Although Brisbane has been a traditional jumping-off point to the Great Barrier Reef, the Queensland capital is a destination in its own right, with a newfound buzz to give Sydney and Melbourne a run for their money.
After checking into The Fantauzzo (from $125), spend the day eating your way around the surrounding, newly revitalized Howard Smith Wharves. It’s the city’s latest hotspot for bars and restaurants. The best places include Felons (entrees $13-$25), a cavernous craft brewery that serves wood-fired pizza and seafood plates like flaky rolls stuffed with Moreton Bay “bugs” (a sweet-fleshed local crustacean); a modern greek taverna, Greca (entrees from $19-$30); an over-water cocktail bar and Italian restaurant, Mr. Percival’s (entrees from $14-$27) where the setting is equal to the delicious drinks; and the forthcoming Stanley, a hip Cantonese eatery helmed by Brisbane native Louis Tikaram.
Jump on the ferry — it’s the best way to see this riverside city — to the South Bank district for a visit to Queensland’s premier arts institutions, The Queensland Art Gallery and the Gallery of Modern Art, which sit side-by-side and share programming. Exhibits that deal with Australian contemporary art (such as “Desert Colours,” which showcased work from the country’s arid interior) are especially worthwhile. Then, hop back on the ferry to the residential New Farm neighborhood to check out the cutting-edge performances at Brisbane Powerhouse. Occupying a converted power station built in 1927, it’s now the city’s epicenter for experimental dance, theater, and music.
To truly understand Queensland, you should attend at least one sporting event in this sports-mad city. And nothing is more Aussie than a summer cricket match at The Gabba, Brisbane’s Cricket Ground, named for the Woolloongabba neighborhood in which it’s located. In the winter, the venue also hosts the AFL, the Aussie Rules Football League, another national obsession. Afterwards, end the day with sunset drinks at Broadbeach — the coastal suburb is a seemingly endless, stunning stretch of white sand, and captures the true spirit of Queensland. Social Eating House + Bar is a casual but stylish option with excellent Australian wines and supremely fresh local oysters.