Brisbane, Australia travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


The Calile is one classy hotel, a resort-style property that will have you picturing yourself in Palm Springs or Miami as you stroll its skilfully designed grounds. This is warm-weather accommodation at its finest, with rooms panelled in cork and blonde wood, communal areas linked by open-air walkways, and a pool that has starred in more Instagram shots than the Jenner family (OK, not quite). Step outside the hotel's confines and you're in the heart of the James Street shopping precinct, and walking distance to downtown Fortitude Valley.



You would have to search long and hard to find a city in which you can go rock climbing on an actual cliff face in the shadow of the CBD. Throw in river vistas and a grassy foreshore and you have the Kangaroo Point cliffs, an enduring Brisbane attraction for outdoor enthusiasts. For experienced rock-climbers, there are plenty of bolted sport climbs to challenge yourself on, while bollards at the top make for easy top-roping or abseiling for beginners. Plenty of companies offer climbing and abseiling experiences for those without their own gear.



You will wish you could take Gerard's Bistro home with you. It's that simple. This is the restaurant you want to have in your city. Executive chef Adam Wolfers has created a menu heavily inspired by Middle Eastern traditions, utilising local ingredients in a series of unique and absolutely delicious dishes. Don't miss the likes of wood-fired bagels with goats curd, spanner crab tabouli, and Yemeni-style shish-kebabs, paired with wines from Australia and abroad. And all of this is served in a modern, Middle Eastern-influenced surrounds on James Street.



It almost seems unfair to say that a thing in Brisbane is good because it's like a thing from Melbourne. The Queensland capital can stand on its own two feet. Still, you can't miss the south-of-the-border vibes in John Mills Himself, a classy café and cocktail bar with exposed brick walls and marble countertops, set in a historic building of the same name. In keeping with the Melbourne vibes, JMH is a little tricky to find, tucked down an alleyway off Elizabeth St in the City, but it's worth the effort to sample artisanal, sustainably sourced coffee, excellent pastries, and by night, craft beer and spirits from local producers.



At some point after all this eating and drinking you're going to need a walk, and Brisbane has you covered. You could opt to take an amble along the river – there are multiple purpose-built tracks around the likes of Newstead, New Farm, West End, Hamilton and the CBD, including the "water highway", or the Brisbane Riverwalk. For something a little more strenuous, try a bushwalk at Mt Coot-tha, where several trails lead through eucalypt woodlands to the lookout at the summit.




Brisbane boasts a menagerie of microbreweries, and there's an impressive concentration in riverside Newstead, the former industrial area turned hipster hub. In this suburb you'll find great cafes, high-quality restaurants, fancy wine bars – and a whole bunch of brewers of beer. Check out Newstead Brewing Co, Green Beacon Brewing, and perhaps best of all, Range Brewing. These guys are producing some seriously good beer, served up in friendly surrounds, and paired with sourdough pizzas. Can't go wrong.



You need to base yourself somewhere in Brisbane. It could be trendy Fortitude Valley, tourist-friendly South Bank, the bustling CBD, or charming Paddington. Our choice, however, is West End, the once-shabby locale that retains plenty of its old character fused with modern, alternative culture. This is the place to be for cafes, organic grocers, wine bars, cocktail bars, tiki bars and more. The crowds are friendly and the drinks are tasty.



Serious art fans are probably already familiar with Brisbane's GOMA, which in the past has hosted exhibitions of works by Andy Warhol, Picasso, Matisse, Yayoi Kusama, Valentino and more. This is a world-class facility that features a rotating cast of exhibitions to complement its permanent collection, which has a focus on Australia's Indigenous art history. The current headline exhibition, open until the end of April, is "The Motorcycle", a collection of more than 100 of the greatest motorcycles ever assembled.



Brisbane Skyline with Botanical Garden, Aerial Panorama, Queensland, Australia. Converted from RAW. Aerial Brisbane, Brisbane River, Brisbane skyline, Botanic gardens,

Photo: iStock

Brisbane has a river, as wide as the smiles of those who get to live near it, and visitors should be making the most of it. You can do so by enjoying one of the riverside walks mentioned above, taking a guided kayaking tour during the day or the late evening, or simply catching public transport. Brisbane's CityCat ferry system takes in the sights from Hamilton in the east to St Lucia in the west, offering affordable transport and a sight-seeing tour all in one.



Brisbane isn't exactly known for its beaches (unless you count the manmade beach at South Bank, which we don't), but it's worth leaving time to explore bayside suburbs such as Sandgate and Brighton. Grab a coffee by the water, go for a walk, eat fish and chips, visit a farmers' market, and enjoy life in the slow lane.


Ben Groundwater travelled at his own expense.