From one-time penal colony to hip Queensland capital of three million, Brisbane has come a long way in the last 180 years. This east-coast Australian city now fills the floodplain of the River Brisbane, from hill to coast. The river's broad curves snake all the way through central Brisbane, seemingly unhurried in its journey to the sea. Add the outstretched fingers of the nearby mountains, and you have a city naturally divided up – by hill and river – into 'villages', each with its own unique identity.
Most of Brisbane only appeared over the last few decades, so this is still very much a young city. Once in the shadow of Melbourne and Sydney, today Brisbane is reckoned to have the hottest night-life, the most creative arts scene, and the friendliest locals. It also has an inner city beach, city-centre rock-climbing tracts and a mountain nature reserve. And a lot of hotels: considerably more than a hundred. Let's run through its top hotel districts, so you can pin down which 'village' is best for your Brisbane stay.
The Central Business District (CBD) is the natural focus for much of Brisbane's youthful energy, both in business and in pleasure. But this city does things a little differently. In among Central's forest of skyscrapers and hotel towers, you'll find riverside parks and tropical gardens. A stay-over at one of its many modern high-rise luxury hotels is enlivened by more than a touch of nature.
You'll be hard-pressed not to find a hotel to your liking in and around the CBD. There are hotels catering for families, plenty for business people, the odd spa hotel and even one with a casino. Inevitably, most fall firmly towards the higher end of the price range. But away from the main thoroughfares, you can still find some cheaper boutique hotels.
On the other side of the river, locked tightly in a bend, is the 'sporty' district of Kangaroo Point. As well as hosting the famous Gabba stadium, here you can rock-climb at its inner-city cliffs, or try kayaking down the river. Just like the district, the hotels here have a more relaxed vibe. There are also many superb serviced apartments here. Prices, though, in this ever-booming city, are still on the high side.
Another great accommodation option is the bohemian 'village' of the West End. It lies on the other side of the CBD from Kangaroo Point, and is noted for its alternative, student vibe. Restaurants, clubs and lodgings – all take a different slant on the usual. There are some reasonably priced guest-houses and serviced apartments too. A good place to start is in the streets around Highgate Hill or St. Lucia.
Finally, one part of central Brisbane that's well-worth considering for your accommodation needs is the South Bank. This was once Brisbane’s 'old-town', and although fragments of that late 19th-century charm remain, much was redeveloped in the 1980s. That's when it became Brisbane’s premier arts district.
The hotels in the South Bank are in the mid-to-high price range, well-furnished and most definitely well-located. Not only are they close to attractions like the Queensland Performing Arts Centre, but right next to the river, they offer some of the best views over Brisbane's non-stop hubbub.