“Brisbane’s a shit hole.”
“Don’t waste time seeing Brisbane — there’s nothing there.”
“Why would you go to Brisbane?”
Those were the responses to my trip to Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Byron Bay five months after I first arrived in Australia. I’d heard the Brisvegas puns and started really wondering what in the hell was so bad about this southeastern Queensland city, while still fully committed to checking it out no matter what anyone else said.
You have to understand that, as an American, hearing a place is a “shit hole” makes me think of really, really bad cities. Like Compton. Like Camden. This is not what I envision when I hear the term.
But, hey, what do I know?
As a big champion of anyone and anything that is the underdog, it’s little surprise I found things to like about Brisbane upon my first visit: those little bars in the middle of Queen Street Mall; the riverfront; the Botanic Gardens (both of them); the friendly locals. So when Brendan kept saying he wanted to see Brisbane at some point, I decided his wish would be granted in 2012; his Christmas present was a jaunt to the city where the streets are paved with XXXX GOLD.
After our trip wrapped up Sunday, I decided I still liked Brisbane. Brendan liked it too. I still couldn’t see why it sucks so bad according to so many people. In fact, I saw some things in Brissie I’d like to see in Sydney, the bestest city in all of Oz.
1. Public transport
It’s not news that Sydney’s public transport needs a lot of work. Between the buses never running on time and services not always linking up well, it can be a nightmare. Brisbane’s got the same modes of transport as Sydney (it’s also building an underground system), but there’s a difference: unlimited, no-charge transfers between buses, trains and ferries within two hours if you travel in up to 10 zones, and 3.5 hours for 11 zones. If things ran this way in Sydney, I could get to Manly Beach for a little over $10 instead of the $20 I now spend.
2. Bike rentals
Brisbane residents actually bitched about the city’s bike scheme when it was unveiled in 2009. The prices could be considered a little steep if you rent a bike for a day, but for $2 a day or $11 a week, you can technically ride a bike for no extra charge as long as you return it every half hour to one of the more than 100 bicycle stations in Brisbane. Otherwise, it’s $4.20 for an hour or $8.05 for up to 90 minutes.
Sure, it would be better if Brisbane had free cycle rentals like Adelaide, but the price is still far less than what you can find in Sydney, which is roughly $15 or more an hour. Plus, Brisbane lets you rent the bike for a longer time frame, from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., whereas other rental outfits make you return it before dark.
3. Free pools
I am spoiled. Sydney has beaches, bays and pools. If you want to swim, it’s a good place to be. But…
– The beaches are far from where I live and require up to an hour on public transport to visit.
– Some of the bays inspire fears of Impetigo. And sharks.
– Pools cost money, and I’m a cheap as mofo.
My first visit to Brisbane was in chilly early winter, so I couldn’t take advantage of Streets Beach, an artificial Bondi along the river in South Bank. This time, the 28-degree weather prompted not one, but two visits to this free pool about 10 minutes from the CBD. Yes, there were lots of kids there and it isn’t a place you go for a romantic dip, but it sufficed. And it made me wish we had something similar in Sydney.
What are your thoughts on Brisbane — shit hole or nice city?