Regularly overlooked for its bigger and shinier cousins, Sydney and Melbourne, it’s time to put the spotlight on Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane. With a regular subtropical climate and proximity to golden sand beaches, Brisbane Australia is an ideal destination for those who prefer warmer weather and perhaps a slightly less-crowded city-buzz.
Don’t discount the River City on your tour of Australia. With the revitalised Howard Smith Wharves, refurbished bars popping up in heritage-listed buildings and an expanding transport network, Brisbane’s entertainment and dining scene is thriving. Adopt a beach bum lifestyle, go hiking through rainforests, cuddle a koala and dine on fresh seafood. And after all that, head riverside, order a schooner and say cheers as the sun goes down.
VISIT BRISBANE AUSTRALIA
THINGS TO DO IN BRISBANE
Walk along Kangaroo Point Cliffs
One of Brisbane’s oldest suburbs is not fringed with kangaroos but rather offers one of the best vistas of the River City’s skyline. Follow the path along the river which runs from the Queensland Maritime Museum and along to Captain Burke Park or meander at the top of the cliffs from Kangaroo Point lookout to Bar Spritz. Along River Terrace, there are picnic tables and barbecues if you fancy sitting up a lunch spot. It is also possible to abseil from the top of the cliffs with a registered company.
NOTE! Please do not scale the low brick walls. This is the only barrier preventing people from falling over the edge.
Climb the Story Bridge
Whatever Sydney can do, Brisbane can do just as well! The Story Bridge Adventure Climb offers a unique perspective of Brisbane’s skyline and Moreton Bay. On a clear day, one can see the Glass House Mountains towards the north and the Scenic Rim Mountains to the south. Climbs are offered at dawn, daytime, twilight (most popular) and night and will see you ascending Australia’s longest cantilever bridge above vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. For the daredevils, a cantilever lean out or walk the plank option is now also available!
Go for afternoon drinks at Howard Smith Wharves
Brisbane’s newest entertainment and lifestyle precinct, Howard Smith Wharves, sits below Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge, with the Brisbane City Council breathing new life into this riverlife area that had remained largely vacant since the 1960s. Come sit on the lawn at Felon’s Brewing Co for a beer and live music, pop into Mr Percival’s for a cocktail or dine-in for some delicious food at GRECA Greek Taverna. Looking to stay? Consider booking a room at the brand new boutique hotel by Art Series “The Fantauzzo” – check out our review below!
Check out the view from Brisbane Lookout
For more breathtaking panoramic views, make your way to Brisbane Lookout. Nestled 7km from the CBD amongst the leafy suburb of Mt Coot-tha, the view is equally stunning during the day as it is beautiful with the city lights at night. Unfortunately, the Summit Restaurant and Kuta Cafe are now closed but you can take advantage of the walking tracks through the National Park. Mt Cootha is also home to Brisbane’s Botanic Gardens and to the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium.
Cuddle a koala at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
A visit to Australia would be incomplete if you didn’t snap a photo cuddling one of our famous furry, big-nosed native marsupials. The world’s oldest and largest koala sanctuary, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is 12km from Brisbane City and set across 18 hectares. Originally opened as a safe refuge, Lone Pine welcomes local and international visitors to meet and engage with Australian wildlife.
Visit the Museum of Brisbane
Housed on the third level of Brisbane’s premier heritage listed building, City Hall, the Museum of Brisbane explores and displays the River City’s vibrant art, culture and history across five galleries, a studio and Dome lounge. There is a dedicated section to the Traditional Custodians of Brisbane, whom you may meet during your visit. Knowledgeable guides are on hand to share tales and trivia tidbits of Brisbane and its best-known personalities, and there is an opportunity to climb Brisbane’s Clock Tower for expansive views over the city. Climbing the clock tower is free but advance bookings are required.
Go snorkelling amongst the Tangalooma shipwreck at Moreton Island
A short ferry ride from the Port of Brisbane, a day of adventure awaits you. Moreton Island is one of the largest sand islands off the coast of Queensland and is best known for the Tangalooma shipwreck that has become a popular snorkelling and diving site. The unspoilt island is almost completely sand, meaning that a 4WD is required to traverse the terrain. Visitors can soak in the Champagne Pools at the north point of the island and sand toboggan down one of the many sand dunes. Camping is permitted but accommodation is also available at the small townships and Tangalooma resort.
WHERE TO EAT - BEST RESTAURANTS BRISBANE
BEST BRISBANE SEAFOOD
Sample some of Queensland and Australia’s freshest seafood with an Italian twist at fine-dining establishment, Otto Ristorante. On a clear day, enjoy a drink on the alfresco terrace before taking a seat in the light, elegant restaurant. With stunning riverfront views, select from the a la carte menu, tasting menu or vegan menu and let the sommeliers help you pair some impressive wines with your meal.
Felix for Goodness
BEST BRISBANE BRUNCH
This cosy breakfast and lunch spot is located in one of Brisbane’s quieter laneways. The small flight of stairs leads into an airy loft-like eatery. Felix’s menu changes with the seasons so in winter, you could be sampling one of the soup specials and potato rostis while summertime offers vegetarian pastas and falafel wraps. There is a selection of natural wines, craft beers and spirits too for when the clock ticks past midday.
BEST BRISBANE BREAKFAST
With the original flagship in Melbourne’s Fitzroy, Industry Beans has spread its wings and fortunately opened a beautiful cafe/restaurant in Brisbane’s trendy Newstead. Coffee is what these guys do best and they have cleverly spread the flavour throughout their drool-worth brunch menu. The dishes are as beautiful as they are tasty so mark this place on your Google Maps.
BEST BRISBANE MIDDLE EASTERN
A long time favourite of New Farm locals, Gerard’s Bistro is an award-winning Brisbane restaurant tucked away on James Street. Come for an indulgent dining experience, sharing plates featuring flavours from the Middle East and wines carefully selected to round off your meal. For a nightcap, pop across the carpark to Gerard’s Bar.
Chu the Phat
BEST BRISBANE ASIAN FUSION
Those after a bit more sizzle and spice will enjoy the offerings at Chu the Phat. The double storey restaurant and bar is nestled on Fish Lane in South Brisbane. Inspired by the hawker stalls of Hong Kong, Korea and Taiwan, Chu the Phat delivers authentic Asian street food that is sure to delight the tastebuds. Banquet options available for those who want to try a little bit of everything.
Eat Street Northshore
BEST BRISBANE OPTION FOR EVERYONE
Despite being located in a rather unorthodox location, this is the perfect choice for those travelling with fussy eaters. 180 shipping containers have been cleverly converted into a dazzling dining and entertainment precinct that welcomes families and furry friends. Open every weekend, you’ll find cuisine from every corner of the globe. Live music features each evening on every stage. Free parking and $3 entry per person.
WHERE TO DRINK - BEST BRISBANE BARS & CAFES
John Mills Himself
BEST BRISBANE COFFEE
Well of course we’re going to tell you where to find some of the best coffee in Brisbane. John Mills Himself is one of those spots that a visitor wouldn’t come across unless a local told them, so lucky for you, we’re going to share this uber cool coffee shop with you! Pocketed in a historic space between Elizabeth Street and Charlotte Street, John Mills Himself whips up espresso blends with beans roasted by Five Senses and regularly rotate their feature coffee with Australian roasters. There’s limited space inside and that’s totally fine when the baristas brew a fine cup of coffee.
BEST BRISBANE BREWERY
Brisbane born and based, this independent brewery and taproom in Newstead is dedicated to all things beer. The inner-city brewery features an indoor space only with several high seat bench tables. Specialising in a rotating lineup of hoppy, dark and sour beers, Range arguably serves the best sourdough pizza in Brisbane too. Swing by on a Thursday night when Range serves a $20 special for a pizza and small beer.
The Osbourne Hotel
BEST BRISBANE CONTEMPORARY PUB
This contemporary pub will be a firm favourite for those wanting a beer and the sports channel. Ideally located in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, the Osbourne has a large selection of local and international beers and wines and a good menu for when you’re starving or feeling just a little bit peckish. Booths can hold smaller groups whilst the airy Backyard area features some kick-ass graffiti art on the surrounding wall.
BEST BRISBANE GIN BAR
For something a little more refined, a pre-dinner drink or a nightcap, make your way to Dutch Courage. Queensland’s first gin bar and restaurant is set over two storeys, with the decor (vintage campaign furniture and hessian curtains) invoking a sense of adventure, discovery and exploration. Stocking 250+ spirits, the talented bartenders can help you flip through the impressive cocktail menu before shaking up a few tipples for you.
Riverbar & Kitchen
BEST BRISBANE WATERFRONT BAR
For one of the best views in the city, pop on down riverside and grab a seat at Riverbar & Kitchen. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, sit underneath one of the yellow and white umbrellas for an al fresco lunch and then come evening, swing by for a cocktail and watch the Story Bridge light up. Waterfront dining at its best, expect Riverbar to be pumping on a Friday night when the corporate crew descend from their towers above.
Maeve Wine Bar
BEST BRISBANE WINE BAR
Located in a stunning heritage-listed second floor space, Maeve Wine Bar is a welcome addition to Brisbane’s pre-theatre dining scene. Opened by three Brisbanites, Maeve Wine Bar offers an ever-changing wine list with a focus on smaller producers from around the globe. The menu is inspired from the owners’ hospitality experience and travels across Europe and offers snacks, sharing plates and full meals. Walk past the Starbucks and up the stairs and you’ll be ushered into a brightly lit restaurant and bar space as well as warm hospitality. Reservations and walk-ins are welcome.
Death & Taxes
BEST BRISBANE COCKTAIL BAR
Down Brisbane’s oldest laneway, the entrance to Death & Taxes is a pair of gorgeous wooden doors and lion-head knockers. At first glance, it does look like a private gentleman’s club but don’t let first appearances dissuade you. Step inside to an old-world cocktail lounge and wine bar where the leather covered menu features gorgeous illustrations of each delicious cocktail concoction. Wooden panelled walls and curved green leather couches set the scene for illicit conversations or else snag a couple of bar seats and watch the bartenders shake up some magic.
WHERE TO SHOP IN BRISBANE
Queen Street Mall
The beautiful pedestrian semi-outdoor shopping mall stretches from George Street to Edward Street and is where you’ll find the high-street favourites. The Myer Centre spreads across multiple levels whilst the Wintergarden features some independent stores between its LED facade. For all things ultra-luxe, your destination is QueensPlaza. Make sure to take a stroll through historic Brisbane Arcade and also visit the old-fashioned posh shops in Tattersall’s Arcade.
Jan Powers Farmers Markets
An icon of Brisbane’s food scene, the Jan Powers Farmers Markets has been integral to championing local produce and supporting communities. Jan Powers Farmers Markets operate in New Farm, Mitchelton and Manly selling fresh farm produce, flowers, breads, plants, organics and more. Check out the website for details of times and locations.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN BRISBANE
For the best access to Brisbane’s entertainment and dining precincts, river walks and attractions, choose a stay in Brisbane’s CBD. An apartment or hotel room is likely to grant you beautiful river views and the central location is perfect for exploring the city and surrounds by foot. The CBD is much quieter during weekends but Queen Street Mall and Eagle Street Pier is where the city comes alive when the sun goes down.
This is the area to stay for the perfect combination of inner-city living and peaceful suburbia. Older, weather-worn brick apartment blocks are resisting 21st-century development which houses a mix of silver-haired baby boomers and younger city slickers. Former wool-sheds have been converted into studio apartments and riverside properties command an imposing presence by the boardwalks. New Farm features trendy restaurants and cafes, boutique shopping and leafy New Farm Park. The Jan Powers Farmers Markets are on every Saturday morning and don’t forget to check out the gig guide at the Brisbane Powerhouse.
Looking for a beach without needing to leave the city? South Bank is the spot for you. Grey Street is ideal featuring the Emporium Hotel and several apartment complexes. Wander down to South Bank Parklands where you’ll find a peaceful garden walk on one side and Streets Beach on the other. Little Big House is a heritage-listed Queenslander converted into a restaurant and bar, Tippler’s Tap serves up traditional English pub lunch on Sundays and Stokehouse Q by the water is a perfect spot for a seafood dinner. For theatre buffs, check out what’s playing at QPAC down the road.
The Travel Quandary recommends...
The Fantauzzo Brisbane - Art Series
This hotel will now always be special to us as it’s where we spent our engagement night! Perfectly positioned under the iconic Story Bridge, the Fantauzzo brings a wonderful display of architecture and design to Brisbane’s hotel industry. Elegant, contemporary luxury awaits you at the Fantauzzo, a member of the Art Series Hotels. Inspired by acclaimed Australian painter Vincent Fantauzzo, original artworks feature in all 166 suites and throughout the hotel. Spectacular views are guaranteed from the rooftop pool and guests have the choice to dine at on-site restaurant, Polpetta, or go wandering along Howard Smith Wharves.
HOW TO GET TO BRISBANE
Driving To Brisbane
Getting Around Brisbane
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING BRISBANE
The best way to travel on Brisbane’s public transport system is with a go Card. Paper tickets are much more expensive and are time bound. Once you purchase a goCard, you simply touch on and touch off each time you travel by train, bus or ferry. go Cards can be purchased at newsagents or 7-Eleven convenience stores and can be topped up at these same retailers, train stations and major busways. go Cards are available for adults, children, concessions and seniors.
90% guaranteed sunshine
Brisbane has a subtropical climate with warm or hot weather throughout most of the year. You’re practically guaranteed sunshine almost all the time making it perfect to be outdoors and to make a day trip or long weekend to the beaches along the Sunshine Coast or the Gold Coast. Rainy season is during the summer from around November – March where you could encounter tropical rainstorms.
Middy vs Pot - and what’s a Schooner?
If you’re ordering a beer in Australia, you’re going to need to learn some terminology. And even between the states, you’ll hear different names. In Brisbane, a half-pint (285 ml/ 10oz) is a “pot” whilst in other states and territories, the same size beer is often referred to as a “middy”. And if you’re travelling from abroad, you’re likely to hear the term “schooner”. This glass size is 425 ml or 15 oz – smaller than a pint. Cheers, mate.
No daylight savings
The only change you’ll need to make to your watch is if you’re travelling into Brisbane from overseas. Queensland is one of three states and territories that does not have daylight savings in Australia from October to early March.