Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane, State Capital of Queensland, is one of those rare cities built around people and lifestyle. The sub-tropical climate, with bright sunny days and balmy nights, is reflected in the warm welcome visitors receive from the million or so people who live in the greater Brisbane area. In the vibrant city center, glass office towers and sandstone heritage buildings share broad, tree-lined streets or front the river. Alfresco cafes, parks, riverside walks and the central pedestrian mall give the city a very human scale. Queensland's growing tourism industry has brought an influx of visitors to the capital, and with its near-perfect climate year-round, Brisbane comes as a pleasant surprise to most visitors. It has some interesting museums and historical buildings as well as an excellent cultural centre to offer. The South Bank Parklands is the area south of the river and many people, both locals and travellers, like to spend time here. This area has been transformed into a tropical paradise with lagoons, gardens, little shops and a beach.

Brisbane is also surrounded by some of the state's major tourist destinations and there are plenty of options for daytrips where both residents and visitors can enjoy a wide range of landscapes. Check out Moreton Bay and its islands that provide the best place for all sorts of water sports. The Pacific Highway leads south to the Gold Coast and its well-known surf beaches. North of Brisbane is the seaside town of Redcliffe, the rainforest and picturesque countryside of Pine Rivers, Caboolture and the Glasshouse Mountains. Brisbane is Australia's fastest growing city, and becoming a major cultural, business, sporting and scientific center in the Asia Pacific region. With its warm, sunny days and cool nights, winter (June to August) is the most pleasant - and popular - time of year to visit Brisbane. Easter and Christmas are also pretty hectic. If you prefer a bit of peace and quiet, try May or October, when the humidity's still OK but the crowds have diminished. Timing your trip to coincide with one of the city's numerous arts festivals or other events can also be fun.

Scenic Highlights:

South Bank: Formerly the site of Expo '88, has been redeveloped and is now one of the city's liveliest areas. Covering 16 hectares (40 acres), its attractions include restaurants and cafes, parklands and bike paths, market stalls and even a sandy swimming beach.

Moreton Bay Whale Watching: Spend a day out with the magnificent humpback whales of Moreton Bay. Watch them as they play in the crystal clear turquoise waters off Moreton Island. They frequent this area between the months of June and October, as they migrate between the Antarctic wilderness and the Great Barrier Reef.

North Stradbroke Island: North Stradbroke is about 20km (12mi) off the coast from Cleveland, which is about 25km (15mi) south-east of Brisbane's city centre. Straddie is a sand island and, despite some heavy sand-mining, it has plenty of vegetation and beautiful scenery. Outside of school holidays it's also pretty quiet and peaceful.

Fraser Island: For many, Fraser Island is the highpoint of their Australian adventure. Moulded and shaped by the forces of nature, it is the largest sand island in the world and home to endless beaches, freshwater lakes and dense rainforests.

Activities:

- Less than an hour north, just entering the Sunshine Coast, is the Australia Zoo which is home to the Crocodile Hunter. Informative and fun, it lets you get close to crocodiles, alligators, koalas, kangaroos, dingoes, foxes, otters and giant land tortoises
- There are many other attractions up the Sunshine Coast including their spectacular beaches, National Parks and Underwater World at Mooloolaba.
- Theme parks of the Gold Coast - Dreamworld, Movie World, Sea World and Wet 'n Wild are just 45 minutes drive south of Brisbane
- Adjacent to the parklands is the Queensland Cultural Centre. This incorporates the Queensland Museum, which has a number of fine exhibits from whales to dinosaurs, snakes to snails and crabs to crocodiles as well as special exhibitions. The Queensland Art Gallery which will reward art lovers as will the many smaller galleries throughout the city.
- Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is dedicated to the preservation of Australian Wildlife through education about the needs of our unique Australian animals. The best way to learn is to get close to Aussie Wildlife.
- A number of river cruises are available on the Kookaburra River Queens, restored paddle steamers which depart from Eagle St Pier.