Queensland’s capital has all the hallmarks of a classic minibreak destination, with culture, nature and cool cafés, bars and boudoirs up for grabs. Here are our top Brisbane travel tips for things to do in this seductive tropical city…
Brisbane’s South Bank is a one-stop art shop, with a string of major riverside galleries all within walking distance. Currently hogging the headlines is the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG; left), which hosts hot show Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado until 4 November, the largest ever art loan to the southern hemisphere by Madrid’s famous Prado museum. Expect wonder-works by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya. Next door, at gorgeous tropical-modern sister space the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), there’s a tie-in retrospective of movies by radical director Pedro Almodóvar at the Cinémathèque until 2 September, as well as a survey of 100 years of Spanish cinema wrapping 4 November.
Eat/drink: For alfresco dining, chill out at airy QAG Café, set in a tranquil sculpture garden amid water features. It serves light bites from quiche to salt and pepper squid, paired with local wines, as well as enticing cakes, but mind the greedy ibis birds. Aquatic panoramas are yours for the taking at stylish GOMA Café Bistro, outdoors on the veranda by the river, which whips up brunch, delicious lunches (try the creative salads) and tasty tea.
BEACH IN REACH
It’s freaky but fun… kids will love Streets Beach (right), a foliage-fringed, manmade strand on the South Bank riverside with jaunty lifeguards and just enough sand for topping up your tan. Find it along the boardwalk near the Nepalese Pavilion, jungle-canopy walk and Wheel of Brisbane.
Eat/drink: Perch in one of the bars behind the beach and people-watch. Try South Bank Surf Club for cocktails and seafood with a view, or better still stroll on to Stokehouse Brisbane, offspring of the Melbourne original, at Sidon Street, for designer wining and dining. Worth it for the live-DJ soundtrack alone, but the prosecco comes a close second.
Board a CityCat catamaran at South Bank and whizz downstream to laid-back New Farm Park. A serene spot for a picnic, this hip haunt is also home to Brisbane Powerhouse (left), a hub for art, comedy and theatre in an old power station by the Brisbane River. Photography show No Worries by Martin Parr, featuring Australian snaps by the quirky Brit talent, is on until 23 September. Comedians Pam Ann (9–12 August) and Kitty Flanagan (23 August–2 September) are also incoming, and Jan Power’s Farmers’ Markets are held on the second and fourth Saturday of the month.
Eat/drink: Dine on delicious Italian fare at the gallery’s breezy, river-scoping restaurant Bar Alto; on the floor below is casual watering-hole Watt Restaurant & Bar, perfect for snacks, cocktails or coffees on the sun-drenched terrace. From 3pm on Sundays, combine share plates with live DJs at the Sundae Sessions.
Just up the road in boho New Farm, Smith getaway Spicers Balfour Hotel makes a chic spot to bed down, with a rooftop bar to boot. Even if you’re not staying here, we recommend calling in for hearty breakfasts on the peaceful veranda (right).
Eat/drink: Smith suggests popping to nearby Fortitude Valley for happening restaurants and bars in Brisbane, or check out James Street, which hosts Aussie fashion stores such as Sass & Bide and Easton Pearson, and laid-back cafés including Jamie’s Espresso Bar (number 49) and the Little Pantry (at 92).
For more inspiring things to do, see our Brisbane destination guide, or check out our other boutique hotels in Queensland. Why not time a visit around the Brisbane Festival (8–29 September), which brings music, comedy and street theatre to the city?