Review: Brisbane River dinner cruise serves up a dazzling night out

Brisbane's glorious river setting comes to life at night as the city lights dance on the swirling water. Treat yourself to this popular Brisbane River dinner cruise on board a traditional paddle wheeler, and enjoy the shimmering show. Review: Marianne Diaz

Brisbane River dinner cruise

Brisbane River dinner cruise. Image courtesy of Kookaburra Showboat Cruises

5 stars

Brisbane River dinner cruise with Kookaburra Showboat Cruises

Enjoy the twinkling lights of the Brisbane city skyline as you cruise the Brisbane River by night onboard one of the iconic Kookaburra Queen paddle wheelers. Enjoy a contemporary seasonal buffet dinner and live entertainment guaranteed to get you up on the dance floor. This truly is a memorable way to see Brisbane after dark. Duration: 3 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.

As I make my way to Brisbane’s Eagle Street Pier, I can’t help but admire the kaleidoscope of colour emitted by the city lights.

The pier boasts magnificent views of the Brisbane River and is home to many of the city’s best culinary experiences. However, tonight I’ll be dining a little further afield. This is also the boarding point for Kookaburra Showboat Cruises’ Brisbane River dinner cruise. It’s one of their most popular cruise options, and I’m looking forward to an evening of good food and company — enjoyed on the water.

Brisbane travel guide

Brisbane River dinner cruise

Brisbane River dinner cruise. Image: Marianne Diaz

Boarding the Kookaburra Queen II, I’m mesmerised by the interior. The western red cedar walls, together with the rich red carpet, make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to another century — were it not for two things. The Kookaburra Queen II was only built 30 years ago and the brilliant lights of the pier strongly suggest the presence of electricity!

Kookaburras rarely drink water, and the paddle steamer was named after the iconic Australian bird, in the hope that it too would never take in water. Built by the late Gary Balkin (one of the founding members of the Brisbane Broncos rugby league club), it played a major role in Brisbane’s World Expo 88, and has taken thousands of guests on cruises along the Brisbane River ever since.


 

I’m shown to my table which is beautifully set, but despite the chilly night I’ve decided there’s only one place I’d like to sit. The staff are more than happy to accommodate my request and in no time at all I’m moved outside and straight to the front of the boat. It’s a little nippy but I now have the best seat in the house!

We soon pull away from the dock and begin the cruise upriver. Restaurants and bars line the waterfront and the whistle of the breeze as we move along mingles with the sounds of the land-bound diners and partygoers.

Brisbane River dinner cruise

Brisbane River dinner cruise. Image courtesy of Kookaburra Showboat Cruises

The cruise features live entertainment, and as cocktails and drinks are served, my fellow sailors begin to relax and fill the dance floor. It’s a great time for me to explore the vessel and take in the workmanship. Constructed in Brisbane, the Kookaburra Queen II is made entirely from Queensland timbers: ironbark for the keel, white spotted gum for the hull and Queensland white beech for the decking.

We pass the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens and head towards the heritage-listed Kangaroo Point Cliffs, subtly lit up and decorated with daring abseilers. We reach the South Bank precinct (the site of World Expo 88) and cruise past the Wheel of Brisbane, the South Bank Parklands and Brisbane’s Cultural Centre.


 

My senses have been dazzled so far, but there’s one important one left to put to work. Taste! Tonight’s banquet is a special 30thAnniversary menu, and includes slow-cooked angus beef, captain’s seafood pilaf, roasted chicken Marbella, spinach and ricotta tortellini, and a refreshing rice noodle slaw. Tables are called up by number and the food service runs very smoothly. I try a bit of everything, and when guests are invited back up for seconds, naturally, I oblige!

Brisbane River dinner cruise

Brisbane River dinner cruise: Enjoy the magnificent city lights.

Meanwhile our cruise has headed back downriver, and as the Story Bridge comes into view — lit up in dazzling purple — dessert is served. ‘Heaven’ is the Kookaburra Queen II’s signature chocolate fondant, but I go easy as there are more sweet treats to sample. I tuck into mouth-watering delights such as brioche bread and butter pudding, baked passionfruit cheese cake, petite pavlovas and dainty espresso cups of chocolate mousse.

As our paddle steamer makes its way back towards the Eagle Street Pier, I close my eyes and enjoy the refreshing river breeze. While feeling extremely full, I’m already making future dining plans. Do I try the Kookaburra Queen’s seafood-laden Weekend Lunch Cruise next, or the Brisbane High Tea Cruise? I think I’ll push the boat out — and do both!

Additional images: Bigstock

 

About the writer

Marianne Diaz is a research scientist by day and a freelance travel writer by night! She’s travelled to Sri Lanka to explore her children’s part-heritage, and enjoyed research trips to Japan, and Bloomington, Chicago and Boston in the USA. Her main travel goal is to get to the Italian Aeolian Islands to check out the other half of her children’s background. She also loves exploring history-laden Australian country towns.

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