Flying in, flying out, transiting, staying over. Brisbane is an easy visit if you just have a day, or part of one.
Catch the Gold Coast Air Train in from the airport and stay on it through the central city, getting off at either South Brisbane or South Bank station. After Park Road the train doesn’t stop more than a couple of times till it reaches the Gold Coast so don’t miss these two stops.
South Bank is a man-made riverside park with enough sun, sand, funpark and water to keep the biggest kid happy. From there you can walk upriver through the South Bank precinct towards the cultural heart of Brisbane, their impressive arts centre. And if you don’t need the wet, playful saturation of South Bank on a sunny day then get off the train at South Brisbane and save yourself the walk.
Once you hit the Performing Arts Centre there is a string of strongly modernist concrete slab buildings, broken by shady walkways, terrace cafes and tingling water features. The Queensland Museum, the Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Library and GoMA, the Gallery of Modern Art, all follow one after the other along the river bank, with commanding views across the water to the city centre. It’s a great sight – the building block profile of Brisbane’s high rise centre, the piercing white of the Kurilpa footbridge, the slightly disturbing brown of the river in spring spate, all washed with intensely yellow Aussie sunshine. It’s hard to take a bad photo on days like this.
GoMA is a delight, with a succession of edgy contemporary exhibitions and strong-hearted Aboriginal art. Having seen some of this indigenous work in its local settings in far northern Australia it’s all the more rewarding to see it in this deeply urban setting, where it takes on a significance far beyond it’s village roots. Cafes full of people using tablets and laptops, electric bikes swooshing by, the hum of distant traffic – you could be in any busy first-world city in the world. But the noisy crows cawwing in the trees, the river ferries zipping by, trails of nipping ants on the baking pavements and the bright hot sunshine quickly dispel those cliches. Brisbane is a busy city on the edge of a vast hinterland where the farms can take days to cross, the mining is colossal and the rivers start at one side of the country and end in another.
When you’re finished walk across the Victoria Bridge from the arts precinct to the central city. Wander through Queen Street Mall, along Ann Street or up Adelaide Street and catch the train back to the airport from Roma Street or Central Stations. Hardly Australia in a day, but definitely a good start.