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Things to do on a short trip to Brisbane

Josh Strehle

Your plane starts to come in, the majestic brown snake (otherwise known as the Brisbane River) flows underneath, glinting in the afternoon light. Escaping from the manic pace of Melbourne with their coffee spilling everywhere, Sydney with its vacant nightlife, and Canberra with its….well….Canberra. Welcome to Brisbane. You’re here for a good time, not a long time.

Get the air train from the airport; it is cheaper and easier than a taxi, and is a close choice between train and an Uber, but everybody loves to save the environment, so grab a Go-card (ticket) and get on board. Check into a hotel; like Ovolo The Valley. Settle into your room and plan your weekend away.

Time to kill and things to see

If you’ve never been to Brisbane, do the usual tourist things like checking out the Queen St Mall for high end stores like Louis Vuitton, Mimco, and Chanel. If bohemian is more your style, head to Boundary Street in West End for a range of boutique stores.

You can follow this up with some time spent in nature. Two great (and close) options for this are the City Botanic Gardens, and New Farm Park. If the weathers right, get yourself a blanket and some snacks and have yourself a lazy picnic and watch the world go by. If you want to go a little further afield, try the Botanic Gardens at Mount Cootha. There it lots of space for walking or picnics, and even more space at the Brisbane Planetarium (space….get it?). I’d recommend heading to the lookout at the peak of Mount Coo-tha to get the much-needed selfie to go with your #travellyf Instagram post.

If nature’s not your thing, then try out a couple of inner city hang outs. Strike Bowling Bar in the mall offers bowling, laser tag, more. There are also a number of room escapes available in Brisbane to test your mettle, such as Escape Hunt and Fort Locks. If you feel like bashing some balls, just outside the city at Kelvin Grove is Victoria Park Golf Complex. A full 18-hole course and event location, it also has a multi-level driving range open till 11pm on Friday and Saturday. There are no bookings, so simply show and go.

Just on the other side of the river is the Southbank precinct. Stroll the Southbank markets (weekends only) and head toward the Wheel of Brisbane. You get better views from Mount Coo-tha, so walk straight past and go to the Queensland Museum and Science Centre, boasting ancient history in front of your face, and interactive science in your hands. Just past this is the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) | Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Two separate galleries offering two tastes of art, QAG primarily focusing on classical art in its classical forms, and GOMA offering a contemporary look at art. GOMA’s current exhibit is a full spectrum look at MARVEL comics, displaying props like a full replica of Iron Man’s Hulk Buster suit (it’s biiiig!) and holding screenings of MARVEL classics.

As the sun starts to set on your day, jump on a ferry (slow or fast) at Southbank and take a water tour of the city and its extremities. The sun shimmers off the water and the buildings as the sky goes pink and offers some unforgettable sunsets. For those of you romancing, the cultural day out followed by the ferry ride is a tried and tested way to up your game.

Getting a feed

Brisbane has a diverse range of food offerings. With so much to write about it’s hard to cover it all. There are generic food courts and café’s dotted throughout the city, but here are a few of my favourites.

Vapianos in the city centre is Italian cuisine which is eaten with all your senses. From the smell of the pasta being cooked in front of you while you wait, to the view of the high roofed, low light seating, to the smell of fresh basil on each table, Vapianos lets you engage with the food you’re enjoying. It’s being fed at a restaurant, but feeling like you’ve been served dinner by a family member. Quick and relatively cheap, it’s an indulgence for when you’re looking for something casual.

The Bavarian Bier Café on the riverside at Eagle Street feels like it’s a year round Oktoberfest. Get in before it gets too rowdy at the bar and you can get yourself a full size pork knuckle (the crackling is amazing) or a range of sausage to go with the quintessential oversized beer that Germans are known for. Mid-range prices, but be happy to pay them as you watch the Storey bridge light up for the evening.

At the higher end of the scale, Blackbird Bar and Grill is also located on Eagle Street. It’s no coincidence that a number of the high end bars are located here. The bustling financial/law district by day, and a convivial riverside walk with attached views by night. If you time it right you will see the Kookaburra Queen sail its way down the river all lit up. Blackbird’s menu is varied but has some premium steaks on offer along-side their high quality seafood. Talk to the bar staff about wine pairing, or if you’re feeling in the mood, a cocktail to match you meal.

Party times

The bar scene in Brisbane is definitely in the Fortitude Valley. More bars than you could poke a stick at. Lots of them interesting, some of them dive-y, but there is something for everyone if you look.

A Brisbane tradition that has been open for more than 30 years, The Beat mega club is LGBTI oriented, but offers a number of dance floors and is welcoming to anyone, regardless of orientation. Just up the road, Cloudland offers a more formal affair (long pants and collars required) with high ceilings, dark corners, tasty cocktails and a glass ball bar.

A newer edition to the Valley scene is Holey Moley – a bar and putt-putt course rolled into one. Now this ain’t your grandma’s windmill putt-putt. This is PGA grade shenanigans, with holes dedicated to things like Game of Thrones. I’d highly recommend watching out for the back swing (although the hospital is close by).

Be warned – all clubs in Queensland now require you to carry ID for entry. Some foreign ID’s may not be suitable, so check with the club before you go out.

All of these options are located right in the city heart. The inner suburbs such as West End, Paddington, Wooloongaba, and Fortitude Valley offer many more options. Public transport is paid for with your Go-Card (same as an Oyster or Miki card if you’re from the south) and you can get to any of the above destinations by bus/train and a short walk. If you have a car and more time, the Gold Coast is an hour one way, and the Sunshine Coast is an hour and the half the other. Both offer the chance to stare at what Australia is truly famous for, perfect surfer bodies, and tourists trying not to drown.

Josh is a local who specialises in blurry but fond memories of Brisbane town. After spending his formative years skulking through alleys in Brisbane to find bars, he now skulks through moderately lit alleys in Hong Kong to find bars and expand his ever growing repertoire of hangover cures.