Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bribane and the Sunshine Coast - beach and city life in Australia

I got to Brisbane after three chilled out days in Byron Bay. I had planned to stay a whole week in Brisbane to check out all the zouk dancing spots in town – it is the zouk capital of Australia after all! A dance friend of mine had offered me even a place to stay so I was all set for my dance week! But more about dancing in Brisbane in the next post :)

Brisbane is bit of less known big city in Australia – Sydney and Melbourne seem to get most tourists, as well as Perth on the west coast lately. But Brisbane is quite well located with lots of fast connections to the popular islands such as the Australian reef destinations Fraser Island and Whitsundays as well as Fiji, among others. It’s also in the pretty much half way on the travelers’ famous east coast route from Melbourne or Sydney to Cairns. I immediately liked the city when I strolled from the bus terminal to the river and boarded the City Cat ferry. The river snakes through the city, passing the skyscraper filled down town (Riverside terminal) and you get a good sense of how the place looks like.

On my second day we jumped in the car and did some sightseeing, drove to a couple spots on the coastline on both sides of the city. You can also drive or take a bus to the top of Mount Coot-tha  – specially a cool spot to see the sun set and city lights come live in Brisbane.

One of my favourite ways to spend time in Brisbane (besides dancing obviously) was to go stroll on the walks along the river. There’s also a little beach, Street Beach, built on the opposite side of the river from the main shopping district. It has a big pool and white sand to lounge on, and there are plenty of restaurants and cafés too. The riverside has in fact a couple of really lovely spots with cool eats and watering holes where people flock weekend nights. I admit that Brisbane lacks the world famous sights but you’ll easily spend there a few days.

Street Beach

There happened to be the Greek festival, Paniyri, while I was there. You’ll find lots of Greek food, drinks and music & other shows on the festival area. We got around there when it was already the last couple hours of the weekend so all the food was half off – I love Greek food so I couldn’t have been happier! 10 AUD for entry to the festival.

Sunshine Coast

There are lots of popular spots for holidaymakers up and down the coast from Brisbane. Most people leave the city to the beaches during the weekends and holidays. Up from Brisbane is the Sunshine Coast – we went there on my first weekend in Brisbane. About 1,5h drive from the city is the modern beach town of Noosa. There are white beaches and a pretty town center with the distinct “holiday resort” feel.

View down to Noosa

Up from Noosa there’s a long stretch of beaches, all the way to Fraser Island. A lot of the beaches (if not all) are open to 4WD traffic and when you get there you’ll encounter a lot of cars whizzing up to 80km/h on the hard part of the sand or curving around in the softer parts. It actually looks like the beaches are more like roads with all the tire tracks. Not the most serene of settings but I can see the draw of the place – there’s a couple of camping sites and who wouldn’t like to just drive their car to the beach, set up a tent and wake up with a sunrise over the sea. Hey, I wouldn’t mind! It was a bit chilly already in May when the sun went down so better go there during the summer.

We drove up the beach to a lighthouse, which is about a 15 minute walk from the beach, right on top of the hill at the tip of the peninsula. From there you can see a long way up to both sides – we had perfect timing with the sun starting to set.

After that we took the car around to the other side for a true Australian sunset moment on the beach… amazing colors! From there it wouldn’t be a long way to Fraser Island. When all the light was gone and with the tide coming back we hurried up to Rainbow Beach where we could get back to the main road; from there it was 3 hour drive back to Brisbane. It was quite chilly already but with the roof down I could watch the stars all the way back to the city, quite magical.

Getting around in Brisbane 

In my opinion the most enjoyable way to get around in the ferry, City Cat. The city centre is small enough to handle by foot but there’s a free bus in the CBD area. To the suburbs you’re better off going with buses. If you can get your hands of the local transport card, the Go card, it’s really handy and will save you a couple bucks while you cruise the city. Actually you may need to look into where you’d like to stay vs. what you want to do so that you don’t stay in the opposite side of the river of where you want to be, it will save some time & money.

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