"Don't bother with Brisbane; just use it as a base to get to the good stuff". This recent unsolicited advice from a fellow traveller in Singapore's Changi Airport made me think hard about the charms of Queensland's state capital, the city where I spent my university years. I admit in the past I might've agreed with this dismissive take on Brissie/Brissy/Brisvegas, but returning as a long-term expat and world traveller I would beg to differ. I think Brisbane has been dissed by the traveller's grape-vine for too long and it seems that Lonely Planet, the colossus of the travel guide scene, agrees with me; its latest Australia edition describes Brisbane as "arguably Australia's hippest city'.
The Old Way: Just Skip It
Many tourists planning their Australian itinerary on a limited time frame fly into Brisbane International Airport and rush to hire a car or jump on a tourist bus and head north to the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef or south to the Gold Coast or further on to hippy-luxe, Byron Bay. But if they stayed around for a few days they would find that Brisbane is a beautiful river city with a vibrant urban wining, dining and cultural scene and an array of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Eat & Drink
It's a great life for Brisbane's inner-city dwellers. There's a wealth of alfresco eating and drinking options and the nightlife is amongst Australia's best.
This delightful suburb is just 2 kilometres fom the CBD, tucked into a bend in the Brisbane River and centred around a large leafy park with shady rotundas. New Farm is home to some of Brisbane's most stylish venues to wine and dine. Pablo is a particularly good example of modern Australian cafe style and Anise is just one of the area's wonderful wine bars. http://www.newfarm.info/
- Fortitude Valley
Acknowledged as the first Australian capital city 'entertainment zone' and known to locals as 'The Valley', this area has the same rough and ready yet cool vibe as London's Soho district. The Zoo, The Tivoli and Ric's Bar are amongst the plethora of music venues to be found and any night of the week there are quality gigs to catch.
- West End
An ecclectic array of international cuisine has always been available in West End's restaurants. Cafes old and new compete with an iconic old favourite, The Three Monkeys, for the patronage of the coffee crowd. Cool pubs and bars such as The Lychee Lounge and Rumpus Room and the relatively new Archive abound in this hip social hub.
Brisbane has long had a reputation for its talented local artists and performers and vibrant arts scene.
Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) and the newer Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) are two impressive architectually designed buildings in their own right that provide the city with a wide array of world class visual arts exhibitions.
Queensland Performing Arts Complex (QPAC) is home to the highly regarded Queensland Theatre Company. Known for its thriving theatre scene, Brisbane also boasts other excellent performance spaces such as the Powerhouse and La Boite theatres.
Great Outdoors & Surrounds
Brisbane benefits from world class sporting facilities, a wealth of outdoor space, a beautiful river and great weather.
- CityHopper Ferries
Brisbane City Council provides this fantastic service for free. Every 30 minutes visitors can catch a ferry taking them on a leisurely river tour of the major riverside hot spots of the city from New Farm to North Quay and back again. And did I mention the price? Free!
The South Bank Parklands area on the river is home to one of the most popular attractions in Brisbane: Streets Beach. It's a clear water lagoon surrounded by white sands and palm trees that was completely created by human hands. Overseen by lifeguards, this fantastic mini-beach is a convenient and relaxing haven for locals and tourists alike on those sunny Brisbane days. http://www.visitsouthbank.com.au/attractions/streets-beach
If you time it right you could visit this hallowed sporting ground to attend one of the most important events on the sporting calendar for Brisbanites- a State of Origin rugby league game between long-standing rivals Queensland and New South Wales, alternatively known as the Maroons and the Blues or even the Canetoads and the Cockroaches!
- Kangaroo Point
This scenic cliff top spot boasts beautiful views of Brisbane's skyline and the wide and winding Brisbane River and it's a popular spot for abseiling. Part of the city's extensive cycling and walking trails, this attractive area also serves as a lovely stopping point for picnics and BBQ's. http://www.kangaroopoint.com.au/
- Moreton Bay
A 45 kilometre drive east will find you on the bay where you can take a yacht tour out amongst the surrounding islands or indulge in a bit of fishing, snorkelling or dolphin spotting. There's even skydiving for the more adventurous.
"On The Way Up"
Lonely Planet's ringing endorsements and the recent choice of Brisbane to host the 2014 Group of Nations (G20) Summit means that this city is no longer to be ignored. So don't let any fellow travelling naysayers, nor Brisbane Marketing's decidedly un-catchy 'Australia's New World City' tourism slogan, deter you from spending a few days in this cool, relaxed and outdoorsy Australian city.
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