The Brisbane river has changed a lot of the history of the city. Originally it was the focus for boats coming into the city with what is now South Bank being the last of the city ports to be transformed from dockland in the 1980s. It is for this reason that many of the great historical buildings around Brisbane are near the river.
Unless you have the rare ability to walk on water, you will need to stick to the footpaths. Brisbane river has an extensive network of riverside footpaths extending from Teneriffe to Toowong and West End with paths on both sides of the river around the city.
Some of the most popular walks include New Farm to the city via the newly rebuilt Riverwalk where you walk out over the river. Another is from Kangaroo Point to South Bank along the cliff tops. This gives the best views in the city.
Trying to see Brisbane by bicycle makes a lot more sense than going on foot, as you can cover more in much less time. Much of the best of Brisbane is connected by riverside bike paths that are fun to ride by themselves and take you to some great locations.
Most of the tracks are shared paths, which means cycling by the river is most suited for a relaxed tour than as serious exercise, though the path from the city out to Toowong now has separate paths for riders and pedestrians and is part of the popular city loop, which goes from the city along the river to the University of Queensland, then across the river by the Eleanor Schonell Bridge and back to South Bank or West End by one of the many bike paths that go along the roads.
Brisbane's ferry network connects all the way from Hamilton to University of Queensland's St Lucia campus, though you probably don't need to do the whole journey, it is a popular option for tourists. The friendly ferry staff are happy to help out any visitors to Brisbane.
While the Brisbane River is not exactly the most appealing river to kayak in, it certainly has the spectacular and varied views. Kayaking the river is not just for tourists but also attracts many locals as well.
There is nothing more touristy than a river cruise, especially if you can see the exact same thing from a ferry for a fraction of the price. Yet a great cruise will include commentary, food and entertainment and Brisbane offers a number of cruise options.
River City Cruises provides the basic cruise experience with 1 and a half hour morning and afternoon cruises. Kookaburra River Queens focuses on lunch, dinner cruises with jazz on the weekend lunch time cruises and a live cabaret on some of the dinner cruises. A great tourist or family option is to take a Mirimar cruise to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.
There are also disco cruises and other floating entertainment, on a regular and semi regular basis.
Get a view
Despite the great river views, there is not a lot of roof top or dining options with views of the river. Some of the best are Eagles Nest Rooftop Bar at Kangaroo Point and Kangaroo Point Cliffs provides great views of the rive. The Cliffs Cafe on the top of Kangaroo Point Cliffs is a great place for coffee and a snack, but it closes at 5 pm.
Otherwise you need to head up Mt Coot-tha to have more of a bird's eye view of the city and how the river passes through it.
If you really want a bird's eye view, consider a helicopter flight. Now there are options for flying in a helicopter with or without doors on. Of course none of these flights are cheap, with a 20 minute flight starting at $119 per person.