnic blanket, some cushions and set up in the Roma Street Parkland Amphitheatre, surrounding yourself with snacks and your favourite drop (this venue is licensed) to catch one of the Christmas-themed movies guaranteed to get you in the festive spirit. Check the movie schedule out here.

To pop some tags: Queen Street Mall

Dressed up with festive, larger-than-life decorations and lights, Queen Street Mall offers the ultimate Christmas shopping experience whether you are shopping for gifts or for yourself.

For cute gifts check out Pigeon Hole and Typo on Queen Street, Lush in the Myer Centre or Monster Threads on Adelaide Street. For you, check out Peter Alexander, RM Williams or Lorna Jane on Queen Street.

For some live action at QPAC

It doesn’t get more classic than the Nutcracker at Christmas. The Queensland Ballet will wow you with their storytelling and pointed toes. Find out more information here and catch this show before it’s gone.

For big, flashy explosions: Christmas fireworks

Green and red fireworks over the river
On the last few days before Christmas, South Bank is your go-to spot for fireworks and festive spirit. Find a spot on the waterfront for the best views and catch the Christmas fireworks display in all its glory. Check out all the details here.

Christmas lunch with friends: Student One

Resident Assistants
Why not create your own Christmas celebration and invite your friends? Bring your culture and traditions and cook up a feast, or exchange gifts with friends at the barbecue areas or communal kitchen at the Sky Lounge.

Our favourite summer activities:

For a cheeky day trip: Stradbroke Island

Blue water at the beachA ferry ride away, a paradise island awaits. Known for its gorgeous beaches and lush bushland, North Straddie is the perfect spot for a day trip or weekend away.

Catch a glimpse of turtles, rays, dolphins and koalas at Mooloomba Road at Point Lookout. Learn to surf with the North Stradbroke Island Surf School on the calm waves at some of the quieter beaches. Hire a bike to cruise around the island on two wheels (you can even take the bikes on the beach). Stroll along the wooden boardwalk at the North Gorge for views of the turquoise sea, rocky cliffs and wildlife. Then wrap up the day with some local seafood. If you can, try some prawns, Moreton Bay bugs and scallops. Do it like the locals and grab your fish and chips rolled up in butcher’s paper from Fins and Fries at Meegera Place, behind Bob’s Shop.

If you’re planning to stay a little longer, check out the camping spots and cabins, and don’t miss a sunset on the beach.

For something out of the city: Sunny Coast bush walks

Just an hour by car from the city, the Glass House Mountains and surrounding regions have an abundance of walking tracks perfect for both activity and getting that Instagram worthy shot.  Because if you went to the Sunshine Coast and didn’t get a pic on top of Mount Coolum, did you really go?

A short and sweet hike: Mt Coolum

For a 1.6km return trip, this trek will provide breathtaking views of the ocean and is much like climbing big, natural stone stairs. This mountain is close enough to the beach that you could ride a bike back, or take a quick dip between the red and yellow flags to cool down. Give yourself around an hour for this one. You’ll need a hat too, the view is hot at the top.

For a bit of a challenge: Mt Ngungun

Large mountain with trees and rocks
Mount Ngungun has a 2.8km trail with great views of Mount Tibrogargan, Mount Coonowrin and Mount Beerwah. When you hit the summit, be prepared for 360-degree views of the coast and hinterland. This’ll take you around two hours so pack lots of water and snacks.

For picnics and swims: Gap reserve

swimming hole with people around the banks
The Gap Creek Reserve has an authentic bush feel, just 15 minutes from the city. It’s known for bike trails, but you can relax on the grass by the lapping waters of the natural water reserve that is safe for swimming, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking.

To cuddle some furry friends: Koala sanctuary

Two people playing with a kangaroo
Just 12km from the city at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, you can hold one of their 130 koalas and hand-feed kangaroos. Meet all sorts of Aussie animals in this natural setting surrounded by trees and bush.

Daisy Hill Koala Sanctuary is a great free option to view koalas in their natural setting from two observation decks – so bring your camera. Learn more about koalas, their habitat and life cycle.

City views and short hikes: Mt Coot-tha

Views of Brisbane city skyline from a deck
Take a drive to the top of Mount Coot-tha for unparalleled views of the Brisbane skyline and surrounding suburbs. Grab a coffee or bite to eat at their restaurant and perch on the hill to take it all in.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more active, take a hike on one of the many surrounding paths and rest at one of the picnic spots along the way. Access hiking paths via car parks along Sir Samuel Griffith Drive or Gap Creek Road.

To chuck some snags on the barbie: Free barbecue spots

People sitting at table eating sausages
Brisbane City Council has over 400 barbecues in parks around Brisbane. Some of the most popular are South Bank Parklands, Kangaroo Point Cliffs (catch the sunset here), New Farm Park, Northshore Riverside Park and Captain Burke Park (Story Bridge views).

Alternatively, Student One has free barbecues for its residents to use across its inner-city residences.
The essentials to pack: sausages or vegetables, bread, your choice of sauces (tomato, barbecue, etc), cooking spray to avoid sticky sausages on the hot plate, tongs and plates or napkins.

And last but not least, when the heat becomes too hot to handle, check out our guide to the coolest activities to do in Brisbane over summer.