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Pack the SPF: What you’ve heard about Brisbane’s perennially sunny disposition and natural beauty – beaches, bush trails and koala bears – is true. What’s obsolete is the city’s sleepy reputation, with cool cocktail bars, a vibrant live–music scene and a sprawling new riverfront entertainment hub waking up the nightlife.
Where to stay
- city-guide-brisbane-stay-ovolo-inchcolmOvolo InchcolmFor the complimentary extras
- city-guide-brisbane-stay-w-brisbaneW BrisbaneFor the trendy scene
- city-guide-brisbane-stay-spicers-balfourSpicers BalfourFor a romantic getaway
- Hotel-Next-Hotel-BrisbaneNext Hotel BrisbaneFor the smart technology
Eat & Drink
Whisky cocktails at The Gresham Much like a good cocktail, you shouldn’t mess with the recipe for a good whisky bar. The Gresham has nailed it with its historic interior, including sandstone and New Zealand–limestone walls, Victorian fireplaces and dark leather chesterfields. At the bar within the bar, the Drawing Room, each cocktail is named after a moment in Queensland’s history.
Modern Chinese sharing plates at Madame Wu There’s no shortage of restaurants near Riparian Plaza, all offering impressive views of the river and Story Bridge, but there’s a reason people line up for Madame Wu. The lure is the modern Chinese fusion – including dumplings stuffed with Moreton Bay bugs, or pan–fried Mooloolaba prawns with nori butter – which can be ordered à la carte or banquet style.
Oysters and bubbly at Stokehouse Q While the food at Stokehouse Q has earned two hats (Australia’s answer to the Michelin star system), this riverside spot is just as beloved for its DJed Sunday sessions, oysters and bubbly. On balmy days, the gin–based Short Stack, made with quince syrup, is the perfect cooldown.
All–day brunch at Gauge Local produce, an ambitious young chef and everything made in–house: The recipe here may sound familiar, but the dishes are far from predictable. Sit down at the communal table to order the famed sourdough waffles with rhubarb, liquorice ricotta, yuzu and yogurt sorbet from the all–day brunch menu.
What to Do
Arts and culture at Brisbane Powerhouse Once a pre–war industrial power station, the Powerhouse building in New Farm Park is now a contemporary centre for the arts. Events include free photo exhibits, circus performances, live music and a seasonal moonlit cinema. If everything’s sold out, it’s still worth dropping by for a meal at Bar Alto, or a glass of wine on the patio.
Eco–friendly lifestyle goods at Biome Biome has been selling environmentally friendly, cruelty–free gifts and homewares since 2003. There are four locations in Brisbane, but Balmoral is where you’ll find Biome’s Naked Beauty Bar. With mason jars and around 30 raw ingredients, you can mix your own natural skincare and cleaning products, such as honey and clay face masks, and seaweed and salt bath soaks.
Family fun at South Bank Parklands This 17–hectare riverfront area is made for wandering, and you’ll see families doing just that any day of the week. At the historic Stanley Street Plaza, you’ll find the Wheel of Brisbane ferris wheel, a free swimming lagoon, and the Arbour, a picture–worthy 1–km walkway covered in bougainvillea.
Vintage everything at Empire Revival Housed in a heritage–listed 1929 theatre, Empire Revival was until recently known as the Paddington Antiques Centre. With the rebranding came the addition of contemporary wares, but Empire remains a favourite of interior designers and film–set decorators for its vintage furniture, jewellery and memorabilia.
Hand–feeding dolphins on North Stradbroke Island Nearby Moreton Island – one of the largest sand islands in the world, where you can hand–feed dolphins in the surf – gets most of the tourist attention. But “Straddie” is where locals go to surf Cylinder Beach’s soft peeling waves, snorkel and eat seafood. There’s plenty here for visitors, too, including the chance to spot koalas and migrating humpbacks, purchase Indigenous handicrafts, or spend the night glamping beachside.
Australian homewares at Green Tangerine Before opening Green Tangerine, artist Diane Lopes travelled the world, collecting and selling unusual trinkets. Now, she’s refocused her efforts closer to home, selling ethically made wares by Australian artisans. Stop here for Mud Australia’s minimalist porcelain tablewares, or the popular Face Vases designed in Sydney by Jones & Co.
Waterfront strolls at Howard Smith Wharves Originally constructed under the Story Bridge as a relief work project in the 1930s, these wharves have been largely abandoned since the 1960s. Now, the 3.4–hectare area has been reimagined as an entertainment and lifestyle hub. It is home to a new boutique hotel, event venues in heritage buildings, a microbrewery and more.
Bespoke menswear at the Cloakroom For more than a decade, the Cloakroom has been dressing the men of Brisbane, with made–to–measure leatherwear, outerwear and suiting. It also has a following in Canada: Montreal is home to its first international store. The only thing more popular than its bespoke suits? Its bespoke cocktails, which can be ordered in the adjoining speakeasy–style bar of the same name.
Modern and historical art at QAGOMA In 2002 – long before Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms became an Instagram sensation – the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) commissioned the artist to create the Obliteration Room. While the gallery has long been forward thinking, there’s plenty of the past in its 17,000–piece collection, including Indigenous artwork dating back to the 1880s.