While there will always be a place in our hearts for a XXXX Gold beer and a stroll through South Bank, look a little closer and there’s much more to do in Brisbane than the tourist favourites.
Brisbane has well and truly shaken off its sleepy country town reputation, and, if you follow the locals, you’ll uncover world-class dining, bars, and shopping, all within cooee of some of the best beaches, islands, and hiking in the state.
If you’re looking for things to do in Brisbane, make like a local.
Brisbane is well known for its breakfast culture. Sunshine soaked mornings see locals lining up at their favourite Brisbane cafes and bakeries, so, if in doubt, always look for patrons spilling onto the street and you won’t go far wrong.
Local favourites for breakfast have a focus on local produce and sustainable practices, with plenty of plant-based options.
Just off James Street you’ll find King Arthur, a hip little eatery with a focus on local, sustainable produce. Fresh baked goods line the front counter (try the Portugese tarts), while the menu changes with the seasons. However their crumpets, house-toasted granola, and perfect scrambled eggs are always in rotation.
Scout Cafe, on busy Petrie Terrace, has a laid back vibe and bagel-centric menu that seems patrons spilling out the doors on weekends. The avocado on toast here is one of the best in Brisbane.
Head to West End to Grown for a plant-based menu with a focus on sustainable ingredients sourced from local farm suppliers, and speciality coffee from local roasters, Dramanti Artisan. Locals dine elbow-to-elbow in this busy brunch spot, often with their dog in tow.
Need breakfast on the go? You’ll find Brisbane locals washing down their morning coffee with a pastry or two from one of Brisbane bakeries and patisseries. Newmarket’s Crust & Co, Banneton Bakery in Ashgrove, Brew Bakers in Albion, and Danny’s Bread in Newstead have legions of loyal fans who are up from day break to get their hands on a loaf or something sweet.
Brisbane’s restaurant scene is a warm and friendly one, with everything from hole-in-the-wall bistros to special event destinations welcoming walk-ins and offering world-class dining experiences. A meal at one these local favourites is one of the best things to do in Brisbane.
Ascend the charming staircase of a character filled heritage-listed old building in the heart of South Bank and find yourself in Maeve Wine Bar. The wine may be the hero here, but the seasonal menu of European-inspired dishes (think charcuterie, steak tartare, oysters, and duck confit lasagne) is no second fiddle. This spot is ideally placed for dinner before a night out at the Queensland Cultural Centre.
Venture down the street to Fish Lane and you’ll find Julius Pizzeria, a Brisbane restaurant that’s constantly busy thanks to its seasonal menu of Italian favourites. The brother venue to the equally adored Beccofino in Newstead, this is where to find some of the best pizza and pasta in Brisbane. Bookings at both venues are limited and lines are standard, so make like a local and enjoy the short wait with a wine in hand.
For more casual dining, locals love Paddington’s Remy’s, Ben’s Burgers in Fortitude Valley, and Bird’s Nest in Fortitude Valley and West End.
Home to a thriving wine culture and a host of boutique breweries, if you’re looking for a drink in Brisbane, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. With everything from huge brewery sheds to hole-in-the-wall bars on hand to wet your whistle, sitting back with a cold drink is the ideal way to experience those perfect Brisbane blue skies.
Wine and cocktail bars
If you’re hunting for a great Brisbane bar, it pays to know where to look. The best bars are often tucked down laneways and far from the tourist spots.
Head down Burnett Lane in the Brisbane CBD and follow the crowd to Alba Bar and Deli, where hip-hop and a Basque-inspired menu come together in one of the best little bars in Brisbane.
Next door to popular Chinese restaurant, Happy Boy in Spring Hill, you’ll find Snack Man, a small-plate cocktail and wine bar which specialises in natural and emerging winemakers from regions across the globe, and all available by the glass – the perfect pairing to the menu of Chinese morsels.
Hole-in-the-wall wine bar and bistro, Carl’s in Newstead is an intimate neighbourhood eatery, with an always-changing wine menu and every listing available by the glass. If you’re looking for that ‘everybody knows your name’ feeling, head to Carl’s.
Brisbane has had a recent resurgence in its brewing scene, with boutique breweries popping up across the city.
Green Beacon Brewery Co. serves craft beers out of the very warehouse the beers are brewed in Teneriffe. It’s a great location to spend one of those famous, blue-sky Brisbane afternoons – better still if you time your visit for when the food trucks park right out the front.
Head to bustling new dining precinct, Howard Smith Wharves and you won’t miss Felons, a Brisbane Brewery housed in a huge tin shed under the Story Bridge, with waterside seating and six of their own brews and ciders on the taps.
Small-batch independent brewery, Range Brewing in Newstead is a local favourite on weekends. A minimalist warehouse space and an ever changing roster of beers brewed on site make this one of the best spots for a beer in Brisbane. A simple menu of sourdough pizzas doesn’t hurt either. Range is dog friendly, so you may make some new four-legged mates while you’re there.
When looking for accommodation in Brisbane, you’ll do well to find a home away from home that’s close to all the action.
Spoil yourself or treat someone special with a stay at the shiny new Calile Hotel on James Street in the fashion centre of New Farm. If you can tear yourself away from the stunning pool (or out of the popular pool-side cabanas), there’s dinner at in-house restaurant Hellenika and a host of nearby shops and dining to keep you busy.
Just out of the CBD, you’ll find Spicers Balfour, an urban oasis and boutique hotel, set inside a meticulously restored Queenslander. The service here is unbeatable and the on-site restaurant and bar is awarded. A drink at the rooftop bar overlooking the hills of New Farm is a must.
If you’re looking for somewhere in the heart of Brisbane City, NEXT Hotel delivers. A beautiful pool, great bar, and all the modern amenities, all sitting above the bustling Queen Street Mall. You can check in entirely via your iPhone and bypass a physical check-in altogether.
When you’re in the capital of the Sunshine State – the best place to play is outside. It makes sense – there’s 283 days of sunshine in Brisbane each year.
New lifestyle and dining precinct, Howard Smith Wharves is a favourite with Brisbane locals looking to dine, drink and play by the water. Situated right under the iconic Story Bridge and nestled into the cliffs, the precinct is always busy, and for good reason. It’s the ideal way to explore the city by foot. The central boardwalk which cuts through the action of Howard Smith Wharves will take you from New Farm into the city, and offers one of the best views of the Brisbane City skyline you’ll find anywhere.
Catching a Brisbane Broncos football game at Suncorp Stadium is a Brisbanite’s right of passage, and should be top of your list if this is your first time in Brisbane – as is making the most of Caxton Street on game day.
Looking to ditch the city for a while? Brisbane is ideally placed for day tripping. Make the most of Brisbane’s central location and make a quick trip up to the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast, down to Burleigh.
If you’re looking to shop for fashion in Brisbane, you should head for James Street in New Farm. You’ll find local designers’ boutiques as well as international labels, plus plenty of homewares and beauty, too. Favourite Australian designers stores include Bassike, AJE, Andronis Jewellery, Lee Mathews, Natasha Schweitzer, and Love Stories.
Homewares fans should head to Living Edge, The Modern Furniture Store, and Jardan Furniture on James Street, and Blake and Taylor in Paddington.
Book lovers will find their mecca in West End’s Avid Reader and second-hand bookstore, Bent Books, and Folio Books in the Brisbane CBD.