A walking tour reveals Brisbane’s fascinating secrets to Shandelle Battersby.

Blair Allsop is the sort of fellow you wish you could meet on all your journeys to new cities.

However, the clever Canadian is probably most useful to you in Brisbane, especially if you have a keen interest in the Queensland capital's involvement in World War II, or its architecture.

Blair is a long-time volunteer at Brisbane Greeters, part of a global network of people who offer free tours in 100 cities across the world aimed at connecting you to a place and making it "friendlier".

The Brisbane organisation has 200 volunteers who speak 25 languages between them, and all have different areas of interest.


This means you can tailor a "greet" to suit you - whether you're interested in the foodie aspect of a city, its cultural history, or maybe even its best second-hand shops.

Groups are usually four to six people and tours take between two and four hours.

We began our two-hour wander around Brisbane at Goma, its brilliant art gallery, where staff were hard at work getting ready for the Asia Pacific Triennial of Art, on until April 10.

As he spoke about the city's past and its relationship with the river that winds through it, Blair pointed out several public artworks - and explained their provenance - as well as buildings of interest and significant Aboriginal sites.

We left the cultural precinct and walked across the Kurilpa Bridge (a story in itself as the world's largest hybrid tensegrity bridge), headed for the historic government precinct and finished at our hotel.

He was full of fascinating facts along the way: did you know the Story Bridge is the shortest highway but the longest cantilever bridge in Australia at 777m? That General MacArthur spent three years in Brisbane during World War II? Or that there are more than 1000km of bikeways in Brisbane and no trams or trolley buses because the roads were made too narrow when the city was planned?

Two hours sped by in a blur of interesting information.

Later that day we got another perspective of the city with a Riverlife Segway tour around the Brisbane riverfront. These guys, who operate out of Kangaroo Pt, and now Hamilton Beach, offer a couple of unique experiences, including Paddle and Prawns - a 90-minute night kayak trip that is topped off with a feast of king prawns.

After kitting up in hi-vis vests and helmets and having a blat around headquarters to get used to riding the rather chunky off-road contraptions, we set off on a 45-minute tour, which took us along the riverbank past early evening abseilers scaling the low cliffs flanking the pathway, revellers in the River Quay entertainment precinct, swimmers at the man-made beach at South Bank, cyclists, joggers, in-line skaters, picnickers, couples, groups of mates, and tourists at the pretty Ferris wheel.

Brisbane is all about getting out and enjoying the outdoors, and thousands were, including us on our funny machines, wobbling along trying not to crash into each other.

You feel faintly ridiculous and quite un-co, but once you get the hang of it, it is really fun. And at a top speed of about 13km/h you're not going to get into too much trouble.

Both of these experiences offer a different way to enjoy Brisbane, a city you might think you know pretty well - though you've probably only scratched its surface.

Fun for everyone

Buy Airtrain tickets in advance and save up to 15 per cent on some bookings. airtrain.com.au

Kick-start your Brisbane family holiday with these top attractions and activities.

• Cruise along the Brisbane River on a CityCat Ferry, one of the cheapest and most pleasant ways to view the city.
Closest Airtrain Station: South Bank. brisbane.qld.gov.au
• Enjoy the great outdoors at Roma St Parklands, 16ha of lawns, gardens, forests, lakes and playgrounds and a trackless train.
Closest Airtrain Station: Roma St. brisbanekids.com.au
• Shop your way through Asia at Chinatown Mall - a shopping and entertainment experience, especially at the weekend markets.
Closest Airtrain Station: Fortitude Valley. visitbrisbane.com.au
• Embrace your inner child at the Sciencentre. Interactive, science-based fun is a must-see for children, families and grownups.
Closest Airtrain Station: South Brisbane. sciencentre.qm.qld.gov.au

Brisbane is packed full of family fun. The fastest, easiest and most cost-effective way to enter the city and suburbs is the Airtrain. It departs the international airport every 15 minutes during peak times and takes just 23 minutes to reach Central Station. There are great discounted fares online, and children aged 14 and under travel free when they are accompanied by a paying adult.



Qantas flies daily between Auckland and Brisbane with return Economy Class fares starting from $562.


Find out more about Brisbane Greeters at


Riverlife's 45-minute Segway Night Tours are $99 (Wed, Fri, Sat, 7.30pm).