The Ten Best Things to Do On, By and Near the Water in Brisbane
From visiting overwater bars to riding a water bike along the river, there are plenty of ways to enjoy our River City in summer.
A big windy river that stretches the length of the city. A coastline that, while it isn't located among all the hustle and bustle, is still a definite part of this town of ours. When it comes to hanging out in, on top of or near the water in Brissie, they're the main options — and whether you opt for a leg of the Brisbane River, or make the trip to either north or east to various foreshore spots, there's plenty to keep you occupied while you're there.
Perhaps you're a wanderer who enjoys meandering at your own pace with a scenic view. Maybe you're certain that any beverage or bite to eat goes down better when you can feel the river or sea breeze against your skin. Or, you could like getting active on the water itself, but in a creative fashion. Whichever category you fall into, we've picked the ten best ways to make the most of your chosen body of H20 in Brisbane.
HEAD TO A WATERSIDE (OR OVERWATER) CAFE, RESTAURANT, BAR OR BREWERY
Just a few short years ago, Brisbane didn't have any bars perched over the water. Now, thanks to Mr Percival's and Will & Flow, it has a couple. The River City only had two big central waterside precincts where you could eat, drink and hang out, too, and now — with Howard Smith Wharves joining South Bank and Eagle Street — it has three. Brissie didn't boast a riverside brewery to its name either, but Felons Brewing Co and BrewDog both have that covered. You can spot the trend here, of course, because this town isn't short on places to satisfy your hunger and quench your thirst by the water. And while riverside haunts have been popping up with frequency of late, the idea is hardly new. Newstead, Hamilton and Kangaroo Point have been home to waterside cafes, restaurants and bars for decades as well, for instance.
PAIR A STROLL OR CYCLE WITH A WATERY VIEW
Some folks prefer putting one foot in front of the other and seeing just where that takes them. Others like to sit on top of two wheels and start pedalling. Whichever one suits you best, if you live in Brisbane, you won't be lacking in options — but we all know that the riverside and oceanside options sit at the top of the list. For walkers, you can pick between the Brisbane Riverwalk from New Farm to the city, South Bank's path between its pools and the Old Brown Snake down to Kangaroo Point, heading up and over the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges (aka the Gateway Motorway), or picking either the Wynnum–Manly or Sandgate–Shorncliffe regions. If you're a cyclist, you can also choose all of the above — you'll just speed along them more quickly.
PEDAL ON TOP OF THE RIVER
Yes, we've just told you about all the places you can push pedals right beside the Brisbane River. Fancy making the same motion with your legs — but on top of the waterway instead? You'll need a water bike to do so. They're new to Brissie, you can hire them from Riverlife at Kangaroo Point and it's all rather straightforward. They're stable vessels that float on the water, and feature a mounted seat and pedals on top. You move your legs and the bike moves. Yes, it's that simple. Also, riding a water bike means that you can hop along the river without getting wet. And, you can either book one out yourself for a 30-minute session, or gather the gang and enquire about private guided group bookings.
EAT SEAFOOD BY THE SEA
Sure, you've been on a pub crawl — but have you been on a fish 'n' chip crawl right next to the water? We're guessing that you haven't, but it's one of those simple ideas that's both brilliant and oh-so-easy to execute, because it just involves taking advantage of the abundance of greasy spoons along in the Wynnum–Manly or Sandgate–Shorncliffe areas. We'll give you two options, too: you can either order something from each place you pass as you walk along the relevant seaside region, or you can come back at regular intervals to sample a new eatery. Head north and you'll be hitting up the likes of Fish on Flinders, Sandgate Fishmongers and Doug's Seafood Cafe, while in the southeast you can expect to Finn's Fish House, Grace Takeaway, Baywatch Cafe and Sea Vibes Manly.
TAKE A KAYAK TOUR
By now, you've definitely realised that Brisbane is a town with options. In almost every instance, you can select your favourite watery or water-adjacent pastime and then pick a heap of places to indulge in your chosen activity. Kayaking is no different. Riverlife at Kangaroo Point will let you get paddling through the CBD and seeing the inner city in a completely different way, but that's merely the most central and best-known choice. You can also kayak at Enoggera Reservoir, head out to Redlands to hit up Moreton Bay — including on a sea kayaking jaunt — and go across to Bribie Island. The list goes on, and spans professional tours and just hiring a kayak, hopping inside and making your own way at your own leisure.
PICNIC IN A WATERSIDE PARK
The weather is glorious. Your basket is packed with homemade salads, a big stack of cheese or the finest sandwiches your local deli can make. The lawn games are at the ready. A relaxing picnic is just moments away — and yes, because this is Brisbane, it's easy to add a glistening view to your outdoor meal. Brissie is home to quite the array of places that fit the bill. Whether you're keen to recline by the snaking Brisbane River or eager to sit seaside, there's somewhere to go. You can try all the usual picnic spots, including the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, New Farm Park, the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, Howard Smith Wharves and South Bank. Or, if you've whiled away more than one afternoon at all of the obvious locations, you can also make a beeline to other great waterside picnic places that you might not have visited.
THROW A LINE OVER A PIER
Never thought of yourself as the fishing type? Hear us out. It's a peaceful and relaxing excuse to stare at the water, and to think about absolutely nothing other than whether you might've felt some tension on your line, the crispness of the sea air and just how gorgeous the ocean looks. In other words, it's a mindfulness bonanza — and there's no better place in Brisbane to get casting than one of the city's piers and jetties. The big places to head, aka Shorncliffe Pier and Wynnum Jetty, are popular spots for very good reasons. But if you'd rather stick closer to the city, you'll also find a small platform jutting off of the Colmslie Recreation Reserve in Morningside, too (which isn't too far from Brissie's secret beach, actually).
CRUISE ALONG — VIA CITYCAT OR WHILE EATING AND DRINKING
If you were visiting Brisbane and you wanted to see the sights, you'd probably opt for one of the most obvious choices there is. Getting on a CityCat might seem oh-so straightforward, but it really does offer you quite the impressive and extensive glimpse of the city, especially if you make the full journey from Northshore Hamilton to St Lucia. And, you can even take your pooch with you. If you're enthusiastic about the cruising idea but you'd like to up the ante, you have plenty of options as well. The Kookaburra showboats have been doing their thing for more than three decades, and serve up seafood, high tea, and other lunch and dinner options while you're onboard. Or there's also River City Cruises, which runs multiple tours daily.
LEARN HOW TO SAIL OR WINDSURF
Hopping on a seafaring vessel and letting someone else do all the hard work for you is one option for cruising along the water in and around Brisbane. If you're quite fond of jumping on a boat — or a yacht for that matter — you can always learn a new skill and take sailing lessons, too. The Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron puts on a heap of classes to show you the ropes (and to make sure you know how to use any ropes necessary while you're sailing, of course). This one is a bit of an investment in terms of time and cash; however, that's not the only way you can expand your horizon at the Manly-based organisation. It'll also teach you how to windsurf, should regular ol' standing on a board and pretending you're Keanu Reeves in Point Break just not be enough.
SPLASH AROUND IN A MAN-MADE WATERSIDE POOL
Brisbane isn't a beach city, but venture out of the CBD, away from the shadows of tall buildings and past the suburban sprawl, and you can find the holy grail of outdoor pools. Yes, if you head east until you can't go any further, you'll find a fine example of a man-made area filled from the sea and replenished by the tide. Built during the 1930s depression as part of the Unemployment Relief System, the Wynnum Wading Pool is the ideal place to enjoy the warm weather with an ocean view. Of course, if you're happy splashing around by the river instead, there's always Streets Beach at South Bank Parklands as well. And, also on our pools list: Settlement Cove Lagoon at Redcliffe, which overlooks Moreton Bay.
Top image: Will & Flow.
Published on November 26, 2020 by Sarah Ward