Review: Travel by paddle wheeler and enjoy tasty treats on a Brisbane high tea river cruise inner banner

Review: Travel by paddle wheeler and enjoy tasty treats on a Brisbane high tea river cruise

The old-world charm of river travel on a paddle wheeler is alive and well in Brisbane. Get a truly unique perspective of the Queensland capital and its majestic waterway from the decks of the Kookaburra Queen on this relaxed afternoon cruise. You'll enjoy a high tea of tasty treats along the way. Review: Geraldine Massey
Brisbane high tea river cruise
Enjoy a Brisbane high tea river cruise on board the Kookaburra Queen. Image: Alamy
Brisbane High Tea River Cruise with Kookaburra Showboat Cruises


Experience the old world charm of travelling by paddle wheeler, and enjoy a traditional high tea on this Brisbane river cruise. This has to be one of the best value activities in the city. High tea includes a tower of delicious and dainty delights to share, along with bottomless tea, bubbles, selected beers and soft drinks. Your cruise will feature live entertainment and you’ll have the opportunity to soak up the majestic beauty of the mighty Brisbane River. Duration: 2.5 hours (approx.)

Best price guarantee: If you find this tour elsewhere at a cheaper price, we will beat it by 10%. Some conditions apply. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book this tour with The Big Bus tour and travel guide.

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Paddle wheelers might seem more at home plying their trade along the great expanses of the Mississippi River than plying Brisbane guests with a sumptuous high tea, but as Brisbane glides by on a grey Saturday afternoon I’m feeling very much at home.

I’m on board the Kookaburra Queen II — one of the grand maritime ladies of Brisbane River — for a Brisbane high tea river cruise, which operates on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

Check in at the Eagle Street Pier is fuss-free and I spend my short wait enjoying the bustling waterfront. Before long, we’re shepherded on board and escorted to the upper deck of this timber treasure. This vessel was built by local shipwrights entirely from Queensland timber for Brisbane Expo 88, as was her sister ship — the original Kookaburra Queen.

Brisbane travel guide

Brisbane high tea river cruise
Brisbane high tea river cruise. Image: Geraldine Massey

My table is next to a window, where I can fully appreciate the views, the autumn breeze and even the distinctive smell of the river. I sip on a delightful peach tea as the great paddlewheel starts turning, and we head off upriver.

Our MC introduces himself, and we receive a safety briefing. He encourages audience participation from the diverse group. There are couples, families, singles, and girls’ day out parties. Some are celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, while others are simply here to enjoy Brisbane — the star of this gently-moving show. Our MC also provides commentary and the musical soundtrack to our afternoon. There are plenty of old standards and easy-listening tracks that garner applause from guests.

We drift past the dramatic Kangaroo Point Cliffs as high tea is served. Three tiers of dainty delicacies beckon and while I know I can’t possibly finish it all, I put my shoulder to the wheel and begin with finger sandwiches and wraps. They’re delicious.

Brisbane high tea river cruise
Brisbane high tea river cruise. Image courtesy of Kookaburra Showboat Cruises

We sweep past the Queensland Maritime Museum, turn around at South Bank and head back downriver, past QUT and under the Goodwill and Captain Cook Bridges. The verdant City Botanic Gardens are a pretty backdrop for the scores of bobbing yachts that call this stretch of the river home. We pass our starting point and drift by the striking copper-domed Customs House.

I’m now enjoying fluffy scones topped with jam and a dollop of cream and the glass of bubbly that replaced my tea. This seems like a good time to explore the vessel, so I head outside for a stroll around the decks. Clouds drift by, along with a procession of landmarks — Brisbane Riverwalk, New Farm Park, Brisbane Powerhouse and the Woolstore Precinct.

The rain, which has threatened to fall all afternoon, finally tumbles down. I watch the huge rear paddlewheel, mesmerised by its vast size and whirring efficiency, and then climb the stairs to the top deck to see the captain at work. Unlike other passengers who’ve stayed under the covered walkways, I’m wet from paddle splash and light rain, but I don’t care. A damp day out on Brisbane River is better than twenty days elsewhere, and with a tasty high tea thrown in, who could complain?

Brisbane high tea river cruise
Brisbane high tea river cruise: Story Bridge

We turn around at Hawthorne for our homeward trip and I return to my seat to tackle the third tier of sweet treats and another glass of bubbly. There are views of some of Brisbane’s most exclusive riverfront houses (including Norman Park’s famous pink mansion) to enjoy, before we head back under the heritage-listed Story Bridge towards Eagle Street Pier.

This Brisbane high tea river cruise is the perfect outing, no matter what the weather. You’ll enjoy great food, bottomless bubbles and beer, a cruise on board a vintage vessel, and of course — Brisbane River in all its glory.

Geraldine travelled as a guest of Kookaburra Showboat Cruises.

Cover image: Alamy. Additional images: Bigstock

Geraldine Massey

About the writer

Geraldine Massey won her first writing prize when she was eight for a story about travelling with Howard Carter on his expedition to discover Tutankhamun’s tomb. It was an early indicator of her lifelong enthusiasm for writing and travel. An experienced corporate communicator and editor, Geraldine once wrote text for Centrelink payment brochures and is now a writer and editor for WeekendNotes. In recent years she has become a ‘wedding traveller’  using family weddings in New Zealand, Argentina and the USA as jumping-off points for further exploration.


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