The natural holiday destination in Queensland is the state's capital city, Brisbane – but Brisbane's not just a launching-off point for the nearby countryside. If you're holidaying there, it's worth taking a week or two to enjoy what the city itself has to offer.
Plenty of Australian cities are built next to beaches – Sydney is famous for being a beach city, and Melbourne, well, is near some things you could call 'beaches' if you were in a generous mood. Brisbane, however, is the only Australian city with a beach in the centre: Streets Beach, a man-made swimming beach, complete with sand, palm trees, and lifeguards. No word on whether Streets Beach comes with real jellyfish or sharks, though.
If there are any fins, they're well hidden. Image by Tim Gillons (Wikimedia Commons)
It's not just a stretch of sand and water, either, but a full lagoon that curves around pebbled coves and foliage-covered islands. Streets Beach is very much a triumph of engineering and design, and while there may not be surf or water deep enough to dive in, it's the perfect place for a family beach outing.
City Botanic Gardens
When you're tired of artificial nature at Streets Beach, come see some real natural beauty at the City Botanic Gardens. Don't confuse this with the Mount Coo-tha Botanic Gardens, which are seven kilometres from the city and worth a visit as well. The City Botanic Gardens are right next to the Brisbane central business district – a very convenient location for city dwellers looking for a place to relax during lunch.
The gardens are open all day and all night, with artificial lighting on the pathways, and are especially fun to visit on weekends. The expansive grass and idyllic lakes make it a romantic location, ideal for commitment ceremonies or weddings. There's a wedding in the City Botanic Gardens almost every weekend: a record unmatched by any Australian church.
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is about twenty minutes from the city by car, or ninety minutes away by scenic ferry from the Queensland Cultural Centre pontoon. It's perfect for overseas visitors unfamiliar with Australian wildlife: the sanctuary contains koalas (of course), kangaroos, Tasmanian devils, wombats, echidnas and at least one platypus. Visitors can pet the kangaroos, which occasionally have joeys in their pouches, and watch the koalas scramble surprisingly quickly towards the fresh eucalyptus leaves at feeding time.
Meet Joey, the confusingly-named koala. (Wikimedia Commons)
Bird lovers will enjoy the emu and cassowary exhibits, along with the bird of prey show that features Australian raptors (no, not the ones from Jurassic Park.)
Kangaroo Point Cliffs
The Kangaroo Point Cliffs are a very popular rock climbing spot just across the Brisbane River from the CBD. It's essentially an outdoor climbing gym, with a few hundred routes, many of which are bolted: metal rings are glued into the cliff on the way up so that lead climbers can easily attach the rope as they climb. To climb here you'll need a rope, harness, shoes, quickdraws and a climbing partner – or you could take a climbing course with a company like Riverlife that provides your gear.
The cliffs at night - note the enthusiastic climbers. Image by Cassandra Black (Wikimedia Commons)
The walls themselves vary wildly in quality, from crumbly rock that's not very fun to climb on to classics like Piles, Moonlight Fantasia, and Cucumber Castle. Climbers of all levels are welcome, with climbs as easy as grade eight (marginally harder than climbing a ladder) and as hard as grade 25 (which you practically need wings to get up). There's something for everyone here – even non-climbers can enjoy a quiet picnic.
If you're familiar with a Brisbane attraction that's better than these four, let us know in the comments. We'd love to hear from you!