September 2007 Brisbane

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Story bridge climb in Brisbane

Which city has the second highest number of international arrivals into Australia? Brisbane is not Australia’s second city by population or status but it has leveraged itself into contention as the Australian capital of tourism.

Brisbane is acclaimed as Australia’s “most liveable city” and they continue to arrive, putting pressure on local water resources. Everybody talks about water. But hey, there is water all around you.

Best begin on the river. At water level, down on the Brisbane River (older than the Nile). At Riverlife they will put you in a lifejacket and bring you on a canoe as far as the city’s iron bridge, Story bridge.

Then try the adventure climb, introduced in 2004, enabling you to get a seagull’s eye view of the city and the river below. It is a double view of Brisbane that few cities can match.

The city has a happy helping of quantifiable charms, 1,820 parks and visitors are served by some of Australia’s best restaurants, in districts such as New Farm, James’s St and Paddington. Australians from the six states rarely agree on anything, but they are heading for consensus on this – Brisbane is a place to eat out.

It is also one of the best places to shop, Queen Street Mall is the largest shopping precinct between Sydney and Singapore.

But most of all there is the river, and after decades of ignoring it, Brisbane has decided to celebrate its river. The CityCats (high speed catamarans) which cruise the Brisbane River must be the best way to see the city and are surely the cheapest.

 

 

There is more to distinguish the city than most Brissies will admit. There are more of these by the week, 1,000 arrivals making Brisbane the second fastest growing city in the western world after Phoenix, Arizona. This all happened suddenly, after the 1988 World Expo the buildings climbed skywards. Pictures on the riverwalk show the skyline in the 1960s as a low-rise colonial town. Now the intricate Queensland ironwork buildings are dwarfed by development, including thousands of new hotel beds.

They come for conventions, at Australia’s best convention centre, and to amble through the town on the way to the beaches. Brisbane managed all this because it had a relatively undeveloped space across the river from the city centre on the loop of the river. That’s where you find the conference centre and the cultural precinct.

South Bank Parklands and riverside cultural precinct is home to the new Gallery of Modern Art – Australia’s largest gallery of modern art and the first to house a purpose-built cinémathèque.

Around the corner you find a museum cluster that would do justice to a European city, Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

 

 

Most visitors will move on and with good reason. Within an hour of Brisbane you get 70 beaches and 60,000 hectares of tropical forest.

Brisbane’s trump car is its hinterland, the playgrounds of Australia are directly to the north and south of the city.

Brisbane is the gateway to the famous Gold Coast, an hour’s drive south of the city, and the Sunshine Coast, an hour’s drive north.

The gold coast is the family playground. For children there are the beaches and the theme parks, Seaworld, Dreamworld and Movieworld.

You can see why they flock here. While the children “Do the Worlds” as the theme park cluster has become known, for the mums there are the beaches and plethora of shopping centres, catering for every budget and taste. The gold coast is also a paradise for golfers.

Each year new attractions are added. The latest is the new $23m Australian Outback Spectacular in a purpose-built, 1,000 seat arena right next door to Movie World at Oxenford, 40 minutes south of downtown Brisbane.

The two hour evening dinner show is staged daily to the sound of Australian stock horses, whip-cracking riders and stampeding cattle, and audience participation divided in to two groups.

Theme parks are barely distinguishable from each other the world over. What Brisbane’s coast offers is beaches and islands such as Toongalooma Wild Dolphin resort and Moreton Island.

And there are lots of koalas to cuddle in petting farms and parks, including the world’s largest at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

The city’s greatest asset has been there all along. The botanic gardens are where you will get a flavour of an Australia that predates skyscrapers, steel bridges or even Aborigines. On a sunlit morning you can stop by for breakfast and take in a Mango walkway.

Then stop and view the city through the trees with the harsh cry of the antipodean birdlife in your ears. Brisbane, Brisbane, calls the kookaburra.

 

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