Although we’re not originally from Brisbane, we like to think that because we’ve lived here for so long we have a bit of an idea of some of the best places to visit while in town. Brisbane may not be as hipster as Melbourne, as famous as Sydney, or as up-and-coming as Perth but the city definitely has its up sides (and it’s not just because it has great weather). Here is our local guide to Brisbane. Enjoy!
Top three brunch spots:
Au Cirque, New Farm – This is a cute little place on Brunswick Street. There is usually a bit of a wait on the weekends and it may look small from the outside but it is split level so no need to worry, the line moves quickly. The brunch is simple, delicious and organic wherever possible. The Chow Down is always a hit.
Scout Cafe, Spring Hill – They don’t offer a huge range on the menu, but what they do serve up is made to perfection. We love the vintage decor of Scout and the feeling of a small community. The breakfast bagel will hit the spot on a Saturday morning.
Little Larder, New Farm – Perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch. The menu is a mix of breakfast and lunch style foods so you can take your pick. The salads have always been our favourites and they cater to vegans and gluten free people (always a plus!). The location is close to the Brisbane River so you can take a stroll to top your morning off.
Favourite places to eat:
Blackbird Bar and Grill, Brisbane City – Recently opened, Blackbird Bar and Grill are new to the riverside block, but so far they are a huge hit. The restaurant is fine dining, with a view overlooking the Brisbane River and Story Bridge. With an array of options to choose from, oysters are big as well as anything off the grill plate.
Rouj, Paddington – A local Lebanese eatery in Rosalie Village it is best to book a table (any night of the week). The food is authentic and very tasty. We recommend sharing the Mixed Grill or indulging in the Vegetarian Delight.
Café Wrapture, West End – It is your typical West End local spot. A little grunge mixed with super cool hipsters and delicious food. If you’re looking for a simple but incredible lunch stop, you can’t go past Wrapture. Some of their more popular wraps are tandoori chicken or lamb kofta ones but they also serve up incredible satay tofu salad bowls and homemade iced tea. We go here so often we’re on a first name basis with the friendly owner!
The best spots to get sweet treats:
Pamela’s Pantry, Paddington – This little shop along Caxton St will make your tooth ache. Not only do they serve the most delightful sweet treats but savory is also on the menu. It is a small takeaway only shop but when you are there do not go past the Vanilla Kiss. It will probably be the best melting moment you will ever eat in your life. No joke.
Botanica, Red Hill –This is a boutique bakery of sorts where they sell freshly made salads and gluten-free pastries. The giant chocolate meringue cookies are incredible but do no miss the baked cinnamon donut or vegan caramel brownie. Die.
Our favourite bars in Brisbane and why:
Riverbar, Brisbane City – Right on Brisbane river this is a great place for an afternoon drink. Sit back, relax, enjoy river-life go past while you sip on a nice cool drink.
Elixir Rooftop Bar, Fortitude Valley – This is a small little rooftop bar situated in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. With groovy music and some of the best cocktails you will find in the city this is a great place to start your night out.
The Regatta Hotel, Toowong – This pub has been in Brisbane for a very, very long time having just celebrated its 140th year. After the most recent Brisbane floods (in 2011) the Regatta had a facelift and is now a trendy place for an afterwork drink or the classic Sunday sesh. If you know where to look, there is another bar right underneathe (The Walrus Club). This speakeasy is a real man’s den made out as a rum bar showcasing over 200 different rums.
The best shopping:
Latrobe Terrace, Paddington – Latrobe has an assortment of shops to choose from but boutiques and antique shops generally dominate. Wander down the street, popping in and out of stores, rummaging through vintage racks to find a diamond in the rough or perfect one-off pieces before relaxing for an afternoon coffee at one of the many cafes.
James Street, New Farm – Shop along James St to avoid malls but still get the modern, generic stores – it’s just a more relaxed environment. Shops here include Zimmerman, Sass & Bide, Lulu Lemon, Witchery and the likes.
Here’s how to be a tourist for the day:
If you’re staying in Brisbane city we recommend to start walking! Cross the Kurilpa Bridge and head into Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) where fantastic artists from all around the world exhibit extraordinary pieces (hurry – one more week until Falling Back to Earth ends!)
Once you’ve checked out the gallery, continue walking along the river and make your way into South Bank. Walk through the Parklands (if it’s the weekend check out the markets) before eating lunch along the river (try The Jetty, Cover Bar and Dining or if you’re feeling fancy Stokehouse).
After lunch, walk across the Goodwill Bridge and stroll through the Botanical Gardens (you may need to work off your lunch by this time). Once you get down near riverside (Eagle St Pier) you can either head back through the city or jump onto a CityHopper and cruise around on the Brisbane River (free ferry) before heading home.
Our favourite ‘Get out of town’ places:
Go walking through the National Parks – Brisbane is surrounded by National Parks and we recommend getting out of the city and heading out to go walking! Our favourite spots are Noosa National Park, Kondalilla National Park (surrounding Montville) and Springbrook National Park (half an hour’s drive in-land from the Gold Coast). There are usually a lot of circuits to choose from but before you head out, make sure you check paths will be open and the best route for your fitness level. We also love taking a snack or two, or even a picnic lunch to enjoy while overlooking a pretty view at the end of a big walk.
Byron Bay – Two hours drive south from Brisbane the hippy, surfer town of Byron Bay is as laid-back as they come. Walk up to the lighthouse, check out the most Eastern point of Australia, wander the streets looking through the shops or head down to one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia. Go for a surf or swim or just lay on the beach, relax and let the atmosphere of Byron Bay suck you in.
Tangalooma, Moreton Island – Moreton Island is a 75 minute catamaran transfer from Brisbane and if you’re planning on heading over there we recommend going for the weekend and staying at Tangalooma Beach Resort. Although the rooms aren’t that fancy for what you pay, the amount of activities on Moreton Island are ever expanding. We recommend heading out on day tour to experience the famous Blue Lagoon and go sandboarding and then at sunset head down to the beach to watch the feeding of local, wild dolphins. If you are here during whale watching season (starts June 21) then head out for a morning of spotting humpback whales, dolphins and turtles in the crystal clear water or spend your time snorkeling near the shipwreck just offshore.
Our ‘do before you die’ when visiting Brisbane experience:
Go to Fraser Island – Fraser Island is one of the most beautiful places you can visit. Hervey Bay is the main departure point to get onto Fraser Island (and it’s only a few hours drive away from Brisbane). You need a four-wheel drive to get around the island as all roads are made of sand! Fraser Island is a World UNESCO heritage site and for good reason. It is the world’s largest sand island and one of Australia’s most beautiful national parks featuring gorgeous lakes, fresh clear water, eucalypt forests and fantastic native wildlife (including wild dingoes). You can take your own vehicle across to the island and go camping but we prefer the 3 day/2 night Cool Dingo tour that departs from Hervey Bay. With this tour you will get maximum amount time on the island, enjoy a guided experience (so therefore you will find out all the information), meals and a comfy bed to sleep in each night. Perfect long-weekend away!