Want to maximise your time in Queensland's sun-soaked capital? Here's how to see a new side to Brisbane, the ultimate outdoor city...
Life in Brisbane revolves around the outdoors. Clear blue skies, year-round balmy nights and plenty of open-air bars bolster the relaxed culture of this riverside city. Life wraps around its waters, whether you’re cruising the wooden paths that fringe the CBD or joining the locals with a drink in hand on South Bank.
So if you're planning an escape to a city with natural beauty, exceptional food, diverse neighbourhoods and laidback charm, there's nowhere greater for days in the sun than Brisbane. Here's where to start...
Ready to experience Brisbane for yourself? Check out our Brisbane escapes.
9am – Sprout Artisan Bakery, New Farm
It’s worth kicking off your escape early to beat the crowds for a sunshine-soaked breakfast at one of Brisbane’s best bakeries. Perched on the corner of James and Harcourt Streets, Sprout Artisan Bakery boasts handcrafted flaky pastries, freshly baked breads, an array of organic teas by Mayde Tea and expertly brewed coffee by Reuben Hills. Can’t choose from the incredible array on display? Simply ask their dedicated team (or one the many pastry lovers who spill out onto the street daily) what’s good.
10.30am – South Bank
From New Farm, it’s just ten minutes to Brisbane’s dedicated cultural heart: South Bank. Home to renowned galleries, museums, parklands, eateries and markets, South Bank’s reputation as a gorgeous riverside precinct precedes itself. While away the morning under a palm tree at the man-made Streets Beach, wander through 17 acres of manicured parklands, take in the city from a new perspective aboard the Channel Seven Wheel of Brisbane, or peruse the Queensland Art Gallery & Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), home to some of the best contemporary art from Australia, Asia and the Pacific.
1pm – Howard Smith Wharves
Tucked between the Story Bridge and New Farm cliffs, Howard Smith Wharves is Brisbane’s unmissable dining and lifestyle precinct. Housed in a 1930’s framework at the bend of the Brisbane River, this heritage-listed space is now a bustling boardwalk lined with some of the city’s best breweries, bars and restaurants. Don’t miss Greca Restaurant, a contemporary Greek taverna, which delivers Mediterranean food just as it should taste – deliciously fresh and authentic, or Yoko Dining, an energetic izakaya-inspired gourmet experience combing the flavour punch and pop-infused vibe of buzzing Tokyo.
3pm – Brisbane River
Calling all aspiring sailors. Be the captain of your own adventure onboard GoBoat’s family-friendly fleet of eco-friendly electric-powered picnic boats. A slow-moving breeze to control, this is the most unique way to see the Brisbane River. The best part? You don’t even need a boating license to operate one. Upon return, raise a glass to Story Bridge views back at Howard Smith Wharves. Knock back a stein in a German-style beer hall at Felons Barrel Hall, dance under disco lights in at the eye-catching octagonal Brisbanite favourite Mr Percival’s or pair a pale with a burger for a winning combo at Felons Brewing Co brewery — whatever you’re vibing, the wharves have it all.
7pm – Bisou Bisou & Iris Rooftop Bar, Hotel X
After a lovely day in the city, live your best baguette-accompanied life at Bisou Bisou, a brasserie-style French restaurant inside the brand-new Hotel X. The dining room will transport you to Paris with red velvet bar stools and floral lounges, frosted glass panels and exposed brick archways. Entrées include baked goat’s cheese in filo pastry and steak tartare crowned with a cured egg yolk. As for mains, their treacle-drenched blade of beef, cassoulet of confit duck leg and globe artichoke boudin will have you raving. Old faithfuls fill the dessert menu, while an expansive wine list features local drops and vintage champagnes. Top off your evening in impressive fashion at Iris Rooftop Bar, a Mediterranean-inspired venue featuring 270-degree views of Brisbane’s skyline. Glide up to the bar, order a Santa Maria Sunset cocktail then meander to the wisteria canopy for that must-have photo.
Ready to escape in style? Book your five-star Hilton Brisbane stay now.
7am – Brisbane City Helicopter Tour
It’s well worth the early wake-up call today to board an early helicopter flight, with spectacular bird’s-eye views as your reward. The sound of whirring blades, the feeling of lift-off and sweeping views of rivers, mountains and islands – for adventurous travellers, a scenic aerial adventure is the ultimate sightseeing experience. Some landscapes demand a view from above and the River City offers endless exploration from the air. Elite Helicopters tours hit all the highlights, soaring past the city’s skyline, South Bank precinct, Moreton Island and Stradbroke Island, while longer tours incorporate Mount Tamborine and the Gold Coast.
10am – Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
It’s time to play zookeeper for the day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the world’s first and largest koala sanctuary, established in 1927. Nestled in the charmingly named Fig Tree Pocket in Brisbane’s southwest, this top-rated animal sanctuary is home to more than 130 koalas and 70 species of other native animals, such as platypuses, Tasmanian devils, snakes and crocodiles. Guests are given the opportunity to get as close as possible to Australian wildlife in a natural and intimate setting. From koala cuddles and kangaroo feeds to bird shows and other wildlife demonstrations, this is fun for the whole family.
1pm – The Terrace Rooftop, Emporium Hotel
Make the most of Brisbane’s sub-tropical weather and thriving cocktail scene with a relaxed lunch at The Terrace at Emporium Hotel. South Bank's first rooftop bar, this is a sky-high haven where the bar skills are next level – and so are the views. With city skyline, Brisbane River and Story Bridge panoramas, its stunning elevated setting is ideal for kicking back with a handcrafted cocktail while sampling a stellar menu of modern Australian eats.
Book a stay at Emporium Hotel and soak up river vistas from the rooftop infinity pool.
3pm – Brisbane Riverwalk
Riverwalk is an absolute must. Winding from New Farm to Howard Smith Wharves, this public-friendly highway sits above the Brisbane River and provides sweeping vistas and a fresh, new perspective of the central business district. Rebuilt after major flooding in 2011, the walk is happily separated into dedicated roadways for cyclists and pedestrians. What’s more, there’s plenty of refreshment waiting for you at the end. We recommend hiring a bike or kayak from Riverlife for the full ‘local’s experience’.
6pm – OTTO Ristorante, South Bank
For a taste of Brisbane’s finest hospitality, return to South Bank one last time. With everything from casual dining and thriving bars to riverfront restaurants, the whole precinct thumps on the weekend, so be sure to book a table. Highly recommended is OTTO Ristorante – where the food is as delicious as the view. Come for sundowners then stay for dinner at this heavily awarded Italian eatery, where refined, traditional plates champion classic flavours executed simply. Start with Hervey Bay scallops, followed by mains of champagne lobster spaghettini or market fish, before a classic affogato to round out the evening.
9pm – City Winery, Fortitude Valley
After dark, head down the other end of town for a few rounds. No matter what hour of the day you visit, Fortitude Valley – the capital’s creative centre and epicentre of cool – is a hive of activity. For one last hurrah, raise a glass to new memories at City Winery, the first inner-city winery to open in Brisbane since 1860. Set in a lovingly restored warehouse, it creates artisan, small-batch wines in the shadow of the CBD, opposite enormous oak barrels – all of which house various vintages. Once you’ve reached the end of your evening, make tracks back to your accommodation through the city, dipping into the rollicking bars along the way.
There's nowhere greater for days in the sun... book your Brisbane city escape.
Hero image credit: Tourism and Events Queensland