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Best Runs in Brisbane

Brisbane – the River City. Often overshadowed by its bigger and better-known cousins, Sydney and Melbourne, some people still describe Brisbane as a country town. In fact, the capital of the state of Queensland is now a modern, multi-cultural city with the greater Brisbane area having a population of over 2.3 million. As the “Gateway to Queensland” the city itself has historically been overlooked by tourists who would pass through en route to the beaches of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts or to the Great Barrier Reef further north. These days more and more visitors are choosing to spend time in the city and they are often pleasantly surprised by what they find.

Brisbane has a sub-tropical climate which means that its summers are hot and humid. This makes running difficult in the summer and most runners avoid the worst of the heat by going out as early as possible. Winters however are fantastic. It is always warm enough for running in shorts and t-shirts with the daytime temperature normally always above 20 degrees Celsius.

Built up around the Brisbane River, this city is a great base for anyone wanting to explore south east Queensland. Australia is an outdoor lover’s paradise and Brisbane is no exception, offering a great lifestyle with mountains and coastal areas both within close proximity. Fortunately, Brisbane doesn’t have the overcrowded streets and congested roads that can be found in the likes of Sydney and Melbourne. It is probably Australia’s most laid-back state capital and residents value their leisure time and outdoor life. Brisbane is a great city to run in. With over 30 kilometres of riverside pathway, over 2000 parks and even a 1000-foot mountain in the city there is something for every runner. It is a safe and active city so you’ll never be alone when out exercising.

Beach runningBeach running in Iffley Road's Cambrian T-Shirt. Photo Credit: Hamish Bell

Brisbane River and Southbank Parklands
The first route recommended for visitors to the city is a 10km loop taking in some of the riverside highlights. This wide river meanders gracefully through this city and people are drawn to the many attractions that sit alongside it. The city of Brisbane has capitalised on the beauty of the river and the many paths along the river’s edge make it a runner's and cyclist's dream.

It is possible to extend this run further, either upstream to explore the beautiful grounds of the University of Queensland or downstream to New Farm Park and beyond. Another more relaxing option is to run one-way, (up or downstream) and catch one of the river ferries (Citycats) back to the city centre.

10km River Loop
This popular running route can be done in either direction but here it is described running clockwise. Other than passing through some of most scenic parts of the city this run is also appealing as there is very little traffic to deal with. There are only 2 minor roads to cross on the whole route.

The route starts in the City Botanic Gardens which were established in 1828 to provide food for the early penal colony. They were officially opened to the public in 1855 and include some of the first Queensland native plants to be formally planted. The gardens were so popular that the Council later decided to create another botanical garden on Mt Coot-tha as there was no room in the city to expand this one.

River RunningRunning alongside the Brisbane River. Photo Credit: Hamish Bell

Customs House
Heading downstream on the boardwalk you will pass beneath Customs House which was built in 1889. One noticeable thing about Brisbane is that the old buildings really stand out, because there are so few of them. Customs House is dwarfed by the modern high-rise buildings that surround it.

The Story Bridge and Riverwalk
Continuing along the river, a short but steep climb takes you up onto the Story Bridge, one of Brisbane’s most recognisable landmarks. Built in 1940 it is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia. Make sure you take some time to take in the views upstream as you cross. Once on the other side of the bridge, the route takes you down some stairs to the riverside path which you then follow upstream, passing beneath Kangaroo Point cliffs before reaching the Queensland Maritime Museum. At this point those that prefer a shorter run (approximately 5.5km) can cross the river via the Goodwill Bridge which leads directly back to the Botanic Gardens.

If you are keen for the full 10km then continue upstream beyond the maritime museum and you reach South Bank Parklands. One of Brisbane’s favourite attractions, the Parklands welcomes more visitors each year than any other park in Australia. A former industrial area it was transformed as part of the World Expo held in Brisbane in 1988. It is now a 17.5 hectare recreational space with a beach, swimming pool lagoons, water park, playgrounds, restaurants and cafes, the Brisbane Wheel and much more. The pools are a great place to have a post-run (or sometimes even a mid-run) swim. South Bank is also a good place to stop for a refreshing drink and watch the world go by so bring some money with you.

Story BridgeStory Bridge. Photo Credit: Pixabay - coorparoomassage

South Bank Parklands
As you leave the Parklands you soon pass the Brisbane Wheel and the Cultural Centre consisting of the State Library, Queensland Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art. From there you will continue upstream for about another 1km before crossing the river using the Go-Between Bridge. From here it is a short run downstream back to the starting point at the Botanic Gardens. You get great views across the river to South Bank Parklands and Brisbane Wheel as you run this final stretch. The finish point, the botanic gardens, is an ideal location for a post run stretch.

Southbank ParklandsSouth Bank Parklands. Photo Credit: Unsplash - Alice Duffield

Mt Coot-tha summit trail
The second recommendation for running in Brisbane is Mt Coot-tha. This is perfect for those seeking somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Located just 6km to the west of the city centre, Mt Coot-tha rises to almost 1000 feet above sea level. Its trails offer endless opportunities for those who prefer something a little more challenging or a little more rural. It is popular with walkers, mountain bikers and runners and even though it’s so close to the city centre you do feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. The 471 bus travels to Mt Coot-tha from the city centre.

First time visitors to Mt Coot-tha are recommended to stick to the 5km (return) summit track. Starting at the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area it’s well signposted and not too challenging. If you have time, why not add on the short extra 1km Aboriginal Art Trail loop where you can see indigenous carvings and rock paintings? This is well signposted off the summit track. The views from the summit back to the city are spectacular at any time of day and if you go early you may even be lucky enough to encounter some of the local wildlife. There is a café at the top of Mt Coot-tha so bring some money for your mid-run refreshment whilst admiring the views.

There are many other great places to run around Brisbane, so even if you are based somewhere outwith the city centre you are sure to have somewhere nearby that will offer you a scenic run. Kedron Brook on the north side of the city and Toohey Forest in the south are just 2 of many popular running locations.

Finally, here are some tips for running in Brisbane: 

  1. Run early. Brisbane can be very hot and humid, particularly in summer. Most runners go early in the morning (between 5-6am) before the day gets too hot.
  2. Stay hydrated. One thing Brisbane does very well is drinking fountains, known locally as bubblers. As long as you stick to the popular paths then there is no need to carry water with you as you can stop regularly at the frequent bubblers to keep yourself well hydrated.
  3. Its all about the heat…. don’t forget to wear a hat and apply sunscreen before you go out.
  1. If you don’t want to run alone there are many friendly running groups in the city who welcome visitors.

Hamish Bell