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Brisbane City Guide
Brisbane is Australia’s third largest city and possibly its most underrated destination. Like most Australian cities it was founded as a penal colony (in 1824) and much like Perth, focused on its resource assets to build a thriving and prosperous settlement. Today it has a population of over 2.2 million people, a quarter of which are not Australian born. Brisbane is the closest Australian capital to Asia and regional influences are strong - after English its primary languages are Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese.
Brisbane is home to half of Queensland’s entire population and it’s easy to see why. Ideally located along the Brisbane River between mountains and sea, it has a cosmopolitan lifestyle amidst beautiful natural surroundings. The access to some of Australia’s greatest holiday destinations - with the Sunshine Coast above it and the Gold Coast below it – should not be overlooked as both regions are key contributors to the city’s economic prosperity.
Brisbane’s industrial sector has been a crucial part of building the city’s foundations. Discoveries of valuable resources such as coal, oil and minerals in the 1950’s heralded a boom in the city’s growth and these paved the way for further industrial progress. Today Brisbane is a key player where innovation in science, technology, education and tourism are concerned.
Brisbane is extremely affordable with a great climate and plenty of fresh, clean air and civic pride. It may not have the same economic opportunities of some of the bigger cities but that is far outweighed by the lifestyle opportunities available. Brisbane has a unique character when compared to other Australian cities in that it was not a priority destination for post-World War II immigrants, like the southern states. Though it’s home to a diverse multicultural population today, as a result of ‘missing out’ on the European migrants, it’s streetscape and character are as close to the definition of ‘Australian’ as can be found.
Brisbane is an easy city to live in and the cheap cost of living makes it a very appealing destination for families. It has plenty of galleries, museums and attractions as well as a good community spirit and fantastic natural environment in all directions. There is just the right blend of arts, culture, sport and leisure and plenty of events held throughout the year to keep the locals interested.
Brisbane has many of the benefits of city life, without the big city problems. It’s Australia’s third largest city but it’s not densely populated so the cost of living is more reasonable. However, word is getting out about the great life to be had in Brisbane and the population is growing fast. As the cost of living in Sydney increases, families can find a similar lifestyle a little further north in Brisbane but with with more room to breathe, easier commuting and more cash in their pocket to enjoy.
Singles, Young People and Students
Brisbane has a very young population, many of whom are foreign students. Local educational institutions include the University of Queensland, Griffith University and Queensland University of Technology. There is a decent selection of Australian companies based in Brisbane and young professionals enjoy a great lifestyle with affordable housing and a highly social community. These advantages apply to students as well with discounted public transport and modern purpose-built student accommodation sweetening the deal.
The suburb of Rosalie in the city’s north west is nice for CBD students, just a few kilometres away from town with good bus connections and quiet neighborhoods. Coorparoo in the inner south is centrally located to a few campuses with good transport connections making it particularly handy for students. The same applies to Woolloongabba which has a high population of young people so there’s a lot of cheap share house possibilities as well as good food and entertainment for study breaks.
West End and New Farm are the cool spots for the young crowd. These areas have a creative vibe with great restaurants and nightlife. They are as popular with the young urban professional as they are to students and share housing is common in both suburbs. New Farm is better for those on a tight budget and is close to Fortitude Valley for those who want the social aspects of student life as much as the education. For the young professional craving a more peaceful life, south of the river is ideal with South Bank, South Brisbane, Bulimba and Balmoral all well serviced by public transport and more than enough cafés, restaurants, bars and cinemas for after-work leisure time.
Many rich childhood memories have been made in ‘old Queenslander’ homes with big verandahs, cool breezes and creaking timber on hot days, but since the devastating floods of 2010, new architecture has been integrated acknowledging Brisbane’s flood prone location. Contemporary three level steel framed homes offer plenty of space for families as well as wonderful views, balmy nights up in the sky and most importantly peace of mind with the ground floor acting as an emergency wet level to protect from floods.
So many suburbs in Brisbane cater so well to families, it’s hard to choose just a few. But as always, access to schools and work are key as well as affordable living. The Brisbane River is a great feature of the city scape but not if you prefer time at home with your family over time in transit, so living and working on the same side of the river is recommended.
North side of the river, Rosalie is a great choice with its leafy streets and café lifestyle. Nearby Paddington offers the same but is a little more upmarket and in a fantastic location to access all the best the city and the river precincts have to offer. Bardon is also lovely or The Gap to the west. It’s a little further out but surrounded by Mount Coot-Tha state forest so provides a peaceful and relaxing retreat to come home to.
West End has a funky inner city alternative vibe that appeals to many families with good access to the river, South Bank and the CBD and great local markets. Across the southern banks of the river, without the need for a city commute are the suburbs of Bulimba, Hawthorne, Morningside and Balmoral. These areas all have reasonable schools, decent housing and more than adequate local facilities for families.
Brisbane’s wonderful mild tropical climate is hugely appealing to retirees along with the reasonable costs of living and the resort style accommodation choices in apartments and assisted living facilities by the water. The city has a huge range of hospitals and specialist care facilities easy to commute to from across greater Brisbane. The easy pace of life makes Brisbane an ideal place to retire to and there are plenty of free activities, events and leisure options for the active retiree.
Apartment life in South Bank and South Brisbane means easy walks along the river to take in the atmosphere, plenty of great restaurants nearby and just a ten-minute walk across the river and into the CBD.
For those wanting to spend retirement pottering in the garden or tinkering in the shed, the inner west suburbs like Rosalie, Paddington and Auchenflower have older style blocks with established gardens and beautiful old Queenslanders ideal for just that lifestyle.
For those dealing with health challenges, Spring Hill is a great location - close to the city and a variety of hospitals and specialists. A little to the south east of here is New Farm that has aged care facilities and good public transport to the city and health services. East Brisbane south of the river is also good and relatively safe with a lot of families choosing to live in the area.
First Time Buyers
Average house prices in Brisbane have hovered around $500,000 and now that the flood recovery is mostly behind them, Brisbane has become a rapidly growing market. Competition amongst first home buyers is tough and many properties receive multiple offers after just the first open house. Lack of suitable properties to suit the first home buyer has increased demand considerably and in many cases they are spending over their budget to secure the property they want. Alternatively, they are heading further away from the city to get better prices, but with the downside of distance potentially impacting on their investment in the long term.
Some of the suburbs most coveted by first home buyers have been those south of the CBD and the river. Properties in Brisbane’s south were listed as the majority recipients for first home buyer grants. Annersley and nearby Tarragindi are just over 6 kilometres away with nice city views and some lovely renovated Queenslanders up for grabs. These areas are also great for those looking to buy an apartment as their first purchase. As well as this, Holland Park has started to gain traction for apartment hunters. Rocklea to the south west is 9 kilometres away and in a flood risk zone but with decent affordable properties while reasonably priced Tingalpa to the south east is just within the 10 kilometre radius but close to lovely local parklands, reserves and waterways.
Best Investment Areas
The key to purchasing property in Brisbane is to avoid buying in flood zones. However, lessons were learned after the 2010 disastrous flooding and new builds are much more sensitive to the fragility of Brisbane’s location and are now designed accordingly.
Bargains can be found in the outer suburbs such as Chermside in the north and Woodridge in the south. Both suburbs and those surrounding them have decent transport options, healthy local employment options and close proximity to schools and facilities – all important features for good investments.
Solid growth is expected in other outer northern suburbs such as Everton Park, Wooloowin and Kedron, as well as in outer southern suburbs around Mt Gravvat and Mount Gravvat East and towards the coast at Wynnum.
For those with the capital to invest, New Farm and West End can deliver some jewels at decent prices if buyers research well, but even so, these areas are coveted for their community atmosphere and lifestyle benefits so waiting lists are not unusual. Excellent resale value makes properties in these areas worth the effort though.
Bulimba to the east of the city is a great long term investment for families with a strong sense of community, nice local village areas and practical amenities. It’s ideal for young families and professionals happy to commute across the river and has the benefit of being an established area which adds to its investment potential.
1. Australia’s largest city hall is in Brisbane. It was built in 1930 from marble and granite on a 2-acre site and features a 2,500 seat auditorium.
2. Brisbane’s Botanical Gardens are home to the first Macadamia tree planted in the world. It was planted in 1848 and is still standing today.
3. Brisbane is the closest eastern capital to Asia and regional influences are strong - after English its primary languages are Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese and as such has a significant role in Asian pacific relations, including hosting world leaders in 2014 at the G20 summit.
4. The Port of Brisbane processes 30 million tonnes of cargo annually and over 50% of Queensland’s entire exports. Primary exports are wool, sugar, grain, coal and oil.
5. The beach lagoon at South Bank is the size of five Olympic swimming pools and the largest of its kind in Australia.
6. The South Bank precinct was purpose built for the World Expo ’88 exhibition which attracted almost 16 million visitors in its 6 month run.
7. Brisbane’s beloved Story Bridge is heritage listed and an almost identical match to another bridge in Montreal – the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
8. Another famous bridge in the city is the Go Between Bridge – thought to be named because it goes between West End and Milton, but it’s actually named after the iconic Aussie indie rock band the Go Betweens who came from Brisbane.
9. Brisbane was a shock entry in a recent Lonely Planet ‘Best of’ list, winning the title for ‘Australia’s Hippest City’ in 2014.
10. The largest koala sanctuary in the world is in Brisbane. It’s home to over 130 koalas and has had a variety of interesting visitors from American soldiers during WWII to Pope John Paul and members of the royal family. Today it is a big hit with tourists.
11. Brisbane was the first Australian city to use electricity in public life. A lighting display in Queen Street was first featured in 1882, followed by lighting in the government printing office the following year. This was then connected through to the Parliament building making it the first electric lit building in the British Empire.
12. Brisbane ambulance services commenced in 1892 and though initially run by volunteers and community funded, the value of the service was recognised by the Queensland Government and it became the first ambulance service in the world to have paid staff.
13. Australia’s first rocket launch happened from a boat on the Brisbane River in 1934 as a mail service experiment. It contained empty envelopes and was the brainchild of Alan Young, the head of the Queensland Air Mail Society. It crashed on the other side of the river.
14. Brisbane had an important role during WWII. It hosted many American soldiers, was an allied supply base and military headquarters and at one stage was the busiest submarine port in the world.
15. The first man to fly across the Pacific Ocean was Brisbane born Charles Kingsford Smith who flew from California to Brisbane via Hawaii and Fiji with a total flight time of 83 hours and 38 minutes.
16. One of Australia’s food icons – the lamington – was invented in Brisbane. Lord and Lady Lamington were travelling with French chef Armand Gallan who created it as a quick solution for last minute visitors and stale cake. He cut sponge cake into squares, rolled them into chocolate icing and coconut and voilá!
17. Parts of Jackie Chan’s movie First Strike may be familiar to Brisbane locals with scenes shot in Fortitude Valley’s China Town.
18. Brisbane’s most famous annual event is the Royal Queensland Show, better known as The Ekka. It attracts half a million visitors and has been running since 1876.
19. The Ekka’s first show bag in 1876 was a free bag of coal and historically it’s renowned for its introduction of the latest trends and technologies to Queenslanders, such as telephones and electric lights.
20. In December 2010 Brisbane was devastated by flooding. The region was declared a natural disaster zone, 38 people died in the flooding and damage costs came to $2.38 billion. It changed the city forever.
BRISBANE LIVING – SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Lifestyle is everything in Brisbane and there is something for all age groups and life stages. It’s natural attractions around the city are its greatest asset including South Bank, the Botanical Gardens and Kangaroo Point, not to mention the simple pleasure of enjoying the river itself by ferry, bicycle or on foot. Close by of course, are the wonders of the mangrove shores and stunning sandy escapes to Moreton and Stradbroke Islands all within an hour or two of the CBD.
Sport is a big part of the outdoor lifestyle and Queenslanders are crazy for all kinds, but their passion is greatest for rugby. They don’t mind a bit of cricket too and even support the AFL. The roar of the crowd from the Gabba oval as a match is in play is certainly a thrill to behold.
The city itself has wonderful art deco architecture to be admired and some great historic buildings such as Parliament House, Customs House, the Queensland National Bank and the cathedrals, all built in the mid to late 1800’s. Brisbane is home to QAGOMA - Australia’s largest Modern Art Gallery as well as the Museum of Brisbane and the Queensland Art Gallery.
Young people breathe life into the suburbs around West End, New Farm and Fortitude Valley and these lively precincts are a delightful place to relax over a long lazy brunch or soak in the spirit of a warm and balmy evening. Enjoy the leafy streets, the twinkling lights and the delicious smells of great Australian food being cooked by some of the country’s most talented chefs.
Brisbane is an easy city to navigate and there is good public transport available as well as very reasonably priced flights to many national and international destinations. The city has an excellent electric train system and a strong network of public buses and commuter ferries. Students in Brisbane get half price travel and there’s a free ferry between the city’s main points. Taxis are readily available throughout the city and suburbs.
City bikes are available for rent (also with student discounts) and significant investment has been put into bicycle paths and amenities for cyclists, including a bike station with showers and lockers at the CBD bus terminal and increased capacity for travelling with bikes on trains and ferries.
The Port of Brisbane is Australia’s third largest port and handles up to 30 million tonnes of cargo annually, much of it is resource exports such as coal, sugar and grain. There are also two cruise ship wharves for smaller cruise lines with dining and shopping facilities for the tourists.
Brisbane airport is Australia’s third busiest airport, handling close to 20 million domestic and international passengers flying to all states of Australia as well as Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific region. The airport also has considerable freight activities and attracts business from all parts of the state. Passengers from outside of Brisbane can connect directly to the airport by regional trains and there is a shuttle between the domestic and international terminals and good connections to the city and suburbs.
Brisbane has just the right mix of easy and breezy lifestyle blended with that all important cosmopolitan vibe - essential for a city with such a young population. Its natural attractions are its greatest asset and the wonderful climate makes outdoor living a dream. Local seafood, tropical fruits and Queensland’s abundance of fresh and interesting produce combine for quintessentially Aussie menus and its café and restaurant scene is world class.
Brisbane has a vibrant creative spirit evident in its galleries and live music scene and its various precincts and neighborhoods provide interesting spots to explore, wind down or just spend time with friends. The city’s central location to some of Australia, Asia and the Pacific’s top holiday destinations means locals really do get the best of both worlds. Fantastic weather, great food, beautiful scenery – no wonder Brisbane locals are so pleased with themselves.