Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Portside Cruise Terminal, Brisbane

The Black Watch docked at the Portside cruise terminal, Brisbane


- Location and Tourist Information
- Brisbane Day Tours (a small selection)
- Portside Retail and Dining Precinct
- Dining (fine dining, cafés, bars)
- Shopping (fresh food, lifestyle, fashion)
- Transport (public and otherwise - car, taxi, bus, CityCat, train, walking)
- Hamilton
- Parking
- Wharf Statistics
- Embarkation
- Disembarkation
- Ship Tours
- Accommodation


Portside is one of Brisbane's two cruise terminals and is located on the Brisbane River at Hamilton, around 7km (4.5 miles) from the CBD.

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The Brisbane CBD photographed from the pool deck of the Pacific Dawn
while she was docked at Portside

Portside is also 7km from the Domestic and International Airports and is easily accessible to the Gateway Motorway, which leads to the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast (both 1-1.5 hours drive). An hour or so's drive away are many theme parks, including:

Australia Zoo (established by the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin)
Sea World
Warner Bros. Movie World
Australian Outback Spectacular
Ettamogah Pub and Aussie World
Underwater World

Dolphin show at Seaworld on Queensland's Gold Coast

Within easy reach are Moreton Bay & its many islands, including MoretonStradbroke and St Helena Islands. Moreton and Stradbroke aren't a day trip - allow at least one night. There is also the beautiful hinterland, including the towns of Tamborine Village and Springbrook to the south and Maleny and Montville to the north...all are 1-1.5 hours drive. Close to Maleny and Montville are the spectacular Glass House Mountains - a little less than an hour's drive. If you love bushwalking, there are many opportunities to do this at the hinterland destinations.

A lifesaver looks out over Main Beach at Point Lookout on Stradbroke Island.
The beach is 32km long (20 miles)

The town of Maleny on the Sunshine Coast hinterland, about an hour's drive

The spectacular Glass House Mountains - not quite an hour's drive

BRISBANE DAY TOURS (a small selection)

South Bank (with Australia's only beach in the middle of the city)

The XXXX brewery at Milton, where you can do a tour


The cruise terminal is part of the Portside retail and dining precinct, where you can shop (more upmarket than not), grab a snack or indulge in fine dining (Hamilton is one of Brisbane's most affluent suburbs) or catch a movie at the Dendy Portside cinemas there.

The Portside retail and dining precinct

The cruise terminal in the distance next to the Portside retail and dining precinct

Dendy Portside cinemas...check in and catch a movie before boarding?


Fine dining
Gusto da Gianni
Sono Japanese Restaurant

Chez Laila
Mövenpick ice cream
Cruisers Café Bar and Grill

Gusto da Gianni


Fresh food
Fresh'n'Wild Fish
IGA Supermarket

Cruising Down Under
Ella Bache
Jetts Fitness

Marg K Boutique - women's high end fashion labels from across the world
Tracey Mathers Shoe Studio - imported footwear from Italy, Germany, Spain, Brazil and China
Vers Boutique - flattering, easy-to-wear garments and accessories at an affordable and accessible price
Urbbana - exclusive men's fashion from around the globe
Leaf Boutique - locally designed and Australian made clothing
Ily - trending clothing aimed at the younger generation

Wine & Alcohol
Stewarts Wine Co. - family owned and selling premium and hard to find wines, premium spirits and beers.

A man strolls through the retail and dining precinct

People make their way past some of the restaurants and cafés at Portside,
with the Pacific Dawn docked behind


If you don't have a tour organised and are flying solo, Portside is a 10-15 minute drive from the Brisbane CBD. There is a taxi rank at the terminal or you can walk 10 minutes and catch a council bus or one of the CityCat ferries (info below). Some people dread the term 'council bus' but the fleet of Brisbane City Council buses are new, comfortable and all have air conditioning. The CityCats are a great way to see the city from the water. You can sit inside or stand at the front of the CityCat and let the wind rush through your hair (you may even be able to relive the Kate Winslet scene from Titanic).

Council Bus
Walk around 200 metres to the bus stop at Bretts Wharf (opposite Riverview Tce) and catch the 300 (the 305 runs during peak hours and also goes into the city). Buses run every 15 minutes Mon-Fri, and more frequent during peak hour, and it takes around 25 minutes into the city. The service is less frequent on weekends.
Returning from the city - catch the 300 on Adelaide Street at City Hall (Stop 18) to the Bretts Wharf/Riverview Tce bus stop.

An example of the bus stops and travelling time to each stop from Bretts Wharf.

Bus timetable information.

Adult fare is $5.20 (paper ticket).

All information as of March 2012.

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Brisbane City Council buses in the CBD

The Bretts Wharf CityCat stop is around 200 metres from Portside. CityCats run approx every 12-15 minutes (7 days) and it takes around a half hour to the city.

An example of the CityCat stops and travelling time to each stop from Bretts Wharf.

City Cat timetable.

Adult fare is $5.20 (paper ticket).

All information as of March 2012.

A CityCat makes its way down the Brisbane River, with the Story Bridge in the distance

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For trains buffs, there are the Ascot and Doomben train stations about a half hour walk from Portside. This train service runs half hourly Mon-Sat and not on Sunday.

For rail timetable.

Adult fare is $5.20 (paper ticket).

All information as of March 2012.

If you're keen, there are riverside walkways and you can walk to Newstead House in one direction, the Hamilton Recreational Park (and the Riverside Cafe) in the other, or explore the suburb of Hamilton (see Racecourse Road below) in the third. Take a hat, sunscreen and a bottle of water for all.


If the CBD doesn't grab you, then you might like to wander up and down Racecourse Road, the main shopping/cafe strip in Hamilton. There aren't too many roads with their own website but, in keeping with Hamilton's 'affluent' tag, Racecourse Road is one that does.

One end of Racecourse Road runs all the way down to the Brisbane River at Bretts Wharf, where you catch the bus/ferry from. If you like real estate, then you can always wander through the streets off Racecourse Road and admire some spectacular homes (especially to the left of Racecourse Road as you walk away from the river).

Racecourse Road didn't get its name by chance and at its farthest end is Eagle Farm racecourse (allow a half hour walk from the terminal). Brisbane's two horse racing courses - Eagle Farm and Doomben - and across Nudgee Road from each other and hold race meetings on alternate Saturdays. In fact, Nudgee Road becomes Remora Road, which runs into Portside. However, Doomben a little bit further away than Eagle Farm, so still allow a half hour (if you're really keen for a bet and in a hurry, knock a few minutes off).

Punters watch the finish of a race at Eagle Farm


There are car parks at both the cruise terminal and the retail and dining precinct - 350 in total, some under cover - but they are only short term and free up to three hours. If you're brave enough you could park curbside, where there is no parking restrictions, but let's just say the better alternative might be one of the several long term car parks available close by that run shuttle buses to Portside. Brisbane Airport isn't far from Portside, hence the word 'airport' appearing in several of their names:

Portside Parking
Abel Airport Park
Kingsford Smith Airport Parking
Brisbane Airport Parking
Gateway Airport Parking
Alpha Airport Car Parking

Just about all of the above offer car cleaning/detailing services while you are away (for a fee). Some even offer mechanical services.

Portside Parking, literally around the corner from Portside. I parked there while I cruised on
the Pacific Dawn and they detailed the car. The service was great.


Length: 236 metres (ships up to 270 metres catered for)
Construction: Concrete
Gangway: Aerobridge
Depth alongside: 9.0m LAT (Lowest Astronomical Tide)
Channel depth: 9.1m LAT
Swing basin: 399 metres diameter to a depth of 9.1 metres LAT (subject to decisions made by the Harbour Master on the day).
Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges clearance: 56.4m above LAT
Passenger access: Aerobridge and/or gangway

If wind gusts exceed the threshold of 15 knots, then turning in the Brisbane River, as all ships must do at some point, cannot happen (the side of the ship acts as a huge sail and can lead to a loss of handling).

The cruise terminal (front right), with Portside retail and dining precinct
and residential units surrounding it

P&O's Oriana, at 260 metres, just sneaks in under the length limit of 270 metres


I sailed on the Pacific Dawn, which calls Portside home, so have some first hand experience.

Like flying, the earlier you can arrive the better and I got to the cruise terminal at around 9.15am for a 2pm departure (boarding started at 10.30am). People were still leaving the ship as others were arriving so the terminal area was busy but it wasn't mayhem.

Passengers make their way to the Portside Cruise Terminal

There are plenty of taxis out the front (cruise terminal is bottom left, through the trees)

The first thing you need to do is take your large bags to the Baggage Drop Off area, around the side of the cruise terminal (it's well signed). Once done, you then have to head inside and check in. As you enter the cruise terminal check-in hall there is someone directing you to where you have to fill out a health questionnaire/card. Then, with questionnaire and passport in hand, you're ready to check in.

The baggage drop off area to the side of the cruise terminal

The check in process is like a well-oiled machine and I counted 24 staff behind the long check-in counter. As a result the queue moved steadily and, once at a counter, you give them your passport, questionnaire and boarding papers (print these out before you leave home). They take your photo (checked each time you leave and board the ship) and give you your Cruise Card, your all-in-one room key and 'wallet' while on board.

I'm not sure if it was because I arrived early or if the check in process was super efficient (they do this every week, so they've had quite a bit of practice!), but from the moment I walked in the front gate of the cruise terminal, dropped off my bags and checked in, it took only 10 minutes.

The cruise terminal check-in hall is big and you can either choose to hang around and wait for the boarding call, like an airport departures lounge, or you can leave and wander 100 metres to the Portside retail precinct and grab a coffee or meal, do some shopping, or just gaze up at your ship (you could, feasibly, catch a movie). By the way, at some point you will need to fill out an immigration boarding card, which they give you at check-in and are lying around the check-in hall.

Boarding begins at 10.30am. When you check in you are given a number. Then, like waiting at the delicatessen counter at a supermarket, when you're number appears on the screen, you're up. However, in this case, you are everyone else with that same number, is allowed to make your way through the boarding gate. Here you give your immigration boarding card to customs (your passport has already been shown at check-in) and you make your way up and onto your ship so the fun can begin!

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For such a thing as disembarking around 2,000 passengers, then taking on another 2,000, all in the space of a few hours, it's quite a feat of organisation - especially when you consider that passengers begin to board around 45 minutes after the last of the returning passengers have disembarked. Admittedly passengers leaving the ship have been out of their rooms for some time (you vacate your cabins early and assemble in areas ready for disembarkation) but the process of turning all those cabins around in time for the new passengers, is nothing short of amazing.

Walking from the check-in hall to the Pacific Dawn's aerobridge

Passengers boarding their ship walk under the public viewing platform

Family and friends wave from the public viewing area to those they know on board


*This is an account of my disembarkation process on P&O's Pacific Dawn. It may vary from cruise line to cruise line.

The Pacific Dawn is scheduled to arrive at Portside at 5.30am each Saturday morning. We were delayed by a couple of hours but the ship still went about its disembarkation schedule as if it had docked at 5.30am. This involved all passengers vacating their cabins by 8am. As a result, the ship's public areas soon filled with people and their carry-on bags waiting to disembark.

The cabins are empty...the public spaces are full

The night before you disembark, you must have all big bags i.e. the ones you checked in when you boarded, packed and placed outside your cabin. These are then collected and you don't see them until you disembark the following morning.

Everyone is assigned a disembarkation meeting point on the ship you must assemble at by a certain time. These meeting points are then called upon one by one to disembark. When you leave the ship your Cruise Card is 'decommissioned' (you do get to keep it as a momento) and you enter the cruise terminal, where all the bags are lined up in rows. These rows correspond to tags that are given to you on board and must be placed on the bags before you put them out for collection.

Waiting at a disembarkation meeting point

Looking for friends and relatives...

When you depart the terminal, there is a taxi rank directly outside, as well as a short term car park right next to the terminal. Alternatively, there is plenty of parking at the Portside retail precinct 100 metres away. Shuttle buses from the long term car parking facilites also pull up out the front and, while it is a busy area on sailing days, there is plenty of roadside space for family/friend to drop you off and pick you up.

The ship is deserted for a few moments before a new load of passengers arrive!


Each ship has its own tours/excursions that leave from the cruise terminal. Many incorporate some of the tourist attractions mentioned earlier in this post. Here is an example of what excursions a couple of the cruise companies have to offer while in Brisbane:


Some of the hotels/motels close to Portside:

Brisbane Riverview Hotel

Kingsford Smith Motel

Pegasus Motor Inn

Brisbane Airport Hacienda Motel

Quality Hotel Airport International

Ascot Quest Apartments

If you are wondering why the name Kingsford Smith appears quite regularly, this is why - Sir Charles Kingsford Smith 

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Thanks for taking the time to read my post.

Please ask any questions or offer any feedback. You can leave a message here or I can be contacted at

My Pacific Dawn post can be seen HERE.

Bon voyage!


See my 'eat, sleep and see' page for more suggestions of things to do in Brisbane and SE Qld.

See and read about more of my cruise experiences/reviews, including the Pacific Dawn, which cruises from Portside.

Love photos of cruise ships? Have a look at my 'Ship Spotting' photo gallery.

If you like what you have seen here, follow me on SOCIAL MEDIA for more fun, interesting cruise news and information.

All photos and text by Giulio Saggin (unless otherwise stated)
© Use of photos and text must be via written permission

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