My background of working for many years as a holiday planner inevitably has an influence on my holidays these days. When someone was recently planning a trip to Queensland, it was only natural to suggest destinations such as the tropical rainforests near Cairns and the pristine waters of the Whitsundays’ coast. Having delved a little deeper into my research, I realised that the state’s capital demanded inclusion into the itinerary.
Brisbane may have earned a reputation as something of a Gen Y urban playground, but while there is a growing number of flagship boutiques and Melbourne-inspired laneways, there is more to it than inner city bravado. Basing the trip from CBD, close to the lush botanical gardens, the first morning of the plan takes you to Cleveland, gateway to North Stradbroke Island. ‘Minjerribah’ to its indigenous Quandamooka people and ‘Straddie’ to other locals, the island is a favourite getaway for many city dwellers wishing to explore the native wildlife.
Having arrived by ferry at the main port of Dunwich, one heads along Nazi Road to the Blue Lake area, in the Naree Budjong Djara (‘My Mother Earth’) National Park, the base for two walking tracks, Neembeeba and Karboora. Given the often-high temperatures, it’s usually best to opt for the easier 5km return trip through the banksias and eucalypts of the Karboora trail. The area is home to birds such as honeyeaters and lorikeets as well as many freshwater fish and the golden wallaby. Venturing north by car to the popular Point Lookout, you can cast your eye out towards the migrating humpbacks and playful dolphins, all the while soaking up the stunning coastal views.
Returning at dusk you can still catch a bus up to the renowned Caxton Street precinct for a well-earned cocktail at the kitsch Statler & Waldorf. Across the road is the newly-established Brewski, which specialises in craft beer and gourmet pizza. While the next day’s plans demand a sensible bedtime, you may find it hard to prise yourself away from the lively atmosphere of the strip.
Whilst the well-known and nearby Mt Cootha provides hikers and cyclists with rewarding city views for the physical challenges they present, you can also take an early morning drive north towards the volcanic peaks of the Glass House Mountains NP. If you feel guilty about taking the easy option, try taking a hike up Mt Tibrogargan’s summit route, at the end of which you will find yourself a satisfying 364m above sea level. For the less experienced, the Tibrogargan or Trachyte walking circuits would be a safer option. After that, there’s time for a quick lunch before setting off to Mt Beerwah, the highest of the four peaks in the range and home to many birds including peregrine falcons, kookaburras and cockatoos as well as koalas, goannas, echidnas and well-camouflaged kangaroos.
If you have an interest in such things, the rapidly growing alternative and vegan culture of the West End, one of Brisbane’s most multiciltural of suburbs should be your next stop. Enjoy the raucous live music of the Lock ‘N Load Bistro. Enter the narrow, bustling bar that possesses a lush beer garden, an unusual rarity in Brisbane. Among the vegan offerings on the menu are the spiced sweet potato falafels with quinoa salad, a wholesome and delicious choice. If you’re in the party mood, head on over to ‘the valley’, where locals go to party into the wee hours. More live music is usually on offer at the New Orleans-themed Papa Jacks, where the attentive staff will whip up a cocktail from scratch based on your tastes and budget (as long as it stretches over $15, that is).
After partying at the Family nightclub, it may be time to call it an evening (a rather late evening, all the same) and retire to reflect on the two extremes of this amazing and unique city. From its invigorating natural beauty to a hip and happening urban scene, Brisbane caters for many and disappoints few.
Mary Ann Keeling is a travel planner from Brisbane. She is still in love with her home town and always in the mood to talk about life in the city. In her free time she likes to drive her bike through the Brisbane suburbs.