When flying into many of the world’s popular cities, we expect to be able to catch an airport train…..London, Paris, Rome…..there’s a long list!
Brisbane is also on that list. The great thing about Brisbane’s Airtrain is that you can also travel on to the Gold Coast enabling you to see all that Brisbane and the Gold Coast have to offer in 48 hours.
I was invited to Brisbane to experience this for myself and what a fabulous weekend I had! Right from the start, Brisbane’s Airtrain made the experience very easy.
From the moment you arrive at either the domestic or international terminals, all you have to do is follow the signs. If you are heading on to the Gold Coast, your ticket allows a stopover in Brisbane. This is a stop worth doing.
It was raining when we arrived in Brisbane so you can imagine our delight to find that our hotel, The Sofitel Central Brisbane, is in the same building as the station. The hotel is a 92 second walk up three escalators! We were checking in 2 minutes after we arrived! That’s what I call easy travelling!
The Sofitel proved to be a great choice of hotel. With only a day in the city, the location was perfect for everything we wanted to do. It offered spacious rooms with fabulously comfortable beds, well appointed bathrooms and all the amenities you need. For those that like a few extras, book a club room and you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the morning or use the lounge for complimentary pre dinner drinks and canapes.
The only down side is that wifi is not free….. a problem that seems to be common in Australia but not in the rest of the world.
What to do in Brisbane
It’s been quite a while since I visited Brisbane and in that time, the city has undergone major development. I hardly recognised it.
Take a free tour with a Brisbane Greeter
The best way to see the city and learn a little history is to join one of the the Brisbane Greeters free walks. As our Brisbane Greeter, Blair Allsop mentioned “greeters are your new best friend”
It is a volunteer organisation, started in New York that now offers free guided tours of cities in 25 countries.It has been available in Brisbane for four years and is proving very popular with visitors and locals alike. 12,000 people a year take the 2-4hr walking tours which are offered in 25 languages by 209 volunteers and across many themes. Choose from Architecture based tours, precinct tours, World War 2 based tours or if you’re undecided take the Greeter’s Choice tour.
In the short time we were with Blair, I learnt how easy the city area is to navigate. It is based on a grid of 8 streets by 4 streets with the streets named after kings and queens.
Brisbane’s architecture is a mix of old and new buildings. Heritage buildings have been retained where possible but the skyline is dotted with cranes as new towers are built.
Take a City Hopper
Every half an hour, seven days a week, the city hopper travels along the Brisbane River from North Quay to Sydney Street offering free transport. This is a great way to move around the city and see the skyline from the water.
Visit the Cultural Precinct
Developed on reclaimed land in 1970, the cultural precinct has stood the test of time and has become part of the major development of Brisbane’s foreshore. The Queensland Art Gallery is here as is the Queensland Museum, the Performing Arts Centre and the Theatre Company. The latest addition to this dedicated precinct is Brisbane’s renowned Gallery of Modern Art. Unfortunately the Gallery of Modern Art was setting up for one of its major exhibitions so we couldn’t see through the gallery but if you are in the city from now until the 10th April 2016, the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art is not to be missed. Whilst you are here, pop into the Gallery’s acclaimed restaurant for lunch where delicious local seasonal produce is served in delightful surroundings.
Further along from the Cultural Precinct, you’ll find Southbank, the entertainment centre of Brisbane. Fabulous restaurants line the foreshore, there’s a rain forest area and gardens, grassed areas for picnics and children’s playgrounds. There’s a water playground, a boat pool and Australia’s only man made inner city beach! And if you’d like bird’s eye view of the city, there’s always the Wheel of Brisbane!
Take a Segway Ride
Brisbane is the perfect city to take a Segway ride along the river. It’s not something I would have thought I’d do but after having done it, I can happily recommend it to you.
The guys and girls at Riverlife are very patient but really it is not that hard…If I can do it, anyone can!!! After a few training runs in a fenced area you’ll be ready to hit the walkways that surround the river. Starting from their office at the Naval Stores at the base of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs, we rode pass the abseilers on the cliffs and on to the Southbank restaurants and playgrounds that I have already mentioned until we reached the Wheel of Brisbane where we turned for home!
I could have kept going but a fabulous dinner at the Sofitel beckoned! You could also catch the city hopper from the nearby Thornton Street jetty and take a river cruise back to the centre of the city!
The next day it was off to the Gold Coast…..
The Gold Coast
Time to hop back on the airtrain and head to the Gold Coast…
You need to be aware that the station is not on the coast. You actually leave the train at Nerang. From here you can get a taxi from here to your hotel but the smart people buy a train and transfer ticket which includes a chauffeur driven transfer to the door of your hotel.
Queensland’s Gold Coast is famous. With its fabulously long stretch of beautiful white beaches, this is the place to be in summer. From Coolangatta in the south to Main Beach in the north, each beach offers something different.
Surfers Paradise is the most famous…the most popular and the most crowded. There’s a myriad of different types of accommodation on offer, the area is close to the theme parks and it is the centre of the night life on this part of the coast. We stayed on the edge of Surfers Paradise at the super trendy QT Gold Coast. Not quite in the centre of the action but only one stop away from it.
Skypoint Observation Deck and Climb
The tall apartment buildings overlooking the coast that Surfers is known for, create their own metropolis. The tallest of these is the Q1 Building that also has the distinction of being the tallest residential building in Australia.
The Skypoint Observation Deck is located on the 77th Level of this building, The view from this level, 230 metres high is not to be missed. You can see for miles…from the straight line of beaches and inland to the meandering river that winds its way through the suburbs.
The Skypoint Climb is Australia’s highest external building climb…yes you’re climbing on the outside of the building up to a height of 270 metres. It wasn’t for me but my companions and the thirty thousand people that do it every year, love it!
Would you believe this climb is very popular for wedding proposals! I was intrigued to learn that the ring and the ring box are attached by fishing line just incase the occasion is too overwhelming!
Hot Air Ballooning
I love hot air ballooning. There is something special about quietly floating over the countryside. This was my third time ballooning and I’m still addicted. It was a different experience to my time in Wadi Rum and a vastly different experience to that of Cappadocia where there were hundreds of balloons in the air.
It’s an early start! Hot Air Balloon picked us up at 3.45am (4.45 in summer) as the drive to Curundra the hinterland takes about 30-45 minutes depending on the hotel pickups!
This drive is an added bonus, The Gold Coast hinterland is beautiful. We passed well known areas such as Lamington National Park and drove to a field where our balloons were starting to be inflated. This is part of the fun watching the fire heat the gas and the balloon slowly tilt upright. Then its up up and away…
…..over the stunning countryside.
Part of this package is breakfast at O’Reillys Canungra Valley Vineyards, a beautiful property that runs to the edge of a small river where if you’re lucky, you can see platypus and baby turtles.
What a great way to finish our weekend!
Where to stay on the Gold Coast
The QT Gold Coast is a fun hotel. From the moment you pull up next to the old Holden station wagon complete with surfboards parked out the front of the hotel and your luggage is taken by guys in board shorts and t-shirts, you know that this is a very different hotel.
The girls at reception are dressed in 50’s style diner uniforms, there’s a lemonade stand in the foyer and as the doors of the life open, a life size beach girl greets you! I was just waiting for the Beach Boys to start playing!
I can also highly recommend the spa where the treatments are sold on time not the per treatment…great if you want to mix treatments!
The theme continues with the rooms. The rooms are light and airy with balconies overlooking the beach. A bag of thongs (the shoe kind) is hanging on the door and your beach towel is waiting for you in case the pool beckons. They’ve thought of everything!
At night, the Stingray Bar is the place to be. With a great cocktails and a tequila list that takes two pages, I can see why the bar was packed. They even have a tequila mixing class available.
One of the best restaurants on the Gold Coast is in the QT Gold Coast Hotel. The Bazaar Restaurant concept is winning plaudits for the hotel. It was even mentioned to me in Brisbane as the place to go. Billed as an interactive market place, stations are set up featuring dishes from countries around the world. Wander around the market place, chat to the chefs and decide from the many fabulous dishes
There’s an Italian area with pizza cooked in the wood fired oven, different pasta dishes and an amazing cheese display. A fabulous display of seafood may tempt you….Oysters, pippis, prawns and crabs or you may prefer and asian dish where a tantalising line of woks hold delicious pad thai, a delicious chicken curry and dumplings. From the international market you can get a fabulous wagyu steak, lamb shanks or paella. Just make sure you leave room for dessert…….There is a whole wall of desserts for you to choose from as well as an ice cream stand with old fashioned sundaes and every topping imaginable.
I’m moving in!
A note on Brisbane’s International Airport
Flghts depart from Coolangatta to many airports in Australia but if you are heading back to the International airport from here, the Airtrain will take you straight to the door. The International Airport has just had a major rebuild and is now fabulous…don’t be afraid of being early, you’ll be one of the lucky ones that gets to experience this new concept in departure lounges.
A lot of thought has going into making this a wonderful experienced. Glass walls surround the departure lounge. The feeling of being outside is bought in with outdoor furniture, trees and fun sculptures. A central village green surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars completes the feeling of being in a village. An interactive children’s screen, a giant connect 4 and giant chess board will keep adults and children alike entertained. There’s already been some fun activities on the green including tai chi and lucky draws for picnics on the green. We enjoyed a lunch on the green to sample some of the food that is being offered by the retail outlets which were all chosen for their commitment to local produce.
With the Commonwealth Games being held on the Gold Coast in 2018, the International Airport and the Brisbane Airtrain will be busier than ever!
In the meantime, we are the lucky ones able to spend a fabulous 48 hrs seeing both cities with ease!
Disclaimer: I was invited to Brisbane and the Gold Coast as guest of Brisbane Airtrain to experience what these cities have to offer and Airtrain’s ‘No worries’ service.
All opinions are my own.