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Published May 3rd 2016
Get a whole lot of bang for zero bucks
Brisbane's Best Free (or Really Cheap) Tours
Whether you're a newbie to Brisbane, a tourist just passing through or a long-time resident with time on your hands but not much cash in your pocket, you probably appreciate getting something for nothing. Well, Brisbane is a city that lets you say goodbye to the user pays principle and leave the credit card at home and the piggy bank undamaged in your pursuit of entertainment, information, history and important attractions.
No one will be calling you a cheapskate, a penny-pincher or a skinflint when you enjoy any of the following free (or really cheap) Brisbane tours and activities. They'll all be envious of your insightful experiences and new-found knowledge and wondering what your secret is. Just tell them WeekendNotes sent you. And if you know of any free tours that we've missed, then leave a note in the Comments section.
You don't have to be new to Brisbane to take advantage of the Brisbane Greeters free tours. Let enthusiastic locals give you the lowdown on the river city through a range of options.
If you know exactly what you'd like to see and learn about you can even book a Your Choice Greet, combining up to three particular interests and one area for your own personalised tour. Now that's service.
On the other hand if you have no idea about where you'd like to start your Brisbane journey of discovery then why not book a Greeter's Choice Greet and leave it all in the hands of your expert guide.
All Brisbane City Greets are absolutely free. Visit the website to book your own slice of Brisbane history, sights and atmosphere.
Brisbane City Hall Tours
Brisbane City Hall Heritage Tours Brisbane City Hall is truly one of the symbols of our city. It's even featured in Brisbane City Council's corporate logo. The original building, designed in the Classical style, was built between 1920 and 1930. After closing for extensive renovation (worth $215 million) in 2010 Brisbane's grand old dame re-opened for business in 2013 in all her restored glory. A highlight of the tour is the auditorium, complete with the Father Henry Willis organ and stained glass ceiling dome.
Free tours operate daily at 10.30am, 11.30am, 12.30pm, 1.30pm, 2.30pm and 3.30pm and last for approximately 45 minutes. You can book online here or call (07) 3339 0845. Tours for a maximum of 20 people depart from the King George Square foyer.
Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower Tours City Hall's beautifully restored, hand-operated lift will take you gracefully above the city for a helicopter view of the world below. The free tours are short and sweet and I highly recommend them. They operate on a first come, first served basis and run every fifteen minutes from 10.15am to 4.45pm seven days a week. You don't need to book, just turn up at the reception counter of The Museum of Brisbane and you'll be issued with a ticket for an available tour. In busy periods like school holidays you may have to wait for an hour or two, but you can spend your waiting period perusing the museum exhibits.
Brisbane City Hall Clock Tower. Image taken by writer.
Gardens - Free Guided Walks
Brisbane Botanic Gardens
Brisbane is home to two beautiful botanic gardens. You can view the city's glorious floral pageantry in prime spots: City Botanic Gardens hug a bend in the Brisbane River in the city while Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mt Coot-tha lie at the feet of Brisbane's highest peak.
They both offer free guided walks and individuals and small groups don't need to book to take advantage of the knowledge and enthusiasm of the volunteer guides who conduct the walks. And you don't need to be especially fit to take part. All walks go at a 'leisurely' pace.
Roma Street Parkland
Adjacent to the bustling Brisbane Transit Centre is the tranquil oasis of Roma Street Parkland. Built on the site of the old Roma Street terminal Station, it boasts an amphitheatre, a number of themed gardens, artworks and boardwalks. Free one hour guided walks leave at 11am and 1pm daily from The Hub and bookings are not necessary.
On the River
Free City Hopper Ferries
Traffic on the beautiful Brisbane River isn't all about the modern CityCats. You can enjoy the city up close from the river on Brisbane's quaint old-style ferries. Free City Hopper Ferries criss-cross the river upstream and downstream between Sydney Street and North Quay. Hop on and hop off as you please, see the sights and check out attractions like South Bank and the Maritime Museum. A City Hopper Ferry comes through every 30 minutes. View the timetable here.
21 sleek CityCat catamarans prowl the Brisbane River all the way from UQ to Hamilton, with stops in scenic and popular spots like West End, South Bank, New Farm Park, Bulimba and Brett's Wharf. They're the ideal way to get around Brisbane any time of the year, but try to make the journey from late October to early January when the jacarandas or poincianas cast their purple or red carpets along the riverbanks.
You can travel the whole distance for a little under $4 with a Go Card. You can even enjoy a virtual experience of some of the more popular routes and stops by watching the Brisbane City Council videos here.
Port of Brisbane Tours
Okay, this one isn't actually on the river but it will give you a bird's eye view of the workings of a busy, commercial river port. One hour Explorer's Tours are only $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and $5 for children. These Land bus tours depart the Port of Brisbane Port Office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 12.30pm. Community Tours are only $8 per person and take one and a half hours. Bookings are advised by completing the booking form online or phoning (07) 3258 4888.
Cathedral of St Stephen
This heritage listed, Gothic revival cathedral holds free guided tours from Mondays to Fridays at 10:30am, where you can learn about the building's architecture, artworks and history. Sunday tours of the Cathedral can be arranged by appointment by calling (07) 3324 3030.
Brisbane Powerhouse's position as a multi-arts, entertainment, conference and dining hub is unrivalled in Brisbane. It was constructed between 1928 and 1940 and is a fine example of Art Deco Industrial Design. It was originally used to supply electricity for Brisbane's extensive tram network. Decommissioned as a powerhouse in 1971 and bought back by Brisbane City Council in 1989, it began its new life as a vibrant, interesting performance venue in 2000.
You can experience all the backstage atmosphere, history and architectural quirkiness of this iconic building on one of their tours. A minimum of 20 people is required, bookings must be made at least two weeks prior to the day you'd like to attend and the cost is $5.50 per person. Phone (07) 3358 8622 for bookings.