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New to Brisbane? Take note: One of the best ways to familiarise yourself with the city and get your bearings is not to drive around aimlessly but to take a river cruise aboard the comfortable and stylish City Cat vessels. This catarmaran inspired mode of transport is far more leisurely and plush than some of the dated buses and trains in the city's transport fleet and if you're traveling on a weekday, far less crowded. Best yet they cruise the city main arterial - the Brisbane River - calling in at some of the city's more interesting and dynamic suburbs. Disembark at your lesiure with most services running every 13 minutes - more frequently than the majority of train and bus services. I recently rode the City Cats for myself from one end of the river to the other. A short wait on the wharf at Apollo Road in Bulimba allowed me a brief moment of serenity before starting my journey. Only brief, however since the ferry soon arrived. 'All Aboard' was called, a friendly greeting from the deckhand offered, and I had secured an outdoor seat at the rear of the vessel and away we went.
Since Apollo Road in Bulimba is the beginning point on the City Cat network and closest to the river mouth we headed upstream with the first port of call at Brett's Wharf in Hamilton. One of the things I enjoy most about taking the City Cat is that it brings the north-side and south-side of Brisbane a lot closer together and connects them in places where there are no bridges. Since living on the southside I rarely venture to the north-side since it means dealing with city traffic or paying road tolls. However in taking the City Cat, Hamilton and the northside become a lot closer.
As a suburb Hamilton has a lot to offer in the way of dining and entertainment. It's also the location of Brisbane's cruise ship terminal and you might be able enough to see a towering 'city on water' as it is docked. For some ideas on things to do in Hamilton see Lucy's weekend notes article here.
Next stop upstream is Bulimba and Oxford Street which is a dining mecca in itself and an ideal place to catch a cheap movie. The Cineplex cinema complexes are the cheapest in Brisbane with adult tickets just $8.50 and concession $6.50. There are an abundance of dining options on Oxford Street but I can personally recommend ' The Jetty' for a lazy breakfast with all the trimmings in a stylish setting. See a review of The Jetty's sister restaurant at southbank here.
Sitting on the riverbanks directly opposite Bulimba lies the exclusive suburb of Teneriffe, Brisbane's newest official suburb since 2010. Teneriffe showcases urban renewal in the converted wool warehouses that have been made into high density urban dwellings. Fortunately developers have converted these in such a way that the original brick exterior of the woolstores has been maintained and restored making them a feature of the suburb and providing original character and charm.
Former Woolstores converted into urban apartments @ Teneriffe
Along the riverbanks at Teneriffe there is a wooden boardwalk which makes for an excellent stroll with plenty to look at while connecting the suburb to nearby New Farm. Along Vernon Terrace which runs parallel to the river there are a number of cafes frequented by executive types and parked close by are plenty of flashy European vehicles. Teneriffe could be the the closest thing Brisbane has to Sydney's Double Bay.
After Teneriffe the next stretch of the City Cat river cruise sees the vessels calling into the inner eastern suburbs of Hawthorne and Norman Park where Kevin Rudd calls home. While there aren't a lot of unique activities to do in these suburbs they boast some of Brisbane's most exclusive properties and the leafy surrounds make them nice places to go walking and see how the other half live. You can however see these properties quite well from the decks of the City Cat themselves.
Mowbray park in East Brisbane and Sydney Street directly opposite in New Farm are grassy spots by the river to enjoy a picnic, entertain the kids with play areas, and sit and watch the world go by. From Sydney Street it is a short walk to New Farm park (although New Farm Ferry Terminal provides best access. For one of Brisbane's most stunning views of the CBD, Wilson Outlook is located on the cliff top on Bowen Tce and is a short walk from Sydney St. For pictures of this incredible vantage point and more about the area click here.
Unfortunately up until the 2011 Brisbane floods there was a floating riverwalk that connected Sydney St ferry terminal to the CBD. Work however on a new river walk is set to begin next year. See this Brisbane Times newspiece for more info.
The next stretch of the City Cat journey doesn't stop until you reach the CBD and Brisbane's main Ferry and Boat Terminal at Eagle St Pier. For those wishing to disembark, Eagle Street is Brisbane's premier fine dining precinct as well as the stop providing the best access to the Botanical Gardens. Many good photo opportunities of the city skyline and Story Bridge are along this part of the journey. Most people on City Cat ended their river cruise here so before the next hoard of passengers boarded I moved to the front of the ferry to snare a prime standing position at the front of the boat where there's nothing or no-one in front blocking the view.
Brisbane Botanical Gardens and CBD near Eagle St Pier terminal
The next stretch of river passes under numerous city bridges with some being more aesthetic and interesting than others. The Goodwill and Kurilpa pedestrian bridges are two of the city's more architecturally impressive. For more information of Brisbane's bridges see the Weekend Notes article here.
Southbank Parklands and North Quay
For those familiar with Brisbane, Southbank should need no introduction as the city's cultural hub. Not only is there Australia's only inner city man-made beach, but a variety of attractions including shopping and dining precincts as well as markets in Stanley Steet Plaza. Add to this the Queensland performing arts centre, Queensland museum and the gallery of modern art and you have Brisbane's main tourism destination. For more on Southbank and activities in the area click here and here for articles from other Weekend Notes writers.
Adjacent to Southbank is another CBD terminal at North Quay which provides best access to Queen Street Mall. For those looking for a mid-day punt the Conrad Treasury Casino is just a few steps away from the North Quay ferry terminal.
Brisbane CBD with Kurilpa Bridge near North Quay terminal
After traveling through another bend in the river and passing under more of Brisbane's bridges, further upstream the City Cat calls in to the desirable suburbs of West End, Toowong, and St Lucia all located in Brisbane's inner-west. The iconic Regatta Hotel in Toowong is located across the road from the Regatta City Cat terminal. The Regatta has a colourful history and is one of Brisbane's most loved pubs making it the perfect spot to stop for an afternoon beer.
The next bend in the river brings West End into picture and is one of my favourite places in all of Brissy to people watch and experience a melting pot of different cultures, food, art and shopping. While the West End ferry terminal is on the other side of the suburb from the main commercial precinct, regular buses (No. 199) connect passengers from the City Cat terminal to the main drag at Boundary Street.
Toowong, St Lucia and West End are all interesting suburb in their own right
Just a few minutes past West End is the final ferry terminal on the City Cat network and the end of my City Cat river cruise. The University of Queensland, located in St Lucia is arguably Queensland's most prestigious institution. The UQ Lakes area of the campus provide bird watching opportunities along with enormous eels to be seen lurking below the boardwalk which is built over the numerous lakes. The University of Queensland and the suburb of St Lucia are great places to relax and to enjoy student life.
Why Ride the City Cats?
From the start of the City Cat network at Apollo Road to the termination at the University of Queensland, there are 24 terminals along the Brisbane River allowing travelers 24 different places to explore. A fleet of 19 City Cats connect Brisbane's riverside suburbs and riding the comfortable City Cats is an enjoyable activity in itself. The City Cat's modern vessels feature TVs, restrooms and bottled water vending machines onboard.
With an adult ticket costing me $5.20 to ride from Apollo Road to the University of QLD, a journey which took just over an hour, I considered the mode of transport to be excellent value, and a enjoyable activity in itself. On a nice sunny day with the wind in your face and the water below you traveling by City Cat is an unbeatable way to see Brisbane and explore some of the city's most interesting and appealing suburbs. All Aboard.
good info here for the river ferry thanks. I am coming to Brisbane so will definitely take a ride, and you told me where to board near my hotel. Just wondering if the ticket price you gave is a one way or does it last for 2 hours travel or something?