Great Brisbane City Walk – The River Loop

A superb way to check out a city’s glamorous side is to head to several iconic places at once. Fortunately, you can experience this in the Queensland capital via this Brisbane city walk, which takes in Goodwill and Story Bridge. Not only is the walk as pretty as peach pie, it’s free, dog friendly and there are plenty of exciting places to stop off at along the way.  

Kangaroo Point Cliffs

This Brisbane city walk, which is a 6.3km loop walk, takes in sights such as the City Botanic Gardens, South Brisbane, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, Story Bridge and Howard Street Wharves. In all, it will take you around two and a half hours if you walk casually, more if you indulge in frequent sightseeing. I started this walk in the City Botanic Gardens and took my little cocker spaniel friend, Cookie, along with me.  

The start of our walk – the entrance to the City Botanic Gardens

The City Botanic Gardens and Gardens Club Cafe

We took off last Friday, as I had the day off work. Early winter time and it was just picture perfect – sunny with a subtle cool breeze, apple-green grass and trees, and golden sun sparkles along the water. The City Botanic Gardens is worth a good chunk of your time if you can spare it, but today we were just passing through. Head to the QUT campus in the park’s southern end and you’ll come to the Gardens Club café.

Gardens Club cafe

I’ve eaten here several times before, and it’s a decent spot to dine outdoors amidst nature. You could grab breakfast here if you wanted to do a walk earlier in the morning. As for us, we set off nearly exactly on noon, so continued on our way through QUT campus, past more coffee shops and a food truck. Just before Goodwill Bridge, there’s an opportunity to grab an electric scooter should the urge take you. This is also a great way to enjoy this Brisbane city walk, particularly if you’re pressed for time, but not recommended if you’re travelling with a dog.  

The QUT campus

Goodwill Bridge – Brisbane City Walk

One of two bridges that makes this loop walk possible, the Goodwill Bridge is a pedestrian and cyclist bridge that takes you towards Brisbane’s iconic South Bank precinct. There’s typically a coffee cart on the bridge and there’s even shade along one side too, which is essential in sunny Brisbane. Be warned, as bike and scooter riders go pretty fast along this bridge, so stick to either side to avoid a collision.

Goodwill Bridge

South Bank and South Brisbane

Two of Brisbane’s most popular places are South Bank and South Brisbane, and deservedly so, as they’re attractive and packed with things to do. However, on this Brisbane city walk you merely pass through them on your way towards Kangaroo Point. However, you could also stop for a quick, albeit expensive bite or cocktail at the Italian Otto Ristorante, right at the end of the Goodwill Bridge.

Otto Ristorante

At the other end of Goodwill Bridge you’ll find the Queensland Maritime Museum, which is worth a look if you’re a nautical enthusiast. A little further on, the metal pelicans are worth a quick snap, particularly with their background of the city. Walking beneath Captain Cook Bridge also proves interesting with its contours, shadows and water traffic passing beneath. Pay attention walking along the next part as you don’t want to get in the cycle or scooter lane, where people can be pretty aggressive.

Captain Cook Bridge

Kangaroo Point Cliffs

A few hundred meters past Captain Cook Bridge and you’ll see a staircase to your right. Cross the cycle path carefully and ascend. Shortly after, you’ll walk along a brick-walled lane to reach the top of the cliffs. You might also see some rock climbers in training along the way. Just before you reach the cliffs proper, have a look through the greenery for some lovely city views, which are some of the best Brisbane offers.

The path to the cliff tops
Abseilers in training

Now this Brisbane city walk flattens out as you walk past BBQ facilities and sublime views over the river. This looks like a great spot to have a BBQ, but I’ve not often seen people using them and I never have myself. I must change that as this is one of the best spots in Brisbane to enjoy the latter part of the day, as the sun casts shadows over the river and the city lights come out to play.

Brisbane (is) Tuff

The great hulk of rock commonly known as Kangaroo Point Cliffs is actually called Brisbane Tuff and was used to build a number of the city’s buildings. St John’s and St Stephen’s Cathedral were among a few, as was the foundation of many other city buildings and street curbs. Today, the tuff is mostly used by abseilers at sunset.

Cookie, strutting his stuff on the tuff

Joey’s Restaurant and St Mary’s

Keep walking and you’ll come to Joey’s Restaurant, which offers excellent views over Brisbane River. I’ve eaten at the previous café, Bar Spritz (which closed in 2020), but I’m yet to check out Joey’s so let me know what you thought if you’ve been. On the other side of Joey’s is St Mary’s Anglican Church, which was also constructed from the Brisbane Tuff in 1873. The church has a gorgeous garden that’s worth wandering over to and looking at. You won’t be able to enter it though.

Back alongside Joey’s is a steep, yet spunky staircase that leads you back along the river and into the depths of Kangaroo Point.

The spunky staircase

Brisbane City Walk – Kangaroo Point

This section of the city loop walk is arguably the prettiest and you could spend quite a bit of time around here. On a sunny day, the grass is almost luminescent and with the sun shining through the trees creating mottled shadows, it’s the spot to really see what the Brissie fuss is all about. A little further along and you’ll run into Riverlife Adventure Centre, which rents out bikes and kayaks in a heritage-listed naval store. You can also book a Brisbane River night kayak from here.

Riverlife Adventure Centre at the heritage-listed naval store

Here I ran into a group of young ladies who were besotted with Cookie, so I had a nice chat with them about dogs and a bit about Brissie life. Cookie also had a great time rolling in the bright green grass alongside the river before we continued along our Brisbane city walk.

Further along the river, you’ll come to ferry terminals, where you could (if you choose) jump on board and continue further up or back down the river. There are also small shelters you can hide in along the way and you can take in moored yachts and get a glimpse of the good life. Keep walking and you’ll soon run into the Brisbane Jazz Club, another popular place I’m yet to visit.

Captain Burke Park and Story Bridge

Just below Story Bridge is a regular spot of mine – Captain Burke Park. This is a grassy area complete with a children’s playground and BBQ facilities alongside Brisbane River, at the part where there’s actually a bit of a beach. I had a five-minute rest here with Cookie and took in the sunshine and pondered our blessed Brissie Life.

Captain Burke Park
Story Bridge with Felons beneath

I often have picnics here with my family and it is a positively superb place to sit, eat and have a few drinks at sunset. It’s also dog friendly and if you have a 5-metre lead like we do, you can tie your dog up while he explores in relative safety. Heaven.

From here, simply walk up the road to the southern part of Story Bridge. The Brisbane city walk will then take you past the Story Bridge Hotel – another good spot to fuel up or unwind at. You could actually take a week’s holiday along this walk, there’s that much to do! If you had good weather, I imagine it would be a rather good holiday too. Anyhow, I digress…

Crossing Story Bridge
View from Story Bridge – look, Brisbane’s got a real beach!

Continue until you reach the end of Story Bridge where you can enter the bridge by foot. This is actually a fun little bridge to walk across. As you can see in the images I’ve taken here, there are some pretty spectacular views over the city! You can also see what you’re about to get yourself into, should you choose to get amongst Howard Smith Wharves.  

Howard Smith Wharves

Howard Smith Wharves and Eagle Street Pier

At the end of Story Bridge, wind back around toward the river and you’ll enter Howard Smith Wharves, where there are bars and restaurants aplenty. I’ve frequented Felons, Fiume and Mr Percivals – all which deserve your time. This whole area is a fun place to hang out during lunchtime and at night. You could easily get lost (in a good way) in this precinct!

Descending into Howard Smith Wharves from Story Bridge

Cookie was looking a little tired at this point, although he was keeping a steady pace. It was pretty hot for a winter’s day and his shaggy coat would be a tad suffocating. Another good thing about this Brisbane city walk is there are water troughs for doggies along the whole way, so I just brought water for myself. We continued along the riverside, on the home stretch now, heading back towards the City Botanic Gardens.

Typically, there are loads of restaurants, bars and ferry terminals along this side too, although at the moment there’s quite a bit of construction going on. Before you reach Eagle Street Pier – another vibrant little precinct – you have to cut in towards the city in order to return to the City Botanic Gardens. Typically you can follow the river all the way back, although it’s not a major concern, as this occurs in just a small section of the walk.

Around the Eagle Street Pier area

By the time Cookie and I returned, just shy of two-and-a-half hours had passed. I did stop a lot to take photos/videos and we had a short rest at Captain Burke Park, but otherwise we kept a steady pace on our Brisbane city walk, the whole way.

A Few Fast Facts

  • As the walk is dog friendly, there are drinking stations for dogs along the way. However, best bring some water for yourselves.
  • The restaurants/cafés on the walk are:
    • The Gardens Club – in the City Botanic Gardens
    • Otto – in Southbank
    • Joey’s – on Kangaroo Point Cliffs
    • The Story Bridge Hotel – beneath Story Bridge
    • Howard Smith Wharves – numerous
    • Eagle Street Pier – numerous.
  • This Brisbane city walk is 6.3 km long and is a loop circuit.
  • Other points of interest are Riverlife and the Brisbane Jazz Club at Kangaroo Point.
  • The walk took us 2.5 hours walking casually but barely stopping.
  • If you leave from the City Botanic Gardens and walk in an anti-clockwise direction (as we did ), you’ll avoid going up the steep hill between Howard Smith Wharves and Story Bridge.
  • Apart from Kangaroo Point Cliffs and the entry/exit to Story Bridge, the walk is flat most of the way.

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