Brisbane is a city best visited by car, because despite the many beautiful attractions, they are widely spaced. Yet there are still some great opportunities to see the best of Brisbane that on foot tie together some great attractions and views.
You will need to lace up your walking shoes before embarking on these walks, but they are definitely worth it.
Kangaroo Point Cliffs to South Brisbane via South Bank
South Bank is Brisbane's most iconic location, but few people do more than just wander through the park lands. Instead it is better to start at Kangaroo Point and make your way through South Bank to the Galleries and Museums in South Brisbane.
You can easily do this walk either way. If you are coming in by public transport, it is better to start at the South Brisbane end, but if you drive, it is always possible to find parking spots up above the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. From an experience point of view, it really is more enjoyable to walk from the cliffs towards South Bank.
Kangaroo Point Cliffs
From on top of the Kangaroo Point cliffs you have the best view of the city. If you just want to enjoy the views, then head the Cliffs Cafe and nearby park. The park includes three great artworks as well as the views of the city. The cliffs are also a popular location for picnics and barbecues.
The first stop after leaving Kangaroo Point is the Maritime Museum. This is considered to be one of Brisbane's best museums. Certainly an educative place to take your kids.
South Bank is Brisbane's great success story. It combines public green space, a free artificial beach, an artificial rain forest, lots of restaurants, some takeaway shops, markets on the weekends and of course the Wheel of Brisbane. For many locals and visitors, this is the best place in Brisbane.
On weekends and evenings you will find all sorts of free entertainment here. These include everything from concerts, free dance classes, festivals and who knows what. Even when there is no other entertainment, there are usually a few buskers of various quality around.
The Cultural Precinct includes the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and several museums, galleries and a library across the road in South Brisbane. The Queensland Art Gallery is always worth having a look in. While it generally lacks much of a collection of local art works, it does have some, including a painting of Brisbane dating back to the 19th century.
While nowhere near as good as some of the great museums or interactive learn centres around the world, it still does well for it size. Static displays include information about flora and fauna in the area and the Science Centre is very interactive.
The museum hosts numerous fascinating touring exhibitions and usually a popular dinosaur exhibition that seems to be on every summer holiday.
State Library of Queensland
For more history and possibly some art, pop into the State Library of Queensland. Exhibitions vary and change around every 3 to 6 months. The wide variety of different exhibitions have meant that often there is something for everyone. If you are walking with young kids, the kids zone on the ground floor is a nice place for them to chill out and play for a while.
The State Library of Queensland is worth popping in to check out the constantly changing exhibitions
The Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA) is Australia's most popular art gallery. A little bit populist but still provides a range of different permanent and touring exhibitions. Unless a big exhibition is on, they have a great collection of indigenous art woks on permanent display.
They do have an strong interest in contemporary Asian art, but my feeling here is that this collection more reflects the interests or the curators than a true reflection of the Asian art scene.
Food, coffee or snacks
The Cultural Precinct is home to a number of cool little coffee shops. One of the most popular is the one at the Library, and the museum coffee shop, called the Collectors Cafe, is the best one for kids. But my personal favourite is the one in the Queensland Art Gallery. This cafe is inside the gallery grounds, but in a lovely little garden area with a water feature and numerous sculptors.
The alternative is to walk back to South Bank with its incredible range of restaurants to choose from.
Ferry ride back to Kangaroo Point
You can jump on a ferry at South Bank and head back to the starting point of the walk.
Cross the Mt Coot-tha Summit
Everyone who visits Brisbane heads up Mt Coot-tha but few people do more than visit the Kuta Cafe and maybe walk the Summit Track. But there is much more the Mt Coot-tha than that, and one of the best walks is to do the cross summit walk starting at Chapel Hill and ending at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.
The best place to start the walk is on Fleming Road in Chapel Hill. You can drive and there is plenty of off road parking off Fleming Road (look for the sign for The Hut) but then you will have to walk back to the beginning. You can also take the 425 bus from the city to the start of the walk. There are buses at the summit and at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.
My favourite way up Mt Coot-tha is the Honeyeater Track
The Kuta Cafe provides great coffee, cheap ice cream and mediocre service and unimpressive food along with expansive views of Brisbane. There is also the well regarded Summit Restaurant (popular for people proposing marriage and of course anniversaries) and a small gift shop.
Kuta Cafe on the summit of Mt Coot-tha has the best views in Brisbane
Head back up the road and on your right you will find the start of the Summit Track. This track is both well maintained and has drink taps. While not an interesting walk, it is popular with people exercising in the morning and of course tourists.The track takes us to some interesting locations.
Leading off the summit track, which many people miss, is the Aboriginal Art Trail as well as JC Slaughter Falls. Now I have one occasion seen a trickle of water going over the falls, but what is interesting for most people is the Aboriginal Art.
These artworks were added during the 1988 bicentennial. There are only a few and they are not well maintained, so don't get too excited, but they are still interesting for kids and for visitors to Australia. The best set of art is at JC Slaughter Falls.
At the end of the Summit Track is the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area. This locale was actually cleared out in Word War II as a bush camp for US servicemen. The most interesting location is the Bush Chapel. Look for a path leading off to the right of the picnic area.
The Bush Chapel at the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area
This chapel is nothing more than some logs and a stone alter used by US service personnel. It rarely is used any more except for the occasional wedding. Worth visiting all the same.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens
The Brisbane Botanic Gardens should not be confused with the one in the city which is the City Botanic Gardens (even Google confuses these). Most people, including the Brisbane City Council, generally refers to these gardens as the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens to avoid confusion.
This wonderful gardens include a decent cafe (for the end of your trip), a library, planetarium, gardens featuring numerous tropical and subtropical plants (especially from Asia) and a tropic dome for truly tropical plants.
The tropical dome at the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens
There is also a viewing platform from where you can see the city and further back behind this is a garden of Australian native flowering plants and a wonderful Australian garden. In one small section you can experience a wide variety of bushland environments.
There are buses form the Botanic Gardens to the city, though you can walk back the way you came to the car park (it is much faster when you don't need to stop and look at different places).
The Brisbane City CBD is not exactly the most pleasant city to walk through, with busy roads and often crowds of pedestrians, However if you know where to go, you can find many pleasant locations that are worth visiting, and if you follow the right route, you can avoid the crowds and much of the worst traffic.
The trick is to do a wide loop that starts at Central Station and ends at King George Square, though you can also easily do the walk in the opposite direction. Of course you don't need to do a complete loop but take the opportunity to cross the river either by ferry or by one of the bridges to South Bank.
Like a lot of modern Brisbane, if you are at Central Station, you don't feel that this is a historic building as the station has been extensively modernised. The best view of this building is from across the road. Which is really the most convenient place to start this walk.
Standing opposite Central Station and looking over ANZAC square you have a view of a city that seems historical with plenty of green space. Though really this is the one spot in the heart of the city that give you this feel.
After walking through ANZAC Square you can avoid having to cross the busy street by taking the pedestrian bridge. Look for the stairs on your right that take you up to the walkway across Adelaide Street.
Post Office Square
Post Office Square is a lovely area of green space in the city. It is often home to various pop up bars and entertainment. Underneath is a food court that really only opens for lunch from Monday to Friday.
Post Office Square Laneway Arch that appeared in the movie San Andreas
Crossing Queen Street you can either take the little lane way through to the Cathedral of St Stephen or just to the left you will find the MacArthur Center. This historic building was the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur in World War II and now houses a shopping centre, an Apple Store and the MacArthur Museum of Brisbane.
Cathedral of St Stephen
The walk goes on to the Cathedral of St Stephen which includes a Cathedral that is usually kept open to the public when not in use, a chapel that almost always open during the day and lovely grounds that is popular with CBD workers at lunch time.
St Stephens Cathedral grounds is a little green oasis in the city
I talked to a priest here and they are happy for people to enjoy the grounds and plan to add additional seating for the public.
Eagle Street Pier and the City Reach Boardwalk
Past the Cathedral is Eagle Street Pier, home to the glittering office towers and many of Brisbane's best restaurants. This area is host to the Eagle Street Markets on Sundays and also gives you access to the City Reach Boardwalk.
In addition QUT has a number of cool cafes. The most interesting is the Pantry in the Old Government House.
Walking under the express way
From QUT you can either walk along the roads or follow the river path under the express way. While walking under a major highway might not sound interesting, it really is a combination of beautiful and surreal.
While Brisbane's Treasury Casino is one of the most boring casinos in Australia it is home to several bars and some interesting restaurants. Fat Noodle features noodles of all types and the buffet seafood restaurant in the basement is usually crowded at meal times.
Queen Street Mall is Australia's most successful and popular street malls. On most Friday evenings and weekends it is home to entertainment. Of course there is shopping and several food halls to pop in to and find a snack or a cool drink.
King George Square
The last stop on this walk is King George Square. This once green space has been paved over to create a space for various events. The square itself is not very interesting but it is worth visiting City Hall.
Within City Hall is the Museum of Brisbane, an interesting little museum that will tell you more about the city of Brisbane and the Moreton Bay area. You can also go up the clock tower for great views of the city.
New Farm to Teneriffe
This walk is more about the walk that the destinations, but there are some nice places on this walk. I normally do this walk in the direction of Teneriffe and take a ferry back, but New Farm park is also a nice end to the walk if you go in the opposite direction. If you are a keen walker you can keep walking all the way into the city.
The Powerhouse is in an eclectic place. The two permanent feature is its cafe and Watt Restaurant and Bar. Other than that you never really know what you are going to get. Maybe there will be a free art exhibition, a play, music or some other unexpected event. This can make a casual visit disappointing, but it can also means you might find something amazing.
Submariners Walk Heritage Trail
A path follows from there in the direction of Teneriffe. One of the main stops of interest is the Submariners Walk Heritage Trail. During WWII, US Submarines were based at Teneriffe. While there is little left, there are information boards laid out where the Submarines used to dock.
Teneriffe woolstores restaurants
You will know when you are in Teneriffe when you see the Woolstores. This is also a great location for medium priced dining, so I recommend that you time your walk in time for lunch of diner.
The old wool stores have been converted into apartments with restaurants and cafes below
As the walk is only 2.5 kms many people do the walk in both directions, but it is nice to know that you jump on a CityCat Ferry to return to New Farm Park.
New Farm to the CBD via the Riverwalk
For locals this is certainly Brisbane's most famous walk as it includes the much loved Riverwalk which was destroyed in the floods and reconstructed bigger, better and with lots of room for both cyclists and pedestrians. At 5.5 kms it is a great distance for all types of walkers.
New Farm Park
Everyone starts this walk at New Farm Park. Though the dedicated walk doesn't actually start here, but a little way down Oxlade Drive.
You can keep walking down Oxlad Drive, or look for the path that leads down the river and Merthyr Park. This takes you off the street for part of the way. At the end of the park you will still need to walk a little way along Griffith Street until you arrive at the start of the Riverwalk.
Designed as pedestrian and cycle path that leads into the city, this is a popular location in the morning as people exercise or head to work in the city.
The popular Riverwalk takes you out over the Brisbane River
Brisbane's iconic Story Bridge has a place in the hearts of Brisbanites. Your path will go under the bridge. If you are looking to take photos for the bridge, the best location is at Wilson Outlook Reserve which is accessible by making your way up to Bowen Terrace from near the base of the Bridge and back tracking a little.
Most people end the walk at the City Botanic Gardens even though the path continues around the headland and you have the option of cross the river to South Bank. While it is quite a small botanic gardens it is the perfect place to sit on a bench or the grass overlooking the river.
QUT cafes and galleries
But it can be much better to continue on to the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) campus that is next to the Botanic Gardens. While not exactly a pleasant campus it is home to two art galleries, historical buildings and, even better, a couple of cool cafes. The Pantry at the Old Government House is one of the most pleasant to visit.