Brisbane, known to locals as the River City. Known to everyone else as BrisVegas. Not because it’s a hotspot for gambling, more because it’s fun and the name lends itself to such a nickname. If you’re heading to the capital of Queensland for a few days, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favourite laneways in which to eat, neighbourhoods to drink, and I’ve even thrown in a bonus at the end.
Read on, comrade.
Day 1 – Get acquainted with Brisbane
Start your weekend in Brisbane by exploring the CBD. Brisbane’s CBD is bounded by the V-shape of the Brisbane River on 3 sides and, despite being the hub for most big business transactions taking place, there is a surprising amount to keep you occupied for a morning.
Find Burnett Lane off Queen St then walk to the end to Brew for coffee. You’ll know you’re there by the large painted mural, the green astro turf out the front, and the shady looking entrance complete with milk crates and empty (I’m assuming) beer kegs.
Do a spot of shopping or browsing along the Queen/Elizabeth St pedestrian Mall until you are bored. This is the main city shopping district in Brisbane. I liken it to Sydney’s Pitt Street Mall for anyone who has visited, but not as busy.
Catch a bus out to Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley. Explore the shops and walk down the pedestrian mall. Have lunch and a refreshment at Yard Bird Ale House, who are renowned for their wings. Chalk writings around the place taunt patrons with challenges to try the wings that are “not for amateurs”.
Also worth a visit is Little Winn Street, a Melbourne’esque laneway off Ann St in The Valley, a block from Brunswick. Full of boutique retailers and small cafes, Winn Lane shows the future direction of Brisbane culture.
If you really want to get off the beaten track, make your way north up to Newstead, just north of The Valley and stop in at Newstead Brewing Co and Green Beacon Brewing Co.
Both are small-scale breweries and have their large steel fermenters on show from the bar area. It’s nice to know the beer you’re drinking has only moved about 10 metres from production to drinking.
The Nightlife of Caxton Street
After getting refreshed, venture out to Caxton St, Milton, a strip of restaurants and bars that will have a taste to suit every craving and budget. The street is not too long so you could easily walk down to see all options and walk back to make your decision. After dinner, stay for a drink along the strip. It’s also a perfect pre- or post-game spot for a drink as Suncorp Stadium is just down the road.
The craft beer fiend will enjoy a pint of well-crafted ale at Brewski. Those with a penchant for folksy, western American themes will enjoy Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall with their jazz band playing on the main stage, turn-of-the-century style fittings. Keep an eye out for the genuinely hidden bar upstairs. Things may not be as they seem.
This unique bar is a must for after-dinner drinks but you will see that there are plenty of alternatives. If you are just after a general pub with cheap booze, The Caxton should be where you end up.
If you get the munchies at the end of the night, New York Pizza Slice will satisfy any craving with their crispy, New York style pizza by the slice.
For more info on what it costs to travel in Australia, read this.
Breakfast in the CBD
Find a place in the CBD for breakfast. There are a few good choices down Gresham Lane, another laneway you could easily miss that is flourishing in the city. At the mouth of Gresham Lane is Red Hook, a New York ‘street food’ style vendor.
Big yellow mustard bottles dot the tables and chairs that would look at home in a garden or on a deck. Red Hook has an excellent and approachable American inspired breakfast menu, the favourite, of course, being a mouth-watering bacon, egg and cheese roll on a brioche bun.
Picnic at Mount Coot Tha
Once you are feeling satisfied, catch the 471 bus out to Mount Coot Tha for a spectacular view of the city. Pack a picnic and eat it while looking over Brisbane city and the surrounding lands. The bus will actually take you to the top, but if you are feeling energetic you can alight at the foot of the mount and walk through the park to the top.
Bear in mind the bus ride out there, despite only being 8km is just over an hour long so take a book to read. If money is no object or if you are in a small group you could catch an Uber or Taxi out there, which might only take 15 minutes. In fact, a bus ticket will be at $5 so this is probably a better alternative.
Dinner in the West End
Catch the bus back to the city and make your way to the West End, a neighbourhood to the south of Southbank, ironically centred around “Boundary” Street, and is a hub teeming with more restaurants than you can poke a stick at. I would know, I’ve tried to.
Before you get to dinner though walk the Boundary Street Markets, a reasonably small night market but this just gives it a higher density of quality.
The Hong Depot does excellent Korean barbecue, and is an interesting cultural experience as well. Not Australian culture, Korean culture I guess.
Archive Beer Boutique does excellent value pizzas and are only $12 on a Thursday night. Archive seconds Brew’s motion that astroturf is now cool as this welcomes you at the door. The visual surprises continue though as the walls are totally covered with comics for wallpaper.
If you’d prefer to come to Archive for a drink they boast a range of rotating craft beer taps and will fill the air with talented, live background music. You can eat or drink while sitting on couches that probably came from your nan’s place 30 years ago, but they seem to fit in seamlessly with the eclectic furnishings thrown together.
For after dinner cocktails head to The End, around the corner on Vulture Street. This fairly small bar has a very extensive, original cocktail list and a low-lit ambience courtesy of the acoustic guitarist softly playing at the end of the thin room.
Southbank for Breakfast
Make your way to Southbank for breakfast. Southbank is actually packed with cafes so it is ready to serve you food regardless of the time of day. Explore Southbank slowly and on foot, spend some time relaxing at the Southbank Parklands and if it is hot, bring your swimmers for a quick dip in Streets Beach, the large, free beach-style lagoon.
Make your way around to Kangaroo Point for some of the best views of the CBD from the neighbouring suburbs. Get on a free CityHopper ferry at Kangaroo Point and get off at Eagle Street Pier for Lunch.
Eagle Street Pier for Lunch
Eagle St Pier is a precinct of cafes and restaurants and gives unparalleled views of the River and especially the Story Bridge. While we all know it doesn’t hold a candle to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it’s the best Brisbane has and Brisbanites are oddly proud of it.
Guzman Y Gomez and Grill’d will both offer cheap (but delicious) options for a quick lunch. For something a bit more formal you might try Pony or Bavarian Bier Cafe. Bavarian Bier Cafe is in no way exclusive to Brisbane, in fact, it is a reasonably large chain in major cities, but it still offers pretty reasonable German food, a very good happy hour, and excellent Bavarian Beers.
Eat Street Market for Dinner
Finish off your day at the Eat St Markets for dinner. Despite being fairly out of the way, the Eat St Markets will provide you with a very unique dining experience you are unlikely to see anywhere else. It is more than your usual market in that, the park is filled with over 60 old shipping containers that have been converted into makeshift restaurants.
All are very casual and no matter where you decide, the Eat Street Market will be the place you tell your friends about most because it is such a unique venue.
On your way back to your hotel, stop by the former Treasury Building in the CBD which has been converted into Treasury Casino. Put $20 on red for me then keep track of the high and low numbers at the BlackJack table. But if you get caught we never met.
What area to stay in Brisbane
This guide has taken you all over Brisbane, but what is the best area to stay in Brisbane?
Well, that really depends on what type of stay you want to have.
If you want the nightlife and plan on going out partying most nights, stay somewhere close to Fortitude Valley. It’s actually Australia’s first designated entertainment district. I’m not exactly sure what this means, but I do know that it has more nightclubs, rooftop bars, and live music venues than you can poke a stick at.
If you want a peek into Brisbane lifestyle and see some real Brisbanites in the wild, stay at Southbank. Southbank can be seen as a little cheesy at times, what with a large public beach and lagoon (presumably so you don’t have to swim in the stanky Brisbane River). But this is where locals come out to play. There are apparently 17 whole hectares of parkland to explore, as well as public events held in the park.
And if you want to just be central to everything and close to transport ready to move at a moment’s notice, then simply stay in the CBD. The Botanic Gardens will be on your doorstep, City Hall and the Treasury Casino nearby, and the major train stations walking distance.
Obviously I expect you’ll explore everywhere during your time in Brisbane, but I always find it easier to park myself where I can see myself spending my evenings to make it less hassle to get home.
Bonus: Days 4 and 5
By now you’ve seen most of the neighbourhoods of the city and in the unlikely event that you’ve actually booked 4-5 nights in Brisbane you will definitely be wondering “What am I supposed to do for the next couple of days here?” Brisbane is ideally located for a multitude of day trips that visitors generally don’t include in their planning.
But just like in Sydney, public transport is definitely not the ideal way to get out. Instead, find yourself a reasonably priced car rental and drive. You’ll have the flexibility to go at your own pace and drive to your own schedule (or lack thereof).
A great day trip is to visit Mount Tamborine, which includes a fantastic treetops walk. And if you won’t be doing a dedicated visit to the Gold Coast, you can certainly take a day trip to there. Visit Surfer’s Paradise for the iconic, immense highrise, and the somewhat touristy beaches of the Coast. Alternatively, Burleigh Heads is much quieter and peaceful, whereas Broadbeach is a happy medium.
And for those that want to get further afield off the beaten track, Fraser Island is a beautiful island just off the coast of Queensland near Bundaberg. Read more at Every Steph.
For more day trip ideas, fellow Blogger Genevieve of the Wanderbug – who has previously appeared as a guest of The Nomad Files – has a great post on 18 great day trips from Brisbane.
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