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Once overshadowed in terms of tourist appeal by its showy southern neighbour, Surfer’s Paradise, Brisbane has come into its own in recent years to exemplify everything that a contemporary Australian city can be.
With the industry and innovation of a much larger city but a small-town, laid-back and friendly feel that oozes Queensland charm, Brisbane enjoys the best of both worlds.
Brisbane’s locals are a huge part of what makes it so appealing, and from passionate party-goers that support the thriving electronic music scene in Fortitude Valley to the sports-mad fans that pack out Suncorp Stadium and the Gabba, and even the black-clad, rainbow-haired, skateboard-clutching youths that seem to be a constant fixture around Queen Street Mall, there’s an enthusiasm that seems to infect the Brisbane population.
This strength of spirit was particularly evident in the recent floods that inundated Brisbane. The rest of Australia looked on as residents picked themselves up, rowed up the street to their neighbour’s house and tackled the consequent cleanup united. As the town recovers from the damage and cost of the floods, it is that same indomitable enthusiasm that serves as a reminder to visitors that Brisbane is well and truly open for business.
Brisbane’s Top 10
10. Queen Street Mall Shopping galore! Is there anything better?
5. Wheel of Brisbane You just have to see the views from this. Plus, it’s a Ferris wheel so it’s a lot of fun.
9. Queensland Police Museum Crime buffs should come to explore the history of Queensland’s police, as well as try their hand at solving some notorious crimes.
4.Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Go and cuddle your fave Aussie friend at this massive koala sanctuary. There are other natives here, too.
8. Moreton Island Close to Brisbane, surrounded by clear blue waters and filled with hot white sands. Heaven.
3. Treasury Casino Try your hand at roulette and have a nice dinner before you hit the bars and clubs.
7. Queensland Maritime Museum This gem lives on the banks of the Brisbane River and keeps stacks of artefacts and remnants from the deep seas.
2. Botanic Gardens Everything from an Australian rainforest to a cactus zone can be experienced in this floral wonder.
6. Brisbane River Take a cruise along the river and enjoy watching the city buzz away while you’re on tranquil waters.
1. Museum of Brisbane Check out some Brisbane and Aussie history, as well as cool and inspiring exhibits.
- Treasury Building – A hot 24-hour casino, it is one of the most impressive buildings in Brisbane.
- St John's Cathedral – A fascinating Gothic church with a 102-year building period.
- Parliament House – Interesting place to watch politicians performing their elected duties.
- Newstead House- A real Victorian house with period furnishings.
- Commissariat Stores Building – A reminder of convict labour's role in local history.
Brisbane Art & Culture
- Queensland Cultural Centre – Art exhibitions and performances, great entertainment.
- Queensland Museum – Exhibits on dinosaurs and endangered species and unusual insects.
- Queensland Gallery of Modern Art – Works from Warhol and Picasso and more modern pieces.
- Brisbane Powerhouse – A fun building that hosts arts performances and exhibitions.
- Museum of Brisbane – A museum offering a look at the city's history and culture.
- Brunswick Street Mall – A shopping and coffee shop mecca by day, with a hot nightlife.
- Chinatown – Yes, there is one in Brisbane, with Asian food and boutique clothing.
- TCB on Brunswick – Find the latest cool designer and student designer clothing here.
- Tribal Galleries – For your own didgeridoo and aboriginal gifts, stop here for authentic items.
- Jan Power's Farmer's Market – The best place in Brisbane for colourful flowers and produce.
Gay & Lesbian Brisbane
- Family – One of the best clubs in Brisbane, and you'll meet an interesting group here.
- The Alliance Tavern – Stop for a bite to eat and enjoy the friendly crowd of gay men.
- Pride Festival – It's held each June to experience the hip, offbeat gay community.
- Pam Ann – The lively comedian frequently tours Brisbane, with a rollicking routine.
- New Farm Park – The best place for discreetly meeting and chatting up locals in a quiet setting.
- South Bank Parklands – This Brisbane park offers lovely arbours and gardens and skateboarders.
- Brisbane Forest Park – A beautiful outdoor spot with hiking, bird watching and camping.
- Mt Coot-tha Reserve – Splendid walking and hiking trails, with some of the best views in Australia.
- Alma Park Zoo – See a number of wild animals from both inside and outside Australia.
- City Botanic Gardens – Enjoy several walking trails, exotic plants and meeting locals.
- Kayaking – Several areas in Brisbane are ideal. Give it a try, or sit back and watch others' attempts.
- Story Bridge – One of the best places to watch bridge climbers, if you're daring enough to watch.
- Skydiving – Need an adrenaline rush? Give skydiving a try, with several local options available.
- Suncorp Stadium – Rugby enthusiasts may see a match or two. The stadium itself is worth visiting.
- Brisbane Cricket Ground – Also called The Gabba, it's the place to see professional cricket in action.
The business hub of the city is also home to a mind-boggling amount of shopping districts. Get those credit cards to Queen Street Mall and give them some exercise at Queens Plaza and Brisbane Arcade, both of which host major national and international brands as well as other little gems. If they don’t tickle your fancy, try MacArthur Central, Broadway on the Mall and The Myer Centre.
We told you shopping was fierce in this town.
Start your day on an arty note with the Queensland Art Gallery and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art (right next to each other). Both are massive venues hosting some of the best local and international art. Next, head over to the Queensland Museum for a little less art and much more education and entertainment (especially in the Science Centre). Finally, give your brain and legs a break by hopping onto The Wheel of Brisbane, a massive Ferris wheel that gives you an epic view of the city.
Once you’re exhausted (and famished), head to Little Stanley Street, which is lined with an abundance of restaurants and chilled-out bars. Need to work off that meal? Take a walk along the Goodwill Bridge.
P.S. Some areas of The Parklands have recently re-opened after the devastating floods, so make sure you go and have a look!
The Valley combines a hefty dose of hipsters, shopping spots and a hell of a nightlife to create a grown-up wonderland. When it comes to the shops, it doesn’t matter if you’re after big Aussie labels or alternative boutiques catering to more quirky tastes – you’ll be covered in this district, no matter what. Once you’ve racked up a sizeable Visa bill, make your way to Chinatown, where you’ll not only find mouth-watering Asian grub but also… more shopping! Woo!
If you’re feeling a little guilty about your lack of ‘meaningful’ experiences, head over to The Fort for some cool art displays (if you’re into street art, you’ll love it here) and then the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, where you’ll no doubt find an event to please your tastes.
If you’re not satisfied by all the shopping (what kind of an animal are you?), the Valley Laneway Markets, held every Sunday, provide a range of local goodies.
Ooh, fancy! This area caters for upmarket tastes and hosts a bevy of fine-dining venues and trendy bars. The London Club or Salon Bar and Tapas are great options for a cocktail, a bite and a chat. Once you’re fed and rested, head to the Fireworks Gallery for a spectacular array of contemporary art, including a large collection of Aboriginal works. Finally, the Brisbane Powerhouse will sort you out for fine dining as well as various shows and exhibits.
This is where you need to come for a good relaxation session. Start your morning with the phenomenal view from The Lookout and then head to the nearby café for some brekkie. Once you’re energised and raring to go, try a hike through the Mount Coot-tha Reserve (or a drive if you can’t be bothered) and be met with gorgeous scenery, native wildlife – and again, one hell of a view.
End your day with a visit to the peaceful Brisbane Botanic Gardens, which are nestled at the bottom of Mount Coot-tha itself. Incidentally, the odd name ‘Mount Coot-tha’ is used for both the area and the hill that resides in it, and is from a local indigenous dialect meaning ‘Land of Wild Honey.’
Brisbane Eat & Drink
Moda The chef whips up unbelievable Euro and modern-Aussie eats for the cool crowd who frequent.
Lychee Lounge One of the most beautiful bars in the city with a clientele to match. Come for a feed, a chill, a cocktail and a secret perv.
The Family Move to everything from hard-dance to electro in this massive club. If you’re up for a young crowd and a few too many, this is your place.
Il Centro Who doesn’t love Italian? This big, bright venue will keep you coming back just for their famous crab lasagne.
Green Papaya Hearty meals of contemporary Thai and Balinese in this bright and cheerful venue.
Restaurant Two This award-winning icon has a degustation that’ll make you swoon.
Cha Cha Char Awesome steak at this place. Don’t expect big slabs of it, though. This is steak done with an elegant flair.
The MET Comprising five rooms, this bar/club caters for everyone, whether you want a chill and a drink or a dance fuelled by lethal shots.
Bar Merlo Boasts the best coffee in the city. Make sure you grab a hot mug (we recommend the mocha) and a bite to eat.
Gambaro’s: It started as a takeaway shop and is now a popular restaurant serving the best seafood in the city. Their seafood platters are just plain sexy.
Want to enjoy movies by moonlight? Grab a date or head over with a bunch of mates to the Moonlight Cinema. Feel free to bring along food, non-alcoholic beverages (there’s a bar there!) and comfy things to sit on. Movies are always better by moonlight. Mid-December to late-January.
The Brisbane Blues Festival in mid-May has been around for nearly 20 years and is one of the most anticipated music events on the Brisbane calendar. The Tempo Hotel in Fortitude Valley sees stacks of people bopping along to bands on the main stage and chilling to some solo artists on the second stage downstairs.
Greek food and dancing are legendary, so come and enjoy copious amounts of both at May’s Paniyiri Festival. There are also rides, eating contests (!), fireworks, movies and loads more. For the over 18s, ‘Trella’ (which means ‘craze’ in Greek) lives up to its name and is one hell of an afterparty.
The Ekka in mid- to late-August is just plain fun. The kiddies get a bunch of rides, shows and games to enjoy and the adults have great food and exhibits to explore. Plus, there are showbags! Head over to the RNA Showgrounds for this one.
When To Go
Summers are very hot and humid in Brisbane, so if that’s not your cup of tea, avoid coming in late-December through to February. You’ll find plenty of nice, sunny days and minimum humidity in September through to early December, and the same goes for most of autumn.
- Summer average: 30°C (86°F)
- Autumn average: 18°C (64°F)
- Winter average: 12°C (54°F)
- Spring average: 23°C (73°F)
What To Miss
The sun is incredibly hot, and even when it’s overcast you can still get burned. Avoid the humiliation of looking like two-legged lobster and slather on the sunscreen.
TRANSlink is one of the main transportation services in Brisbane and provides buses, trains and ferries. Grab a go-card – not only is it cheaper than buying tickets each time you travel, but it also works across all three modes and can be topped-up.
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