11 epic things to do at Mt Coot-tha

"Why is Mt Coot-tha special?" – someone from out of town might ask. 

To the Aborigines it was a place to collect honey produced by the native sting-less bee. For TV presenters, it is the HQ of television towers, sending constant signals across Brisbane. Avid bike riders look upon it as a challenge as teams of lycra ascend the mountain each morning punishing themselves with that leg burn.

But for most, it is the closest mountain to the CBD offering a panoramic view of the city, ways to spend a day and the perfect spot for a picnic. Transport yourself to the western suburbs of Brisbane for a Mt Coot-tha expedition of bush walks, fantastic scenery, gardens galore and maybe even a ghost or two – let’s see what it becomes to you.

1. Take in the view 

As the closest elevation point to the CBD, Mt Coot-tha is the place to go to take in a panoramic view of Brisbane and get glimpses of the surrounding region of Moreton Bay. As you walk the length of the observation deck, you can read a historic timeline of this iconic destination before popping a gold coin in one of the telescopes for a closer look at the suburbs below. Head for the sunrise to see the city radiate in a golden glow as day breaks, go by day for the picturesque backdrop or visit at night for a romantic fairyland of glittering city lights and starry skies. 

2. Dine at the hilltop restaurant or cafe

Kuta cafe can offer you informal dining, light refreshments, an ice-cream kiosk and souvenir shop for any day trip to the mountain. Relax under the market umbrellas with an ice-cream to take in the scenery and views of the city. 

For a more formal experience, Summit Restaurant & Bar creates fine food with one of the best views Brisbane has to offer. Better match it by treating yourself to a fine Australian wine. 

3. Take your pick from the many bushwalking trails 

Many bushwalks will take you through the dense bushland of the mountain, and choosing the right one can be the hardest part. The Aboriginal Art Trail is easier for kids and has examples of Aboriginal rock paintings and stick arrangements, while the Summit track will take you from the bottom to the top where the promise of an ice-cream will please the kids and kidults alike. 

A word of warning: Be careful not to choose a mountain biking track as you may leave your walk imprinted with tyre marks! 

4. Forget your own two legs and grab a mountain bike or horse

With over 20km of trail designated for offroad cyclists, Mt Coot-tha is the perfect place for the mountain bike fanatics to ride along an undisturbed trail. The trails have been graded according to difficulty but watch out for the erosion control banks which have been the downfall for many novice riders. If you’re really adventurous, there are designated horse trails which can be used by the avid horse-rider.  

5. Picnic or barbecue among the trees 

Pack your picnic rug and head to JC Slaughter Falls at the foot of Mt Coot-tha for a day in the sunlight. Many of the trail walks start from this point, but it is a perfect spot for a picnic or barbecue on a warm day. Sit back and enjoy the undisturbed bushland while the kids play in the wide, open space perfect for a game of cricket.  

6. Wander through the many themed areas of the Brisbane Botanical Gardens 

After your expedition to the summit, pop into the Brisbane Botanical Gardens located at the foot of the mountain. Spanning over 52 hectares and open every day of the year, these are Queensland’s premier sub-tropical botanic gardens sporting a variety of national and international plants. You can marvel at the cherry blossom in the Japanese garden, wander through the clumping and creaking bamboo grove and water-lily covered lagoon, cautiously roam through the arid garden and cactus house before settling near the exotic and Australian rainforest. Enjoy a meal at the cafe by the pond or bring your own and picnic in one of the allocated spots in the gardens.   

7. Take a free guided garden tour

Free guided walks are offered from Monday to Saturday twice a day for the visitors wanting to learn about the plants and features of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens in more detail. Wander through the different surroundings with your own personal guide. 

8. Hide n’ Seek Children’s Trail

Kids can discover the secrets of the Botanic Gardens in the shady exotic rainforest. Grab a map at the start of this trail to spot all of the surprises along the way – there may be a hidden crocodile in the water and a concealed panda among the bamboo. This map is also filled with facts about the native animals of the area and the plants you’ll pass on this expedition.  

9. Take a reflection photograph in the Tropical Dome 

Always a great spot for a snap or two, the geosidic dome keeps the heat in – perfect for plants of the tropics who want it hot all year round. Wander around the aesthetic pond in the middle before turning your head to the sky to marvel at the patterns of the geometric ceiling. Try and snap a cool reflective shot among the greenery – give it a go and share it with #brisbaneanyday. We’d love to see your efforts! 

10. Look at the stars inside the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium 

Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium

Queensland’s largest planetarium is within your grasp, located in the Botanic Gardens at the bottom of Mt Coot-tha. Attend a show in the Cosmic Skydome to take a tour of Brisbane’s current night sky or visit the display zone to take an astronomical journey from the present day solar system to the time of the Big Bang. Some special shows are ticketed.

11. Cross to the other side with Toowong Cemetery Ghost Tours 

Visit the beautiful but rumoured-to-be haunted historic cemetery in Brisbane. A tour guide will take you on an eerie trail and retell the stories of dead governors, murderers, black widows and buried boxers, all who came to rest on spook hill. Don’t be afraid, but you may spot the silhouette of a woman wandering the avenue around her grave.

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