6 things to do in and around Brisbane
1. South Bank
Looking south across Brisbane river from the central business district, a handful of landmarks catch your eye: The huge white wheel whose pods attract the coins of many a tourist, the large beige walls of the Queensland Theatre and the Queensland Museum next to it making up the cultural centre, and the grass areas which chases the bank of the river from West End all the way to Kangaroo Point, and of course the famous South Bank 'beach'.
South bank beach is a man made swimming pool adjacent to the river which has had a bed of sand laid beneath it. Whilst the pool loses its appeal on a sunny afternoon as the crowds flood in, an early morning swim is quite the luxury when living in Brisbane. The grassier areas are used frequently to offer free classes in Yoga, Pilates, Zumba, etc. in both the early hours of the morning and the evenings. When these aren't on, there are plenty of tranquil settings for a short meditation to reset your mental constructs.
The streets are filled with restaurants and bars that attract people every night after a hard days work. On weekends the markets take over the streets with beautiful stalls selling curiosities from dresses and shirts, to crystals and twisted potatoes. The movie theatre is there too and you can catch the latest films and a box of popcorn for a moderate price.
2. West End
The bohemian centre of Brisbane is the next suburb inland from South Bank along the Brisbane river. If you are looking for hippies, yippies and yuppies they can all be found here! Moving away from social stereotypes, travellers and students and open minded people from all walks of life tend to find themselves living in share houses in and around West End.
The Blue House is one definitely worth a mention, accommodating 34 people, almost all of whom are internationals. The helmsman, Rui is a kind hearted soul whose past lives must number many.
With 2 of our 3 favourite vegan restaurants in Brisbane (Vege Rama and Forest Cafe) based in West End, we are spoilt for choice. Not to mention Govinda's, an Indian restaurant run by the Hare Krishnas offers 'all you can eat' for $12, and the Green Grocer who, although not a green-grocer, sells every vegan delight imaginable, from vegan cheese to coconut milk ice cream. They also have a peanut butter machine which is definitely a highlight for us!
Every Friday and Saturday night, the West End Markets on Boundary Street take hold, and people from all over Brisbane flood to the markets for live music in the Motor Room, food from all over the world, and artistic products from beautiful wooden feather necklaces, to Egyptian oils to cure every ailment.
3. Fortitude Valley
This area of the city is famous for its nightlife, more than anything else. The streets are filled with pubs (Pig and Whistle and Brunswick Social), nightclubs (The Family, Woolly Mammoth), restaurants and various retail stores.
After walking through the crowded and busy Brunswick Mall, closer to the train station, a number of strip clubs start to appear. This type of night entertainment is very common here in Australia and we are definitely against this misogynistic treatment and unethical meaner of making and spending money.
If what you are looking for is electronic music, alcohol and people, this is your place. Every Thursdays there are 4$ drinks at Ricks and free salsa lessons at 8 pm at Cloudland. Every night there is something different on.
Camping is a necessity for anyone looking to escape the grip of Brisbane life without needing a car and lots of excess cash to splash on hostels. A reasonably good tent will cost you $60 from any camping shop, an inflatable mattress will set you back $15 at Target and you are good to go.
But where do you go without a car?
The logical and obvious solution is to meet people. Meet some nice guys and girls and ride along with them. You can even meet them online on different Facebook groups of travellers in Brisbane, this will make it cheaper and also more enjoyable. Cedar creek and Kondallila falls are all good areas to explore. They are all less than an hour away from Brisbane and you can go for the day if you want.
6. North Stradbroke Island (Straddie)
An hour on the train from Brisbane central costing $5 followed by a 30-40 minute Ferry costing another $5 each way from Cleveland (one of Brisbane farthest suburbs on the East coast) takes you to the worlds second largest sand island: North Stradbroke Island.
The Ferry stops in Dunwich, about mid-way down the west coast of the island, facing Brisbane. Dunwich is a town which moves very much at its own leisurely pace. There is a quaint and well hidden grocery shop called the Fruit Barn which sells some of the most delicious avocados in Brisbane, a few other simple stores and a pub.
A bus stop by the Ferry terminal in Dunwich takes you north along a road which goes all the way to Point lookout on the north east tip of the island. However, stopping halfway along this route will leave you at the intersection where another bus can take you to the north west tip, Amity point.
Both of these locations have campsites, but Point Lookout has the advantage of being walking distance from Main Beach which stretches down the east coast of the island. Great surf and golden sand draw people from all over to this beach.
7. Moreton Island
The world's third largest sand island, Moreton Island is a little further on the ferry than North Straddie, but it is still very much worth the journey, even for a one-night stay. The ferry is $50 each way and we recommend you to book it in advance (just in case). The ride is not very long and when you get there, it is like arriving in paradise.
Tangalooma resort is the main building on the island and the main source of jobs and monetary income. But for those of us who aren't big resort fans, camping on Moreton island requires you have permission as it is a national park.The roads consist of the pure golden sand on the beach and the panoramas include dense forest, vast deserts and oceanic sunsets and sunrises. The ship wrecks are especially famous as they have become the home of hundreds of species of fish and coral which have been carried on currents from the reef and they are the perfect setting to go diving and snorkelling.
This paradise is topped off by being the island which is home to the largest sand 'mountain' in the world. By definition, a mountain must be over 1000 meters, but this is certainly the largest sand hill (for lack of sand mountains!). A walk to the summit took us approximately 3 hours climbing through soft sand in the sweltering heat with no water. So if you do it, we recommend taking a lot of water and sunscreen and being a bit more prepared than we were! A round trip to the summit and back to the Eastern beach takes about 5 hours altogether.