This sub-tropical city offers plenty of ways to shrug off workday worries and clear your head for a while, as Lee Mylne explains.
The sinuous curves of the serpentine Brisbane River are never far from the gleaming towers of the city’s business world, and escaping from the bricks and mortar into green spaces that breathe and heave with lush sub-tropical verdancy is easy here.
Brisbane’s face turns to the river, and it’s not a bad idea to do the same whenever you’ve got some time to spare.
Get to know the city on foot and take in the city and river views along the riverside boardwalk that stretches in both directions from the city heart.
Many of Brisbane’s major cultural and natural attractions are also along the riverbank, so whichever direction you take, you’re guaranteed to find something to see or do.
Post Work Activities
Twilight offers a chance to get out of the concrete jungle and onto the river. Take the City Hopper from Riverside across to the Kangaroo Point cliffs.At the base of the cliffs - which are floodlit at night - is the River life Adventure Centre, a great place to get some exercise while still enjoying one of Brisbane’s best views. From here, you can rent a kayak or take an abseiling lesson, or simply hike up the stairs to the top of the cliffs.
Twilight kayaking tours finish off with a glass of bubbles as a reward for your paddling, or you can take to the walking and jogging paths along the river or the cliff top. Your route will lead to South Bank, and you can loop around over the pedestrians-and-cyclists-only Goodwill Bridge, through the City Botanic Gardens and back to the city centre.
Wining and Dining
South Bank, of course, can be discovered in a less active way. Brisbane’s sprawling leisure, entertainment and cultural precinct, is a short walk from the city and there are several stylish bistros along the riverfront at the hot new dining precinct of River Quay.
Try Popolo for great Italian fare, The Jetty for Bali-meets-Brisbane cuisine and cocktails, or Stokehouse Q (the younger sister to Melbourne’s iconic St Kilda restaurant).
This is also the place to find Brisbane’s theatre and entertainment hub, with plenty always on offer at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre. And across the river, via the Victoria Bridge, is the Treasury Casino, with six restaurants and a couple of bars.
If you’ve jumped on a CityCat in the opposite direction from the city - heading towards the mouth of the river - you can get off at New Farm Park and head to the Brisbane Powerhouse Centre for Live Arts and Watt restaurant, great for pre-show dinner, canapés or pizza, or a leisurely dinner overlooking the river.
Further downstream is the Portside Wharf restaurant and entertainment precinct at Hamilton, which includes the elegant Sono Japanese restaurant, fine Italian dining (or just a drink) at Gusto de Gianni, and a decadent Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. There are cinemas here too.
In the city heart, head to Burnett Lane for hip bars and street art. Brisbane’s oldest laneway, dating to convict times, is now the coolest spot in town. Hit The Survey Co. (at the George Street end of the lane) for dinner, or Brew for a drink or two after the day’s business has been done. Another great choice here is popular bar Super Whatnot.
Whether you’re a first-timer to Brisbane or not, a great way to see unexpected aspects of the city is to take a free Brisbane Greeter tour. These “insider” guides to the city, can be tailored to your interests or time restrictions, or you can chose from a range of themed tours such as public art, architecture, culture or history, or at a particular neighborhood or precinct. Guides are volunteers with a passion for the city, and can introduce you to some of Brisbane’s hidden gems.
Tours leave from the tourist information kiosk in the Queen Street Mall, and you can join others or have your own exclusive tour guide. The only cost involved is for any public transport that is used or admission fees to attractions (and you’ll be told what these might be before the tour starts). Some tours combine cycling using CityCycle bikes - another great way of blowing those business-meeting cobwebs away after hours.
For a new perspective on the city, and a great way to start or finish the working day, take a Story Bridge Adventure Climb. Don the steel grey jumpsuit of a bridge-climber and get one of the best views of the city and surrounds from this iconic bridge, from 80 metres above the river at the highest point of your climb. With climb times ranging from early morning to sunset a climb can usually be fitted in to a busy working day.
While the climb may seem touristy, it’s a great experience for everyone, whether you’re looking for a different way to entertain clients, an incentive for staff, or are travelling with family (children 10 and over can climb).
Another of the city’s ‘must see’ attractions - especially if you’ve got some leisure time, or plan on a trip back to Brisbane with family is the beautiful sandstone City Hall, newly reopened after a three-year multi-million-dollar renovation. Take the lift to the clock tower for what was once - many years ago – the city’s highest viewpoint.
Overlooking King George Square, it was built in the 1920s and is still a working civic building. Free guided tours are run five times a day (but be sure to book as they are very popular). Separate tours are run to the top of the clock tower every 15 minutes daily from 10am-4.45pm. You cannot book for these tours and it pays to arrive early because the heritage elevator only holds seven passengers.
Taking time out of a busy schedule to slow the pace can unfurl some of a city’s secrets. Brisbane’s are sure to lure you back.