Australia Destinations

Reluctant praise for Brisbane

Despite my scathing description of the Gold Coast in my last blog, I myself partook in some of its renowned debauchery, which has taken me a full week of recovery.

Let’s blame it on the curse of the writer that they must experience everything on offer if they are to get the greatest sense of a place. And it goes to show again that the destination itself matters very little: the fullness of one’s experience can always be ascribed to the calibre of one’s companions.

Now down to business. Brisbane.

That’s a laugh, actually, because Brisbane rarely seems to imply business at all. It’s the more innocent and relaxed sister of the Gold Coast.

Many people warned me that no more than a day need be spent in Brisbane. I refute this claim: you need your first day in Brissy to feel the disappointment of unfulfilled expectations of this tropical city, and a second to be pleasantly surprised.

Honestly, as a loyal Melburnian it pains me to issue praise to any competing Aussie city, and it’s easy to knock our northern cousin down. Whilst the city sings tropical, this means rain as well as heat, and one cannot plan too far ahead for fear of being caught in a deluge.

Compared to the Gold Coast, Brisbane seems like a naive town, hardly matured. She does not lend her name to sophistication, nor particularly to elegance.

Brissy is modern (in an unfashionable way), amiable, harmless, fun-loving, but ultimately a little forgettable. She isn’t ugly, but her looks are unremarkable, like a country gal trying to effect city glam.

The trick with Brisbane is to escape the drab city centre. Across the banks of the Brisbane River is South Bank.

This riverside strip, not so much chic as just family-friendly, decorated with swimming lagoons, cheap cafes and greedy ibises with their mockably long beaks.

The area reeks of exotic location with palm trees and board walks. But it is positively delightful, and the food on offer is both cheap and tempting.

The busy city centre comprises Queen Street Mall, a pedestrianised shopping strip characterless without the large open-air restaurants down its centre with their relentlessly rotating overhead fans.

If you’re tough, you can walk along South Bank far enough until you hit Kangaroo Point, characterised by cliffs that overlook Brisbane River and offer views of the rather neat city skyline.

Walk in the other direction from South Bank and you hit the hip suburb of West End (NOT “THE West End”, the locals insist). I suppose if Brisbane could attract intellectual hipsters, this is where they would flock. It offers quirky clothing stores, a stiflingly busy farmer’s market, and cafes galore. In fact, it makes the prospect of living in Brisbane not seem unbearable.

Heading up the East Coast of Australia? Check out these other hidden gems and unmissable hotspots:

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