Brisbane is the capital of Queensland, one of six Australian states. The city is home to two million residents, half of the total population of the entire country of New Zealand.
Brisbane was originally home to an early European penal settlement and word is that it was those convicts who built the city around what is now known as the Brisbane river.
Intrigued by the rich history of the city, we embarked on a hop-on hop-off bus tour of the city through CitySights.
City Sights Bus Tour
Rates: Adult $35, Child $20, Family (2 adults, 3 children) $80
Intervals: every 45 minutes
Inclusive of CityCat Travel
From our temporary residence in the suburb of Auchenflower, we boarded the train to the central station. From the central station, we walked through the CBD to the General Post Office (GPO) building, the start-off point for the tour.
Auchenflower-Central Station (by Train)
Travel time: 7 mins
Adult Fare: $3.90 (single ticket)
Central Station-Post Office Square (by Foot)
Walk time: 4 mins
Distance: 280 m (via Queen St)
GENERAL POST OFFICE
The Brisbane General Post Office Building, built in the 1800s is one of city’s strongest landmarks. It once housed the Queensland Museum. In the present days, the GPO building provides a rustic welcome to the relatively young Post Office Square.
Built in the 1980s, the Post Office Square boasts of a city centre park on one side, and a bunch of shops on the other. The park, having been nestled amongst commercial establishments, is a favorite picnic spot or lunch area by young professionals, shoppers, students and tourists who frequent the central business district.
From the GPO, we boarded the bus and was treated to a very informative commentary on other remarkable areas which are mostly just a stone’s throw away from our first stop namely, Brisbane City Hall, Commissariat and Casino, and Riverside Centre.
Built in 1824 by convicts, The Windmill is Brisbane’s first industrial structure and longest surviving building. It stands beautifully on Wickham Park, Spring Hill, across a stretch of quaint little roadside cafes and other commercial establishments.
True to its name, Spring Hill was once the early settlements’ major water source. The residential area surrounding the hill is one of the oldest in the city and boasts of traditional Queensland houses, which are akin to Filipino traditional wooden houses which were elevated with a front porch and a silong (a free space between the ground and the elevated floor).
I asked the driver (who by the way, was also giving the tour commentary) if the silong was to prevent flood water from reaching the floors of the houses. He gave me a chuckle, sensing that my query was somehow related to the recent flooding in Brisbane. He said that although he doesn’t want to to think of it that way, the anatomy of the houses and how the very river snakes through the innards of the city, my hypothesis could be thought about.
ROMA ST. PARKLANDS
Below the Spring Hill is 16-hectares of flora paradise nestled amidst the Brisbane metropolis. Roma St. Parkland is huge garden and a little rainforest rolled into one. It also boasts of the city’s abundance in water supply through a show of little fountains and spring all over the flowery mazes.
Roma St., was a labyrinth as it was a paradise. While there, we lost track of time and missed our bus. We had to wait for the next round at the Transit Centre. Built originally in the 1800s as with many other structures in the city, the Transit Centre is one of the city’s busiest coach and rail terminal.
It was around lunch time already when the bus arrived, so we just drove through most of the stops such as the Suncorp Stadium, home of Brisbane Rugby. The driver gave us particular commentary on it knowing how Rugby is religion to everyone from New Zealand.
We also drove up to Mt. Coot-Tha, a popular scenic drive and lookout and the nearby Botanical Gardens. We already caught sunset in Mt. Coot-Tha the day before, so we decided to pass on that.
Everyone but us disembarked to have lunch at Mt. Coot-tha cafe, so the drive back to the city morphed into a semi-intimate chat with the driver, who was proudly telling us how the Queenslanders have overcome the recent flood in the area. Although the roads were still littered with remnants from the flood, the locals did a good job in their restoration efforts overall.
Our next stop was Park Road in Milton, an avenue of outdoor cafes and restaurants that remind one of Parisian middays. Challenging the iconic XXXX brewery not far ahead, a miniature Eiffel Tower is planted proud in the heart of the cafe strip.
We were too hungry for anything western though, so we chose to dine in the beautifully-themed Temple Thai Restaurant across the road. From memory, I think we had Thai chicken and prawn curry.
After lunch, we knew we had to finish the bus tour fast in order to catch the ferry just in time for sunset. Writing this now, I feel very embarrassed to admit that we chose to skip the cultural centre which is home to the Art Gallery, Library, Science Centre, Gallery of Modern Art, QLD Museum and the Performing Arts Museum. Shame, yeah? 🙂
Then again, what awaited for us in South Bank was a sight to behold. It wasn’t enough that the Post Office Square had a park in the middle of the a sprawling business district, or Roma St. kept a fairyland behind the train station, South Bank had a beach (a beach!) in the middle of the city.
As their website aptly conveys, Southbank is “unique space where nature dances with culture, where delicious food greets luxurious goods, and where a world of chance discoveries is unveiled in true splendour.”
THE WHEEL OF BRISBANE
We strolled through the shops, pools and beach strip to one of the city’s favorite landmarks, the Wheel of Brisbane. It has 42 air-conditioned gondolas, each offering a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. It also has a running audio commentary to supplement the experience.
Entrance Fee: $15-Adult, $10-Kids (group rates also available)
Opening Hours: 11am until late on weekdays, 10am until late on weekends)
From Southbank, we went back directly to the city passing through the Maritime Museum, Fortitude Valley and Chinatown.
Anzac Square was our last pit stop prior to boarding the City Cat from Riverside Ferry Terminal in Eagle St. The Shrine of Remembrance is the focal point of the square, where citizens gather on ANZAC day to commemorate the heroes of Australia (and New Zealand) in the first world war.
We wrapped up the tour with a ferry cruise down the brisbane river, catching the sunset and capping it off with a magnificent display of the city lights. After all, we were in the river city– it was meant to finish grand in that river, one way or another. 🙂
CityCat Hours of operation: 5:30 am to 10:30 pm daily
all photographs, though not watermarked, are mine.