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City Profile : Brisbane

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Brisbane is the biggest city we have visited on our lap – it’s Australia’s third most populous city, behind Melbourne and Sydney.  Nicknamed Bris-Vegas because of its cosmopolitan lifestyle, Brisbane is a city full of pretty churches, crazy drivers, American inspired eateries and hills – all providing a great view of the CBD.

 

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Fast Facts

  • When the Brisbane City Hall opened in 1930, it was the city’s tallest building.
  • The Story Bridge opened in 1940 and is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia.
  • To remove the stigma of being a big country town, Brisbane’s infrastructure was redeveloped and a tram system was installed in the CBD and inner suburbs. This was a popular mode of transport until 1969 when the network was closed.  The tram system has since reopened and runs from Southport to Broadbeach..
  • Brisbane’s economy benefits from the tourism of the Sunshine Coast in the north and the Gold Coast in the south.

 

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History

The CBD sits in the original settlement that was established along the Brisbane River, east of the Great Dividing Range, and was named after the Governor of New South Wales from 1821 to 1825, Sir Thomas Brisbane.

 

The first European settlement in the area was a penal colony at Redcliffe, about 28km to the north, but free settlers were allowed in the area from 1842.  Once Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859, Brisbane was declared the capital of the state, but it didn’t earn the status of a city until 1902.  During the 20th century, Brisbane underwent massive growth, amalgamating with over twenty other small towns in the area to become the City of Brisbane in 1925.

 

Brisbane City

 

Points of Interest

CBD

There is plenty to see in the city.  Explore the streets, gape at the high-rise buildings, duck into an alleyway café or find as many sculptures as you can.  City Hall in King George Square is magnificent, and Anzac Square War Memorial is a great place to take your lunch.  On the northern side of town is St John’s Cathedral, the mother church of the diocese of Brisbane.  The church was built in three stages, with the foundation stone laid in 1901 and the final stage completed in 2009.

 

Brisbane CBD

 

South Bank

On the other side of the river is the South Bank Parklands, complete with an inland manmade beach called Streets Beach, and the Arch of Flowers.  Nearby is the Queensland Museum and Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA).  Both are open daily and the entry is free, but if you want to see a special exhibition, you may have to purchase a ticket.

 

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On the southern end of the Parklands is the Goodwill Bridge and Wartime Museum.  If you don’t want to pay to enter the museum, you can see enough from the bridge, which spans the Brisbane River to the City Botanical Gardens on the other side.

 

South Bank is a popular spot for festivals and events.  While we were in Brisbane, we saw the annual Lantern Parade, which celebrates multiculturalism, and attended the Lifeline Bookfest at the Convention Centre.  If you’re peckish, there are plenty of eateries and bars along Grey Street.

 

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XXXX Brewery

Located on Milton Road, the XXXX Brewery might not seem like much but it’s a must visit destination in Brisbane.  Inside is a bar that serves the best burgers in Queensland and the tours through the brewery are fantastic.  Check out our post here.

 

Mount Coot-tha & Brisbane Botanical Gardens

Meaning place of honey, Mount Coot-tha is 287 metres above sea level and is the highest peak in Brisbane, offering amazing unobstructed views of the city.  Whether you go there at sunrise, sunset or in the middle of the day, it’s a popular spot amongst locals and tourists alike, and the nearby Summit Restaurant is perfect for functions or lunch.

 

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A little way down the mountain is the Brisbane Botanical Gardens.  It’s certainly worth a visit, as there is an excellent selection of plants, as well as a Japanese garden, bonsai house and an impressive tropical display dome.

 

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Markets

Brisbane is mad for markets, and there are plenty around town to suit everyone.  The West End Markets on Saturday morning and the Eagle Farm Markets on Sunday morning are very similar –both have live music, clothing stalls, a wide variety of food stands, and fresh fruit and veggies.  The West End Markets are free to visit, but the Eagle Farm Markets are bigger and will cost you $2 to get in.  We had an awesome breakfast at the Eagle Farm Markets – an omelette with the lot for $9 and Hungarian lángos with additional bacon for $10 filled us up until the afternoon.

 

Brisbane Markets

 

The Eat Street Markets on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons, are a foodies dream.  It’s a funky market at Hamilton Wharf with around 60 shipping containers that have been reconfigured as food outlets.  There’s plenty of choice and many international cuisines are represented.  It also costs $2 to get in, but with live music and great views of the city at sunset, it’s worth the visit.  Our highlight was the Snickers cruffin – a muffin shaped croissant filled with caramel and topped with chocolate and peanuts – YUM!

 

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Closer to town is the Collective Markets on South Bank.  While it’s nowhere near as big as Eagle Farm or Eat Street, there is a fudge stall there that makes the best jam donut fudge we have ever tasted.

 

Food & Drink

Brisbane is obsessed with the American food scene, and there are heaps of food outlets offering American style pizza, sandwiches, bagels and burgers.  There’s also a noticeable presence of Asian cuisine, a love of craft beer and a solid passion for good coffee.

 

Coffee

We were so happy to be in a city that valued good coffee, so we were sure that wherever we went, we’d get a palatable brew.  Our first coffee experience was at Scout Café down the road from the Brisbane City YHA.  It’s one of the popular places in town – an understated café playing happy big band music that makes great coffee.

 

Our second experience was our best – Tutto Caffe Espresso Bar in Ashgrove not only makes amazing coffee but also a monster of a meal, the pork belly challenge.  Imagine succulent pork belly, bacon and haloumi in a Turkish bun with salad and a delicious Moroccan sauce – death by deliciousness.

 

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Bris Cafe

 

 

Asian

We tried four Asian establishments all up.  If you’re in the city, there are plenty of great options for a cheap lunch.  Roll’d is a healthy Vietnamese franchise that offers Pho in a Cup for $5.90 – a great way to get a daily fix of pho without the belly bludge.  Bing Boy at the food court under Post Office Square is also great in taste and in value.  Juz found it by accident after wandering the city for over an hour, not knowing what to have for lunch.

 

Brisbane Asian

 

Bamboo Basket on South Bank was the fanciest place we ate at.  We paid $19.80 for two servings of dumplings but they were pretty tasty.  On the cheaper end of the scale is Trang Vietnamese Restaurant in West End, with a big bowl of pho with silky rice noodles setting you back around $11.90.

 

Another place that we really wanted to try was Café O Mai – a Vietnamese café that serves breakfast with a western twist.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get around to going, but if we visit Brisbane again, it will be on the list.

 

Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall

Another example of Brisbane’s love affair with America, this elaborate saloon style bar with crimson walls and hanging chandeliers is a great place to sip a whiskey and apple juice while listening to live music.  For a change of scenery, go upstairs to the Mermaid Bar for some rowdy seafaring fun.

 

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Fatboy’s Burgers

The RG in Fortitude Valley has midday munchies sorted with their Fatboy Lunch Specials.  We got a scrumptious BLT with thick sliced bread and loads of bacon, with curly fries with aioli on the side.  The total was $13.70 and satisfied us both.

 

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Beer

Brisbane is a great place for beer lovers.  The XXXX Brewery is the main beer producer in Brisbane, but if this iconic Queensland beer is not your cup of tea, at least try the awesome beef burger on their lunch menu.

 

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If you love kooky and crafty beers, a visit to the Hoo Ha Bar can be enlightening.  This industrial style bar serves a selection of craft beer.  Dave was impressed with the Sunshine Coast Brewery Rye ESB. Which had a luscious raspberry smell and minimal hops. They also had a coffee kolsch, but it wasn’t as good at the coffee cream ale in Ipswich.

 

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Another great place for beer is Charming Squires on Grey Street.  It seems to be a popular place for after work drinks or a weekend session, and they offer tasting paddles of four James Squires beers of your choice for $12.

 

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There are also a few microbreweries around town. Check out our article here.

 

Information & Accommodation

Brisbane’s public transport system is called Translink http://translink.com.au/ and it is a comprehensive network of trains, trams, buses and ferries.  We made use of the bus route into the city, as well as the free city loop bus to get around, but the highlight was the free City Hopper ferry that cruises over the Brisbane River.

 

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There are various tickets you can get to travel on public transport, but the most economical for frequent travelling is a go card, which can be purchased from various locations like 7 Eleven for $10.  You then top up the card with money and touch on/off as you travel.  Paper tickets are available for one time use – they are a one way ticket valid for two hours and are significantly more expensive than go card travel.

 

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For accommodation, we recommend the Brisbane City YHA. It’s clean, quiet, spacious, and the rooftop deck provides awesome views of the city.  Check out our post here.

 

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Brisbane City YHA

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When it comes to budget accommodation that’s close to the Brisbane CBD, you can’t go past the Brisbane City YHA.  This award winning hostel has a laid back atmosphere with friendly staff, themed floors so you always know where you are, and plenty of space to do your own thing.

 

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After enjoying our $100 Day in Brisbane, it was great to have somewhere close to come back to and enjoy a weekly activity.  That night, it was trivia with a BBQ, and we had so much fun, the trivia master invited Dave up to read out a few questions.

 

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Facilities

With enough beds to sleep 373 guests, there are a variety of rooms, from multi-bed dorms to private rooms with an ensuite.  All the rooms have air conditioning, keyless entry and powered personal lockers for each bed.

 

The common areas on the upper level are spacious and clean, so you’ll never feel cramped.  There is a large stainless steel kitchen with plenty of bench space and storage for food, and there is both an indoor and outdoor eating area.

 

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The rooftop deck features a pool and awesome views of the city. There are regular events like movie nights, guided walking tours, Sunday morning pancakes and Friday BBQs, and there’s also a tours desk at reception for extra-hostel activities.  For those who prefer some quiet time, there is also a reading room, games room, lounge room with a TV and sun chairs by the pool.

 

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The Brisbane City YHA has a free wifi hotspot, but also offers extra WiFi via Global Gossip.  While there is limited street parking in the area (especially on game days), there is secure parking available onsite for $12 a day, and the hostel has disabled access.

 

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Things Nearby

Within 1km

  • Bus Stop – About 150 metres from the hostel, on the other side of Upper Roma Street.
  • Supermarket – there’s a Coles about 300 metres north, near the Caxton Street Precinct.
  • Caxton Street Precinct – a quick 400 metre walk will bring you to a variety of bars, nightclubs, food outlets.
  • The Train Station at the Brisbane Transit Centre – a 700 metre walk towards the city along Roma Street.
  • XXXX Brewery – for a great tour of the brewery or a delicious lunch, head west along Milton Road for 950 metres.
  • South Bank Precinct – walk across the William Jolly Bridge and within a kilometre, you’ll be at GOMA and Queensland Museum. A little further along is Streets Beach, the CityHopper ferry, Collective Markets, Arch of Flowers
  • Davies Street Markets

 

Surrounding Attractions

  • Brisbane CBD – a 1.2km walk towards the city will bring you to King George Square and the Brisbane City Hall. From here, you can catch a free city bus to look around the city or explore on your feet.
  • West End Markets – these markets are located in West End, 2.3 kilometres away. Cross the William Jolly Bridge and head west along Montague Road.
  • Mount Coot-tha Lookout and Brisbane Botanic Gardens – this is the highest mountain in Brisbane and gives great views of the city. It’s a quick 16 minute drive from the hostel.
  • Fortitude Valley – you can either walk the 2.6 kilometres to this nightlife hotspot, or catch the train from the Transit Centre.
  • Eat Street Markets – this is a great market for foodies, with stalls dishing out various international cuisines and yummy desserts. If you have a sweet tooth, try a cruffin or cronut – a croissant dessert like no other.
  • Ipswich – 35km west of Brisbane is Ipswich, a nice spot for a day trip. While there isn’t really that much going on, there are two great places to visit.  The wonderful 1950s décor at Deann’s Coffee House is a real treat while the beer at the Pumpyard is awesome.

 

The Essentials

The Brisbane City YHA is located at 392 Upper Roma Street, west of the CBD.  Check in is from 2pm every day and checkout is at 10am.  To make an enquiry, call 07 3236 1004 or email brisbanecity@yha.com.au.

 

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Attraction : The XXXX Brewery

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When it comes to beer in Queensland, you can’t get any more iconic than XXXX.  Get educated about the golden blood that runs through the veins of Queensland with a tour of the XXXX Brewery.  The extensive 90 minute excursion around the brewery includes an insightful presentation on the history of beer in Australia and runs through the brewing process from the raw ingredients to the final product in the Packing Hall.   XXXX even has its own island on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, the XXXX Island, which is designed to be the ultimate mates getaway.

 

The Brewery

While beer has been around for thousands of years, the story of XXXX started in 1877 when the Fitzgerald Brothers travelled from Melbourne to Queensland to open a brewery.  They already had a few breweries in the southern states and they thought Queensland could do with their own and it wasn’t long until the Castlemaine Brewery was taking orders for their XXX Ale.  In fact, the original brewery was the first building to get a phone line in Queensland.

 

It wasn’t until the early 1900s when German brewer Alhois William Leitner suggested changing the recipe to a lager.  While this was disapproved of at first, in 1924 Leitner released his new and improved XXXX Bitter.  Coincidentally, this was the same year that Mr Fourex was introduced.  XXXX Bitter was such a hit that its popularity prompted its first ever exportation to thirsty soldiers overseas fighting in World War 2.

 

Distribution was disrupted in 1974 when floods struck Brisbane.  With the delivery trucks out of action, the brewery staff had to improvise and ended up making rafts out of empty kegs to supply the community.  Their commitment to the community has continued over the years, sponsoring various festivals and events, and at one point sponsoring around 40 different sports.

 

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These days, XXXX Brewery produces 250 million litres of beer each year in an environmentally conscious, reusable and sustainable way.  Over the last few decades, they halved their water consumption and they also find uses for their by-products, like sending their leftovers south to Victoria to make Vegemite.

 

The Restaurant

XXXX Brewery tours have only been available since 2003, and they also have a recently refurbished bar and restaurant decorated with old brewery equipment and copper furnishings.

 

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The bar appears to be made of old mash tuns, while the spacious dining area is stocked with a variety of board games and features a tropical alfresco lounge area, perfect for after work drinks or a Sunday session.  They have XXXX Summer Ale, XXXX Gold and XXXX Bitter on tap, as well as a few James Squires varieties and soon, they will have wine on tap.

 

The tour ended with a tasting session in the XXXX Brewery Restaurant and two complementary drinks.  We got to try the three XXXX beers on tap, as well as the Summer Bright Lager with Natural Lime which had a refreshing citrus twist.  We decided to have some lunch while we drank our complementary beers.  We ordered the highly recommended beef burger, which was absolutely amazing – a big juicy patty with tangy mustard and pickles.  We also got the steak sandwich with beetroot relish and both meals came with hand cut chips and aioli dipping sauce.

 

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The Essentials

The Brewery is open Monday to Saturday for tours, which run at certain times during the day.  The price of the tour covers an informative tour through the brewery, a XXXX trucker cap, tastings at the end, and two pots of beer.  Remember to wear closed shoes and don’t drink any alcohol before attending the tour.

 

The XXXX Brewery Restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30am from Monday to Saturday.  It’s also available for functions, and there’s merchandise on display for purchase, such as hats, clothing, bar accessories and sporting goods.

 

The entrance to the XXXX Brewery is on the corner of Paten and Black Streets in Milton.  There’s limited parking available onsite and the surrounding streets are either meter parking or 2-hour free parking.  To book yourself in for a brewery tour, or to make enquiries, email xxxxalehouse@xxxx.com.au or call 07 3361 7597.

 

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