It’s a sign to Brisbane that summer has arrived when scarlet poinciana trees burst into flower. This sub-tropical river city is built for summer, with plenty of places to cool off and secret corners to discover, along with nature’s bounty, alluring city precincts and a plethora of cultural attractions.
On the river
Life in Brisbane, criss-crossed with more than a dozen bridges, revolves around the river. Explore the city’s history from a new perspective by gliding along its wide expanse in a kayak with an expert guide from Riverlife. Paddle under the iconic Story Bridge, past the historic Howard Smith Wharves and beside the gorgeous gardens of South Bank. On Sundays, you can finish your watery workout with wine and a grazing board under a riverside marquee.
For the best river views in town, book a Story Bridge Adventure Climb to hit the peak of the 75-metre high bridge and enjoy the 360-degree views of the city, Mt Coot-tha and the deep blues of Moreton Bay. For extra thrills, team your climb with the new Cantilever Lean-Out or Walk the Plank experiences high above the river.
Board Mirimar Cruises’ 22-metre catamaran at South Brisbane for a new two-hour return twilight cruise. Sip a complimentary cocktail as you admire the glittering city lights, passing South Bank, the floodlit Kangaroo Point Cliffs, City Botanic Gardens, Riverside, Howard Smith Wharves and Dockside precincts. Alight at the Brisbane Powerhouse at New Farm for drinks and canapes and a short backstage tour before cruising home again.
Walking is the best way to discover a city and Brisbane’s secret corners are waiting. On foot, you can discover the places that the locals love, hidden laneways with fabulous street art, hole-in-the-wall cafes and intimate bars. Walk Brisbane’s range of tours cater to all interests, whether your passion is art, architecture, design, history, gardens or cafe culture.
Dive deep into the city’s history at the free Museum of Brisbane, in City Hall, and take one of The Storytellers: Walking Tours to uncover more about what makes Brisbane tick. Choose from three tours: telling the stories of the river (and more); the role of Brisbane in the Second World War; and the history of its convict and pioneering days.
Take a stroll through Fortitude Valley, and wander up James Street, one of Brisbane’s most popular high-end shopping and dining precincts. For an ultra-urban-chic stay, book in to The Calile Hotel, the newest kid on the block.
Pick up some just-picked produce at Brisbane’s many farmers’ markets such as the Jan Powers Farmers Market in front of the Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm (Saturdays from 6am); and Brisbane City Markets at Brisbane Square, near the Treasury Casino (Wednesdays from 8am).
Summer is an ideal time to get into the great outdoors and meet some of Australia’s native creatures. It’s easy to come face-to-face with some furry friends at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, home to the world’s largest and oldest koala sanctuary. Hand-feed kangaroos and marvel at the extraordinary platypus, emus, wombats, dingoes and more.
Moreton Island is just a 75-minute ferry trip from Brisbane: spend the day sand tobogganing in the dunes, snorkelling the sunken wrecks offshore, or four-wheel-driving around the island with Sunset Safaris. A tour will take you to freshwater lakes, remote bays and the historic Cape Moreton Lighthouse. Stay longer and take a night kayak tour, or hand-feed the pod of wild dolphins that visit Tangalooma Island Resort each evening.
Family favourite North Stradbroke Island/Minjerribah is about 47km from Brisbane and the perfect summer getaway, with glorious beaches, inland lakes and walking tracks. Don’t miss the Point Lookout on the easy North Gorge Walk to spot turtles and dolphins in the ocean below. Go camping, or hire a beach house or apartment, and soak up the sunsets and summer vibe.
Short of time to visit the Great Barrier Reef? From Brisbane, you can reach the reef on a day tour. Stay two nights at W Brisbane with the All Reefed Up package and, if the hotel’s heated pool and WET Deck isn’t enough for you, head to Lady Elliot Island for the day. The package includes return scenic flights for two to one of the best snorkelling destinations on the southern Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling gear, a guided tour and glass-bottom boat ride.
Sip and sup
Brisbane has it all. Quench your thirst at one of Brisbane’s cool bars, learn to blend your own tipple, dine at a stylish restaurant, or stay at a cool art hotel.
Grab your yoga mat and head to the lawn outside Felons Brewing Co. at Howard Smith Wharves for a free workout and a cool beer. Beer Yoga sessions are held every Wednesday at 5pm, so you can soak up some summer sun, enjoy a stretch and an amber ale at the end of the day.
Head to the eclectic West End for a lesson in gin-making at the Brisbane Distillery Company. The Gin School lets you choose from more than 130 botanicals to create your own signature gin (and you get to take it home, too). If wine is more to your taste, the City Winery in Fortitude Valley is the place to be, with wine-blending workshops, daily winery tours and tastings, or wine and food pairings. Brisbane’s only inner-city micro-winery even named its range after pioneering vintner Carl Gerler, who planted grapes in Brisbane in the 1800s.
Further afield, but still only 30 minutes from the city centre, Sanctuary by Sirromet is a great place to combine your love of wine with a spot of glamping. Sirromet’s bushland setting is the perfect getaway, with the winery and the acclaimed Lurleen’s restaurant a short stroll from your luxury tent.
Brisbane’s plethora of new luxury hotels mean you’ll be spoiled for choice. Emporium Hotel South Bank has panoramic views of the city, river and parklands, and there’s no better place for drinks with a view than the expansive rooftop bar. In Fortitude Valley, the pop-up MAYA Mexican occupies another bright and breezy rooftop space that provides a perfect backdrop for locally sourced, Mexican/Pacific inspired dishes (and a good range of tequila, too).
A heritage-listed Art Deco bank building has been transformed into one of the inner-city’s smartest hotels. Adina Apartment Hotel, on George St, is also home to the popular Donna Chang restaurant and, if you head to the basement (read: bank vault), you’ll stumble on one of the city’s newest Japanese restaurant/bars: Boom Boom Izakaya.
One of the hottest seats in town is at Agnes, a newcomer to the dining scene, where the ancient art of cooking with fire over a stone hearth creates simple but satisfying dishes; think smoked lamb, grass-fed sirloin, charred carrots, clams, octopus and more.
Art lovers will be inspired by two hotels that get the creative juices going. Boutique hotel The Constance in Fortitude Valley is a showcase for the striking creations of Brisbane’s top street artists. For quirky art of all kinds, head to Ovolo The Valley, where contemporary art meets luxury design.
From culture to sport, Brisbane’s summer is packed with exciting events. A highlight of the summer season at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) is The Motorcycle, a world-exclusive exhibition celebrating the art, design and history of motorcycling. With more than 100 motorcycles from the 1860s to today, the exhibition kicks off in late November and will run through until April 26, 2021.
Sports fans will thrill to the thwack of tennis balls as the Brisbane International & ATP Cup tournaments run throughout January at the Queensland Tennis Centre. Some of the big names of women’s tennis will slug it out at the Brisbane International, while the annual ATP Cup sees 24 of the world’s top tennis nations competing over two weeks.
Brisbane will also host the Australian PGA Championship at the Royal Queensland Golf Club for the first time since 2001. Players will tee off from February 18, for four days of first-class golf, rounding off the 2020 Australasia tour.