From its roots as a quiet rural hideaway, Brisbane has grown up and come into the limelight as one of todays most desirable places to live in Australia. Queensland’s largest city now has almost as much urban sophistication as Sydney or Melbourne with its gleaming high-rises, ambitious restaurant scene and lively nightlife, while retaining an easygoing lifestyle cherished by its residents. Though it is often dubbed Brisneyland or Brisvegas by some, it is a more friendly and intimate city than some of its Australian counterparts. Modern highrises are interspersed with some beautiful colonial architecture and Queenslander-style houses.
Its warm climate and proximity to some of Queensland’s most beautiful beaches and rugged natural wonders draws a steadily increasing number of tourists year-round. Moreton Bay has around 365 islands, the most popular being Moreton Island, where you can go from bushwalking to off-roading to sunbathing in one day. Around the other islands (the most developed and touristed being North Stradbroke), you can board ferries, take tours or go diving and meet some of the whales, dolphins and other marine life inhabiting the area.
Brisbane itself hosts year-round festivals, theatre and art exhibitions. Its attractions include museums, brewery tours, a zoo and an excellent wildlife park. The City Botanic Gardens is a popular quiet spot for lunch on the banks of the river, and the Roma Street Parklands are a must-see. Mount Coot-ha is a popular half-day excursion with stunning panoramas of the city and islands, and if you have time, Kangaroo Point Lookout is also highly recommended for the view (or climbing and abseiling for the adventurous). Backpackers flock to the South Bank Parklands for swimming and relaxing by the artificial beach. The main shopping and sightseeing district is centred on the Queen Street Mall, and is both walkable and interesting. Chinatown is small, but is bordered by Brunswick Street and the alternative, trendy area of Fortitude Valley.
Brisbane’s transport network is comprised of buses, trains and ferries and is a convenient way to get around town, although the city centre is compact enough to walk around.
Citytrain operates Brisbane’s suburban train network that has 12 lines and extends as far as Ipswich, Beenleigh and Caboolture. All trains stop at the three main central stations – Roma Street, Central and Brunswick Street.
Most of Brisbane’s local buses terminate at the central Queen Street Bus Station underneath the Queen Street Mall.
Although the train is generally handier for covering longer distances, there are some handy bus routes around the city centre and between various inner-city neighbourhoods. The more useful bus routes include buses 190, 191, 193 and 194, which run between the city centre and the hostels in Fortitude Valley, New Farm and South Brisbane/West End.
There are two free city centre loop buses that run around the city centre and the Spring Hill neighbourhood. These buses are a good way to travel between Central Station, the Botanic Gardens and the Eagle Street Pier.
Brisbane has an efficient ferry network and it is a pleasant way to travel to destinations along the river. Ferries are divided between the City Cat that runs a route upriver stopping at a multitude of points along the way and the Crossriver ferries which operate a triangular route between Eagle and Edward Streets in the city centre and Thornton Street in Kangaroo Point. Ferries run about once every 20 minutes.
Fares are based on a zone system with 23 zones in south east Queensland and five zones in Brisbane, but most points of interest are located in zone one. A single trip within zone one is $4.80 with a paper ticket and $3.35 with a go card.
A single ticket allows you to transfer to other modes of transport within a two-hour period.
If you’re only in Brisbane for a day or two you can buy paper tickets to get around, however the go card ticket is better value if you’re planning on spending longer in Brisbane.
The go card is an electronic smart card ticking system (similar to the Oyster card in London, Octopus in Hong Kong, Myki in Melbourne and Sydney’s Opal card) that works out cheaper than buying paper tickets. Like smart cards used in other cities, you top up your go card with credit that is used to pay for your travel and you need to touch on at the start of your journey and touch off at your destination in order to calculate your fare. You can purchase go cards from around 625 locations throughout Brisbane including any train station and many convenience stores (such as 7-Eleven). The go card system can be used on buses, ferries and trains in Brisbane and it works throughout southeast Queensland (that is on the Sunshine and Gold Coasts in addition to Brisbane).
When purchasing a new go card you need to pay $10 for the blank card in addition to the credit you need to load on to it. Because of this, it is not always the best option if you’re only in town for a day or two.
Single bus, ferry and train fares are listed below:
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The SEEQ card is an alternative to the go card that is aimed at tourists visiting southeast Queensland for three to five days. The SEEQ card works throughout the Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
The SEEQ card gives you unlimited travel buses, ferries, trains and trams in Brisbane, Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast for three or five consecutive days and also includes discounts at many tourist attractions in southeast Queensland. A three day SEEQ card costs $79 and a five day card costs $129. Like the go card, you need to touch on and off when using this pass.