24 Hours in Brisbane

The sun always shines on Brisbane, the beer always tastes better, the wine more mellow, the food fresher and the girls? I will leave that statement from one of my colleagues who lives down in Melbourne hanging. Brisbane has almost everything to make it the perfect city for a 24 hour visit. Combine food, entertainment, the glorious weather, beautiful beaches and some sights to see both in the city centre and within easy striking distance and you can understand why.  However, Queensland in general has taken a bit of a battering in recent years when it comes to visitors numbers which is hard to explain.  Lonely Planet voted Brisbane the “Hippest City” in 2014, whilst the climate is surely enough to win over any frosty heart.

Arriving in the city centre is relatively straight forward. The AirTrain runs every fifteen minutes and costs AU$32 return for Adults.  A taxi will cost around AU$50 into the city centre, depending on traffic.  One useful little tip for you is to download the Airport’s excellent App which allows you to complete your departure card on your smartphone then simply print it off and airport, saving significant time.

If you have only one night in Brisbane you have an issue. Which are do you head to? Across the William Jolly Bridge you will find the Barracks Complex and Caxton Street which runs down to the Suncorp Stadium and is the place to be when there is a rugby (either the Queensland Reds or Brisbane Broncos depending on your favourite flavour) match on, certainly one of the must-do things if calendars synchronise, especially if it’s in one of the highly passionate State of Origin series games against New South Wales. Tickets for matches here or across town at The Gabba (home for cricket and AFL) can be bought online from Ticketek or Ticketmaster.Highly recommended restaurants in this area include the Hog’s Breath with its superb steaks and local beers, Statler & Waldorf and the outstanding German sausage bar, Brathaus Express. Be warned though – don’t fall into the honey trap, or should I say the Honey B’s trap, at the top of Caxton Street!

If you are on the south of the curve of the river then Grey Street and South Bank is the place to head. The Charming Squire (which has its own micro brewery onsite), Obsession and the Live Fire Steak Bar on South Bank Parkland beach are all great spots. From here you also get the superb views of the city centre skyline, especially mesmerizing at night. This was the site of the 1988 a World Expo, now an entertainment precinct boasting entertainment, cafes, restaurants, man-made beaches, lagoons, playgrounds and the 60m high Wheel of Brisbane.  The South Bank area is also where you will find the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art and Museum, worth a couple of hours of your time.  Not far from here along Montague Road and under the Go Between Bridge you will find dozens of fantastic murals on the walls and supports of the bridge.

On the inside bend of the river there’s the City Reach Boardwalk opposite the famous Story Bridge (which for the adventurous you can walk across the cantilevered structure) which is one of the most historic parts of the relatively young city, named after Sir Thomas Brisbane, and originally part of New South Wales.  In 1859 the city ceded from the state and formed Queensland. Here you will find the Custom House as well as decent dining experiences such as The Bavarian Bier Cafe, The Blackbird Bar and Grill and Mr and Mrs G’s Riverside Bar – all with superb views of the river.  Back from the river front is the hedonistic Fortitude Valley where the casinos and nightclubs can be found.

Many tourists land in Brisbane before heading south to the beautiful beaches of the Gold Coast, a strip of urban areas and beaches located about 50 miles or about an hour’s travel by car or train. Main points of interest here include the suburb sandy beaches of Surfers Paradise, Mermaid Paradise and Coolangatta. Also in the area you will find the major attractions on the east coast of Australia such as Sea World, Wet ‘n’ Wild and Dreamworld, the latter being a theme park and a wildlife sanctuary all in one.  Other attractions within easy reach include the world’s first Koala sanctuary, The Lone Pine Sanctuary located in Fig Tree Pocket.

Need a bed for the night?  Well Brisbane has it all, from 5 star luxury at Rydges South Bank with its superb terrace and pool bar, Hotel Jen with its cool interiors and good city centre location to the more budget apartment hotel at The Riverside just south of the William Jolly Bridge.  Prices depend on time of year although it is worth saying Brisbane isn’t a particularly cheap city.  That being said, it is certainly worth at least 24 hours of your time.

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24 Hours in Melbourne

“Sydney’s like your pin up fantasy girlfriend” a work colleague told me,  Great looking, with world class assets you’d want to show off to your mates.  But Melbourne’s your childhood sweetheart you will always love, and will always love you when you make that walk of shame back late at night”

There’s a lot of truth in that.  Laid out very much in an American style, with a neat grin- pattern of roads that makes up the Central Business District (CBD), nothing is more than a 15 minute walk or 5 minute tram away.  The city has chosen to build up rather than out, meaning the streets heave during the working week but clear at the weekends when visitors and residents reclaim them, again giving the city a very North American skyline.  Architects are pushing the boundaries on a monthly basis here with some stunning designs, none more so in the reclaimed Docklands area, with the 55,000 Etihad Stadium as its focal point although James Squire’s Brewhouse runs it close – one of the best bars in the city to sit by the riverside and enjoy a local brew or two (of which there are many!).

The Yarra River is the lifeline of the city, offering an alternative method of transport to move from East to West and back again.  The Yarra runs right down to the ocean, passing the historic and picturesque Williamstown along the way – a lovely little spot for a weekend brunch.  The Customs House is certainly a spot for beer lovers with over a dozen Australian craft beers on draft and outside seating to soak up the sun.  Boats run from Southgate and Federation Square in the centre of town to Gem Pier every hour, costing AU$29 return.

Fancy a birds eye view of the city?  Head to Eureka Skydeck for some of the best views in the Southern Hemisphere (it being the tallest viewing platform too).  Not cheap at AU$19.95 but there is a small cafe at the top and you can wander around for ages.

Food lovers don’t have to wander far before they find something memorable in the city centre.  The younger crowds head to Chin Chin at the weekends where the off the wall menu and gritty decor have them queuing around the block into AC/DC Lane.  At busy times, films are beamed onto the ball of the building opposite to keep peoples minds off their rumbling tummy’s. Their stand-out signature dish is the Scud City Jungle Curry, made with some of the hottest chillies known to man.  They also have a number of hard-to-find draft beers. Just round the corner in Flinders Street is Press Club, which is owned by Australian Masterchef’s own George Calombaris.  Obviously don’t expect to just walk in off the street here and get a table.  If a snack is all you are after then you could do worse that heading down to Son of Burger at 546 Collins Street where two “sliders” and some outstanding egg plant fries will give you change from AU$15.

Two new additions from our last trip are the awesome MeatMaiden hidden underground with an unassuming entrance in 195 Little Collins Street – outstanding pulled pork (Texas style with burnt ends outstanding) and a beer list as long as your arm, as well as Cookie which is a fusion of East meets West and has dishes that come in three different sizes depending on how hungry you are, plus of course a superb beer list.

There are literally dozens of great bars and restaurants on the south bank of the Yarra from Crown Point all the way down to Princess Bridge.  Some excellent spots to soak up the sun and watch the street musicians, magicians and mime artists perform at the weekends. Bear Base at the entrance of the Southgate Shopping Centre has a fine selection of local brews, although expect to pay prices that would make your eyes water in London.  To get back into the American feel, climb the four flights of steps of the Waterside Hotel on 508 Flinders Street to the Deck, one of the trendiest bars in the city with some awesome views, great beers and live music.

So you are fed and watered, what next?  Well for a birds eye view of the city, head to Eureka Skydeck which is 88 floors above the city and offers a unique experience in allowing you to walk out on a glass platform.  Not one for me!  Other must see attractions include the Australian Museum for Moving Image, located at Federation Square which showcases the history of TV and Movies. A few hundred metres to the west is the shark-filled Aquarium that is a great “rainy day” option (if there ever is such a think in the city).

Trams criss-cross the city and within the central zone (The CBD) they are now free which is a great gesture.  Climb on the historic circular tram to see the sights without having to stretch your legs, whilst taxis are cheap and plentiful.

Melbourne has one trump card over most cities in the world – sport. Victorians love their sport and have built shrines to their idols.  The South East corner of the city, just a ten minute walk eastwards along the river is dedicated to world-class sport with the 100,000 plus Melbourne Cricket Ground rubbing shoulders with the Rod Laver Arena, home of the Australian Open Tennis, the Westpac indoor arena and the more conventional 25,000 football stadium.  Football, cricket, tennis, basketball and the enthralling Aussie Rules all entertain tens of thousands every year, some events running concurrently.  The MCG is home to the Australian Museum of Sport, well worth a few hours of anyone’s time on a non-event day.

24 Hours in Sydney

Sydney is one of those cities that is so recognisable in the media simply because of two icons – the Harbour bridge and the Opera House.  Yet it has so much more to offer a visitor and worthy of not just 24 hours but a few days.  Come in the spring when temperatures are very pleasant, the days are getting longer and the locals are just letting go of the winter shackles.  It’s fair to say that if you tire of Sydney you tire of life itself.  There is no better spot in the Southern Hemisphere than at a window seat in The Deck restaurant at Luna Park where you have a panorama of the two iconic sights as well as watching the world sail by with a chilled glass of wine from the Hunter Valley.

Getting into the city could not be simpler.  Follow signs for the train station at Kingsford-Smith International Airport and within 20 minutes you can be looking up at the Harbour Bridge in awe.  A single ticket is AU$17 and the train makes a loop around the central area.  Alternatively a cab will cost around AU$35 depending on traffic.

So where to head first?  Darling Harbour is a good starting point with the National Maritime Museum taking pride of place at the mouth of the natural harbour, opposite the impressive skyline of the Central Business District and the Aquarium.  There are also some excellent restaurants in this part of the city, none more highly recommended than Hurricanes in the Harbourside Shopping Centre which serves some pretty awesome ribs.  Just to the south is Chinatown and the Central Station area.  Be warned ladies, the area to the west here called Chippendale is not reflective of those “shows” you may have seen.

To really get a birds-eye view of the city, head to the Westfield Shopping Centre on Market Street where you can ascend to the top of the 305-metre Sydney Tower Eye, topped with a revolving restaurant and the opportunity to walk around the rim.  On the other side of the park you will see the Australian Museum, housed in the first Government house and well worth an hour of anyone’s time. Another alternative vantage point is the free to enter Observatory sitting high up on Millers Point.

Of course at some point you will end up at Circular Quay, home to the staging post for the ferries across the harbour and beyond.  The area to your left is The Rocks, home to some outstanding properties and some excellent restaurants, not surprisingly focusing on seafood. For those with a head for heights, you can cross the bridge by foot, and when we mean cross we mean climb the arch.  Not for those with a fear of heights! For a real up close view of the bridge get any of the ferries to Luna Park, home to Sydney’s most loved theme park.  The journey takes about five minutes and passed right under the bridge.  You can also travel from here to Taronga Zoo (AU$12 return) and up to Manly (AU$14.80) to enjoy the superb surf on the beach.

Beach you said?  Well, the world famous Bondi is an easy bus ride away from the city centre – routes 333, 380 and 381 make the trip and drop you off right on the golden sands.  A single ticket costs AU$4.60 and it takes around 30 minutes.

Cricket is the national talking point, whatever the season, and the home of the game in Australia is the Sydney Cricket Ground in Paddington.  Tours run on non-match days and are well worth a few hours of your day.  The new football stadium, The Allianz, is home to Sydney FC and the NSW Waratahs Rugby Union side is next to the cricket ground.

Need a drink?  Well rumour has it that the locals like a brew or two.  Kings Cross is losing its seedy reputation and becoming known as the place to party of a weekend, whilst the Rocks has some of the best pubs in the city.  Undecided whether you want to see some modern art or drink craft beer?  No problems – head to The Arthouse Hotel in Pitt Street where the walls of the huge bar are adorned with some superb works.  The hotel is also a decent place to lay your head for the night.  PJ’s Sports Bar at the Criterion Hotel on Park Street is not the most attractive in town but if you want cheap eats, cheap beer and a dozen or so screens showing sport from around the world there aren’t many better options.

Fancy splashing the cash on a hotel?  Look no further than the Four Points by Sheraton overlooking Darling Harbour.  A harbour-view room here may cost a small fortune but you will get your money’s worth simply starring at the beauty of the city from that angle.  For those not able, or willing, to spend so much simply head to the rooftop bar for a drink and watch the sun go down.

Finally, it would be rude not to take a trip out to the Olympic Park, the centre point of which is the 80,000 ANZ Stadium, home to most of the sporting teams in the city.  You can reach the park by train from the city centre although on non-event days you may need to change at Lidcombe.

Who wouldn’t like Sydney?  It has the weather, the people, the food and the relaxed feel that is so lacking in many cities around the world.