South East Queensland is having a moment. The once loose collection of Brisbane and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts (and their respective hinterlands) has more recently coalesced into a single destination for travellers, the region boasting everything from brilliant beaches and sprawling national parks to a fabulous food, drink and arts scene. But where to go, play and stay? Here are three essential neighbourhoods to check out.

Fortitude Valley, Brisbane 

The best place to eat

Agnes, Fortitude Valley

Image credit: David Chatfield.

If you only go to one restaurant in Brisbane, make it Agnes. Star chef Ben Williamson’s love letter to woodfire uses no electricity, no gas — just flame and smoke to cook a constantly evolving menu dedicated to fresh local produce. You might eat smoked lamb neck with an ancho mole, yoghurt and flatbread, or woodfired cabbage with rye koji butter sauce and cured egg yolk. Pair the food with something from the enormous 1500-bottle-strong wine list.

The best place to drink

City Winery, Brisbane

Queensland wine has come of age in recent years. A great way to experience it is at City Winery, a working winery right in the guts of town. Co-owners Dave Cush and Adam Penberthy source grapes from across Australia to produce a brilliant range of wines, including vermentino, grenache, pinot and nebbiolo. You can even get involved yourself with a wine-blending or grape-stomping session. Chef Travis Crane’s brilliant woodfired food menu is a bonus.

The best places to shop

James Street is Brisbane’s premier shopping precinct, a leafy boulevard in the Valley’s north where you’ll find the best boutiques. It’s also home to the flagship stores of numerous Brisbane designers. Stop by Natasha Schweitzer to explore sisters Natasha and Alex Chipman’s precise, handcrafted jewellery or discover modern and vintage finds at Jessy Cameron’s sustainably minded Molten Store. Elsewhere, there are shops by St. Agni, Scanlan Theodore, Samantha Ogilvie, Bassike and Venroy.

The best place to stay

The Calile, Brisbane

Image credit, above and top: Sean Fennessy.

The Calile is much more than a hotel. It’s also a statement on the future of Brisbane design, thanks to local architects Richards & Spence leaning into the city’s subtropical climate to create an immaculate white brick and travertine edifice with breeze-block open-air hallways and rooms adorned with cork, brass and marble. The hotel lands you in the thick of the action on James Street but provides plenty of excuses to stay in — dine at Hellenika or Lobby Bar, hit the boutiques downstairs or simply spend an afternoon lazing on the pool deck. Burleigh Heads, Gold Coast

The best place to eat

Labart, Burleigh Heads

Image credit: Kai Lesihman.

Alex Munoz Labart moved from the frontline of Sydney’s restaurant scene to open Labart, an elegant, Euro-influenced dining room in an old shopfront a few blocks back from Burleigh Beach. In an open kitchen, Labart works a short, forever-changing set menu that presents the freshest regional produce. It might feature Mooloolaba scallops with kumquat and mint pepper leaf, or Rangers Valley Black Onyx wagyu with witlof and a herb green sauce.

The best place to drink

Craft-beer pioneers back in 2006, Burleigh Brewing Co these days is a celebrated Gold Coast institution. You can discover Peta and Brennan Fielding’s terrific range of beers in the fabulous open-air timber and steel taproom on Ern Harley Drive. On the weekend the place is popular with locals debriefing over schooners of Twisted Palm pale ale and Burleigh Brewing’s famous Bighead zero-carb lager. Don’t forget to grab some takeaways, too.

The best places to shop

Burleigh bucks the Gold Coast sprawl by gathering its best shopping in and around sunny James Street. Stop in for a new pair of swimmers at Rhythm, a local brand that debuted in 2003 and has since become a global phenomenon. Also on James Street is James and West, a natty boutique that stocks brands including Burleigh’s own Peony. Elsewhere in the precinct, check out Sean Scott and Bird on a Wire.

The best place to stay

Bon Sol, Burleigh Heads

From the outside, Bon Sol looks like an old-school 1970s Gold Coast brick apartment block and these beguiling two-bedroom units do embrace that retro charm. But superstar South East Queensland designer Anna Spiro has decked them out with bespoke furniture, custom-made patterned fabrics and vintage lighting. The result is a sumptuous holiday experience, perfect to get you in the Burleigh beach-chic mood.

Beyond Hastings Street, Noosa 

The best place to eat

Noosa Waterfront restaurant

Part restaurant, part airy Noosa riverside pergola, Noosa Waterfront is a local favourite on the strength of its Italian cooking. Chef-patron Andrea Ravezzani’s food doesn’t deal in trendy theatre but in regional produce and house-made ingredients flipped in rustic pasta and main dishes. The menu changes seasonally but might include a mussel, saffron and ribbon zucchini risotto; or a herb-crusted lamb rack with broad beans and a pea and green-bean salad. Wash down the food with something from a wine list long on fabulous international vintages.

The best place to drink

Land & Sea was an immediate sensation when it opened in 2018. Tim Crabtree’s beautiful brewpub in a Noosaville industrial estate pours an approachable menu of craft beer that includes a kolsch, a fruit-driven IPA and an award-winning Japanese-style rice lager. In 2019, Land & Sea was joined onsite by Fortune distillery, which produces hand-bottled, hand-labelled vodka, gin and white malt. Take a tour of the distillery and stick around afterwards for a tasting paddle or to enjoy something from the curated list of cocktails.

The best places to shop

Kim Wallace Ceramics

Stop by Kim Wallace Ceramics’ (pictured above) winsome new Noosaville warehouse and studio — its shelves and tables are lined with beautiful collections of ceramic dinnerware, homewares, vases, plant pots and table linen. While in the area, it’s worth visiting Belmondos Organic Market to pick up locally roasted coffee from Clandestino, organic sourdough at Tanglewood bakery and award-winning free-range bacon at Voodoo Bacon.

The best place to stay

Noosa Residences

Precisely appointed in timber, floor-to-ceiling windows and lavish furnishings, Noosa Residences boutique digs are on the doorstep of Noosa National Park, meaning you’re isolated from the hubbub of Hastings Street but close enough to dip your toe into the action should you desire. Each comes with multiple balconies, a full kitchen, private ensuite bathrooms with spa baths and the option of either rainforest or ocean-hinterland views.

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SEE ALSO: The Mornington Peninsula Is an Indulgent Escape an Hour from Melbourne

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