One of the best things about having friends visit where you live is that you finally have an excuse to do the touristy things that locals don't often do, but often secretly want to do. Here are some of the best touristy things to do in Brisbane along with some tips to get discounts or get the best value for money.
Note: The appeal of touristy activities is that they are a little cheesy, usually lots of fun and all neatly packaged. This is both the reason why they are mildly to highly embarrassing for locals to do, but also the secret of their appeal.
Take the Brisbane Explorer tourist bus
The hop on and off Brisbane Explorer tourist bus is an easy way to see the most interesting parts of Brisbane. With a 24 hour pass costing $35 for adults and $20 for children, it is not a cheap option unless you plan to visit several locations. In fact with a Go Card you should be able to visit at least 6 locations for the same price including the return trip. Many of the destinations are so close you can walk between them more easily than walking back to the bus stop.
However there are advantages to the tourist bus. The obvious one is that it links all the tourist destinations. But you can also get great views from the open top deck and there is ongoing commentary. Overall it acts as a Brisbane tour, so most people get on the bus and maybe get off at only a few stops while seeing the rest of the sights. This one is something you put your elderly relatives on rather than take yourself.
Given that you can cruise the most interesting parts of the river on the free red ferries, and of course the River Cats go up and down the river continuously, you have to wonder why even tourists would take a cruise.
The Kookaburra Queen provides food, views and onboard entertainment
The answer is of course, meals, deals and entertainment. A Mirimar Cruise will take you to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary as part of a total package. This can be a fun day out for a young family. Meanwhile Kookaburra River Queens cruises include meals and a performance on a paddle boat. Certainly a unique date.
The little red ferry is free if you want river views
With a lack of public vantage points to view Brisbane, The Wheel of Brisbane seems like the only option. With ticket prices starting at $17.50 for an adult, it is not surprising that few Brisbanites have actually ridden the wheel.
However the views are brilliant and the smart locals head to Groupon and other discount sites to buy tickets at less than half price or hire a VIP Private Gondola (which includes wine and chocolates) for an even larger discount. At those prices you really don't have an excuse not to have ridden the wheel.
Tours out of Brisbane are actually a pretty popular option for Brisbanites. This makes a lot of sense when you consider the places that the most popular tours go to.
The best way to see places like Moreton or Fraser Island are on a tour boat. While you can take a ferry, a tour includes access to a lot of other activities that you would want to do while you are there. Often you can find tickets easily with only a few days notice so you can go when the weather is at its best.
The southern part of Moreton Bay also has tours as well, though they are mostly day trips. You can do a tour of the old prison at St Helena Island, or pop across to South Stradbroke Island. Then of course the only way to do whale watching is to join a tour.
If you have the money you can even do a day trip to the southern most island in the Great Barrier Reef by taking a day tour flight from the Gold Coast to Lady Elliot Island.
But popular tours are not restricted to the Islands. Once your destination includes stops offs in wineries, breweries and distilleries then it is of course much better not to drive yourself. This is why Mt Tamborine Tours can be popular as they include wineries, distilleries and breweries on the itinerary. The bus back lets you sleep it off enough to stumble your way home from where the bus drops you off. To the north of Brisbane, Maleny and Montville winery tours are extremely popular with both locals and visitors to the region.
The Flame Hill Winery near Montville is a popular stop on winery tours
Morton bay bugs are often seen as a poor man's lobster. Yet their subtle flavour makes them a unique seafood option. It is also pretty much the only real local food you can offer a visitor to Brisbane and the Moreton Bay Region. But because locals don't eat Moreton Bay Bugs you have to either buy and cook them yourself or go to the very touristy restaurants around Brisbane.
If you live on Moreton Bay, you should eat Moreton Bay Bugs (courtesy of Wikicommons)
Several restaurants in South Bank do Moreton Bay Bugs such as the South Bank Surf Club and some of the restaurants in Queen Street Mall have Moreton Bay Bugs on their Specials Menu. The Treasury Casino includes Moreton Bay bugs as part of their seafood buffet.
I believe Brisbanites should make Moreton Bay bugs part of their regular diets and really claim them as our own special food.