River Cruises: The best way to cruise the river, in my view, is aboard the fast CityCat ferries . Board at Riverside and head downstream under the Story Bridge to New Farm Park, past Newstead House to the restaurant row at Brett’s Wharf, or cruise upriver past the city and South Bank for only a few dollars.
For those who’d like to dine as they cruise, the Kookaburra River Queen paddlewheelers (tel. 07/3221 1300; www.kookaburrariverqueens.com) are a good option. Lunch cruises, for around 90 minutes, cost A$42 adults on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, or A$59 on weekends (kids 4–14 pay half price). Dinner cruises run on Thursday and Sunday for A$79, and Friday and Saturday nights for A$89. The boat departs from the Eagle Street Pier (parking is available under the City Rowers tavern on Eagle St.) at 7:30pm. On Sunday lunch cruises there’s live jazz. Or you can just cruise, without the food, at a cost of A$20 for adults and A$10 for children.
Bus Tours: For a good introduction to Brisbane, look no further than a City Sights bus tour run by the Brisbane City Council (tel. 07/3235 7369; www.citysights.com.au). City Sights buses stop at 19 points of interest in a continuous loop around the city center, Spring Hill, Milton, South Bank, and Fortitude Valley, including Chinatown. They take in various historic buildings and places of interest. The driver of the blue-and-yellow bus narrates, and you can hop on and off at any stop you like. The tour is a good value—your ticket also gives unlimited access to CityCat ferries for the day. The bus departs every 45 minutes from 9am to 5pm daily except Good Friday, Anzac Day (Apr 25), and Christmas Day. The entire trip, without stopping, takes about 80 minutes. Tickets cost A$35 for adults, A$20 for children 5 to 14, or A$80 for a family of five. Buy your ticket on board. You can join anywhere along the route, but the most central stop is City Hall, stop 2, on Adelaide Street at Albert Street.
Walking Tours: The best walking tours in town are run by the Brisbane Greeters (www.brisbanegreeters.com.au)—and even better, they’re free. You get your own personal tour guide (or you can join a group), often a local with a particular area of expertise or interest in some aspect of the city. So you can choose from tours that look at architecture, arts and culture, history, and more, or at a particular neighborhood or precinct. Guides are volunteers with a passion and enthusiasm for the city, and you’ll learn a lot along the way. Some tours combine bicycling using the CityCycle bikes.But really, it’s up to you to decide what to do and how long the walk will be. You’ll likely see the Greeters in their bright red shirts out and about in the city. Tours start from the Visitor Information Centre in the Queen Street Mall, and last anywhere from 1 to 4 hours. Try to book at least 48 hours ahead. Book online or at the Visitor Information Centre.
Free guided walks of the City Botanic Gardens at Alice Street leave from the rotunda at the Albert Street entrance Monday through Saturday at 11am and 1pm (except public holidays and mid-Dec to mid-Jan). They take about 1 hour. Bookings are not necessary.
Prepare for shivers up your spine when you take one of Jack Sim’s Ghost Tours ★ (tel. 0401/666 441; www.ghost-tours.com.au), which relive Brisbane’s gruesome past. Ninety-minute “Haunted Brisbane”walking tours of the city leave from the Queen Street Mall at 7:30pm Thursday and Sunday (A$30 for adults, A$20 for kids 12–17). On Friday and Saturday nights, you can take a 2-hour tour of the historic and haunted Toowong cemetery (A$40 for adults, A$25 for teens). Or choose from a range of other spooky tours. Reservations are essential; tours are not suitable for children under 12.
Whale-Watching in Moreton Bay
Gasps of delight and wonder are the norm aboard Captain Kerry Lopez’s whale-watching boat, and Australia’s only female whale-watching captain never tires of hearing them. Lopez’s purpose-built vessel, the MV Eye-Spy, carries up to 320 passengers out into Moreton Bay between June and November for one of the most awesome sights you may ever see. When I traveled with them, we witnessed the antics of 17 humpback whales as they breached and displayed in the waters around the boat. It was an amazing, unforgettable experience.
Brisbane Whale Watching (tel. 07/3880 0477; www.brisbanewhalewatching.com.au) will organize your 30-minute transfers from city hotels to the departure point in the northern suburb of Redcliffe. If you choose to drive yourself, there’s free all-day parking near the jetty. Tours depart daily at 10am, returning at around 2:30 to 3pm. The trip onto the bay features excellent educational commentary about the whales while Kerry and her crew keep a lookout for these gentle giants of the deep. Prices are A$135 adults, A$125 seniors and students, A$95 children 4 to 14, or A$365 for a family of four, including lunch and morning and afternoon tea. Transfers from Brisbane hotels are an extra A$30 per person.
The best part? There’s a guarantee you’ll see a whale—or you can take another cruise for free.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.