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Brisbane Skyline (Courtesy of wang song/Shutterstock.com)

Brisbane, Queensland's rapidly growing capital city, caught the world's attention during World Expo 88, commemorating Australia's bicentennial. Since then, the city's South Bank cultural attractions, creative use of its riverfront and proximity to some of Australia's best beaches have drawn an ever-increasing number of visitors and new residents. The Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise are just an hour away, and the Sunshine Coast is two hours to the north. However, the extreme south end of the Great Barrier Reef begins 230 miles north of the city, so it's not an option for a day out.

Brisbane, a fast-growing city of 2.1 million people, is located some 600 miles north of Sydney and has a semitropical climate. It sits astride the navigable Brisbane River and faces the island-studded Moreton Bay. No other city quite makes such good use of its river as a travel artery, and visitors will find the CityCat ferries and other local boat services an ideal way to reach the most popular museums, botanical gardens, wildlife parks, historic neighborhoods, lively shopping precincts and riverfront plazas with their variety of restaurants and cafes. Within the city limits, both riverbanks have footpaths that stretch for many miles.

For those who would like to spend an independent day in the city center, nearly everything is within walking distance, and conveniently placed bridges and small cross-river launches link both sides.

Photos: 11 Best Australia Experiences

-- written by Theodore W. Scull


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