Brisbane is widely known as Queensland’s Sunshine Capital, and is also often called The River City. More colloquially it’s known as Brissie or BrisVegas. Whatever the moniker may be, this sparkling city that began as a penal colony in 1824 has gone through a rebirth in the past decade.
Even though Brissie has a population of almost 2.5 million, it has always had a laidback vibe more like that of a town. And in recent years it has shaken off its ‘Brisvegas’ reputation and upped the ante on cultural hubs and tours, cool eateries and bars, designer and niche retail outlets, and a thriving arts scene.
With a sub-tropical climate (meaning long, warm summers and short mild winters) Brisbane is a city to be enjoyed all day and long into the night. Add to that its unique mix of city life blending into the native bushland right on its doorstep, and Brisbane is an ideal city in which to relax, recharge and explore.
Down by the river
Brisbane enjoys a dry and sunny climate year-round and the best time to visit is from March to May, or September to November, when the weather is mild and the crowds thin out. At the peak of summer there’s a lot of great things going on, but pack your umbrella and as in January and February there are plenty of dramatic thunderstorms.
The Brisbane River is affectionately known by locals as the ‘Brown Snake’ due to its muddy colour and the way it winds itself serpent-like through the centre of the city. It is the longest river in South East Queensland and as it is essentially an estuary and so influenced by the tide, the mud and silt from the riverbanks never settle, causing its brown appearance.
Arching above the river is Story Bridge – a heritage-listed cantilever bridge that was opened with much fanfare 1940. Make sure you get photos at night when the bridge, the river and the city sparkle in all of their combined glory.
One of the best ways to experience the river is the Riverwalk, where you can follow the boardwalk on foot around some of the city’s most well-known suburbs, passing by traditional Queenslander homes oozing with character. Or if you want to go at a faster pace, hire a bicycle, e-bike or a scooter and zip along the meandering bike paths.
En route, explore the trendy, artistic suburb of New Farm, where you’ll find cool homewares stores and designer jewellery shops wedged in with a plethora of awesome bars and restaurants.
Fortitude Valley (known as The Valley by locals) is the city’s premier nightlife and live music district. It’s also home to Brisbane’s Chinatown, so if you’re a yum cha fan, this is where it’s at. If other Asian cuisines take your fancy, there’s Korean Barbecue, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, and Vietnamese ripe for tasting.
Visit historic Howard Smith Wharves, which has been dubbed the beating heart of Brisbane’s entertainment scene, and under Story Bridge you’ll find Felons Brewery Co, a great place to chill and taste some balanced brews in a place that the locals like to gather.
If you want to dodge the crowds and soak up some of that famous sunshine, pack a blanket and have a picnic in New Farm Park This riverfront spot is one of the most popular in Brisbane, and is also near the iconic Brisbane Powerhouse, where you can catch some of the best theatre or comedy shows in town.
Or if you’re keen to get out on the river itself, strap on a life jacket, grab an oar and hop aboard a kayak with Riverlife Adventure Centre. Glide under the Story Bridge, and enjoy a totally unique experience of the city. For those who prefer less self-propelled adventures, you can also relax on a guided tour with River City Cruises with a cocktail in hand in the evening, or enjoy morning tea on your way to lunch.
If you would rather be on top of it all with a bird’s eye view of the action, then climb Story Bridge and learn about the city’s history while you are at it. It is one of only three bridge climbs in the world where you can walk on top of the bridge. The two others are the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Auckland Harbour Bridge.
Where to stay in the city
Stay amongst the action at the Best Western Astor Metropole Hotel and Apartments. This charming Brisbane hotel and apartment complex is located in a historic building a short walk from the city centre. Situated in a prime elevated location, it has superb views across the city skyline and the northern suburbs.
Perfect for business and leisure travellers alike, the Astor Metropole offers hotel rooms and apartments, which are part of a newly added 15-level tower apartment complex. With free WiFi and a swimming pool as well, it’s a great base to explore the city.
Back to nature on Brisbane’s doorstep
Brisbane sprawls out into leafy suburbs with large gardens and tree-lined streets, and then merges beautifully into nature. The city’s largest natural reserve, Mount Coot-tha, is just a 15-minute drive from the city centre and is home to more than 1,600 hectares of eucalypt forest, rainforest gullies, trails and picnic areas. Visit at twilight to see the sun sink behind magnificent views of the sparkling CBD.
Another cultural attraction with an Aussie icon at its heart is the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, just thirty minutes southwest of downtown Brisbane. It is the world’s largest koala sanctuary with a mission is to inspire individuals and communities to live in balance with the natural world.
Brisbane is also the jumping off point for day trips to stunning Moreton Island and Stradbroke Island. Hop on a short ferry ride to experience the many pristine beaches and scenic headlands, dive into some excellent snorkelling spots, and get your adrenaline pumping during some beach 4WDriving.
Eclectic outdoor eateries
Brisbane does farmers markets right. The vibrant West End markets are held every Saturday in Davies Park in the trendy inner-city suburb of West End. Visit over 150 unique vendors selling farm-fresh produce, delicious food, boutique fashion and handcrafted gifts, all under the shade of beautiful fig trees.
For the best street food in the city, make sure you head to open-air market precinct Eat Street Northshore. This huge riverside hub on a historic wharf is made entirely from recycled shipping containers, and features over 70 stalls, with five themed bars, eclectic shops and delicious international street food from every corner of the globe.
On the southside, Fish Lane is your go-to for eating al fresco. This bustling laneway is full of local favourites and is a popular spot for street artists to show their stuff. Every surface of the laneway is covered in ever-changing murals, so have a bite surrounded by an outdoor gallery.
For culture vultures
South Bank is Brisbane’s premier cultural precinct located on the southern banks of the Brisbane River. It stretches from the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in the north to the Queensland Maritime Museum in the south, with 17 hectares of inner-city parklands, more than 90 restaurants, cafes and bars, a performing arts centre, cinema and the eye-catching 60-metre-tall Wheel of Brisbane.
In the city, you’ll find Birrunga Gallery and Dining, an Indigenous-owned and operated cultural hub. Enjoy some food, peruse the art gallery, grab a drink at the wine bar or catch a live performance. The café uses native herbs and ingredients to create an authentic local meal for its modern diners. Try their Trio Tostada with native meats on a tortilla with salsa and sriracha mayo, or go for the Dorrigo Pepper Croc, a delicious beer battered croc tail served with waffle fries and coleslaw.
Where to stay on the south side
Stay at the Best Western Plus Hotel Diana, a newly refurbished hotel adjacent to the vibrant South Bank precinct. It is an easy walk to the Brisbane Convention Centre, South Bank Parklands, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre and the legendary Gabba – for the best in Brisbane Lions and Brisbane Heat matches, and live concerts.
There’s also plenty of amenities to make you feel at home, such as complimentary parking, access to the 24-hour professional fitness centre, high-speed WiFi and Foxtel.
Where to stay near the airport
For the ultimate in convenience, the Best Western Airport 85 Motel is located just ten minutes from Brisbane Airport in the heart of Ascot. It is a friendly, family-run 4 star motel with 25 rooms in a quiet location.
Enjoy free continental breakfast, free WiFi, 24-hour check-in and complimentary parking. Guests will also be close to the Brisbane Cruise Terminal, Portside Wharf, cinemas, Eat Street markets, the City Cat Ferry and fantastic boutique shopping. Reception can also arrange a shuttle service direct to and from the international and domestic airports.
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