Brisvegas in summer alternates between steaming hot and sheeting down rain. In the subtropics summer can be quite extreme, but largely it’s a beautiful time of year to get outside and amongst it. These are our top tips for cycling in summer to keep yourself safe and to ensure you enjoy the ride!
The only capital city to share a name with it’s river, Brisbane River is the highlight of any visit to the Queensland capital. We have the pleasure of seeing the Brisbane River every day, for us, these are the highlights.
But first, a quick Brisbane River history lesson
Brisbane’s River was an important food source for the Turrbal and Yuggera, the local indigenous people of Brisbane. However Brisbane’s 350km river proved very hard for the early explorers to locate, with James Cook surmising at it’s existence but not locating it, and Matthew Flinders completely unable to find it! It took three ticket of leave prisoners getting blown off course and stealing a canoe to find the river. This luck was capitalised on by John Oxley on his expedition to find a site for a prison for the very worst offenders from Sydney.
The history of Brisbane has long being tied to the river. Early settlers disputed the locations of the wharves, bridges and customs house, starting a long battle of the north versus the south side of the river. An an estuary it provides a unique habitat for a number of weird and wonderful fish species alongside commercial shipping. But more than this, it is the heart of Brisbane and exploring the river is an absolute highlight of any Brisbane visit!
Parks, Gardens and Trees
The sub-tropics makes for beautiful weather for most of the year, but let’s be frank, it can be a bit warm. Green spaces in Brisbane are a true highlight of the city, providing shade from which to enjoy the River’s cooling breezes. Brisbane has a number of truly awesome parks enjoying river frontage, from the City Botanic Gardens, to Southbank and of course the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
Having remembered the joy of a picnic thanks to COVID, these green spaces provide a budget friendly option for a delightful weekend meal. If you time your visit right, which we do on our Saturday morning tour, you can always cater a morning tea picnic from a market. If it’s people watching you are after, the rock climbers at Kangaroos Point and the bubble blowers at West End provide free entertainment.
Need some views to go with your picnic? Enjoy Brisbane’s best sunset view from the top of either Kangaroo Point cliffs or the cliffs above Howard Smith Wharves. And if the heat really is getting to much for you, a dip in the man made beach at Southbank is refreshing at any time of day.
World Class Arts Precinct
Whether you prefer natural sciences or the modern arts, the Cultural Precinct lining Southbank’s riverside real estate sets Brisbane’s museums, library, art gallery and theatre within one easy to walk stretch.
This precinct caters for the young and the young at heart! Interactive art and science experiences are on offer for the kids at either the Museum or the Children’s Centre at GOMA (both are awesome fun!). For the young at heart there is the thought provoking visiting collections at the Gallery of Modern Art and Queensland Art Gallery. We enjoy the exhibitions so much we pop in each Friday to check them out on our morning tea break! If science is more your style, check out the rotating exhibitions at the Queensland Museum.
Bridges, Bridges and more Bridges
Brisbane currently has fifteen major bridges crossing the river and the architecture of these tells the story of the city’s development.
The oldest bridge, Victoria Bridge, is the site of Queensland’s worst maritime disaster. It is also the most replaced of Brisbane’s bridges, having being battered by floods at the end of the 19th century and again replaced when the tram network was decommissioned in the 1960s. The iconic Story Bridge tells the story of depression era Brisbane and a humble public servant. William Jolly, Greater Brisbane’s first Lord Mayor is honoured in the art deco bridge of the same name.
Brisbane is always looking to make a statement with a new bridge. Indeed there are currently five more in the works!
Brisbane’s dining precincts are clustered around the River providing fabulous meals to go with your views. If you would like to upgrade from a picnic to a table and chairs, any of the Riverside, Southbank and Howard Smith Wharves are a great option. Each precinct has a range of options in both expense and cuisine and we recommend visiting on an empty stomach.
Touring the Brisbane River Highlights
Brisbane City Cycling takes in the Brisbane River Highlights on our three hour city tours each Friday and Saturday morning. And the best part of touring Brisbane river highlights? It’s nice and flat ground along the river’s edge, saving your thighs from the mountains that make up the rest of the city!
Centred around the river, Brisbane City’s unmissable landmarks are easily accessible in an action packed day tour. Brisbane City Cycling has narrowed down the many river city attractions to a Top Ten for any visitor to Brisvegas.
1. The Brisbane River
The only Australian city to share a name with its river, Brisbane City’s history has ebbed and flowed with the river. Meandering a massive 350km from the mountains to the sea, our tour limits itself to just 14 kilometres around the river (you’re welcome) focusing on the inner city.
Whether you prefer to enjoy your river views with cocktails from Howard Smith Wharves, delicious food from Eagle Street Pier or from the deck of one of Brisbane’s many ferries, the river is unmissable on any Brisbane trip.
With it’s cooling breezes, the river is certainly the place to be on a warm day!
2. Customs House
Heritage listed customs house has stood on the banks of the Brisbane river since 1889, taking duties first for the State and later for the Commonwealth. It uniquely has three aspects, ensuring that it has a view from each of the city streets and the river. The beautiful sandstone facade has been maintained and now houses a fabulous restaurant. More information on Customs House, including the menu is available here.
3. The City Botanic Gardens
Mianjin/Meanjin was the eventual site of the convict settlement of Brisbane. With water on three sides, the theory was to make it slightly harder for the convicts to escape.
As a penal colony, Brisbane didn’t ever live up to expectations, with the mantle for the most feared destination for transportation quickly shifting to Norfolk Island and the site being declared a botanic garden in 1855.
Today, this beautiful leafy slice of paradise in the heart of the city is a must visit on any trip to Brisbane.
On our Brisbane City Cycling tour we circumnavigate the gardens, giving you a preview to it’s best features!
4. Old Governor’s House and Parliament House
Now nestled into the grounds of Queensland’s University of Technology, building Old Governor’s House was the first act of the new State of Queensland’s parliament. Home to Governors from 1865 to 1910, the beautiful sandstone building now houses a fabulous art gallery and is a nice counterpoint to a botanic gardens visit.
Surpassed in it’s grandeur by the stately Parliament House, this landmark is still the active seat of Queensland’s government. Visitors are able to visit Parliament house ordinarily (temporary arrangements are in place during COVID), perhaps the more stomach friendly option is to combine a visit with High Tea or Stangers Dining Room for a long lunch.
5. Town Hall and the Museum of Brisbane
Brisbane’s Town Hall (or City Hall as it is now known) is the biggest in Australia (size sometimes matters). Heritage listed, it has recently undergone a restoration and had it’s former grandeur renewed. There are daily walking tours of the most beautiful features (including a surprisingly big organ and of course the clock tower) available. Include dropping by the Museum of Brisbane in your visit, the exhibitions are always worth a peak.
6. Gallery of Modern Art/ Queensland Art Gallery
Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art and Art Gallery attract blockbuster exhibitions canvassing the art of the Asia Pacific, the European masters and the beautiful art of the Australian Indigenous peoples. With an interactive section for kids at GOMA (and the big kids supervising them) it is fun and accessible. The very least of both art gallery’s attractions but well worth mentioning is the air-conditioning, a much appreciated bonus, much like the spectacular river views the galleries command
7. Southbank Parklands and Streets Beach
Think Queensland, think beach? You certainly aren’t alone.
Streets beach is the river city’s answer to a beach. With the river not available for bathing since the turn of the century, Streets beach is a welcome spot to cool off, complete with lifeguards.
Set in leafy parklands, Southbank was transformed from it’s industrial port legacy to the site of Exhibition 1988, or Expo 88, themed, “Leisure in the age of technology”.
The Nepalese pavilion remains as a reminder of Expo, beautifully maintained with the riverfront pathway an enduring legacy for the city.
8. Kangaroos Point Cliffs
The very first farm of the Brisbane settlement hardly seems spacious enough to grow the very first crops for Brisbane town. Kangaroo point has served as a farm, a quarry, wharves, a naval base and now a spectacular sunset picnic venue and fabulous climbing site.
9. The Story Bridge
Potentially the most iconic landmark of Brisbane, the Story Bridge has spanned the cliffs since 1940. Named for John Douglas Story this iconic Queensland depression era project has a twin in Montreal. It is also climbable!
For one of the best views of Brisbane check out the Story Bridge Adventure Climb.
10. Howard Smith Wharves
Howard Smith & Sons, a shipping company, has had a long history with this site, eventually lending their name to the wharfs under the Story Bridge. With a recent Government announcement, Howard Smith Wharves will soon be returning to it’s shipping routes (see what we did there!).
Now a restaurant precinct, it is a great place for a coffee or a cocktail, with dining options for every budget. Make sure you go for a ride in the lifts at either end of the precinct for an effortless view of the city.
Brisbane City Cycling tours cruise past the best of Brisbane City taking in all of the listed attractions (except Town Hall).
With the breeze in your (helmet) hair, let us guide you past the unmissable landmarks of Brisbane!
Local? Us too! And whilst tours are normally something that tourists do, Brisbane City Cycling is the perfect addition to your next Staycation, or, you know, just something to make an ordinary Friday or Saturday morning in Brisvegas a bit special.
To be perfectly honest, it wasn’t until we started researching this tour that we realised just how richly the history of Brisbane is carved into the CBD. From the indigenous land use practices through to early settlement, the way we live in Brisbane is built on the rich history of Meanjin, this place shaped like a spear (the Brisbane Botanic Gardens). And as a river city, the history really has evolved around the river, from the good of supplying food and transport to the early settlement, to the not so good of floods and ferry disasters. We are excited to ride past and show you it all!
With working from home, the Brisbane CBD is a lot less busy at the moment, making this the perfect time to get out and explore it! On a beautiful spring day, there is simply nothing liking a ride around the river, with a coffee/tea thrown in, it’s really the perfect morning. Brisbane City Cycling’s tours stick to the bike paths, leisurely meandering past the best of the river city’s sights. For those who haven’t been on a bike in a while (and for those who have), we stick to mainly flat areas, with the only minor challenges the bridges, which we are happy to walk up given then are perfect photos opportunities!
No bike ride is every complete without a coffee break (even if you use it to drink tea or hot chocolate). Our coffee breaks also offer the opportunity to enjoy two of the true highlights of Brisbane, either the West End Markets (Saturdays) or a quick whirl through the Queensland Art Gallery or the Gallery of Modern Art (Fridays). For those who need to give their legs a break, there a picnic rugs and river views for your to soak up as a very enjoyable alternative.
Of course the added perk of your Brisbane Staycation is that whilst you get to feel like a tourist, you didn’t spend hours travelling and no one has to look after your pets whilst you are gone. Just as if you had travelled overseas, we will happily supply you a bike and hygienically cleaned helmet so you just need to show up ready to ride.
We know we are lucky in Queensland to still be out enjoying the sunshine whilst our southern neighbours, and indeed the world grapples with COVID. Brisbane City Cycling is taking additional hygiene measures to ensure your safety and with small group sizes during COVID (we have reduced tour sizes to 5 guests) we are very mindful of the need to be COVID safe.
To sweeten the deal on your next Brisbane Staycation, Brisbane City Cycling offers all locals a 20% discount on all tour prices. Simply use code “Brisvegas” and supply proof of residence in the Brisbane City Council area (e.g your license).
So get planning on your next holiday at home and book a tour with Brisbane City Cycling!
In June 2020, Queensland is for Queenslanders and so say all of us (or the Premier). So as a local, why would you do a tour of our Brisvegas, Brisbane Town or Brisneyland?
First up let me start by saying that having moved to Brisbane at the start of the 2011 floods, I feel I qualify as a local. Luckily there isn’t a test for that, can you imagine what that would look like?
Now that my legitimacy to write this article is established let’s continue, with my nine years of experience in the river city, why tour your home ground?
First off, Brisbane’s riverside bike paths are a straight up pleasure any day of the week. You are separated from the traffic, the river by your side, the wind in your hair, the sun burning your face (just kidding, we have sunscreen!) being outside, pedalling under your own steam in our beautiful city is a bit fabulous.
The beauty of our natural environment in Brisbane extends to our built environment. You will of course be familiar with the Kangaroo Point cliffs, but our tour offers two more chances to see the, “Brisbane Tuff” in our built environment, with the early Brisbane settlement using the beautiful pink tones of the cliff side to build.
Exploring the botanic gardens, southbank parklands and davies park all in a morning gives us a great chance to soak in the green heart of the city. It’s also the focal point for a few Brisbane “firsts”. I honestly love that the lamington was invented at Old Governor’s House. I think it’s really cool that the first Jacaranda in Australia was grown in our very own botanic gardens and that the world’s first demonstration of public electricity was lighting up our very own Queen Street.
And of course, with a tour guide you essentially have the morning off! You will be guided through the city, have a chance to relax at the Davies Park Markets and enjoy a stress free start to the weekend.
So whether you come for the thrill of a ride, to learn a bit about Brisbane or just to burn off some iso calories, join me any Saturday morning as we ride around Brisbane. The offer extends past June!
2020, what a ride it’s been so far.* As we start to come out of isolation this weekend in Queensland (within our own households with an optional plus one) it isn’t a great surprise to hear that bike sales are a bright spot in retail.
Let’s get a bit philosophical here, it took a global pandemic for most of us (yes we are generalising) to stop and take stock of what was important: our family, our friends and our collective health. For the first time in a long time as a society we have been forced to focus on the “Health” in “Health and Safety”. And we have been limited in how to get our exercise fix in the great outdoors, no team sport, staying local and staying apart.
In a time of social distancing, bikes come with a great set of handlebars and two wheels to help us maintain the 1.5m whilst we look after our health. With a bike you cover more ground than a walk, are gentle on your knees and the bike helmet helps hide your self isolation lack of hair dressing.
Brisbane has some absolutely fabulous bike path infrastructure keeping you largely out of the traffic. The river loop (a large part of which forms part of our bike tour), the tracks from the bay to the mountains are good fun to explore, taking in the creeks and back ways to this great city.
At Brisbane City Cycling we are very much looking forward to running our tours, highlighting the best that the Brisbane river has to offer. But until we can, and even then, we would love to see more people out there riding in Brisbane. See you on the bike paths very soon!
*The author is very proud of this pun.
Brisbane is a fabulous place to visit all year round with our sub-tropical climate and friendly nature welcoming visitors from around the world. Built around the Brisbane River (creative naming we know), the Brisbane CBD stretches and bends around the riverbanks, which are conveniently lined with cycle paths.
1. You get to sample the best of the Brisbane CBD
The original white settlement for Brisbane is now the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, evolving to a city whose main precincts vie for the best river frontage (South Bank, the Howard Smith Wharves, Kangaroos Point cliffs and the performing arts precinct).
2. Low impact exercise, to ensure you can indulge in guilt free coffee stops
Pedalling through the different parklands along the river loop (again with the creative naming) biking let’s you work up an appetite whilst burning off the calories so you are ready to enjoy the best Brisbane’s café and coffee scene have to offer.
3. Riding a bike is just like, well riding a bike
On foot, it is a lot of ground to cover, but on a bike, with the wind in your hair, cycling past Brisbane city’s main attractions is just damn good fun.
4. Who doesn’t love the breeze in their hair?
We are not going to pretend the river is always blue, it is an estuary meaning quite often (~360 days a year) the water is brown, but the river breeze more than makes up for it.
5. There were four great reasons, but five sounds better
Alright we were being a bit cute. Actually as the pathways are largely pedestrian/bike separated, it is a great way to enjoy a bike ride away from the dangers of the road. And it just so happens that where the bike ways mingle people and bikes, they are generally great spots to take it easy, meandering through the pedestrian traffic and taking in the vibe.