The Brisbane CityHopper is the perfect way to explore the city to your heart’s content without spending a single dollar.
The little shuttle boat that cruises up and down the Brisbane River is a free commodity and surprisingly simple to use.
I was a little intimidated by it myself before trying it since you’ll notice that there’s a variety of ferry boats scattered across the river. In all honesty, I was really nervous I’d end up on some strange end of the city and not know how to get back to where I needed to be.
If this sounds like you, especially if you’re not a local and a tourist new to the area, fear not. I’ve whipped up a great guide that’ll help you navigate the Brisbane CityHopper and its route, along with some great activities to do at each of the stops.
First of all, before you do anything, grab your phone and download the TransLink app. You’ll thank me later, this app has been a lifesaver for me when navigating the city and it’s huge variety of transportation options.
Make sure you have a GoCard topped up with at least $10 on it with you at all times. You can grab these at train stations, 7/11’s, and some news stands. They’re pretty much essential for taking any public transport around Brisbane and is so much cheaper than buying individual tickets each time. (Although the CityHopper is free, it’s still good to have with you just in case!)
Now that that’s covered, go ahead and open up your TransLink app. In the bottom right corner, click the more tab. From there, click on services and under the Ferry tab, you should see an option for the Brisbane CityHopper.
Life saved! As you can see, there are three extremely useful tabs on the bottom. One is a timetable, so you can know where to wait, which direction it’s headed, and what time it’ll be there. (Ferries arrive at any given stop every half hour so you shouldn’t need to wait long either way). The second tab has updates just in case there’s something funky going on with the Ferry that could cause confusion. Then on the third tab is an extremely useful map of the route and each of the stops along the way.
I’ll be exploring these great stops with you, so you can have an idea of what things there are to do.
CityCat versus CityHopper
As I mentioned before, you may notice that along the river there are a few different ferries to choose from. The main two you’ll notice are the CityCat and the CityHopper and they’re actually quite similar. I’ll go ahead and list out the main differences between the two so you know what’s up and don’t get confused.
The CityHopper is usually a red ferry, and more compact, whereas the CityCat is typically a white ferry with blue and yellow accents. It’s larger and has a sleeker look to it.
Oh, and of course the names CityCat/CityHopper are clearly on the outside so no confusion there!
Although both ferry’s travel up and down the Brisbane river on a schedule, the CityHopper has fewer stops and doesn’t go quite as far up or down the river. To put it clearly, the CityCat goes to various suburbs up and down the river, whereas the CityHopper hits up fewer stops, but more points of interest for tourists especially.
The CityHopper is completely free so obviously ideal for budgeting travellers. The CityCat does charge, however, from my experience, it’s really not unreasonable or overpriced.
The CityHopper, being free and all, is often quite crowded because of this. Be prepared for being crammed into a corner or on a full bench on a busy day. While the CityCat charges, in some ways it can be worth it because it’s a much more spacious ferry with more comfortable seating (indoor and outdoor) and is typically less busy.
As you can see, overall they’re both pretty similar, but there are a few different things that you’ll need to weigh out according to your preferences.
If you’re on a tight budget and wanting to see the main points in and around Brisbane city, I’d go ahead and go for the CityHopper. It’s such a great service and it’s pretty amazing that it’s completely free.
However, if you’d like some more comfort and space, and want to see a greater span of Brisbane, I say go for the CityCat. It’s quite relaxing to cruise down the river in.
That all said, from here on out I’ll reference the Brisbane CityHopper since it’s stops has points of interest whereas the CityCat mostly appeals to locals needing to get to the surrounding suburbs.. And besides that, who doesn’t like things that are free?
Brisbane CityHopper Stops and Points of Interest
Now that we have the basic info you’ll need out of the way, we can focus in on the fun stuff!
I’ll go through each of the stops that the Brisbane CityHopper takes (going from North to South) and provide some ideas for things to do along the way.
North Quay 2 (Brisbane)
This initial stop where you’ll most likely begin your journey is in the hub of activity. The whole of Brisbane’s CBD is behind you with an abundance of restaurants, shops and other activities to check out.
If you’re wanting to get some shopping done, definitely head to Queen Street Mall. There’s so many different store options, restaurants, and live entertainment lining this street. It’s really never a dull moment and is beautiful and lively day or night.
Stopping in at King George Square partway down Queen Street is a beautiful little nook of the city. With the brilliant Town Hall, along with Albert Street Church, the architecture in the area is definitely worth checking out.
I’ve gone in depth about more of this Central area in my previous post: Budget Walking Tour : Brisbane, Australia.
SouthBank 3 (South Brisbane)
SouthBank is my favourite spot within Brisbane, as I’ve said many times before.
It has the view of Brisbane’s skyline across the river, but is filled with peaceful parklands and a variety of restaurants and galleries to check out. It’s basically date central.
On a hot day, I definitely recommend dipping into the pools at the Streets Beach, located right near the dock. It’s completely free to access and ideal on a humid summer day to cool off.
Maritime Museum (South Brisbane)
As you’ve guessed, this ferry stop is located at Queensland’s Maritime Museum.
As adult entry tickets are $16, this could be a great addition to your day as you explore more of Brisbane.
If you’re a lover of the sea and history, I’d imagine the Queensland Maritime Museum to be your wonderland as there are various exhibits and vessels to explore, including a WWII Australian Navy ship.
Check out their website here for some more in-depth information.
Thornton Street (Kangaroo Point)
The suburb of Kangaroo Point is filled with some adventurous activities and amazing views as it’s facing the city skyline.
One of the most popular attractions of Kangaroo Point, which you’ll most likely see from the ferry as you approach the dock is the Kangaroo Point Cliffs.
You can choose to rock climb the cliffs or abseil them (repel to the bottom). Both of these adventurous experiences are led by instructors and safety equipment is provided for you as well. All you need to do is work up some courage and enjoy it!
I will note that for budgeting travellers these separate activities may not be for you, (cost is between $45-$70 per person) but if you love a good thrill I say go for it. Also, be sure to book ahead online to be sure you have a spot reserved.
That’s just to name a couple of the main activities held around that area, but I ensure you there’s many more fun tours that are both thrilling and active.
If that’s not your thing, there are some great spots to have a picnic along the riverside as there’s some gas barbecues available for use as well. Take in the gorgeous view!
Eagle Street Pier (Brisbane)
Eagle Street Pier is a very classy and trendy area ideal for wining and dining of all kinds.
All of the best high-end restaurants and bars in the city are within this area, so if you’re seeking for the perfect meal with the best view, Eagle Street Pier is the place to go.
In general, it’s a beautiful place just to take a walk around and enjoy the beautiful atmosphere and the enviable views of the Story Bridge just down the river.
Holman Street (Kangaroo Point)
Speaking of the Story Bridge, at the Holman Street docking point, you can experience a thrilling adventure involving the Story Bridge.
Adventure seekers from all around climb to the top of the historic bridge to enjoy the beautiful views as well as the rush of adrenaline.
Once again, this is something that is not most suited for budgeting travellers and should be booked ahead. For more info on the Story Bridge Adventure Climb, check out their website here.
If that’s not for you, the bridge is pedestrian and bicycle friendly, meaning you can still enjoy the beauty of the Story Bridge without the heights or the cost.
Or, feel free to check out some live entertainment at the Brisbane Jazz Club! Offering performances from Thursday to Saturday and plently of planned events, it’s a great spot to experience art at its finest.
Dockside (Kangaroo Point)
This particular stop has a little less to do in comparison to some of the others, but it’s still a wonderful addition to the trip you take on the Brisbane CityHopper.
During the journey over from Holman Street, you can experience breathtaking views as you cross underneath the Story Bridge and continue to cruise down the river.
Upon arrival, I would suggest hitting up the popular Dockside Cafe for a delicious meal and coffee as you enjoy the peaceful area of the neighbourhood.
Sydney Street (New Farm)
Arriving at the final stop located in New Farm, there are a few different options you can choose from.
Merthyr Park is locted just next to the ferry terminal and wraps around the riverside making for a lovely walk or place to rest and enjoy the breeze.
You’ll also notice that there’s a CityCycle Station right near the ferry dock, allowing you to hire a bicycle and cycle throughout the charming suburb of New Farm.
And there we have it!
As you can see, navigating the Brisbane CityHopper really isn’t so confusing once you have the right tools in place.
I hope that with this guide you can hop aboard and enjoy exploring one of my favourite cities and the multitude of things that there is to do.
Have you ever taken the Brisbane CityHopper? If so, which is your favourite stop?
If not, what would you want to explore the most? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!