Every city has a museum worth visiting. Given this one is named Queensland Museum, you’d think it’d be pretty good, and thankfully it is. Besides housing 1.2 million objects relating to culture, natural history and geology, the Queensland Museum is also the biggest and best dinosaur museum in Brisbane. Luckily, this time around I also managed to visit the Dinosaurs of Patagonia Exhibition and experience some of the museum’s interactive stations.
I was perhaps a little more excited than most when I walked into the museum last Sunday. I’ve had a fascination with museums my whole life and I even have a palaeontology degree I acquired from Sydney’s Macquarie University. I was all set to work in a museum but decided instead on a life of travel. However, I did manage to work in London’s Natural History Museum as a chef back in the day, and what a fabulous place that is too! But I digress…I had also been to the Queensland Museum before but it had been a few years.
So, returning once again, I walked in, picked up a map and decided to explore this dinosaur museum in Brisbane floor by floor so I hopefully wouldn’t miss anything.
Level 3 – The Dinosaurs of Patagonia Exhibition
I went straight to level 3, as this was the part of the museum I actually paid to see and dinosaurs have pretty much always been my jam. It’s also the most important dinosaur collection in the southern hemisphere and features a full-scale cast of the largest dinosaur to walk the earth! At the start of the exhibition, it was interesting to see timelines marked out in periods and information on geology. It was all stuff I was familiar with but I definitely needed a reminder. The following were the highlights…
Named after the palaeontologist who discovered it, Ruben Carolini, this Giganotosaurus has one of the biggest skulls in the world, measuring 1.6 metres long. This beast was believed to reach around 13 metres in length and weighed 8 tons. It had a keen sense of smell, razor-sharp teeth and it was the largest known predator in history!
Reaching up to 42 metres in length and weighing a whopping 76 tonnes (about 15 large elephants!), the Patagotitian is the largest known dinosaur in the world. Being a herbivore, it would have perhaps used its weight to defend itself against larger predators.
Tyrannotitan chubutensis is possibly the most impressive, restructured cast figure to look at. Interestingly, palaeontologists found it alongside Patagotitian, indicating that perhaps it attacked the giant herbivore before it died. Tyrannotitan chubutensis was 12 metres long, 4 metres high and had killer sharp teeth. Definitely not a creature you’d want as a pet!
Another highlight of this dinosaur museum in Brisbane, particularly for kids, was the interactivity that tries to replicate the look and feel of the dinosaurs. I loved touching the replica carnotaurus skin! There’s also loads more to see in this exhibition, but I won’t spoil it for you by rambling on about everything. You’ll just have to go see for yourself. The exhibition runs until October 2nd, so you still have time! And if you’ve missed it, there are always new exhibitions on at the Queensland Museum.
Level 4 – Wild State & the Discovery Centre
After leaving the Dinosaurs of Patagonia Exhibition I went to the top floor to see Wild State & the Discovery Centre. Upon entering this section I was reminded that museums can be like gigantic tombs. They’re fantastic repositories of knowledge, which is why I enjoy them so much, but everything is dead and stuffed – which is particularly evident on this floor. Nevertheless, there are some good things to see here, like the cassowary inside a maze of wood and the detail of Australia’s flora and fauna beautifully captured (and stuffed).
Level 2 – More Dinosaurs, Butterflies and Insect Agency
This is by far and away the best floor in this dinosaur museum in Brisbane, which is possibly why it’s on the same floor as the entrance. There’s more interactivity for the kids on this floor too, as well as more dinosaurs. Rahhhh! The first section I walked into was Insect Agency, which has some cool information on biomimicry – which is scientists copying insect ‘superpowers’ to develop technology. However, the highlight here was definitely the bug builder and the insect sorter interaction.
Inside Insect Agency, kids were designing and naming their own insects, as well as separating and classifying them into their correct groups. It looked colourful, educational and a great way to engage kids. Another interaction just around the corner in the Dinosaurs Unearthed section is the palaeotech interaction. Here I watched a kid explore the museum’s fossil collection, by turning them, zooming in and out and changing the scale. Digital replicas like this educate kids while providing researchers with a way to study the fossils without handling (and ruining) them. Win-win!
The Butterfly Man
While this is essentially a dinosaur museum in Brisbane, my favourite part of the Queensland Museum was actually the butterfly section, housed in an exhibition called ‘The Butterfly Man of Kuranda: The Dodd Collection’. It’s a story about Frederick Dodd, who fled his bank job in Victoria and ended up in tropical Queensland collecting butterflies for a living. After his death, his kids transferred his collection to the museum. It’s a beautiful site to behold, even if the butterflies are literally shells of their former selves. As you can see, Australia really does have some beautiful specimens!
Additional items of note on this floor are the giant squids locked in the glass chambers laid out on the walkways. They certainly drew a crowd!
Level 1 & 1.5 – Dinosaur Museum in Brisbane
While sounding like something out of Harry Potter, level 1.5 is actually a small floor with a collection of minerals which are certainly worth a look if you’re a rock lover. On level 1, there’s the Spark Lab, which I didn’t visit as this costs extra to enter, although it’s apparently a great spot for kids. Here there’s more interactivity dealing with science, technology, engineering and maths.
This dinosaur museum in Brisbane is also home to the Anzac Legacy Gallery on level 1, which I did pop my head into. This gallery tells the story of the First World War in Queensland. It’s a pretty decent-sized section and one piece which I found intriguing was the ‘Treasure Chest’. This was apparently a clever little contraption for its time, built in 1917 by the union for the purpose of raising money for the rehabilitation of soldiers and sailors. It was essentially an old lotto machine and I certainly thought it looked pretty cool. In fact, I’d quite like one in my living room.
Ground Floor – The Dinosaur Garden
I admit to being disappointed by this section, as I’d been here almost ten years ago with my family and there were a lot of interactive elements in the garden for kids. Apart from the gigantic plastic dinosaurs in the garden, the ‘Dinosaur Garden’ contains no such activities these days. Apparently, the Queensland floods in 2022 flooded everything, so the museum has, understandably, decided to keep the ground floor bare. Kids can still run around here and as it’s got a soft, rubber ground it’s still popular with the little ones, but there’s really not a lot to see.
Another nice bonus adjacent to the museum is Café Muse, which is accessible via a concrete tunnel that passes under whales floating in the air. The café is cleverly designed as it provides a cool respite from the Queensland heat, as the outdoor seating area is concrete and hidden nicely in the shade. The café within is also leafy, there’s a decent selection of food and even an outdoor terrace at the top.
In all, the Queensland Museum is without a doubt the best dinosaur museum in Brisbane, but as I rediscovered, it also houses quite a few other surprises within. It is smaller than I remember it though, and I feel it could do with some more interactivity/tech, but then again I didn’t visit the Spark Lab (which apparently has more of this).
You could see everything in the museum in two hours, although if you spend your money on extras like the Spark Lab and the Dinosaurs of Patagonia, it could take longer. I visited the latter and comfortably saw what I wanted within two hours.
A Few Fast Facts
- There’s a large gift shop at the museum’s entrance and another in the Dinosaurs of Patagonia exhibition. Here you’ll find all kinds of souvenirs, including T-shirts.
- The museum is wheelchair-friendly, having wide, flat access as well as lifts that reach all floors.
- There’s a cloakroom, information desk, a diaper changing room and of course toilets.
- Exhibitions change regularly at the museum, so make sure you take a look at the Queensland Museum website before you visit.
- The museum dates back to 1859, when a group of curious-minded folk formed the Queensland Philosophical Society. They then opened their first public display in Brisbane’s windmill on Wickham Terrace, which was the start of the Queensland Museum Network.
- The museum is open every day, from 9:30am – 5pm.
- The Queensland Museum – otherwise known as the Dinosaur Museum in Brisbane – is located right by the Culture Centre Station, which is a central bus station. You can also catch a train to South Brisbane Station, which is a five-minute walk to the museum.