Brisbane - Travel Guide

Affectionately known around the country as 'Brisvegas' and even 'Brisneyland', Brisbane oozes self-confident Queensland charm. It's a smart city with uniquely Australian architecture, enough sunshine to melt the coldest heart, and it's at the epicentre of the fastest growing region in the country. Spliced into bite-sized segments by the meandering Brisbane River, most of the city enjoys river views. Years ago Brisbane was the poor third cousin of Sydney and Melbourne, in a decade or so it may very well be the largest city in Australia.

History of Brisbane

Like most Australian cities, Brisbane began as a penal colony. It was hard for convicts to escape across a deep, wide river and it was easy for ships to deliver supplies. A prison was established in 1825 on the current site of the CBD and the town quickly grew around it. Brisbane's hot, humid climate, and frequent summer storms led to a unique style of architecture developing through the 18th century as a hybrid of Victorian fashion and Indian colonialism - houses are raised up off the ground on stumps to allow air to flow underneath and wide verandas with wind-protective slats allow for shady entertaining all year round. This iconic architecture became known as the "Queenslander".

The city grew steadily as the capital of the colony of Queensland and became a major trading port. By the onset of the Second World War Brisbane was the major city on the western Pacific Rim and was used as the main command post for the allied campaign against Japan. An influx of hundreds of thousands of soldiers required an infrastructure upgrade and the city blossomed. Migrants flocked in from overseas after the war was over and the city merrily expanded over the next few decades.

The 1982 Commonwealth Games were hosted in Brisbane and naturally the city's sporting and transport facilities were spruced up to cater for the crowds. The 1988 World Expo provided a good reason for re-development of the dodgy parts of town on the south bank of the river, and by the 1990s Brisbane had firmly staked its claim as Australia's third major city. Gorgeous weather, Government funding and public support for the arts rounded of its reputation as the most livable city in the country.

What's Brisbane Like Now?

Brisbane is easily Australia's most livable city. There's enough infrastructure for locals to keep everything running smoothly, the weather is gorgeous (although rather warm in summer), the arts scene is alive and well, food is cheap and most people can afford to live in a great house reasonably close to where they work and play. It's a perfect recipe for somewhere to live. Many tourists are attracted to Brisbane for its fun loving atmosphere and end up using the city as a gateway to the rest of Queensland rather than a destination unto itself.

The city has plenty of history, attractions, restaurants and a bustling nightspot. It's also comfortably situated in the middle of several tourism areas. An hour to the south will find you on the glitzy strip of the Gold Coast, an hour and a half north and you're visiting the quaint beach towns of the Sunshine Coast, to the east you have the magnificent Moreton Bay and west is a whole world of mountains, bushland and scenic country drives.

How to get to Brisbane

You could drive up from Sydney and it would take you about 14 hours along the scenic Pacific Highway, but the easiest way to get to Brisbane is by plane. Brisbane has a domestic and international airport and flights run regularly throughout the day. (There are flights almost every hour to and from Sydney and Melbourne.) Visit for more information.

Getting around Brisbane

Buses run day and night and there are regular train services in and around the city. There are plenty of taxis about, you can either catch one from a major hotel, taxi rank, or landmark, or just hail one on the street. The two main cab companies in Brisbane are Yellow Cabs and Black & White Cabs.

Things to do

  • Check out the local live music scene - this is, after all, the home of the Bee Gees, Powderfinger, The Veronicas, and countless other great acts. Fortitude Valley and a 10 km radius around Brisbane's CBD is host to numerous music venues, bars, and entertainment hotspots.
  • Walk through the botanical gardens on the river to the south of the CBD.
  • Go for a swim at Street Beach, South Bank Parklands - a man-made lagoon and recreation area.
  • Splurge on a shopping trip through Queen Street Mall.
  • Check out even more Things to do in Brisbane


Try Paddington for trendy cafés and bars and anywhere by the riverside for fine dining with a view.

Brisbane Bars

  • The Story Bridge Hotel - Huge iconic venue literally underneath the Story Bridge
  • The Royal Exchange Hotel - still popular for students at the nearby University of Queensland
  • Ric's Cafe Bar - Trendy, but alternative café in Brunswick Street Mall, Fortitude Valley.
  • The Zoo - Catch the hottest bands in the country and the coolest up and coming acts from Brisbane in The Valley.

Brisbane Accommodation

As you'd expect in Australia's third biggest city, there are plenty of places to stay across the full range of budgets and tastes. Here's a few of the better known establishments:

Where the Movie Stars Stay

  • Conrad Treasury Casino: This hotel is a Brisbane landmark located at the top end of Queen Street Mall (officially 130 William Street). It's a five star hotel and casino with five restaurants, numerous bars and world-class accommodation.
  • Stamford Plaza Brisbane: Renowned for its outstanding service, gorgeous decor and splendid views.

Good, reasonably priced hotels

  • The Point Brisbane: New, friendly apartment hotel on the south bank of the Brisbane River (Lambert St, Kangaroo Point). Great views and close to the famous Storey Bridge.
  • Rendezvous Hotel, Brisbane: Heritage-listed boutique hotel in the heart of the city (255 Anne Street).

Cheap and Cheerful Accommodation

  • The Soho Motel: Great location opposite the Roma Street Parkland, nice bar, nice restaurant, and decent rooms.
  • Explorers Inn: Budget accommodation in the heart of the city, right near the transit centre.

Backpackers Hostels

Interesting Places Nearby

  • The Gold Coast is 80km down the road
  • The Sunshine Coast is 100km up the road
  • Moreton Bay and Islands

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