The simplest division of Brisbane is the Brisbane River, with locations being either on the north or south sides of it. A local stereotype places many "undesirable" suburbs (such as Woodridge) on the southside, with the more affluent locations on the northside. Although the stereotype is just as often applied by southside residents to flag the northside as undesirable.
Brisbane has historically been thought of as Sydney's poorer, less sophisticated sibling. With recent strong migration to Brisbane due to lower house prices and arguably better weather, Brisbane is fast becoming a cosmopolitan city.
Brisbane has what many believe to be an enviable climate, the reality is that very hot summers can be very uncomfortable and climate is the one factor that continually lets Brisbane down on lists of "Worlds most liveable cities" that get compiled from time to time. (Brisbane is usual in the top 6 or 7 behind Perth, Vancouver and Vienna to name a few)
Winters (May,June,July) are warm and generally dry and sunny (day 20-25C, night 8-12C). This is great for getting around during the day, but be warned - the architecture is designed to let heat out so evenings can feel very cold even when you're inside.
Summer days are somewhere between hot, sticky and unbearable. 35C sounds great if all you want to do is sit on a beach all day, but as soon as you need to move it is hard work. Humidity is often extreme and temperatures do get as high as 42C with night temps rarely dropping below 20C. If visiting in Dec/Jan/Feb be sure to stay where there is air conditioning and don't overestimate what you can do in a day when the humidity creeps up.
Summer storms are common in afternoons on hot humid days and snap showers with occasional large hail are not uncommon. These usually pass quickly and sometimes put on a good show of lightning.
Brisbane is geographically one of the largest cities in the world, with sprawling suburbs. As a result, this can make getting around for the tourist difficult. Renting a car is a good option - it gives access to more remote locations and parking is usually easy. Rental companies can often provide deals with airline tickets if booked in advance.
Public transport has recently been overhauled in Brisbane with combined ticketing system between Buses, Trains and Ferrys. The ferries are considered a sight of Brisbane in their own right. Travellers can take advantage of "off-peak day rover" tickets which allow unlimited travel within given zones. A daily zone 1 to 3 (about 15km radius) costs just AU$5.60 and is great for getting into the city, taking a ferry along the river and getting back out again. This is also a good options when spending time in the city when it is hot. A weekly zones 1-3 ticket costs AU$22.40. Almost all Australian University students can travel for half the cost. Smartcards are to be introduced in mid-2005. Almost all buses in Greater Brisbane lead all the way to Adelaide Street. The routes 598 and 599 form the Great Circle Route which forms a circle around the city and can be a great way of getting around the different suburbs. Rail connections to the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast and Ipswich are available from the three big rail stations in the CBD. Beware, the buses around Brisbane sometimes have a mysterious habit of just not showing up when scheduled, or, alternatively, leaving up to 5 minutes early.
Transinfo is a fantastic service provided by the Brisbane City Council that can give you directions on how to reach a destination using public transport. It is available through a website http://www.transinfo.qld.gov.au/ and a telephone service 13 12 30 (Local call from public phones). If you intend to use Public Transportation frequently, pick up the Translink Directory, a complete listing (without timetables) of all bus services in South-east Queensland.
In late June 2005 and July 2005, all busroutes in the southern and eastern regions will be reorganised completely. Expect initial confusion for a few weeks if going to these areas.
Huge range of clothing shops and other less important stuff :)
Brisbane has a very good assortment of restaurants but there are two problems. One is that they can be very expensive and the other is that they can be very busy.
Brisbane's drinking and nightlife scene is separated into some distinct areas
(both the RE and the Regatta have reputations as student haunts, being located reasonably close to the St Lucia campus of the University of Queensland. They more than live up to these reputations.)
City pubs and clubs (I have no idea what's popular in the city these days so I probably shouldn't be in charge of editing this)
The Fortitude Valley is a very unique area of Brisbane catering to the live music scene. It is, however, a more dangerous areas of the city.
Remember that for emergency services (Police, Fire and Ambulance) in Australia, the number is 000. If you are calling from a mobile or cell phone, use the number 112 as it will use any network to connect.
Brisbane provides a base for day trips to explore the southeast of Queensland.