Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Australia September 2013 - Brisbane Marriott & Exploring Brisbane

***This post is part 10 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

I felt somewhat self-conscious walking through the Brisbane Central Business District in my t-shirt and shorts, hauling a large backpack, while everyone else seemed to be dressed in suits and ties. As I approached the Brisbane Marriott, I began to realize that this was going to be the quintessential business hotel, smack dab in the middle of the CBD, and I would be sticking out like a sore thumb for the duration of my stay. Luckily, it would only be for one night.

Brisbane Marriott

The high-rise building looked fairly new, and the lobby was tastefully designed with a subdued palette of colors that exuded quiet elegance. The gentleman behind the front counter welcomed me and acknowledged my one-night reward booking at a cost of 30,000 points for the Category 6 property (it has since risen to Category 7 with redemptions costing 35,000 points per night).

Unlike the super friendly agent at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort, he didn't engage me about my travels through Australia, nor did he give me an amazing suite upgrade. I was provided, however, with a Brisbane River view room and complimentary WiFi as a recognition of my Silver Elite status. In addition, Silver Elites receive a 15% discount on food and beverage items consumed at the Motion Restaurant, M Bar, and in-room dining.

Brisbane Marriott lobby

Lounge area

Room 1804 was bright and clean, although I wasn't a fan of the somewhat dated carpet and furniture. The standard-sized room had two queen beds, a work desk, a comfortable lounge chair next to the window, and a rather small flat-screen TV. I was happy to see a large bottle of water placed on the small table beside the lounge chair, until I noticed a $6.50 AUD price tag. This was definitely a business hotel, nothing more and nothing less.

Despite the "river view" moniker, much of the actual view was blocked by other high-rise buildings. The portion of the Brisbane River and Story Bridge that you could see, however, was quite stunning.

Room 1804 entrance

Standard room

Work desk

Lounge chair

Brisbane River and Story Bridge view

The bathroom was very spacious, and included a separate bathtub and walk-in shower. Small bottles of shampoo and shower gel were provided, although I don't know if they would even last a day if there was more than one guest in the room. Of course, additional supplies can always be requested from housekeeping.


Walk-in shower


Later in the evening, I visited the gym for a quick workout and found a decent variety of equipment, including free weights, a few machines, treadmills, and ellipticals. The quasi-outdoor pool wasn't huge, but the design and lighting, coupled with the city lights as backdrop, made for a rather captivating ambiance.

Hotel gym

Quasi-outdoor pool

While it is the capital of Queensland and the third largest city in the country, Brisbane maintains a uniquely youthful and laid-back atmosphere. It's hard to imagine that more than two million people call the city home, as it lacks the dreaded claustrophobia seen in most other metropolises. In fact, this was a characteristic I encountered again and again all over Australia - big cities that felt open, green, relaxed, and completely livable.

With less than one full day in Brisbane, I wanted to make the most of my time and see a few of the highlights on foot. One great thing about the Marriott is its location next to the riverside boardwalk. Although this is a great place to start a walking tour of the city, I decided to head inland first.

Story Bridge

Riverside boardwalk

Heading southwest on Adelaide Street, I took in the city scenery, mostly filled with working professionals on their coffee run or late-afternoon break. In a few blocks, I arrived at Anzac Square, a pleasant open space with plenty of public lounge chairs. At the end of the square was the Shrine of Remembrance. Every major city in Australia has a similar memorial dedicated to those who served in war.

Streets of Brisbane

Anzac Square

Shrine of Remembrance

Beyond the Shrine of Remembrance and continuing on Ann Street, I passed by several historic sites like the Central Station terminal and the Base Backpackers Brisbane Central hostel, a heritage-listed building. About three blocks down was King George Square and Brisbane City Hall, arguably the city's most significant historical landmark.

Central Station

Base Backpackers Brisbane Central

King George Square is a great central location for meetups and people watching. There were a number of interesting sculptures around the open plaza, including the famous giant pink bunnies that became rather ubiquitous around Brisbane last year. Designed by Perth street artist Stormie Mills, these bright characters popped up at random locations throughout the city, generating an unexpected dose of excitement.

Brisbane City Hall, opened in 1930, was once the tallest building in the city. After extensive restoration work between 2010 and 2012, it was officially reopened in 2013 to much fanfare. Considered one of Brisbane's finest architectural designs, it is definitely worth a look inside and out.

Giant pink bunny sculptures

Brisbane City Hall and clock tower

City hall interior

The Museum of Brisbane is located on the rooftop level of city hall, and besides the great displays covering both the natural and recent histories of the region, the museum also offers tours of the building and the clock tower. I would highly recommend taking a tour of the clock tower, if only for a ride in the wonderfully unique and historical hand-operated lift. Tours begin every 15 minutes daily from 10:15 am to 4:45 pm, and admission is free. From the top, guests can see the inner workings of the massive clock and take in unique views of Brisbane.

Museum of Brisbane

Museum displays

Hand-operated lift

View from the clock tower

After the tour, I walked south on Albert Street until I reached Queen Street Mall, the main pedestrian shopping area in Brisbane. There is a huge variety of shops and restaurants here, and I later returned in the evening for a quick dinner. At the end of Queen Street Mall is the Victoria Bridge, which crosses Brisbane River towards South Bank.

Site of the World Expo in 1988, South Bank now features a plethora of cultural attractions such as the Gallery of Modern Art, the Performing Arts Centre, and the State Library. Like every other major city nowadays, South Bank also has a giant ferris wheel, aptly named the Wheel of Brisbane, which takes guests on a 15-minute ride in an air-conditioned gondola for $17.50 AUD.

Back in Brisbane proper, along the riverbank, is another historic property that was once the Treasury Building. Today, it houses the Treasury Casino & Hotel, a giant entertainment complex. A vibrant farmers market was in full swing right across the street while I was there, with fresh local produce, snacks, and sweets on sale.

Queen Street Mall

View of Brisbane from the Victoria Bridge

Wheel of Brisbane

Old Treasury Building

Farmers Market

I continued southeast on George Street, passing by a number of other historic buildings, the most noteworthy of which was the Queensland Parliament House. Just across the parliament was the entrance to the City Botanic Gardens. While not as spectacular as the botanic gardens found in Sydney and Melbourne, it was nonetheless a wonderful place for a relaxing stroll.

Queensland Parliament House

City Botanic Gardens


The riverside boardwalk beside the Brisbane Marriott actually ends at the City Botanic Gardens, so I followed this path all the way back to the hotel. By this time, the sun had started to set, and it was a great way to end the day along the Brisbane River. At night, Story Bridge is lighted up with a stunning string of lavender lights that is definitely worth a look.

Walk along Brisbane River

Back to the Brisbane Marriott

Story Bridge at night

The following day, with my flight to Prosperpine scheduled to depart at 1:40 pm, I woke up early to catch a few more sites around town before departing Brisbane. Specifically, I really wanted to explore Roma Street Parklands, the world's largest subtropical garden within a city center and home to approximately 1,800 unique species of plants.

Along the way, I walked past the imposing St. John's Cathedral, a great example of Gothic Revival architecture, and the Old Windmill, the oldest surviving building in Queensland, built in 1828 by convicts for grinding grain.

Roma Street Parklands was extremely lush, and featured a number of themed gardens, including the beautiful rain forest walk. Spring was in full swing, and colorful flowers were in bloom throughout the park. After spending an hour or so walking through the manicured grounds, I returned to the hotel and checked out around 11:00 am. Instead of taking a taxi, I decided to walk the short distance to Central Station and caught the first Airtrain to Brisbane Airport.

St. John's Cathedral

The Old Windmill

Roma Street Parklands

Rain Forest Walk

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