As a city, Brisbane is relatively young, celebrating only its 150th birthday as Queensland’s capital in 2009. However, aborigines probably lived in the area for thousands of years before Europeans found this part of the world.
The city began life as a penal colony in 1824, taking some of the worst offenders from Sydney. In the early 1840s—after years of declining prison population—the area was opened up to free settlers. Brisbane grew rapidly with the arrival of new immigrants and the increased commerce along the river; though major floods at the end of the 19th century caused huge damage to new infrastructure.
Brisbane was a strategic military base during World War II, and the town hosted thousands of local and American soldiers summoned for operations in the South Pacific. Although they were allies, a two-day riot between troops from both countries in 1942 caused one death and was named the Battle of Brisbane.
The city continued growing and modernising after the war, with town planners becoming more involved to better regulate the expansion. Another severe flood in the mid 1970s cost 14 lives and prompted major works to protect the city from the volatile Brisbane River.
In the 1980s Brisbane welcomed the Commonwealth Games and the World Expo, prompting large-scale investment in urban development and regeneration. The population is now over one million people, making Brisbane the third largest city in Australia.
This modern, riverside museum blends Queensland history, culture and science in a series of hands-on exhibits. From dinosaur skeletons to the only preserved German tank from World War I, each item has a connection with the local region. The highly interactive Sciencentre provides a fun educational space that is especially popular with curious children. General admission is free, though some temporary exhibits and the Sciencentre charge a small cover.
You’ll find this peaceful memorial square in the heart of the city, a place for people to pay their respects to fallen Australian military personnel in conflicts dating back to the Boer War at the end of the 19th century. The focal point is the circular Shrine of Remembrance, within which lies the Eternal Flame, commemorating soldiers from World War I. Underground is the equally poignant Shrine of Memories. Created in memory of the casualties of World War II, the shrine includes a mosaic made out of hand-cut glass and boxes containing soil from spots around the world where Australian military personnel are buried.
Exhibiting paintings gathered from Australian and international artists over the last 115 years, this gallery is renowned for presenting works from the region’s indigenous communities. If the 13,000+ collection doesn’t sate your appetite for art, take a look at more contemporary creativity at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), just down the road.
The oldest park in Brisbane was originally a plantation of crops to feed the growing penal colony. Now the gardens are filled with walkers, picnic-goers, and office workers seeking a bit of greenery on their lunch break. Tourists can join free, hour-long guided walks around the gardens, available at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m all week except Sunday.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
Add a bit of adventure and exercise to your sightseeing by climbing the 80-metre Story Bridge. In two and a half hours you can ascend one of Brisbane’s most recognisable landmarks via a series of narrow suspended walkways. At the top you’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view of the city—dawn, sunset, and night climbs offer the best photo opportunities—and the knowledge that you’ve burned enough calories to order a guilt-free dessert at dinner.
Less than one hour from central Brisbane, this major theme park is guaranteed to start your heart pumping. The ‘Big 6’ thrill rides, including the tallest free-fall ride in the world, are enough to test the sturdiest of stomachs. Then head over to the wildlife sanctuary for another nerve-wracking experience: serving a meaty lunch to crocodiles weighing up to 1,000 kg. If all the excitement gets a bit much, stop for a cuddle with Australia’s cutest marsupial at Koala Country.
Pursue the paranormal on one of Brisbane’s popular ghost tours (A$35, £22). Not many people know that the city was recently voted the world’s second-most haunted city by National Geographic. There are no magic tricks or illusions on these 90-minute, lantern-led walks, just tales of creepy goings-on and macabre recreations of some of Brisbane’s most notorious crimes. Children—and some adults—might not like some of the more gruesome and graphic demonstrations.
Although Brisbane the city has plenty to keep you entertained, it can also be a useful base for exploring some of the natural delights on offer in the state of Queensland. From bushwalking in the forests that surround the city to sunbathing on the sandy shores of the Gold Coast, there are plenty of day trips offering temporary relief from the bustle of the big city.
With such a wide variety of lodgings in the city, you’ll have no problem finding a hotel in Brisbane to suit your needs.
If you don’t mind splashing out, the most elegant Brisbane lodging has to be the Treasury Hotel and Casino. The grand heritage building, which used to be used for government business, appears in most tourist guides as an attraction itself. The luxurious interior décor is equally impressive, with plenty of marble and ornate wooden furniture. Though the building oozes history, all rooms have been equipped for the modern traveller, including LCD televisions and stations to connect your iPod.
The casino next door to the hotel is among the largest in Queensland. For another five-star option, try the Stamford Plaza Hotel. Ideally located near the City Botanic Gardens, all of the luxury rooms and ornate common areas come with pleasant views over the river and beyond. Staff members are helpful and friendly, and the service is exemplary.
The recently refurbished Urban Hotel claims to feature the comfiest beds around, something to consider if you plan on a lot of sightseeing and sampling Brisbane’s renowned nightlife. The in-house restaurant serves local and international dishes that hold their own in a city with a well-respected dining scene.
For a safe, no-nonsense, affordable option, you can’t go wrong with the Hotel Ibis. Rooms emphasise cleanliness and functionality over chic design, while the service is friendly and professional. Guests here also have access to the facilities at the nearby Mercure Hotel.
Summer can be insufferably hot in Brisbane, with high humidity and frequent thunderstorms. Brisbane winters (June–August) are more pleasant, with plenty of mild, sunny days and cool, cloudless nights.
The main airport is less than 20km from central Brisbane. The easiest way to travel between the two is on the Airtrain, which takes 20 minutes and leaves from outside the terminal four times an hour during busy periods. A single journey will set you back AUD15 (£9.50), and can be bought online in advance.
A great way to traverse the main sights is on The Loop, a free bus service circling the city centre in both directions. Otherwise, the city is well connected by buses and trains, with fares determined by a zonal system. If you’re planning on hitting the nightclubs over the weekend, the pre-paid CityGlider buses provide a cheap way to get home. Water transport is also widely available: CityCat catamarans and city ferries whizz passengers across the river at regular intervals. Fares in the city centre are AUD3.40 (£2.10) for a single journey, or AUD6.80 (£4.20) for a daily pass.
Taxis are easy to find in the centre and main tourist areas, and are safe to use at all hours. Yellow Cabs is a reliable company if you wish to book a taxi in advance (131924). You can pay for some taxis with a credit or debit card, but this usually incurs a 10% transaction fee. If you want more freedom and don’t mind dealing with inner-city traffic, consider Brisbane car hire. This option also makes it easy to head away from the city and explore some of the fabulous natural scenery in Queensland, where the speed limit is 50km/h in urban areas and 110km/h on motorways.
Brisbane is relatively safe for its size. Be careful when travelling on public transport after dark and remain vigilant when withdrawing money from the cash machine.
Not far from the Story Bridge, contemporary Australian bistro E’cco (100 Boundary Street) has accumulated more awards than any other eatery in the city. Set in a converted warehouse, the restaurant serves simple but stylish dishes, usually with locally sourced ingredients. The intimate downstairs bar is also a great spot for a cocktail.
A laid-back atmosphere and a menu full of simple, wholesome dishes provide a winning combination at The Crosstown Eating House (23 Logan Road). A collection of shared starters and a decent drinks menu means you can also stop by for an informal snack. This is a popular spot and is closed for two days a week (Sunday and Monday), so book ahead if you want to guarantee a table.
The immaculate Restaurant II (2 Edward Street) is another award-winning spot a short walk from the riverbank and botanical gardens. Among the enticing menu options, the market’s choice fresh fish is a sure winner. Or, if you can’t decide on just one dish, try the nine-course degustation menu, with the added option of paired wines.
If things got a little wild the night before, head to Fatboy’s Cafe (323 Brunswick Street) for the ultimate in heavy-duty hangover-curing breakfasts. The giant fry-up is sure to soak up the alcohol in your system, and at AUD4 (£2.50) it will hurt your waistline more than your wallet. Pizzas, salads, and burgers are the main options later in the day, while the nightly specials from Sunday to Thursday offer excellent value.
If you are heading to Australia from a region with an endemic Yellow Fever problem you will need an internationally accepted vaccine to be allowed into the country. Otherwise just ensure your regular booster injections are up to date a few weeks before you travel.
Australia’s health infrastructure is excellent, and Brisbane has plenty of hospitals, doctor’s surgeries, and pharmacies.
The 24-hour number for ambulances and medical emergencies is: 000.
Australia has a high incidence of skin problems due to the strength of the sun, so keep in the shade during the hottest hours.
The beaches near the city are beautiful, but when swimming be aware of the possibility of strong underwater currents. Sharks are also found off the Australian coast, and though attacks on humans are rare, make sure you stick to supervised beaches with safety nets. These can also protect against poisonous jellyfish.
There are some dangerous spiders in the Brisbane area, including the Funnelweb and Redback varieties. If a spider bite causes intense pain, sweating, or nausea, then seek medical attention without delay.
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