As I type this, it’s snowing in Sofia. Can you blame me for looking down under?

The Weirdly Wonderful Side of Brisbane ()

Credit: Nam Nyguen – https://flic.kr/p/4z5cQs

Call this a case of wanderlust — until I can make my way down there for myself, here are 12 places I’ve got my eye on.

No, I haven’t been to Australia yet. I’ve heard some great things about it from other travelers, and even helped to edit a book about Sydney in the past. Today, though, I’m looking at you, Brisbane — the sunny holiday-making spot of 2.4 million people and the third-largest city in Australia. If you’re planning a trip, look for places to stay in Brisbane close to the heart of town. Being central makes exploring the city and trying a few activities on this list a breeze.

Here’s some weird and wonderful things to try, and a few oddball places to check out…

Ever do a pub crawl or wine tour by helicopter?

At $940 AUD (about $718 USD, where 1 Australian dollar equals 0.76 US dollar), this is not for the backpackers. Dubbed the Country Pub Crawl by Helicopter, Pterodactyl Helicopters (yes, their company’s real name) offers up three to five hand-picked pubs in the region for your enjoyment. Beyond the thrill of arriving in a James Bond sort of style, there’s the birds-eye view of the area as you fly from one pub to the next. The wine tours are similarly priced, and promise to help you reach the hard-to-find wineries in the area.

Go directly to Gaol

The Weirdly Wonderful Side of Brisbane ()

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Originally opened in 1883 and partially closed in 1989, the old Brisbane Gaol on Boggo Road has tours aplenty. Plenty of notorious criminals were put here, but it got used as a place for executions which gave it it’s reputation. Twice a month, tours are led by former residents or wardens, and other tours include a ‘how they escaped’ tour and a ghost tour.

More info at https://boggoroadgaol.com.

Pretend you’re the Phantom of the Opera

According to their website, the Underground Opera House performs in “abandoned mines, tunnels, caves, castles, aeroplane hangars, [and] power stations”. The 2017 season featured caves, castles, and reservoirs, and the acoustics can put most performance halls to shame. Some of the places where they hold performances can only seat 90 people, so it genuinely has that intimate feeling.

What sorts of things can you expect? Well, their late October ‘Opera in the Castle’ performance featured arias from Turandot (AKA ‘that opera from Mission Impossible 5’), duets from Lakme and The Pearl Fishers, and ensemble pieces from Rigoletto. And in December, there are Christmas carols. Each event varies, but be prepared for a classy time.

Expect adult tickets to cost around $85 AUD. Learn more at http://www.undergroundopera.com.au

A pagoda from Nepal

The Weirdly Wonderful Side of Brisbane ()

By Kgbo – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33551688

Originally created for a World Expo in 1988, this eighty-ton structure required two years and the efforts of 160 Nepalese families to build. It’s one of only three peace pagodas of its kind in the world, and is right between the Wheel of Brisbane and the South Bank’s ferry terminals.

More info on its Tripadvisor page.

Feed some deer by hand…

The Lyell Deer Sanctuary is 30-40 minutes outside of Brisbane proper, and it’s a perfect place to take in some Australian nature. Establish in 1984 with 20 red deer, there’s seven acres to meander with a bag or three of pellets. If you’re not into deer, people-watch!

Learn more at https://www.lyelldeersanctuary.com.au, but bear in mind it’s only open on weekends unless you make an appointment

…or feed some dolphins.

Over at the Tangalooma Island Resort, humans can visit the two families of dolphins if you’re staying overnight or booked an official day trip there. These bottlenose dolphins come back around sunset, and the staff follow sustainable feeding practices to ensure they still hunt and retain their natural instincts.

More info at https://www.tangalooma.com/dolphin-feeding.

Take in the world’s longest running lab experiment

The pitch drop experiment made some headlines in 2014 when its ninth drop fell. Originally started in 1927, the experiment involves pitch, an extremely viscous fluid, and a funnel — since the experiment started, only nine drops have fallen. This isn’t the most exciting activity on the list, but it might be worth a stop by the University of Brisbane.

More info at http://smp.uq.edu.au/content/pitch-drop-experiment.

Visit a Buddhist temple and a Hindu temple

Brisbane has both the Chung Tian Buddhist Temple and the Sri Selva Vinayakar Temple — even if you know nothing about the religions that billions follow, arrive to learn. These are south of Brisbane; you may need to make time for a day trip to have the best experience.

Chung Tian was constructed in the traditional Chinese way in 1992, and today offers any number of services or classes for the religious and non-religious variety. Try a one-day meditation retreat, a taichi class, or learn some Chinese.

Sri Selva Vinayakar was consecrated in 1995, five years after they purchased 4.5 acres of virgin bushland about 35 kilometres south of Brisbane. The elaborate shrines are as authentic and beautiful as they come, but you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs and explanations to appreciate the symbolism.

More info at http://www.chungtian.org.au and http://www.sriselvavinayakar.org, respectively.

Relax at a huge manmade beach

The Weirdly Wonderful Side of Brisbane ()

Credit: Richard Fisher – https://flic.kr/p/5N2SK6

At the end of the day, sometimes you just want to relax. Streets Beach is nowhere near the ocean, but holds 80 tons of white sand and enough water to fill five Olympic-sized swimming pools — oh, and it’s free to enter. It’s centrally located in the South Bank, and as you might guess it can get crowded during the nicer summer months.

For more information, head to visitbrisbane.com.au.

Hold a Concealable Ossotronic Disrupter…

…or just peruse the shelves of the Ecclectica Esoteric Books & Curiosities. I love stores like this, even if the esotericness is a little contrived. You have to keep your eyes open for anything and everything you might see, and you can’t expect the usual rules of categorization to be followed.

More info at www.ecclectica.com.au.

Play some games on a real-life ‘holodeck’

Star Trek fans know all about the holodeck — the fictional world-in-a-world that can create almost any scenario the heart desires. Brisbane claims ‘The Holoverse’ is “the World’s first fully holographic entertainment centre”, and inside you actually interact and manipulate the holograms you see. 40 rooms are available inside their facility, and you can try your hand at killing giant frogs and flying over the Gold Coast. The options available change regularly.

30-minute sessions are $32 AUD. More info at https://www.holoverse.com.au.

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