How to get a feel for Queensland’s capital in just 24 hours? Go with the flow, and the river city with a sunny visage will take care of the rest.
Yes, Brisbane is blessed, thanks to the balmy subtropical climate and its easy-breezy, outdoorsy vibe. But for a long time, the Sunshine State capital relied on, well, sunshine as its main drawcard. Not anymore. Brisbane now knows the value of cool, having experienced significant urban regeneration that has transformed formerly disused locales into vibrant dining and entertainment hubs. Boutique hotels offering hip accommodation options have sprung up in Spring Hill, New Farm, Paddington and Fortitude Valley (and the many bridges straddling the Brisbane River make it easy to get around). Explore inner-city precincts on the bends of the river and you’ll discover that each has its own distinct character. There’s an eclectic arts scene, sprawling green spaces, tarted-up laneways and plenty of happening places where you can eat and drink. Brisbane has earned its place in the sun.
Catch the morning rays on the river
07:30: Brisbane enjoys more than 280 days of sunshine a year so there’s a good chance the sky will be blue and the morning sun will be casting a glow over the river’s urban reaches. Board a CityCat or other ferry at the North Quay 1 terminal, find a seat at the bow and experience Brisbane’s favourite form of public transport. Disembark at New Farm Park, where you’ll see locals slogging away at fitness sessions, riding bikes along the river or walking their dogs. Wander through 15 hectares of parkland containing rose gardens, giant jacarandas and shady fig trees and discover quaint Merthyr Croquet Club.
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Enjoy a slice of Paris for breakfast
09:00: When your stomach tells you it’s breakfast time, exit the park via the main entrance at the corner of Brunswick and Sydney streets and walk for 15 minutes up Brunswick Street into New Farm. Gentrification has taken hold here in recent decades, transforming the formerly seedy inner-city peninsula into a sought-after residential enclave. When you reach the restored Art Deco-era New Farm Cinemas, turn left into Barker Street and you’ve arrived at Chouquette Boulangerie Patisserie – a little piece of Paris in Brisbane. Choose from an astonishing array of perfectly golden, buttery pastries and seriously good bread. Order a bowl of coffee and dunk that pain au chocolat to your heart’s content. Alternatively, the mushroom and béchamel sauce croissants and goat’s cheese and herb quiches are a great savoury start to the day. And don’t just ogle that pretty display of cakes; grab some macarons or a bag of darling miniature Madeleines for the road.
Get your art fix in the Cultural Precinct
10:30: Board the 196 bus (just a few doors down from Chouquette is stop 9) and hop off at Cultural Centre station at South Bank. The 15-minute ride will take you to the heart of Brisbane’s sizeable Cultural Precinct encompassing Queensland Performing Arts Centre, State Library of Queensland and Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA). The permanent collection at QAGOMA includes Indigenous Australian art from the turn of the 19th century to the present, as well as major works by European, Asian, Australian and Pacific artists. Showing until August 27, Richard Long’s Ring of Stones evokes the diverse terrains of Ireland, Scotland, Alaska, the Himalayas, Africa, Australia and elsewhere – landscapes that the British artist has encountered on his extensive walking expeditions.
Stop for lunch in a vibrant laneway
13:00: From QAGOMA, cross over Grey Street and into Fish Lane for lunch. Thanks to the city’s Vibrant Laneways project, this once-desolate little alley is now a characterful dining destination. Take your pick from an eclectic range of restaurants and bars. At Gauge (77-79 Grey Street; 07 3852 6734), don’t be fooled by its café-like appearance, as it offers seriously innovative and sophisticated food. Crunchy, sweet corn kernels are perfectly paired with fermented chilli and umami-rich bone marrow, resulting in a dish that is much more than the sum of its parts. And delightfully intriguing is the signature dish: a treacly slab of fermented black garlic bread served with brown butter. Also in the laneway, there’s great wood-fired pizza at Julius; homely casual fare at the family-run Five Sisters Cafe and Bar; Vietnamese beer and tasty pho served from a shipping-container kitchen at Hello Please; and burgers and fancy toasties to soak up the ever-changing line-up of craft brews on tap at Saccharomyces Beer Café.
Image: Hello Please
Shop for fashion, homewares and vintage
15:00: It’s time to hit Brisbane’s quaintest shopping strip and get a little exercise after lunch. Take a taxi to Given Terrace (pull up at the intersection with Princess Street) in Paddington. Here you’ll find charming vintage shops, homewares stores and fashion boutiques with Queenslander-style shopfronts, their wares spilling out onto the narrow footpath. In particular, keep an eye out for local fashion designers Maiocchi, for vintage- and Japanese-inspired clothes and homewares, and Sacha Drake for versatile, flattering classics. Wander up the street at your leisure, stopping for a coffee at one of the many cafés, until you come to Paddington Antique Centre, which houses more than 50 dealers.
Sip sundowners with river views
17:30: Catch a cab to Sidon Street in South Brisbane and head to the river for a sundowner on the deck at Stoke Bar, one of the best spots at South Bank for views of the city skyline and the Goodwill and Captain Cook bridges. The Green Tea Breeze cocktail – made with Hendrick’s Gin, Luxardo Maraschino, lime and green-tea foam – perfectly encapsulates Brisbane’s sophisticated yet carefree vibe.
Be wowed by local fine-diners
19:30: If you’re all tuckered out from the day’s activities or simply can’t turn your back on that view, having dinner next door at Stokehouse Q is the way to go. The sand-crab risotto with shellfish butter, fennel and desert lime dressing is, in itself, a very compelling argument to stay. Otherwise, get on a free CityHopper ferry at the nearby Maritime Museum terminal for a pleasant trip into the CBD, passing the soaring heritage-listed Kangaroo Point Cliffs, which are especially beautiful at night. Disembark at the Eagle Street Pier stop for a 10-minute walk to E’cco Bistro. At this Brisbane classic housed in a charming former tea warehouse, Philip Johnson’s fresh, unfussy approach to food epitomizes the river city’s unique take on fine dining. Catching glimpses of the lights on Story Bridge while you savour the vibrant flavour of mango tart served with textures of yoghurt... this is Brisbane at its best. ￼
Image: E’cco Bistro
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