Every city has an iconic walk to showcase its prettiest views. In Sydney, it’s hard to beat the Harbour Bridge to Spit Bridge walk, in Melbourne, exploring its laneways is a must and in Brisbane, the walk along Kangaroo Point is sure to impress out-of-towners. Following the south side of the Brisbane River, the walk serves up splendid views with abseilers, a scenic cafe and a bit of natural history – making it one of the best walks around Brisbane city.
A good place to start is the Queensland Maritime Museum in South Brisbane. Or, if you’re feeling energetic, start at Kurilpa Bridge (accessible from Tank Street in the CBD) and walk along the riverside boardwalk to the museum, stopping for a drink or two along the way. The Aquitaine Brasserie is a good spot, particularly at happy hour. From the museum, the walk passes under Captain Cook Bridge and takes you to the base of the exalted Brisbane Tuff.
Brisbane (is) Tuff
The Brisbane Tuff is a splendid slab of rock that formed 220 million years ago when blistering volcanic ash shot down the valley. According to signage, the rock consists of one main layer, which suggests a massive explosion is responsible for what you see today. Talk about tuff. The stone was used to build a number of the city’s buildings, such as St John’s and St Stephen’s Cathedral, along with various foundations and street kerbs – which is of course why Brisbane is such a tuff city.
The Brisbane Tuff is also popular with rock climbers and abseilers, who you’ll likely see at sunset. I did the walk with my seven-year-old in the afternoon and returned to the abseiling spot for sunset, where you can enjoy exceptional views over the city. Hot tip: the clifftops are better at dusk than sunset, when the sun can be too harsh.
Once you pass under Captain Cook Bridge, cross over the bikeway and ascend the staircase to access the top of the tuff. Here you’ll encounter fine views from Kangaroo Point Lookout. Stop, catch your breath, then continue along the clifftop, enjoying superb views over the city. Keep going until you reach Bar Spritz, which dishes up views over the Brisbane River, the CBD and a damn fine flourless chocolate cake. Sit, order and take it all in.
When you’re done, head north for a hundred meters until you run into St Mary’s Anglican Church, another of Brisbane’s tuff buildings that dates to 1873. The church marks the end of the clifftop walk, so return to Bar Spritz and head down the staircase adjacent to the café, taking care as you do. It’s a steep, winding set of stairs frequented by nutters who spend their time jogging up and down them.
Back down at river level, continue through parklands and enjoy sweet views over the city. You’ll soon run into ‘The Fish Fossil’ by Christopher Trotter, an artwork made from pieces of scrap metal and concrete which my son enjoyed poking and prodding. Just past this is Riverlife – a company situated in a heritage-listed naval store which rents out bikes and kayaks to explore the Brisbane River. The old store has a marker revealing Brisbane’s wickedly wet side during the great deluge of 1974.
From here the riverside views become even better and I reflected what a nice city I’ve moved to. Brisbane is now my favourite Australian city and I’ve lived in all of the country’s state cities bar Hobart, Adelaide and Canberra (all which I’ve spent time in). On a sunny afternoon this walk is just a super pleasant place to be, with access points to Brisbane’s ferries, bike hire, kid’s playgrounds and a number of plaques informing us of the city’s natural history.
Plaques along the walk depict the city’s contributors – such as surveyor James Warner, who reputedly built the first house in Kangaroo Point in 1844. Other prominent Brisbanites include botanist Frederick Bailey; naturalist, artist and musician Silvester Diggles; botanist Cyril White; etymologist and zoologist Oscar Tiegs; and council park superintendent Harry Oakman. You’ll get a nice summary of their busy and interesting lives if you take a moment to stop and read.
Story Bridge and beyond
Beneath Story Bridge you’ll come to Captain Burke Park, which is a fetching spot to sit, read and let the little ones run wild in the playground. From here you can walk beneath Story Bridge and access the pedestrian crossing just a few hundred metres down the road. Walk across the Bridge, wind your way down past the Howard Smith Wharves – dating to the 1930s – and follow the river back towards Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens.
Stop along the way for a well-earned beer.