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Queensland's capital is relaxed, laid-back, and subtropical. Set along the banks of the wide, brown Brisbane River, this is a city that has grown up in recent years, confident in its appeal. It's one of those places that people don't always appreciate until they spend time there, but where the welcome is as warm as the weather. The city is green and leafy: Moreton Bay fig trees give shade, and in summer, the purple haze of jacarandas competes with the scarlet blaze of poinciana trees. A mango tree in the backyard is practically de rigueur.

The theme parks are south of the city, on the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor. Brisbane folk don't consider that a drawback. They'll urge you to discover the city, rich in history and character, and get to know the locals. That's easy -- friendly locals will start chatting with just about anyone.

Brisbane (pronounced Briz-bun) is known for its timber "Queenslanders," cottages and houses set high on stumps to catch the breeze, with wide verandas to keep out the midday sun. In some suburbs, Queenslanders have been converted to trendy cafes, restaurants, and shops selling antiques, clothes, and housewares.

In the city center, gracious colonial sandstone buildings stand next to modern glass towers. Wander in the city botanic gardens, in-line skate or bike along the riverfront pathways, have a drink in a pub beer garden, or get out on the river on a CityCat ferry. Several bridges cross the river, the most famous and attractive being the Story Bridge, on the Town Reach of the river. Getting around is cheap and easy, good food -- including fantastic seafood -- is abundant, and accommodations are affordable, especially in some of the city's comfortable, elegant B&Bs.

Brisbane is in the southeast corner of the state, flanked by the Sunshine Coast, about 2 hours to the north, and the Gold Coast, 1 hour to the south. The Brisbane River flows into Moreton Bay, dotted with beautiful islands you can explore.