Brisbane lies on the eastern coast of Australia, on the banks of the Brisbane River located around 19 km/12 miles above the river’s mouth at Moreton Bay. Famous for Steve Irwin’s legendary Australian Zoo, its wildlife sanctuaries, themed markets, cultural landmarks and great local cuisine, “Brissie” as Aussies call it, is a vibrant and lively city that has something for everyone!
In this article, I share with you:
- Brisbane cruise port info (Brisbane cruise terminal, getting around)
- Top 13 things to do in Brisbane and the best Brisbane shore excursions
Port of Brisbane Info
Port of Brisbane is the second-largest Australian cruise port and consists of several cruise terminals.
Brisbane International Cruise Terminal
Brisbane International Cruise Terminal (BICT) is a brand new cruise terminal that was completed in 2020. It is located at Luggage Point on the northern bank at the mouth of the Brisbane River across Fisherman Island, near Myrtletown. It is located about 19 km/12 miles (a 30-minute drive) northeast of Brisbane city center, also referred to as Brisbane central business district (CBD).
With its 345 meters (1130 ft ) long berth, Brisbane International Cruise Terminal was designed to accommodate the world’s largest cruise liners over 270 meters long. The brand new terminal building features two floors connected via travelators and two passenger lifts. On the ground floor, you’ll find a tourist information desk, (accessible) toilets, a first-aid station, a cafe, a retail outlet, a baggage hall and a few other facilities. The first floor features security screening, check-in counters and immigration. Outside the terminal building, there is a car park and parking for buses and shuttles. Free wi-fi is available inside the terminal and power points in case you need to charge your mobile devices (230V, 10amp, three-pin plug layout).
- See the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal on Google maps
- Brisbane International Cruise Terminal is located right next to the Brisbane Airport (a 15-minute drive from the airport terminal entrance). There is no public or shuttle transportation connecting the two locations, so you need to make your own travel arrangements. Book a private transfer now
- If you require special assistance, make sure you inform your cruise line so they can communicate with the cruise terminal staff and arrange it for you in advance.
- There are no public transport connections from the city center to the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. The port authorities do not provide a shuttle service but your cruise ship may provide one, so it’s highly recommended to check with your cruise line about their services or pre-arranged shore excursions.
- Taxi and rideshare services are available outside the cruise terminal.
- There is only paid parking at Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.
- There are no onsite car rental services.
- Brisbane International Cruise Terminal follows strict COVID protocols, so some services may not be available.
- For more information, check out the port of Brisbane (Brisbane International Cruise Terminal) official website https://www.portbris.com.au/
Portside Wharf Cruise Terminal
Portside Wharf Cruise Terminal (also referred to as Brisbane Cruise Terminal) is located on Brisbane River’s north bank upstream from the Gateway Bridge, in Hamilton district, approximately 7 km/4.3 miles (a 15-minute drive) northeast of Brisbane CBD (central business district). This cruise terminal features 1 berth and can accommodate cruise ships up to 270 meters (886 ft) long.
- This international cruise terminal is part of Portside Wharf, an upscale residential and retail precinct filled with restaurants, shops, a large fish shop/cafe, a supermarket, a cinema complex and a public plaza. Check out Portside Wharf’s official website for updates https://www.portsidewharf.com.au/
- See Portside Wharf Cruise Terminal on Google maps
- This terminal also features a large car/bus parking (a short-term and paid long-term onsite parking), as well as a large taxi rank.
- Bretts Wharf Ferry Terminal is located next to the cruise terminal and serves public CityCat ferries.
- To get to Brisbane central business district from Portside Wharf, you can take public bus #300 at Kingsford Smith Dr at Bretts Wharf, bus stop 19 (a bus station is located around 900 m from the cruise terminal) and get off at Adelaide Street, bus stop 37, near Anzac Square in Brisbane city center. The bus ride itself lasts around 20 minutes and the overall trip around 40 minutes one way. Buses run frequently, approximately every 15 minutes on business days.
- Alternatively, you can take a public ferry at Bretts Wharf ferry terminal and get off at Riverside ferry terminal situated near Brisbane downtown.
- Translink public agency handles public transportation in Queensland. For information on timetables and fares, check out their official webpage https://translink.com.au/
- Brisbane Airport is located around 8 km/5 miles (a 10-15 minute ride) northeast of Portside Wharf cruise terminal.
- Check out the best hotels near Portside Wharf and Brisbane CBD
Multiuse Terminal at Fisherman Islands/Pinkenba Wharf
Due to Gateway Bridge’s height restrictions, some large cruise liners dock at Pinkenba Wharf (QLD) or at Port of Brisbane’s Multiuser Terminal at the Grain Berth, located at Fisherman Islands’ cargo terminal. Only basic facilities are available in these terminals. No public transportation is available.
Pinkenba Wharf is located a 25-minute drive from Brisbane CBD, while Fisherman Island is located a 30-minute drive from the city center.
Top 13 Things to Do in the Port of Brisbane
Before I share with you the best things to do in the Brisbane cruise port, read below some useful info and tips that will help you organize your stay.
- The currency in Australia is the Australian Dollar (AUD). 1 USD equals 1.42 AUD. See the currency converter
- Plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes offer free wi-fi in the city center.
- Queen Street is the main pedestrian-only shopping street in Brisbane CBD. It is parallel to Adelaide Street and is located at a stone’s throw from Brisbane City Hall and its iconic Clock Tower.
- Another famous street is James Street, known for independent, local and international designer flagship stores in Brisbane. This urban street is situated around 2.5 km/1.5 miles (less than a 10-minute drive) from Brisbane CBD and a 10-minute drive from Portside Wharf/a 20-minute drive from Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.
- Brisbane has a great public transportation network that includes buses, trains, trams and ferries. Brisbane Central railway station is located in the heart of the CBD, on Ann Street at Anzac Square. Queen Street bus station is the primary bus terminus in Brisbane’s central business district. Public transport is operated by Translink, and you’ll find the prices and timetables on https://translink.com.au/
- Brisbane City Council offers city center free loops through Brisbane’s central business district, including the services that run between the CBD and Spring Hill areas. Free City Loop buses are purple and they stop at the purple signposted bus stops. Some of the major stops include Central Station, Queen Street Mall, City Hall, Riverside and Botanic Gardens. Read more on Brisbane City Council’s official webpage https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/
- Suggested article: What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials
1. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
The world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary is located in Fig Tree Pocket district, only 12 km/7.5 miles (a 20-minute ride) from Brisbane CBD, 19 km/12 miles (a 20-minute drive) southwest of Portside Wharf cruise terminal, and 31 km/19 miles (a 35-minute drive) southwest of the new Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.
This amazing sanctuary was opened in 1927 and expands on 18 hectares (44 acres) where you can meet and interact with more than 70 species of Aussie animals. Hold a koala, take photos with snakes and dingos, feed kangaroos and lorikeets, and see great animal shows including Sheep Dog Shows and Free Flight Raptor Shows!
Besides koalas and kangaroos, some wildlife species in the sanctuary include parrots, cockatoos, kookaburras, emus, cassowaries, Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas, various species of reptiles and many others. A platypus, one of Australia’s most bizarre species arrived at the sanctuary in 2010 from Healesville Sanctuary located near Melbourne, so you get to meet them too!
The sanctuary offers guided tours and some experiences require an additional fee. You can get there by car, public bus (bus #430 from Queen Street Station, and bus #445 from Adelaide Street), or Mirimar River Cruise that departs from Cultural Center Public Pontoon. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is partially wheelchair friendly. To download the map of the sanctuary and get more information about prices and opening hours, check out the official website https://lonepinekoalasanctuary.com/
Useful tip: Brisbane has more sunny days per year than any other Australian capital city, so make sure you bring sun protection and a hat. Suggested article: What to Pack for a Cruise – Top 50 Cruise Essentials
2. Brisbane City Hall
Situated in the heart of Brisbane City (CBD) on Adelaide Street, the City Hall is one of the most remarkable historic buildings in Brisbane. Built between 1920-1930, the building overlooks King George Square and is easily recognizable by its iconic Clock Tower offering a breathtaking 360-degree view of the city from its observation platform. The building features a neoclassic colonnaded façade and an ornate interior with marble staircases, vaulted ceilings, chandeliers and a mosaic-tiled floor.
Brisbane’s City Hall has undergone a $215 million restoration and nowadays is an active historic building that has 14 venues to hire, offers guided tours and hosts the Museum of Brisbane on its third level. You can visit the Main Auditorium, Father Henry Willis Organ and the iconic Clock Tower on a guided tour offered for an extra fee. The entrance to the building is free.
3. Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens
The subtropical Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mt Coot-tha are located in Mt Coot-tha precinct, around 7 km/4.3 miles (a 10-15 minute drive) west of Brisbane’s central business district. They are located a 15-20 minute drive west of Portside Wharf cruise terminal, and a 30-minute drive west of Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.
Brisbane Botanic Gardens opened in 1976 and expand on 56 hectares featuring a living museum of native and exotic plants. From Brisbane Lookout Mount Coot-tha, you can admire the most spectacular views of Brisbane and its skyscrapers in the distance.
The facilities and services offered in the Botanic Gardens include the Auditorium, Botanic Gardens Cafe, Queensland Herbarium, Mt Coot-tha Library, the Visitor Information Centre, numerous picnic areas, Richard Randall Art Studio and Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium. The entrance is free.
4. Moreton Island
Nestled on the eastern side of Moreton Bay just off the coast of southeastern Queensland, Moreton Island is the third largest sand island in the world and a national park.
Famous for its pristine sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, crystal clear lakes, lagoons and shipwrecks, this magical piece of heaven offers something for everyone! The island is popular for whale spotting, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, four-wheel driving, biking and other recreational activities. The ferries to Moreton Island depart from Brisbane city center (Holt Street Wharf) and the ride takes 75 minutes.
5. Australia Zoo
The world-famous Australia Zoo is located on the Sunshine Coast, 110 km/68 miles (a 1-hour 30-minute drive) north of Brisbane downtown, and a 1-hour 10-minute drive north of Portside Wharf and Brisbane International Cruise Terminal.
Covering the surface of 280 hectares (690 acres), the zoo is owned by Terri Irwin, the wife of the legendary Steve Irwin whose wildlife documentary series “The Crocodile Hunter” and his family’s new show “Crikey! It’s the Irwins” made the zoo one of the most visited attractions in Australia!
The Australia Zoo was opened in 1970 and features more than 1200 native and exotic animals including alligators, anacondas, birds, snakes and lizards, kangaroos, koalas, wallabies and many more. The zoo is home of the Crocodile Hunter and offers interactive experiences where you can hand-feed kangaroos, giraffes, pat koalas, visit the Australia Zoo wildlife hospital, see animals shows, experience African Savannah and other adventures!
For tickets, opening hours and more information, check out the Zoo’s official website https://www.australiazoo.com.au/
6. QAGOMA – The Gallery of Modern Art
QAGOMA colloquially stands for Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. This fascinating gallery is the largest art museum in Australia established in 1895. The facility consists of Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) housed in the main building, and a Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) situated 150 meters away.
QAGOMA is situated on the bank of the Brisbane River, only a 10-15-minute walk from the central business district and King George Square. It houses an impressive collection of more than 20.000 artworks from Australia and around the world and is part of the Queensland Cultural Center which also includes the Queensland Performing Arts Center, the State Library, and the Queensland Museum.
QAGOMA offers permanent and temporary exhibitions, educational programs, guided tours and many other cultural experiences. The buildings are located in a picturesque area on the south bank of the Brisbane River and are ideal please to spend your day with your family and friends. For more information, visit the official website https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/
7. Taste the Noosa Chocolate
If you are looking to satisfy your sugar cravings, you should definitely taste the mouth-watering handcrafted chocolate made by the Noosa Chocolate factory established in 2009. The factory specializes in chocolate panning and offers a wide variety of fresh products including specialty coffee, dark, milk and white chocolate with various homemade fillings such as salted caramel, honeycomb, peanut and macadamia nut brittle.
The Factory is located in Noosaville, a 1-hour 30-minute drive north of the port of Brisbane. It is not open to the public, however, there are several retail chocolate shops where you can purchase their products, including the one on Adelaide Street, a couple of minutes’ walk from King George Square and the City Hall. Find more information on https://www.noosachocolatefactory.com.au/
8. Take a Photo in Front of the BRISBANE Sign
If you are visiting Brisbane for the first time, you cannot miss posing in front of the iconic “Brisbane” sign. It is located on the south bank of the Brisbane River, near the Queensland Cultural Center, only a 10-15 minute walk from King George Square across the Victoria Bridge.
The giant letters were visited by world-famous celebrities such as Barack Obama and Angela Merkel, and are special because you can see the whole city landscape behind them. While there, don’t miss the chance to visit the Wheel of Brisbane for some unmatched panoramic views of the city!
9. Brisbane River Kayak Adventure
Kayaking on the Brisbane River will allow you to experience Brisbane from a whole different perspective! Glide past the South Bank Parklands and see the famous Wheel of Brisbane, the city’s bridges and numerous landmarks while enjoying this adventurous activity suitable for all levels of experience!
10. Dolphin and Whale Watching
If you are a nature and animal lover, do not miss the incredible dolphin and whale-watching experience just off the coast of Moreton Island! Between June and October, thousands of humpback whales visit Moreton Bay Marine Park when migrating to and from their southern feeding grounds. Eight species of dolphin have also been recorded in the marine park including the bottlenose and the Australian Humpback dolphin.
The marine experts will take you to places where dolphins and whales have been spotted before so you’ll get the opportunity to watch these fascinating sea creatures in their natural habitat!
11. Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast stretches from the coastal town of Caloundra situated a 1-hour drive north of the port of Brisbane to the Great Sandy National Park further in the north. This beautiful area encompasses charming historic villages, lush rainforests, pristine beaches and rich and diverse flora and fauna. If you look for unspoiled beauty and untouched nature – you’re at the right place!
12. Gold Coast
On the other hand, Gold Coast is an urban metropolitan area located approximately a 1-hour drive south of Brisbane port. It is renowned for its long sandy and world-class surfing beaches, a network of waterways and canals, and a rich culinary and entertainment scene that includes theme parks such as Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World, Dreamworld, and Wet’n’Wild water park. The area represents a perfect blend of the city skyscrapers and an interesting natural landscape that is home to rare animal species and plants.
13. Lamington National Park
This vast national park is located in the Gold Coast Hinterland, about a 1-hour 40-minute drive south of the port of Brisbane. It is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the most extensive area of subtropical forest in the world.
The geology of Lamington National Park dates back to more than 225 million years and the area covers 77 square miles (200 square kilometers). If you are seeking adventure, you can explore its dense forests, ancient trees, hundreds of waterfalls and interesting birdlife on a hiking trip as there are more than 160 km/100 miles of hiking trails. There are many lookouts offering spectacular sceneries and amazing photo ops, so make sure you bring your best camera!
To Wrap Up
As you can imagine, Brisbane really offers countless choices to spend a spectacular day in this wonderful port of call! Whether you decide to go sightseeing or enjoy a day in nature, make sure you plan your day ahead so you get the most out of it!
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