BRISBANE

The Jagera and Turrbal Aboriginal tribes lived around the Brisbane river for a considerable time period before European settlers arrived, but the exact length is hard to pin down.

Aboriginal occupation of Australia dates back around 40,000 years, according to most scholars, and there is no evidence to suggest that the Brisbane river and Moreton Bay region, with it's ample supply of food, would have been left uninhabited once discovered.

Surveyor General John Oxley discovered the river in 1823 after a tip off from some ex-convicts who had found their way to the region and had been mixing with the local Aborigines. In 1823 he named it after the Governor of New South Wales at the time, Thomas Brisbane. At the time, the state of Queensland did not exist.

Settlement of Brisbane

Europeans did not settle in the region until the first convict jail was built in Redclliffe in 1824, but even that was quickly moved to the site of the present day Brisbane cental business district in 1825 after officials realised the natural bend in the river provided a pretty good barrier against escape.

Free settlement did not begin in the Brisbane region until 1842 because the Government initially wanted the jail kept isolated from the wider community. The usual assortment of entrepreneurs and ex-convicts quickly followed and a town began to grow around the river. By the late 1880's Brisbane was the main centre of commerce and the capital of the colony of Queensland and it was beginning to develop its own distinctive architecture and culture.

Brisbane Growth

The city grew steadily until World War II when it become the main allied headquarters in the South Pacific and an influx of Australian and American servicemen stretched the population to three quarters of a million. Industry flourished and continued to boom post war and Brisbane firmly staked its claim as the third largest city in the country.

The Commonwealth Games came to Brisbane in 1982, and this resulted in a massive injection of new infrastructure and sporting facilities. Then the eyes of the world turned to Brisbane in 1988 and thousands of visitors flocked to Expo 88. The subsequent birth of South Bank on the Expo site has resulted in a thriving cultural hub and Brisbane is more than matching it with its southern counterparts.

Brisbane has always struggled behind Sydney and Melbourne in the cultural stakes, but the city now has a thriving arts scene and is responsible for some of the best live music and bands in the country.

The Brisbane River has played an important part in the settlement, development and evolution of Brisbane. Flooding of major rivers is almost a given, especially in sub tropical climates. The Brisbane River has flooded numerous times with several serious floods.

Today, Brisbane is an energetic and exciting city jam packed with cultural experiences, adventurous outdoor activities, entertainment and shopping precincts and a laid back vibe you will not see anywhere else. Further, its rapidly growing global reputation as a city of opportunity has been affirmed by its selection as the host of the G20 Leaders Summit in November 2014.

Customs House

The capital of the beautiful Sunshine State, Brisbane or "Brissie" as Aussies affectionately call it, is Australia's third largest city. Winding along the Brisbane River, the CBD blends historic buildings with modern elegance. Although the city's history dates back to 1824, Brisbane rose to the world stage after hosting the Commonwealth Games in 1982 and World Expo in 1988. The mild, subtropical climate together with a relaxed yet sophisticated culture attracted a large numbers of tourists, as well as permanent residents relocating from other Australian states. Today, Brisbane's population is still flourishing as visitors discover its many assets. It is clean, green, and friendly, with an emphasis on innovation and creativity, and you will find plenty of lush parklands and gardens throughout the city.

1. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Cuddling a koala is a quintessential Aussie experience, and Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is an ideal place to tick this off your bucket list. Other Australian animals such as kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, dingoes, snakes, and even crocodiles live in this compact sanctuary nestled on the Brisbane River. Daily encounters and experiences include bird of prey flight demonstrations, platypus feeding, sheep dog and shearing shows, Tasmanian devil keeper talks, and barn animal encounters. A popular way to travel here is the Koala and River Cruise, departing from Brisbane's Cultural Centre Pontoon every morning.

2. The Cultural Precinct

On the banks of the Brisbane River, the heritage listed Cultural Precinct in South Bank is a fantastic, family friendly destination for a day out, with a host of excellent museums, galleries, and performance venues. Award winning architecture adds to the precinct's beautiful setting on the river near picturesque parklands, and you will find plenty of things to do here for the whole family. 

3. Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha

Offering panoramic views of Brisbane, the Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha is a favorite attraction with locals and visitors alike. Not to be confused with the City Botanic Gardens, another serene oasis and prime picnic spot, the Mount Coot-tha gardens are seven kilometers from the city, with diverse themed gardens that take visitors on a journey through 128 acres of horticulture. Highlights include the beautiful Japanese gardens and the largest collection of Australian rainforest trees in the world, as well as sections dedicated to fragrant plants, bamboo, cactus, indigenous plants, and more. Budding botanists will love the Hide 'n' Seek Children's Trail through the rainforest, and you can take advantage of the free guided walks and minibus tours. Best of all, entry to the gardens is also free.

While you are in the area, stop by the Brisbane Lookout Mount Coot-tha, about a four minute drive from the gardens, for a breathtaking panorama over the entire area, with the city skyscrapers sprouting in the distance. Walking tracks weave through the national park, and a restaurant serves up delicious food with superb views.

4. Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

This excellent, free attraction occupies two adjacent but contrasting buildings along the waterfront in the South Bank Cultural Precinct. Together, they display more than 1,700 works of art from around the world, with a special focus on Australia, the Pacific, and Asia. This bold collection is sure to spark animated conversations between art lovers of all stripes. Even the Gallery of Modern Art's award winning, glass encased building makes a statement.

Permanent exhibitions at the Queensland Art Gallery include the International and Asian Collection, with classic and contemporary works; the Indigenous Australian Collection; and the dramatic sculptures gracing the grounds. At the Gallery of Modern Art, exhibits span all mediums, including sculpture, painting, video, film, and photography. Special exhibits mean there is always something new to see here. Do not miss the fascinating contemporary art installations. Also within the complex, Australian Cinémathèque screens stimulating films from around the world, and the interactive exhibits at the Children's Art Centre keep little hands busy.

5. South Bank

The original site of World Expo in 1988, South Bank is filled with parklands, plazas, and promenades, as well as a diverse array of restaurants and exciting special events. This riverside paradise sits directly opposite the CBD, with Streets Beach at its center. A swim in the human made lagoon is a popular choice on a warm Brisbane day. Other popular things to do here include working out at the free fitness classes, visiting the Epicurious Garden, and biking or strolling along the trails.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the state of Queensland, the Wheel of Brisbane opened here in 2008. The giant Ferris wheel is one of the top tourist attractions in South Bank and offers an exciting 10 to 12 minute ride with a bird's eye view over the river and the city.

6. River Cruises

The most scenic and exciting way to travel around Brisbane is by CityCat. Gliding the twists and turns of the Brisbane River seven days a week, the fleet of CityCats and City Ferries with 24 hop-on, hop-off terminals offer a range of different cruises, many with informative narration about the history and sights of the city. From the magnificent University of Queensland to the North Shore, the route takes in redeveloped industrial sites, riverside mansions, bridges, and parklands. This is an excellent way to gain a fresh perspective of Brisbane landmarks such as the Story bridge, Kangaroo Point Cliffs, and even some of the wildlife, like the fruit bats that gather along the mangroves on the riverbank. You can also hop aboard a Miramar Cruise to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. The CityHopper ferry service offers free cruises, stopping at attractions like South Bank 3 and the Maritime Museum.

7. Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Constructed during Australia's Great Depression in the 1930s, the attractive steel Story Bridge is a much loved Brisbane landmark. As one of only three bridge climbs in the world, after Sydney and Auckland, this one also offers something totally unique, the choice to abseil the descent. Catering to people of all fitness levels and those 10 years of age or older, the two hour experience takes you 80 meters above the Brisbane River for uninterrupted views of the city.

8. Moreton Island Day Trip

Easily accessible via a 75 minute ferry ride from downtown Brisbane, Moreton Island is the perfect day trip. As the world's third largest sand island and with more than 98 percent of the island designated as national park, Moreton Island is one of Queensland's best kept secrets. Lush vegetation frames azure waters that lap the pure white sandy beaches. Popular things to do here include diving and snorkeling the many shallow water wrecks; feeding wild dolphins at the Tangalooma Island Resort; quad biking; and water sports, such as whale watching cruises, fishing, and sea kayaking. Sandboarding and 4WD adventures are also popular. While you are here, try to visit Cape Moreton Lighthouse for beautiful ocean views.

9. Customs House

Owned by the University of Queensland, this magnificent 19th century building offers a cultural and educational experience. Although operating as a function center, Customs House includes plenty of public spaces, including an indoor/outdoor restaurant offering unparalleled river and Story Bridge views. The daily high tea here is popular with locals and visitors, but reservations are essential. 

10. Brisbane Powerhouse

Lying on the banks of the Brisbane River between Powerhouse Park and New Farm Park, the Brisbane Powerhouse is undoubtedly one of the coolest venues in town. Formerly an abandoned power station, its graffiti-strewn interior now houses all kinds of different cultural events, with something new going on every day. With industrial machinery still lying around, it is a very unique and atmospheric place to catch a gig, watch a show, or wander around one of its brilliant art exhibitions. In addition to its packed calendar, which also includes stand-up comedy and theater performances, the Brisbane Powerhouse has two excellent restaurants for you to check out, as well as beautiful views out over the river.

11. Museum of Brisbane

Housed in one of Brisbane's premier heritage buildings, this intriguing museum was redeveloped and reopened in 2013. This "small in size, big in stories" museum occupies the top level of City Hall and brings the history of Brisbane and its people to life through a series of state of the art exhibitions covering everything from convict history to Brisbane's floods. Adding to the experience are the sweeping views of the city from the magnificent clock tower.

The Cultural Precinct

Brisbane Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha

Brisbane Lookout Mount Coot-tha

Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA)

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

South Bank

River Cruises

Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Moreton Island

Customs House

City Hall and Museum of Brisbane