City Life: Tropical-flavoured fun
The charms of Queensland's capital are both superficial and soulful. Go for the sunshine and nearby beaches, and make time for its riverside restaurants, parks and museums.
Australia's third largest city has long lived in the shadow of southern neighbours Sydney and Melbourne, but in recent years Queensland's coastal capital has come into its own, shaking off its small town mentality. The BrisVegas tag may sum up this city's love of glitzy good times, but it's also got great art galleries, buzzy bars, restaurants and clubs, and a happening music scene. The hilly waterside location's no slouch either, flanking the winding Brisbane River within easy reach of beaches, islands and national parks. If it's major sights you're after make for the CBD and South Bank arts complex across the river, but base yourself in edgier inner north district Fortitude Valley for maximum buzz. Residents of rival cities may mock, but folk are moving here in droves, drawn by a winning combination of no-nonsense attitude with fast-paced fun.
Walking is an option in the city centre, but Brisbane is hilly and gets hot in summer, so you may prefer to drive, especially if you're exploring outside town. Car hire companies at Brisbane Airport and downtown locations include Hertz (www.hertz.com.au), Avis (www.avis.com.au) and Europcar (www.europcar.com.au). Alternatively, look out for The Loop, a free bus service that circles central Brisbane.
Regular flights wing their way to Brisbane Airport (www.bne.com.au), 16km north-east of town, from all major Australian cities with Qantas (www.qantas.com.au), Virgin Blue (www.virginblue.com.au) and Jetstar (www.jetstar.com). Numerous international carriers also service the airport.
The best way to reach Brisbane's CBD from the airport's international and domestic terminals is by Airtrain (www.airtrain.com.au), which departs every 15 minutes during peak times for the 20-minute journey (single, AU$14.50; return, AU$27). Regional trains come into the main Roma Street Transit Centre (see www.qr.com.au). CountryLink (www.countrylink.info) operates daily express trains between Sydney and Brisbane (14 hours), with connections from Melbourne, Canberra and further afield.
Country code for Australia: +61; Queensland: 07 (drop the zero if calling from overseas).
For a creepy take on the ghosts beneath Brisbane's sun-kissed surface, pack Stephen M Irwin's horror novel The Dead Path. Brisbane writer Nick Earls' novel, The True Story of Butterfish, will appeal to musos: it's about a drummer from a once successful band drawn into a neighbour's family.
Do go / Don't Go
Brisbane basks in year-round sun, with temperatures rarely dipping below 20°C. The peak of summer (December-January) is often super-hot and wetter, with many locals escaping the sweltering city, which can make it quiet; winter is sunny and mild with little rain.
Plentiful in Brisbane's city centre, with ranks in the CBD and at the train station. To call one, try Yellow Cab Co (+61 (0)7 3313 1924) or Black & White Cabs (+61 (0)7 3313 1008).
Tips for good service aren't mandatory, but 10 per cent will be appreciated.
Australian dollar (AU$).
A pair of designer thongs (flip-flops) and big shades to look the part; sequins or a sharp shirt for BrisVegas by night.
Despite the tinseltown jibes, there's serious culture here, with key galleries in the South Bank arts zone. Start at the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA; www.qag.qld.gov.au), Australia's largest modern art gallery, focusing on the 20th-century and including indigenous, Pacific Island and international collections. Its Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art is a stunning show. Sister space, the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG; same website) features Oz and global work prior to 1970. For cutting-edge theatre, music and arts, visit the riverside Brisbane Powerhouse (www.brisbanepowerhouse.org).
Time your visit between June and November for a chance to spot humpback whales flocking through Moreton Bay off the Brisbane coast (spy them from North Stradbroke Island).
Fortitude Valley is the city's boutique shopping hub, with one-of-a-kind fashion pieces: browse Ann, Brunswick, James and Wickham Streets. The massive Queen Street Shopping Mall (www.queenstreetmall.com) in the CBD is home to more than 700 outlets, dominated by Myers and David Jones department stores, or head west to Paddington's La Trobe and Given Terraces for antiques, curios and collectibles.
Drive up to the look-out on top of Mount Coot-tha for gasp-inducing views over Brisbane, Moreton Bay and the volcanic Glass House Mountains. Seven kilometres south-west of the city, it's a reserve of bush and parkland named after the Aboriginal word for honey, once gathered here. The trails and picnic spots are still sweet.
Watch rock climbers scale the pink cliffs at Kangaroo Point, on the south of the illuminated-by-night riverbank, or contact the Riverlife Adventure Centre (www.riverlife.com.au) if you fancy a go yourself.
January The kooky Cockroach Races have been going for 26 years at the Stony Bridge Hotel on Australia Day (www.cockroachraces.com.au). April-July Queensland Winter Racing Carnival sees horse racing every weekend, including the Brisbane Cup in May (www.queenslandracing.com.au). September-October Brisbane River Festival offers 10 days of arts and performance fun around the water (www.riverfestival.com.au). October Valley Fiesta is a free three-day music and arts party in Fortitude Valley (www.valleyfiesta.com.au).