Brisbane is Australia’s Cinderella. It doesn’t have a harbour to rival Sydney, nor its seashores. It doesn’t ooze Melbourne’s refined cool both. To most Brits, it’s the place Neighbours’ characters reside out their post-Ramsay Street exile.
Many travellers – en path to the gaudy glitter of Surfers Paradise maybe, or heading north for the convenience of the Sunshine Coast – see Brisbane as a jumping-off level for Queensland’s different delights. They’re lacking a trick.
No longer an overgrown nation city, Queensland’s capital has embraced the sly dig implied by its nickname and proves there’s lots to have fun about “BrisVegas”.
The city nestles beneath a spur of the Great Dividing Range and sprawls alongside the good sinuous loops of the river that provides it its identify. But its laidback sub-tropical allure hides a wealth of world-class eating, artwork, tradition and buying.
Brisbane’s lodge choices are world-class too, and embrace the boutique luxurious of the Emporium, on South Bank; the Westin, near the Botanic Gardens; the Calile, providing upscale cool on the hippest fringe of Fortitude Valley; after which there’s W Hotel chain’s solely Australian property.
After the near-24-hour journey from Europe, The W, on North Quay, is a welcome cease for the jet-lagged. The lodge solely lately opened its doorways and oozes The W secure’s trademark edginess.
The interiors are playful, as you’d anticipate from The W, however cone with a cheeky Queensland twist. Instead of a foyer, the welcome desk sits in a dwelling room-cum-cocktail bar, with a resident DJ who is aware of how and when to funk it up. Indigenous artwork and tide markings based mostly on the river’s flood strains weave alongside the corridors.
Rooms are giant, ethereal and nicely thought-out, that includes the high-end particulars that set The W assortment aside. The monumental mattress, plump with pillows, crisp linen and an enormous budgerigar cushion is perhaps calling your identify, however resist the temptation. Sink as an alternative into your room’s deep standalone bath-tub – a contemporary tackle the outback’s corrugated iron rain water tanks – and soak your jetlag away.
If you’ll be able to tear your self away from the floor-to-ceiling view throughout the river and to the vary past, you’ll discover an outpost of Sydney’s legendary Three Blue Ducks restaurant perched on The W’s third flooring. Open from 6am till late, angle for a desk on the terrace. The Ducks’ Brisbane menu sticks to the paddock-toplate ethos for which its Sydney and Byron Bay siblings are famend, whereas incorporating Queensland specialties. Don’t cross up the spanner crab or Brisbane’s best-kept crustacean secret, Moreton Bay bugs. Served with XO butter, they’re lip-and-finger-smackingly good.
From The W, it’s a brief stroll throughout the river to the South Bank cultural precinct. From the Victoria Bridge, take a proper flip for the Queensland Museum, Queensland Art Gallery (QAG), State Library and Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). All are value visiting, even only for a flat white at one of many cafes. At the very least, spend somewhat time at QAG and GoMA. As properly as spectacular everlasting collections, the galleries are house to items by a few of Australia’s most excellent Indigenous artists. GoMA additionally hosts the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, showcasing the area’s most thrilling and thought-provoking new artwork. GoMA’s nice for kids too – its progressive youngsters’s programme is enormously good enjoyable, whether or not you’re younger or not.
From GoMA, a wander additional south to West End provides you a glimpse of “old” Brisbane, in addition to its bohemian underground. Wooden staff’ cottages sit on stilts alongside the suburb’s twisting, hilly, jacaranda-lined streets, verandas angled to catch the breeze off the river. In the summer time, watch the place you step: the footpaths are suffering from half-eaten mangoes deserted by resident possums and flying foxes.
This space turned residence to Brisbane’s giant Greek group after the Second World War, and regardless of creeping gentrification the primary buying streets are nonetheless dotted with family-run delis, greengrocers and wonderful eating places. In the 1970s, Vietnamese immigrants additionally discovered a welcome in West End. Huong’s BYO, on Vulture Street, nonetheless serves one of many city’s best bowls of pho. The coconut buns from the household’s bakery, beneath the restaurant, are second to none.
These days, West End is a relaxing nook of an more and more frenetic internal city, boasting a clutch of splendid cafes. Blackstar on Thomas Street roasts its personal beans – purchase some to convey house – whereas The Gunshop Café on Mollison Street is well-known for its breakfasts. Then attempt The Burrow on Russell Street, which presents every part from native coffee to wonderful craft beer from early till late; or Lokal + Co, on O’Connell Street, bringing slightly Scandinavian cool to a scorching, sticky afternoon.
Pop into Avid Reader, on Boundary Street, to browse its cleverly curated choice of books, after which to Jet Black Cat Music, on Vulture Street, to select up a brand new launch or two from one of many city’s native musicians. Brisbane has wealthy musical historical past – from the Bee Gees to the Go-Betweens, the Saints to Savage Garden – you’re positive to discover a tune you’ll love.
For north aspect inner-city stylish, head to James Street, a a brief hop from West End on one of many common City Cat ferries that ply the river. Get off at New Farm Park and take a look at what’s on on the Powerhouse arts centre earlier than strolling by way of again in the direction of the city centre to James Street, which lies simply behind the pulsing pubs, golf equipment and reside music venues of Fortitude Valley.
While it has its personal share of excellent cafes – attempt Harvey’s, Spoon Deli Café, or Bellissimo, all good for people-watching – it’s purchasing that’s the actual draw right here. James Street is Brisbane’s style hub. Whether you’re in search of Scanlan Theodore’s understated magnificence, one thing funky from Sass & Bide, Basile’s low-key staples or favor to select from Wolfe and Ordnance’s choice of up-and-coming designers, the fashionable are nicely catered for. Make positive to go to Gail Sorronda’s boutique – Dolce & Gabbana founders Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana function her darkly and monochromatically romantic designs of their Spiga2 store in Milan.
Molten showcases quirky, eclectic jewelry, in distinction to the bolder work at Andronis throughout the road. Parfumier Libertine additionally has an outlet on James Street, as does cult favorite Dinosaur Designs and skincare supremos Aesop.
For a cultural stop-off, Bim Bam Gallery, considered one of Queensland’s main indigenous artwork galleries, may be present in a small pop-up on Robertson Street, catty nook from the ultra-cool Calile Hotel.
The Calile itself is properly value a go to. Seek, minimalist and sub-tropically hip, its rooms are a clear expanse of white brick and porphyry with delicate brass and leather-based touches, a pared-back riff on mid-century Palm Beach resort stylish.
While the Calile’s bar menu is spare, there’s no such restraint upstairs at Hellenika. The restaurant, by the lodge pool, is one of many state’s best Greek eating places. The menu presents all of the classics you’d anticipate, in beneficiant parts too, however holds some scrumptious surprises as nicely – the Corfu Bianco with John Dory is excellent.
Stroll again to the city centre alongside the boardwalk hugging the river. At Howard Smith Wharves, nestled beneath Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge, you’ll discover the Four Felons Brewery. The Felons, named for the convicts who found the Brisbane River, has – mockingly sufficient – arrange shop within the former residence of the city’s water police. The Felons’ 4 wonderful beers – a pale ale, IPA, lager and mid-strength – are brewed on website. If you don’t fancy a pot, there’s a crisp cider created from Queensland apples and Champagne yeast. Wood-fired pizza and sharing plates can be found all day for those who’re nonetheless peckish. There’s a play space for the kids, and fish and chips from a small shop within the boatyard.
Try to nab a seat on the veranda for an ideal postcard view of Brisbane. The river is framed by the sheer cliffs of Kangaroo Point and the Botanic Gardens’ lush mangroves. The regular hum of visitors throughout the Story Bridge above is punctuated by bursts of chook music and the sluggish, mild slap of the water towards the boardwalk’s pontoons. At nightfall, the lights from the city’s skyscrapers sparkle and play within the river.
I travelled courtesy of Singapore Airlines from London Heathrow. Singapore Airlines operates 4 flights day by day from LHR to Singapore and 5 weekly flights from Manchester to Singapore to attach with onward flights to Brisbane. Standard fares to Brisbane from London begin from £770pp; £745pp from Manchester. Singapore Airlines operates greater than 150 weekly flights to Australia from Changi Airport, together with Cairns, Brisbane and the Gold Coast. Should you want to break your journey, Singapore Airlines provides a lot of stopover choices.
Where to remain
The W, 81 North Quay, Brisbane. Ph +61 7 3556 8888. Prices begin from A$359 (incl taxes) for the Wonderful room, the lodge’s lead-in class. Visit Wbrisbane.com