Brisbane Panorama

Welcome to the Queensland capital.

Just a bit of housekeeping…

In this section you will find a guide to many of Brisbane’s attractions with information on disabled parking and access, bathroom facilities etc.

While people with mild disabilities (e.g. cane assisted) will be able to get around most places easily, having a wheelchair or scooter for places like museums, art galleries, wildlife enclosures etc can provide freedom, less fatigue and more reward.

Some attractions provide wheelchairs free of charge or hire for a fee but if visitors would like to hire their own chair for a week or a month, Walk on Wheels can assist – $40 per week for a manual collapsible ($100 a month) and $100 per week for an electric wheelchair or scooter ($350 per month) plus a $45 delivery fee to the airport or your accommodation.  Phone 61 7 3188 1984 or visit

Now, sit back, relax and welcome to our Brisbane!

On the way into Brisbane from the airport you find a billboard that boasts that Brisbane is Australia’s ‘most liveable city’, which is great for the residents, but what about the visitor? Many travellers see Brisbane as the place you have to go to before hopping north to the Sunshine Coast or south to the Gold Coast. Yes, it is only an hour or so from either ‘Coast’, and a few days in BrisVegas or Brisneyland, as the locals call it, can be rewarding – and then head north or south.

In many ways, Brisbane is a town. A big town, trying hard to be a city, but it is a ‘nice’ town. ‘Nice’ is a word that would be used by a lot of people describing Brisbane. On looking down while flying in: ‘It looks like a nice city’. On the way into town: ‘That’s a nice river’. On cruising the river: ‘They’re nice bridges’. And so on. Flying into Sydney, however, may elicit, ‘What a fantastic harbour!’. Someone driving though leafy Melbourne may comment, ‘What a charming city’. And, of course, Sydney would say to Brisbane, ‘You call that a bridge, this is a bridge!’ But one thing that’s particularly nice about Brisbane is that it is full of nice people. And that is meant in the nicest possible way.

In the same way restaurants and hotels are an extension of an owner or manager’s personality, so too is a destination. Queenslanders are friendly, laid-back, possess a dry sense of humour and are quietly smug at being blessed with one of the world’s best climates. Warm and welcoming, they are more than happy to share their knowledge of what to do and where to go.

Many locals will deny they do this, but a quirky and somewhat endearing Queenslander trait is to end sentences with ‘eh’ as an audible ‘full stop’. At first this may sound like a question, as in ‘It’s a hot one today, eh?’ or a request, ‘I wouldn’t mind another beer, eh?’, but it’s really just a habit. Eh.

Brisbane is a young, relaxed city and it’s easy to get about. There are many fine galleries and museums, as well as first class shopping, theatres and nightlife. All along the banks of the Brisbane River are parks and recreational boardwalks, play and picnic areas, walking and bike trails, restaurants, cafés, markets, pontoons and fishing facilities. Fast ferries provide an efficient, inexpensive and fun way to explore the river and the city, and the gracious River Queen paddle-wheelers or Gondola Cruises take life a little more leisurely.

Or, if your legs have pedal-power, you could have a pushbike delivered to your hotel – there are cycling tracks all through the city.

If it is sun, sand, surf, rainforests or theme parks you’re after, a few days in Brisbane should be plenty before heading north or south. So, what to do with those few days?

Let’s start by heading over Victoria Bridge from the central city to South Bank and the Queensland Cultural Centre, the name given to the huge compound of buildings that are at the heart of Brisbane’s cultural, recreational and entertainment scene. On your right is the Queensland Museum, which has exhibits from whales to dinosaurs, snakes to snails and crabs to crocodiles, as well as special exhibitions. Queensland Sciencentre is also located at the Museum. This is a really fun place for kids – not a hint of classroom and there may be snot, slime and maggots – you know, the sort of things kids love. Did you know that our stomachs would eat themselves with acid if it weren’t for snot?

There are disabled parking spaces on the lower level of the car park and lifts from the car park to the Level 2 main entrance. There are connecting lifts to other levels of the building and disabled toilet facilities on Level 0, Level 1 and Level 2. All entrances and areas in the museum are wheelchair accessible.

You can borrow a wheelchair for use within the museum from Visitor Services (Level 2). They are free of charge and subject to availability. Space for wheelchairs is set aside at all events and activities including lectures, workshops and shows. There is seating around the museum, and seating/eating areas in the Courtyard Café (Level 2). Companion Card carriers are free.

The nearby Queensland Art Gallery and GoMA (Gallery of Modern Art) will reward art lovers with its internal water feature and Australian and Aboriginal collections. They have some excellent visiting exhibitions and an extensive permanent collection featuring nationally and internationally renowned artists from all periods. It’s easy to spend a whole day taking in the wonderful art and there’s something there to suit all tastes.

There are ramps, lifts and toilets for visitors with wheelchairs. QAG wheelchair access is via the lift on the upper level of the Art Gallery carpark, via ramps at the front entrance from Melbourne Street, or via the street level entrance on Stanley Place, which is located between both buildings. GoMA wheelchair access is via the street level entrance on Stanley Place or via the lift from the Stanley Place carpark.

Nearby, the State Library of Queensland is not just a place full of books. You can access the Internet, trace your family tree, view visiting collections or watch a classic film – most services are free.

All entrances and areas in the library are wheel-chair accessible. Additional facilities include disabled parking spaces, lifts operating from the car park to all levels of the building, bathroom facilities on each level and wheelchair height reception and information desks.

Across Melbourne Street, the Performing Arts Complex (QPAC) stages some excellent theatre and music, and the Southbank 5 Cinemas offers movie options. Check the Theatre section under posts for what’s on and what’s coming up.

QPAC has wheelchairs available for patron use. These are available from each designated patron drop off area. All QPAC venues have dedicated seating options for patrons with a disability and their guests. Bookings for wheelchair seating can only be made with Box Office staff over the telephone or in person.

Across Grey Street are the South Bank Parklands, 16 hectares of river frontage parklands. Landscaping reflects rainforest, lagoon and beach environments and The Arbour, a flower-covered walkway, winds through the precinct.

The Parklands undercover car park, accessible from Little Stanley Street, includes eight disabled bays with lift accessibility from both the north and south entrances. Here’s a map of the South Bank precinct with the locations of wheelchair accessible toilets.

On the riverbank is Streets Beach where sun, sand and lifeguards deliver a beach experience to the heart of the city. This is a somewhat curious concept to me. Did some slightly paranoid person suggest that, because Sydney has beaches, Brisbane should have one? After all, some of the world’s best beaches are only an hour away. Having said that, it’s still fun.

There are cafes and restaurants, and the South Bank Village Markets, open every Friday night, Saturdays and Sundays. The Queensland Maritime Museum is at the Woolloongabba end of the Parklands and is home to a World War II frigate, a 1925 steam tug and many other fascinating bits for those into nautical relics.

The Queensland Maritime Museum’s disabled bathroom is located within the indoor exhibit area on the ground floor and meets all access requirements.

Indoor exhibits are wheelchair friendly, however the Dry Dock and below the main deck on the Diamantina are not wheelchair accessible.

There are some lovely old buildings in the centre of Brisbane. The Conrad Treasury Casino is a beautiful 19th century sandstone building which contrasts easily with the glitter and gambling within. Some think it appropriate that the place that was once the Treasury still collects a lot of money from the public.

Naturally gambling tables have wheelchair access and there are also a number of guest rooms with wheelchair access and facilities.

St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Cathedral has one of the world’s finest collections of 19th-century stained glass. There are three tours on Sundays (following Mass) and weekdays at 10:30am. St John’s Cathedral in Ann Street is a living artwork with stone vaulted ceilings, spectacular stained glass windows and intricately carved wooden choir stalls.  Guides are in attendance daily to provide information and assistance.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral has non-assisted wheelchair access. St. John’s Cathedral remains an untouched old building with quite a few steps and no other access so not ideal for those with wheelchairs.

Parliament House is a grand building, built in 1868 and inspired by the Louvre Museum in Paris. Parliament House backs on to the City Botanic Gardens, Queensland’s leading heritage park. It’s full of beautiful old trees and dates back to 1828. The Curator’s Cottage is now the garden’s café.

Non-assisted wheelchair access is available in the Parliament House and it has wheelchair friendly facilities. The City Botanic Gardens has two public accessible bathrooms, one located centrally and one at the end of Garden Points Rd. Accessible parking available.

Riverstage is a great outdoor entertainment venue right in the heart of Brisbane. Wheelchair access is via Gate Two and there are reserved wheelchair seating in the Gold Reserve area.

For spectacular views, a planetarium and exotic plants, visit the Mt Coot-tha Lookout and Botanic Gardens. While there, you could take the 1.5- kilometre Mt Coot-tha Aboriginal Art Trail to see traditional artwork in a natural setting.

The Brisbane Council has provided a handy map with comprehensive information on wheelchair accessible buildings, public bathrooms and parking within the Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens.

Just down in Fig Tree Pocket is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for those wanting to get up close to and personal with kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian Devils and wombats, especially if time precludes visiting wildlife sanctuaries on the ‘coasts’. You can also take a cruise from the city.

There is disabled access throughout all of the Sanctuary with disabled bathrooms inside. Reserved parking for the disabled is available at the entrance. Wheelchairs are available. Items are all displayed at a suitable viewing height.

The Queen Street Mall is the place to start for shopping. It’s a pedestrian mall full of space, shade, light, al fresco eateries, free entertainment and, of course, department stores and shops. Whether you’re after Versace originals, Aboriginal art, grunge music, specialist books or body piercing – it’s all within easy walking distance. The Piercing Shop offers free head massages while you wait for that tasteful navel stud. The heritage-listed Brisbane Arcade (built 1923) has lots of old-world charm and 50 boutique shops – just the place to find something special.

There is accessible off street-parking within the Myer Centre and Wintergarden Centre. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms available within the Queens Plaza and Myer Centre and the west side of the Albert Street section of the Mall.

Locals after bargains head to Stones Corner, about 4 kilometres south of the city centre. Local buses or trains will take you there for some great seconds and outlet shops. There are also major shopping centres in suburbs like Indooroopilly, Garden City, Carindale and Chermside – all of which are connected by public transport. Just 2 kilometres from the central city is Milton. Head for Park Road for shoes, cigars, Wedgwood and Waterford Crystal, and antiques, as well as good dining. The architecture in Milton and Paddington is unique with its pretty weatherboard ‘Queenslander’ houses.

Fortitude Valley is probably the best place to head for nightlife. Once it was a dark and sleazy place but it’s tidied up its act. There are fine Chinese, Asian and Italian restaurants, some fun Irish pubs and pubs with good live bands.

The Tivoli is one of Brisbane’s favourite music venues and hosts some of the worlds hottest rock and comedy acts. Fully restored in Art Deco style and seating 1,500 standing or 700 seated patrons.

The Tivoli has wheelchair access seating and bathrooms. Ticketek can be contacted beforehand if access assistance is needed.

Giardinetto is one of our favourite Brisbane restaurants – it’s in Brunswick St and has been serving up great Italian fare for 45 years – there’s rabbit on the menu and there may be goat on the blackboard specials – and of course there’s all the usual pizza, pasta and usual Italian dishes. The Spaghetti Marinara has Moreton Bay Bugs and King Prawns… hmm, I’ve just come over all hungry…

There are good dining options in Park Road, Milton (Italian, Mediterranean, Asian) and in West End (Indian, Greek, Asian).

A couple of recent ones…

One restaurant in West End with a difference is Tukka – it looks Indian by name but it serves up excellent Aussie ‘tucker’. You’ll find locally sourced specials like Barramundi, Moreton Bay Bugs and Rack of Lamb, but there are five and seven course degustation menus where you can hoe into the Coat of Arms and other delicacies you may have only previously seen as roadkill. And it isn’t a gimmick – this is an amazing chef! None of it is just whacked on the barbie – the emu, for example, is “Seared Marburg farmed Emu fillet with an orange and wattle seed jus and braised fennel on a potato gallette (gluten free)” – and you can order with or without suggested wines – the one suggested to complement the old emu palette is a Vasse Felix Cabernet Merlot…

Tukka is open for lunch on weekends and seven nights for dinner with wheelchair access.

The Gunshop Cafe (Westend) has quite a following and you may have to queue down the street for a breakfast on weekends (they don’t take weekend bookings) – it was awarded Brisbane’s Best Breakfast Restaurant in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and also named Best Cafe in Australia by Delicious Magazine.  It is in a heritage listed building with a lively, trendy vibe – lots of chatter, lots of smiles and the menu is eclectic and interesting.

There are tables on the street and the inside dining area is fine for wheelchairs but there are a few steps out back to access the courtyard. The bathrooms are out back, above the courtyard, so no stairs but a fairly heavy door to negotiate and the bathrooms aren’t big and don’t have railings. Would be fine for a manual wheelchair that can be parked outside for a walk/cane assist transfer but no room to take the chair inside for transferring.

Little Greek TavernaJust an olive’s toss from the Gunshop Cafe is The Little Greek Taverna, on the corner of busy Boundary and Bowning Streets.  It is a gem for quality of meals atmosphere and value.  It is a family business that popped up in 2009 and is now one of Brisbane’s favourites.  On a recent visit we ordered the Northern Greek banquet. At first glance it looks expensive at $70, but it is for up to four people so less than $20 a head for some terrific Greek dishes – you get a lovely, large traditional Greek salad (Horiatiki Salata) and a choice of two dips (pita bread extra) – we chose the tzatziki and a red pepper. That came with two serves of haloumi. There are two meat platters – one with 2 x beeftekia (char-grilled beef patties) and 4 x seftelyes (pan-fried pork sausages) – the other was the souvklaki – two lamb, two chicken and two pork – perfect!

Lottle Greek Taverna 2If you would prefer just a main course most are around $15, they do kiddies meals for $7 and corkage is $2. The secret is out but they maintain the quality and value and best to book to avoid disappointment – 3255 2215. We will certainly be back. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays).

The restaurant is wheelchair-friendly – it’s easy to wheel up to an outdoor table on the footpath and there are no steps to the interior part of the restaurant. It can be a little hectic inside because of the wait-staff coming and going. I transferred from w/c to a seat and folded the wheelchair. The bathroom, however, is not w/c friendly – I wasn’t able to check it out because they said it was up Bowning Street and then down a steep driveway. Glad I went before I went, so to speak.

5th ElementThere are many fine restaurants in Southbank. One that’s a bit special is the 5th Element restaurant/wine bar/bottle shop. Located on the parkland/river side (corner of Tribune and Little Stanley) it serves up innovative, contemporary cuisine and has Australia’s largest selection of wine by the glass. The staff also know their vinos – one one visit I was asked what sort of Australian white wine I liked – I described the style and my host got me a taste of a French wine made in the same style – excellent!  It’s open seven days and as well as main courses, dishes up tapas and shared plates (dips/antipasto etc). They serve wines in three sizes – a taste, a half glass or a full glass and have over 70 on the wine list.

Fifth Element is fully wheelchair accessible. The entire restaurant including the cellar, is all on ground level with no steps up or down. The wheelchair toilets are the Southbank public toilets, located about 50metres down from the restaurant – also ground level with no steps up or down.

In the city, we’ve never been disappointed at Jade Buddha, Eagle St Pier – the restaurant overlooks the river and the oriental decor has followed the principles of Feng Shui. There’s also a swank, popular cocktail bar. The sushi platter and the Peking duck wraps, perhaps? Former tennis great Pat Rafter has a small stake in this business, not that he makes the food taste any better, but it might explain what he’s doing hanging around the bar.

Jade Buddha has access to either Jade Buddha or the Shadow Lounge. This access is via an internal elevator and allows free movement throughout the Shadow Lounge & it’s bathrooms and also Jade Buddha and it’s bathrooms. The bar area is only partially accessible via wheelchair due to part of it being raised but they do have an accessible area in this bar.

A lovely place to relax and contemplate the beauty of the surroundings or grab a bite to eat, New Farm Park covers 15 hectares and hosts the Farmers Markets on the second and fourth of every month which features fresh produce, entertaining events and cooking classes from chefs.

Wheelchair access, parking and bathroom facilities are available.

Brisbane Powerhouse-300x297Just next door is Powerhouse Park which contains Brisbane Powerhouse. A former power station, this centre for the arts has gained a reputation for catering to all aspects of creative endevour such as theatre, comedy, film, visual arts, music and festivals. It contains a flexible 400 – 700 seat theatre as well as a smaller 200 seater, plus two restaurants, a bar, conference and rehearsal rooms, and office space. There is a large public car park adjacent.

It is fully wheelchair accessible with lifts and toilet facilities, as well as disabled car parks. Let them know when booking tickets to be allocated wheelchair friendly seating.

EkkaHeld once a year in August at the RNA Showgrounds in Bowen Hills, the Royal Queensland Show, better known as the Ekka, is the largest annual event held in Queensland with crowds of over 600,000 attending and 11,200 competition classes across 42 sections being held throughout the shows 10 days as well as a feast of  award winning foods. A great day out for those with children.

Wheelchair facilities throughout such as disabled toilets and parking, and wheelchairs are available for hire.

The Racecourse Road Precinct offers a wharf on one end, cafes, bars, restaurants and over 130 retail and specialty stores and the Eagle Farm Markets every Sunday from 7am – 12.30 pm, as well as the Brisbane Racing Club itself with the Eagle Farm Racecourse at the end of the road.

A couple of spots a little out of the city worth a visit are Manly for fishing, swimming (the beaches are good) or a picnic and a wander. The architecture & atmosphere is delightful.

Moreton Island is a large sand island and a National Park. Catch a ferry from the Brisbane River or Scarborough.

straddie1The second largest sand island in the world, North Strakebroke or Straddie as it’s known is 30 km southeast of Brisbane and is accessible by fast water taxi or ferry from Cleveland. Point Lookout is a headland and village on the North Stradbroke Islands eastern coast which is ideal for whale watching.

The best option for wheelchair users is travelling via car onto the Big Red Cat ferry and staying in their vehicle. The café is upstairs so you will need an able bodied person in the car to get any food or drinks.

Obtaining a good vantage point for the whale watching from wheelchair or for the cane assisted could be difficult as the North Gorge walk that takes you to the lookout has a large number of stairs along the way.

There are calm beaches on the west and a 36km surf beach on the east and you can get up close to dolphins at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort.


Bacchus PoolCane & Able reckons you can’t go past Rydges South Bank. Well, you can go past it, but you’ll be further away from the main attractions.

Rydges and the CBD Cafe & Bar plus the Bacchus Restaurant Bar & Pool are right in the heart of the main theatre, gallery, museums, sporting venues and attractions.  There are also 40+ restaurants nearby and the CBD just the other side of the river with bridge access. There are a number of room types. There are three accessible rooms for folk with disabilities (Queen) with spacious living area, bathroom and balcony. 

Bacchus Pool LiftThe rooms have a kitchenette (microwave etc) and CBD Restaurant, Café and Bar on the ground floor is also wheelchair accessible.  On the Podium level Bacchus Restaurant, Bar and Pool is also fine for guests in wheelchairs.  Access is by lift from the lobby or from the Grey Street lift.  And there is a nifty secondary lift on the pool terrace to get up to the pool deck (right).

Rydges (as well as QT and Art Series Hotels) offer Priority Guest Rewards membership. It is totally free and one of the best loyalty rewards card we have found – you get 10% off accommodation at more than 40 hotels around Australia and New Zealand plus 20% off food and beverages (that’s where the real value is).