As a seasoned Sydneysider I have always thought of Brisbane as a sleepy over-sized country town, but since the devastating floods of 2010, Queensland’s ‘New World City’ has undergone a dramatic face-lift, and its trendy South Bank has now become one of Australia’s top tourist hot-spots.
All Aboard the Airtrain!
Upon arriving at Brisbane Airport, I was advised that the best way to travel into South Bank was via the Airtrain – a speedy and sophisticated mode of transport that glides along effortlessly and smoothly – as its name suggests. This sleek and science-fiction style of train is the most efficient form of transport from the airport to Brisbane City, and the Gold Coast. The ticket options range from the Gocard or a Terminal Transfer, which is $32.00 for an Adult return or for those who wish to plan ahead – $27:20 – if you pay seven days in advance. So with my luggage in tow and my return ticket safely ensconced in my purse, I headed off towards my choice of accommodation – the Rydges South Bank.
There is a wide range of accommodation located in South Bank that caters for all tastes and budgets like the Banana Benders Backpackers (aptly named for Queensland as the Banana state), to modestly priced apartments. My choice was the 4½ star hotel Rydges South Bank due to its close proximity to the Brisbane Convention Centre (as I was attending a graduation ceremony). Rydges South Bank (currently undergoing renovations until 18 February, 2016) is a sophisticated and elegant hotel, which is located right in the heart of South Bank and is a short walk to South Brisbane Train Station, the Queensland Museum, the Gallery of Modern Art, Botanical Gardens, and restaurant central – Grey Street.
The Deluxe River View room did not disappoint as the room was bright, airy and immaculate, and the queen size bed was a delight to sleep on (which is a must for any traveler). At night I had a first class view of The Story Bridge, which a night it was all aglow with rainbow lights and cast magical reflections on the Brisbane River.
The hotel’s concierge was happy to help with any information regarding travel bookings or tourist attractions such as: Bribie Island or North Stradbroke Island.
The Brisbane Explorer Bus
Brisbane offers its visitors many different ways to tour the city. But the most noticeable mode of tourist transport is the ‘hop on hop off’ bright red double-decker Brisbane Explorer Bus – the Official Sightseeing Tour of Brisbane. As well as stopping at 15 different locations located around Brisbane City and South Bank, the Explorer Bus is a great way for international travelers to learn about and discover Brisbane as it provides a detailed commentary in English and eight different languages. If you prefer to go it alone then my tip for exploring South Bank is to find your most comfortable pair of walking shoes and start pounding the pavement.
Art and Culture
South Bank is a bustling hive of activity for all things relating to Art and Culture. You can choose to be enthralled by the latest theatrical theatrical extravaganza at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), view ancient antiquities such as the Medieval Power: Symbols & Splendour exhibition at the Queensland Museum, or visit art exhibits at The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art at the Queensland Art Gallery.
Bikes and Kayaks for Hire.
As well as strolling along the Riverwalk concourse, eco-friendly tourists can discover the beautiful Botanical Gardens and the tranquil Rainforest Walk. Or why not cruise the waterways via the popular Citycat or River Tours. If the kids are getting bored, there are bikes and kayaks for hire or the water-play park, Aquativity.
Attractions and Activities
Whether you are a nature-lover or an adrenalin junkie, South Bank has got you covered. If it is adventure you crave, try abseiling down the 200 million year old cliffs at Kangaroo Point, or for the not so brave, you can choose to stay on solid ground and watch those above who dare to defy gravity. The Story Bridge Climb will get your adrenalin pumping and you be rewarded with million dollar views of Brisbane City and its majestic waterways.
A walk through South Bank’s cosmopolitan Grey Street and riverside cafes will satisfy the fussiest food critic. There are a plethora of bars, cafes and restaurants on offer and the choices span the globe like Asian Fusion, Greek, Modern Australian, Russian and Creole inspired ‘Soul Food’. My choice for the night was Ahmet’s Turkish restaurant, which offers a authentic Turkish experience, complete with mouth watering cuisine like Falafel balls, spicy meat platters, traditional music, and tables decorated with bright and colourful tablecloths that looked like exotic Turkish carpets. I felt like I had been magically transported into the heart of the bustling city of Istanbul.
Mount Coot-tha Lookout and The Wheel of Brisbane.
For those who want to take it easy and views the sights of the city from a safe vantage point, Mount Coot-tha Lookout offers breathtaking views of Brisbane City and beyond to Moreton Bay. The Wheel of Brisbane is a 60 metre high Ferris wheel that could rival The London Eye and provides a bird’s eye view of the city, and at night it is lit up like a magic fairy wheel.
South Bank markets.
The Collective Markets offers a range of arts, crafts, hand-made jewellery, pottery and designer clothing from local artisans. The markets are open on 9 pm on Saturdays and Sundays until 4 pm and they are a great place to snap a unique gift or a memento of your visit to South Bank.
After a long but satisfying day of exploring South Bank you can quench your thirst at the multitude of bars and pubs such as the South Bank Beer Garden which is located in the Parklands and has views of Streets Beach – a man-made swimming beach. Sit back and relax with a Manhattan at The French Martini or enjoy a glass of Shiraz while listening to the smooth sounds of New Orleans style Jazz at the Bourbon Street Bar.
As Brisbane’s top cultural destination, South Bank has certainly won a top spot on my tourist travel bucket list and I guarantee that you will be come a fan too.