There's nothing quite like a city with something to prove to make it strive for excellence. Brisbane is much more than a government centre that serves as the gateway to the Gold and Sunshine Coasts and the vast Queensland interior.
Brisbane boasts a swag of infrastructure and cultural hotspots. Coffee in Brisbane is taken very seriously. As is food, fashion, music and art. Unfortunately, the road system retains a quirky sense of humour. Brisbane is still playing road improvement catch-up and peak hour traffic congestion is as frustrating as you will find anywhere else in Australia.
However, the city knows this and recent progress has been noticeable, although often it has moved one pain point away to be replaced at another bottleneck just a few kilometres down the road. It never stops trying. The tunnels can be helpful if you are in a hurry, however they don't save much time outside of peak hour and the view down there is pretty average. So when you can, consider taking the toll free bridges and freeways. Brisbane is one of the easiest Australian capital cities to navigate without having to pay tolls.
Australia's third largest city is a synthesis of other cities and it has freely incorporated elements of global cities that work well, such as the acclaimed Southbank precinct. Brisbane abolished its trams in the 1960s but has retained many of the wide streets and turned the median strips into lush, sub-tropical gardens. Streets in the CBD are configured in a grid with male names all running in the same direction and the female street names are perpendicular to them.
Sydney drivers in particular will notice how generously wide Brisbane traffic lanes are compared to home. However, be warned Brisbane is one of the largest cities by geographical area in the world, and public transport can be patchy in parts, so it is a very car centric city.
To minimise congestion you can visit 131940.qld.gov.au/RoadConditions/Metropolitan-Region.aspx?regionid=101 or try snarl's Queensland website : queensland.snarl.com.au
Discover Brisbane - In and Around
Brisbane has a lot of offer. Visit Brisbane is good start to plan your trip - see www.visitbrisbane.com.au
Southbank is a great area to soak up the year round sun of Queensland and enjoy an inner city oasis. This area hosts the Performing Art Centre, State Museum, State Library, State Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). There is plentiful easy and relatively affordable car parking at Southbank. You can also catch a ferry to explore the city from the river.
For antiques, Retro chic, fashion and collectables head to Newstead/Teneriffe, Woolloongabba (pronounced "The Gabba" and home the famous cricket ground) plus Paddington/Red Hill and there are many more. www.visitbrisbane.com.au/information/articles/shopping/antiques-and-vintage?sc_lang=en-au
Oxford Street, Bulimba; James St, Fortitude Valley, and Latrobe Terrace Paddington are all great destinations to feel how relaxed, yet sophisticated Brisbane can be for retail, restaurants and entertainment.
Brisbane is a big city, however it has retained a human scale. There are many walks, gardens and bike paths that wind along river and nature reserves. One of these reserves is Brisbane's highest peak, Mount Coot-tha (287 metres). It offers a panoramic view at the end of a short, scenic drive. It is also home to the Planetarium and botanical gardens. However, be aware that the area has a maximum 60 km/hr speed zones and it is heavily patrolled; so really keep an eagle eye on your speed or it may become an expensive tour.
Discover Brisbane - Gold Coast
The M1 Motorway is a driver's stretch of freeway linking Brisbane to the Gold Coast. It is an hour and a quarter trip usually, however at peak hour or following a traffic incident the M1 can become a journey! This drive takes you past the three theme parks of Dreamworld, SeaWorld and MovieWorld. You can obtain discount, multiple access passes from themeparks.com.au/box-office.aspx
The Gold Coast itself has a lot to offer and is a great destination in its own right. Behind the magnificent beaches of the Gold Coast is a stunning hinterland that is pristine in many parts. Further south are the Northern Beaches of New South Wales (NSW).
The Gold Coast also has a growing airport. It is worth considering using the Gold Coast as an entry or exit point for Brisbane, South-East Queensland and Northern NSW.
Discover Brisbane - Sunshine Coast
To the north of Brisbane is the Sunshine Coast. This region prides itself on the more laid back pace and offers a contrast to the Gold Coast. Noosa National Park is thick with Koalas, and while the state's smallest national park it is one of the most accessible.; starting pretty much where Noosa's Hasting Street ends. www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/noosa/about.html
Discover Brisbane - Toowoomba and the West
Once you rise out of the fertile plains of the Lockyer Valley west from Ipswich and by-passing Gatton; the range crossing at Toowoomba is streamlined and unless you are on a pushbike you won't raise a sweat. Toowoomba is the Garden City and is approximately 90 minutes from Brisbane. Situated at a higher altitude and with a cooler, less humid climate than the coast that spreads out before it from the lookout located at the top of the range. Toowoomba isn't the outback, however it is a gateway to the massive western interior. Check your distances between destinations beyond Toowoomba because Birdsville is a 20 hour drive and you will run out of sealed roads. Check your rental car agreement to see if you are permitted to drive on dirt roads.
Brisbane Hire Car Tips
Brisbane has toll roads and tunnels that sometimes are difficult to avoid because roads funnel into them. It is a good idea to register your hire car for tolls. Often hire companies have a day rate for tolls that covers them all.
Brisbane and surrounding areas can experience flash flooding from torrential summer storms. If a road is covered in water forget trying to cross it. You won't be able to tell how deep the water is and it is unfortunately common that roads are washed out and cars are swept away with tragic consequences.
Allow additional time to return your car to Brisbane Airport. It is only 12 km from the Brisbane GPO to the airport but it can be a slow commute, especially during peak hour. The access roads are limited and if something goes wrong they can back up considerably.
It is possible to return a hire car to a different depot to the one that you collected it from. Sometimes this attracts a surcharge, however avoiding the need to retrace your travel route and increased flight options from other airports always makes this worth considering.
Anyway, a car is a great way to explore Brisbane and surrounds - enjoy your next road trip there!