Going for Gold
Brisbane was once viewed by its cosmopolitan cousins Sydney and Melbourne as the cowboy city - capital of the “banana republic”, Queensland. The theory went something like this: the further north you travelled and the closer you came to the tropics, the less refined the local people and culture. But something fascinating has happened in the past few years - those from the southern state capitals have begun a mass migration to Brisbane, driven largely by the desire for a warmer, healthier lifestyle. And, to make matters even better, what they’re finding in Brisbane is a young and dynamic city.
Though Brisbane has no surf beaches (its coast is sheltered by Stradbroke Island, creating a wetland, mangrove environment by the water), Brisbane is the metropolitan gateway to the Gold and Sunshine coasts, and to Byron Bay.
We won’t go too much into the history – Brisbane has been suffering from that hangover for years. But the fact is that the city lived under the shadow of a highly conservative and corrupt state government for almost two decades. Artists fled Brisbane, public demonstrations were banned, and, as bars were closing at night under strict licensing laws, a select few were heading out to the city’s illegal casinos and brothels. All sounds rather sordid – but most people didn’t know the extent of what was happening until it was revealed in the media and the ensuing Fitzgerald Inquiry of the late 1980s, which ultimately served to usher in a new government and - as the lid came off the pressure cooker - a lively new era.
Now, Brisbane seems to have become more liveable and proud of its unique qualities with each day. World Expo 88 opened it up to a global audience, and Brisbane is one of those cities that has redeveloped its former Expo site wisely – it’s now South Bank, a place where you can swim at an artificial beach while looking across the river to a stunning city skyline, or visit Queensland’s cultural centre which includes the impressive state art gallery, museum, freshly developed Sciencentre (a favourite with children), and the Queensland Performing Arts Complex - home to theatre, classical performance, dance and more.
Other inner-city highlights that lie along the majestic Brisbane River include Fortitude Valley and New Farm – formally grungy, now greatly gentrified, and host to the city’s most happening bars, clubs and alternative art galleries – and West End, a friendly, alternative community with a relaxed cafe atmosphere.
Something that sets Brisbane apart is its natural beauty. Being sub-tropical, it’s a remarkably green city. The quintessential Brisbane suburban scene is that of traditional “Queenslander” weatherboard houses nestled among lush plantlife across steep hills and valleys. A summer day here is almost always accompanied by the sound of cicadas and a sultry humidity.