Straddling both sides of the Brisbane River at its most squiggly, Brisbane, Queensland’s capital makes full use of its nickname the “River City“. With City Cats to traversing its waterways, skyscrapers lining its forefront and a yearly fireworks display dedicated to it, Brisbane is, in every sense a city enamoured with its meandering river course. Uncover free things to do along Brisbane‘s shoreline and then uncover even more.
Walk/Cycle The River
Brisbane has done a great job living up to its reputation as being the “River City” and its nonesomore evident than with its river walks. Taking up prime real estate along the Brisbane River, these walks are a great way to discover this beautiful city (and which all make fantastic places to view Brisbane’s fireworks shows such as Sunsuper Riverfire and New Years Celebrations)
New Farm – Jutting out from the banks along the western fringes of New Farm, this over-river River Walk towards the Story Bridge is a relaxing way to stroll or cycle to the city. (The section of the boardwalk closest to the Story Bridge is closed during the fireworks festivities.)
Eagle St Pier – Continuing your walk from the River Walk past the riverfront bars under the Story Bridge, you’ll seamlessly arrive at the City Reach Boardwalk. This area is premier waterfront dining, but it’s also the best place in the city to view the iconic Story Bridge, and with the skyscrapers next to it, it’s a perfect place for photography. (Great place for Sunsuper Riverfire as fireworks explode off the bridge. I don’t think there are fireworks down this end at all during the New Year fireworks.)
Kangaroo Point – Switching from the north side to the south side, the Kangaroo Point Cliffs that sits on a peninsula between the two aforementioned places is another fantastic spot to view the city. The natural cliff face offers walkers and cyclers the option of taking the high road, allowing a unique elevated perspective across Brisbane City or the low road that offers quiet paths with scenic views alongside towering cliffs. (It’s also an amazing place to enjoy the Sunsuper Riverfire fireworks that’s less crowded than South Bank.)
South Bank – Also on the south side, the Clem Jones Promenade at South Bank is also a great place to stroll along the river offering different riverfront views. It’s also an amazing place to deviate from the river and explore as swimming in artificial beaches and wandering museums, theatre halls and beautiful gardens are the real drawcard of visiting South Bank. (As I’ll get into more later.) (Great place for to see fireworks for Sunsuper Riverfire and for New Year but very crowded!
Explore The River City By Boat
City Hopper – 8 Ferry Terminals
Hopping on the City Cat is a wonderfully iconic way to view the river city of Brisbane from the river. The wind in your hair and speeding alongside skyscrapers makes a fantastic water adventure, but for those who prefer a pace that’s a bit slower, the free City Hopper is a worthy alternative.
It doesn’t hit as many spots or come as frequently as the City Cat, but with departures every 35 minutes to 8 stops to all the inner city terminals, it’s a great way to discover the all the good haunts while getting a relaxing scenic tour of the city.
Watch The Day Bleed Into Nightfall (Or Vice Versa)
Mt Cootha in Brisbane’s west is a much-loved, much-visited tourist destination for both locals and visitors.
The mountain which is home to the local news telecasters has a scenic circuit drive which starts and ends at the beautiful Mt Cootha Botanical Gardens and adjacent Planetarium.
It takes you to the starting points for waterfalls, lookouts and bike trails, but the most popular place along this mountain drive is Mt Cootha Lookout.
From this beautiful location, you can see across to the skyscrapers of the CBD and the vast areas of suburbia that lie south of it in an uninterrupted sweeping panorama.
It’s also a choice destination for viewing the fireworks shows of New Year and Brisbane Riverfire if you don’t want to head into the heart of the city and due to its elevation and easterly view, it’s a fantastic place to watch the sun or the moon rise.
Not only that, it’s also a great place to capture some lightning during a summer storm, and thanks to the cafe there, a convenient place to pick up a souvenir.
Traverse The Story Bridge
Between Kangaroo Point And Fortitude Valley
An inexpensive way to experience the Story Bridge is to walk it. It sounds a bit ridiculous, but it’s a satisfying way to explore a famous, mountable bridge without the hefty fee it takes to ascend it.
While it might not have the grandeur climbing it does, walking the pedestrian path across its expanse, is a great way to see the same buildings at your own pace, which, if you’re like me, is achingly slow.
It also means you can take your camera, which is a big no-no when doing ascents like this one due to safety concerns, and get the shots you want to get and not have to drop dollars on expensive souvenir photos.
There is a bridge long fence that extends quite high though, but it’s a great way to save money if you’re on a budget and the views from here are quite spectacular. Just pop your camera through the lower fence to get the shots.
Watch The Clouds Roll In Over Brisbane
Mt Gravatt Lookout
This scenic lookout in an isolated patch of nature in an extensive area of suburban sprawl is a bit out of the tourist trail but is a lovely place to stop by if you’re out this way.
While the views at the more well-known Mt Cootha looks east across Brisbane’s city centre and across vast areas of its southern suburbs, this little slice of paradise offers beautiful views north across to the city as well as the mountains that surround Brisbane’s northern suburbs.
It’s a beautiful place that’s a bit off the menu to have a picnic, take a stroll, watch the sunset or watch the storm clouds roll in.
Discover Brisbane’s Wartime History
Fort Lytton in Brisbane’s far east is a fantastic hidden gem to get in touch with Brisbane’s wartime history.
Featuring colonial buildings, tunnels, and other fortified structures, exploring this expansive fort is like stepping back in time.
Unlike similar historical sites, where there is a disconnect between modern-day life and trying to imagine the circumstance of those who lived throughout the era these sites were operational, this isn’t the case here.
Fort Lytton often puts on regular re-enactments for different wartime eras that gives you a sense of what may have transpired here. It’s a great way to learn the history of the fort in a way that’s much more engaging and realistic than a tour guide or signboards. (not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Eat Hot Chips While Watching The Sun Set Over Raby Bay
For a much more quiet and relaxing experience, head east and ocean-bound towards Cleveland Point and it’s calm ocean tides.
This small peninsula that juts out north over alongside Raby Bay is one of the few places on the mainland in these parts where you can watch the sunset over the ocean. Combine that with some hot chips from the local eatery and the adorable Old Cleveland Lighthouse that resides here and you’ve got yourself a quintessential coastal experience.
Find Some Serenity In Chaos
Roma St Parklands
The gardens of Roma St. Parklands are situated north-west of the CBD and are a beautifully groomed serenity amidst the chaos of city life, providing a calm sanctuary to get a nature fix.
From elaborate flower displays to large ponds with fountains and misty mini waterfalls, one can easily spend hours lost in this little slice of paradise. It’s also a great place to see bees, butterflies and bearded water dragons.
For a quick ride around the various sections of the park, a gold coin donation will allow you to hop aboard a train and discover the gardens in a more relaxing way.
Take A Hike
Around Lake Manchester
If you’re looking for a walk with lakeside views, then Lake Manchester might be a destination may not have known about doing. Sitting on the western fringes of Brisbane, Lake Manchester has a 17km trail that circumnavigates its outer shores.
If that proves too much, numerous trails deviate from the main track and circle back to the beginning that are challenging and provide pockets of view to see that lake as you undulate your way to higher elevation.
Swim Amongst Skyscrapers
The major drawcard of this must-visit Brisbane destination is its stunning beach and rockpool inspired swimming pools.
Featuring like an open resort-style arena, splashing around in these free pools right next to the Brisbane River is a great way to cool off on a hot summers day while gazing at the towering skyscrapers nearby.
Nearby, there are numerous playgrounds, gardens, food vendors, souvenir shops and everything you need to have a memorable day out.
Oh, and there’s also the towering Wheel Of Brisbane if you wish to gain new perspective. (but that, unfortunately, isn’t free, but the Queensland Art Museum is!)
Don’t forget to take a photo of the massive Brisbane sign on the grass by the river at the northern end of South Bank.
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