A trip to Brisbane would not be complete without seeing the meandering river that winds through this burgeoning metropolis. Steeped in history, the Brisbane River is the lifeblood of the city and offers many activities for locals and visitors alike. Here are five of our favourites.
1. Cruise on a CityCat
Of the many things to do around Brisbane’s historical river, the top of the list has to be whizzing along it on a CityCat catamaran. The CityCat weaves past the city skyline, luscious gardens, grand houses, iconic buildings and underneath several of Brisbane’s 15 major bridges. Depending on where you get on, you can ride the CityCat downstream to Northshore at Hamilton or upstream to the University of Queensland at St Lucia. A round trip with no stops takes approximately 90 minutes, but take advantage of being able to get off and stretch your legs at various spots along the way.
2. Soak up South Bank
South Bank Parklands is Brisbane’s prime location to enjoy the river. The 17 hectares of parkland, once the location of Expo ’88, offers an array of spaces to relax and unwind. Watch the kids play at the Riverside Green Playground or splash and build sandcastles with them on Streets Beach. Explore the Nepalese Peace Pagoda, snake your way through the vibrant magenta bougainvillea flowers flowing from the Grand Arbour, or learn about the unique Rain Bank system, where stormwater is harvested and re-used to help drought-proof South Bank.
Travel secret: Do as the locals do and pack a picnic lunch or dinner and sit on one of the many lawn areas, take in the view and, very often, enjoy free live entertainment.
3. Dine by the river
One of the best ways to appreciate the Brisbane River is to accompany the views with great food and wine, and there are plenty of riverside restaurants to choose from. Award-winning Aqualinea (39 Vernon Terrace, Teneriffe) offers a seafood menu with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. For a slightly more upscale experience, head to Black Bird Bar & Grill (123 Eagle Street) for specialty steaks grilled over wood fires and unconventional cocktails served on the open-air deck. For a place that offers a little bit of everything, choose the iconic Customs House (399 Queen Street) – enjoy the old world charm of its heritage dining rooms, or soak up stunning views of the river and Story Bridge from the al fresco space.
4. Climb Story Bridge
Be dazzled by the glistening Brisbane River and city skyscrapers from 72 metres high on the iconic 76-year-old Story Bridge. A Story Bridge Adventure Climb is for all fitness levels and experienced guides lead you on a journey that showcases the history of the bridge and fascinating facts about Brisbane. All the while you’ll be mesmerised by the view of the city, the river and the mountain ranges in the distance. Climbs take about two hours, and to see the city in a different light book a twilight or night time tour.
5. Power your own vessel
Of course one of the best ways to really explore the Brisbane River is right up close and personal on your very own kayak or stand-up paddle board – no experience necessary! Paddle under the Story Bridge, past South Bank, the Botanic Gardens and the mangroves, and the city itself – day or night! Many guided tours leave from Kangaroo Point or, if you’re more confident, take a self-guided tour. The easiest way to get there is via ferry, just disembark at the Thornton Street terminal and it’s a 300-metre walk.