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Brisbane

Updated: Oct 25, 2011 04:39 PM EDT


By Lee Mylne, Marc Llewellyn, Ron Crittall & Lee Atkinson

Brisbane, "Brissie" to locals, functions on an exquisitely human scale. It's that most Australian of cities -- big-hearted, blue-skied and with a down-to-earth attitude that soon rubs off on you. It's a place where you can cuddle koalas or dive coral reefs after work, join bronzed urbanites on Gold Coast beaches on the weekend and sunbathe by the Brisbane River whilst gazing up at the Central Business District's gleaming skyscrapers. Take the lead of the easygoing Brisbanites because Queensland's subtropical capital is too hot to rush.

Things to Do

Beyond landmarks such as the 1930s City Hall and the Treasury Building's graceful colonnades, Brisbane's big attractions are outdoors. Cool down under a canopy of subtropical foliage at the Botanic Gardens Mount Coot-tha. Gaze at contemporary art at the GoMA, dinosaurs at the Queensland Museum and at skyscrapers from the gently turning Wheel of Brisbane. Koalas -- more than 130 of them -- beg a cuddle at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Brisbanites party in Fortitude Valley, where live music clubs, upbeat cocktail bars and pubs are all in the mix. For a more alternative scene, try the West End for cool bars and lounges with a boho feel. Cosy pubs and cafes stud the South Bank, where buskers perform as Brisbane's high-rise cityscape lights up. Book tickets for opera and musicals at Opera Queensland and cutting-edge arts at the Powerhouse, a converted 1920s factory.

Restaurants and Dining

The city center and surrounding suburbs represent fusion cuisine at its finest. Party and dining hotspot Fortitude Valley serves the world on a plate -- from tapas to Thai -- in chic lounge-style restaurants. The South Bank goes alfresco in casual eateries dishing up fresh seafood, authentic Italian and modern Australian fare, with glittering Brisbane River views. Experiment with cross-cultural vegetarian and organic foods in the West End.

Active Pursuits

Tropical reefs, rainforest, mountains -- Brisbane has what Aussies would call one helluva backyard. The city's skyscrapers look different while rock-climbing up Kangaroo Point Cliffs, or hike through the Boondall Wetlands Reserve to spot herons wading in the reeds. Brisbanites go on an urban walkabout in the Brisbane Forest Park's 70,395 acres of lush bushland. The surf's always up on Gold Coast beaches such as Snapper Rocks, while divers swim with angelfish and butterfly fish off dune-dotted Moreton Island.

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