Guide to Australia

Your Tour, Travel & Vacation Guide to Adventures in Australia!


Queensland is blessed with a great climate worthy of its popular name -the Sunshine State. Stretching along the coastline are myriad islands, with North and South Stradbroke, Moreton and Fraser Islands in the south, all easily reached from Brisbane. Further north are Great Keppel, Heron, the Whitsunday group, Magnetic Island (off Townsville), Dunk, Hinchinbrook, Lizard and Green Islands, to name just a few. Add to that the eighth wonder of the world, the Great Barrier Reef, which parallels the Queensland coast for almost its entire length, and it's clear why people in their millions make this State their holiday destination. Whether you're an international traveller or an Australian looking for a hostel Brisbane attracts plenty of budget backpackers. International visitors may appear to have the higher profile, and their numbers are steadily increasing, but most of the visitors who come to Queensland are still from within Australia.


Brisbane city by night, looking north along the Brisbane River towards the CBD


The Great Barrier Reef, the greatest single tourist attraction in Queensland, is a wonderland of coral atolls, reefs and islands; indeed it is the world's largest and the most famous coral formation and is so large that it is the only natural structure visible from space. The entire reef is now protected as part of a World Heritage Park. The reef has its problems, though, with natural phenomena such as cyclones, or predators such as the crown of thorns starfish, which at odd times multiply and causes severe damage to sections of reef. Visitors and scientists come from all over the world to study and admire this magnificent and beautiful marine paradise.


Inland Queensland also has much to offer. From Carnarvon Gorge National Park to the Gulf Country and the wilderness of Cape York, and all the historic cities and towns in between, there is an endless variety of sights and sounds to delight the visitor.


Riverfestival fireworks in Brisbane, Australia


The economy of Queensland has always relied on agriculture and mining, but during the course of the twenty-first century tourism will become increasingly important. The ratios between the three industries may vary from time to time, but a sound economic future for the State is assured. The coastal strip, with the bulk of the population and its endless attractions, will continue to claim most of the attention, and the tourists, but the sparsely populated hinterland, for the foreseeable future, will provide the basis of the State's substantial and growing mining and agriculture economy.


 Brisbane has a much more relaxed attitude and a far more casual atmosphere than its southern cousins. Maybe the city has retained a 'little bit of country'. With all its dramatic growth, both skywards and outwards, the people of Brisbane get things done without having to resort to a hectic pace. Perhaps it is a by-product of the superb climate.


Fireworks over the South Bank Parklands man-made beach in Brisbane, Australia


Brisbane River was named by John Oxley after Thomas Brisbane, the governor of New South Wales, in 1823. In about 1824, the city started life -as a penal colony. At one time it was the largest penal colony on the Australian mainland, with over 1000 convicts. At that time free settlers were not allowed to come within 80 km (50 miles) of the settlement. But slowly the free settlers moved in, and in 1839 the penal settlement closed. Queensland became a separate colony in 1859, with Brisbane as its capital.


Brisbane's character is molded by the river around which it is built, and though the skyline has changed greatly since the 1960s, when the tallest building was the Town Hall, at 91 m (299 feet) above street level, the central business district has remained mainly within the loop of the river. Seven bridges cross the Brisbane River -the newest and longest is the Gateway; the best known and the prettiest is the Story Bridge, designed by Dr John Bradfield, the man who designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.


Skyline of the Brisbane CBD including the Story Bridge in Brisbane, Australia


The river is also a busy thoroughfare. Ferries carry passengers from bank to bank while motorised gondolas and large coal ferries go about their business. Paddle-steamers and cruise boats are a great way to see the river, day and night. Visitors have an unrestricted view of the city while they float past the Cultural Centre, the Maritime Museum, the University of Queensland, the Botanic Gardens and Newstead House. This low-set stately house in Newstead Park was built in 1846, and is the oldest surviving homestead in the city. Much of the administration of the growing colony of Queensland was carried out from this house. Walter Hill, the Colonial Botanist, laid the foundations for the gardens and was instrumental in introducing the distinctive and colourful jacaranda and poinciana trees to the city.


Brisbane is an outdoor city -its average minimum and maximum temperatures are 15 degrees C and 25 degrees C. On weekends the city comes alive with people, at the botanic gardens, the riverside markets and at South Bank Parklands on the river overlooking the city. South Bank has restaurants and cafe's, buskers and wandering performers, a beach and a swimming lagoon, the Wildlife Sanctuary, and barbecue and picnic areas. Next door is the Queensland Cultural Centre, which incorporates the Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Performing Arts Complex. Brisbane also has restaurants offering cuisines from all around the world. The Queen Street Mall has outdoor cafe's and eating places and a relaxed atmosphere. For late night entertainment, there are plenty of nightclubs and bars.


Brisbane is also fascinating for history lovers with sandstone dominant in many of Brisbane's more imposing buildings. The National Bank has tall Corinthian columns and pilasters of limestone with an ornate interior bathed in natural light from the leadlight dome, an extravagant example of the Victorian period. The Treasury Building is considered the finest example of Italian Renaissance architecture in the Southern Hemisphere. The building was reopened in 1995 as the Treasury Casino, with the exterior left untouched. The latest addition to Brisbane's list of impressive sandstone buildings is the University of Queensland, with its central core of sandstone buildings set around a cloistered court.


Brisbane central business district with New Farm Park in the foreground


The Observatory in Wickham Terrace, just north of the city centre, was built by convict labour in 1828 as a windmill. It failed dismally at this, and was used instead as a convict-powered treadmill to grind grain. When free settlers took over Brisbane, the convicts were sent to one of Moreton Bay's most beautiful islands, St Helena. This prison existed from 1867 to 1932 and was built, and dismantled, by its residents. There are day trips by launch to tour the ruins.


Brisbane is also the heart of a dynamic and exciting tourist region. North of the city are the Glasshouse Mountains and the subtropical valleys of the Caboolture Shire, along with the beaches of Bribie Island and the Sunshine Coast. Fraser Island is about two hours' drive from Brisbane. The ever-popular Gold Coast, with its theme parks, surfing and swimming beaches, is barely an hour away, and can now can be reached by electric train to Nerang and Robina. Moreton Bay and the islands of the Bay are a stone's throw away, and there are wineries at nearby Mount Tamborine and Mount Cotton.


At the Australian Woolshed there are sheep-shearing demonstrations, cows to be milked and baby lambs to be bottle-fed. Visit Lone Pine Sanctuary to cuddle some of Australia's unique animals and birds. The Alma Park Zoo has an abundance of native animals plus some non-natives. The Brisbane Forest Park is a 26,500 ha (65,482 acres) area of natural bushland, with camping and picnic areas, yet it is only about 6 km (3.7 miles) from the city centre, making bushland easily accessible for city folk.


The choices in accommodation range from five-star luxury hotels to the more economical hotels, hostels and caravan parks. The CBD has excellent choices, many with views of the river and the city. The inner western suburbs towards the airport have a great range of hotels, motels and holiday apartments, which are generally at lower rates than those right in the city centre.


The major festival held each September in Brisbane is what used to be called the Warana Festival but is now called the Brisbane Festival. This is a significant arts festival with plays, shows and exhibitions mainly centred around the Performing Arts Complex and its three superb theatres at the Queensland Cultural Centre down on the river bank. The Springhill Festival is generally held around the middle of September and is a gathering of arts and crafts in a very relaxed market-style setting.