An Alternative Guide to Brisbane And Its Best-Kept Secrets

Photo of Alex MacKay
9 February 2017

If you’re looking to escape the crowds of tourists, or are just seeking a more memorable and unique day out, then you’ll relish our ultimate guide to off-piste Brisbane. Here are the day trips, night-time excursions and dining experiences guaranteed to give your holiday an alternative flavour.

Asian Food Tours, Sunnybank

Setting off from Sunnybank Plaza in both morning and evening instalments, experienced chef Tony Ching leads monthly food tours around some of the best places to eat and shop for fresh Asian food. Over the three-hour duration of the tour, Tony will dole out expert advice on choosing the best produce, advice on the key ingredients needed in your favourite dishes and how to actually prepare them. Along the way, you’ll taste test traditional Taiwanese desserts such as red beans and milk-crushed ice at Meet Fresh and sample Easyway’s milk bubble tea with chewy tapioca balls. Morning tours start at 10am and conclude with a yum cha lunch at Landmark restaurant, whilst the evening tours begin at 3.30pm and are structured as progressive dinners visiting several restaurants. Both tours, however, give each participant a bag of goodies valued at $25 to take home.

Price: $68 per person

Tour times: morning tour and lunch, 10am-1.30pm; afternoon tour and dinner, 3.30pm-7.00pm

Address: Sunnybank Plaza, 358 Mains Rd, Sunnybank QLD, Australia, +61 7 3345 7500


If you’re looking for a more meandering and laidback way to cover the sights of Brisbane, skip the CityCat ferries and jump aboard a CityHopper. The service is completely free, and uses reconditioned Brisbane City Council ferries to cover a substantial swathe of the inner city, around the Kangaroo Point of the Brisbane River. The ferry is a hop-on, hop-off system, making stops at North Quay, South Bank 3, Maritime Museum, Thornton Street, Eagle Street Pier, Holman Street, Dockside and Sydney Street terminals. These rustic red ferries are an old-school delight.

Price: free

Times: every 30 minutes between 6am and midnight, seven days a week

For up-to-date timetable information, visit TransLink’s website.

CityHopper | © Pursuedbybear/Flickr

Coochiemudlo Island

Brisbane is neighbour to a host of easily accessible islands off the coast; and while Moreton and the Stradbrokes hoover up the majority of island-hoppers, it’s worth taking a ferry to the lesser-known Coochiemudlo Island. The island is small enough to explore entirely by foot (a necessity, given the total lack of public transport on Coochiemudlo) and there are several beach gear operators hiring out canoes, kayaks and aqua bikes for daytime beach dwellers. Off the sands, the island boasts several fine dining options for those seeking a tranquil and romantic supper. The ferry service is at 30-minute intervals daily from as early as 5am off the Coochie Jetty and as late as 11.30pm off the Victoria Point Jetty.

Check out the latest ferry and barge timetables and fees here.

Coochiemudlo Island, Brisbane, Australia

Edible Brisbane

For a truly alternative lunch ritual, check out the free public garden beds along the riverfront at the northern end of South Bank. All the greenery and herbs are edible – so pick up some basil, parsley, mint or oregano, season permitting. Even further afield, you can employ the Brisbane Public Harvest Google Map to track public land plots, vegetable patches and herb gardens in, around and just outside the city. In these veritable fruitbowl spots, users can forage for avocados, mangoes, lillipilly, figs, guava, mulberries and tomatoes.

Rooftop Cinema

Map View
A rooftop cinema
A rooftop cinema | © Nicolas F./Flickr
From the top of the luxury, five-star Limes Hotel in swish Fortitude Valley, classic films and recent releases are screened on Thursday nights at 7.30pm. Moviegoers have the option to recline on pillows or couches or hop into one of the two plunge pools. The bar opens at 5pm serving drinks and tapas, and stays open after the movie ends until midnight. Beat the multiplex crowds to enjoy a truly unique starlit viewing experience. For a full list of current and future screenings, check the website.
Opening hours: 5pm to midnight, check the website for screening times

Cycle New Farm Riverwalk

Newly reopened after being devasted by the 2011 floods, the New Farm Riverwalk has been re-established as one of the best scenic routes in the city. The cycle path zigzags from Story Bridge all the way over to New Farm Park, a large, open parkland with picnic areas and spots for holding BBQs. It is a unique circuit for wanderers with wheels or without, and at the right opportunity can conclude with a stop-off at the Jan Powers Farmers’ Market or the Moonlight Cinema.

New Farm Riverwalk, New Farm, Queensland, Australia

Public Art Trails

Switch up Brisbane’s eclectic art collections, ideal sunny climate, and the locals’ love of outdoor activities by attempting one of the city’s four public art walking trails. The ‘Cultural Heritage Public Art Trail’ covers historic, heritage-listed and contemporary artworks and monuments, whilst ‘Art and the River’ spans 2km from South Bank’s Maritime Museum to the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. Perhaps the highlight of the four is the ‘World Expo ‘88 Trail’ looking at 11 of the 13 Brisbane-based artworks commissioned for the event.

Kangaroo Point public art | © Brisbane City Council/Flickr