The capital of Queensland and the third-largest city in Australia, Brisbane is a fantastic port city that graces many cruise itineraries. It is naturally blessed with warm weather and many beaches within a short drive of the CBD, including the fabulous stretches of sand known as the “Gold Coast”. Visitors flock here by land, sea and air to enjoy the natural delights of Queensland and the urbanity of this cool, confident city.
Both those cruising from Brisbane and those passing through on a longer itinerary will need to know a little bit about the city and how cruise passengers can get about. We’ve put together a quick must-read guide for cruisers in Brisbane, ensuring that it’s easy to make the most of your time there.
When: Ships cruise to and from Brisbane all throughout the year, although ship traffic slows a little in the winter months (June to August).
Where: Most cruise vessels arriving in Brisbane sail up the river to Portside Wharf in the suburb of Hamilton. This is a purpose-designed facility with all necessary amenities and an array of dining and retail outlets in the same building. Larger ships which cannot fit under the Gateway Motorway Bridge dock downriver at the industrial port, with passengers embarking and disembarking via the somewhat-makeshift Multi-User Terminal. Shuttle buses are often provided to get people into town.
Who: There are plenty of cruise lines regularly spotted in Brisbane. In fact, P&O Australia, Princess, and some other lines often base ships there to sail around Queensland and the South Pacific. Commonly seen in the city’s ports are vessels from the fleets of Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Celebrity, Cunard and plenty more.
Best of Brisbane
Once off the ship, you’ll need to situate yourself in the city. From Portside, you can take a bus, taxi, train or Uber into the central city - and from the Multi-User terminal, it’s taxi or shuttle provided by the cruise line. In the CBD, you’ll find all kinds of shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities, including the famous Queen Street Mall.
Across the river in South Bank, you’ll find riverside parklands and walkways, and the cultural precinct which includes the city’s Cultural Centre along with galleries and museums. Nearby Fortitude Valley is home to Brisbane’s Chinatown, eclectic bars and a fantastic live music scene. The city’s Botanic Gardens are a nice spot to visit, and you can head up Mount Coot-tha for great views.
Of course, many people visiting Brisbane make a beeline for the beautiful beaches, amusement parks, and high-rises of the Gold Coast. It takes around an hour’s travel south to get there, either by car or train.
Choose your own Queensland adventure
Different strokes will please different folks, and the same goes for experiences and cruise visitors respectively. There are many and varied ways to enjoy the bold city of Brisbane, and we have listed below some ideas to suit several types of tourists.
- Urban jungle: If you’d like to enjoy the buzz of central Brisbane, get on some public transport into the city and get off somewhere near Queen Street Mall. From there, you can wander the streets, visit some cafes, pop into some shops and just enjoy the sights and sounds of downtown. Cross into South Bank to ride the landmark Wheel of Brisbane, take a look at the Cathedral of St Stephen and soak up the energy of this fantastic city.
- Fun with critters: Many visitors to Queensland like to get up close and personal with the state’s weird and wonderful wildlife. Brisbane offers plenty of opportunity for animal encounters - there’s the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the Australia Zoo owned by the Irwin family an hour north of the city, several llama farms, the Ipswich Nature Centre, and many other spots where you can see a variety of animals.
- Adrenaline-seeking: If you like thrills and chills, head to the amusement parks of the Gold Coast for all the rollercoasters you can handle. If you’re just in port for the day, we recommend checking whether your line offers this as a tour so you won’t risk missing the boat. You can also scale Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge for some views over the city from a dizzying height.
Heading out from the ship and into the many wonders of Brisbane is easiest when you book an excursion through your cruise line. It means no public transport woes, no expenses unaccounted for, and no worries about getting back on time.
Most lines will offer an array of shore tours to cover many tastes. A simple guided drive through the city is a popular option that can be booked on almost any large cruise ship, while some excursions step it up a notch and include a river cruise to see the sights from the water.
Shore tours also take cruisers to some of the favourite attractions of Brisbane and the surrounding region: the Gold Coast, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Australia Zoo, and more. Some feature wineries like nearby Sirromet winery, and also the natural delights of Mt Tamborine and the surrounding rainforest.
However your time in Brisbane is spent, it will be memorable - this bold and exciting city is one that you don’t tend to forget. Book an Australia cruise that includes Queensland’s capital, and enjoy!