Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Local's Secrets (5) : Lisa's Brisbane

Brisbane is a friendly city set on the scenic Brisbane River blessed with blue and sunny skies most of the year. The biggest attraction in Brisbane is the weather and the relaxed lifestyle – and it’s so close to so many beautiful natural attractions including stunning beaches, rainforests and waterfalls that it makes a great base to explore south east Queensland.

What do people have to know about your city’s transportation? 
The public transport in Brisbane is fairly reliable, although on the expensive side. 
The cheapest way to travel on public transport in Brisbane is to get yourself a GoCard if you’re spending more than a couple of days getting around Brisbane. GoCards can be used on trains, buses and the CityCat ferries (which are a great way to see Brisbane.) You can buy GoCards at newsagents, 7-Eleven stores and also city centre train stations like Central or Roma Street.
Using your GoCard on public transport is slightly cheaper than buying a paper ticket every time and it’s easy – you just swipe on and off and can reload at stations or online. Go Cards require a refundable deposit of $10 to buy. If you're only staying a few days in Brisbane, just purchase paper tickets from stations.
If you’re heading into the CBD from the Airport, take the AirTrain. The AirTrain departs regularly from right outside both the Domestic and International airports and takes about half an hour to get into the city centre. One way fare is $17.50, but you can save nearly $3 if you buy online seven or more days before you travel.

The best way to see the best of Brisbane is take a CityCat ferry along the river. The CityCats are part of Brisbane’s transport network, but are a great way to see the beautiful river city. The best route is to take the CityCat downstream from North Quay, South Bank or Riverside under the Story Bridge and over to New Farm Park to the river walk pathway. 
Buses travelling to destinations outside of Brisbane such as the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Byron Bay (and further out up to Airlie Beach and Cairns) leave regularly from the Roma Street Transit Centre. You can also get long distance trains from here. 

If someone is new to the city, which website should he check for daily or weekly free events?
Urban List Brisbane and Visit Brisbane are great resources to find out what’s happening in and around Brisbane and also great places to eat and drink.
The city’s official things to do website can be found at: www.visitbrisbane.com.au
Urban List Brisbane is here: https://www.theurbanlist.com/brisbane

 The food scene! 

a) Signature dish and where to get the best servings: 
Breakfast is a big thing in Brisbane and there’s plenty of cafes to choose from. The trendy West End, New Farm, and Paddington areas are worth a visit for quality café fare and amazing coffee.
In West End, the most popular cafes are The Gunshop Café and Three Monkeys. It’s not unknown to have a queue at The Gunshop Café on the weekends – it’s that good.
Burgers and steak sandwiches are probably the most ‘local’ thing to eat. The best places are often pubs – try the Plough Inn at Southbank. Or check out this list: https://www.theurbanlist.com/brisbane/a-list/burgers-everywhere-15-places-to-get-them-in-brisbane
For savvy travellers, my opinion is that the best place to get food in Brisbane is the local farmer’s markets. There’s lots of them around Brisbane every week. They’re great for quick hot meals and also to pick up cheap local produce.
On Wednesdays, Reddacliff Place right opposite the main CBD shopping precinct has a great market full of tasty food such as Spanish paella, German bratwurst, Italian gnocchi and Vietnamese rolls. The hot food stalls sell out quickly (especially the paella and Vietnamese rolls stall) so get there around noon to grab these yummy meals. If you’re after fresh produce, head there in the late afternoon when the vendors mark down their prices.
If you’re in Brisbane on a Saturday or Sunday, you are spoilt for choice for markets. 
The most accessible is the West End Markets on Saturday morning and the Milton Markets on Sunday morning. There’s heaps of great food stalls at each of these markets.
Another good one is the Eat Street Markets at Hamilton (you can get there by ferry from the CBD). The Eat Street Markets has become somewhat of an institution for locals and visitors, offering a mouthwatering selection of food ranging from savoury to the very sweet.It’s on Friday and Saturday nights from 4pm to 10pm. During the winter months, it’s also open on Sundays from 11am to 3pm.

b) Wackiest food in town and where to try them: 
Australia is general doesn’t have many wacky out there foods - not of our own anyway. Brisbane is fairly multicultural and has plenty of restaurants offering cuisines from across the world.
We do like a food craze – and follow the latest trends.
The doughcone craze has recently hit Brisbane and it’s delicious. You can get your doughcone (ice cream served in a cone made from doughnuts) at The Doughnut Bar in Queen Street Mall or at the Eat Street Markets in Hamilton.
One of the most multicultural suburbs is Moorooka. It’s a little off the beaten path but does offer a lot of African fare. 
Sunnybank and Fortitude Valley is also a hub for Asian food. 

"things you should experience before you die”  

The must do adrenaline pumping bucket list experience in Brisbane is climbing the Story Bridge at Kangaroo Point during the day or night. You’ll walk up to a viewing platform 80 metres above the Brisbane River. You can also book to abseil from the Story Bridge on Sunday mornings. Nearby, you can also abseil down Kangaroo Cliffs through Riverlife. Visit http://riverlife.com.au/adventures/abseiling/ for more information.

Southbank is also a must do for tourists. Not only does it offer a pretty walk by the river and through the bougainvillea arbour, you can also take a swim at Streets Beach at Southbank – Australia’s only beach in the middle of a city. Ok so it’s an artificial beach but it’s still nice, especially on a hot Queensland summer’s day. It’s a great way to see Brisbane, soak up the great weather and chilled atmosphere of the river city. 

Hidden Gems

Skip the pricey restaurants at Southbank and head into Chinatown in Fortitude Valley for something more authentic – or simply visit one of the local farmer’s markets held during the week or on the weekends. The cafes in the suburbs are also worth a visit and are more worthwhile than those in the city centre. West End is not far from the city centre and has plenty of great cafes and fun, trendy vibe. 

You can get some of the best views of Brisbane for free. Don’t bother doing the Wheel of Brisbane, you can get just as good views from the Kangaroo Point Cliffs - or go up higher to Mt Coot-tha. Enjoy the scenery walking the many bridges along the river, most of them are in the city centre. For a few dollars, you can also get great views of Brisbane from the CityCat public transport ferries – definitely don’t pay for a cruise down the river!

Make sure you check out the Brisbane River at night around the CBD and Southbank areas. Often the bridges spanning the river are lit up in different colours making for some great photos.

One of the hidden gems of Brisbane is the Mt Coot-tha Forest. If you like to hike and get out in nature, this is the perfect place to go. You can get buses here easily from the city centre in about 20 minutes and then there's dozens of trails to choose from. I like to get out here on a weekend. My favourite trail is the Powerful Owl and Summit Tracks. 

Let’s talk about the best festival in your city, and how to participate! 
It’s always a good time to visit Brisbane because the weather is so good!
But there are a couple of key festivals. The Brisbane Festival  is held every year in September and celebrates all things art, theatre and live music and culminates with a great fireworks event.
Most of the events happen in the central business district so there’s lots of transport options into the city and most likely you’ll be staying near here.
Another good time of year to come is during the Winter Horse Racing Carnival held in May and June. We Australians love horse racing and it’s fun to dress up, head out to the racetrack, have a few drinks and hopefully win a few dollars betting on the horses.
Local trains and buses make the Doomben and Eagle Farm racetracks in Ascot easy to reach.
Favorite photo spots in your city and how to get there 
The best place to photograph Brisbane’s skyline is from the top of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs. You can walk here by following the river along the Clem Jones Promenade. It’s a good photo spot both during the day and at night.
Southbank is also a great spot for photographers. Head over the Victoria Bridge for views of the Wheel of Brisbane, then head through the floral arbour for some colourful photos.

The best day trip destination from the city

Brisbane is a great spot for day trips north, south and east! You could fill a whole week with day trips – some you can reach by public transport, others you may need a car.
South you can go to the Gold Coast, north to the Sunshine Coast and east to North Stradbroke Island. There’s lots of mountains, trails and beaches to explore only an hour or two from Brisbane.
The most notable mentions in my opinion that really represents the uniqueness of Australia is Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland and Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast.
Lamington National Park has two sections – Binna Burra and Green Mountains. Both are about a two hour drive from Brisbane – although it’s not really that far as the crow flies – there’s just a few winding, narrow roads to get there.
Binna Burra is the more accessible but I think Green Mountains is prettier with lush rainforest tracks, lots of waterfalls and a treetop walk. The best track that offers beauty at every corner is the Box Forest Trail in the Green Mountains section. In the Binna Burra section, an easy but scenic trail is the Coomera Circuit, which features several waterfalls and crosses the Coomera River several times. 
There’s lots of beaches about a 60-90 minute drive from Brisbane. One of my favourites is Noosa. There’s a great beach there and you can hire paddleboards. Noosa National Park offers the lovely Coastal Track providing stunning views of the coastline and you may spot koalas, turtles, dolphins and whales.

Brisbane is one of those cities that doesn’t feature obvious or spectacular attractions. There’s no Harbour Bridge or Opera House. But one of the best things about Brisbane is the weather and the lifestyle – and it’s so close to so many beautiful natural attractions. Take the time to soak up the atmosphere and use it as a place to relax. Grab some market food and sit by the river, or sail down the river on a CityCat. Use Brisbane as a base to explore the nearby forests and beaches – it’s a great base for day trips in any direction. Try to come on a weekend when lots of people are out and about – the energy is infectious.
For budget accommodation, most of the backpackers are located in a strip in the city on Roma Street. It’s conveniently located right near the Roma Street Transit Centre where local and long distance buses and trains come in. The Airport Train also stops here. 

For the best nightlife, head to Fortitude Valley. There’s a range of pubs, bars and clubs to keep you entertained into the early hours.

About the Author 

My name is Lisa Owen and I'm from Australia. I’m currently living in Australia working to save up for my next adventure, but my next overseas adventure will start in August 2016. I’m aiming to travel to at least 15 countries over six months, including USA, Germany, Croatia, Ukraine, Jordan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.
I’ve travelled to 45 countries to date, which has included several trips to Europe and the US, as well as Central and South America - and showing no signs of slowing down. Travel has taken me to try au pairing and teach English as well as discover places and people along the way. I started my blog The Little Adventurer in March this year to document my travels and share my experiences and travel tips with others. As the title of my blog suggests, I am an adventure and adrenaline junkie! I love to hike and I’ve bungee jumped, gone skydiving and rappelled from a waterfall. I’ll try anything once. 
I’m a passionate solo traveller – that’s just how I discovered travel and I won’t let anything stand in the way of my dreams. I love meeting new people on the road and have many good friends and sometimes travel buddies all across the world. 
My blog is at www.littleadventurertravels.com and my Instagram is @_thelittleadventurer

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