Brisbane, Australia is probably the best city in the whole world. Or at least to me. Here are seven things I love about Brisbane.
Okay, so I can’t comment on the excellence of Brisbane in California (which is pronounced “Brisbaaaane” instead of what the Australians call “Bris-bin”), and I can’t comprehensively rule out the greatness of all the other cities on earth, but my personal bias leads me to loving the city I was born in. Like most Brissie babies I was born at the Mater Hospital (now the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital), and have lived here for the majority of my life. I’ve known many people who have come from all across the world to spend part of their life here, and any of my friends who have ever moved on from here will always tell me that Brisbane has something that nowhere on earth has.
And I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on a lot of the reasons why Brisbane is the place people never forget, and the place many people never want to leave. Here are 7 things I love about Brisbane… and 2 that I don’t.
Love #1: The people
I think it goes without saying that any world traveler quotes most often that they miss is the people of Brisbane. And I don’t blame them. The place is a hub of brilliant people. I kinda feel jealous for the rest of the world.
The diversity of the types of people you can meet is astounding – janitor to judge, lawyer to laypastor, everyone co-exists in a true amalgamation of culture and experience. And unlike other places of the world where multiple cultures exist at the same time and sit together like oil and water, the culture of Brisbane is highly integrated, or at least it is to me.
Now, could you say that the people is the reason why so many people love any other city on earth? Yes, you could. But I’m taking it for mine, too.
Love #2: Pick a world cuisine
Okay, so you’ll never find Italian here that’s as good as exactly something you might find in Naples, and you might never find a French restaurant that tastes exactly like the homestyle you had in Nice, but man, we have a lot of different cuisines, and they are well represented. And the quality is regularly compared to “what we had back home”.
You love Chinese, Japanese, or Korean cuisines? Head to Sunnybank and get something that tastes just like the flavours of your chosen country. I am regularly told by my Indian friends and co-workers about certain restaurants here that absolutely nail the textures of food they’re accustomed to. I know people from the Middle East who swear by a restaurant in Upper Mount Gravatt, Thai people who swear by Mons at Camp Hill, Africans who love the food that gets whipped up at events at Africa House at East Brisbane.
And for all those Aussie bogans, you can just grab a snag at your local Bunnings. The memes speak for themselves, people.
Love #3: There’s something great an hour in every direction
Brisbane is so well located. If you ever get bored of the city, all you have to do is drive an hour or so in any direction from the city and you’ll find something spectacular.
Drive an hour south and hit up the theme parks, the beaches and the shopping of the Gold Coast, or keep going a little bit more and you’re in New South Wales. Drive an hour south west and head to Mount Tamborine, Springbrook, Lamington National Park, or a bit more west and head to Warwick. Go an hour or more west and you find yourself in country towns like Esk, Toogoolawah, a bit further into Toowoomba, and enjoy the mountain ranges. Go an hour or more north and northwest and head to the Sunshine Coast and her arguably better beaches, water parks, and amazing Hinterland. Other directions feature the scenic vistas of Moreton Bay, the islands you can visit, places you and the family can take or rent a boat, mountain trails, older style towns and shops… ugh. Spoilt for choice.
Love #4: She’s been growing up
One criticism Brisbane has often received is it doesn’t stay open as late as other cities, like Hong Kong or even Sydney or Melbourne in Australia. Especially in the last 10 years or so, this has changed significantly, with a growing number of grocery stores open 24 hours or at least til midnight, many restaurant precincts staying open later, and a growing number of new developments for more nightlife and midday fun. For instance, at the time of writing, there are two new cinema and restaurant precincts being built in Coorparoo and The Gabba. Looking forward to those.
Love #5: The political representatives love where they live
I’ve had the fortune of meeting a number of the local, state, and federal MPs in Brisbane, and all of the ones I’ve met truly love the city they live in. Regardless of political affiliation, it’s comforting to know that the representatives on whichever side have a vested interest in their electorate because they also love Brisbane. I remember being blown away a few years ago at a citizenship ceremony where our local Lord Mayor Graham Quirk was speaking, and he talked about the greatness of Brisbane for about 20 minutes passionately, referencing key statistics and facts, and really selling the city as the place you need to be born, live, and die. I was even more amazed when I realized he had had no notes in front of him the entire time and it was all coming from the heart.
Love #6: So many iconic places to enjoy
And I haven’t even mentioned any of the great iconic places that Brisbane has! Eagle Street for dinner with the Story Bridge all lit up or for the fireworks of Riverfire. Southbank with the Streets Beach and dining precincts. Footy and concerts at Suncorp, The Gabba or QEII. Morning walks at Mount Coo-tha and the iconic lookout. Regular art and comedy acts at the Powerhouse. The quaint charms of Paddington for breakfast or lunch. The great views from Wellington Point or Cleveland. The bustle of Westfield Garden City, Chermside, Carindale. The remnants of the tram line at Carina. The historic buildings in Newmarket and Albion. The smell of kebabs in the Valley. Friday night shopping at the Queen Street Mall. Great food and entertainment at all hours at James Street. The lagoon and lights of the Robelle Domain. The underrated restaurant strip in Graceville. The hustle of study life for students at QUT or UQ.
The list goes on.
Love #7: There are still so many forests and nature reserves
I love that Brisbane still has so many untouched spots that haven’t been consumed by development. As a bit of a smaller city comparatively, the whole 20km radius of the region hasn’t been turned into a concrete jungle. There’s still Karawatha, Whites Hill, Grange Forest Park, Toohey Forest, and many more protected areas around the place. In addition, many of the suburbs, even towards the inner city, have large parklands and greenery, whether it be New Farm Park or the council run park on the end of your street.
Dislike #1: Northside roads
Okay, so it’s not all peachy. The first thing about Brisbane that I really can’t stand is the quality of the roads on Brisbane’s northside.
Yes, I am a southsider. Well, now a bit more east than south, but still, south of the river. And if you drive south for a long time and then try driving north, you’re going to quickly realise the truth: that the northside of Brisbane was clearly not designed for people who enjoy driving. It’s full of death traps, blind corners, and extended traffic periods whenever there are 10 or more cars on the road.
There are so few sliplanes. Every time people want to turn right across two lanes of traffic, they stop their car in the middle of the thoroughfare on Lutwyche Road, Appleby Road, Stafford Road, South Pine Road, Old Northern Road, Rode Road, Gympie Road… and just block their lane until they can pass. A sliplane would solve this problem, but the roads are already so narrow, you couldn’t add any without building over the top of someone’s house.
Where are the petrol stations? I drove 8 kilometres on one major two lane road and didn’t find any. I guess we just all need to line up on Gympie Road to share the three that are there during peak hour traffic.
Speaking of two lane roads, that’s how it is. Two lanes and 60km/h everywhere. Don’t worry guys, we like driving 30 minutes to go 5 kilometres. Where are the motorways? The 100 zones? The 80 zones at least? Why does the major two lane road keep changing back into a one land road every 700 metres? Why does everyone go 30 km/h under the speed limit?
And to overcompensate, some roads have traffic lights every 400 metres so you might as well just put your car in neutral and let it roll down the hill, just ignore the power of your car engine. You’ll get to your destination just as fast. Why is there so much traffic when there are far less people living north than south? Bad design, that’s why.
Ugh, and if you miss a turn, that’s it. You’ve added 10 minutes to your journey. Unlike the southside which is more like a grid, the northside roads and how they link together are kind of like a 4 year old spilling spaghetti everywhere. No left turn, no right turn, long transit lanes that no one uses it, and so many roads sealed off and only accessible one way, which requires a 12 minute round trip for you to come back and try that turn again. I gladly pay the Airport Link toll to save my sanity, my car, and my life from the pain of trying to navigate without it.
Give me the roads on the southside any day.
Dislike #2: The poverty
On a more serious note… this one sounds a bit strange. The poverty? Brisbane does have a homelessness problem, for sure. Domestic violence is actually the largest contributor to the homelessness in Brisbane recently as I’ve found out. And while homelessness and material poverty is a terrible thing, there is one poverty my attention is always drawn to.
The poverty of the rich.
A large majority of Brisbane is quite well off, whether they’d admit it or not. The incomes are quite good and many people live in brilliant houses with multiple cars, heaps of furniture, and lots of expensive entertainment items. And yet, many of Brisbane’s people I have noticed live in great poverty of spirit. All these things, all this opportunity, all the places in the world to go, and yet so many are so lonely, hurting, confused, and unsure.
I think it’s a terrible thing to have so many reasons to be happy, and yet to be so unhappy. And while this isn’t an experience that is exclusive to Brisbane, my heart breaks for her people when they’re in this boat. And anything I can do to help her people navigate through the difficulties of these emotions and help them find who they really are, I will do so gladly.
There you have it. The things I love about Brisbane, and the things I don’t. How about you? You love Brisbane? Or hate it?