At the beginning of the 19th century, the penal colony in Sydney developed to the point of forcing the authorities to seek new, more remote territories in order to isolate the most recalcitrant of the prisoners. In 1824, the authorities set their sights on Moreton Bay. The site is named Brisbane in honour of the then Governor, Sir Thomas Mackdougall Brisbane. Free settlers were then only allowed to settle outside an 50 miles radius around Moreton Bay.
In 1842, with the prison closed and its prisoners transferred elsewhere, the area was declared an open area for free settlers and the land was sold.
In the late 1880s, Brisbane was Queensland’s economic centre. The city has expanded, bridges connect the northern and southern parts of the city, warehouses line the banks and an imposing customs building is erected. This prosperity is still perceptible today, through Victorian churches and in the colonial architecture of a large number of public buildings, private mansions and bourgeois houses.
In 1988, the bicentenary celebrations of Australia’s colonization gave the city a new lease of life and the enormous success of the World Expo (world exhibition) attracted millions of visitors. Some of the buildings made for the exhibition have been preserved on the south bank of the Brisbane River, in the heart of the downtown area, a stone’s throw from the City.
With its 2 million inhabitants, Brisbane is now a pleasant destination that combines Queensland’s characteristic relaxed lifestyle with the liveliness of urban centres.
Here are the best things to do in Brisbane:
1. QUEENSLAND MUSEUM
Permanent exhibits on the daily lives of Australian soldiers during World War I, the culture and history of the Aboriginal people of the Torres Strait, and the fauna and flora of Australia.
2. QUEENSLAND ART GALLERY & GALLERY OF MODERN ART
A wide variety of works ranging from Aboriginal art to contemporary Australian artists, Asia Pacific works and a Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) entirely dedicated to 20th and 21st century artists. Presence of a Children Art Centre on the first floor of the GOMA with activities.
3. LONE PINE KOALA SANCTUARY
Located 7 miles from the city centre, Lone Pine is the world’s largest koala reserve with 130 koalas. The animals are in semi-freedom in large pens. It is possible to pet koalas and feed kangaroos. Wombats, dingoes, Tasmanian devils and platypus can also be observed.
4. MUSEUM OF BRISBANE
Located in City Hall, the museum tells the story of the city’s past, present and future projects. Thematic temporary exhibitions on an aspect of Brisbane. Sale of handicrafts.
5. QUEENSLAND ZOO
In this zoo, which has more than 230 animals, you will have the opportunity to caress koalas, hold snakes, feed kangaroos and observe wombats, dingoes, quokkas, crocodiles,…
6. CITY BOTANIC GARDENS
The gardens date back to 1855 and are located at the end of the bend formed by the Brisbane River, in the heart of the city. Entering this large old-fashioned tropical park gives the impression of a change of universe. At the very end of the gardens, which offer magnificent views of the Brisbane River, lies the lovely City Garden’s Cafe.
7. QUEENSLAND PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE
It is home to the Queensland Theatre Company, Ballet, Orchestra and Opera. The cultural complex is equipped with two theatres, a concert hall and a giant auditorium with 4,700 seats.
8. BRISBANE BOTANIC GARDENS MOUNT COOT THA
The park was created in 1970 and covers more than 52 hectares with many gardens such as the Exotic Rainforest and the Bamboo Walk. It is possible to discover this park through guided tours. The view is breathtaking: it leads to the islands of Moreton and Stradebroke, as well as the Glass House Mountains in the north and the mountains behind the Gold Coast in the south. The view of Brisbane is superb at the top of Mount Cout-Tha.
9. SIR THOMAS BRISBANE PLANETARIUM
Fun and interactive activities about planets and space, for young and older, with a mini theatre, a skydome & an observatory.
10. SOUTH BANK PARKLANDS
This place was the site of the 1988 World’s Fair and was then redeveloped into a large park. It stretches along the south shore of the Brisbane River and has a Ferris wheel, many cafés and restaurants, a beautiful stroll under the flowers, tropical gardens, a Cambodian building and an artificial lagoon and its white sandy beach (supervised, a children’s area and a swimming area). It is one of the residents’ favourite places to relax, and it is pleasant to walk around the neighbourhood by bike (to rent in the park).
11. RIVERLIFE ADVENTURE CENTRE
Located at the foot of the Kangaroo Point cliff, the centre offers many activities (climbing, abseiling, kayaking). Gourmets will be able to test the “Friday Night Paddle & Prawns”. If you prefer to stay on land, rent a bike to ride the bike paths along the Brisbane River.
12. MOUNT COOT-THA
The view is breathtaking, leading to the islands of Moreton and Stradebroke, the needles of the Glass House Mountains in the north, and to the mountains behind the Gold Coast in the south.
13. CITY HALL
This old Victorian building dating from 1920 has one of the best views of the city: climbing the Clock Tower every 15 minutes between 10:15 and 16:45 (tickets available on the 3rd floor, be careful: pick it up at 10:00 because availability is filling up quickly). This building also houses the Museum of Brisbane, if you want to know more about the history of the city. On the ground floor you will find the Shingle Inn, one of Brisbane’s oldest and most popular cafés.
14. ROMA STREET PARKLAND
A 16 hectares oasis in the heart of the city, making it the largest subtropical urban garden in the world. The park is divided into five different themes including the lake, the spectacular garden and the forest. It also includes a large art collection. Guided tours are available.
15. MACARTHUR MUSEUM BRISBANE
An interesting museum to learn more about Brisbane’s history, daily life and the alliance with the United States during World War II.
16. REGATTA HOTEL
Founded in 1874, the Regatta Hotel is the oldest pub in the City and is an icon for the locals. Come and have a drink in this beautiful, typical Queensland building!
17. EAT STREET NORTHSHORE
A night market like in Asia with shops and food from all over the world. Miss Claude’s crepes are a delight. All this on the riverside with a view of the cruise ships. Concerts, shows and a nice atmosphere.
18. STATE LIBRARY OF QUEENSLAND
A pleasant place to read a book or use the free wifi connection.
19. FORTITUDE VALLEY
Fortitude Valley has long been denigrated, and is now a must if you are going to visit Brisbane. Hosting the city’s Chinatown, Fortitude Valley has grown in size in just a few years, becoming a leading reference in the field of trendy places. As bohemian as it is underground, the district enjoys a special atmosphere of its own: cinemas, shops, musical and artistic stages, bars and restaurants… All of them live side by side in the heart of this “place to be”, very popular at night.
20. STORY BRIDGE
It is THE emblematic bridge of the city of Brisbane. You can walk from the Fortitude Valley area and admire this large steel structure that leads to Kangaroo Point. It is also possible to climb or abseil down the Story Bridge.