With top-tier visual and performing arts, dynamic dining, boutique shopping and hot hotel openings, the riverside Queensland capital is bringing the goods.
Over the past few years Brisbane has been emerging as Australia’s epicentre of all things fashionable and cultural thanks to a slew of new creative precincts, design-savvy restaurants, bars and hotels opening alongside a world-class offering of festivals and arts centres.
Arts & Culture
These include the Brisbane Powerhouse in riverside suburb New Farm and the Queensland Performing Arts Centre at Brisbane’s Cultural Precinct on the South Bank (where Opera Australia is set to perform an exclusive production of Wagner’s Ring Cycle this spring).
Forming part of the same precinct, the jewel of the crown is the cutting-edge Gallery Of Modern Art (GOMA), which is complemented by Queensland Art Gallery to form QAGOMA.
After your visit, take a walk along the South Bank, following the flow of the Brisbane River; this buzzing spot is known not only for its arts and events, but for its welcome green space and for Streets Beach, the world’s only man-made city-centre beach.
Take in Brisbane City’s beautiful skyline. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Spend some time outdoors
Stop for a picnic at River Quay Green, with its views out over the river and city skyline (order a picnic from Popolo) or, 1.5 kilometres further along the river, atop Kangaroo Point Cliffs – one of Brisbane’s best-kept secrets (which you can also abseil down if the mood so takes you).
If you fancy getting out on the water itself, book a kayaking adventure with Riverlife Brisbane. Then, explore dining precincts and funky neighbourhoods.
Shopping & precincts to visit
Howard Smith Wharves, a re-energising of a historic 1930s space smack-bang underneath Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge (which you can scale with Story Bridge Adventure Climb), is full to the brim with the city’s hottest venues including over-water bar Mr Percival’s, Cantonese restaurant Stanley and six-storey Crystalbrook Vincent hotel (formerly the Art Series hotel The Fantauzzo).
Stop for a drink at Mr Percival’s Bar in Brisbane. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Tucked just behind is Fortitude Valley; Brisbane’s longtime grungy and vibrant nighttime entertainment district is looking rather slick these days thanks in no small part to boutique shopping and dining precincts like Bakery Lane and James Street – home to the stylish Calile Hotel and boutiques ranging from local designers to iconic Aussie labels.
Rest at the Calile Hotel in Brisbane. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
In fact, you could easily spend a whole weekend in the sunny Queensland capital without even thinking about the beach, but that would be a shame: to the north and south of the Brisbane River mouth, Brisbane’s Bayside is made up of a string of charming seaside suburbs well worth exploring.
How to spend 72 hours in Brisbane
Catch a ferry to one of the sand islands on Brisbane’s doorstep: Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) or Moorgumpin (Moreton Island) offer nature in spades and serious beach time.
Swim at the main beach on Minjerribah. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Visit Mt Coot-Tha, the closest mountain to the CBD, for panoramic views of the city, walking trails through open eucalypt forest and rainforest gullies, and the Aboriginal Art Trail.
Begin your tour of Mt Coot-Tha at its base by exploring the exotic plants of subtropical Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium and Herbarium.
Paddle the Bayside in Brisbane. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Enjoy a destination brunch at Wild Canary, a botanical bistro nestled in the lush surrounds of Brookfield Gardens nursery: a true foodie oasis set in Brisbane’s leafy fringes.
Brisbane’s Bayside is strung with charming seaside suburbs. Head to Northern Bayside for the cafes, bars and heritage architecture of Sandgate, Brighton and Shorncliffe.
Best places to stay in Brisbane
Limes Hotel is a boutique crash pad in Fortitude Valley.
Check into Crystalbrook Vincent hotel under the Story Bridge.
Story Bridge and Brisbane City. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
Five-star W Brisbane in the CBD boasts an on-site Three Blue Ducks eatery.
From breakfast carbonara at West End Café morning after to lunch with a view and a brew at Felons Brewing Co., right on the river at Howard Smith Wharves, to elegant Thai at sAme sAme, in Fortitude Valley micro precinct Ada Lane, you’ll eat often and well in Brisbane.
Art and food are hot tickets in Brissie so why not experience them in tandem? Birrunga Gallery & Dining is an Indigenous art gallery, cafe and wine bar hidden in the city, while GOMA Restaurant blends artistry and culinary technique in its delivery of sustainable fine dining.
Just a minute’s walk away is Gauge (on Fish Lane)– cafe by day, degustation dining by night – offering one of the city’s most creative foodie experiences.
Best walks in Brisbane
The Brisbane Riverwalk follows the course of the river through some of Brisbane’s prettiest suburbs, sneaking gratuitous city views along the way.
The walk begins at New Farm – where you’ll find a glorious riverside park that sits next to the iconic Brisbane Powerhouse, a 1920s tram power station repurposed as an arts haven and home to the bustling Jan Powers Farmers Markets on Saturdays – and winds its way to the Howard Smith Wharves precinct on the edge of Brisbane’s CBD.
Don’t miss: West End
Colourful and quirky, West End is Brisbane’s bohemian suburb – and half the fun is in getting there. It’s a leisurely meander here from the South Bank via funky Fish Lane, a freshly activated arts precinct called Soda Water Lane in a previous life because it was the access point for the Eodone Aerated Water Company.
Walk Fish Lane from the South Bank to the West End. (Credit: Tourism and Events Queensland)
These days, it’s an access point to street art and all manner of cafes, restaurants and bars including Cups On Melbourne, Maeve and Gelato Messina for a quick coffee, wine or ice-cream respectively.
Then, launch yourself into West End’s eclectic village atmosphere starting with a shop around the Davies Park Markets if it’s a Saturday for wholesome fast food, fashion and gifts under the dappled shade of a giant fig tree.
Take a stroll down the main drag, Boundary Street, and check out its unique stores including indie bookshop Avid Reader and art gallery and florist Hanasho.
In the evening, head to a gig at a hip hang like The Bearded Lady and dine at one of the many Greek restaurants here, such as The Little Greek Taverna or Lefkas Taverna: West End is home to Queensland’s largest Greek community so it would be rude not to.
Conscious Traveller tip
Head out for the day between June and September on a Yalingbila Tour – Australia’s first Indigenous-owned whale-watching tour, operated by Quandamooka Coast – for cultural and scientific insights into the migration of yalingbila (whales) through Quandamooka Country.