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Founded in 1824 on the banks of the wide, meandering Brisbane River, the former penal colony of Brisbane was for many years regarded as just a big country town. Many beautiful timber Queenslander homes, built in the 1800s, still dot the riverbanks and suburbs, and in spring the city's numerous parks erupt in a riot of colourful jacaranda, poinciana, and bougainvillea blossoms. Today the Queensland capital is one of Australia's up-and-coming cities: glittering high-rises mark its polished business centre, fashion boutiques abound, and numerous outdoor attractions beckon. In summer, temperatures here are broilingly hot and days are often humid, a reminder that this city is part of a subtropical region: wear SPF 30-plus sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat outdoors even on overcast days.

Brisbane's inner suburbs, a 5- to 10-minute drive or 15- to 20-minute walk from the city centre, have a mix of intriguing eateries and quiet accommodations. Fortitude Valley combines Chinatown with a cosmopolitan influx of clubs, cafés, and boutiques. Spring Hill has several high-quality hotels, and Paddington, New Farm, and West End are full of an eclectic mix of restaurants and bars. Brisbane is also a convenient base for trips to the Sunshine and Gold coasts, the mountainous hinterlands, and the Moreton Bay islands.