Bustling with riverfront bars, overflowing with cosmopolitan charm and easily accessible by foot, public scooter and CityCat ferry, sunny Brisbane welcomes you with a host of unique experiences.
While activities like strolling along South Bank, admiring Story Bridge and visiting the Botanic Gardens are popular for good reason, it pays to wander off the beaten track and seek out the city’s hidden delights.
From quirky cocktail bars to secret seafood eateries, boutique craft breweries and inspiring Indigenous experiences – this city is full of surprises. Here’s our pick of the top things to do in Brisbane (that you may be expecting).
1. Visit an urban winery in the city
There’s no need to escape to the country when you have City Winery Brisbane – an authentic cellar door experience, right in the heart of the city. This working micro-winery sources grapes from across Australia, then lets winemaker Dave Cush work his magic. Learn more on a guided tour, then settle into the converted warehouse surroundings for a tasting of Dave’s artisan, small-batch wines. Extend your experience by staying for dinner, either among the barrels in The Winery or at Fireside, a 20-seat fine-dining restaurant serving an ever-changing menu of local, seasonal produce.
2. Taste fresh seafood aboard a 14-seat vintage prawn trawler in Kangaroo Point
Seafood enthusiasts can take their love of all things fresh to the next level at The Prawnster. The unique concept was dreamed up by husband-and-wife duo Martin and Donna Brennan, who serve fresh local seafood to customers aboard 1971-built trawler, Del Fuego — docked in Brisbane’s Kangaroo Point. Seafood is sourced directly from other trawlers on the Queensland coast, meaning the menu changes constantly – but could include Moreton Bay bugs, juicy prawns, local oysters and Tasmanian salmon sashimi. It’s currently BYO alcohol, so pick up a bottle on the way and tuck into the catch of the day.
3. Sip cocktails amid hanging gardens
Quirky suburb Fortitude Valley is the beating heart of Brisbane’s bar scene and proud home to Cloudland, a Garden of Eden in the city. An air of fantasy and magic lingers amid the hanging vines and lush greenery of this boutique bar, where handcrafted cocktails include tropical tiki creations and sharing jugs of sangria. Stay for a casual bar lunch, enjoy full table service in the Italian-inspired restaurant or simply visit for drinks before a night out in Fortitude Valley.
4. Hop around the city on your own craft beer trail
There’s no need to appoint a designated driver when some of Brisbane’s best breweries can be explored on foot, and we have the ultimate trail for you to follow. Tucked away in the warehouses of Teneriffe is Green Beacon Brewing Co., a multi-award-winning brewery with a fantastic range of beers — for some easy drinking first up, order the Wayfarer tropical pale ale. Line your stomach with share plates of fresh local produce before taking a 10-minute stroll to Newstead Brewing Co. Housed in a 1940s steel warehouse, it’s all about 100% Brisbane-brewed beers here. Next up, it’s a 15-minute walk to Stone & Wood, a Byron brand that’s created a 150-seat brewpub complete with beer masterclasses in Fortitude Valley. Finish your self-guided tour with a 20-minute walk to Howard Smith Wharves, home to Felons Brewing Co., an inner-city brewery right under iconic Story Bridge.
5. Seek out incredible Indigenous experiences
Visitors to the city can learn of Brisbane’s rich indigenous history through interactive and engaging experiences. Learn more about the traditional home of the Jagera people with local Aboriginal tour guides as you trace the footsteps of their ancestors. BlackCard Cultural Tours offer unmissable authentic walking tours where you’ll discover Aboriginal art, bush tucker trails and more. For a unique art experience, visit Birrunga Gallery & Dining, Brisbane’s only Indigenous-owned gallery. Here, you can view exhibits of genuine Indigenous artefacts, including boomerangs, clapsticks, spears, didgeridoos, carvings, prints and more.
6. Go island hopping
OK, so you technically need to leave Brisbane for this one, but it’s not as tricky as you might think. North Stradbroke Island is easily accessible via 25-minute water taxi from Toondah Harbour in Brisbane’s east, about a 50-minute drive from the CBD. This natural paradise feels a million miles from the city and is great for spotting wildlife (including whales between June and November), learning about the land’s traditional owners, the Quandamooka people, long coastal walks and lazy beach picnics. Another option is Moreton Island, accessible from Brisbane by Micat or Tangalooma ferry. Moreton Island National Park covers 98% of the land and top attractions include feeding bottlenose dolphins by hand, tobogganing over the sand dunes and watching the island’s spectacular sunsets.
7. Taste salt and pepper cuttlefish sangas in a three-storey restaurant
Discover an urban oasis under the train bridges of South Brisbane at Southside, a three-storey restaurant serving East-Asian cuisine. The salt and pepper cuttlefish sandwich with house sriracha is incredibly moreish, with other top dishes including drunken scallop with Chinese pear and ginger, and duck ragu with house noodles. Can’t decide? The feed me banquet features nine popular dishes and can be enhanced with an optional wine matching.
8. Sample some of the city’s best woodfired fine dining in a converted brick warehouse
It should be pretty clear by now that Brisbane’s warehouses often hide its biggest delights – and one of them is moody newcomer, Agnes. This unassuming old brick building in Fortitude Valley has been transformed to offer a celebration of exceptional woodfired fine dining — an amalgamation of spectacle, drama and delicious flame-cooked food. There’s no electricity, no gas, just celebrated chef and co-owner Ben Williamson whipping up a seasonal menu of dishes such as yellowfin tuna with grilled fennel, dry-aged heritage pork and woodfired cabbage. This restaurant offers a unique dining experience stripped back to its elements, and it’s truly unmissable.
9. Make your own gin with a choice of 140 botanicals
Brisbane Distillery’s Gin School is quite frankly the only class we’re interested in attending. Learn how to distil your own unique bottle of gin, with experts guiding you every step of the way. A collection of over 140 botanicals is available, meaning you can tailor your tipple to your exact tastes. Drinks and snacks are included as you work hard tasting, mixing and creating, eventually walking home with a bottle of gin that’s uniquely yours.
10. Have a drink (or two) on top of the water at Mr Percival’s
Nestled underneath the iconic Story Bridge, Brisbane’s first overwater bar is unlike anywhere else – yet quintessentially Queensland. A highlight in the fast-growing Howard-Smith Wharves precinct, Mr Percival’s is as quirky as it is beautiful. Designed by local interior designers, think oak-paneled walls, burnt orange furnishings and six-arched doorways, while soothing salmon-pink umbrellas, 70s-style upholstered chairs and relaxing river views all serve to create a European feel. Inside, a striking light-up central bar serves French bubbles and local ales to the tunes of a resident DJ, who performs in a raised, custom-built, crows-nest DJ booth. Named for a much-loved pelican from 1970’s cult classic film Storm Boy, this octagonal-shaped bar and restaurant truly reflects the magical outdoor lifestyle the sunshine city is revered for.
Ready to book your Queensland escape? Find our selection of offers here.
For more Queensland inspiration, check out How to Get Your Nature Fix in Queensland.
Images courtesy of Tourism and Events Queensland & Richard Greenwood.