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Australia’s third-largest city boasts sandy shores nearby green mountains and plenty of activities in both to keep natives, expats and tourists alike entertained and delighted. Writer Erin Walton gives us an overview.
Text by: Erin Walton
Country: Australia

fter decades of feeling like an oversized country town, Brisbane, Australia’s third-largest city, has come into his own. The capital of the state of Queensland, river-lined “Brissie” is now a popular destination for expats and tourists who come to experience a city where excursions—whether cultural, culinary, outdoor or otherwise—are close by.

Centre-city culture

Brisbane’s downtown has a relaxed vibe, good for taking in a show or going for a walk in the cultural precinct at South Bank. In this area across the river from the central business district are art galleries and venues which host exhibitions, theatre, dance, festivals, and other arts and performance events year-round. The Queensland Performing Arts Complex houses small and large touring shows, and the neighbouring Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art—with river views to get lost in—have fans of fine and modern art covered. Performance-lovers wanting to see more independent shows can head into the city itself to the intimate Metro Arts Building, while edgy multi-arts, music and comic events are at the Brisbane Powerhouse.

Festivals in the capital city

Brisbane is a festival-lover’s dream, as a procession of events unfolds throughout the year. For Ben Logan, a recent arrival to Brisbane, this is one of the best things about his chosen city. “The variety of festivals is pretty awesome,” he says. “It makes choosing what to do on the weekend pretty difficult. Personally, I love anything food-related and luckily, the foodie scene here is going strong.” Film lovers wanting to catch Australian and international film screenings find their joy at the Brisbane International Film Festival. Food-filled weekends are served up in abundance at the much-loved Paniyiri Greek Festival and the Caxton Street Seafood and Wine Festival. Performing arts in all their forms shine at September’s three-week long Brisbane Festival, while Fortitude Valley —an iconic inner-city neighbourhood— celebrates its identity at the colourful Valley Fiesta. Further afield in Woodford, the enormous Woodford Folk Festival unfolds each December, attracting people from all over the country to take part in its diverse program of cultural, artistic, musical, and children’s activities.

Food, wine, and simple living in the Granite Belt

Three hours outside of Brisbane, the air changes and you enter a part of Queensland unlike the rest of the state. This is the Granite Belt, high up on the Great Dividing Range, where the air 1,000 metres above sea level provides a climate atypical of Queensland. The area is far more suitable to harvesting fruit—the region produces most of the state’s apples—than surfing or crocodile-spotting. It has even been known to snow.

Europeans settled this green pocket in the early to mid-20th Century, bringing with them their culture and traditions, particularly those related to food. Italian, German, Dutch and Spanish settlers arrived and brought their bread, coffee, and pastry -making skills, which are now continued by their descendants or like-minded Australian counterparts.

Visitors soak up this foodie culture like the region’s green grass does the rain. Local winemakers, craft brewers, cheese-makers, baristas and pastry chefs serve up finger-licking treats in restaurants, vineyards and boutique cafés. You can also participate directly in the kitchen, with cooking classes and pick -your-own fresh outings available.

Aboriginal culture in Queensland

Australian indigenous culture is extremely rich and varied, and in Queensland some of the best places to experience it for yourself are in the far North’s rainforests and beaches. In and around Brisbane, however, options do exist.

Stradbroke Island is a much-loved camping and family holiday spot not far from Brisbane, coloured by beaches, sand dunes, inlets and coves. The Quandamooka people call it home, and travellers are able to visit the island with the help of a local indigenous guide.

Back in Brisbane, aboriginal art trails have been created in natural settings in the greater metropolis. The Mount Coot-tha Trail features aboriginal art in a natural landscape, while the trail at Boondall Wetlands uses sculpture to tell of how the indigenous clans worked with the region’s flora and fauna. At the Mount Coot-tha Botanical Gardens, the aboriginal plant trail has been created to engage visitors with the plants traditionally used as food, medicine and to create weapons. Not far from Brisbane, en route to the Sunshine Coast, the annual six-day Dreaming Festival celebrates aboriginal culture.

Culture on the coast

Queensland is often referred to as “The Sunshine State”, and Brisbane is lucky to be located very close to excellent beaches both north and south of the city: the Sunshine Coast, to the north, and the Gold Coast, to the south. Both live up to their names. “You find the lot there,” says Ben. “From surfers to beach-lovers, holidaying families, couples, travellers and anyone in-between!”

The Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast’s more than 100 kilometres of coastline are home to many of the country’s most famous beaches and holiday spots and to a string of quaint towns in the green hills of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Here, just like in the Granite Belt, vibrant cottage industries thrive. In Maleny and Montville, sweet treats, coffee spots, handicrafts, boutiques and fresh fruit abound, and there’s a healthy culture of food and wine. “But don’t forget the most beautiful side of the Hinterland,” reminds Ben. “It’s really worth getting outdoors: There are heaps of rainforests, walking trails, waterfalls, and camping spots to try out.” Kondalilla Falls, the Glasshouse Mountains, and Mary Cairncross are all on Ben’s list of worthy outdoorsy activities tucked in the hinterland’s rolling hills.

The Gold Coast

On the Gold Coast, to the south of Brisbane, beach culture is the currency. Here, on world-renowned surfers’ beaches, a healthy surf and water sports culture not only survives, but thrives. Beach-goers eat up surf, stand-up paddle-board, kayak, jet ski and body-board classes, and a special niche, surfboard shaping, continues to grow. Shapers (surfboard makers) conduct workshops to share the shaping culture and techniques with the surf community, allowing participants to create a surfboard that’s a perfect fit.

Culture in and around Queensland’s Brisbane is varied and not only found in galleries and museums. To try it for yourself, head to the beach, seek it out in neighbouring towns or taste it in a flavourful dish or glass of wine. South-East Queensland’s culture lives and breathes in the fresh produce, sea, diverse cuisine, surf, folk, indigenous, music, and multi-arts in and around Brisbane. Come and try it for yourself!


Brisbane, the gem in Queensland's crown

Brisbane is Australia's third largest city and the capital of the state of Queensland. It is known as "Brissie" by the locals and is now a popular destination for expats and tourists who wish to experience cultural, culinary, or outdoor excursions.

Brisbane's downtown has a relaxed vibe. You can go see a show or go for a walk in the cultural precinct at South Bank. This area has many art galleries and venues which host exhibitions, theatre, dance, festivals, and other art performances throughout the year.

Brisbane is also home to many festivals. If you like films, you can go to the Brisbane International Film Festival. If you are a foodie, you can take in the Paniyiri Greek Festival or the Caxton Street Seafood and Wine Festival. If you are a fan of performing arts, you should go to the Brisbane Festival or visit Fortitude Valley for the colourful Valley Fiesta.

There are also many things to see and do near Brisbane. You can enjoy some delicious treats in the Granite Belt from local winemakers, craft brewers, cheese-makers, baristas and pastry chefs. You can go camping on Stradbroke Island and learn about indigenous culture. There are many aboriginal art trails around Brisbane. In the Sunshine Coast there are plenty of outdoorsy activities and vibrant cottage industries. And on the Gold Coast you can enjoy all sorts of water sports, such as surfing and kayaking.

Brisbane and its surroundings have something for everyone. No matter what you like to do, you are sure to find something to please you in Brisbane!



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Brisbane, the gem in Queensland’s crown



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