For years, people dismissed Brisbane as simply a place to pass through en route to Queensland’s sunny beaches. But things have changed, says New Zealand travel writer Jacqui Gibson. One of Aussie’s oldest cities has become a cultural mecca and the perfect place to spend 48 hours.
VISIT FISH LANE
Fish Lane is one of the more recent laneways popping up around the city. Brisbane’s laneway scene is the brainchild of urban planners keen to bring more people and businesses to dead zones and backstreets. Originally named Soda Water Lane after the aerated water company that had its factory there in the 1870s, Fish Lane is now home to cafes, restaurants and bars.
Visit in May for the Fish Lane Festival, a one-day event combining food, drink and a 10-hour marathon of live music all within six blocks. But you can stop in any time of the year for Napoli-style pizza at Julius Pizzeria or some great pub fare from Fish Lane Bistro.
Or you might want to enjoy – as I did – a Conscientious Objector (a lentil burger) and a leisurely game of Connect 4 at Saccromyces. You’ll find Saccromyces on the corner of Fish Lane and Merivale Street.
Other laneways worth a visit include Burnett Lane, off Albert Street in the CBD (apparently the city’s first laneway) and Bakery Lane at 690 Ann Street in Fortitude Valley. At Bakery Lane, grab a box of the gooey, love heart-shaped brownies infused with salted caramel at I Heart Brownies. For great shopping, drop into Stock & Supply.
JUMP ON A FERRY
Brisbane River snakes through the city much like one of Australia’s own venomous brown reptiles on a slow day. And while you probably don’t want to dip below the surface if you can help it, you will enjoy skimming atop the 334 kilometre waterway on one of the city’s many ferry boats.
The council runs a fleet of 21 CityCats and nine ferries across a network of 25 terminals. You can get pretty much anywhere you want to go. And you’ll rarely have to wait long for pick up or drop off.
Getting from Bulimba, a riverside suburb in the north-east, to the city centre took me just 15 minutes. Sit outside to enjoy the breeze and peer in the windows of riverside properties. Watch the buildings get taller and glitzier as you near the city centre.
SEE THE QUEENSLAND GOMA
Every big city worth its salt needs an impressive art gallery. Brisbane has the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in South Bank. Home to more than 17,000 artworks, the gallery hosts local and international exhibitions.
This spring, you can see sculpture by UK artist Anish Kapoor. But get in before July to see Aboriginal and Pacific works from the GOMA collection. Find the exhibition in Gallery 3.5 or check out the gallery website for more information.
SHOP JAMES STREET
Need to replenish the summer wardrobe? Look no further than James Street. James Street is Brisbane’s trendy, tree-lined shopping precinct in Fortitude Valley. It’s home to more than 130 speciality stores, covering fashion, homewares, design, food, drink, health and beauty.
Three great fashion stores to poke your nose into include Sass & Bide (60 James Street), MIMCO (46 James Street) and (apparently one of Beyonce’s favs) Camilla (19 James Street).
When that tires you out, head to Chow House (Brizzy’s Best New Restaurant in 2014) for a refreshing Watermelon Kiss – a cucumber, watermelon and vodka cocktail. Find Chow House at 39 James Street.
WALK TO ALFRED & CONSTANCE
I had doughnuts on my mind when I wandered off to Alfred and Constance Streets, a cluster of Fortitude Valley eateries and late-night bars about 10 minutes’ walk from James Street.
Doughnuts of every persuasion are available from Doughnut Time’s hole-in-the-wall store. Right now, there are new limited edition donuts available for the season. Sue Me is a delicious coffee cream cheese filled option, topped with chocolate glaze, chocolate shavings and cocoa. Mmmm.
If you’re heading to Alfred & Constance later in the day, go to Kwan Brothers to sample their extensive range of large and small Asian share dishes or to Alfredo’s next door for pizza.
Of course, there’s also the three bars and late night dessert café that make up Alfred & Constance – a family of food and drink venues set in a couple of heritage Queenslanders. Open 7 days a week, this inner-city hot spot is definitely worth a visit.
DOWN A CRAFT BEER
These days many of us judge a city by the quality and range of its craft beer. And Brisbane undoubtedly stacks up if that’s your measure. From Newstead Brewing’s Two to the Valley India Pale Ale to the range of ales you’ll find at the Woolly Mammoth Alehouse, there’s plenty to delight the tastebuds.
There are plenty of places throughout the city to find your ideal craft brew. In Bulimba, try the Oxford. Across the water by ferry boat, there’s the Green Beacon in Teneriffe. Around the corner (a short walk from the Green Beacon), there’s Newstead Brewing, with the Woolly Mammoth a good Fortitude Valley option. The Archive Beer Boutique, in Brisbane’s West End, will take you back to where the city’s craft beer scene reportedly began a little more than five years ago.