Cutting dramatically through lush coastal plains, the
Brisbane's architecture is a mix of the modern and the old with impressive Renaissance style and timber Queenslander dwellings sharing a berth with the modern giants. Despite being close to the ocean, this is very much a river city, and the footpaths and waterways are a delightful way to explore this majestic metropolis.
Central Business District
Dominated by the impressive
South Bank Parklands
If you cannot go to the beach, then the beach must come to you. The
Mirroring the diversity of the
Fortitude Valley & Chinatown
Depart the river at the engaging New Farm Park, and the walk toward Fortitude Valley could take you an age if you choose to wine, dine and shop your way through the broad spectrum of styles. In Brisbane's vibrant
The Valley offers similar diversity but does it with a brash energetic style for fun loving, nightlife seekers. Originally unfortunate enough to be considered a bad area, this is now Brisbane's alternative Mecca. For a one location night out,
Kangaroo Point & Woolloongabba
The elder statesman of Brisbane suburbs,
The Gabba (Woolloongabba), gateway to the Gold Coast and southeast, has earned an international reputation as the location of the
Milton, Paddington & Rosalie
These west side suburbs offer a change of pace from the frantic energy of the Valley. In Milton,
Around the Bay
Within an hour's drive of Brisbane's downtown, the wonders of
A short trip ferry trip to
With a bridge connecting Bribie Island with the mainland, this is the most accessible destination to see the fauna-rich waters of the Bay without getting your feet wet. Diving, fishing and relaxing are the order of the day on this lively, well-populated island, and a visit to the wonderful
Brisbane's self-promotion as Australia's "most livable city" may have been used before, but it is absolutely true. Spending time wandering Brisbane's districts will bring you to the realization that this city is Australia's true capital of leisure, jaunty style and good living.
Brisbane is very much a river city, where life developed, and still pivots, on the Brisbane River. Its weather is "beautiful one day, perfect the next." However, life was not so heavenly for the first settlers.
The cat-o-nine-tails ruled and mosquitoes plagued the very first settlers in the Brisbane area. In 1824, the Moreton Bay penal settlement was established on the coast at Redcliffe but, after three months, a new site 12 miles up the Brisbane River (now called North Quay) was chosen. The reliable water supply made this a perfect place to establish a penal colony, not to mention the security provided by its upstream position on a natural bend in the river.
In 1828, with only ten cottages in the settlement, hundreds of convicts started to build the first stone buildings: the Colonial Stores Building and Old Windmill (now known as the Wickham Terrace Observatory Tower).
This convict time ended in 1839 and, in 1841, Brisbane began again in three separate settlements: North Brisbane, Kangaroo Point and South Brisbane. A long battle for funds from the then Governor in Sydney, Sir George Gipps, commenced. In 1846, there were less than a thousand people living in these three areas.
Eventually, a separate colony, Queensland, sprung up in 1859; its name being in honor of the Queen of England at the time, Queen Victoria. The Moreton Bay settlement became the capital, as it was now a thriving port and commercial center of 6,000 people. There were still financial problems. When the first Governor of the new colony, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, commenced office, he found seven and a halfpence in the Treasury! Brisbane began to flourish and, by 1888, the main thoroughfare, Queen Street, sported some large well-designed buildings, many of which are still here today (or the facades at least). George Street boasts the Parliament House and the Queensland Club, still used by country politicians and public servants as a city base. The City Botanic Gardens is the site of the original gardens that provided food for the convict settlement. Today, many rare native and exotic plants thrive here in the sub-tropical climate beside the river.
In the 1890s, a series of disastrous floods and more financial worries beset the city, but it fought back and again prospered.
During World War II, General Douglas MacArthur directed the Pacific campaign from the AMP building (now MacArthur Chambers) on Queen Street. Hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women poured through Brisbane, enhancing development in many ways. They introduced the swing and the jitterbug, and gave the city a much needed financial boost.
Migrants, refugees and displaced persons added greatly to the population in the 1950s, with many British immigrants receiving assisted passage. Despite less than 25 percent of those from other parts of Europe being financially assisted, migrants from all over Europe very quickly became central to the cultural, academic and business life of Brisbane.
Consumer culture started in May 1957 with the opening of Australia's first drive-in shopping center at Chermside. In August 1959, commercial television started transmission. However, the story of television in Australia really began in Brisbane 25 years earlier with the first experimental television broadcast from the Old Windmill in Wickham Terrace. Brisbane's wide river was utilized well for the subsequent increase in trade, with produce coming down the river from Ipswich, as well as from the nearby islands of Moreton Bay. The fruit and vegetable markets were near the river between Mary and Charlotte Streets, close to the wharves. With a successful shipbuilding industry also in place by this time, Brisbane was thriving.
In 1967, the city saw an important cultural progression, when Australian Aborigines achieved the same democratic rights as all other Australians. Brisbane was also maturing.
However, more troubles were to come. Cyclone Wanda wreaked havoc in 1974, when 14,000 houses were flooded and 14 people died. Increased dams prevented major floods, and there was a steady growth in population in the now-safer southeast corner of Queensland. Hosting the Commonwealth Games in 1982 heralded Brisbane's true coming of age. Expo 88 followed on the same site six years later and, a few years after that, the site became South Bank Parklands a wonderful area for visitors right across the river from Brisbane's central business district.
Today, you can walk along from South Bank to see the Queensland Performing Arts Complex, opened in 1985, with its three theaters, a concert hall and a conservatory next door. Although these buildings are all of modern architecture, Brisbane still has many distinctive 19th century buildings, sited to take in prime river views and parkland. Historical Walking Tours and River Cruises allow the visitor to see all this in beautiful weather (usually!) throughout the year.
Icons of today's Brisbane are the older-style houses on stilts, designed for cool breezes to flow underneath in warmer weather. These are called Queenslanders, and the even more grand ones are called Grand Colonials.
This lively city in the southeastern corner of Queensland boasts hot summers and pleasant winters, and is often the first stop on any Australian holiday. Affectionately known as the "River City," Brisbane's laid-back, holiday atmosphere is immediately apparent in everything from the architecture to the fashion on the streets.
Brisbane's architecture suits its subtropical climate with wide verandas and houses built on stilts. Visitors will be pleased to know much of the accommodation offers air-conditioning to escape the heat, and balconies where you can catch a cool afternoon breeze. Brisbane provides a wide range of centrally located accommodation options, only a short walk or drive from the city business and shopping districts.
Central Business District
With just over a million residents in greater Brisbane, the city center is small by comparison to Sydney or Melbourne. Nevertheless, at the heart of the city is the thriving and bustling Queen Street Mall, one of the most successful pedestrian malls in Australia. Overlooking the Mall, the Hilton Hotel and Lennons Hotel are central to just about everything. North of the Mall is the financial district, and south is the legal and government district.
If you are looking for luxury, few hotels surpass the magnificent Stamford Plaza with its old-world charm and unencumbered views of the Brisbane River and Botanical Gardens.
Another option for luxury accommodation is the Conrad Treasury, housed in the refurbished 1905 heritage building that was formerly the Land Administration Building. The hotel acts as the accommodation section of the Conrad Treasury Casino, across the park in the former Government Treasury Building.
Four and five star apartments are also found throughout downtown. One of the best is Quay West, a short walk from the central business district, opposite the Botanical Gardens.
Heading west from downtown, you will discover a number of smaller, moderately priced hotels, such as the Explorers Inn. There is also the YMCA-owned Hotel George Williams. Backpacker-style accommodations are available in Upper Roma Street at several establishments including the Brisbane City YHA.
Charming workers' cottages, 1860s stone terrace houses, and historic sites, such as the Old Windmill, combine to give the suburb of Spring Hill a unique appeal. A picturesque district brimming with inexpensive motel rooms and executive apartments, Spring Hill is a series of steep streets overlooking Brisbane, a short walk from downtown.
For the business traveler looking for luxury accommodation for a long-term stay, Sedgebrook on Leichardt is a great choice. Corporate travelers requiring more moderately priced accommodation with some meeting facilities will find the Metropolitan Motor Inn ideal for their needs. Gay and lesbian guests will feel welcome at the Sportsman Hotel.
World Expo '88 was the catalyst for the amazing transformation of Brisbane's South Bank area. Queensland's Cultural Centre, Art Gallery, Museum, Conservatorium of Music, South Bank parklands and the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre make this a must-see area.
Rydges is the first of a number of new hotels built to take advantage of everything this unique area has to offer. For apartment-style accommodation within walking distance of South Bank, try the Diana Plaza Hotel, boasting the only traditional Asian-style bath house in Brisbane.
Directly across the river, a short ferry ride from downtown, is Kangaroo Point and Dockside. It's within close proximity to the central business district and spectacular views of the city skyline and river have seen commercial accommodation and private housing in this area develop rapidly in recent years. Apartment and suite-style accommodation is abundant with venues such as Bridgewater, featuring facilities more akin to a holiday resort than a city hotel. A refreshing change from the standard hotel décor can be found at Il Mondo, a boutique hotel where each room has been individually decorated in its own style.
Outside the City
For lodging that is easily accessible to downtown but is away from its bustling streets, look a little further afield. A short distance away is the famous Breakfast Creek Wharf with shops and restaurants and the well known Breakfast Creek Hotel.
Traveling west along the river from the city takes you to the Inn on the Park, a popular wedding venue where many a bride has been carried over the threshold of the honeymoon suite. Also, try the Inn for family apartment accommodation. A short distance away is the grand Regatta Hotel, a popular "watering-hole" in Toowong.
When you visit Brisbane, you are sure to find the right accommodation, regardless of your budget or travel needs. Be sure to take full advantage of all that this beautiful city has to offer. In particular, enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and wonderful climate!
As the population of Brisbane continues to explode, so too does a vibrant tapestry of lively entertainment. While the population of Brisbane may not be the magnitude of that in Sydney and Melbourne, the nightlife scene has expanded significantly in the last decade. The arts culture in Brisbane is flourishing in all its varieties, from international stage acts to a plethora of eateries and nightclubs encompassing everything from lazy jazz to pulse altering dance.
Pubs & Bars
Irish theme bars are a signature of Brisbane. It is difficult to find yourself too far from an Irish bar, whether you are near the traditional Dooleys Hotel in the Valley, the raucous Irish Murphy's downtown, or the jovial Dicey Reilly's in the southern districts. For those who enjoy the atmosphere of a beer garden, Victory Hotel and Breakfast Creek Hotel are excellent places to vanquish a few cold ales and meet new people. Most pubs open around lunchtime and close around midnight or thereabouts on weekends.
Renovated inner city bars have acquired newfound popularity due to their new classy looks. The Port Office Hotel is a popular watering hole amongst the corporate crowd for Friday night after-work drinks.
Fortitude Valley has become the hub of the rejuvenated Brisbane music scene. Ric's Cafe presents up-and-coming local bands nightly, and the nearby Empire Hotel provides an avenue for local DJs and bands to showcase their talents. The city itself also boasts many live music venues with Fridays presenting great rock cover bands.
Catering to other tastes are Paddington Tavern, supporting rhythm & blues, and the Transcontinental, delivering the best of retro pop-rock from the '80s.
Brisbane's club scene has undergone a remarkable facelift in recent times and spreads from the classy Paddington district, along Caxton Street, through the city and into the dance heart of the Valley. Dance music pulsates all night for the younger crowd at City Rowers.
The Caxton Street strip exhibits a musical mosaic with Casablanca's flaunting sweet soul tunes opposite Hotel L.A.'s contagious pop-dance. Further down the street, the Caxton Hotel is never shy with its 20-something crowd supporting renditions of '80s and '90s pop classics.
Theater & Cinema
Searching for a satisfying stage or screen sensation is simple in this city. The Lyric Theatre is a major component of Brisbane's theater scene. While they provide the curtain for many international acts, the musty, hip La Boite theater and royal Princess Theatre offer smaller stage exhibitions all year round. Expressions Dance Company and Ballet, among others, also offer seasonal shows.
Brisbane is host to a menagerie of cinema megaplexes, such as the City Megaplex. However, there is also plenty for those with more independent and artistic tastes at the Classic Cinema and the Dendy Cinema.
Concerts & Events
Many internationally recognized, annual events use Brisbane as their stage. The Brisbane International Film Festival is one of the more prestigious events. Youth and alternative culture is celebrated yearly at Big Day Out, where some of the world's most spectacular alternative musical acts converge for an intense day of raging music. Also, the Brisbane Entertainment Centre presents local and international musical acts in concert throughout the year.
Brisbane is a city that slips easily from lazy days to nocturnal fun, offering a casual, yet cosmopolitan, nightlife adventure.