Brisbane is arguably one of Queensland’s hippest cities, a beautiful, undulating river town with a fantastic food scene, pumping nightlife, great cafes and parks scattered around the river. Though one of the most expensive cities (in particular, its parking fees) in Australia, Brisbane may well be the country’s most underrated city.
Brisbane, just like the rest of Australia, is definitely best explored by rented car, as it is a patchwork of urban villages, each with a distinct style and vibe – everything is however pretty scattered so you would definitely not be able to walk it, if you are under time constraints. From the Bohemian West End to the hip and happening Fortitude Valley, Brisbane really amazed us with its colorful personality. Exploring the city in winter was just ideal – it was never too cold due to its sub-tropical climate and everywhere we turned, there was this lively al-fresco dining scene and open green spaces, and we loved every second of it.
So, what should you do, if you have only a couple of days in Brisbane? Here are our tips – we managed to cover all this in 2.5 days, and we are sure you can too! (We were in Brisbane, post Gold Coast Airport Marathon 2014 #GCAM14).
See the highlights of Brisbane from the water during a kayak adventure on the Brisbane River by night. Beware, it goes get cold in winter, so bring your water-resistant wind breakers etc, for this outing. Our adventure with Riverlife was in incredibly exciting.
After paddling on single-seater open kayaks, we enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner that features fresh seafood and produce, then stroll along the deck for unobstructed views of the waterfront as it twinkles at night. It’s the perfect way to spend a night out with a romantic partner, loved ones, or friends visiting from afar.
After a 1.5 hour leisurely kayak up the Brisbane River we were greeted by Platters of fresh ocean king prawns and bread rolls, and a delicious bottle of chilled wine and Australian beers. I’m not sure if it’s the norm for those who don’t eat prawns, but Riverlife was really kind to accommodate Cumi, by making him a delicious bowl of piping hot pasta and fresh salad for dinner instead of the prawns.
The leisurely kayak up the iconic Brisbane River with a built-in light that illuminated up to 600 metres of the river was awesome. We watched the city lights shimmer on the water and soak up the sweeping views of the city from a unique angle. This tour happens every Friday at 7.00pm returning 10.00pm.
The best way to get here it to drive, and to park at the top of the Kangaroo Point Cliffs next to ‘The Cliffs Cafe’, walk down the cliff stairs, turn right and walk 300m till you see Riverlife’s head quarters on the edge of Brisbane River.
Brisbane is famous for its many markets, both on the weekdays as well as the weekends (For a comprehensive list, go here). One of the nice weekend markets to visit is the Collective Market on South Bank.
South Bank – Wheel of Brisbane This 60-metre ferris wheel is located in Brisbane’s South Bank Parklands, and gives extensive views of the Brisbane Central Business District and surrounding suburbs.
This beautiful swathe of green park skirts the western side of the Brisbane River. It is a beautiful spot, and a scenic esplanade that offers spectacular views of the city and one of the stand-out attraction is the Streets Beach , an artificial swimming hole that resembles a tropical lagoon, with an attractive landscaping of trees, bridges and rockeries.
The beach even has its own lifeguards, to keep an eye on the kids, and this place can get packed on weekends. On Friday evening and all day Saturday and Sunday there’s a large and popular craft and clothing market called the Collective Market.
The Parklands are located within easy walking distance of the CBD. You can also get there by CityCat or City Ferry, or by bus or train from the transit centre or Central Station.
To get to Habitat, you should key in Melbourne Street in the GPS. Located in Brisbane’s West End, the place itself is off Melbourne street, and it’s actually on the corner of Boundary and Edmondstone. The restaurant is airy, and lets in a lot of natural light – I like the wood-panels and glass that makes the eating space look massive yet comfortably spacious. We picked a cosy booth, as opposed to the high benches and an elevated tables, and settled into lunch.
cous cous pearls, with snow peas, pumpkin black sesame seeds and garnished with coriander and a lemon rind jam
The menu focuses on local Queensland produce, with a leaning towards organic and plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. And for the meat eaters like us, the Mains to go for include Wagyu sirloin cooked in sous vide, medium rare roasted kangaroo fillet with fried beetroot, potato cake, eschallot, cashew and watercress salad with confit cherry tomato dressing to roast duck with crisp baby radish, lemon balm and freeka with lemon myrtle scented broth and crisp pork belly with baby beetroot, rocket, Spanish onion and goat cheese salad.
medium rare roasted kangaroo fillet with fried beetroot
crisp pork belly with baby beetroot, rocket, Spanish onion and goat cheese salad
Located in Fortitude Valley, we actually opted to walk to this restaurant, to work up an appetite, and boy were we glad we did. Gordita—which takes its name from the Spanish phrase for cute, chubby women— specialises in super delectable Southern Spanish cuisine. The shared tapas plates and char-grilled meats are fantastic options if you are grazing, but want to try a bit of everything.
Nothing chubby about her.. Service with a smile!
Here’s my favourite dish – a Gallegan-style octopus dish, pulpo a la gallega – a traditional dish of octopus with paprika, garlic and potatoes. It’s served here as charred bits of tender slices, still al dente octopus with a thinned potato mousseline, crisp dried and fried thin slices of garlic and a seasoning of paprika and olive oil
Drinks-wise, Gordita has an extensive wine menu, featuring wines by the glass or bottle from Spain, France, Germany. NZ and Oz, including a special Reserve list. Beers (Spanish, French and craft Oz) come on tap or bottled, spirits are top shelf and ciders, Spanish sherries and ports are also available. If you have time, try the Moorish Mojitos or Andalusian Summers!
black pudding pastry puffs – inside a glazed and sweetened pasty was a mince of black sausage containing pork, dried pig’s blood, and suet. Super delicious!
Diners can sit and eat at the bar, or in the cosy leather booths. There is a cool classic retro feel with edgy contemporary touches, like low-hanging copper lights, stunning wall art and twisted metal bases to the bar stools and some wooden communal tables to get down to the serious business of food sharing.
Enough garlic consumed to ward away Vampires!
The Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Almond Cake (which commemorates the priest who died on his last steps to see the remains of apostle St James at the Santiago cathedral), served warm with cross on top and ice-cream.
Gordita is open tonight for dinner, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights for both lunch and dinner.
Experience the view of the city from way up high, and marvel at the colors of the sky, as it transitions between day and night. Since you start climbing at approximately 4:45pm, and it takes 2.5 hours, you will see the lights of the city, come to live, at around 6:30pm.
Climbing Brisbane’s Icon at twilight is a surrealistic experience. Each twilight adventure climb is controlled by a climb leader, who has radio contact with all group participants during the climb. You are not allowed to bring a stitch of belongings with you, apart from the clothes on your back, so be prepared to leave all cameras, wallets, rings, etc behind. On the journey, your climb leader will enlighten you with extraordinary facts about other Brisbane’s iconic sights as seen from the bridge, and about Story Bridge, itself.
photo credit : theaustralian.com.au
You will depart from base headquarters at Kangaroo Point which is located below the bridge and away from the city. Not on the bridge, as we assumed. We made the mistake of walking from the city center, which would have been a lovely experience had it not been for the sudden rush to the appointed meeting time after realising the distance.
The climb route ascends through the road level on to the anchor arm on the eastern side of the bridge. Here the incline is at its greatest as you make your way to the Summit Top Platform, one of the two high points of the climb, each approximately 80 meters (262 ft) above sea level. It’s from here that you will first experience the awe-inspiring 360 degree view of Brisbane, its river and surrounding mountain ranges.
photo credit : blue-dog.com.au
There will be many photo stops – 3 in fact. Once on the western cantilever arm, climbers begin the gradual ascent to the western summit top platform, for another opportunity to take in the panorama. The route then follows down the western anchor arm of the bridge back through the road deck to the halfway house where the incline is once more at its steepest.
Again it does get chilly and windy up there in winter, but they do provide a wind breaker for you so you just need to wear a sweater and thick pants, if you are the sort that gets easily cold.
Movie World is located on the Pacific Motorway, Gold Coast but if you have car, it’s only a short drive from Brisbane, and so for the sake of this post, we have put the 3 together, as the 3 for 3 Pass gives you ONE single entry to 3 parks over a 3 day period – Warner Bros. Movie World, Sea World and Wet’n’Wild [$89.99 (non-member)$80.99 (RACV)].
These theme parks are great for families and even couples alike. One of the most enjoyable events at Movie World was catching the Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 show.
A photobomb from Austin ‘Danger’ Powers
Plenty of arcade games to keep the young (and old) occupied all afternoon..
Hollywood Stunt Driver 2 show was one of the coolest shows to catch at Movie World. The queue is long for this one, but don’t worry, it moves relatively quickly. With death-defying aerial stunts and extreme precision driving performed by the best stunt crew in the country, Showtime FMX, this action-packed movie making adventure is sure to have you on the edge of your seat.You are made to feel like you are part of a movie set as your Director and his crew take you behind the scenes of a shoot for an all new action blockbuster. This is a stunt show that’s guaranteed to thrill the viewers.
Seaworld is an amusement park and and water entertainment show all rolled into one. Here’s one of the best places for kids to get acquainted with Dolphins, Seals, Sharks and Polar Bears – loads of shows to thrill the little ones. You can’t help but fall in love with the charming highly acrobatic dolphins as the spin high into the air and do stunts for the audience during the 30 minute long shows. Other attractions include Spongebob or Jet Ski presentations, pirate shows, rollercoasters, rides and more. They have plenty of water rides, slides and playgrounds too to keep kids entertained. There is a monorail that connects the park to Sea World Nara Resort.
Smiling face of a rather friendly Dolphin!
Jaws drop at JAWS!
Wet’n’Wild is a huge water theme park and home to a range of slides and attractions but probably best to visit in summer, as winter is just too cold to get your feet wet!
Brisbane German Club is so cool, that only a member, can introduce you and take you in to dine! Well, for a small fee, anyone can be a member, but the benefits are great. Fantastic German food, a wide choice of German beers and wine.. and also the chance to try your hand at the fruit machines.. can’t think of a more enjoyable way to spend the evening with friends and family – and that was how a relative of Cumi’s, living in Brisbane, wanted to show us when they brought us to this landmark in the East side.
We were certainly impressed with its casual ambience, its history, and very tasty German fare, heightened with good company.
The Brisbane German Club.. this place must have been packed for the World Cup Finals!
Yes, this is definitely the place to celebrate German beer and culture. With a rustic, folksy charm, it offers Brisbane’s best selection of German beers at affordable prices. Match the beers to traditional sauerbraten, leberkaese or frikadellen, or Brisbane’s most generous serve of pork belly!
Pork Knuckle – Slow roasted pork hock with fried potatoes, sauerkraut & smoked beer gravy. Sauerbraten – German style beef pot roast in a red wine vinegar marinade, with potato dumplings & braised sweet red cabbage
Pork belly – beautiful soft flesh and crisp crackling from slow-roasting, served with semi pickled red cabbage
Name your poison.. we just drank great German beer all night!
We wanted to stock up on nuts and decided to visit another landmark in Brissy.
Bursting with delicious snack mixes, nuts and dried fruits, Mick’s Nut Shop a must visit. A West End institution, Mick’s Nut Shop is a place to buy wholesome and affordable nuts and snacks – something for everyone. The place is tiny, but made to feel even tinier with humans trying to get inside, and every nook and cranny stacked to the brim with jars and bags full of bite-size nuts, e.g. almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, macadamias, dried beans, fruit, lentils, free-range eggs, flours, olives, seeds. It’s tough to negotiate the small space and so if someone points at you and says, what do you want, make sure you give your order quickly!
Mick, who hails from Rhodes in Greece, opened this shop in 1975. But it’s not just about the nuts- there’s also a range of cheeses including feta and farmhouse, olives and dried fruit including Turkish figs with a range of flours, home made muesli, honeys and pastas too. Each glass jar carries a label written by hand, reflecting Mick’s Nut Shop’s approach to personalising the space and service customers receive.
Real burgers are now all the rage, and by real, I mean those made from choice cuts of quality beef, slipped into good bread buns, and served with fresh salad. At Miel Container, the big hype are the ‘Design your own’ burgers, from $10.50 onwards.
This little POI (Point of Interest) in the city had been receiving a lot of good reviews from burger aficionados for awhile now. This fact was highlighted by another one of Cumi’s cousins living in the city when she brought us here to share the goodness. How did our taste buds felt about it? Read on…
Hence the name.. the shop really is a bright red container!
Look for the long queue of people that snake into this reconverted shipping container, hidden on Mary Street and you will know you have found the right spot. The burger buns are fantastic -they retain their shape and chewy dough, made with fresh ciabatta and brioche.
The menu covers the basics beef burgers, but my favourite was the insanely decadent miso-smoked pork belly! OMG, the smoky flavour and melted fat is just too much to take.
Pork belly burger, insanely smoky and dripping in it’s own juices
You can also design your own burger with more risque condiments or settle for the grass-fed beef, with pickles and lettuce, served with a secret sauce and in a pool of blue cheese sauce. You’ve got to love the Free chips and aioli with each burger which only means, more for you.. and possibly more on the hips!
They also serve wine and Australian and Japanese beers here, and patrons are rewarded with a spin of the cafe’s giant roulette wheel, which may just land on a free burger or meal for the lucky punter!
Fortitude Valley, otherwise simply knows as, the Valley, is basically the grungier side of Brisbane. When Friday evening arrives, you can see the folks leaving the BCD, and making their way to the Valley, to let loose and de-stress from the week of work that just passed.
I kind of like Fortitude Valley for it is rough around the edges, raw, yet sophisticated. It is where elegance and style meet grungy and offbeat, where heritage buildings stand amongst contemporary buildings.
‘Bad boys, bad boys whatcha gonna do?Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?…’
We love to boogie, we love the nightlife but unfortunately the popular gay bar, Wickham, was under renovation
The Valley is definitely an entertainment district and while it is quiet during the day, the place comes alive during the night, especially over the weekends. Novelty shops and cool shopping boutiques would be the reason to visit during the day, and risque adult bars during the night.
The Underdog for the underdogs recommended by a gothic clothing store manager for cool alternative bands
The impressive Chinatown Mall is a hub of exotic Chinese supermarkets and restaurants. The Emporium complex channels a European village feel, James Street showcases Australian fashion labels and Brunswick St is home to multicultural dining options.
Apart from the slightly sleazy corners of the Valley, this place has also got a great alternative and underground music scene – our top picks being Lime Hotel and Alfred & Constance for its excellent booze and electronic music scene.
Live music thrives and international DJs are drawn to the clubs and chic bars.
One of the must not miss activities, would be a visit to eating mecca, known simply as Eat Street. Fortunately we were in Brisbane over the weekend, so we managed to catch this rather cool weekend event. Located at Northshore Hamilton and open on Fridays and Saturdays from 4pm to 10pm and on Sundays from 11am to 7pm, this place can get really packed so best to arrive early say around 5pm.
Parking can be a pain, and we ended up just parking no the roadside across from the venue. You may try using public transport to make this easier, as Eat Street Markets is just a short walk from bus stops near Brett’s Wharf/Racecourse Rd, and Brett’s Wharf CityCat terminal.
Eat Street is basically a conversion of shipping containers on Hamilton Wharf into hipster looking food kiosks. Most of the popular outlets will have a long line of people queuing to get their grub, and then go and have a seat on makeshift tables and long benches on astroturf, under strings of fairy lights and partake in delicious cheap eats from around the world.
Take your pick from Greek at the Five Sisters, Langos Hungarian, French crepes, Malaysian roti, Italian from the Pasta Cruiser, Belgian waffles, German sausages, Vietnamese banh mi and rice paper rolls, Sichuan Chinese, slow-roast chicken rotisserie, Thai, Indo Cuisine, Korean fusion burgers, Mexican cusine, Indian curries, Japanese pizza from Okonomi House, Wood-fired pizza, New York hot dogs and fresh salads.
We loved exploring the 50 odd shipping containers specially reconfigured as mini-restaurants, bars, galleries and produce stores.
A variety of international dishes created by an invitation-only selection of local chefs, complemented with boutique craft beers, cocktails and fine wine are prepared on-site from the ‘street’ of shipping container kitchens.
To add even more to the exuberant vibe there is a performance stage showcasing local musical talent, plus an area to sit back, enjoy the entertainment and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of Eat Street Markets.