36 Hours in Brisbane by Karen Phelps
9 am Saturday If there’s one thing about Brisbane the locals are damn friendly. Some would say too friendly. As soon as we board the train to get into town the couple in the seat in front chat to us about their daughter, house, dog, grandmother who is sick in hospital…. It’s kind of quaint and makes you feel like you’ve run into an old friend but it can also quickly fall into the realm of TMI (too much information).
10am Everything about Brisbane is bigger, brighter and brasher than New Zealand from the buildings to the beaches. Right outside the station the Brunswick Street Market is our first stop. We glimpse a man dressed as Marilyn Monroe waving to passers-by as s/he totters down the mall. Once currency is converted the prices are comparable to those in New Zealand so not too many bargains to be found. We can’t help but marvel at the efficiency of the rail system compared with Auckland. The great thing is that you can buy a day pass and get on and off as much as you like. One ticket can also be used for the bus, train and City Cat ferries.
11am Next stop Southbank Parklands. Located on the banks of the Brisbane River,a large art and craft market is held here each weekend. An aboriginal man in a Hawaiian print shirt crouches on the grass playing the didgeridoo. We realise this is the first native Australian we’ve actually seen, which begs the question - where are all the aboriginal people? Also located here is what can only be described as a ‘fake’ beach. Seeing bikini clad lasses in the middle of town lying on sand laid around a swimming pool must be one of those uniquely Aussie experiences.
1pm After a couple of hours looking around it’s time for lunch. There are food stalls, bars and restaurants galore. We finally sit down at The Plough Inn Tavern, which has a casual pub atmosphere with outdoor seating. It’s typical pub food but just the ticket for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. Walking off our excesses we traipse over the Goodwill Bridge, through the scenic Botanic Gardens and stop off at the main central city shopping area of Queen Street Mall with over 1200 shops to explore for a bit more retail therapy.
6pm It’s a nice night so we decide while in Australia do as the Australians do. A barbecue seems a good idea so we buy some food and drive our rental car to North Pine Dam. In addition to the delightful setting the local council has even thoughtfully provided free gas barbeques. Perfect for lying back on the grass and catching the last of the late afternoon sun.
9am Sunday Crikey! It would be a crime to come to Brisbane and not head out to the Crocodile Hunter’s Australia Zoo. Driving out we see our first kangaroo – dead on the side of the road. Fortunately there are plenty of live specimens at Australia Zoo. Highlights include a live bird show (macaws, cockatoos, kookaburras), crocodiles and tiger cubs. Employees wander around during the day with various animals and we even manage to stroke a tiny baby crocodile, kangaroos and a sleeping koala. But don’t expect to see the man himself. The only glimpse that can usually be caught of Mr Irwin is on the projected screen, which accompanies the show (some might call this a blessing in disguise).
5pm On the way back we take a detour to the Glasshouse Mountains, so named because they reminded Captain Cook of the domed glasshouses back in England. Located in the Hinterlands, a scenic rural area with cane fields, ginger and pineapple plantations, these impressive peaks stand as guardians to the Gympie Valley region beyond.
7pm On our travels todayit has been hard to resist buying some of the fresh local produce sold by the roadside. We go to a friend’s house and cook up a big feed from the local gourmet delights reminding us that although Brisbane might be bigger and brasher when it comes to food that is a very good thing indeed.
NEED TO KNOW
Brunswick Street Market
Brunswick Street Mall Fortitude Valley
Southbank Art and Craft Markets
Stalls are located along Stanley Street Plaza and the ENERGEX Arbour every Friday evening (5pm – 10pm), Saturday (11am – 5pm) and Sunday (9am – 5pm).
The Plough Inn Tavern
PH: 07 3844 7777
Glasshouse Mountains Tourist Route Beerwah
Sunshine Coast 4519
PH. (07) 54362000
The Glasshouse Mountains are situated about 65 kms north of Brisbane and are plainly visible from the Bruce Highway. A passenger train also runs regularly through the Glasshouse area and takes approximately one hour from Brisbane.