Viva Brisvegas

Brisbane, Australia

The Las Vegas-style signage at Southbank. Is where the term ‘Brisvegas’ came from?

I first moved to Brisbane from the Redcliffe Peninsular when I was 14. My parents thought that it would be good for me to attend a private boys’ school in  Brisbane. In 1963 I started my secondary school education at the Church of England Grammar School (Churchie) and we lived in the leafy river-side suburb of Hawthorne. Even though it was the capital city of Queensland, Brisbane was still somewhat a large country town in the 1960s with archaic laws governing clubs, outdoor restaurants and in particular, the dreaded ‘one-arm bandits’ – the poker machines. But it was a great and safe city to grow up in as a teenager discovering rock and roll music and girls.

Most people agree that it was the Commonwealth Games of 1982 and subsequently, World EXPO 1988 that really put Brisbane on the map. Both these events were of international standing and therefore required significant and sophisticated infrastructure to host and support them. Freeways, effcient public transport, outdoor community and sporting venues and an enlivened social and entertainment scene transformed Brisbane from a small Australian capital city to a global destination and laid the platform for continued growth into the 21 century that today sees Brisbane as a true world city.

Having lived in a number of cities and countries over the years, I remain a huge fan of Brisbane. I met my wife Dinah in Brisbane. Our first son was born in Brisbane, and Dinah and I established our careers in the advertising industry in Brisbane. Today, our son George and his wife Sara live in Brisbane in the trendy suburb of New Farm, thus providing us with ample reasons to visit Brisbane regularly from our home on the Sunshine Coast.

A great city to live in. A great city to visit.

I am not exactly sure where the term ‘Brisvegas’ came from. Perhaps it was someone from a southern state trying to take the p**s out of their northern neighbour. Or perhaps it was a local Queenslander being somewhat tongue-in-cheek about their beloved city. Or perhaps it was the  Las Vegas-style signage at Southbank that sporned the name. Regardless, the name “Brisvegas’ has stuck and Brisbaneites seem extremely proud of it!

Today, Brisbane is a very definitely a different city to the one I grew up in, with a vibrant entertainment and social scene that appeals to locals and visitors alike. It is also a spectacular city. Built along the shoreline of the meandering Brisbane River, central Brisbane is a sea of impressive skyscrapers, high-end fashion retailers, impressive inner city shopping malls and some of the best restaurants in the country. The Queen Street Mall runs four city blocks through the centre of the CBD and boasts some of Australia’s best shopping as well as outdoor cafes and eateries.

Walk up the Mall past the historic Treasury Building (and Treasury Casino) across the Brisbane River via the Grey Street Bridge and you’ll find yourself in Southbank, 17 hectares of lush parklands, world-class eateries with stunning river and city skyline vistas. Southbank is also the cultural centre of the city, a place where you can enjoy art exhibitions, theatre, music and dance and is home to the Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery and Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC). But its not only culture that brings the crowds to the banks of the Brisbane River. Southbank even has its own beach for swimming and sunbathing, looking back across the river to the city skyline and city heart. Enjoy a swim, a picnic or bbq or simply meander through the craft markets at your leisure. Southbank is a unique example of how a facility built for a major event (in this case, a world EXPO) can be re-purposed and returned to the community as a natural asset for all  to enjoy for ever. There is always lots happening at Southbank. Check out the Visit Brisbane website for information and updates on events:

Getting around Brisbane.

Speaking of assets, the Brisbane River is a true natural asset, and uncontested highway that can transport you to almost any part of the greater Brisbane area. CityCats and cross-river ferries carry tens of thousands of commuters each day to and from work – without the traffic jams! For visitors, the CityCats are a fantastic way to travel and enjoy the Brisbane River’s city and suburban foreshores with its spectacular urban architecture and exclusive riverfront homes. And the best and most economical way to do this is with a TRANSlink ‘GO Card’. Touch on when you embark on any bus, train, CityCat or ferry and touch off when you disembark. Your fare is automatically deducted and you can immediately see how much you have left on your card. Easy. For full information on how to get a card and top-up your card, visit:

The new New Farm

Growing up in Brisbane, getting home by tram (for those who can remember the greatly missed Brisbane trams!) meant travelling from the city through Fortitude Valley, down Brunswick Street and along Merthyr Road in New Farm and then a ferry across the river to my home in Hawthorne. New Farm was a simple river suburb of traditional Queensland style wooden homes of mixed architectural value. Today, new New Farm is home to some of the best and most expensive riverside abodes in Brisbane in restored historic riverfront wharf wool stores as well as in new high-rise apartment buildings, villas and townhouse complexes. Being so close to the city and served by good public transport, New Farm is a highly desirable place to live. It is also home to dozens of great eateries and cafes, and of course to our son and daughter-in-law. Staying with George and Sara means that we can take advantage of all that New Farm has to offer – an excellent location with great river walks, river ferries to wisk us into the city and myriad excellent cafes and retaurants. One of our favourite places to eat is Casa Italia. Originally established in New Farm as a meeting place for post-war migrants from Italy, Casa Italia club and restaurant provides some of the best Italian food you’ll find this side of Rome and is a lively, no-frills place to enjoy inexpensive Italian cuisine. Sitting outside in the courtyard, George, Sara, Dinah and I enjoyed traditional Italian pizza from their famous Pizza Kombi, washed down with a carafe of house de Bortoli wine. Like the food, the service is excellent. It’s best to book ahead, particularly if you want a courtyard table as the restaurant is very popular. You’ll find Casa Italia at 26 Grey Street, New Farm. Call 07 3358 4150 or check casa Italia out online at:

Our visit to Brisbane was a very brief 2 days but we managed to cram in a CityCat trip from New Farm to Southbank on Saturday, a walk around the Southbank precinct, drinks on the balcony of out son’s townhouse in New Farm, dinner at Casa Italia then breakfast on Sunday at a local cafe followed by a walk along the river from New Farm to Teneriffe. Not bad for one weekend in Brisvegas!

Tips for the Trip

Stay with friends or relatives. Its cheaper. If this is not an option, check out the accommodation websites for the best hotel deals. If you are only staying a short time, plan to take advantage of inner-city accommodation within walking distance of the things you want to see.

Use public transport, trans, buses and CityCats. This is the best way to get around. You can get a GOCard from most newsagents and convenience stores. or online at:

There are any number of visitor-orientated websites you can go to to see what’s happening in Brisbane. For example, check out: or the more broad-based travel sites of: or

Wotif is also a good site to find last minute deals on accommodation:

Photo Gallery

Main picture: The iconic BRISBANE sign at Southbank

  • George, Sara and Dinah on the Brisbane River – a natural freeway without the traffic!
  • Southbank Parklands, site of the 1988 Expo and the cultural centre of the city
  • Aerial activity in the heart of the Southbank markets
  • The beach at Southbank – get a tan and get a city view
  • As night falls the markets come alive
  • The Plough Inn is a beautifully restored historic Brisbane pub at Southbank
  • Looking back to the city skyline
  • The Wheel of Brisbane – a great ride for a great view of Brisbane
  • The beautiful gardens at Southbank
  • View from the beach across to the city skyline
  • George, Sara and our new grandson Jules at Casa Italia in New Farm