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The capital of the Australian state of Queensland is a fast-growing city with almost 2 million inhabitants. However, Brisbane still has a relaxed feel to it, which is possibly due to its subtropical climate.
The city center is situated inside a bend of the Brisbane River. Here you'll find the Brisbane City Hall, Australia's most expensive building until the Sydney Opera House was built. The neo-classical building has a clock tower with an antique elevator. The tower offers splendid views of the city. The City Hall is not only about the clock though. It also houses the Museum of Brisbane History. Here you can see how Brisbane developed from a prison for the worst criminals during colonial times into the city that it is today. You can also find history in Newstead House, Brisbane's oldest house (dating back to 1846) which is decorated in Victorian style. It is situated in a park on the Brisbane River.
The CityCat is a great way to visit and get to Brisbane's attractions. It is a catamaran which sails up and down the Brisbane River and has various mooring places along the river.
On Ann Street you'll find St John's Cathedral, a neo-Gothic Anglican church. The first stone was already laid in 1901, but construction only really began in 1906 and was only completed over a hundred years later. Yes, that's right, the cathedral was only totally completed in 2009. It's an impressive church. You should pay particular attention to the beautiful decorations of the organ.
The 1988 World Exhibition helped putting Brisbane on the (tourist) map. The area where the World Expo was held is nowadays a popular park, South Bank Parklands. Here you can take a stroll along the river and have something to eat or drink in one of the restaurants or on one of the terraces. The park also houses an antiques and bric-a-brac fair. In addition, it forms the cultural heart of the city. Not only are festivals organized here on a regular basis, but this is also where you will find most of Brisbane's museums. First of all, the Queensland Museum which displays for example antique cars and airplanes. Next to this museum is the Queensland Art Gallery which is connected with the Gallery of Modern Art. On the South Bank you will find the Maritime Museum as well as the Sciencentre, a really fun, interactive science and technology museum. Children will love it here.
The Story Bridge is the city's landmark. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, it was an unemployment relief project to connect Fortitude Valley with Kangaroo Point. Nowadays it's a tourist attraction and climbing the bridge is extremely popular. In summer months, the Story Bridge features prominently during the River Festival.
On Alice Street, right next to the river, lie the City Botanic Gardens. They are nice to spend a relaxed afternoon. The Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha, about 7 kilometers outside the city, however, are really spectacular. Here you will find typical Australian plants and flowers, including impressive cactuses. There is also a section with trees and plants from the rainforest and another part fully dedicated to herbs. The Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium can also be found on the grounds of the botanical gardens.
Southwest of Brisbane (Fig Tree Pocket) lies one of the city's main attractions: Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. Yes indeed, this is where you can see koala bears, but also kangaroos, snakes, many types of birds and other animals. They also provide sheep shearing demonstrations on a regular basis.
At only an hour's drive from Brisbane you have the feeling you are in the heart of the jungle, in the Brisbane Forest Park. Here you also have beautiful views of Moreton Bay, which is littered with islets. In Moreton Bay you can find dolphins, sharks and turtles. It is a popular destination for just one or a few days. You may relax on one of the beaches or take a boat trip to see the dolphins or to go fishing.
You can also find beaches on other locations along the coast near Brisbane. Popular beaches include the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
Being Australia's third city, Brisbane is not exactly quiet, but if you are used to driving in a large city, you will have no problem finding your way around. Parking fees in Brisbane (both on the street and in parking garages) are high. Also note that parking is prohibited in the Central Business District after 4 p.m.
Brisbane Airport is located 20 kilometers northeast of the city and easy to reach in your rental car. Destinations such as City, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are clearly signposted when leaving the airport. It takes about half an hour to drive from the center of Brisbane to the airport.