Brisbane is the state capital of Queensland. The Greater Brisbane region has a population of about 2.2 million people, making it the third-largest city in Australia.
Large enough to be cosmopolitan yet small enough to be friendly and accessible, Brisbane is a 'garden metropolis' famous for its leafy, open spaces and the pleasant pace of life that unfolds between the zig-zags of its iconic river. Gaining international exposure during the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 1988 World Expo, the 2001 Goodwill Games, and the 2014 G20 Summit, Brisbane's year-round warm climate, spectacular scenery, pleasant locals and world-class facilities have been the draw-cards for many domestic and international visitors, making Brisbane the fastest-growing city in Australia. Despite this rapid development, it maintains a youthful enthusiasm and has what is arguably one of the most laid-back and... Read more
Brisbane is the state capital of Queensland. The Greater Brisbane region has a population of about 2.2 million people, making it the third-largest city in Australia.
Large enough to be cosmopolitan yet small enough to be friendly and accessible, Brisbane is a 'garden metropolis' famous for its leafy, open spaces and the pleasant pace of life that unfolds between the zig-zags of its iconic river. Gaining international exposure during the 1982 Commonwealth Games, the 1988 World Expo, the 2001 Goodwill Games, and the 2014 G20 Summit, Brisbane's year-round warm climate, spectacular scenery, pleasant locals and world-class facilities have been the draw-cards for many domestic and international visitors, making Brisbane the fastest-growing city in Australia. Despite this rapid development, it maintains a youthful enthusiasm and has what is arguably one of the most laid-back and forward-thinking of any Australian capital city.
For many thousands of years before European settlement, the Brisbane area was inhabited by the Turrbal and Jagera Aboriginal people. They knew the area that is now the central business district as Mian-jin, meaning "place shaped like a spike." The Australian English phrase "hard yakka" – meaning "hard work" – comes from the Jagera people, and is certainly what the European settlers faced in Brisbane's humid sub-tropical climate.
The Moreton Bay area was initially explored by English navigator Matthew Flinders. On 17 July 1799, Flinders landed at what is now known as Woody Point, which he named "Red Cliff Point" - now Redcliffe - after the red-colored cliffs visible from the bay. In 1823 Governor of New South Wales Sir Thomas Brisbane instructed that a new northern penal settlement is developed, intended to house dangerous prisoners in a remote location, and an exploration party led by John Oxley further explored Moreton Bay. The original penal settlement was established in Redcliffe but was later moved to a location further down the bay where freshwater supplies were more reliable. Oxley named this new settlement "Brisbane" in honor of the Governor.A series of major immigration events took place in the following decades which brought with it strong industry and commercial development in the region. In 1838, non-convict free settlers moved to the area and pushed to close the jail and to release the land in the area. In 1859, a gold rush led to the establishment of the colony of Queensland with Brisbane as its capital, even though Brisbane was not incorporated as a city until 1902. In 1925, the Queensland State Parliament created the City of Brisbane Act that set up a single government for the city of Brisbane, still the largest metropolitan authority in Australia, and one of the largest in the world by area. Over twenty small municipalities and shires were amalgamated to form the City of Brisbane. 1930 was a significant year for Brisbane with the completion of Brisbane City Hall, then the city's tallest building and the Shrine of Remembrance, in
Postwar Brisbane had developed a "big country town" stigma, an image the city's politicians and marketers were very keen to remove, but despite steady growth, Brisbane's development was punctuated by infrastructure problems. The State Government began a major program of change and urban renewal, beginning with the central business district and inner suburbs. Trams in Brisbane were a popular mode of public transport until the network was closed in 1969, leaving Melbourne as the last Australian city to operate a tram network.
The 1974 Brisbane flood was a major disaster which temporarily crippled the city. During this era, Brisbane grew and modernized rapidly becoming a destination of interstate migration. Some of Brisbane's popular landmarks were lost, sometimes demolished in controversial circumstances with much media coverage and public protest. Major public works included the Riverside Expressway, the Gateway Bridge, and later, the redevelopment of South Bank after the city hosted World Expo '88, starting with the Queensland Art Gallery and Performing Arts Centre.
Subsequent years saw strong immigration into Brisbane and the surrounding region, both domestically and internationally, with large influxes from Asia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Polynesia. This was driven by lower house prices than in other Australian cities, a pleasant climate and good employment opportunities, especially within the mining and tourism sectors. Brisbane's population growth has exceeded the national average every year since 1990 at an average rate of around 2.2% per year.
Post-2000s Brisbane has seen the city go from drought to flooding rains. In the mid-2000s, lower dam levels led to severe water restrictions for residents. The campaign to lower water usage was so successful that the city now boasts some of the lowest average water use per resident of any developed city in the world. These days you're not likely to find the tap dry or see any visible signs of the shortage. However, out of respect for the locals, keep your showers relatively brief, try your best to conserve water and expect the locals to be horrified if you walk away from a running tap.
Some extremely wet summers broke the drought and culminated in the January 2011 Flood which devastated the city. In typical Queensland fashion, one of the largest volunteer workforces ever amassed - over 100,000 Brisbane locals and Queensland volunteers - descended on the city to aid in the clean-up, earning the nickname the "Mud Army" and allowing the city to return to business just a week after the flood. The Mud Army was honored with the naming of a new CityCat Ferry, the "Spirit of Brisbane," and then Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard, described Brisbane residents as "the best of humankind," gifting a monument to the city to honor the volunteers.
When the wet season hits the northern Australian tropics, Brisbane experiences hot and clear summer days with stunning afternoon thunderstorms. When winter arrives towards the southern capital cities, temperatures are sent into the low teens (°C), while Brisbane's climate stays mostly dry and sunny, with daytime temperatures usually remaining above 20°C.
More detailed information on Brisbane Climate and Weather is available online at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
The damaging effects of the Queensland sun should not be underestimated. The state has the highest per-capita rate of skin cancer in the world and tourists often come unprepared. On a sunny day in Brisbane, it is common to be sunburnt after as few as 15 minutes under the midday sun, but sunburn can also occur on overcast days. This is not exclusive to summer but can happen all year round, even in winter.
If you are planning a long day outdoors, always cover up with sunscreen, loose clothing, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself. Limit your outdoor physical activity in the summer until you are used to the heat. Immediately seek shade or an air-conditioned area and drink plenty of water if you are feeling the effects of heat exhaustion, including a headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, confusion or fainting.
The Brisbane Visitor Information Centre and Booking Centre on the Queen Street Mall is open M–Th 09:00–17:30, F 09:00–19:00, Sa 09:00–17:09, Su and public holidays 09:30–16:30 but closed Good Friday and 25 Dec. ☎ +61 7 3006-6290.
Getting anywhere in Brisbane is extremely easy. The CBD is relatively flat and condensed, which makes it perfect for walking or cycling and virtually all other areas can be reached by public transport.
However, some areas can be difficult to navigate through a combination of dead ends, winding roads and steep slopes. This applies to some inner-city suburbs, but especially outer suburbs. If you find yourself lost, it's advisable to head to the nearest main road as more than likely it will be serviced by buses or trains. If you are driving, a street directory or GPS unit is an essential addition to your car. Locals are friendly and more than willing to help you out if you are lost, so don't be afraid to ask.
Brisbane is an excellent city for walking, and you should have no problems getting around the CBD. Within minutes of walking in virtually any direction, you will be able to find a bus, train or ferry station. Maps can be purchased from bookstores such as QBD (Queensland Books Depot), Dymocks, any tourist information center or viewed online.
Beyond the CBD and inner-suburbs however, sights can become very spread out, so you might want to consider other modes of getting around.
Getting around the city and the surrounding areas is easy thanks to the many cycle paths along the river. Bicycles can be rented in the center of the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens.
The Brisbane City Council has recently introduced a scheme known as CityCycle, which offers bicycles for hire at different stations around the city. Tourists can register for a 24-hour. The bikes are free to use after that, as long as you return the bike to a station within 30 minutes (afterward usage rates apply). Helmets are required by law (and this is enforced with on-the-spot fines), but some free yellow helmets can be unreliably found at the bike-hire stations.
Cycling on footpaths is legal in the Brisbane City Council area (maximum speed 10 km/h). However, pedestrians have right of way. Keep left and take special care when riding through South Bank Parklands as the shared (and quite wide) foot and cycle path is often clogged with large groups taking up the whole path, pedestrians stopping unexpectedly for photos and playing children running heedlessly in front of you. It is often too noisy here to use your bell, so out of courtesy and safety, you're strongly urged to dismount and push your bicycle through crowded areas.
Maps showing bikeways in the Brisbane City Council area are available on the BCC website.
Some areas of Brisbane are very hilly. If your street map shows a tangle of winding streets closes together that is a sign of steep roads. A short trip can quickly become a lot of work, especially if you are using the heavy CityCycle bikes. Stick to the river when possible, it's where you get the best views, and it is almost entirely flat.
If you leave the cycle paths, footpaths, and minor streets you should be prepared to contend with busy urban traffic. Feel free to ignore any Brisbane motorists that may have resentment toward cyclists and ignorance of the road rules applying to cyclists; cyclists are permitted to travel on just about all roads in Brisbane. Special "bicycle lanes" on Brisbane's roads are becoming increasingly common and are often denoted by a narrow green-colored strip of road adjacent to the curb.
Wearing a safety helmet is law in Brisbane (and the rest of Australia).
Green Cabs are one of the latest additions to the city and growing in popularity. Essentially a rickshaw, they are a novel way of getting around the inner-city areas. Able to accommodate up to 2 adults and 2 small children (though it can vary - talk to the rider and see what you can arrange), they mostly operate between West End, South Bank, the CBD, Fortitude Valley and along the river where it's mostly flat, although you can arrange to be taken elsewhere. Prices start at $5, and tours are available.
Currently, Green Cabs operate on weekends and during special events. During the day operators who are ready to go are usually based at South Bank at the Wheel of Brisbane. At night, you will find Green Cabs at South Bank and throughout the CBD.
Many of the roads in Brisbane Central Business District (CBD) are one-way, making driving in this area complicated for people not familiar with the layout. Drivers used to city driving should not find Brisbane too much of a challenge, and parking is readily available in parking stations in the city.
CBD roads become clearways at 16:00, and any cars parked on the side of the road will be fined, towed or both. You have to pay for the towing to get your car back, and then they expect a fine to follow in the mail. Check for signs when parking, or play it safe and find a parking station.
If you are looking to visit the areas surrounding the city, then generally a car will be as quick as any other way of getting around, with the possible exception of the height of peak hour. Brisbane is notorious for having roads that bottle-neck and what would normally be a 15-minute trip could easily turn into well over an hour during peak.
There are several toll roads in and around Brisbane, including the Gateway Bridge which crosses the river near the airport, the Clem-7 tunnel as well as the Go-Between Bridge. Cash is not accepted, toll users must have a prepaid transponder or post-pay via a website. Check the go-via website for more details.
Brisbane Central Business District (CBD) is not the friendliest of places when it comes to finding a parking spot for your car. Leaving your car for an hour could cost you more than $25 or a few parking fines. The best way to get around the CBD is either by scooter or motorbike. Motorbike and scooter parking is free, and there are plenty of areas designated for the parking of both motorbikes and scooters.
Scooters, however, are not allowed on major highways. Even though they can be ridden by just about anyone who holds a car drivers license, it is difficult to see all of Brisbane on a scooter as most major streets are zoned as 60–80 km/hr and the standard 50cc scooters are limited to 55 km/hr.
North of Brisbane you will find many beautiful scenic drives for motorbike enthusiasts. The North side is surrounded by many windy roads and great mountain roads on which any motorbike rider can enjoy a full day out on the motorbike of just about any size.
There are services available throughout Brisbane and the Gold Coast which deliver both scooters and motorbikes right to your door-step. Some will even provide all the necessary gear as well. Take a look at a few rental companies below to find a perfect motorbike/scooter for your trip.
Most major car hire companies have offices at Brisbane Airport and in the city center. As is common with many hire car companies, you will often pay a premium to pick up or return at the airport location. While most car rental companies hire to people 25 years of age and over, some all age car rental companies do hire to younger drivers over 18 years of age (there are surcharges involved for under-age drivers).
Taxis are numerous throughout Brisbane and can take you anywhere. The major companies are Yellow Cabs and Black & White Cabs. All cabs can be hailed down no matter where you are, provided their roof light is on, though in some areas they might not be able to stop, so it might be best to book one in advance. All cabs accept cash, credit and debit cards. Despite cabs being fitted with GPS units, you'll find it wise to check with the driver about your destination before departing and make sure they are willing to go there.
In the outer-suburban areas, cabs will pull over if you hail them down from the side of the road and can be found in designated taxi ranks in shopping centers, or near bars and pubs. The same can be said for the inner-city. However, taxi ranks are more common, and it's usually best to catch a cab from there. At night though, especially on Friday and Saturday, taxis exclusively pick up passengers from these ranks, and you'd be extremely lucky if you get one elsewhere. These ranks are usually monitored by security and have ushers at night. From midnight-5:30AM on Friday and Saturday nights, all taxis from the CBD and Fortitude Valley become "FlatFare," meaning that there is a fixed price for any given destination and you will have to pay before entering the taxi.
Taxis can be expensive in Brisbane.
The three main public transport options of Brisbane (ferries, buses, and trains) are run by a single provider, known as TransLink. This allows free transfers to be made between the three different transport modes, providing relevant time and zone restrictions are met.
Travelers should ensure they have a valid ticket as ticket inspectors make frequent appearances and fines can be significant. You may also be required to display a valid student/senior card if you are traveling on a concession ticket type.
The fare you pay will depend on public transport "zones." The 23 zones form concentric rings and propagate outwards from the CBD (zone 1). All official public transport maps mark the zones and zone boundaries. Generally speaking, most major attractions around the inner-city are within zones 1 or 2. Your fare is determined by how many zones you travel through. Traveling between zones 2 and 3 will cost you the same fare as traveling between zones 7 and 8. You must observe the time restrictions for transfers to avoid having to pay for another journey.
Often, major stops like shopping centers and busway stops are used as zone boundaries. Stops that form part of the zone boundary are considered part of both zones, so you may travel to them on a valid ticket that covers either zone.
If buying a paper ticket, say which zones you wish for it to be valid for, although all operators know what to give you if you tell them your destination. Ensuring your ticket is valid for your current journey is important as bus drivers may make you pay for another ticket or not allow you on at all, and officers on trains and ferries may fine you.
If you are using a Go Card, then fares are calculated automatically.
CityFerries and CityCats have become an icon of the city and are fantastic ways to tour Brisbane along the river. The CityCats are high-speed catamarans with stops at South Bank and the city center as well as many riverside suburbs and are a very popular method of getting around for tourists. CityFerries are more traditional ferries which operate shorter routes with more frequent stops; you may end up on one if you must use one of the smaller terminals, but in practice, most riverside destinations are accessible from the faster and more modern CityCats.
Trains in greater Brisbane run along radial lines. Most train services in Brisbane are through-running, traveling from one end of the suburbs to the other. However, all trains service Roma Street, Central, Fortitude Valley and Bowen Hills regardless of their ultimate destination. Interurban services can also be caught to the Gold Coast (using connecting bus services at Nerang and Robina) and Sunshine Coast (using connecting bus services at Landsborough and Nambour) as well as Australia Zoo (connecting bus at Beerwah). Trains run from 6AM to midnight, though there are some variations such as running later on Friday and Saturday nights and finishing earlier on Sundays.
Brisbane has a large network of bus routes. Virtually all buses have a digital display of their route number and destination(s). The inner city areas are very well serviced by buses, with the most popular routes running from 6AM to 11PM as a minimum, and most routes ultimately terminating at Queen St Bus Station, Fortitude Valley (via Adelaide St or Elizabeth St) or on the busway. In some of Brisbane's notoriously dispersed outer suburbs, services may be much less frequent or have reduced running hours, so it is advisable to check timetables if making these trips. Due to Brisbane traffic, buses are occasionally up to 10 minutes late during peak hour.
Brisbane's dedicated busway runs from a corridor in the southern or northern suburbs, through South Bank and the central business district. Due to a large number of buses in the central business district, some other routes use stops scattered across the city streets, so if you are unfamiliar with the geography of Brisbane, use of the busway is recommended where possible. The busway and rail network meet at Roma Street station, and the two combined provide very good coverage of the key inner-city areas.
Drivers do carry notes with them, but not always many or of high value. If you must pay cash, try to pay the correct amount and with coins where possible. Note that some services, especially in peak hour, do not sell tickets on board at all and only accept pre-purchased tickets or go cards. These are signed with the letter 'P' before the route number. As with many cities, Brisbane has a large number of express buses, so it should not be assumed that all buses observe every stop along the roads they travel. In peak hour there are even more express routes ("rockets" and "bullets") for commuters which make very few stops at all. Ask the driver if you are unsure.
Brisbane also has all-night bus services on Friday and Saturday nights on selected routes; this is branded 'NightLink.'
Thanks to Brisbane's year-round wonderful climate, it's the perfect city to host outdoor events. The city often plays host to cultural and historic celebrations, music festivals and family entertainment, particularly in the Summer holiday months of December, January and February.
By far the largest and most popular event in Brisbane is the annual Brisbane Festival occurring at the end of September. This festival, which originally started as a celebration of the Brisbane River, now incorporates some smaller events at various places around South Bank Parklands, the Cultural Centre and the CBD as a celebration to Brisbane itself. Notably, the 'Riverfire' event which is held in South Bank every September draws the largest crowd. It offers free family entertainment all day, and the city's biggest Fireworks display at night.
The annual Royal Queensland Show or The Ekka as it's almost exclusively called by the locals is a staple event in Brisbane's history and culture, held every August dating back to 1876. It is hosted at the RNA Showgrounds in the inner-suburb of Bowen Hills and runs for a week, where the Wednesday is a public holiday (so expect large crowds on this day). Primarily marketed toward families, attractions at the Ekka include fairground rides, a Side Show Alley, animal parades, wood chopping competitions, agricultural displays, equestrian events, and Showbags, usually containing food items (such as confectionery) and novelty items. If you are in Brissy at the time, it is not to be missed!
In Musgrave Park, the Greek Paniyiri Festival is another popular family entertainment event. Brisbane has a large Greek population who come out in force to celebrate Greek culture. Offers authentic Greek foods and entertainment.
The Brisbane Asia Pacific Film Festival (BAPFF) 6 (formerly the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF)) begins in November and is hosted in a variety of cinema venues around Brisbane. The festival features new films and retrospectives by domestic and international filmmakers along with seminars and awards.
Each year, Brisbane also hosts several parades through the central city. These can make great photo opportunities, and include:
Brisbane's Fortitude Valley has the highest concentration of bars, pubs and clubs anywhere in Australia and 2005, was given Australia's first and only "Special Entertainment Precinct" zoning, which protects and promotes the live music scene. In 2007, influential US entertainment Billboard magazine named Brisbane in the world's top 5 hotspots for live music. And in 2010 the city opened the Go-Between Bridge, named after the popular Brisbane indie rock band The Go-Betweens. There is no doubt that the locals love their music and a night out in Brisbane is not complete without experiencing some of the live music on offer. If you are looking for what's happening in Brisbane, most music and entertainment stores as well as some restaurants and cafés offer free entertainment magazines that list what's coming up within the next month or so.
Though you might find most musicians playing in the numerous bars and clubs around the CBD, West End, and The Valley, there are some venues which are geared specifically toward hosting bands or artists that are on official tours. Some events allow under 18s in, but not all, so it's best to check beforehand.
The Valley Fiesta is an annual three-day event. It was launched by Brisbane Marketing in 2002 to promote Fortitude Valley as a hub for arts and youth culture. It features free live music, market stalls, food and drink from many local restaurants and cafés, and other entertainment.
Brisbane and the Gold Coast also play host to a number of nationwide electronic and rock music festivals, mostly geared toward the younger crowd.
Whether watching or participating, Brisbane has a great range of sporting events. Voted as one of the best stadiums in Australia, Suncorp Stadium is host to the Brisbane Broncos NRL and Queensland Reds Rugby Union teams in the winter, and Brisbane Roar Football (Soccer) Club in the summer. Other events such as the NRL State of Origin are also a very big draw-card.
On the south side of city at Woolloongabba is the Brisbane Cricket Ground, or commonly known as the 'Gabba. Here, the Brisbane Lions AFL team plays in the winter, and all forms of cricket can be viewed in the summer.
The university and its surrounds provide many quality eateries if you happen to be in the area or on a CityCat ferry and cater to a cheaper market.
Brisbane's drinking and nightlife scene are separated into some distinct areas. Anyone planning a night on the town should be aware that after 3AM, no more patrons are allowed into pubs and clubs. This is a safety measure, coupled with increased security presence at taxi ranks. Additionally, smokers should beware of strict anti-smoking regulations. Smoking is now banned in "all areas where food & drink are served," both indoors and outdoors. This means that smoking is banned in all hotels, clubs, and cafés except in designated smoking areas.
The drinking age in Australia is 18, and only an Australian driver's license, 18+ card or a foreign passport is accepted as proof of age. Other forms of ID such as a student card are not accepted. These regulations are strictly enforced - for nightclubs, in particular, your ID will always be checked at the door, and while venues serving food may let you in, most are very prudent in checking ID if you wish to purchase alcohol.
Both Regatta and the RE have reputations (which they more than live up) as student haunts, being located reasonably close to the St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland.
Catch a citycat to Bulimba for some trendy shopping on popular Oxford Street, great cafes, hip bars or for a picnic in the park.
The Fortitude Valley is a unique area of Brisbane catering to the live music scene. A large number of Brisbane's hippest clubs are located here. Through the 1960s and 70s, it was seen as Brisbane's bohemian hub and has maintained a certain degree of that reputation. More recently, it is sometimes thought of as being one of the more dangerous areas of the city, but this attitude is changing as the area becomes more popular and hence, safer. This attitude, however, has had an adverse effect on the area's creative vibe, as locals turn their back on the area, forcing the creative epicenter of Brisbane to shift towards other areas of the city such as West End and Paddington. As with anywhere, simple common sense, caution, and courtesy will keep you out of harm's way.
Less crowded than 'the valley' or the city, this bohemian district popular with locals offers a few hip clubs, intimate restaurants, and a very laid back atmosphere.
Brisbane has a relatively low crime rate in comparison to other cities of such size. In most cases being aware of your environment and using common sense will keep you safe. Like Sydney and other large cities, trains and train stations are usually considered a common crime zone throughout the afternoons and nights, however trains and stations are patrolled by Police, Transit Officers, railway personnel and private security guards. Cameras are also used to increase security. It is advised to exercise caution when travelling on trains and buses during these periods of the day.
Here are some particular areas of note:
Throughout Australia, the number for emergency services (Police, Fire, and Ambulance) is 000. When using a mobile or cell phone, the numbers 000 and 112 are free of charge and connect using any of the available networks.
Emergency numbers such as 911 and 999 do not work within Australia.
Probably the worst thing that can befall your trip to Brisbane is sunburn and other heat-related issues. The local UV Index is almost always in the extreme rating during the day (10AM-3PM), and precautions should always be taken. Do not be fooled though, even in the cooler months or when it is overcast, you can still be affected by UV rays or the heat. Sunscreen, shirts, sunglasses and lots of water are essential.
Many visitors to Brisbane take day trips to enjoy the very popular nearby beaches at the Gold Coast (south) or the Sunshine Coast (north). Beaches can be great fun and very enjoyable when safe. It is important to know that most of the coastal beaches are Pacific ocean beaches with little to no protection that coves and bays provide. They can become dangerous to swim in due to strong currents, rough or powerfully-breaking waves, and various harmful marine life. Ensure you only swim at beaches where and when lifeguards are on duty and between the flags displayed in front of lifeguard observers. Check with lifeguards for any present, or potential undercurrents, rips, tows, or for the presence of bluebottles, stinging jellyfish, or other potential dangers before swimming. Advise the on-duty lifeguards if you are inexperienced in swimming at a beach so they can give you more attention. Avoid going past waist-deep if you are not a strong swimmer. Parents should accompany their children while they swim as rips, undertows, strong currents, and rough breaking waves can cause extreme difficulty. Sadly there have been tourists who have drowned due to inexperience with swimming in an ocean setting. Do not swim after consuming alcohol as it can affect your ability to swim and has been a contributing factor in some drowning fatalities. Avoid swimming near anyone using equipment such as surfboards, windsurfers, parasails, sailing craft or power craft such as jet skis, and motorboats.
February 16, 2019
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