Our first destination on arrival in OZ was the lovely city of Brisbane QLD. We chose Brisbane largely because we figured its size would be just about right for buying a car and getting used to driving on the other side of the road. It also happens to be towards the northern end of the country, which we figured would be a great place to start as we could see a bit of Queensland before heading South to see the more populated bits.
We stayed at a backpackers hostel the first couple nights, a place called Base Embassy. We got a room to ourselves with a little balcony and a double bed, which we quite enjoyed. The hostel was rather helpful in many ways, such as allowing us to get some of the mail we had to receive, like our car registration paperwork. Embassy was nice, but employees at another location told us that not all of them are as clean and well maintained.
Of the cities we have visited so far Brisbane has been my favorite. The city was the perfect size, big enough to feel like a city but small enough to not be terribly overwhelming in size and it did not feel overcrowded like other large cities I have visited, with a nice little CBD and some nightlife. The Queensland University of Technology occupies a space just next to the CBD. It has a lovely botanical garden that is free to walk though. The Brisbane river runs through the middle of the city and there are free ferries that run from one end of the CBD to the other providing stops on either side. The architecture of the high rises were all different and all seemed to have a flair for the aesthetic. It was fun to look at and also removed much of the “concrete jungle” feeling I got from Sydney’s CBD. The people were also generally friendly and helpful, even in the busier parts of the CBD.
By far the best part about Brisbane is how pedestrian friendly it was. There is an awesome river walk that runs along both sides of the river through the CBD and beyond. The QUT botanic gardens sit along the path, there was an out door movie theater a mock beach with pool and sand for tanning and swimming, lovely art pieces, well manicured lawns, a trellace made of steel arches with beautiful purple flowers growing on it, and rock climbing along the cliffs on one part of the path. At night there were colored light displays on many of the buildings and out door performances as well. We were there during the run up to the G20 conference, which is a big international gathering of politicians and such, so the performances and such things are likely not a year round occurrence. It was easy to navigate and made for some great walks.
I will confess that Brisbane does have a bit of an advantage in the fact that we were both still a bit starry-eyed from the fact that we had actually come all the way to OZ. We were still full of fresh excitement for traveling and seeing new things, which certainly helped our opinion of Brisbane a bit. All considered though it is a cool town and a place I would highly recommend visiting.
After a few days to get our bearings we found and Air BNB and headed out to the suburbs to find a truck to buy. The bus ride out to their house was the first experience we had with Australian public transit. It was a bit more expensive then we were used to, coming from Seattle, and the busses have no way of letting you know what stop is next, which drove me crazy as I sat there panicking, thinking how does any one know when to get off if they don’t have the route memorized. Luckily the bus drivers are all friendly and helpful, a trait that can be applied to most Aussies as we have found out, and let us know when we reached our stop. We showered him with gratitude as we re-shouldered our backpacks containing all our worldly possessions.
The two couples that rented us a room were also friendly and quite helpful. After walking a inordinate distance car shopping, we ended up buying a truck at the first dealership we went to which was no more than 3ks from the house. We spent another day or two acquiring our registration and getting storage bins, a camp stove, and other necessities, they informed us of an awesome beach where any one with a four wheel drive can go camp behind the dunes. It sounded like exactly what we wanted to do and when it was time for us to leave we packed all our gear into our new ‘94 Triton and headed north for our first adventure.
We came back to Brisbane twice more after our initial stay. The second time around was mostly to get the truck serviced and pick up some mail. We did go on a pub-crawl sponsored by the hostel. For $5 per person we got free pizza and a free drink at each spot. Most of the other crawlers were younger folks who were out to party, so we had quite a bit of fun watching them knowingly (it wasn’t all that long ago that I would have been doing the same thing). The highlight of the evening was we met a pair of girls who were more our age and we clicked quite well. We have maintained loose contact with one of them and hope to meet up with her at some point in the future.
I also won two tickets to the Koala Sanctuary in the raffle, which was great because it was on our to do list anyway. It would be a month or so before we got around to visiting the place but it was well worth it. The sanctuary had quite an array of native fauna, including birds, reptiles, dingoes, a cassowary, and a couple wombats. We had no idea wombats were so stocky! They short but man are those things thick. They also had Koalas, of course, and we paid a small fee to hold one and get a picture with it. Their fur is not nearly as soft as I was hoping, but they are cute. The park also has a petting area. Surprisingly enough the kangaroos will just lie there while you pet them. The greys, which are the smaller of the two breeds, had very coarse fur, but the big reds were rather soft. All in all it was a great place to visit and learn about the wildlife. It has our stamp of approval and should be a stop on your itinerary if you make it to Brisbane. It was a wonderful way to wrap up our time in Brisbane.