Brisbane was largely ignored by Europeans until 1824, when the first settlers established a penal colony in Redcliffe, a "prison within a prison" where Sydney’s worst reoffenders could be sent for further punishment. In 1825 the colony was moved to the site of Brisbane’s present-day Central Business District, and by the end of the year the official population of Brisbane was just "45 males and two females."
Brisbane’s inauspicious beginnings have done little to dampen its growth; 185 years later, Australia’s fastest-growing economy welcomes a thousand new inhabitants every week. The official population of Brisbane is currently two million, and it features a far more balanced male/female ratio than that of 1825.
Now Australia’s third-largest city, the capital of Queensland is a smart, easy-living city that offers a diversity of culture and entertainment and enjoys a year-round temperate climate. Brisbane is also a great springboard from which to explore Queensland, and indeed the rest of Australia, including Sydney and Melbourne to the south. You can find Australia’s most famous attraction, the Great Barrier Reef, in Queensland. Brisbane provides superb links to Australia’s vast interior.
In the past, Brisbane had a reputation as little more than a frontier town, a gateway to Queensland's famous attractions, such as Noosa on the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast’s Surfer’s Paradise. Visitors have now wised-up to this outdated view and are discovering the untold delights of the city. No longer just a country town, Brisbane is a thriving metropolis with numerous attractions.
Rent a bike from Brisbane City Botanic Gardens and roam the 27 kilometers of cycle paths that loop through the city center and across and along the river. Take a break from the pedals at Streets Beach on South Bank, a man-made white sand beach with a lagoon the size of five Olympic swimming pools. Visitors can catch a wave while they watch the bustling central business district just 200 meters away on the other bank of the river.
Alternatively, visit the Old Windmill in Wickham Park; the city’s oldest surviving building was built by convict labor in 1824. The Old Windmill is close to the top of Albert Street, where an eight-block walk towards the Botanic Gardens takes you along the Albert Street Literary Trail. A series of 32 brass plaques feature quotes about Brisbane by Queensland writers including Oodgeroo Noonuccal, a celebrated Aboriginal poet and political activist.
Visitors to Brisbane shouldn’t leave until they’ve sampled a typically Brisbanite delicacy: the Moreton Bay Bug. Ranked at number 11 on the BBC’s list of "50 Things to Eat Before You Die," this unattractive crustacean is also known as a Bay Lobster; its flesh is firmer but sweeter than rock lobster.
Dining options in Brisbane are excellent, and some of the best restaurants can be found in Paddington’s Caxton Street or Eagle Street in the city. West End is also a popular destination and its edgy, bohemian district offers intimate restaurants with a laidback atmosphere, while nearby South Bank brings ethnic cuisines and riverside boardwalks to the equation.
Nightlife in Brisbane varies from trendy areas such as New Farm, a place to see and be seen, to the vibrant but more downmarket areas such as Fortitude Valley. As well as Brisbane’s Chinatown, the Valley features eclectic bars and restaurants and brings world-class clubbing to Brisbane. Previously one of Brisbane’s less desirable neighborhoods, the Valley has cleaned up its act and is now home to one of the best live music scenes in Australia; in 2007 Billboard magazine named Brisbane as one of the world's top five music hot spots.
There is so much to do in and around Brisbane that visitors don’t need to travel far into Australia’s vast wilderness to find places of stunning natural beauty.
At 122 kilometers long and 22 kilometers wide, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just 300 kilometers north of Brisbane, it can be visited in a weekend and offers a pristine combination of freshwater lakes, dunes, forests, and wildlife. Its white beaches are flanked by strikingly colored sand cliffs and ringed by rainforests growing on 240-meter-high dunes.