Australia’s Sunshine State Capital

Brisbane, affectionately called ‘Brissie’ by the locals, is a place where you can cuddle koalas, gaze up at gleaming skyscrapers and be almost always assured of blue skies and sunshine.

Queensland’s sub-tropical capital blazes with the scarlet blooms of poinciana trees and the purple haze of jacarandas, perfumed by jasmine and frangipani. The Brisbane River courses through the city like a wide brown ribbon, criss-crossed by sleek fast CityCat ferries. In the suburbs, wooden ‘Queenslander’ houses, some still on their original stilts, dot the hills.

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Koalas and culture in Brisbane

First-time visitors should start their introduction to Brisbane on a free Brisbane Greeter tour. These volunteer guides are passionate about their city and you can choose from a range of themed tours (such as public art, sport and Aboriginal heritage) or hone in on a particular neighbourhood.

At the city centre is the imposing heritage-listed 1920s Brisbane City Hall. Free tours run to the top of the clock tower; tickets are allocated at the Museum of Brisbane on Level 3 where the collection includes historic ceramics, contemporary art and a fashion archive donated by Easton Pearson, one of Brisbane’s most successful design companies until it closed in 2016.

Join the locals at South Bank Parklands, a 16-hectare park with canopied walkways and cycle tracks, lawns for lazing and a programme of regular events from film screenings to weekend markets. The blockbuster attractions though are the man-made swimming lagoon and a beach lined with palm trees, and the Wheel of Brisbane which offers skyline vistas from gently revolving glass pods (more alternative views of the city can be found by walking or cycling the pedestrian-only Goodwill Bridge, tackling the Story Bridge Adventure Climb or abseiling the 30-metre high sandstone Kangaroo Point Cliffs).

From the parklands it’s an easy walk to the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art on the South Bank (one institute, split across two adjacent riverside buildings) which showcases work by indigenous artists such as Albert Namatjira, Judith Wright, and Patricia Piccinini. Other attractions nearby include the Queensland Museum, where the displays range from insects to dinosaurs (including the state’s very own Muttaburrasaurus) and more. The cultural offerings continue in the suburb of New Farm where you’ll find the Brisbane Powerhouse, a former 1920s power station etched with years of graffiti that has been re-purposed as a hip venue for exhibitions, theatre, comedy and live art.

About 5km west of the city, Mount Coot-tha (pronounced Coo-tha) looms out of the flat plain and on a clear day, offers views of the city and Moreton Bay from the teahouse at the top. Venture further out still and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is one of the few places in Australia where you can cuddle a koala. Home to more than 130 koalas, it’s also a great place to hand-feed kangaroos and wallabies and get up close with other native wildlife such as emus, snakes, wombats and rowdy Tasmanian devils.

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