Brisbane City Guide

Brisbane Skyline at night

ONE needn't bother telling Brisbane people how lucky they are. Of course, they know it only too well and are proud to belong to Australia's third-largest city. Brisbane sits in a tropical landscape which also just happens to be on arguably the most alluring coastal position in the country. Commonly known as the "holiday state" and nicknamed "Brisvegas" by Aussies due to its glamour and mighty tourism pull, there's little wonder why hordes of pasty southerners flock here.

Quite simply, it's for the reason that Brisbane's sunny, warm climate complements its pristine beaches and cool waters of the river weaving its way through town. Brisbane also serves up a big-city package containing a thriving nightlife, bustling arts scene, and laid back culture, a variety of sports, tantalising restaurants and superb shopping. Need we say more? Indeed, a big factor in what sets it apart from big city cousins Melbourne and Sydney is the fact Brisbane's inner city population has a lower density. There's room to move. Room to breathe. Room to relax and enjoy all the treats it has to offer. Oh, and let's not forget the numerous attractions that Brisbane is gateway to such as the most exquisite resort islands in the world, a tropical rainforest further inland, nearby theme parks and white, sandy beaches that stretch along the coast in both directions.

There's much that Brisbane calls its own, too, from renowned sports arena known as "The GABBA" (taken from the suburb name of Woolloongabba) which plays host to cricket and football, the mighty sports teams themselves including the Queensland Bulls for cricket, Brisbane Lions for Australian football and Brisbane Broncos for rugby league.

For a cultural point of difference, Brisbane even hosts an annual Mower Races event as part of its Australia Day celebrations in January. Geographically, Brisbane is located in the south-eastern corner of beautiful Queensland, the state that attracts more visitors domestically and internationally than any other in Australia. It has a population of about 1.8 million and its major industries are tourism (queenslandholidays.com.au) and a mix of blue and white collar industries including financial services, science and information technology, education, rail as well as many more.

Brisbane’s Restaurant and Cafe Scene

Eleven Rooftop Bar

The 11th floor vantage point of Brisbane's Eleven Rooftop Bar

Although it might not benefit from the hype that international hotspots Sydney and Melbourne often receive, Brisbane’s happening bar and restaurant scene is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Whether you’re looking for a solid pub lunch, an exquisite meal from a hatted restaurant, or simply a place to pull up a chair and treat your tastebuds, there’s something for just about everybody in Queensland’s capital city.

No visit to Brisbane would be complete without a frosty beverage or a three course meal at one of these popular eateries:

Eleven Rooftop Bar

If you’re finishing up at a work conference and want to undo the top button of your shirt or let your hair down, head straight to Eleven Rooftop Bar in Fortitude Valley. The dress code will mean you won’t look out of place in your work duds, while the fantastic, seemingly never-ending views of the skyline from the 11th floor vantage point provide a stunning backdrop for catching up with mates or for unwinding with a cool drink after a long day. The Riverbar Kitchen offers similar vibes on ground level.

Brooklyn Standard

On the other end of the spectrum is Brooklyn Standard, hidden away underground in the CBD. If you like your outings loud and fun, this might be the perfect place for you and your fellow travellers. With an American flavour oozing out of every pore of this rocking joint, Brooklyn Standard pumps out live tunes most nights of the week and offers a wall full of splendid spirits waiting to be mixed up and poured over ice for you to enjoy.

ARIA Brisbane

For those with a refined dinner palette, there are several hatted restaurants in and around the downtown Brisbane area that brings a level of sophistication to the city’s dining scene. Esquire and Urbane offer upscale, elegant eating experiences in the city.

2FORKS

Of course, there’s plenty of watering holes from which to choose if you’re looking to be a little kinder to your wallet. If you’re a meat-eater, the crew at 2FORKS in Milton is a particularly mouth-watering option. To paraphrase Pocahontas, Milton is just around the river bend from the CBD. A quick cruise in your rental car is all it takes to pulled meats that have been cooked for 10 hours. Then it’s up to you to choose how to devour it. Watch the experts put your pork, beef or lamb together in sliders, burritos, nachos and other amazing ways. Then put the finishing touches on yourself, finding that perfect balance of spice and flavour at the seasoning station.

Brisbane's Best Food Markets

Another option for tackling hunger comes in the form of Brisbane’s amazing collection of markets throughout the city. Although you might have to get a bit lucky with the timing, if you do find yourself in Brisbane during these gatherings, you can do a whole lot worse than strolling through and filling your eyes with browsing material as you fill your stomach with great eats. The quaint yet hip Bakery Lane in Fortitude Valley is a fun spot in which to hang any day, but the first Saturday of each month sees the space transform into the Bakery Lane Providore Markets. You can decide if it lives up to its tasty name as you sample local breads and spreads for brekkie. Don’t be surprised if you find something too good to not take home and put in your pantry. Another great option is the Jan Powers Farmers Markets, located at the scenic Brisbane Powerhouse in New Farm, one river bend east of the CBD, are packed with amazing food stalls. Grab something scrumptious and take in the people and live entertainment in this bubbly atmosphere any Saturday.

No matter your budget, style or taste, Brisbane’s burgeoning eating and drinking landscape holds treasures just waiting to be unearthed. Besides the aforementioned establishments, ask your Air BnB host or the attendant at the front desk of your hotel for their recommendations on the best places to eat in Brisbane. Their inside information might lead you to some sumptuous culinary delights.

Shopping

Brisbane, Queensland, Shopping experienceFACTORY outlet centres, exclusive international boutiques, big commercial department stores and off-the-beaten path markets are the crux of Brisbane's dynamic shopping scene.

Direct Factory Outlets (07 3305 9250) offers more than 120 outlets under the one roof and many offer discounts up to 70 percent. There's a stack of well-known brand names for women's and men's fashion, children's wear, footwear, handbags and luggage, homewares and more. Merchandise includes discontinued lines, previous season's stock, current season end-of-lines and special purchases.

Queen Street Mall is right in the heart of the city and is rated as being one of Australia's best shopping spots in Australia. It's half a kilometre long and has more than 26 million people visit each year. There are five major shopping centres, two department stores and plenty of shopping arcades. Don't miss Broadway on the Mall, Queen Adelaide Building and the Myer Centre.

South Bank is Brisbane's cultural hub and its drawcards are its amiable markets, collection of shops and contemporary cafes. Southbank runs alongside Brisbane's arts precinct including the Queensland Art Gallery, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) and the Queensland Museum. A short stroll will have you in Little Stanley Street or Grey Street, which each have their own unique urban mood. These two streets are home to chic boutiques with exclusive labels such as Marcs, Baby Doll, Bettina Liano, Indigo, Bijoux Bijoux and Princess Highway from Denim Co. The beautiful gardens and lawns of the South Bank Parklands is also worth a visit. The Clem Jones Promenade runs parellel to the Brisbane River and all public areas are available 24 hours a day.

Brisbane's Great Outdoors

View of the Gold Coast

So many great destinations become available to you with an hour's drive

One of the very best things about Brisbane is its location. About 100kms north of the New South Wales border, Brisbane offers you a chance to see some of the most beautiful locations in all of Australia without having to spend too much money and time travelling.

Perhaps the most attractive part of the region is its amazing collection of sparkling beaches. Queensland beaches are renowned for their amazing beauty. The Gold Coast is just an hour south of Brisbane and presents all sorts of opportunities for fantastic fun and wild night life. With a hire car in Brisbane, you can pack up your travelling team –whether it is the little ones and your partner or a crew of your mates – and hit the road for a day and/or night of beachy action.

The popular Surfers Paradise is another seaside destination within 90 minutes’ drive south. If the ocean isn’t your thing but you’re still looking to splash around a bit, Dreamworld is a quick cruise in your hire car down the M1. Slap on the sunscreen and check out all the sweet rides and attractions at the huge theme park.

You can have plenty of outdoor fun away from the coast line, too. Further inland, but still only about an hour’s drive from Brisbane is Tamborine Mountain. One of the finest parts of the Scenic Rim region, the Tamborine Mountain area offers a whole heap of exploration options. Tamborine National Park gives you a heaping helping of vibrant wildlife, while the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk gets you up near the clouds to gaze over the Pacific Ocean.

Another Scenic Rim spot worth checking out is Aratula, a tiny country town from a time gone by. It offers a stark contrast to the contemporary lifestyle Brisbane is teeming with and is a fun trip off the beaten path for those looking for a taste of the past.

Get behind the Home Team

It's hard to head to Brisbane without at least hearing or seeing something about the Brisbane Broncos, one of the most successful teams in this history of the NRL. This is especially true if you find yourself in the capital from March through September, when the season's in full swing. If you do find yourself in the area during that time, it might be worth seeing what all the fuss is about. See if you can get tickets to a home game at the legendary Suncorp Stadium. Sit among thousands of the hardcore fans who help make the Broncos the best supported team in the game.

The stadium, which holds around 52,000 people, is just northwest of the CBD. If you have time, make a point of arriving early and check out all the action on Caxton Street. There you'll find a load of pubs and restaurants buzzing with Broncos backers. The same goes for after the game, though the atmosphere might vary depending on the outcome of the 80 minutes!

Alternatively, if you're up north during cricket season, a trip to the Gabba (the colloquial name for the Brisbane Cricket Ground), could be the way to go. Located in Woolloongabba south east of the city centre on the other side of the Brisbane River, this has been one of the premiere cricket venues in Australia for more than 120 years. Whether it's a Big Bash match with the hometown Brisbane Heat, or longer forms of the game such as an ODI or test, a trip to the Gabba is a must for sports fans and casual observers alike.

Entertainment

It's not a question of whether there's a nightlife scene in Brisbane, it's more a question of where do you start? A clubbers paradise and overflowing with cool bars and pubs, there's no shortage of entertainment.

Fortitude Valley is lined with hot venues including Bar Zuka, the Waterloo, Monastry Nightclub and the Mustang Bar, while the city pumps with a range of old fashioned hotels like Gilhooleys Irish Bar to funky venues to boogie your socks off. There's also a thriving arts scene, night time sports activity galore at Suncorp Stadium and the GABBA for cricket and Aussie Rules, and the excellent Brisbane Entertainment Centre offers all the big shows and concerts that hit town.

The Essentials - Brisbane
  • Population: 2.3m
  • Temperature: Jan 29C - Jul 21C
  • Country Code: 61
  • Timezone: UTC +10 (Daylight savings not observed)
  • Visitor Information: www.visitbrisbane.com.au