Mt. Coot-tha: Brisbane’s nature park

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The view of Brisbane from Mt. Coot-tha lookout

Mt. Coot-tha Reserve is to Brisbane what Griffith Park is to Los Angeles. Covering 1,500 hectares at the city’s edge, the reserve encompasses the manicured Brisbane Botanical Gardens and long networks of dusty hiking trails through natural bushland. When I last visited, I managed to cover only half of the gardens before exhausting myself, and somehow dragged myself up to the lookout point at the end. It wasn’t much different this time; the botanical gardens are just impossible to explore in one day, especially in Brisbane’s summer heat. Here’s some tips for your trip:

    • Bring water bottles: there are taps scattered around the park where you can refill, but few locations (only at the front and at the lookout) where you can buy water
  • Bring food or snacks: Like water, food is hard to come by and expensive
  • Stop by the front to pick up a map: the guides there can help you decide what you want to see and how to get there.
  • Visit the native Australian Plant Communities Sections: it’s a chance to see the diversity of Australian plant life and the forests offer a shaded walk down to the central lake, where you can watch the dragonflies dance around the water’s edge.
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A dragonfly perches on a twig at the botanical gardens’ artifical reservoir
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Ibises gather on a ridge in the Australian native plants section
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A leafhopper on a bench eyes the camera warily before hopping away.
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A flower blooms at the botanical gardens.

Brisbane: Wild City

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Brisbane is our first stop in Australia and little has changed in the years since I last visited. The city is still in eternal summer, just as I left it in August of 2010. It’s still a maze of suburbs, interspersed with parks and wide streets not built for pedestrian navigation. Cars speed through the metropolis while an underdeveloped bus network serves the rest of the population (and us). There are somethings I don’t remember from my last stay: new skyscrapers have appeared in the downtown area, and there’s a pedestrian/bike only path along the river. But if there were ever a sister city to my Los Angeles, it would be Brisbane.

Then there are the things that are wildly different here in Brisbane: the flora and fauna. While there are plenty of European imports, like bobbling pigeons and frilly French marigolds, native Australian wildlife has taken to the city. Black-headed ibises strut through grassy parks where you’d normally see crows, and at night giant fruit bats and bush possums forage in park trees. It’s wild and jarring, a reminder that we’re on a continent on the other side of the world.

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A car speeds down a four-lane road in a Bribane suburb
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A dragonfly perches on a twig in Mt. Coot-tha Botanical Gardens
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A brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) eats flowers from a tree in a local park.
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I pose for scale with a Ficus tree growing in a local park.
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A tiled mural along Brisbane’s riverfront
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Bent copper nails sprout from a sculpture at the Brisbane Airport.
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Golden dewdrops (Duranta erecta), an invasive plant from the Americas, grows along a garden fence in suburban Brisbane.
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Pedestrians and cyclists traverse a car-free path on the north side of the Brisbane River.