Brisbane: Sun, sand and adrenaline

By Kellie Blizard

Kellie Blizard scales inner-city cliffs and surfs sand dunes in a Brisbane adventure.

Quad biking is part of the action on a desert safari at Tangalooma Island. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Quad biking is part of the action on a desert safari at Tangalooma Island. Photo / Kellie Blizard

I'm frozen. I'm 20m above the ground on the edge of Kangaroo Point cliffs.

"Sit back, look at me, don't look down," my guide, Amanda, suggests helpfully. But my legs are jelly. I can't move. And this is only the first afternoon of my three-day Brisbane adventure.

It wasn't what I'd expected. I mean, Brisbane is the place you go to for sunshine, shopping, top sport and good food, accompanied by spectacular views and relaxation. I found the promise of adventure a bit hard to believe.

The first adventure, a two-hour Green Cab tour of the city, wasn't too challenging. Green Cabs are bicycles with passenger cabs on the back. I felt the wind in my hair as we pedalled past the Botanic Gardens, Wheel of Brisbane, inner-city streets, pedestrian bridges, beautiful historic architecture and the river.

Time for lunch. I headed to Malt - three levels of wine and dining in what was Queensland's first municipal market. Many of the building's original features remain, converted into one of the new dining experiences that seem to be popping up all over the city.

Adventure like this I could handle.

But then came the abseiling. Now, I had done this before - quite a few years ago - but logic told me there was nothing to worry about. My body wouldn't listen to logic.

Amanda tells me that the cliffs are the only inner-city climbing wall in the world of their kind, and offers instructions. I know what she is doing, and it works. Before long I am sitting over the edge then walking down the cliff. The moment my feet hit the ground, I want to do it all again.

A quick change of clothes, then to Riverlife Adventure Centre at Kangaroo Point for an evening kayak. Jokes about the bull sharks found in the river abound. However, the only danger is a few rogue waves from the ferries.

The leisurely 90-minute paddle takes in sights of the city at night - lights shimmering on the water, passers-by waving from the riverbanks. The experience is rewarded with a platter of king prawns and a cold, dry Australian white to wash them down.

The next morning I'm up with the birds, picked up by JPT Tours and heading to Tangalooma on Moreton Island. Dropped at the ferry, I take a seat on the front deck and enjoy the 75-minute ride.

Tangalooma is a sand island with crystal-clear blue waters that take your breath away. It offers something for everyone, from the leisurely to the more adventurous.

First for me is sandboarding on the Desert Safari - four-wheel-drive buses take us inland to the desert, the vehicle bouncing along the sand dunes.

We're given instructions for the best experience: lift the front of the board if you don't want to get dowsed in sand. I listen intently, grab my wooden board and head up the dune.

Puffed by the time I reach the top, I teeter on the lip of the dune on my board. As soon as I drop over the edge, I drop my hands too. Only for a few seconds, but that's enough to give me a harsh lesson. My face is caked with sand, but it's soon forgotten as I lift the front of my board to the right position and enjoy the smooth glide down. Speeds can reach up to 40km/h.

There's just enough time for a quick swim in the warm island waters to wash off the sand before heading to ATV Quad Biking. The ride takes in the island's beaches and bush. I'd have liked to go faster - and for another hour.

Sitting on the beachfront enjoying dinner and watching the sunset, I wonder if it can get any better. It does. Around sunset, bottlenose dolphins come into the bay for an evening feed, monitored by the Dolphin Care Team. The dolphins play in the shallows until feeding time.

I'm up first. I grab a fish and wade into the water. Echo, a dolphin, eyes me up as I near. I am not allowed to touch him because he is wild. As I lower his dinner into the water, I am sure Echo smiles at me before he takes it gently from my hand.

The next day the sun is shining again as I head to Story Bridge for a two-hour climb of the Brisbane landmark. After the safety briefing we set out up the bridge. My fellow climbers range from a father and child who won a radio competition to a man and his family celebrating his 80th birthday. Anyone can do it.

There are a few steep stairs, but our guide stops often to give us a rest and talk about the bridge's history. The view from the peak is worth the effort: 360-degree views of the city from almost 80m high.

Back on the ground, I head along the riverbank to the Riverlife centre to collect my bike. I haven't ridden one for a long time, but after a few wobbles I'm on my way through this bike-friendly city with designated footpaths shared with pedestrians.

Ambling back along the river as my adventure nears its end, I think: Brisbane, you've surprised me. I'll see you again, hopefully soon.

CHECKLIST

Getting there: Air NZ and partner Virgin Australia fly to Brisbane several times daily.

Where to stay: The Oaks Casino Towers.

What to do: Visit Tangalooma Island.

The Riverlife Adventure Centre offers abseiling, rock climbing, kayaking, cycling, rollerblading and more.

Where to eat: Malt.

Further information: See queenslandholidays.co.nz.

Kellie Blizard visited Brisbane as a guest of Tourism Queensland. or Australia.com

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 18 Apr 2014 17:44:45 Processing Time: 896ms