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Brisbane Cruises

About Brisbane, Australia

Rising from Moreton Bay, Brisbane spreads over picturesque hills and sits on its namesake river. As the capital of Queensland and one of Australia’s oldest cities, its roots can be traced to the indigenous Turrbal and Jagera people. Once European settlers arrived in the early 1800s, Brisbane became a penal colony. The Old Windmill in Wickham Park, built by convicts in 1828, stands today as a reminder of the city’s past. Brisbane also famously served as one of Douglas MacArthur’s Pacific headquarters during World War II.

Brisbane is one of Australia’s most vibrant and laid-back towns, with a thriving art scene, friendly locals, distinct neighborhoods, a buzzing café culture and outdoor adventure. This “big country town” turned “new world city” is the gateway to the famed Gold Coast and other Queensland destinations. Most attractions lie in the city center, but the outer neighborhoods are where Brisbane’s charm really shines.

Brisbane Lifestyle and Culture

Among its riverside skyscrapers, the city is host to some decidedly less dramatic architecture: the quaint Queenslander homes, characterized by their terraces and raised living spaces. These picturesque houses are just a fraction of Brisbane’s rich arts and design scene, however. Galleries, museums and beloved musical venues make the city one of Australia’s most vibrant and active cultural centers.

Many of Brisbane’s neighborhoods have a distinct style. Beyond the business and historic sites of the central business district, New Farm, with its trendy restaurants and upscale shopping, is popular with locals; the West End attracts a bohemian crowd; and Paddington is filled with local design boutiques. Great views of the city can be had via ferry or steamboat up the Brisbane River.

Brisbanites are big rugby fans, and the Brisbane Broncos are their team. Cricket, Australian football and soccer are also popular. The rural set gathers for Ekka, the annual agriculture show held at the Brisbane Showgrounds every August, and the Brisbane Festival is celebrated each September, a gala of international art, theater, music, dance, opera and more.

Brisbane Sights and Landmarks

The city’s oldest surviving building is the Old Windmill, built during the penal colony years. It served as punishment for convicts, who were tasked with manually grinding the grain inside because the windmill’s sails were too heavy for the wind to turn. Today it stands without sails and more closely resembles a lighthouse.

City Hall, with its enormous Corinthian columns and dramatic clock tower, presides over King George Square. It also houses the Brisbane Museum, showcasing interactive exhibits about the city’s past and present. The sprawling Queensland Cultural Center gathers together some of the city’s finest venues: the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Queensland Art Gallery, Queensland Museum & Sciencenter, State Library of Queensland, Queensland Performing Arts Center and several restaurants, cafés and beautifully landscaped public spaces. For more contemporary art, visit the Brisbane Powerhouse, located in a restored power station in trendy New Farm.

Brisbane Entertainment and Activities

To get a feel for the burgeoning arts and café scene in Brisbane, stroll one of its lanes (Burnett Lane, Gresham Lane, Spencer Lane and Winn Lane among them). Coffeehouses, wine bars, hip eateries and bookshops line these narrow thoroughfares. The neighborhood of Fortitude Valley is another artsy area for exploring cutting-edge galleries.

South Bank Parklands is a sprawling urban park where garden sculptures, restaurants, barbecue areas, street performers, a Ferris wheel and even an artificial swimming beach provide hours of entertainment and relaxation. Don’t miss the Nepal Peace Pagoda here, a remnant from the 1988 World Expo.

Established in 1927, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary. Here, visitors can get up close and personal with wombats, platypuses, kangaroos and emus … although most come to see some of the 100 or so koalas.

Brisbane Restaurants and Shopping

Owing to year-round outdoor weather, you’ll find abundant patio dining in Brisbane. Here, food and drink are very important, with many restaurants focusing on locally sourced ingredients and fresh produce. Moreton Bay prawns are particularly coveted. Modern Australian, pan-Asian and Mediterranean cuisines abound, but inventive international options are also offered. Coffee culture is big in Brisbane, with many cafés to enjoy.

The fine restaurant known as e’cco bistro, with its famous chef and several awards, has become a city landmark. Local, seasonal and simple is what you’ll find at this Mediterranean-inspired establishment, located inside an elegantly designed converted tea warehouse. For a more casual ambiance, try the Gunshop Café in South Bank. With exposed brick walls, a relaxing patio and a menu that changes daily, it’s perfect for a leisurely lunch. For coffee, beer or wine, try Brew; Dandelion & Driftwood is another coffee shop in a brighter, more refined setting.