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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.