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Watch out Sydney, move aside Melbourne writes Annabel Ausmus, Brisbane has dusted off its country town image to reveal a sophisticated city with that trademark ‘too easy’ Queensland charm.
What sets Brisbane apart from its interstate rivals is the indisputable sense of ‘holiday’ that oozes from the physical and emotional warmth of the sunshine state. From sightseeing to fine dining, island adventures to eclectic markets, there’s a little piece of holiday paradise around every corner of easy, breezy ‘Brissy’.
If retail therapy is your calling, step this way. Brisbane’s inner city and quintessential Queensland suburbs offer a range of shopping styles for every budget. An abundance of markets can be found, from weekend riverside stalls at Eagle Street Pier in the city’s financial district to the tourist epicentre at South Bank, set around the tropical lagoon and surrounded by landscaped parklands and the hum of live music. For a local taste, head to Paddington for the antiques market and grab a coffee at the quaint cafés, or hit up Fortitude Valley for the modern and bustling James Street Markets and China Town’s traditional Sunday stalls. If budget is no obstacle, set your sights on the historic Brisbane Arcade in Queen Street Mall or the newly built Queen’s Plaza for designer labels and urban chic. The Emporium Centre in Fortitude Valley offers a bounty of boutique labels and the cool Emporium Hotel is perfect for a glam cocktail to finish off a day of self-indulgence.
Thanks to Brisbane’s incredible year round climate life is all about outdoor living, and alfresco dining tops the menu. Start your day with a sensational cooked breakfast at Bulimba’s Oxford Street, a historical suburb on the Brisbane River famous for its continental style cafés dotted between novelty shops and weatherboard churches. Just downstream you’ll find New Farm Park, an elegant and shady park situated on the banks of the river, popular with locals for Sunday barbeques and live music at the bandstand. The park is home to the impressively restored Brisbane Powerhouse and flanked by restored Woolsheds turned trendy apartments, so grab yourself a latte and take in one of the art exhibitions or live performances. The best cheap eat in town can be found at Merthyr Bowls Club just 300m from New Farm Park. Panoramic views, an incredible bite to eat and bare-foot bowls for $5 a game.
With water breathing life through the heart of Brisbane you’re never far from an opportunity for adventure. The Brisbane River can be discovered by kayak, cruise, bicycle and blades with purpose built riverside walkways running the length of the city. You can even abseil or rock climb the impressive Kangaroo Point cliffs which overlooking the river and city skyline or climb the iconic Story Bridge to enjoy panoramic views of Moreton Bay’s idyllic islands, the Glass House Mountains to the north and Gold Coast to the south.
Brisbane really comes to life after dark with a thriving nightlife scene seven days a week. Foods of the world can be found at the many street side dining venues and indie bars at West End, live music and free salsa dancing on Friday nights at South Bank, bars and nightclubs aplenty for the young and restless in Fortitude Valley, or rub shoulders with the city slickers in award winning fine dining restaurants and bars at Eagle Street Pier. The many inner city suburbs each offer a distinctive character and charm.
If time is on your side, it’s well worth venturing a little further to discover some of the treasures on Brisbane’s doorstep. Hire a car and discover the breathtaking natural wonders of the Sunshine Coast hinterland including the Glass House Mountains and quaint country villages at Montville and Maleny. Wineries and fruit farms come to life at Stanthorpe, perfect for a picnic and a taste of the Queensland farming community. But best of all are the hidden treasures of Moreton Bay; Stradbroke and Moreton Islands. Take a day trip or stay overnight and discover these picture perfect island’s just 30 minutes by ferry from the mainland.
Come for a weekend or come for a week (or why not just come here for good) and you’ll be captivated by the warmth and easy going nature of the city’s happy inhabitants and its hidden treasures.