The serpentine Brisbane River snakes its way through the whole city, creating cultural pockets and connecting suburbs. It’s the place for award-winning restaurants, cafes and spectacular vistas. Ferries and CityCats stop at the Riverside Wharf and near the Botanic Gardens at jetties rebuilt after the 2011 flood. The new RiverWalk links many of the city’s attractions. Hire a bike in the Botanic Gardens – it’s a great way to see everything without having to mix it with the road traffic.
Built in 1889 and beautifully restored, this magnificent building on the Brisbane River served as the city’s customs house for almost a century until port activities shifted closer to the mouth of the river. Now a cultural and educational facility of the University of Queensland, it has function rooms and a brasserie with waterfront tables. On Sundays there are free guided tours. 399 Queen St; (07) 3365 8999; open daily; admission free.
Riverside Centre and Eagle Street Pier
These two neighbouring office precincts dominate the CBD reach of the river. By day they are the busy hub of corporate Brisbane, and their riverside cafes, bars and restaurants are packed with professionals. At night the precinct turns on the glamour, and with the city lights twinkling on the water it’s here you will find some of Brisbane’s best-known and most-awarded restaurants. On Sundays they transform once again into the popular Riverside at the Pier Markets (see Markets, p. 386). It’s worth having a coffee on the boardwalk just to enjoy the views of the landmark Story Bridge, the largest steel cantilever bridge in Australia.
City Botanic Gardens
These beautiful historic gardens, established in 1855 right in the heart of the city, are Queensland’s oldest public gardens and recognised for both their natural beauty and historic heritage. You can spend hours strolling along the avenues lined with majestic bunya pines and Moreton Bay figs, exploring the rainforest glade, taking the Mangrove Boardwalk along the bank of the river and experiencing the park's many fountains and public sculptures. Free guided tours and bike hire are available, and shady nooks provide secluded lunchtime picnic spots. Visit the neighbouring QUT campus to see Old Government House and the Art Museum or watch a concert at the Riverstage. Gardens Point, Alice St.
QUT Gardens Cultural Precinct
Launched in 2000, Queensland University of Technology’s Gardens Cultural Precinct, at Gardens Point next to the City Botanic Gardens, encompasses Old Government House, the QUT Art Museum and the Gardens Theatre. Now run by QUT, the graceful sandstone Old Government House, built in 1860, was home to the Queensland governor for most of the state’s first 50 years. (07) 3138 8005; open 10am–5pm Sun–Fri; admission free.
QUT Art Museum is housed in a 1930s neoclassical building and shows QUT’s art collections, work by students and diverse contemporary exhibitions . Open 10am–5pm Tues–Fri, 10am–8pm Wed, 12–4pm Sat–Sun; admission free.
The cultural venue of the Gardens Theatre offers shows by QUT students and visiting international and Australian theatre companies.
Overlooking the City Botanic Gardens, this grand old seat of government was built in 1868 (new buildings have since been added to the precinct). The two sandstone wings hold majestic staircases, stained-glass windows and ornate chandeliers. Fringed with palms, the parliamentary precinct is a showcase of Queensland’s history. Watch the Queensland State Parliament in action from the visitors’ gallery when the House is sitting, or when it’s not in session take one of the 30-minute tours that are run on demand. Cnr George and Alice sts; (07) 3406 7562; open daily; admission free.