Once considered a poor relation to its southern sisters, Brisbane has long since thrown off these shackles and stepped confidently out of the shadows as the warmer, livelier, active destination of choice.
A commercial hub that pitches in plenty of pleasure with business, what’s not to love in this riverside location that takes full advantage of the great outdoors. Embracing the cultural tide, Brisbane now packs a competitive punch in every category making this cool city one achingly hot destination.
With an impressive lineup of eateries, bars and riverside views, it is no wonder that Brisbane has become a honey pot for a swarm of young professionals keen to be in the centre of the action. As the beating heart of the corporate world, this city is home to a considerable white-collar brigade pacing the streets with tourists and locals alike – all keen to indulge in urban treats. With many campuses falling inside the CBD, such convenience living also attracts a healthy student population eager to take advantage of having everything close at hand. Come the weekend, Brisbane transforms into a shopper’s haven with locals, visitors and tourists flooding the streets and spilling out of bars and restaurants.
WHAT TO DO?
From culture to cafés, from shopping to science, from artworks to legwork, there really is something to tick every box in this fantastic state capital.
Nestled between the ocean and the national parks, the Brisbane River is the lifeblood of the city and with over 280 days of sunshine a year it’s a locals’ favourite hangout. Connecting the inner city areas as well as providing a playground paradise for a whole host of outdoor adventures, the river is an integral part of Brisbane living. Try out night kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding for aquatic starters, or scale the Story Bridge for spectacular panoramic city views. Prefer terra firma? Explore the city on wheels and take advantage of all the fantastic bike tracks available. There is an extensive network of pathways to discover from river loops to forest ways, many of which meet and interconnect. Or simply try an inner-city hire to help you nip around town. If you prefer to exercise your mind, head to the South Bank precinct’s Queensland Museum for interactive exhibitions. Or simply pack some swimmers and cool off on Streets Beach, possibly the world’s most famous artificial shores. Let the turquoise waters lap your toes as the city bustle washes gently away.
Love it or loathe it, Brisbane has some of the best shopping available that you will find in any city. From unique boutiques to designer garb, through high street brands and market bustle, all you will need is a keen eye and a stuffed wallet. Try Queen Street Mall or The Myer Centre for a familiar collection of arcades and brands, head to Brisbane Arcade if only to wander through the beautiful heritage-listed building, and for high-end luxe it’s Queens Plaza all the way. Markets are big business in this buzzing metropolis; discover unique craft ware, vintage clothing, organic produce and more, all in the lush surrounds of city pockets. Try Eat Street Markets for yummy street food, collectibles and entertainment, or soak up the vibe at the BrisStyle Indie Markets in the art deco surrounds of Brisbane City Hall. When you’ve had enough of shopping, simply cast a lazy eye around and spot the next musical wonder at Finders Keepers, held for just two days every July in the Old Museum.
Glance upwards and you will certainly spot some hidden gems nestled amongst the concrete skyscrapers. Check out the heritage-listed Brisbane City Hall for 1920s renaissance style, the stunningly peaceful Anzac Square Memorial and the subtropical Modern Art Gallery (QAGOMA) – a leading contemporary arts hub. On the lighter side of life Brisbane Powerhouse is a hotbed of cultural events ranging from comedy and musicals to theatre and dance. Head to Fortitude Valley and West End for live gigs and DJs, or check out the latest international acts showing at Brisbane Entertainment Centre.
Brisbane is at the beating heart of the sporting action with a fine array of fantastic arenas to choose from. Head to The Gabba for a cricket international or catch the Brisbane Lions at an AFL home match. Try Suncorp Stadium for the whole gamut of ball tricks from Union (Queensland Reds), through League (Brisbane Broncos) to traditional soccer (Brisbane Roar). Tennis fans, be sure not to miss the pros slog it out every year at The Brisbane International. Make it a personal pursuit and abseil down the cliffs at Kangaroo Point, or take a challenge and rock climb to the top. Have a paddle down the river or cruise by segway – whatever drives your sporting fix, Brisbane has it covered.
Enjoy the city’s iconic sights from the water with a riverside cruise while you learn about the history behind the streets. Prefer an aerial perspective? Try The Wheel of Brisbane for a birdseye view with a city commentary as you rotate. Get up close and personal with indigenous wildlife at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s oldest and largest Koala retreat – or take it down a gear at The Botanic Gardens, just 7km from the CBD at the foot of Mount Coot-tha. Wander at your leisure and enjoy the thematic displays or enjoy a guided tour. Escape the city bustle and discover your favourite park for a picnic, or meander alongside a riverside walk and inhale that glorious fresh air.
WHERE TO GO?
With all that sunshine on offer, the best way to enjoy city living is way, way up high – and Brisbane has plenty to offer up. For breathtaking views of the city and beyond, head upwards to Eleven Rooftop Bar in Fortitude Valley, or try The Exchange Hotel for a secret bar experience set above the beautiful heritage-listed building. If you prefer a quirky twist check out Dandy’s Rooftop Bar atop The Fox Hotel where you might be forgiven for thinking you had stepped in to a 1970s tennis club. Sample the asian-fusion cuisine of Madame Wu alongside your river views and there’s no passing up the very first boutique rooftop offering of The Limes Hotel. Share a beverage and a bar snack before you plunge into the spa, as you watch the sun dip away. Pure bliss.
Equally as popular as their hightop friends, these underground abodes have a vibe all their own. For an ambient surround and late-night feed, pull up a cowskin stool at The Farrier Bar & Supper Club, housed in the old underground stables of The Queens Arms. Keeping it tuned down under, US style basement bar The Brooklyn Standard offers live music six nights a week with a speakeasy style bar to match. Imagine the snow gently settling outside the door as you snuggle down into your couch at The Chalet Bar deep underneath The Alliance Hotel. Well, it may not be snowing but you still get all those cheeky après ski benefits. For war bunker style don’t miss The Walrus Club, a speakeasy option specialising in all things rum.
On the level
The Brisbane pub scene is positively thriving, many of which are serving up fancy food options alongside pub classics. Try out The Gresham for a mouth-watering range of whiskeys and cocktails, Copperface Jacks for the charming Irish craic, and The Flying Cock for superb pub fare. Enjoy some al fresco views riverside with friends at The Riverbar as you watch the sun go down or transport yourself to 1920s New York via The Bowery. Foodies will not be disappointed with the Brisbane’s many hatted eating options, with Urbane, Gauge and Ottos to name a few. Plant yourself at The Tonic for morning espresso, or some cool talls by night – or head out to Burnett Lane, the city’s best-kept secret. Once a prison exercise yard this space now offers an alternative range of bars, cafes and curiosities. Verve is serving up classic homestyle Italian comforts while The Collective Kitchen and Bar dishes out impressive creative plates overlooking Cathedral Square.
OUT AND ABOUT
When you’ve tired of pounding the city streets, there is plenty more that lies beyond. Brisbane is a gateway to both the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast where stretches of golden sand await your visit. Closer to home, and a mere 75-minute ferry ride away from Holt Street Wharf is Moreton Island. Be at one with nature as you snorkel with turtles, hand-feed the dolphins, or quad-bike around the island. Head for a bushwalk in D’Aguilar National Park, or go off the grid at The Scenic Rim as you explore this heritage-listed area by foot or by bike. Be sure to take a day in the country and drive through Somerset Valley’s wine trail breathing in the beautiful lake views as you pass.
Brisbane is a vibrant city packed with action, choice and bundles of sunshine. With something available for everybody, city living simply does not get any better.