If you’re planning an over the ditch vacation, chances are you have a good idea of what you’re looking for. Suppose you want beaches and luxury, head to Sydney. For a dose of culture, spend the weekend in Melbourne. To sample some of the country’s best wines, head to Adelaide. But Queensland is less about the city and more about tropical beaches, isn’t it?
You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that – we love Queensland for its endless beaches – and more often than not, Brisbane is just a stop on the way to the sand. But neglecting to spend a night or two in the state capital is an injustice to both you and the city.
There’s something about Brisbane that’s effortlessly cool. A weekend in the city is easy – you can walk, scooter or take the City Hopper (a ferry service that bounces around both sides of the Brisbane River) almost anywhere on your to-do list.
Brisbane is much more than just a port of arrival or gateway to Queensland. With a vibrant culture and salivating foodie scene, the state capital deserves its own destination (or at least an extra weekend at the start or end of your vacation). Here’s how to spend 48 hours in Brisbane.
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Alex Baker/Kiff & Culture
Find out where the locals eat in the Twin Towns of South East Queensland.
After throwing in the linen sheets at The Calile — the Palm Springs-inspired hotel that deserves a destination stay in itself — venture outside your door for a Mediterranean, California moment that’s only offered on James Street, heart of Fortitude Valley.
Breakfast in Newstead
In the nearby town of Newstead, you’ll find the downtown outpost of Industry Beans. This Brisbane-based roastery offers incredibly good coffee and a simply delicious menu to boot. For the ultimate indulgence, head to Nodo – after all, who doesn’t want donuts for breakfast? Only, it’s not just donuts at this brunch restaurant; you will find all the best breakfast favorites in one heavenly place.
Designer shopping on James Street
Shopping in Brisbane is simple; all you have to do is go back to James Street. With monster-lined buildings and a resounding sense of calm, it’s the best way to explore all that Australian designers have to offer. You’ll find flagships and boutiques like Silk Laundry, Bec & Bridge, Camilla, Bassike, and boutiques like Calexico, with outfits to make you feel like a million bucks.
Afternoon and evening
The Brisbane River can be filled with bustling activity during the day, but it comes alive at night. And it’s better with a panoramic drink.
Sunset drinks at Howard Smith Wharves
Nestled under the impressive Story Bridge is one of the most beautiful places to have a drink you will ever be lucky enough to find. Head to institution Greca for Mediterranean-inspired dishes, or just grab a handful and pull yourself a beer at Felons Brewing Co. If you want to take it to a whole new level, try a cocktail from Mr Percival’s and watch the sun goes down and the sky lights up with the buzz of the city (and really makes the bridge shine).
Italian dinner at Bianca
After the aperitif, you’ll want to head to James Street’s Bianca, an effervescent Italian trattoria offering a taste of the past. If you can’t get a table, you’ll want to check out some of the group’s amazing venues within a 5 minute radius. Check out Honto for her sashimi and sake experience, or Agnes for a sample of the best wood-fired cuisine in town. Same Same, just a few meters through the wall, offers Asian fusion-inspired plates in a chic and tasteful way.
Meet at a bar in The Valley
If you’re not completely satiated after dinner, ready to roll down the road and into your fresh linen sheets at The Calile destination hotel, put on your dancing shoes and set off for something more.
There are two sides to Fortitude Valley; the luxury and always cool James Street, and the bars and general debauchery of Brunswick Street Mall. While many bars and clubs tend to offer an experience you’ll find across the world, there are a few favorite spots you’ll want to check out.
Reserve a table in the Wickham’s outdoor space for the weekly drag shows, or reserve a booth at Cloudland for a more extravagant experience. City Winery, tucked between James Street and neighboring Newstead, is an unassuming downtown winery that shouldn’t be missed either.
Today we are heading south. It’s just steps away from your fresh laundry on the Story Bridge, and a whole new taste of the city is right at your fingertips. Think culture, cafes and mouth-watering coffee.
Cafe at Woolloongabba
The Gabba, as it’s affectionately known, is home to Brisbane’s AFL grounds, and you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the energy on game day. But what is lesser known is the coffee scene in this part of town, especially as it is home to two iconic players in the Kiwi coffee scene – Allpress and Supreme. Visit one of the rotisseries for a morning pick-me-up.
Brunch at the West End
For the ultimate in hipster heaven, head to the West End, where the people are hip and the food is divine. You’ll want to head to the locals’ favorite cafe, the West End Coffee House, for a unique experience of Thai cuisine for breakfast. For a more traditional, yet delicate and delicious brunch, head to Morning After for their version of a McMuffin.
Southbank Gallery Tour
South Brisbane is home to some of the most impressive art collections in the state. The Queensland Art Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) currently houses Aboriginal art from the 1940s to the present day and a collection of new work by Queensland artists. The nearby Queensland Museum offers an equally rich and engaging experience while paying homage to the city’s history. You can even explore the productions on offer at QPAC, the city’s home for theater and performance.
Afternoon and evening
After diving into Fish Lane for lunch at Hello Please, or a naughty cocktail at Maker, there are still a few places left for your visit to the city.
Swimming at Southbank
Southbank is Brisbane’s solution for hot sticky summer days, with pools for everyone and a riverside beach. If swimming isn’t your thing, you can always scooter or cycle along the town path or even try your hand at abseiling from the cliffs at nearby Kangaroo Point.
Saving money in the West End
What’s a funky suburb without a bit of vintage clothing. West End has some of the best vintage stores in town; just head to SWOP Clothing Exchange on Boundary Street for the ultimate dig. Then, if you’re lucky, you can head to Jet Black Cat Music, where you can check out all the best records – old and new – and if you’re lucky, there may even be a live concert.
Make your own gin at the Brisbane Distillery
Making your own gin is an unforgettable experience. The Brisbane distillery, nestled in the West End, has its own gin school. Here, in addition to your bottle of gin to go, you get drinks, tastings and snacks. Then, at the end of class, you can head to the West End to experience the lively bar and food scene.
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