Subscribe      List an Event or Business      Invite a Writer      Write for WN      Writers      Other Locations
list an event      1 million Australian readers every month      facebook

Best Brisbane River Cruises

Home > Brisbane > Cruises | Lists | Romantic | Tours | Unusual Things to do
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published February 6th 2016
The Best Brisbane River cruises for locals and toursists
Best Brisbane River Cruises

Brisbane styles itself as the river city. No visit to Brisbane is complete without a trip or cruise on the river. The river has a long and rich history as the Brisbane was founded as a river port and the river itself was a working port right up until the 1980s.

River tour boats passing under the Story Bridge
River tour boats passing under the Story Bridge


Today, along with history, the river a vibrant place to live, travel and play. There are lots of ways to get on the water, and you are bound to find a perfect way to tour or cruise the river whether you are a visitor or a local.

Photo of the River Tour Cafe boat courtesy of Aquarius Cruises
Photo of the River Tour Cafe boat courtesy of Aquarius Cruises


Little Red Free Ferry

The little red CityHopper ferry had long been popular with tourists even before it was made free. The service runs from 6 am until Midnight 7 days a week and runs from North Quay, on the side of the city opposite South Bank, crosses the river to South Bank, stops at Eagle Street Pier and both sides of Kangaroo Point. Being free, it is the cheapest way across the river and links a number of interesting tourists sites.

The free little red ferry makes it way past the Kookaburra Queens
The free little red ferry makes it way past the Kookaburra Queens


If you are looking to view the city from the river just jump on the ferry. Don't worry about which way it is going as it doesn't travel far up or down the river and is free. When you get to the far end, stay on board and it will turn around and head back in the other direction.

The free little red ferry
The free little red ferry


The main disadvantage is that tourists head up to the upper deck and at popular times it is not possible to find a spot. There is also no commentary or information and with limited staff you won't receive much assistance.

The free little red ferry makes it way past the Story Bridge
The free little red ferry makes it way past the Story Bridge


Still the service is free and it is a great service that can be used by both tourists and locals to travel between the city, Eagle Street Pier, Kangaroo Point and South Bank.

CityCats

The CityCats provide both a great commuter service and are great for tourists. There are open decks on the front and the back of the boats, as well as comfortable enclosed cabins.

A CityCat makes its way from South Bank under the Goodwill Bridge
A CityCat makes its way from South Bank under the Goodwill Bridge


You can buy a ticket while on board the ferry. Talk to the staff and tell them where you are going and whether you plan to link to any other services and they will provide you with the best ticket as well as advice on where to go.

A CityCat makes its way past Eagle Street and the City Botanic Gardens
A CityCat makes its way past Eagle Street and the City Botanic Gardens


Most tourists jump on the ferries and head up to one end of the trip and then immediately take it back again to where they started. This can be well worth it because from the deck of the ferry you see the various bridges, art works, government buildings, houses and historic buildings.

A CityCat approaches the University of Queensland Ferry Terminal
A CityCat approaches the University of Queensland Ferry Terminal


While there is no commentary some information is provided on TV screens on some of the ferries. They also run all day and into the evening and stop at numerous locations, so if you are visiting the city it is well worth thinking about one ferry trip.

As the ferry goes around West End you will see many beautiful Historic Houses
As the ferry goes around West End you will see many beautiful Historic Houses


I would recommend the CityCat as a way to hop on and off to see several locations. You can combine your trip with the free red CityHopper ferry to save some money. Places worth disembarking include the University of Queensland, South Bank, Kangaroo Point, New Farm, Teneriffe and Bulimba.

CityCat at Sunset
CityCat at Sunset


River Tour Cafe

One of the newer options on the river, the River Tour Cafe is one of the best value for money cruises. Starting at $24 for adults and $12 for children, they offer 90 minute cruises at 10 am and Midday Saturday and Sunday.

River Tour Cafe at Jetty B at South Bank
River Tour Cafe at Jetty B at South Bank


As the name implies, you have a cruise that leaves South Bank and visits the areas around the city. There is full colourful commentary offered by the boat captain, but also there is the cafe part of the name. They offer coffee, tea, cake and meals on board with prices similar to cafe prices in South Bank.

Enjoying the view of South Bank from the upper deck of the River Tour Cafe
Enjoying the view of South Bank from the upper deck of the River Tour Cafe


River City Cruises

River City Cruises provides the basic cruise experience with one and a half hour morning and afternoon cruises for $29 leaving from Jetty A at South Bank. The morning cruise includes coffee/tea and scones. They also have a fully licenced coffee shop.

Photo courtesy of River City Cruises
Photo courtesy of River City Cruises


These tours run daily and go down as far as Newstead, giving you the chance to see much more of what is the most interesting part of the river. The morning cruise gives you the option to hop off at Newstead to visit Newstead house and go to the Historic Breakfast Creek Hotel for Lunch. If you hope off, you do have to make your own way back though.

Photo courtesy of River City Cruises
Photo courtesy of River City Cruises


Mirimar Koala Cruise
.
An alternative experience is the Mirimar Koala cruise. This is a great way to both see the river and visit the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Cruises leave daily at 10 am from the Cultural Centre Pontoon. The boat goes up the river, past the University of Queensland, so you get to see parts of the river that most people don't see. It takes just over an hour to arrive at the Koala Sanctuary and you can buy food and drink on board.

Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises
Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises


The ticket price of $72 for adults and $40 for children includes entry into the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. You have two and a half hours at this great zoo where you can see koalas, emus, kangaroos, platypuses as well as a sheep dog and sheep shearing show.

Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises
Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises


You will probably want to eat lunch at the zoo, but you can also eat on the cruise on the way back. You arrive back at the Cultural Centre at 3 pm. So this is a full day adventure.

Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises
Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises


If you are just interested in the river cruise, you can take a one way trip for $28, but you have to make your own way back as that price does not include a return trip.

Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises
Photo courtesy of Mirimar Cruises


Kookaburra ShowBoat Cruises

The boats that attract the most attention on the Brisbane River are the paddle boats. While they look traditional, they were built in the 1980s and have been a tourist favourite ever since. The Kookaburra ShowBoat Cruises offer a broad range of cruises

Kookaburra River Queen
Kookaburra River Queen


The weekday river sight lunch cruise runs on Thursdays and Fridays, and opens for boarding at midday and leaves at 12:30 for a cruise of up to 2 hours. Lunch includes entree, main and dessert with the option to upgrade your lunch to a seafood platter. The cost is $49 plus whatever upgrades you pay for.

One of the Kookaburra Queens on Brisbane River
One of the Kookaburra Queens on Brisbane River


On Weekends they have Jazz Lunch Cruise. Once again boarding starts at 12 pm for a 12:30 departure. This time the cruise is up two and half hours. The menus is the same, but for the jazz cruise you also have jazz during the entirety of the trip. Cost for this is $59. Jazz cruises are popular with both tourists and locals.

Friday and Saturday nights they offer a wonderful city lights dinner cruise. For $79 you have a 3 hour cruise that boards at 6:30 pm and leaves at 7 pm. The menu is pretty much the same as the lunch menu, but there is live music and a space reserved as a dance floor.

There are also high tea cruises. These Saturday and Sunday afternoon cruises include three tier high tea, free flowing champagne, live music and a 2 hour cruise. The cruise boards at 3 pm for a 3:30 departure. All this for $55.

There are some disadvantages to these cruises. They pretty much stick to the Kangaroo Point and South Bank area and you are not guaranteed a window seat. But if you pay an extra $40, they will guarantee you a window seat (or you can arrive early and try and get a good table). However for a dinning and entertainment experience, you can't go wrong with the Kookaburra Queens.

Gondolas

If you are looking for something a little more private and magical, why not try a Golden Gondola cruise instead. There are intimate cruises for between 2 and 6 people. However many people you take, you get the gondola to yourselves. A twilight cruise costs $200 for a couple for hour that includes dinner. There are cheaper non-catered cruises as well, starting at $98 for for half-an-hour. On all cruises drinks are BYO.

Photo Courtesy of Golden Gondolas
Photo Courtesy of Golden Gondolas


While not a cheap option, with a 2 hour cruise at peak times costing up to $395 per couple, it is more of a one of special event. Think anniversaries and other romantic occasions.

Photo Courtesy of Golden Gondolas
Photo Courtesy of Golden Gondolas


Meals include a range of options, but the most popular are the hot or cold seafood or meat platters. Vegetarian options are also available.

Photo Courtesy of Golden Gondolas
Photo Courtesy of Golden Gondolas



Kayaks

If you want to see the river a little differently, you can hire a kayak from Riverlife at Kangaroo Point. You can hire kayaks and paddle the river by yourself or join one of the guided sessions.

Kayaks and standup boards for hire at Riverlife
Kayaks and standup boards for hire at Riverlife


Hiring a kayak costs $28 for one and a half hours. Joining a day kayak group (Daily 1-2:30 pm, Sat & Sun 11 am - 12:30 pm) is $45. You can also kayak at night. Kayaks come with lights for safety at night and tours operate on Friday and Saturday nights from 7 - 8:30 pm at a cost of $59. For $85 you you can enjoy the prawns, BBQ and drinks events on Friday nights.

Paddling on the Brisbane River
Paddling on the Brisbane River


Event Cruises and charters

Most cruises boats also offer special event cruises. These include Valentine's day cruises, RiverFire and New Years Eve. In addition, many of these cruise boats are available for your private party or event.

RiverFire is a popular time for Cruises
RiverFire is a popular time for Cruises



River Taxi

At the time of writing this review, there were no Water Taxis on the Brisbane river, however one is planned to open soon with access to South Bank wharves, but it is yet to be seen whether they will have access to the CBD wharves.
Help us improve  Click here if you liked this article  87
Share: email  facebook  twitter
Your Comment
Nice compilation Roy! This one goes to my todo list. For an outsider with limited time, which one do you suggest as an absolute must?
by Diana (score: 2|674) 1183 days ago
More Brisbane articles
Articles from other cities
Featured
Foodi Photoh Classie
Top Events
Popular Articles
Categories
Lists
Questions