If Australia’s three largest cities were Destiny’s Child, Brisbane would be Michelle. Most travelers flock to Sydney (Beyoncé) and then migrate south to Melbourne (Kelly).
For years the capital of Queensland was the big smoke that everyone forgets they forgot.
But all that is changing. Lastly, the main stage belongs to “Brisvegas” – a sarcastic sobriety that comes from the fact that Brisbane has long been considered the opposite of Sin City.
Last month, after a two-year hiatus, Qantas resumed its direct service from LAX following Australia’s hard-line, multi-year closure.
And not only that: Next year, “Brissie” (the most nicknamed PC for the city of 2.2 million) will host the FIFA Women’s World Cup. In 2032 it will host the Summer Olympic Games.
Somehow, the settlement of origin, which began as a British penal colony, becomes a world-class destination.
Traditionally, the land where modern-day Brisbane crosses the Brisbane River (also known as the “brown snake”) was home to the Turrbal and Jagera peoples.
Therefore, every visit should start with a stop at the Birrunga’s indigenous and functional gallery.
Here, boomerangs are as good as diggers.
Then follow in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth and embrace a koala at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It is the first and largest koala sanctuary in the world (and one of the few that allow you to embrace strange creatures). Are you afraid of bears (even though koalas are actually just marsupials)? Feed by hand the mob of the sanctuary of “roos and emus”.
Finish the night with a thrilling – literally – performance at the Brisbane Underground Opera.
The company was founded by a miner entrepreneur inspired by his experience with underground acoustics.
Forget a fancy opera. The performances take place under the city streets in Brisbane’s old water tank.
If the heights excite you, climb the Stairmaster landmark in Brisbane.
The Sydney Harbor Bridge may appear in “Mission: Impossible II”, but Story Bridge claims to be the only downhill in the world. If the 1,088 step climb and the downhill sound very anti-climatic, add the escape room item and sign up for Mission: SkyBeam. As you climb the bridge, your mission is to help the Australian Intelligence Service find an EMP that will wreak havoc. No pressure.
For more 360-degree views of the subtropical city, board an air-conditioned gondola on the Channel 7 Wheel of Brisbane, across the river from the Central Business District (CBD).
Between its historic galleries and the Queen Street Mall – the former site of the Brisbane Convicts’ Barracks and the bloody whipping triangle – the CBD has more than 1,000 stores. To truly enjoy the glory of the earth, book a free tour with the Brisbane Greeters. The excursions are led by proud locals who are willing to reveal their favorite places at the risk of being ruined by tourists.
That said, Spice Central Kitchen and Bar, ranked TripAdvisor No. 1 of 4,055 restaurants in Brisbane, is no secret. Menu items not found elsewhere include Mooloolaba tiger prawns, Australian pork leg spiced with ink and gingerbread ice cream.
Take a look at the Lodge to try out the typical bugs of Morethon Bay in Brisbane – basically flat-headed lobsters. It opened this month and features a 250-bottle wine list curated by Cameron Douglas, New Zealand’s only major somm.
The controversial Karen’s Diner – where the customer is always wrong – is another new addition to the rising Brisbane gastronomic scene. This offensive, interactive dining experience promises the worst service in the world. Order the “Basic Karen” burger or Karen’s answer to Macca (McDonald’s) Big Mac: “I Want to See the Manager”. If your name is Karen and you have ID to prove it, use it to win a free drink.
For the newest five-star accommodation in Brisbane, look no further than Crystalbrook Vincent (from $ 176). The walls of this six-story hotel are covered with more than 500 prints by Vincent Fantauzzo, the Australian artist famous for his portraits of the late great Australian Heath Ledger.
For the best Brissie rooftop properties, head to Hotel X (from $ 184). Ever since it opened in December, the rooftop pool and Mediterranean bar, Iris, has been the place where locals come to undress their smugglers and bathers for a sunny (afternoon) sun, fun and cold (beer) .
In 2023, the new development of Brisbane Queen’s Wharf will welcome five new luxury hotels, including a Ritz-Carlton and the city’s first six-star hotel.
Getting around the greater Brisbane is easy thanks to the river ferries. Since 2019, the city has doubled its fleet with a two-storey CityCat with a capacity of 170 passengers, with two more CityCats making their debut later this year. Passage with the smaller 60-passenger KittyCats – serving the city center – is always free.
Getting to Brisbane, however, is proving more difficult.
If you fly halfway around the world, why not take advantage of the fact that Brisbane is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef? It is also just an hour’s drive from Australia’s sunny Gold Coast and even sunnier Sunshine Coast.
Or just stay in Brisbane all the time. It may never be Australia’s Beyoncé, but the often-overlooked Michelle becomes a destination in itself.