On a morning during our stay in Sunshine Coast, Camila and I decided to go on a day trip to Brisbane. We were concerned that we didn’t have much time available, but we also didn’t want to miss the opportunity to explore Queensland’s biggest city. Asking our hosts in our Airbnb house, it was evident which area we should visit: South Bank Parklands.
Before we get into details about everything we found there, I would like to share a bit of the history of the region and some curiosities.
Brisbane River is the longest river in South East Queensland and runs through all the city until it reaches the sea. It was named after Sir Thomas Brisbane, New South Wales Governor. Before been established, Brisbane was the chosen place for secondary offenders from the Sydney colony. The settlement was built near the river, and later, has received the same name.
Nowadays, Brisbane is not only the capital of Queensland but also the most populous city in the state. It has a broad selection of cultural destinations and is a very famous touristic destination.
Getting there from Noosa
In the 20-minute conversation we had with our hosts about what to do in Brisbane, we could come up with two options:
- Drive straight to Brisbane
- Drive to a city North of Brisbane and take the train from there
As we love a good road trip, we decided to drive straight to Brisbane. It was the Christmas holiday on the 27th of December, and it wasn’t just us that were going on a little road trip.
As you can imagine, holidays in every big city in the world make people want to drive away. As Brisbane doesn’t have beaches around, it makes sense that a good part of its population goes South or North to spend some time on the excellent beaches of Sunshine and Gold Coast.
Even though we were driving towards the city, we got a good deal of traffic. I was feeling bad, though, about the people that were leaving the city. The traffic jam on the other side of the road was huge. I am glad we were not travelling the other way around.
Our little journey lasted around 1 hour and a half, and we arrived in Brisbane at 10:30 am. It was a warm and beautiful day.
First Impressions of the City
Brisbane is definitely a big city. Large roads, lots of parks, rivers, and green streets. The deeper you are in the city, the better it gets. The sensation I had was that it is a place where you can have a busy nightlife, the entertainment of good theatres and museums, and a great lifestyle amongst all that.
Every place I visit, I wonder if I would be happy living there. This is my thermometer to feel if it is a good place and Brisbane fits in that category. I like the quiet and countryside way of life, but I also love being close to the busy routine of the major cities.
Arriving at South Bank Parklands
It was quite easy getting to South Bank Parklands once inside Brisbane. If it wasn’t for the GPS, I could easily guide myself using only the road signs.
The first thing we were looking for was the parking space, but it was also just a matter of following the signs, and we found the underground parking that is exactly underneath the Parklands. There was something that got us scared at first: the price. At first, we didn’t understand how long we could park for and how much we should pay for it.
The reality wasn’t so bad. We paid AU$16.00 for 3 hours of parking on a holiday. For 4 hours it would be AU$25.00. If you think about the parking prices in other cities such as Sydney, you would be paying it for the hour.
If you want to get the up-to-date information about how much it costs, you can take a look at the company’s website. You will be able to check the fees for weekdays and special prices for early birdies.
Although it has more than 800 car parking spaces and is the best located for those visiting South Bank Parklands, there are more options near the area, and you can easily spot then. I bet parking will not be a big issue.
If you prefer to take public transport, buses are running regularly along three ferry terminals, and a railway station just around the corner.
South Bank Parklands
The Park is situated alongside the Brisbane River, but before you get there, you have to cross a plaza or, to be more correct, a pedestrian road with restaurants and shops. It looks like you are in the countryside!
When you cross this area, you get to the Grand Arbour. It is a kilometre long arbour serving as a pedestrian walkway connecting everything in the park. It is a beautiful place composed by 443 steel tendrils that give support to a bougainvillaea canopy. Walking on it made me feel as I was somewhere else. The contrast between the green and pink of the flowers with the blue sky is something hard to express in words. Everything feels quieter and more peaceful.
Walking towards the river, we find an oasis in the middle of the city. Being the Australia’s major inner-city, human-made beach, the Streets Beach is a refugee for the residents. It is a freshwater lagoon surrounded by sandy beaches and sub-tropical plants. It has an area that is safe for children and there is lifeguard patrol during the whole year. If you prefer a sand-free water activity, you should try the Aquativity. This water-play park is located just beside the Streets Beach and it is suitable for the whole family.
Walking North from the lagoon, you will find a Piazza that seats more than 2000 people, the Brisbane Conservatorium Theatre, and the Queensland Conservatorium Library. All must visit places of the cultural scene in Brisbane.
A little bit further, you will reach the Rainforest Green. It is a hideaway area surrounded by rainforest vegetation. It also features a walkway that makes you feel deep into the forest. The grassy area in the centre is also used for public and private events.
Following the walkway from the Rainforest Green, we reached the Nepalese Peace Pagoda. It was built in 1988 for the World Expo with native Nepalese timber and handcrafted items made by 160 Nepalese families during two years. It is a beautiful place to contemplate and meditate.
Leaving the peaceful Pagoda behind, we reached The Wheel of Brisbane. With almost 60 metres tall, this Ferris wheel was built in 2008 as part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of World Expo 88. All the 42 capsules have air-conditioner and offer some breathtaking views of the city.
The ride lasts approximately 12 minutes and costs AU$20.00 per adult. You can buy the tickets at the local box office, or you can book it in advance through their website and save 5%. To check current prices, or book your ticket in advance, check The Wheel of Brisbane website.
Between the park and the river, there is another walkway that provides a great view of the city skyline and offers some great spots to chill out during a warm afternoon.
If you wish a beautiful place for dating, to spend a good time with your family, children, or just somewhere to relax and forget about your problems, the South Bank Parklands is the place to go.
Restaurants and Food Stalls
If you are walking, playing, swimming or just relaxing, one thing is for certain: you will feel hungry at some point.
South Bank Parklands has plenty of restaurants. From fast food to four-star restaurants, you can find almost anything you want to eat.
On lunch time, Camila and I decided to try a Mexican restaurant called Cactus Republic. I tried their Quesadillas, which were delicious, well prepared and had fresh ingredients. Camila ordered a Chilli Con Carne and also thought it was a great meal.
For dessert, we went to Nitrogenie, a shop that sells ice creams made with liquid nitrogen. It was a pleasant surprise as it was tasty, creamy, and soft. They have 80 flavours available but rotate seven different ones every week, so it takes around three months for them to repeat one item on the menu. The manufacturing of the ice cream is a touristic attraction by itself. With all the pouring of liquid nitrogen, there is a lot of mist and the whole process is quite fascinating.
The Way Back
As I mentioned before, there was some traffic on the road to get into the city in the morning, and I was worried that I would have the same issue when getting back to Sunshine Coast.
I know some GPS apps tells you about the traffic and even try to get you around it, but in my experience, there is just one that does the job well, and it is the Waze app. It uses real data from other drivers to analyse the speed on the streets and roads, and change your route as you go to get you to your destination as fast as you can. This app saved me about 20 minutes compared to the Google App and took me around some hefty traffic leaving the city. On top of that, we could enjoy other views driving through alternative routes on our way back.
As Waze works in almost all major (and most minor) cities in the world, I strongly encourage you to use it when driving around on your holidays.
Finally, it was a great day trip, and we enjoyed getting to know a small part of Brisbane. We relaxed, walked, ate, and, the most important, had fun.
What about you? Have you ever been to South Bank Parklands? Did I miss something? Is there something else you would like to share? Tell me in the comments below, and we may help each other on our next trip.