John Sharpe, co-founder and owner, Vertigo

I love seeing people step out of their comfort zones and have a blast. The joy and excitement on their faces are incredibly rewarding.

John “Sharpey” Sharpe has been a fixture of Brisbane’s adventure and events tourism scene since establishing Riverlife Adventure Centre at Kangaroo Point Parklands in 2004. A certified adventure junkie, John is always on the lookout for opportunities to experience Brisbane in ways that may raise your hair and your heartbeat. Other exciting enterprises of his include co-founding the Story Bridge Adventure Climb, Tangatours WaterSports at Tangalooma and collaborating with Brisbane Powerhouse to create the Vertigo vertical restaurant. We caught up with John to discuss adventure, accessibility and romance …

How did you get into adventure and events tourism as a career?
I got into adventure and events tourism because I’ve always loved pushing boundaries and creating unique experiences. My background in fabrication and construction gave me the skills to transition into tourism, starting with Riverlife and the Story Bridge Adventure Climb. It was a natural fit for my passion and skill set.

What do you love about it?
I love seeing people step out of their comfort zones and have a blast. The joy and excitement on their faces are incredibly rewarding. Plus, working on innovative projects that promote inclusivity and accessibility is something I’m really passionate about.

What’s the highest adventure experience you’ve done in your life?
I’ve done loads of wild stuff like bungee jumping off the Story Bridge, skydiving over Redcliffe Beach, and even catapult bungee in Queenstown. But when I was 18, climbing to the top of a 100m dragline boom and swinging around at 40 km/h was by far the most heart-pounding adventure I’ve experienced!

Why do you think Brisbane has such potential as a destination for accessible adventure and urban tourism?
Brisbane’s mix of urban and natural environments is perfect for accessible adventure tourism. The river, cliffs, and nearby islands offer diverse landscapes for all sorts of activities. Plus, the city’s focus on inclusivity and innovation, like with Access Vertigo, ensures everyone can join in on the fun.

How did the idea for Vertigo come about?
The idea for Vertigo came from wanting to combine the thrill of adventure with the elegance of fine dining. The heritage walls of the Brisbane Powerhouse inspired us to create a one-of-a-kind experience where guests could enjoy a meal high above the ground, blending excitement with a unique dining perspective.

What was it like to be able to offer a new perspective on/way to experience a Brisbane institution like the Powerhouse?
It’s been amazing to offer a new way to experience the Brisbane Powerhouse. Vertigo allows people to engage with this historic site in a completely new way, mixing its cultural significance with an adventurous dining experience. The positive feedback has been incredibly rewarding.

What went into creating the Vertigo experience?
Creating Vertigo took a lot of planning and collaboration with experts in safety, design, and accessibility. We developed specialised equipment, like lifting chairs for wheelchair users, and conducted extensive trials to make sure everything was seamless and safe. Our goal was to make an inclusive adventure that everyone could enjoy.

We’ve heard a couple of couples have undertaken the heart-pounding adventure of getting engaged while at Vertigo. Have you seen that happen?
I haven’t been working when an engagement has happened sadly, but I think it’s the most unique way to propose in Brisbane! As long as no one drops the ring, that is. 

What would be your idea of the perfect romantic adventure date night?
My idea of a perfect romantic adventure date night with Mel would involve snorkelling together at the Tangalooma Wrecks followed by stand-up paddling at sunset. Later, we’d cosy up by a beach bonfire, enjoy a private dinner with Pinot Noir under the stars on a yacht, and fall asleep to the gentle sway of Moreton Bay’s swell.


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