Having very reluctantly given back the campervan with no issues, we checked into our AirBnb which was in East Brisbane. On arrival, our hosts Mike and Anna gave us a great suburb by suburb guide to the city, and lots of great ideas about where to visit during our stay.
After enjoying sleeping in an actual bed for the first time since Hong Kong, we were feeling refreshed and ready to start exploring the city. Brisbane is dominated by the huge river of the same name, which winds and bends its way through the city. We therefore decided to start with a ride on the free CityHopper ferry service, and were soon in sight of Brisbane’s imposing skyline, as the ferry slowly chugged its way towards the CBD.
We were immediately impressed by the very shiny and modern CBD, with its mix of large pedestrianised shopping precints, and towering office blocks. We spent some time wandering along the crowded Queen Street Mall and surrounding streets, which are packed with shops, cafes and restaurants. Our favourite was Coffee Anthology, where the coffee and cakes were so good we returned for a second visit, and there was even a coffee taster board for me to try!
There has clearly been lots of development in the city in recent years, with this set to continue for some time, judging by the huge cranes dotted around the skyline. This makes for an interesting mix between old and new architecture in places, no more so than around the Museum of Brisbane’s clock tower.
However, it’s also very easy to escape the bustling streets with a visit to the nearby City Botanic Gardens. Although relatively small, the Garden’s riverside location make it the perfect place for a relaxing walk amongst the huge trees.
Our next stop was in Fortitude Valley, one of Brisbane’s most popular nightlife spots. Created as Australia’s first dedicated entertainment district, it is home to a huge variety of bars and restaurants, with a very diverse crowd to match. During the week we managed to visit a number of these, and had some very good food and drinks from both Taps and the Royal George. Just a short walk from here we found the Wilson Outlook, which has brilliant views across to the landmark Story Bridge, with the CBD in the background.
Staying north of the river, we also visited the suburb of Milton, home to the Suncorp Stadium and the XXXX Brewery. However our highlight was the Scratch Bar, a small but very busy pub, which has a fairly unique ‘bring your own food’ policy. We were sure to make the most of this, ordering a pizza from the award winning Arrivederci pizzaria, which was delivered to our table, as we sampled the great selection of craft beer and cider on offer.
We also spent plenty of time exploring south of the river, making use of Brisbane’s CityCycle bike hire scheme, and riding along the banks of the river from our apartment to the South Bank precinct. Similar to the scheme that operates in London, CityCycle allows you to hire bikes from stations located around the city. It’s a great way to explore Brisbane, with lots of cycleways, and 24 hours access costing just $2 (£1.25) each, as long as each individual journey lasts less than 30 minutes.
The South Bank is one of the most popular areas of Brisbane, and is home to restaurants, parkland, the Wheel of Brisbane and the Streets Beach. Unfortunately the man-made beach was closed for some winter renovations during our visit, but we still enjoyed the areas impressive riverside views, as well as some great brunch from Denim Co.
Possibly our favourite suburb of Brisbane was the West End, a very diverse and alternative area, centred around the very popular Boundary Street. There was the usual mix of bars, cafes and restaurants, as well as some great beer from Catchment Brewing Co.
We also had another go at kayaking while we were in Brisbane, which was booked as a leaving present by our friends Chris and Megan. Picking up the kayaks at Kangaroo Point on the south of the river, we paddled our way downstream, past the CBD and under the Story Bridge, staying as far away from ferries as possible. This time we had our own kayaks, and Rachael was shocked to find out she would have to do all the paddling herself, but it was a great experience, and an ideal way to see more of the city.
Our apartment in East Brisbane was just a short walk from Woollongabba, and the Gabba stadium, an Australian Test cricket venue and home to the Brisbane Lions AFL team.
We spent Sunday afternoon watching our second AFL game, a resounding 121-64 win for the Lions against the Freemantle Dockers, and just their third win of the season so far. Although well below the full 42,000 capacity, there was a great atmosphere and we definitely understood a lot more of the game this time.