Brisbane, you saucy little minx! Sometime in between 2011 when Pra called you home for 18 months and October 2016, you developed into the most beautiful and underrated city in Australia.
Once a nondescript old mining town that we used to brush past as we zipped towards the dazzling lights of Sydney, Brisbane now holds its own with a cool, funky mix of restaurants and destinations and a good splash of metropolitan sophistication. Wander around Fish Lane in West End where the awesome mix of eateries that run the gamut from fine dining to trendy but casual eats ensures you’ll leave with a full stomach and a happy heart. And then there’s the easy access to picturesque spots like Moreton Island and the salubrious Noosa all the way to our all-time fave Byron Bay in all of its dreadlocked and tie-dye glory.
We’ve put together a four-night guide to the pillows (where to stay), purity (where to chill), and plates (where to eat) of Brisbane that will get you started on enjoying all of the delights of the city. Following up is our four-night guide to Byron Bay for some serious capitalist hippie love and some of the best experiences in NSW.
Everyone, except New Zealanders, needs a visa to enter Australia. Check out www.immi.gov.au
Best Time To Go:
Australia is lucky to have gorgeous weather year-round but for optimal galavanting, try the shoulder seasons of March-May and September-November. Northern Hemisphere travellers may well enjoy visiting in December for a summertime Christmas.
Average Flight Time:
14 hours (Dubai to Brisbane, nonstop)
They drive on the left here
Queensland’s sunny capital city, affectionately and ironically called Brisvegas, is located along the Brisbane River. There’s a pretty huge property boom happening and the city is buzzing with a growing arts and culture scene. The huge active outdoor scene lets you soak up all of the gorgeous sunshine.
What To Pack:
The city has a mix of sophistication and a cool grunge vibe (particularly in West End). Go for a laid-back urban style with skinnies and comfy but stylish flats for walking around, like these slippers from Georgina Goodman. Pair with a cool cuff like this one from Denise Manning.
Spicers Peak Lodge
Get out of the city and head out to Maryvale where you’ll find Spicers Peak Lodge, a luxury mountaintop retreat located 1,100 metres up and nestled within 8,000 sprawling acres in the Scenic Rim. The under-2-hour drive will take you from the city into the gorgeous hinterlands before arriving at the Main Lodge where you’ll be warmly greeted by the fleece-clad staff with a glass of bubbles or a cuppa. Make yourself a home in one of the gorgeous suites, indulge in a stay at one of the two private lodges on the property, or embark upon a hiking trail adventure and go “glamping” with fully kitted-out luxury tents.
For our full review, click here.
From our experience, we’ve decided that you can never go wrong with Spicers. This location is a converted Queenslander based in New Farm, the renowned trendy suburb of Brisbane. You’ll be really close to James Street and its tempting lineup of some of the most fabulous boutiques so don’t forget to give your credit card company fair warning!
Enjoy the party life of Fortitude Valley whilst still being close enough to wander over to the sophisticated neighbourhood of New Farm. Have a drink at the hotel cocktail bar or check out the renowned Tartufo restaurant right nearby.
This slick, modern hotel is located right in Brisbane CBD making it super convenient for you to get out and about the city.
A cool, urban boutique hotel right in Fortitude Valley. You’ll be near all of the action and shopping but can also chill at their rooftop bar (which is one of the biggest in Brisbane).
Here’s a combination of spots Pra visited on this trip and during prior visits to Brisbane.
The Dome Spa Retreat at The Brisbane Marriott Hotel
If you’re feeling jet-lagged and in need of a pick-me-up, The Dome Spa Retreat is conveniently located with river views and known to offer some stellar treatments.
It’s been quite a few years since we last visited Genesis but therapist Graeme was (and still is) amazing. Try the Hawaiian Kahuna Massage, a whole body massage that promotes a mind-body-spirit connection for ultimate relaxation and release!
Gwinganna is renowned for being one of the best spa and wellness retreats about an hour’s drive outside of Brisbane. Whether you do the introductory two-night weekend stay or a week-long retreat, we’ve yet to hear anything but positive feedback from people who have pampered themselves here.
This Brisbane two-chef-hat classic, run under the watchful eye of award-winning Chef Matt Moran, oozes sophistication with a happy je ne sais quois vibe. The food is beautiful, from veggie dishes to meat, and the experienced sommelier will walk you through the wines, which might be necessary considering there are around 800 on the award-winning wine list!
For our full review, click here.
Along the waterfront, right in the hub of Brisbane CBD, sits Chef Ryan Squires’s three-Chef-Hat restaurant Esquire, complete with a view of Story Bridge spanning the Brisbane River. This fine dining establishment is a place that receives as many accolades for the fresh, modern, minimalist design as it does for its modern European cuisine.
For our full review, click here.
Nestled in the trendy Brisbane suburb of New Farm is the eclectically designed Gerard’s Bistro, dark, cosy and fabulous. The exquisite menu has heavy influences of the Middle East and Chef Ben Williamson produces exquisite and explosive dishes like coal-grilled octopus with green strawberries, butter, almond, chili and smoke, and fried cauliflower with tahini, ras el hanout, pomegranate and almond.
For our full review, click here.
The Gun Shop Cafe
This place has massive queues but it’s totally worth it because we swear it’s the only place in all of Australia that knows what a semi-dry cappuccino is!
A pretty spot in South Bank that’s unassuming and easy to overlook if you’re not in the know. It has a fantastic reputation for the food (which we devoured) and the superb staff (who we loved).
A super funky little bar in the trendy West End neighbourhood, this is another place that you might walk past if it hadn’t been recommended to you.
Just down the way from Brisbane Brewing, there’s a cool grungy sophistication to this place and they have the best lychee martinis in town!
An absolutely superb place, it’s pretty much guaranteed you’ll walk away with bags full of freshly ground macadamia butter, homemade chocolate peanut clusters, tons of fresh produce, as well as fresh cheeses and gourmet meats from Schulte’s Meats & Smallgoods.
Cheeky Bean Espresso Bar
A tiny, quirky hole-in-the-wall espresso bar in West End with awesome artwork going up the stairs that was painted by the owner’s daughter.
Paladar Fumior Salon
Built in a former bomb shelter, this tiny cafe is quirky with a Cuban feel and also houses a cigar humidor and eclectic curios.
This hip, under-the-radar, street food-inspired Asian restaurant is mostly walk-ins-only so be sure to get there early if you don’t feel like waiting. Located down a tiny alley in the middle of Fortitude Valley, look for the gleaming gold tuk-tuk or the long queue. Food, staff, and drinks are all superb, the vibe is awesome, and you’ll regret it if you decide not to try this place out just because you didn’t feel like waiting for a table!
This wasn’t originally part of our theme but wherever Pra goes, there’s going to be a bit of partying!
Blackbird overlooks the river and we spent the evening quaffing bubbles here. The scene is full of after work folks intermixed with people just looking for a night of happiness.
River Bar and Kitchen
Matt Moran’s other baby. Located on the waterfront with indoor and outdoor seating, great cocktails, and an awesome vibe. Bonus: they even offer fabulous mixology lessons for groups!
Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall
Situated in the lovely little suburb of Petrie Terrace (next to Paddington), we spent the night here drinking beer, joking, and dancing to live music—it was totally wild and the perfect end to our evening! It’s a fun-time place that’ll leave you in high spirits and we just loved it.
This new up-and-comer laneway in South Brisbane is utterly awesome and is what makes us say that there’s a Melbournian influence around the city. Stop by Hello Please for Vietnamese food, head to Julius Pizzeria for their Aperol collection and amazing pizzas before squeezing into Maker, the tiny bar with amazing cocktails. (High fives to all the guys here making things happen, and a special shoutout to the mixologists creating cocktails in the tiniest bar in town!)
This neighbourhood is an experience, hands down. It’s rowdy with a vibrant nightlife (party at Cloudland for just one evening!), so just kick back and have fun!
This is a fave of Chef Ryan Squires. It’s gorgeous and only 25 km from Brisbane, making it the perfect getaway spot with crystal clear lakes and tall sand dunes.
Take a lazy afternoon stroll through one of the fab Sunday markets. Or indulge in a massage, discover some awesome designers, and treat yourself a glass of wine at one of the bars and pubs scattered around the area.
Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art has a collection of over 17,000 works of art (historical, modern, and contemporary) and is a pretty spectacular way to take in a good dose of arts and culture.
Take a drive out to this beautiful mountain where you can do everything from wine tastings to hot air balloon rides to meandering up and down Gallery Walk with tons of little shops to explore. It’s perfect for pottering around with friends and soaking up the best of Queensland.
Only a 90-minute drive from Brisbane, take a day trip to this scenic resort town on the Sunshine Coast. We call it the posh equivalent of Byron Bay—it’s a beach town but you’ll likely see plenty of Range Rovers and low-key designer duds.
Finally, if you’re keen on roaming a bit more around Oz, follow our Part II guide and shoot over to Victoria to hang out in uber trendy Melbourne for a good city buzz and Daylesford for a luxe touch of nature.