Australia – Brilliant Brisbane

Brisbane was my destination after Sydney. To get there I took a Countrylink overnight train which cost me $65AUD. The trains have regular seats so it’s not the most comfortable ride but there is a buffet car so you can get hot food and drinks all journey. The journey would have been ok if it hadn’t been for one disgustingly drunk idiot who yelled at staff and passengers all night.

After the train ride ended and I arrived in Brisbane, my lovely couchsurfing host collected me from the station and took me to the most beautiful thing I might ever have seen. It was a room with a bed in it that I didn’t have to share with anyone else. After a night on a train with a few hundred people and nearly 10 months in dorm rooms with up to 23 other people, the room was a little piece of paradise.

To get around in Brisbane, you’ll need a Go card. This is a plastic card which you load money onto. You then tap on and off transport as you use it and the appropriate fare is deducted. There’s a refundable $10AUD deposit to pay when you first get the card but you can claim that, and any remaining positive balance, back when you hand it in to a ticket office.

Anyway, I’ve deviated. Brisbane City is set on the Brisbane river (excellent naming convention there) and as a result has some amazing riverside living and attractions. It also has a bit of a flooding problem but they’re working on that. One of my favourite riverside areas was the Southbank.

The entire Southbank area was flattened for Expo 88 and then rebuilt after all the expo structures were dismantled. There are still echoes of expo to see. Whilst in Brisbane, I took a free guided walk run by the Brisbane Greeters. The ‘Greeter’ programme is run worldwide and gets locals involved in showing tourists around their Cities. The tour I took covered quite a lot of how Brisbane changed before and after Expo 88. Here’s an example of an expo remnant, a hovering man on a unicycle.

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There’s also a fairly fun exhibition about Expo 88 in the city hall where there have examples of float designs and general expo paraphernalia. I enjoyed the costumes the best. This one reminded me of feathery friends in Sydney.

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Anyway, after Expo 88 the Southbank area was rebuilt with many awesome features. One of my favourites is this man made beach. You can swim, sunbathe and build sand castles next to the river in the middle of the city!

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As there’s a river running through the city, it’s a good idea to have ways to cross it. There’s a pretty good (free) ferry service called the City Hopper and their little red ferries will move you between stops on the river very happily. There’s also the City Cat (paid for service) running almost the whole length of the city. There’s a free audio that you can download and listen to whilst you’re on the City Cat. It’ll tell you about Brisbane landmarks as you pass them. It’s well worth a trip and a listen if you’ve got time.

The most convenient and efficient way to cross the river is to use bridges. There’s plenty of them. This is a shot of the pedestrian and cycle bridge which I nicknamed the porcupine bridge (actually called the Kurilpa bridge).

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The most iconic bridge in Brisbane is probably the Story bridge. It has echoes of the Sydney Harbour bridge but on a smaller scale. It’s still fairly impressive and you can find interesting pubs built right underneath it.

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The Story bridge is illuminated at night which makes it look very imposing and ever so shiny.

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Whilst in Brisbane, I got the impression that the city council cares about and wants to encourage more walking and cycling in Brisbane. I completely agree. The city isn’t huge and is easily accessible by both bike and foot. There’s plenty of dedicated cycle paths and bridges. Here’s another pedestrian and cyclist only bridge, the Goodwill bridge.

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There’s is a cycle hire scheme in Brisbane but no real information available on how to use it. It’s also illegal to ride without a helmet in Brisbane so, if you do hire a bike, you have to have appropriate gear for it.

Architecture in Australia is generally from the period I enjoy looking at the most. It may not be old but I enjoyed it immensely. St. Andrew’s Uniting Church (right opposite the city hall) is an imposing red brick church which can not fail to catch your eye.

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City Hall itself is a great building.

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There’s several free guided tours of city hall each day but make sure you book your spot because they fill up fast. There’s also a free trip you can take up the clock tower for good views of Brisbane, a novelty trip in a manual lift and a look at some big bells.

The Auditorium inside city hall has a rather awesome ceiling dome which sparkles pretty colours. I went to see free music there at 12 on a Tuesday. It’s great that the city council puts on free music every week inside city hall. It’s first come first served so get there a little earlier to guarantee a seat.

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There really is a lot to see and do in Brisbane. On the ‘Greeters’ walk we visited the University in order to play with a giant, interactive touchscreen.

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We also dropped in to look around Old Government House. It’s an interesting building that has a good video introduction you can watch which gives you decent overview of the house history. There’s no entrance fee either which makes it even more satisfying to go see.

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Both the university and old government house are located pretty close to the botanic gardens which are definitely worth a walk around. There’s a free guided walk (daily) you can take around those too.

Kangaroo point is another good place to go and see. It has some lovely views of the city.

Apart from the actual city, Brisbane has some amazing outdoor space. One of my personal favourites was a Sunday morning walk through the undergrowth of Mount Gravatt. The view when you get to the top makes your sweaty back seem worth it.

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There’s another big hill you can go up called Mount Cootha. There’s botanic gardens next to Mount Cootha which you can walk around but, let’s be honest, you go up a hill for the view.

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The pace of life in Brisbane was definitely several steps more relaxed than in Sydney. It’s a great place to just chill out. It’s only a short drive/train ride from beaches of the Gold and Sunshine coasts. Is a gorgeous city full of wonderful people.

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