South in the state of Queensland lies Brisbane, the third largest city in Australia, with about two million residents. Like a brown snake, the waters of Brisbane River meander through the city which is located around 20 km from the coast. Brisbane and its surroundings have a fortunate climate with long hot days soaked in sunshine. Winters never get cold, which makes visitors thrive. The city is far stretched and can be explored by taking one of the many ferries operating on the river. Embark on a ferry trip, relax while the city is passing by. From south of Brisbane you can take a ferry to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, which is an hour’s boat ride away. Here you can hold a koala and meet other native animals. Brisbane is a sophisticated metropolis with a thriving nightlife. Restaurants and bars have large alfresco areas where food and drinks are best enjoyed.
Once you have had enough of urban life, only a short trip will take you to scenic places and nature experiences. You don’t have to look far to find something interesting. The southern part of Queensland’s coast is lined by turquoise-coloured water. Within an hour, you can find yourself standing on the beach on either the Gold Coast (wotif.com/discover/australia/queensland/gold-coast.d180064) or the Sunshine Coast (wotif.com/discover/australia/queensland/sunshine-coast.d180069), the two most famous and characteristic coastal areas in the region. Drive inland and you reach Lamington and Springbrook National Park (wotif.com/discover/australia/queensland/gold-coast/springbrook/springbrook-national-park.d6086913) with its lush rainforests, icy lakes and hills. Explore and try to spot wildlife and plants among tall tree trunks.
Twenty kilometres east of the city, the river Brisbane River flows out into a seductive mix of islands around Moreton Bay. It is said that Moreton Bay has as many islands as there are days of the year. The largest of them are popular excursion destinations. Make it easy for yourself and join in on a guided tour to Bribie Island (wotif.com/things-to-do/bribie-island-adventure-tour.a478379.activity-details), or take a ferry further out to Moreton Island (wotif.com/discover/australia/queensland/brisbane/moreton-island/moreton-island-national-park.d6148378) or North Stradbroke Island and snorkel in waters teeming with life. Explore the Tangalooma Wrecks and read a book in the shade of the trees. Back on the mainland, you can hike or do cycling in the woods around Mount Coot-tha Reserve, all the way to the top for a fantastic view of Brisbane. Brisbane and its surroundings are well suited for the active traveller who appreciates the mix of a lively metropolis and untamed nature.
Take advantage of all the benefits of being in a big city while in Brisbane. Try the variety of restaurants, cafés, bars and night clubs. You will find all this and some more in Fortitude Valley, popularly called the Valley in short. The district is famous for its vibrant nightlife, so don’t miss it if you are in Brisbane a weekend or two. Other attractions in the same area include Chinatown. On the other side of the river is West End. They have plenty of second hand and vintage stores where you can look for bargains. Like the Valley, West End can be described as an alternative neighbourhood. On Saturday mornings, a popular market is open, one you shouldn’t miss. Stroll down South Bank Parkland and visit art galleries in its vicinity. And bathe in the lagoon when the temperature rise.
Mount Coot-tha Reserve is only a short bus ride from the city centre. The area next to the reserve is part of the city’s botanical garden. Within Mount Coot-tha you can hike or jog along the trails, and there are special trails for cyclists. If you are used to doing this in the forest, this is the place for you (brisbane.qld.gov.au/sites/default/files/20160729-mt_coot-tha_forest_track_map.pdf). There is also an area called Scenic Rim, where no fewer than six different national parks are waiting (visitscenicrim.com.au). The area is big, and if you plan to head south to the Gold Coast, making a stop here on the way is a good idea. Lamington- and Springsbrook National Parks are particularly beautiful with serpentine vines and majestic waterfalls. For an animal enthusiast, the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (wotif.com/things-to-do/lone-pine-koala-sanctuary-day-admission.a170697.activity-details) near Brisbane might be suitable. It is easy to get there for just a day by bus or ferry.
One of the most popular attractions in the area are the islands around Moreton Bay. You don’t have to venture far to reach a tropical beach paradise. If this is as far north your east coast trip will take you, now is your chance to maximize the holiday feeling. Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island are good alternatives to choose from. Rent your own car together with other travellers or book a trip with a tour organizer, there are several to choose from. Snorkel in clear waters above ship-wreckages from the 1960s, now covered by corals and home to a variety of fish (wotif.com/things-to-do/wrecks-adventure-tour.a440963.activity-details). Be your own captain with a rental boat, there are lots of smaller islands to explore. Try surfing or paddle boarding on the large sand island North Stradbroke Island. You can also test your balance by surfing down the sand dunes.
Planning and preparation
Brisbane has a subtropical climate which means that the days are warm, and the air is basically humid all year round. Summer falls between December and February and the temperature tends to be between 25 and 35 degrees Celsius. This is also the period when it rains at its most. Tropical storms and floods are common during summer. When it rains, it pours down. But it may end as suddenly as it began. Autumn falls between March and May and is characterized by slightly lower temperatures and less rain. Winter is between June and August, with a temperature between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius. The temperature rises slightly during spring, and it is sunny. Spring falls between September and November.
Buses and trains arrive at Roma Street Station on Roma Street, a walk of 500 meters from the city centre. Brisbane Airport is located 16 kilometres northeast of the city (wotif.com/Flights). In Coolangatta lies Gold Coast Airport. You can rent a car at Brisbane Airport (wotif.com/Car-Hire) or take the Airtrain (airtrain.com.au) that frequently departs. The train will take you to Brisbane and the Gold Coast. If you are planning to stay for a longer period and wishes to use public transport, it is worth buying a Go Card from Translink (translink.com.au/tickets-and-fares/go-card). Charge the card with money to use it on buses, trains and ferries in the area. For a shorter visit you can buy a seeQ card (translink.com.au/tickets-and-fares/ticket-types/visitors-and-tourists/seeq-card). Choose between a three-day (79 dollars) or five-day (129 dollars) card. The price includes one return trip with Airtrain. Translink also has a useful online travel planner (jp.translink.com.au/plan-your-journey/journey-planner).
Let Brisbane be your base. Spend a few days exploring the capital of Queensland before expanding out and away from the city centre. Buy a seeQ card so you unlimited can use the public transport for a few days, ferries included. There are plenty of accommodations in Brisbane. From shabby hostels to spotless five-star hotels, use the possibilities to your advantage. Visit one of the city’s art galleries, take a stroll on South Bank and if you feel like a swim, the lagoon lies conveniently close. Shop along Queen Street and have a coffee in the sun at the Botanical Garden. Have a look at the Valley and check out Chinatown. Mingle among the hipsters of West End and relax on a ferry along the river.
When you want to get away from the city’s hectic pulse, go to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary (wotif.com/things-to-do/lone-pine-koala-sanctuary-day-admission.a170697.activity-details). Take the bus or choose the scenic road via ferry from South Bank. Once in place, you can familiarize yourself with the local wildlife. Say hello to koalas, kangaroos, wombats and emus on the country’s oldest and biggest koala sanctuary. During the afternoon, take the ferry back, eat a good dinner at one of the city’s restaurants and try Brisbane’s nightlife. Or take the bus to Mount Coot-tha to get the best view for when the city lights up in the night.
Choose between visiting one of the islands in Moreton Bay. For Moreton Island, use Translinks trip planner for help finding the most convenient way to get there. If you don’t fear driving in loose sand, rent your own car or quad bike. You can also travel with a tour organizer (wotif.com/things-to-do/search?location=Brisbane). On Moreton you can snorkel above shipwrecks, sunbathe on far-stretched beaches and enjoy the tropical atmosphere. Stay for as long as you desire. Once you are back in Brisbane, get on the train towards the Gold Coast or Surfers Paradise if you want to see more of this part of Australia.