Brisbane, Queensland © Clive D'Silva/Tourism and Events Queensland
Brisbane suburb guide
Whether you base yourself north or south of the Brisbane River, the Queensland capital’s pulsing food and art scenes are within easy reach.
By Natasha Dragun and Carly Spek
Brisbane’s snaking river is a landmark throughout its central suburbs. On the north bank, the city centre nestles alongside some of Brisbane’s most happening areas for wining and dining. South of the river, leafy residential streets and parklands reveal surprising cultural and sporting attractions. Find your favourite spot for a stay in this fun-loving city.
Where: City centre, South Bank
Central Brisbane is home to some of the city’s oldest buildings and some of its most vibrant developments. On the north bank of the river in the city centre, grand colonial-era buildings house museums and shopping malls beside futuristic skyscrapers. Across the river, the relaxed South Bank precinct is home to the bulk of the city’s cultural institutions, with dining and entertainment options surrounding a lush man-made beach.
You'll find a host of trendy restaurants and bars in Brisbane's central suburbs. In South Bank local favourite Pourboy draws weekend crowds for its bottomless bloody Marys and mimosas. At the W Brisbane, enjoy farm-to-table fare at popular Three Blue Ducks, with most produce sourced from the establishment’s own farm in Byron Bay. You can also soak up the sparkling river views at upscale locales like Persone.
Brisbane's central suburbs are alive with art and culture. Head over to South Bank’s cultural precinct at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, to explore 17,000 works sourced from Australia and across the world. Bring picnic supplies and swimwear to cool-off and relax in leafy South Bank's wide expanses of parkland and pools including the man-made Streets Beach, or ride the Wheel of Brisbane to see it's famed city views.
There are dozens of great accommodation options in Brisbane's centre, and with a footbridge connecting the north and south sides of the river, you can reach the action no matter where you choose to stay. The high-style W Brisbane hotel in Brisbane Quarter features a vibrant art collection, much of it celebrating tropical Queensland. Over on South Bank, the Emporium Hotel has an idyllic rooftop infinity pool.
South of the river
Where: West End, Woolloongabba, Kangaroo Point
Surrounding the South Bank precinct, Brisbane's southern neighbourhoods feel both residential and eclectic. Large Greek and Vietnamese communities contribute to multicultural restaurants and shops, while weekend markets and live music venues attract visitors through the day and well into the night. If you’re a sporting fanatic, this area is an ideal base – it’s home to the main sports stadium, urban abseiling and rock-climbing.
In Brisbane's south there are upscale eateries abound and a plentiful array of cafés, with some of the city’s finest calling this neighbourhood home. Try the award-winning Abrisca Coffee Roasters, or the Gunshop Café, set in a heritage-listed West End building. Also in the West End, you’ll find the city’s largest concentration of Greek delicatessens and restaurants, Nostimo being among the most popular for traditional Mediterranean share plates.
Whether you're a spectator or a player, south of the river is Brisbane's best spot for sport. Catching a match at the Gabba is a fun way to immerse yourself in local sporting culture. From Kangaroo Point, the steel Story Bridge arches over the water – you can climb it or picnic in the parks below. This area is also home to dramatic heritage-listed cliffs, popular among climbing and abseiling enthusiasts, as well as stalls renting bikes and kayaks.
If you're catching a game at the Gabba or planning to cycle your days away by the river, a stay in Brisbane's southern suburbs will place all the action at your fingertips. The pick of the hotels in the area are found in the lively hub of Kangaroo Point. Try the Point Brisbane for stellar river and Story Bridge views (from your room and the rooftop bar), or Il Mondo for boutique charm, and an on-site Japanese tapas restaurant.
Northeast of the city centre
Where: Howard Smith Wharves, Fortitude Valley, New Farm
If you want to be surrounded by the city’s most happening wining and dining establishments, the northeast pocket of Brisbane is for you. The Howard Smith Wharves precinct – beneath the Story Bridge on the Brisbane River’s north bank – is packed with arty hotels, restaurants and bars with water views. Neighbouring suburbs of Fortitude Valley and New Farm, to the north and east, are equally buzzing with activity.
There are enough craft breweries across these three neighbourhoods to quench the entire nation’s thirst. From Howard Smith Wharves, you can walk to numerous popular restaurants like Felons within minutes. You'll also find young chef Jonathan Barthelmess’ Greek tavern, Greca, and Middle Eastern hotspot, Za Za Ta. The rooftop bars in this part of Brisbane are the best in the city, so be sure to check one out.
Meander along Brisbane River's promenade in the city's north-east to find eateries for every time of day. Visit the Campos flagship store for house-roasted coffee and discover boutiques, street art, galleries and markets on James Street. Stroll south and you’ll reach parklands enveloping New Farm’s Brisbane Powerhouse – the schedule of exhibitions, live comedy and music at this theatre spotlights up-and-coming local talent.
Some of Brisbane’s most design-driven hotels are located in the inner-northeast. Stay at the glamorous Crystalbrook Vincent and sip cocktails on its rooftop bar as the sun sets over the Brisbane River. If you’re looking to bed down in Fortitude Valley, The Calile Hotel is an Instagrammers dream, dripping in pastels and aesthetic accents. Also on James Street, the Sage Hotel makes for a smart yet affordable base.